History of the Capozzoli and Peduto Families

By Thomas Capozzoli  July, 2002  (Son of Anthony J. Capozzoli 1894)

Unlike many Italian-American families, we can trace our Capozzoli and Peduto families back to the 1700’s. According to a book I acquired in Castel San Lorenzo in 1984, there was a Carmine Peduto in 1709 who was an elder of the church; and a Gennaro Capozzoli, a renowned artist who repaired the mural on the church wall after a severe earthquake. The book, written in Italian, was the handiwork of the current priest, Mons. Angelo Venturello, published in 1975. The book contains names of hundreds of residents with photos of war monuments with Peduto and Capozzoli appearing on many of them. In the beginning of the book, it reveals that Castel was founded in 1144 by Papal decree by Pope Celestino. The earliest family mentioned dates back to 1495 and was referred to as a nobilisima famiglia Carafa napoletano. Church records of D. Luigi Carafa who was born in 1645 and died in the morning of 15 Ottobre 1750. La famiglia Carafa were descendants of the Sismondi di Pisa, a major noble family in Italian history. Another early family in Castel’s history was the Costanzo family who were related to the Pope and received a land grant from him. This established them as landowners and guaranteed the family power and influence down through the centuries. It is almost a certainty that both of these families infiltrated our family tree back in the 1600’s and 1700’s. The huge numbers of surnames in our master, top level family tree chart is amazing. Counting the names of our spouses we have 33 different family names. I read in a genealogy book that if you could trace all your ancestors for the last 1,000 years, you would have over 3,000 names included. Given the fact that Castel had no simple form of transportation in its over 500 years, whoever was there in the 1400’s , probably had descendants there in the 1900’s, and that would include the Costanzo and Carafe families.

Castel San Lorenzo

Castel San Lorenzo

Castel means fort in Italian. The reason Castel was founded was to protect the Calore River which flows in the valley between Castel and Aquara, and then into the Sele River which empties into the Bay of Salerno. All the farms existed along the riversides because the soil was more fertile and the water provided irrigation. Less than 5 miles from the banks of the Calore, both of our family tree originators were born in 1876. Luigi Capozzoli and Maddalena Peduto came from different socio-economic backgrounds. In southern Italy, at the time of their births, their families were living in a sharecropper society. Maddalena’s family were landowners and Luigi’s were peasant farmers who rented the land they farmed. It’s likely the Peduto family were people of money from earlier generations. My mother told me that Maddalena’s grandfather owned most of the land in Castel. These conditions led to Luigi being hired by Maddalena’s father to plow his farm every year; and led to the creation of the Capozzoli family here in America.

They were married in 1894 and the stream of children began right away. Four boys were born in Italy and Luigi decided to visit America to see if there was a future for his growing family. He contacted his mother’s sister, Rose, who lived in Chinatown in a four story building on Mott Street. He arrived in July 1901 aboard the Scottish ship Karamania, sailing from Naples. He stayed about a year after acquiring a job on a farm in Flushing and getting an apartment lined up for the arrival of the family. In May 1903, the family landed in America and was processed through Ellis Island. He went to work in Flushing, living there alone Monday through Saturday and went to Mott Street for Saturday nights and Sunday. With is son Tony at age 8, and with John 4, Vince 3 and a newborn, the burden of fatherhood was on his shoulders and, yet, he was 27 years old with a child on the way who would turn out to be Joe, in 1904. While all of this was going on in Luigi’s world, Maddalena’s is a special story in itself. She was the oldest of seven children, five girls and two boys. One girl died at a young age. They lived in a large house just of the piazza with a large farm in the valley near the river. When our grandparents fell in love, the Peduto family was opposed to their union because Gramps had no money, no job, no educations, and essentially no future. He was a peasant and she the nobility of Castel. Her mother and father would have no part of it and disowned her from her share of the family’s inheritance. When our grandparents decided to come to the United States, Grandma’s family migrated to Argentina because the quota for the U.S. was already filled. They became ranchers and land owners south of Buenos Aires. Aunt Mary gave me her cousin Francesco’s name and address and sent him a copy of our top family tree chart. He made one of his family which I have. It lists all of Grandma’s siblings and their children’s names. As you might expect, there were four Antonio boys named after Grandma’s father, three Stella girls, named after her mother. All together there were 23 children born to Grandma’s sisters and brothers. Francesco is the youngest of 23. He visited the U.S. in 1951 with his mother Christina, the youngest of Grandma’s sisters and his wife.  They stayed at Aunt Mary Castaldi’s house and I gave them a tour of NY City. Their language was difficult to understand because it was a mix of Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. I had three years of Spanish and understood Italian and that qualified me to be the interpreter. I’ll never forget the look on their faces as we drove up Broadway in the early evening hours. It was so exciting to the original ten to talk to their mother’s sister who was born in 1898 and passed away in 1969.

Aquara

Aquara

Castel and Aquara are sister villages on both sides of the Calore River with big hills of 1,000-2,000 feet rising from the foot of the valley. On the side of the easternmost range of hills, lies Aquara as though it was carved from the hillside. On the western side of this totally enclosed valley lies Castel San Lorenzo, with the same topography. There isn’t a level street in either village as they all travel diagonally upward to their piazzas in the center of town. Houses look down at other houses down the hill on high ground. Both towns have cemeteries lie near the river and both have countless Capozzoli and Peduto grave sites. There were many little wooden boxes back into the 1700 and 1800’s with the cremated remains of our ancestors. There were also many four drawer crypts that slid in and out like a chest of drawers, with photos of the deceased attached. Many of the Capozzoli photos had facial resemblances to some of our family members on Long Island.

Getting back to the sister villages, in addition to Aquara and Castel, there were a few others within walking distances. The largest village by far is Roccadaspide, just north of Castel, that had the only bank, theatre, high school and industry in the Calore Valley. Going south from Castel you will find Felitto where Carole Castaldi’s husband, Ross Peduto still has relatives. Northeast of Felitto lies Bellosguarda, another heavily populated Capozzoli village. In my many years of searching for different branches of the Capozzoli family tree, I have encountered many different Capozzoli families in America that go back to Bellosguarda. There was a Tom Capozzoli in Pittsburgh who told me that both his mother and  father, both were Capozzoli’s, came from there. And, there was a Capozzoli family in Philadelphia that waited for me after an NYU-Temple football game and invited me to their home. Their grandfather came from Bellosguarda. There was a Lou Capozzoli in Chicago who was born in Aquara and came here in the 1920’s. I could go on and on with similar contacts and all of them have their roots in the area with the four sister villages. I had contacts in St. Louis, New Orleans, and Boston. When I told them my name, they thought I was just putting them on. One of the best came via our cousin, Bob Capozzoli. He was flying as a United Captain from Los Angeles to Chicago when he announced, “This is Captain Capozzoli” and we’re making good time in today’s flight.”  When he came out of the cockpit after landing, a man was waiting for him who said he married a girl named Capozzoli and “I’d like to find out more about the family”. Bob gave him my phone number. After we contacted each other, we exchanged family tree diagrams and discovered that their great grandfather, and ours, was the same person. They also knew that Grandpa’s sister, Maria Antonia, had married a man named Quaglia who turned out to be the parents of our Pat Quay, a cousin of the original ten.

In 1983, just after our first reunion and pursuant to the publicity we received, we had a call from a Carmine Mucciolo.  He was from nearby Bayville and called to tell us he was born in Castel and goes back every year to visit many relatives. We invited Carmine and Maria over for dinner and they brought pictures and stories of Castel. He told us about an abandoned stone church circa 1700, that he played in as a young boy. One day he fell through the rotted floor into the basement where dozens of dead people were propped up against the wall with their burial clothes still on. He said the churches lasted about 75 – 100 years and were the centerpiece of their world.  The old stone church eventually tumbled down the hill from its perch on the cliff. Carmine got in touch with his nephew in Castel who manufactured Italian tiles and asked if he would escort us to visit Castel. That cleared the way for our trip to Castel in 1984. It was by far the highlight of our trip to Italy. I can’t tell you the strong sense of belonging I had during our time there. When Attilio took us to the cemetery, I looked at the people’s faces in the photos on the crypts and could see familiar eyes and turns of the mouth.  The sun was warm and the air was cool, as nice as any day I have ever seen. I was told that it was like that most of the time. I had read that the mountains south of Salerno enjoyed the best climate in all of Italy that Popes and Romans spent their winters in the area. The Pope ordered that a monastery be built in Castel in 1144. He certainly had the right idea. It founded the village and established a way of life for many centuries. And, when you  look across the valley and see Aquara halfway up the slope within easy walking distance, you fell the kinship that must have existed for centuries between the sister villages, including Roccadespide, Felitto, and Bellosguarda.

As a follow up to our trip, we had the Bayville Mucciolo’s over to show our pictures and share our visit’s highlights with them. Carmine started to tell me about the cemetery behind the old church that I couldn’t visit because it was on the edge of a cliff and partly eroded. He had seen some of the gravestones there when he was a boy 50 years ago that went back to the early 1700’s with Capozzoli’s and Peduto’s prevalent. So, our quest for deeper roots probably lie in the ruins of the very old churches and the dead that were buried there. But, I surely want to go to Aquara and explore that village thoroughly, too, because that’s where the other side of the family came from.

When I was a boy, my father and I did a great deal of fishing, especially snapper fishing. We would have bamboo poles and long with a bobbin, it was great fun. One day I accidentally stepped on one of the poles and broke it. I was very distraught but my father wasn’t. He said that when he was a boy in Italy, there was a small bamboo forest on the shores of the Calore River. He would often make a trip there and bring a few of them to the farm. I asked Attilio if he had ever seen such a forest. He said that it was still there and he would take me to see it. Some things change and other stay the same. Attilio also took me to the piazza to introduce me to the village old timers. I showed them the top chart from our family tree book which showed Luigi and Maddalena at the top. One old man in his early 90’s told me he remembered when they left for America. It was such a thrilling moment. Imagine how our grandparents felt taking their four sons to America. After their arrival in 1902, they lived lived in a section of Chinatown and Little Italy, two neighborhoods that are still intertwined with each other, until Gramp could find a place in Flushing. They settled into a little house on the edge of the farm on Whitestone Avenue which later became Union Street. A few years later Gramp acquired a house on Lawrence Street which became the family residence up until the New York World’s Fair came along in 1939. The ten siblings were all married out of that house as the Capozzoli family grew in stature and prominence in the growing village of Flushing. My father Tony, became advertising manager of the Flushing Daily Journal; John opened his auto repair shop on Sanford Avenue; Vince was employed by the Italian Line in New York City; Fred went into the nursery business in Flushing, and Joe went to work for Metropolitan Insurance in Astoria; Emily’s husband, George Scocca, had a big garage just off Main Street; Chris’s husband, Anthony Ferrara, worked with Joe at Metropolitan; Mary’s husband, Mike Castaldi, became a lawyer and later a Supreme Court Justice; Rose’s husband, Bill McKie, worked for the phone company; and Adeline’s husband, Frank Restivo, was in the florist business in Flushing. From these ten siblings, 24 cousins emerged as readily seen on the top family tree chart. And, uncharacteristically for an Italian family, they began to move to other places across the country. Most moved to California but other went to Colorado, Ohio, and upper New York state. And then, when you go down to the children of the cousins, you encounter another wave of population and an even greater exodus from the New York area. There are about 60  in this category and they are everywhere across the country.  The next level down the family tress is uncounted at this point in time but I’m inclined to believe that there are about 50 on the roster. In round numbers, that puts the Capozzoli/Peduto Family Tree in the neighborhood of 150 descendants of Luigi and Maddalena Capozzoli.

And that’s a fitting place to end the family history. From two humble eighteen year old natives of Castel San Lorenzo and Aquara, both hardworking Italian immigrants whose adventure led them to America, a family of great proportions and prominence has emerged, on that we can all be proud of.

Post Script  (The information given below was written in 2002)

This was written by Thomas Capozzoli, son of Anthony, who was the oldest of the ten children of Luigi and Maddalena Capozzoli. Although there is much evidence of longevity in our family tree, we  were unfortunate to lose our grandmother at the age of 47. Her oldest son, Anthony, died at age 59 but the ages escalate rapidly with John dying at 98, Joe at 96, Emily still alive at 96, Mary still alive at 92, and Del at 89.

One other omission to this story, Gramp ultimately bought the farm on Whitestone Avenue and then in 1922 he sold it to Flushing Country Club. He became a wealthy man and helped out his fellow Italian-Americans by holding the mortgages of many of them in Flushing. In effect, he retired at age 47 and became a man of leisure until his death at age 78. His main leisure time activity was playing cards with his cronies.

One has to wonder what would have befallen Luigi and Maddalena had they stayed in Italy. Regardless, theirs is a great story. I hope that each branch of the family will keep this for their family’s future.

Please enjoy a tour of Aquara……

   Please click on You Tube box to view.

Under the ancient rock of the castle is Aquara. It is around 500 m above sea level and its name comes from the many springs of its territory. Aquara is crossed in the Southern part by Calore River, but there are also many streams, amonth them the longest being the Pietra and Fierro. The nature of this territory is amde of green plains, hills, a fertile and rich soil, fruits, and a mild climate.  Aquara is known for its artistic and archealogical heritage, a history made of proverbs and beliefs. San Nicola de Bari Church is very interesting. It has three naves and there is a statue of the Sant kept in a niche of the apse, stuccoed by Nicolas Capozzoli in 1746. On the eastern part of the church there is a bell tower with a late Norman arch. On the parvis there is a beautiful Belvedere. The Patron is San Lucido and he is celebrated with a wonderful feast on the 28th of July.

Published on October 30, 2009 at 9:18 am  Comments (4)  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://louiscapozzoli.wordpress.com/the-history-of-the-capozzoli-and-peduto-families/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I am a grandson of Rome Joseph Capozzoli who was triplet. The triplets had been named Rome, London, and Paris. Donato Capozzoli was his father and Caraline Cuccaro was his mother. They had 14 children. Catherine, Florence, Julia, Elizabeth, William Veto, Rome, London, Paris, Anna Marie, Daniel, Nick, Tony, She had two sets of twins with one of each living. Each twin sets had been named Daniel and Anna. They settled near Pittsburgh in a town called union town. They say there is a park near called Capozzoli Park. We can not track any ancestors after Donato. Please help us find there ancestors.

  2. This is a wonderful description of Capozzoli history. My maiden name is Capozzoli. My great-grandfather Anthony Capozzoli immigrated from Albanella, Italy in Oct 1900 (see our ancestry tree http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/37673129/person/19123236362). He was a tailor and settled in Haverhill, MA. If you have any information or suggestions on how I can follow back further, short of a trip to Italy and a month in a parish record book, I would really appreciate it.
    Thanks!
    Lisa Capozzoli Souza

  3. I read this with interest. I am Richard Mucciolo grandson of Pasquale Mucciolo from Albanella. He married Filomena Capozzoli. They lived in Haverhill, MA and had 3 children. She died in the flu pandemic of 1918/1919. He went back to Italy and marrird her cousin Anna Guadaino and had 3 more children. Antonio Capozzoli was at his funeral in 1943.

    • Was Filomena Capozzoli a sister or cousin of Antonio? I have not been able to find anything about his ancestry. Thank you so much for your reply!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: