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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.

The Language
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.

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