“Back in the Day” is a new, occasional feature taking a look back to the area’s past. If you have a photo and story you would like to share, email it to Advantage@timesshamrock.com.
As we know, many European immigrants located to NEPA in the late 1800s and early 1900s. While the immigration officials in the various ports did a pretty good job of recording the accurate spelling of Italians, Poles, Germans and Irish names, many of these immigrants did not know how to read or write. Once in America, they adopted the spellings of their names as recorded on ship manifests.
Very often, though, those names were misspelled by others in the community in which these immigrants relocated. One example is the Ligi family.
Richard Gaivedoni, of New Jersey, had gone to the burial plot of his mother’s side of the family at St. Michael’s in Jessup. He discovered a little grave, tenderly lined with stones, with the name Egisto Ligi carved on it. No other identifying information was included.
The grave was obviously the size of a young child. Gaivedoni took photos and hurried home to look at his genealogy work. None of the names he had included Egisto. He did some checking around, but couldn’t find anything specific. Gaivedoni turned to the Genealogical Research Society of NEPA for help.
Our lead researcher, Connie Barrufaldi, spent hours trying to find Egisto. She reviewed the 1910 census and found a “Justus” Ligi as an infant in the family. She checked the 1920 census and Justus was not listed. She tried a dozen different spellings of Ligi and Egisto. Finally, she conducted a very wide sweep of Pennsylvania death records in 1911 and found a record for Ajustes Sigi, a 2-year-old, who died of complications of measles and diptheria.
Imagine the grief stricken parents, who did not speak English very well, trying to spell or pronounce the name of the deceased child to a county official who was not Italian. The misspelling nearly erased the existence of this child. Oddly enough, the official did record Egisto’s father’s last name as Ligi.
Now, Egisto has a place in Gaivedoni’s family tree and he will be remembered by the next generation.
The grave of young Ajustes Sigi.