Monday, October 13, 2014

Italian Naming Patterns

In honor of Italian Heritage Month, I offer this little anecdote about the names of my paternal grandfather and his siblings.

Italy has a long standing tradition that determines how children are named:

  • The first male is named after his paternal grandfather.
  • The second male is named after his maternal grandfather.
  • The first female is named after her paternal grandmother.
  • The second female is named after her maternal grandmother.

One exception to this pattern is if the first son or daughter dies, the parents will give their next child the same name.  This happened in my family.  My Cimino great grandparents named their first child, Carmela after the paternal grandmother, Carmela Grasso.  The first Carmela was born 28 April 1903 in Carlentini in the Siracusa province of Sicily. She died 14 October 1903 in Carlentini.  The second child was also a daughter and she was born 8 August 1904 in Carlentini and again this child was named Carmela.

My grandfather was the third child and he was born 30 October 1906 in Lentini.    He was the first male child and he was named after his paternal grandfather, Sebastiano Cimino.  Sebastiano took the name Richard when he arrived in the U.S.  We always knew him as Grandpa Dick.   His father arrived in the U.S. for the first time in April of 1907.  He was working in Omaha, Nebraska but returned to Sicily in the fall of 1908.  He returned to the U.S. in February of 1909.  On the 3rd of July 1909, Uncle John was born in Lentini.  Since he was the second son he was named after the maternal grandfather, Giovanni Ossino.

The other exception to the Italian naming pattern is the impact of immigration.  By April 1911 the entire family had arrived in Omaha, Nebraska.  Shortly thereafter they moved to Sioux City, Iowa.  The next child, Sarah was born 28 Mar 1912 in Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa.  She should have been named Concetta after the maternal grandmother, Concetta Bruno.  Concetta may have been her actual birth name, but we always knew her as Sarah.

Uncle Fred, Uncle Sam, Aunt Josie and Aunt Rose were the next children born in 1913, 1915, 1917 and 1918 respectively.

Wedding of Carmela Cimino and Pasquale Defazio. My grandfather, Richard Sebastiano Cimino is seated on far right and my great grandfather, Antonino Cimino is in back between the bride and groom. Jean Defazio Hewitt believes that the man on the far right is John Giudice and the one directly behind the girl with the flowers is, Frank LaScala.  The rest of the people are unknown. Please contact Nick Cimino at if you know their names.
The second Carmela died in childbirth on the 1st of June 1920. On the 29th of August 1921, the last child Camilla Cimino was born to Tony “Antonino” Cimino and his wife Mary [Maria Ossino].  Even though the spelling is slightly different, we think that the naming tradition insisted that this child should be named after the paternal grandmother.

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