Carolina (Rosselli) Palumbo
July 9, 1866 - July 17, 1943
Family legend states that Carolina Rosselli, my great great grandmother, was the mother of 21 children. You read that correctly: 21 children.
Before I go into detail about her having 21 kids, let’s go back: Carolina was born on July 9, 1866 to Salvatore Rosselli and Giuseppa Russo. She was the couple’s 5th child, following 4 other children: Calogera, Gaetano, Gaetano and Serafina. Sadly, both boys, who were both named Gaetano after their paternal grandfather, did not live long. The first lived to be about a year old before dying on August 8, 1861 and the second one, who was born on June 18, 1862, died about 6 weeks later, on July 30th. It’s very possible that there were more children than the 5 I know of, but records during this time are spotty and are not all completely available online.
The family lived in Casteltermini, a small town in the Italian province of Agrigento and spent their entire lives there. Both Salvatore and Giuseppa were born there — he in about 1834 and she on October 6, 1838. Although I don’t know anything about Salvatore’s childhood—or if he had siblings—I do know that Giuseppa was one of at least 10 children, so it’s no surprise that when Carolina came of age, she liked the idea of a large family.
When she was 18, Carolina married Salvatore Palumbo, who was the son of Giuseppe Palumbo and Rosalia Vincenza Maniscalco. The two wasted no time starting their family and about 15 months after tying the knot, they welcomed their first child — a girl, named Vincenza. After Vincenza, they had 10 more documented children. It’s important to note the word “documented” here because family legend states that my great grandmother—who was their daughter—was the youngest of 21 children. What that means in this context is that there were 11 documented births spanning from 1885 to 1909, but it’s possible there were 10 additional children whose births were not documented for some reason. My belief—and this is just my own theory—is that there were 21 pregnancies (not 21 births), meaning that it’s possible that Carolina had many miscarriages. The saddest part about Carolina having all these children is that only 4 or 5 of them lived to adulthood; the others all died as children. To say that Carolina and Salvatore’s life was tough would be an understatement. Losing somewhere in the range of 6 to 17 children is just more than I think anyone can bear to fathom.
The 11 known children that Salvatore and Carolina had were as follows: Vincenza, Giuseppe, Giuseppa*, Salvatore*, Calogero*, Giuseppa, Salvatore*, Filomena*, Rosa, Maria and Salvatore*. The 6 children that are marked with asterisks all died as children. Although my great grandmother, Maria, was not the last child born, she was the youngest child to survive. Her younger brother, Salvatore, who was the 3rd child to be named Salvatore, died in 1913 at the age of 4.
Ten years after the death of the youngest child, Salvatore, tragedy struck the family again when Carolina’s husband, Salvatore, who worked as a furniture maker, died at the age of 63, on January 8, 1923 in Casteltermini. As the sole provider for the family, his death was crushing to the family and after passing away, the surviving children began working for the wealthy families in town. It’s said that my great grandmother, Maria, who, again, was the youngest child suriviving child, was very talented at crocheting and mastered a very partiular outer stitch that was used on coats and horsecoats.
Seven years after Salvatore’s death, Maria agreed to marry Giuseppe Scozzari in Casteltermini. Giuseppe was living in Brooklyn, NY and sent a letter and jewelry to Maria, as he remembered her from his time in Casteltermini. The two families were already related through marriage as Maria’s older brother, Giuseppe Palumbo, was married to Mattia Scozzari, the older sister of Maria’s soon-to-be husband, Giuseppe Scozzari. Maria accepted his marriage proposal and Giuseppe then returned to Casteltermini to married Maria.
The marriage between Maria and Giusppe can be confusing because their siblings were married to each other as well. Put simply, there were two Palumbo siblings (Maria and Giuseppe) who were married to two Scozzari siblings (Giuseppe and Mattia). For those familiar with my living family members, which would be like my grandfather, Sal, marrying my grandmother, Bette, and my grandfather’s sister, Millie, marrying my grandmother’s brother, Dave. It’s not incestuous in any way; as it’s just a sister and a brother married to a brother and a sister.
Once my great grandparents married in 1930, they moved to the United States for good in February 1931. The family legend states that my great grandmother cried so hard that they weren’t sure she was going to be allowed into the country, as her eyes looked infected. Putting ourselves in her place, it was incredibly hard to leave her family as she never got to see her mother again.
With that in mind, it was in the summer of 1943 that my great grandmother received a letter from her family members in Casteltermini. The letter announced that Carolina had died on July 17, 1943 at the age of 77 years & 8 days. I was told by my grandfather and his sisters, Mary and Millie, that they all remembered the day the letter came because it arrived on a Friday and when they woke up the next morning, their mother, my great grandmother, Maria, was still crying.
The final piece of this story that I find fascinating is that in 2001, when my great grandmother passed away age the age of 95, she also died on July 17th, exactly 58 years after her mother’s death.