Gaetano Coniglio

Born: 26 April, 1889~Serradifalco, Caltanisetta, Sicily, Kingdom of Italy
Married to Rosa Alessi: 30November 1912 ~Serradifalco

Died: 4 July, 1944~ Buffalo, New York

Arrived at Ellis Island 30 April, 1913

Meaning of Coniglio [cu-NEEL-yu]: rabbit


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The street and house where Gaetano was born in 1889,
Vicolo Migliore Numero diece (Number 10 Migliore Alley).

The street was also sometimes called Via or Strada Migliore.

Serradifalco, July 2004 ~ Photos by Greg and Melissa Coniglio       


My Father's Birth

      In Serradifalco, Sicily, on Friday, 26 April 1889, the sun rose at 5:04 AM and set at 6:39 PM. 
     But my grandfather, Gaetano Coniglio the elder, never saw it rise or set, because he was down in the bowels of Stincone, one of the local sulfur mines, working to earn a meager living for his wife Maria Carmela Calabrese and their family. 
     Maria Carmela had borne him eight children, but Raimondo, the eldest, had left for Argentina, and three others had died in infancy, including little Leonardo, three years earlier. 
     Gaetano had entered the mine long before sunrise, and as the hour approached eight in the evening, he packed his gear and made the long, slippery climb out of the mine.  He trod on footholds barely carved in the rock, slippery from the sweat of the labors of the carusi, the mine-boys who toiled all day, carrying the raw sulfur to the furnace outside the mine.
     The moon was new, and invisible, but even so, as he left the black mouth of the mine, by comparison the starlit sky shone like dawn.  His cumpari, pick-men like himself, were the brothers Vincenzo and Salvatore Barile.  They accompanied him as he walked the three miles to his humble home at Via Migliore number ten.  Like them, he was virtually exhausted, but his thoughts were about Maria Carmela.  She was in her final days of pregnancy, and it had not been an easy one.  He knew that his only daughter, thirteen-year-old Maria, not only would be tenderly caring for her mother, but also would have a bowl of hot minestrone ready for him when he arrived, perhaps even with a shred of the lamb they had relished on Easter, the previous Sunday.
     But as he approached the corner of Via Roma and Via Migliore, he saw Maria anxiously pacing there.  When she spied him, she ran to him, shouting "Pap
? Pap? sa veni, sa veni, lu bambinu arriv?" (Papa, Papa, come sir, come sir, the baby boy has arrived!)
     He and his friends hurried into the building, scattering the family livestock kept on the ground floor - two hens, a rooster and one remaining lamb. Gaetano rushed upstairs to the living quarters to see Maria Carmela calmly suckling a red-cheeked, black-haired cherub.  A stoic who did not often show his emotions, Gaetano laid a tender hand on his wife's cheek and muttered "Ha fattu beni, cara."  (You've done well, dear.)
     Carmela took the praise and jokingly responded "Unn'ha statu? Era natu a li cincu. Iddu gi?sapi parlari!" (Where have you been?  He was born at five o'clock.  He already knows how to speak!).
     The rest of the evening, into the early hours, was spent in an alcove of the living area by Gaetano and his friends 'Cenzinu and Turiddu, made somewhat festive by the decorations and baskets of palms Gaetano had woven two weeks earlier.   The cumpari nursed a small bottle of wine that Turiddu had magically produced from his pack, while Gaetano sang the praises of his new son, not omitting the fact that he had fathered the child at age fifty-three!  Home-made bread dipped in the wine helped to sustain their revelry, as his friends cried "Tanuzzu, tu puru ha fattu beni!"  (Gaetano, you, too, have done well!)
     The night deepened, and they realized they must return to the mine that morning: each found a warm spot on the floor and napped as best he could, while Maria tended to the needs of her mother and her new baby brother.
     As Saturday morning approached, the men shook themselves awake, grabbed crusts of bread and their packs, and began the walk back to Stincone.  Dawn was staining the sky, and they approached the mine with trepidation.  The mine owner was Mastru Licalsi. They called him 'Mashu Babbu', 'Master Dummy'.  He was standing arms akimbo in the mine's entranceway, and he berated them for being late, saying he would dock them for the lost time.
    Emboldened by his new fatherhood (and perhaps by last night's wine), Gaetano retorted "Go ahead, and while you're at it, you can dock me for a half-day, because this morning, I'm taking my son to the municipiu to have his birth registered!"  
     Before Mashu Babbu could sputter a response, 'Cenzinu and Turiddu piped up "You can dock us, too, because we're going as his witnesses!"  And they turned on their heels and trudged back into town.
     So it was that at ten that morning, 27 April 1889, 'Cenzinu and Turiddu, with Gaetano gingerly cradling his baby boy, took the short walk to the town hall on Via Duca di Serradifalco. 
     Gaetano presented the child for Town Secretary Pasquale Vaccari to see, while a clerk recorded the details:

     "Your name?" - "Gaetano Coniglio"
     "Age?" - Gaetano, with obvious pride, replied "Fifty-three!"
     "Occupation? - "Sulfur miner."
     "Date and time of the birth?" - "The twenty-sixth of this month, at five in the afternoon."
     "Address?" - "Via Migliore number ten."
     "Mother of the child?" - "Carmela
[her common name] Calabrese, my wife."
     "What do you name the child?"
     There was a rigid naming convention in Sicily, requiring the first and second child of each gender to be named after their respective grandparents.  This tradition had already been met with Gaetano's earlier children, so he responded "I'm not likely to have any more sons. I'll give him my own name, and the name of my grandfather, Gaetano."
     "Have you brought witnesses to this registration?" - "Yes, my friends Vincenzo and Salvatore Barile. They're sulfur miners, too."

     "Can any of you write?" - "If we could write, would we be sulfur miners?"
         It may not have happened exactly that way, but who can say it didn't?  My father's Record of Birth appears below. The clerk wrote down only the names and dates as reported by my grandfather.  The 憁eat?of the story comes from my heart.

Note:  Vincenzo Barile was not only a co-worker of Gaetano Coniglio the elder, he was married to Giuseppa Migliore, who was the daughter of Gaetano's second cousin Giuseppa Montalto and her husband Michele Migliore.


           Gaetano's civil birth record shows the date of his and Rosa's civil marriage as 1 December 1912.  Church and civil authorities were at odds after Sicily was subsumed into the previously non-existent kingdom of Italy, and church weddings (and the offspring of such unions) were illegitimate in the eyes of the state.
           Gaetano was the seventh son of Gaetano Coniglio and Maria Carmela Calabrese.
           Another fact gleaned from the birth record is in the margin note, which states that Gaetano the son married Rosa Alessi on the first of December, 1912.  This refers to the couple's civil marriage, which took place in the Town Hall on that date.


Numero 158
Coniglio Gaetano
 A 1o Dicembre 1912 spos?/span>  
Alessi Rosa


S'indiche la professione o la condizione.

    L抋nno milleottocento ottantanove, addi ventisette di Aprile,
 a ore
anti meridiane diece e minuti ___, nella Casa comunale.
    Avanti di me
Vaccari Pasquale Segretario delegato con atto del Sindaco del ventiquattro aprile milleottocentoottandotto, debitamante approvato, Uffiziale dello Stato Civile del Comune di Serradifalco ______________
comparso Gaetano Coniglio, di anni cinquantatre,*solfaio domiciliatio 
Serradifalco, il quale mi ha dichiarato che alle ore po meridiane cinque e minuti __________, del di ventisei del corrente mese, nella casa posta in
via Migliore al numero diece, da Carmela Calabrese sua
moglie, casalinga, seco lui convivente
e nato un bambino di sesso
mascolino che igli mi presenta e a cui da il nome di Gaetano ______________________________________________
   A quanto sopra e a questo atto sono presenti quali testimoni
Barile Vin
___ di anni, trenta,*solfaio, e Barile Salvatore, di anni
trentasei,*solfaio, entrambi reidente in questo Comune. ______________
Letto il presente atto agli intervenuti si e da me sottoscritte
solamente, avendo li stessi detto di non sapere sottoscrivere

    P Vaccari


Number 158

Gaetano Coniglio
On 1
st December 1912 married
Rosa Alessi





*Indicates occupation or status.

    In the year one thousand eight hundred eighty-nine, on day twenty-seven  of  April, at ten o'clock AM, in the Town Hall.
   Before me,
Pasquale Vaccari, Secretary delegated by act of the Mayor on twenty-four April one thousand eight hundred eighty-eight, duly approved, 
Official of Public Records of the Town of Serradifalco ___________ appeared Gaetano Coniglio, age fifty-three,*a sulfur miner living
Serradifalco, who has declared to me that at five o'clock PM,
minutes ____ on day
twenty-six of the current month, in the house located at via Migliore number ten, by Carmela Calabrese, his wife, a homemaker, living with he, himself ______________________________
is born a baby
boy who was presented for me to see, and who was given the name Gaetano ______________________________________________
To the above, and to this record, are present the witnesses Barile Vin
age thirty,*a sulfur miner, and Salvatore Barile, age
thirty-six,*a sulfur miner, both residents of this community. ____________
The present act was read to those in attendance but is signed by me alone, the informant and witnesses having said that they don't know how to sign

    P Vaccari



         Gaetano's baptismal record, in Latin, below, shows in the right margin the date of his and Rosa's marriage in church as November 30, 1912.  The main text is in Latin, but the margin note is in Italian, which uses '912' as an abbreviation for the year 1912.

From Serradifalco Registri Ecclesiastici Film No. 2012914, 1889 Baptisms, No. 164, Caietanus Coniglio     


         Die 27 Aprilis 1889 
Caietanus Coniglio filius Caietani et Carmelae
Calabrese, baptizatus est a me Sacerdote Carmelo
Cutrona.  Patrini fuere Paulus Damico, et
Rosa Milazzo, Conjuges
Sp. il 30
912 con
Alessi Rosa
di Leonardo

The baptism record says:

Gaetano Coniglio

        Day 27 April 1889 
Gaetano Coniglio son of Gaetano and Carmela
Calabrese, is baptized by me Priest Carmelo
Cutrona.  Godparents were Paolo Damico, and
Rosa Milazzo, husband and wife.
Married the 30th
of November
1912 with
Rosa Alessi
dtr. of Leonardo



           Gaetano's father, also named Gaetano, was a zulfataiu, a miner in one of the several sulfur mines around Serradifarcu.  Gaetano the younger may have begun working in the mine at age 7 or 8, possibly as a carusu, carrying heavy baskets of sulfur ore, hacked out by the pick-men from the interior of the mine to the surface, to be smelted.  After a few years of this, he may have 'graduated' to being a picuneri, or pick-man.
          Below is a rule-book for the Mutual Aid Society of the Sulfur Miners of Serradifarcu, to which both Gaetanos belonged.



         This is Gaetano's discharge from the Italian Army.  While the note on his birth record above, indicates that his father was illiterate, Gaetano the younger did sign his Army papers, so he evidently was the first Coniglio in history who was able to sign his own name.  He was eligible for the Italian draft on his twentieth birthday in 1909, the year his mother Maria Carmela Calabrese died.  He served honorably in the Italian Army from 24 July 1910 through 15 August 1912.  While he was in service, his older brother Raimondo died, on 12 August 1910, and his father died, on 11 October 1910.
         Click on the image below for more details.


        My parents were married in the Chiesa Matrice (Main Church) of San Leonardo Abate in Serradifalco on November 30, 1912, and in the Municipio, or Town Hall of Serradifalco on 1 December 1912.  Note that the civil marriage record is signed by both Gaetano and Rosa, who signed "Alessi Rosina".   Gaetano was a sulfur miner, and he married Rosa, daughter of a sulfur miner, which reflected the rigid class distinctions in Sicilian society at the time.  Rosa was the sister of Angela Alessi, the wife of his older brother Giuseppe.

Da Anagrafe di Serradifalco, 2008      

From the Serradifalco Registry Office, 2008      






Printed by G. Scotti

(click HERE to enlarge)

Nationals are advised that in order to enjoy the protection and the rights covered by the law on emigration, those wanting to go to America must board a steamer that is an emigrant carrier, with a ticket issued in Italy from authorized offices.
   It is necessary that emigrants refuse every proposal of Agencies of emigration established outside of Italy, tending to attract them to disembark in foreign ports, because, accepting, they would encounter serious disadvantage: greater expenses, travel many times longer, lack of protection at borders by governing Commissioners, necessity to resort to foreign courts in case of litigation, and expensive stops in foreign maritime cities in order to achieve boarding schedules.



No. 2377
This passport consists of twenty pages

no. of
the passport


no. of corres-
ponding register





issued to Gaetano Coniglio
son of the late Gaetano
and of the late
Carmela Calabrese
born at Serradifalco
on 26 April 1889
resident of Serradifalco
in the Province of
occupation Sulfur Miner

 - 2 -
Description of the Holder of the Passport

Bearing  regular
Height 5 ft. 2 in.
Forehead regular
Eyes chestnut
Nose thin
Mouth straight
Hair chestnut
Beard clean-shaven
Mustache chestnut
Complexion  dark
Build medium
Identifying marks small scar on the forehead

    Signature of the Holder                 
 Coniglio Gaetano     




        On 30 April 1913, four days after his 24th birthday, Gaetano landed at Ellis Island on the SS Berlin (line 11).  He was evidently required to remain on the ship until the next day, as the arrival date on the manifest is 1 May 1913.  Listed as Gaetano's closest relative left in Serradifalco was his wife Rosa Alessi.  His destination was his brother Giuseppe Coniglio at 76 Main Street, Pittston, Pensylvania.  On the same voyage as Gaetano was Angela Alessi (line 5), who left her father Leonardo in Serradifalco, and was going to her husband Giuseppe Coniglio at 76 Main Street, Pittston, Pennsylvania.  
        Angela Alessi
was Rosa's sister, and Giuseppe Coniglio was Gaetano's brother.  No doubt Giuseppe convinced his younger brother to chaperone his (Giuseppe's) wife to America, while a pregnant Rosa waited in Serradifalco for Gaetano to send for her.  76 Main Street in Pittston was an Italian-language bank, and rather than waiting there for Gaetano and Angela to arrive, Giuseppe probably left cash, train tickets and directions for them to use, to get to Robertsdale, Pennsylvania, where he had employment as a coal miner.


The Steam Ship Berlin.
Later it was re-christened the Steam Ship Arabic.

 The Italian-language bank
at 76 Main Street, Pittston, PA


        In 1917, at age 28, Gaetano was required to register for the draft for World War I.  He was never drafted, possibly because he was married with a wife and two young sons (Guy and Leonard), and worked in what was probably considered an essential industry, at the Rock Hill Iron and Coal Company in Robertsdale, Pennsylvania, a 'company town'.
        The photograph shows the Robertsdale Italian Band, assembled for a performance on Columbus Day, 1917.  Gaetano, Rosa, and their sons Guy and Leonard may have been in the crowd that day.



       The 1920 U. S. Census (last line) shows 'Guy Comellia' living at 100 Spring Street, Robertsdale, Wood Township, Pennsylvania.  His wife 'Rosy Comellia' and their sons Guy (named after his paternal grandfather Gaetano Coniglio), Leonardo (named for his maternal grandfather Leonardo Alessi) and Raimondo (named after his father's eldest brother Raimondo Coniglio) are listed at the top of the next census page.  The Coniglios lived next door to Calogero and Grazia Asarese Butera, two paisani from Serradifalco who lived at 96 Spring Street.




           Gaetano petitioned for U. S. Naturalization in 1921, shortly after the family moved to 18 Peacock Street in Buffalo's Canal District.  His first daughter Carmela (Millie) was born in that house, and baptized in the neighborhood's Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. 

           Gaetano took classes in English and History, and his American citizenship was granted on 16 April 1924, after the family had moved to 309 Myrtle Avenue.



Me (with curls) in the arms of Angie Sciortino.
Gaetano is at the rear ~ Musacchio's farm, North Collins, New York, 1939.

This is the only instance that I know of, with my father and myself in the same photo.


Studio portrait of Gaetano and Rosa, about 1940.


           In the late 1930s and early '40s, Gaetano worked at various jobs: pipe-laying for Iroquois Gas; caretaker of the local community center, Welcome Hall; and tending bar at taverns like Magistrale's on Seneca Street.  In summers, the family would be transported by truck to Musacchio's farm in North Collins, where Rosa and the children lived in one of the migrant worker shacks, and picked beans and berries.  When he could find work, Gaetano would stay in Buffalo during the week and join the family on week-ends, to add two more hands to the family's labor force.  While at the farm, the owners gave Gaetano the responsibility of locking and unlocking the community water pump each day, earning him a nickname among the other migrant workers: 'Mashu Tanu', or 'Master Gaetano'.

Gaetano, Ray and Rosa
309 Myrtle Avenue  ~ 1942

North Collins, NY ~ 1943

Tony and Gaetano
North Collins, NY ~ 1943


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Gaetano ~ 1942

Rosemary and Gaetano
Myrtle Avenue ~ 1943

Gaetano and Phil, 1943


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Rosa and Gaetano
Myrtle Avenue ~ 1943

Gaetano and Rosemary
May 1, 1944


        Here, my father was standing by the community water-well pump of Musacchio's farm camp in the summer of '43.  I recently learned from Sam and Ross Markello (Marchello) of North Collins that Pa was assigned the responsibility of removing the pump handle each day at sunset and replacing it the next day before sunrise, to prevent unauthorized use of water by the resident laborers. Because of this assignment, he was called "Marshu Tanu" (Master Gaetano).

        After years of scrimping and saving from our three-cents-a-quart labors, Gaetano was able to buy the first home the family ever owned in 1944. It was at 973 West Avenue, a few blocks from Bluebird抯 Bakery, and right next door to the family of Calogero Butera and Grazia Asarese, fellow immigrants from Serradifalco.
        Sadly, our joy at being in our own home was cut short on July 4, 1944, when my father was struck and killed by a hit and run driver on the corner of West Ferry and Niagara. But by buying that house on West Avenue, Gaetano had provided for his family, and through his work ethic, frugality and passion to save, he had given us all a valuable example that we have tried to emulate throughout our lives.
        I have only vague memories of my father, but I do remember that when I was only three or four, and would become frightened during the night, I would sometimes climb into my parents' bed with them.  My father's body radiated so much warmth that I would tell my mother "Ma, Pap?/b> ?/b> comu 'na stuva!"  ("Ma, Papa's like a stove!")


           Gaetano's funeral was attended by family members and friends, many of them paisani from Sicily and specifically from Serradifalco and later Robertsdale, Pennsylvania.  To see the list of attendees click HERE.



The burial place in the letter is in error, it should have read Mount Calvary Cemetery.


Click HERE to see Gaetano's direct ancestral tree (his 'pedigree')
         Gaetano Coniglio married  Rosa Alessi on 30 November, 1912 in the Chiesa Matrice San Leonardo Abate, in Serradifalco.  The next day, they were married in a civil ceremony at the Serradifalco Town Hall. 

Gaetano Vincenzo Coniglio (Guy)
married Maria Antonia (Mary) Modica
Leonardo Coniglio (Len)
lifelong bachelor
Raimondo Angelo Coniglio (Ray)
married Marion Cappellano
Felice Salvatore Coniglio (Phil)
married Betty Jean Hinton
Carmela Coniglio (Millie)
married Alfonso (Alfred) Volo
Concetta Coniglio (Connie)
married Donald K. Miller
Maria Angela Coniglio (Mary)
married Fiore Denisco, then Francis (Frank) Sowa Sr.
Antonio Frank Coniglio (Tony)
married Frances Knickerbocker
Angelo Felice Coniglio (Ange)
married Angela Yvonne Bongiovanni

(a son was also stillborn on 14 June 1932)

To read more about the family, go to these pages:


A Visit to Robertsdale


North Collins

Gaetano and Rosina


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Gaetano & Rosina





































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