If you start feeling a sense of deja vu when reading this post, you’re not alone. I previously wrote about what I called my “white whale” of genealogy, the hunt for the identities of my great grandfather Giulio DiBagno’s 4 sisters who remained in Italy. While I beached that whale, there’s still one out there swimming. Now I turn my sights to Giulio’s wife, Adelina “Adela” Scimia and the identities of her (alleged) two sisters who remained in Italy. But this time, it’s not just sisters I’m hunting for; I’m looking for as many Scimia relations as I can get ahold of.
Adelina “Adela” (sometimes spelled Atelina “Atela”) Scimia was born on April 15, 1890 in Bagno Piccolo, L’Aquila, Abruzzo, Italy. Proof of her birth was found in my grandfather’s attic. Last summer, my grandma showed me a metal lockbox which included a 1939 request from Adela to the Commune Dell’Aquila. In it, she requested her birth certificate, 1st husband Ludovico Passacantando’s birth & death certificates, daughter Antonina Passacantando’s (later known as Mary DiBagno) birth certificate, and proof of marriage between Adela and second husband Giulio DiBagno (these documents were also in the lockbox).
Through these documents, I was introduced to Adela’s parents: Carmine Scimia and Domenica Cruciani. I researched them further through Italian record sites and discovered Domenica’s death certificate. Domenica (listed as Domenicantonia) was born about 1855 in Vallesindola, L’Aquila, Abruzzo, Italy and passed away on September 28, 1928 in Bagno Piccolo. She and her husband lived on a farm in Bagno Piccolo; her granddaughter Mary remembered her grandmother coming to visit them on her donkey which she occasionally let Mary ride. I have not yet found any information on Carmine aside from his name, but I am assuming that he died sometime around or before Mary’s birth in 1912 as she remembers her grandmother Domenica as a widow.
On May 25, 1911, 21 year old Adela married 45 year old Ludovico Passacantando, son of Antonio Passacantando and Crocifissa Di Francescantonio. Ludovico’s surname (translating to “passing through”) would prove near prophetic in terms of his relationship with Adela. Less than 6 months after their marriage, on November 11, 1911, Ludovico died. Family lore says this was in a work accident, a credible possibility as Ludovico worked as a carrettiere (or carter – someone who transported various goods by cart). Adela was left alone and about 5 months pregnant; their daughter Antonina was born on March 12, 1912, having never met her father.
24 year old widow Adela married 21 year old bricklayer Giulio DiBagno on October 25, 1914 and they had 3 children together (Giuseppe “Joe,” Francesco “Frank,” and Ardissina “Agnes”) before immigrating to America in 1920.
Mary DiBagno (formerly Antonina Passacantando) had told a niece about the existence of Adela’s two sisters. However, no names were given. I have tried, but have been unsuccessful in identifying them or confirming their existence beyond Mary’s word. There are photos from a cousin’s collection from a trip to Italy in 1974. In the photos, a few aunts and uncles were named who did not match up with Giulio’s now identified sisters or their husbands and who DiBagno relatives who knew his sisters could not recognize. For these reasons, I am assuming that they belong to the Scimia side of the family.
Photo Above: The lady in red is listed as Zia Agnese (Aunt Agnese). The man far left in glasses is unknown to me and unnamed in the photo. The 4 on the right are my great aunts and uncles visiting from America: Edith, Joe, Agnes, and Geno.
Above Photo: This was captioned “Zio Giovanni, Zia Antonine, daughter Silena and her husband in San Felice d’Ocre L’Aquila.”
Above Photo: Captioned “Campo Felice Ski Resort near Zio Giovanni’s in Felice d’Ocre.” The boy is unnamed, but could be the son of Silena and her husband.
So, from these photos, we have Zia Agnese, Zia Antonine and (probably) her husband Zio Giovanni as well as Antonine’s daughter Silena. Giulio DiBagno had sisters similarly named Agnesina and Antonina, but DiBagno family members who knew them did not recognize these women as DiBagnos. If Agnese and Antonine are Adelina’s two sisters, I have names and photos, but I have never been able to confirm this or get any additional information.
Scimia is a much more common Italian surname than Di Bagno, making it that much more difficult to track. Compared to the 27 results that pop up on the Antenati records site for Di Bagno (only about a third of which match back to L’Aquila), Scimia pulls up 723 with 685 of these matching to L’Aquila. Without more specific information, it’s near impossible to figure out which Scimias are my Scimias. So I turned to DNA.
Searching for DNA matches on Ancestry who have the surname Scimia in their tree pulls up 3 members who each match me distantly from between 7-9 cm over 1 segment. Two of these matches do not match my known cousins who are descendants of Adela. The third does and is a link between myself and Adela and a person who had been on my radar for a while.
His name was Giacomo Scimia. He was born on January 14, 1880 in Abruzzo, Italy and immigrated to America in 1903, settling in Cambria County, Pennsylvania. There he Americanized his name to Jack Simmons and married Italian born Norina Fragala. After their house burned down, they moved to Jeannette, Pennsylvania, the same tiny borough my great grandparents Adela and Giulio would settle in after immigrating in 1920. It is for this reason I had kept my eye on Giacomo, after coming across his name on a general search of Scimias in Jeannette. I thought it couldn’t just be a coincidence that a Scimia from Abruzzo would settle in the same obscure location as another Scimia from Abruzzo had they not been somehow related. Even more interesting, Jack’s amazing biography on Find A Grave (great credit should be given to whoever wrote this genealogical goldmine!) lists his address as 418 Chestnut Street in Jeannette, which happens to be only a few houses down from Giulio and Adela’s address of 301 Chestnut Street. They also attended the same Catholic church, Ascension Church in Jeannette. Coincidence does not equal guarantee, but DNA doesn’t lie. The DNA match would confirm Adela and Jack’s biological connection, though I have not yet been able to identify how they were related. On one document, Jack’s father was listed as Raniero Scimia. Could Carmine and Raniero have been brothers, making Adela and Jack 1st cousins? Or could it have been a more distant relationship? I am hopeful that one day I will have more answers.
If you are reading this and have any information on any of the persons above, please contact me.