Where Do We Come From?
by William J. Girimonti III
Where exactly does the family originate from? It is
obvious that we are of Italian descent, but where
in Italy are we from? So far in the search for our
ancestry, I have been able to narrow down the exact
location to within 50 square kilometers. Only further
research will provide the clues to narrow it down
further. Upon interviewing various family members
on the origins of their immediate families, and upon
research of Italian Civil records, it has been ascertained
that the Girimonte/Girimonti family has originated
in the region of Southern Italy known as Calabria.
The Republic of Italy is comprised of 20
regions which are further divided into 103 provinces.
Calabria alone consists
of five provinces which are Catanzaro, Cosenza,
Crotone, Reggio Calabria, and Vibo Valentia. Each
was named after their largest city. If we look closer
at Calabria where Cosenza and Crotone meet, near the
eastern coast, we find the area that the majority
of family members reported as their origin. This is
also the same area where the largest concentration
of family members have been found in civil records
and where most within Italy live today. These towns
are: Castelsilano (Casino), Caccuri, San Giovanni
in Fiore, Verzino and Casabona. By no means is this
the only area where family members have been found.
Other places within Calabria include Paola, Cosenza,
Scandale, Rogliano, Marzi, Cotronei, Crotone, and
and few others in other regions.
Topography and Economy
Topographically, Calabria is primarily mountainous and hilly, with the Appenine
Mountains along the center of the region from north to south. Economically,
the region is the poorest in the country. It's primary sources of revenue are
agricultural products such as wine and olives. There is very little tourism,
and virtually no industry, which are much more common in northern Italy.
The history of the region stretches back far beyond
the time of Christ, beyond the Roman Empire and goes
back to 90000 BC and has been overrun numerous times
ever since. A detailed timeline of Calabria's history
can be found here.
Italy was overrun by barbarian tribes in the early
5th century AD. At this time the Byzantine Empire
(Greeks/Turks) struggled over its remains, but Byzantine
rule was soon displaced in 569 AD by that of the Lombards
(Germanic tribe). There was a constant power struggle
until the German king, Otto I invaded Italy in 961
and was crowned emperor by the Pope; this union of
Italy and Germany marked the beginning of the Holy
Roman Empire. Southern Italy, conquered (11th century)
by the Normans (French), eventually passed to the
Angevins of Naples (French) and the Aragonese kings
of Sicily (Spanish). In 1861 control was turned over
to the Kingdom of Italy, which was ruled by Victor
Emmanuel II. The kingdom remained intact until 1946
when Italy declared itself a republic. There are still
remnants of the interesting and diverse past of Calabria.
There are many Greek and Roman ruins to include buildings
and signal towers all along the coast of the entire
peninsula. Another interesting point, This small area
of Calabria has been the place of preference for many
Albanians that seek asylum in Italy. There is a fairly
large Albanian influence because of it. From this
history of invasions, power struggles, and immigration,
Southern Italy has had many different cultures and
languages dominate much of it's history.
Since there was so much diversity, it is no wonder there are so many different
spoken dialects of Italian. When I traveled to Zinga in 1992, I was unprepared
for the language the locals were speaking. It was not "Textbook" Italian.
In fact it wasn't really "Italian" at all. It seemed to be a mixture
of Italian, Latin, Albanian and Greek. This makes sense, considering the past
Roman and Greek rule and the large Albanian influence in the area. It seems
like every town in Italy has it's own language. On the other side of Calabria,
in Tropea (west coast), the local dialect is completely different. In fact,
I was with an uncle who was born in Tropea, and he had a rough time understanding
the people from Zinga.
In the search for our family's origin, I have researched
the local history, visited the area, spoken with the
people, and searched Italian records for any clues,
yet the original location of our family still eludes
me, but I have it narrowed down to a handful of towns
in the same general vicinity. With a little bit of
luck and a lot of perseverance, I hope to eventually
find the original location, so we can all finally
know, once and for all, where it is that we came from.