Document of Old Gioiosa from 1557 discovered in Philadelphia

A precious census (“revelo”) of Gioiosa Guardia, the old Gioiosa Marea, dated 1557 and written in Sicilian dialect and Latin, was discovered some days ago in an archive in Philadelphia in the United States of America.  The document contains a list of the names and incomes of the heads of household of the town (which was abandoned in the last quarter of the 18th century).  The information contained in the census supplements the existing collections at the Historical Diocesan Archive of Patti (Sicily) and the Parochial Archive of Gioiosa Marea (which has the finest collection of censuses, or “Stati d’Anime’, in Sicily), and will contribute to the historical reconstruction of the abandoned town.

The document was discovered accidentally on a roll of microfilm containing records from the town of Ficarra (Sicily), by Dr. Eric Umile, a genealogist of Gioiosan descent, who is presently collaborating with Dr. Marcello Mollica of the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, on a study of the history of the abandonment of Gioiosa Guardia and the migratory patterns of its inhabitants from the 18th century on. 


Marcello Mollica e Padre Salvatore Danzi'                                                                    Eric Umile                                     

The original parchment document is preserved at the Gancia Archive in Palermo, and was microfilmed some years ago by the Mormon Church (which for years has been involved in gathering archival material from all over the world).  The Mormons microfilmed the document without realizing what it contained, since it had been filed incorrectly.  Therefore, without Dr. Umile’s meticulous research of the surnames of the inhabitants of Gioiosa Guardia, the document never would have been found because it was filed under the wrong heading.  On the one hand, he was not looking for the document; on the other hand, it should not have been in the folder where he found it.

In any case, thanks to the work of the Mormons and their digital archives, an original document preserved (but not known to exist) in the Gancia Archive of Palermo has been discovered in Philadelphia. 

Click here to see the news piece that came out on Antenna del Mediterraneo

Translation courtesy of Dr. Eric Umile





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