Friday, February 27, 2015

Italian Foundling Surname 'la Casasanta'

Records showing various surnames for Maria
I've been doing a lot of research on my Italian branch recently and came across a perplexing situation in which I couldn't determine why one of my ancestors was seemingly going by two different surnames, and sometimes both together.

My 4th great grandmother was being listed alternately on Sulmona, Italy records for her children as Maria Fasciano, Maria la Casasanta, and Maria la Casasanta Fasciano. One even said "la Casasanta alias Fasciano." So what was her maiden name? Fasciano? la Casasanta? Or both? Why would she have an alias? I knew they were all the same woman, and not a case of her husband having two wives with the name Maria (which wouldn't be impossible in general because practically every female from this town was named Maria) because of the timeline in which the names appear and the records which listed both names. I have come across a lot of people in my tree who were given the middle name of their mother's maiden name, but in these cases, it was always just a middle name, it was never used on it's own as a surname like I was sometimes seeing in this case. So although I kept 'la Casasanta' in mind as potentially Maria's mother's maiden name, I was hesitant to commit to that idea and kept searching.

Unfortunately, Maria was born and married before the online records from Sulmona begin, and I have yet to find her death record (still searching). But I did notice that on her husband's death record, a Venanzio Fasciano is listed as one of the registrants of the death and upon closer inspection, it mentioned that he was the brother-in-law of the deceased - i.e., Maria's brother!

Record of Venanzio's birth naming his father
So then I was feeling pretty confident that her maiden name was Fasciano and la Casasanta must have been her mother's maiden name. But I go searching for more info on Venanzio just to be sure, and because in general, I want find out their parents names anyway. I find Venanzio's marriage record and a copy of his birth record in with the supporting documents for his marriage, which say his father's name is Saverio la Casasanta "alias" Fasciano, and mother's name is Maria Loreto del Rinto. Huh? So it's not the mother's maiden name, but it actually came from the father's original name who appears to have gone by the alias Fasciano? Why would he do that?

Well, I decided to Google the name and couldn't really find anything out but on a whim I popped it into Google translate, mainly because I knew Casa means House and, I thought Santa meant Holy. And I was right: it means Holy House. Like a church.

And that's when I started noticing that while browsing through the indices of the earliest records, 9 times out of 10 when I saw the surname la Casasanta, it was paired with "Unknown parents". In other words, I think infants who were abandoned at a church (aka, a foundling) would often be given the surname "la Casasanta", literally meaning "the holy house". My speculation now is that either Saverio or his father was abandoned at a church and given this surname, but Saverio also went by Fasciano to avoid the stigma of either his father or himself having obviously been abandoned at birth. If it was his father who was abandoned, Fasciano might be Saverio's mother's maiden name, which he took as an alias. Otherwise, I have no idea where Fasciano came from but you can be sure I will keep digging.

Example of someone named 'la Casasanta' whose parents are unknown

I still don't know why, of Saverio's children, one went only by Fasciano and the other by both names, sometimes together, sometimes alternately but at least I now know what the name la Casasanta means and why someone would choose to go by an alias. Unfortunately, it also probably means that at some point I'm going to hit a dead end with this branch, but hopefully I still have a lot more find.

UPDATE: I have since found Saverio's death record which says his parents were unknown. So Saverio was a foundling and the name Fasciano was either chosen at random or could also have come from the family who raised him, if they approved of him using their name. However, the lack of Fascianos in the Sulmona records suggest there was no other family in Sulmona with the name Fasciano. So it may have chosen at random to avoid the stigma of being a foundling, or to avoid confusion among so many other people with the name la Casasanta.

For more info on other foundling names, check out FamilySearch.org's article on the matter.

Resource: State Archives of L'Aquila

1 comment:

  1. My mother's maiden name is Casasanta. She is from Pittsburgh PA. Her parents, Francesco Casasanta and Nicolini and other Casasantas came over from Bologna , but Ia m told that they were from Rome.They came
    through Ellis Island in the early 1900 and 1920's. There may be a connection.
    My email is melbel@cox.net
    My name is Melody

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