The Fusia/Fuscŕ Family  



Historical Background

Calabrian dress - 1800's



Between 1890 and 1930, over 5 million Italians immigrated to the United States (not to mention an equal number that  immigrated to Canada, Australia, Argentina and Brazil) - 80% of them were from southern Italy. Bruno and Marianna were part of that great exodus. They did not think of themselves as Italians though, because Italy did not exist as a country, as we know it now, until 1871. They were Calabrese from Calabria. Other Italian immigrants considered themselves Sicilian, Pugliese, Abruzzese, or Napolitan depending on what part of the "boot" they were from.  What we now call Italy was, for centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, a collection of city states and provinces controlled by other European countries.  During the mid 1800’s, Giuseppe Garibaldi headed a revolutionary movement - the Risorgimento, to overthrow foreign rule and unify all the provinces into one nation.  To gain support for the rebellion, sweeping promises for a better future were made to all the provinces. Those in the southern provinces felt they had the most to gain and many young men from southern Italy rushed to fill the ranks of Garibaldi’s army.  They saw the chance to get revenge for years of harsh foreign oppression (especially from the French) and to liberate themselves from impoverished peasantry.  The rebellion was successful and the Republic of Italy was born.


It was said that, “Italians are as attached to their soil as an oyster to its rock”.  Why then would so many of them, like Bruno, want to take their families and leave everything they held dear - their homes, villages and farms – the land their ancestors had lived on for centuries, just when a brighter future seemed right at hand?  The answer is tied to a number of significant political events, economic problems and natural disasters that impacted southern Italy  in the late 1800’s.

The great promises of the Risorgimento were slow to come to southern Italy.  Northern Italy was more industrialized, the people better educated and far better off economically than the south. The southern provinces were rural, rustic and had agriculture based economies. They had little industry and were isolated from the big cities and centers of arts and science. Because of that, southern Italians were generally considered low and backwards by northern Italians. Those differences, developed into longstanding regional animosities and tension between the provinces.  Since the northern regions were already flourishing and prosperous, their interests became the main focus of the Italian parliament. The first extensive rail system in Italy connected the northern industrial city of Turin with Paris, not Turin with Naples.  While the rest of the country was advancing and improving the lives of their people, the south was left to manage on it’s own.  Opportunities for a better life seemed farther and farther away.

A  number of natural disasters also hit southern Italy about this time.  During the 19th century, southern Italy was notorious as the most malarial area in Europe.  On top of that, a series of cholera epidemics swept through the south  between 1884 – 1887 that took the lives of 55,000 people.  Worst of all, the provinces of Calabria and Sicily were hit with four major earthquakes in quick succession -1894, 1905, 1907 and 1908.  The  quake of 1908 was the most devastating, also producing a tidal wave that destroyed most of the coastal towns in the Sicilian province of Messina and much of the southwestern coast of Calabria  

“The dead numbered almost 100,000.  The tidal wave reached a height of 40 ft, and for five days torrential rains

 totally flooded the provinces.  Many of those who lived to tell the story interpreted the disaster as nothing less than a signal from Providence and joined the migration of Sicilians and Calabrians to the United States.”

America looked very appealing. The oysters were leaving their rocks.    


   To "L'America"

In May 1895, Giacomo Bruno Fuscŕ, then 30 years old, along with his older brother Domenico, 35, and two cousins, Giuseppe DeCaria and Giuseppe Scuglia left the village of Vazzano and made their way to Naples where they boarded the passenger ship, SS Britannia, that would take them to America. Bruno left behind his wife Marianna Nicolina DePalma, 28, and three young sons – Giuseppe Maria, age 7, Domenico Antonio, age 4, and Francesco Giovan Battista, age 1 - Joe, Don and Frank.  Marianna came from a good family in Pizzoni, the next town. She was the daughter of Giovan Battista DePalma and Caterina Donato.  On their Certificate of Marriage, Bruno is listed as a calzoliao - a shoemaker, Marianna is listed as a filatrice - a weaver.  Later records give her the title  "donna de casa" - literally, Gentlewoman of the house. This was a title of respect, it did not simply mean a housewife. 


S.S. Britannia

As a side note here, both Bruno and his brother Domenico could read and write. The passenger manifest for the SS Britannia states this and signatures, in their own hand, by Bruno and his two brothers – Domenico and Francesco are often found on Civil Documents in Vazzano where they signed their names as witnesses attesting to births, deaths and marriages in the 1880’s and 1890’s.  In fact, Francesco was the sindaco – mayor, of Vazzano during the 1890’s.  The Civil Records of marriages, births and deaths are revealing in other ways too because they list the profession the person the Record concerns.  It is clear that our branch of the Fuscŕ family were members of the artisan class and were well educated for the time. Quite a few of our direct ancestors had the title Mastro - master/teacher. They were not peasants without hope, fleeing to America. They came for well thought-through reasons. 

Bruno, Domenico and their cousins arrived in the port of New York on June 13 and were processed through immigration at Ellis Island.   They then went by rail to their final destination, Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania. They had been sponsored by one of the families who had come over earlier,  possibly the Malfera family or, more likely, the DeCaria family. They recruited many young men looking to come to America from Vazzano, Pizzoni and the nearby towns of San Nicola da Crissa and Vallelonga to work as laborers in the then thriving, industrial town of Johnsonburg - work, such as cutting timber, brick manufacturing or working in the paper mills.  The sponsoring families did more than simply bring over laborers for local industry. They felt an obligation and responsibility to look after their welfare.  In fact, Caterina DeCaria, the matriarch of the DeCaria family, was known as Queen Caterina to the immigrants. When she died, her body was preserved in a glass coffin and placed in a mausoleum.  Today,  24% of the population of Johnsonburg still claims Italian ancestry. 


Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania in 1895

Bruno did not stay in Johnsonburg long, maybe a year.  He left Johnsonburg and moved to Braddock. PA working as a laborer for the Pennsylvania Railroad.  In 1897 with the money he saved, he bought a two room building  at 1314 Montier Street in Wilkinsburg. The following year, he sent for Marianna and the boys.  

SS Alesia    


Marianna, Joe, Don and Frank came over with Bruno's nephew, Giuseppe Fuscŕ, 21, on the SS Alesia The Alesia left out of the Port of Naples on September 5, 1898 and arrived in New York on the 24th.  The ships manifest shows Marianna had the grand sum of $16 to her name!  


In 1900, Elizabeth was born.  A year later, Bruno bought a house two blocks away at 1517 Montier Street.  He built double storerooms downstairs – one for making shoes and boots and in the other, he sold food and ice cream.  The store was simply referred to as “Bruno’s”.  The family grew with the arrivals of Catherine in 1902, Jack in 1904, Richard in 1908 and Vic in 1913.  

The children worked in the store and the businesses did well.  In 1918, they moved to 1124 Maple Street on the hillside above the store on Montier Street.  Bruno converted the old building below into a grocery and general merchandise store, where he gained the reputation” If Bruno doesn’t have it, nobody does.” The store served the community for over 30 years.

Grocery store chains were coming into the neighborhoods by the 1920’s and automobiles were quickly replacing the horse and wagon.  To keep pace with changing times and to keep his business interests thriving, Bruno opened a gas station and garage.    

Bruno died in 1933 at the age of 68 and Marianna the following year at 66.  They are buried along side Bruno's brother Domenico and his wife Maria Carmella (Facciolo) Fusca, Mary Fusca  and Salvatore J. Fusca in Monongahela Cemetery, North Braddock, PA.

I would like to specially thank Josephine Nuzzo Fusia for her help, knowledge and wonderful sense of humor. I wish she was still with us. Much of the details above came from her.  

Mille grazie, zia Josephine!  Si, il sangue tira.

Tom Fusia 


La Calabria




Vazzano - Town Crest


Pizzoni - Town Crest

OK, so where are Vazzano and Pizzoni ?

The surrounding countryside is beautiful with rolling hills.   

For photos click HERE

Vazzano and Pizzoni are small agricultural towns (population about 1200 each) in Vibo Valentia Province, Calabria.  They are about a mile from each other.  Calabria is the southernmost Region in mainland Italy - The "Toe" of the "Boot".  It is the ahh... fuchsia colored Region on the map below -              






Pillars of a Nation   

painting by Jim Daly


The Myth of Ellis Island Name Changes

Immigrants' surnames were changed thousands of times, but professional researchers have found that name changes were rare at Ellis Island (or at Castle Island , which was the New York port of entry prior to Ellis Island 's opening). The myth of name changes usually revolves around the concept that the immigrant was unable to communicate properly with the English-speaking officials at Ellis Island. However, this ignores the fact that Ellis Island employed hundreds of translators who could speak, read, and write the immigrants' native tongues. It also ignores all the documentation that an immigrant needed to have in order to be admitted into the U.S.

In order to be admitted into the United States as an immigrant in the late nineteenth century or later, one had to have paperwork. Each immigrant had to have proof of identity. This would be a piece of paperwork filled out in "the old country" by a clerk who knew the language, and the paperwork would be filled out in the local language, not in English (unless the "old country" was an English-speaking country). The spelling of names on these documents generally conformed to local spellings within the immigrant's place of origin. Even if the person traveling was illiterate and did not know how to spell his or her own name, the clerks filling out the paperwork knew the spelling of that name in the local language or could sound it out properly according to the conventions of the language used. Also, in many countries one had to obtain an exit visa in order to leave. Again, exit visas had to be filled out by local clerks who knew the language, and exit visas were written in the local language.

A ship's passenger list had to be prepared by the captain of the ship or his representatives before the ship left the old country. This list was created from the travelers' documents. These documents were created when the immigrant purchased his or her ticket. It is unlikely that anyone at the local steamship office was unable to communicate with this man. Even when the clerk selling the ticket did not speak the language of the would-be emigrant, someone had to be called in to interpret. Also, required exit visas and other paperwork had to be examined by ticket agents before a ticket would be sold. The name was most likely recorded with a high degree of accuracy at that time.

Next, the ship's captain or designated representative would examine each passenger's paperwork. The ship's officials might not know the immigrant's language, but they had to inspect the exit visa and the proof of identity. They knew that immigrants would not be accepted into Ellis Island without proper documentation and, if the paperwork wasn't there, the passengers would be sent back home at the shipping company's expense! You can believe that the ship's owners went to great lengths to insure the accuracy of the paperwork, including names, places of birth and travel plans. It is believed that many more people were turned away at the point of embarkation than were ever turned away at Ellis Island . In other words, most of those without proper documentation never got on board the ship.

When the ship arrived at Ellis Island , the captain or his representative would disembark first with the passenger list. The Ellis Island officials would then bring in interpreters to handle the interrogations. These interpreters were usually earlier immigrants themselves or the children of immigrants, and they all knew how to speak, read and write the language of the immigrants.

The usual immigrant processing time was one to three days. During this time, each immigrant was questioned about his/her identity, and all the required documentation was examined in detail. Keep in mind that this was not a quick two or three-minute conversation such as we have today at international airports. In the days of steamships, the Ellis Island officials had the luxury of time. They could make leisurely examinations.

The questioning at Ellis Island would be done in the immigrant's native tongue. While the immigrant often was illiterate, the interpreter doing the questioning always could read and write the language involved. Ellis Island employed interpreters for Yiddish, Russian, Lithuanian and all of the European languages. The immigration center in San Francisco did the same for all the Chinese dialects as well as Japanese, Korean, and many more Oriental languages. Other immigration centers in Boston , Philadelphia , New Orleans , Galveston and elsewhere followed similar procedures.

Anyone who did not have proper paperwork (in the native language) showing the correct name and place of birth was sent back. Many thousands were sent back for identification reasons or for medical reasons or because they did not have sponsors in the U.S. Most of the people who came through Ellis Island did so with correct paperwork showing the correct or at least plausible spellings of their real names in their original language.

There were a very few exceptions, however. Occasionally war refugees were admitted without much documentation. This was especially true in 1945 and 1946. A few others succeeded in falsifying documents in order to gain admittance when they could not be admitted under their true identities. Occasionally a child was admitted under the surname of a stepfather when the name of the natural father would have been more appropriate. Nobody can document the number of exceptions, but most professional researchers believe that the number of exceptions was very small.

Once settled into their new homes, however, anything could happen. Millions of immigrants had their names changed voluntarily or by clerks or by schoolteachers who couldn't pronounce or spell children's names. Some immigrants changed their names in order to obtain employment. Many immigrants found it easier to assimilate into American culture if they had American-sounding names, so they gladly went along with whatever their neighbors or schoolteachers called them.

However, the records at Ellis Island remained in the original language.

For more information about the myth that "the family name was changed at Ellis Island ," look at the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization's Web page at:



From the book Polyglot Italy:

The Greeks In Southern Italy
by Dr. Geoffrey Hull

In ancient times Sicily and the Italian Peninsula south of Naples were known collectively as Magna Graecia - 'Great Greece ' because of the number and importance of the Greek settlements there. The coasts of Apulia, Lucania , Campania , Calabria and eastern Sicily were first colonized by mainland Greeks in the eighth century before Christ.

The expanding Roman Empire had annexed the whole of Magna Graecia and Sicily by 241 B.C., and while the Romans planted Latin colonies here and there, on the whole they treated the Italian Greeks as confederates, respecting their language and culture. In Rome itself Greek was employed as a second language and in the first Christian centuries the city had a large Greek-speaking minority. Latin spread through the Greek cities of the South as an administrative language but Greek held its own as a literary medium and the speech of the common people in many areas. At the height of the Empire Vulgar Latin had inplanted itself as the vernacular only as far south as the Apulian towns of Tarentum and Brundisium, and the river Crati in Bruttium (present-day Calabria), the Salentine peninsula, lower Calabria and eastern Sicily remained for the time being strongholds of the Greek language.

There is evidence that Greek continued to be widely spoken in Calabria (at least by the lower classes) until the Renaissance period. The anonymous author of a French chronicle of the late thirteenth century noted that "through the whole of Calabria the peasants speak nothing but Greek". In 1368 Petrarca recommended a stay in the region to a student who needed to improve his knowledge of Greek.

In the early sixteenth century Calabrian Greek was still vigorous in the inland districts south of Palmi and Cittanova but by the close of the seventeenth century it had receded into the Aspromonte mountains of the southern tip of the peninsula, an area comprising hte towns of Cardeto, Bagaladi, Motta San Giovanni, San Lorenzo, Melito, Condofuri, Roghudi, Bova, Palizzi, Africo and Sant'Agata. For the next century and a half the Calabrian Grecia (Greek-speaking zone) remained fairly stable, until the Risorgimento and Unification unleased a new tide of Italian linguisitic influence which accelerated the process of erosion. By the 1920's the ancestral language of South Calabrians could be heard only in the small rural communites of Bova, Amendola, Condofuri, Galliciano, Roccaforte, Roghudi and Ghorio.

By the time they became citizens of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861, the Italo-Greeks, mostly poor peasants, had long been severed from the Byzantine religious traditions and from the mainstream of Neo-Hellenic civilization, The modern Italiot renaissance began in the Salentine Grecia through the efforts of Vito Domenico Palumbo (1857 - 1918), a native of Calimera, who endeavoured to re-establish cultural contacts with mainland Greece. Although excluded from the churches, schools and government offices, Greek began to be taught in some villages in the decade following World War II on the initiative of private individuals. In 1971 the Unione dei Greci dell'Italia meridionale was founded to foster relations between the Calabrian Greeks (today numbering only 5,000) and the 15,000 Salentine Greeks. At least three bilingual journals devoted to the Griko language are now in circulation, and a number of mainland Greek intellectuals and cultural bodies have taken an interest in the welfare of their trans-Ionian brothers. Nevertheless, in spite of these developments, Italo-Greek continues to be ignored the the Italian government. Furthermore the Calabrian Grecia, already in an advanced state of decay, suffered a serious setback when the floods of 1970 and 1972 forced the evacuation of Roghudi and Ghorio. The inhabitants of these villages have since been resettled along the Ionian coast and in Reggio where the language has little hope of survival.

Ample traces of the recent Greek past of Calabria, Salento and north-eastern Sicily remain in the local Neo-Italian dialects (the Romance speech that replaced Greek), and in regional surnames like Argurio ('Silver coin'), Calabro ('Calabrian'), Calo, Cala ('good'), Cefali ('head'), Chiriaco ('lordly'), Condro ('fat'), Dascoli ('Teacher'), Foti ('bright'), Lagana ('greengrocer'), Lico ('wolf'), Macri ('long'), Papandrea ('the priest Andrew'), Patera ('father'), Pangallo ('very good'), Schiro ('hard'), Sgro ('curly-headed'), Spano ('beardless'), Trano ('adult'), Tripodi ('tripod'). The Hellenisms in the modern South Calabrian dialect include such common words as ciaramide 'tile', ahjeri'dish-rag', crasentulu 'worm', capura 'pail', scifu 'trough', tripu 'hole', cudespina 'old woman', cuddaraci 'Easter bun', fusca 'bran', hasmiari 'to yawn', milinghi 'temples', spissida 'spark', cilona 'tortoise', petula 'butterfly', praia 'beach', rosacu 'frog', zafrata 'lizard', and zimmaru 'ram'. South Calabrian offers many examples of Greek syntax in Romance dress, for example the periphrastic construction that replaces the Italian infinitive, e.g. vogghiu mu vajo 'I want to go' (literally: "I want that I go") = Bova Greek thelo na pao (It. Voglio andare), vinni mi ti dugnu 'I came to give you' = irta na su dhosu (It. Venni a darti). Similarly, the use of the preterite tense instead of the Italian present perfect betrays a recent Greek substratum, e.g. comu mangiasti? 'how have you eatern?' = local Greek pos efaje? (It. Come hai mangiato?), ci facistivu? 'what have you done?' = ti ecamete (It. Che cosa avete fatto?).



Description of Calabria in 1589

By Gabriel Barrius Franciscanus

CALABRIA, a country of Italie in form and fashion not unlike a tongue, lies between the upper and lower seas. It begins at the lower sea (the Greeks call it the Tyrrhen sea, the Romans the Mediterranean or Midland-sea) from the river Talao, which runs into the Bay of Policastro.

At the upper sea (the Ionian sea is what the Greek call it), the river Siris (also once called Senno) flows along until it comes to the straights of Faro di Messina and the city of Reggio . And then, being divided into two by the mountain range Apennine (here they call it Aspromonte) it ends at two capes or promontories, one called Leucopetra (by them Capo de Leucopetra), the other Lacinium (vulgarly by them called Cabo delle colonne or Cabo dell'Alice).

Not only the plains and the fields, but even the hilly places, as is the case in Latium or Campania are well provided with water. Whatever is necessary for the maintenance of mans life is yielded by this country in great abundance, so it needs no foreign commodities but is able to live of what it provides by itself. In general, Calabria has a good and fertile soil, and it is not bothered by Fens , Lakes and Bogs, but is always green, affording good pastures for cattle and excellent grounds for all sorts of grain. The fountains and brooks are numerous, and fairly clear and wholesome.

The sunny hills and mountains, open to every cool blast of wind, are wonderfully fertile for corn, vines and trees of various kinds, which provide great profit to its inhabitants. The valleys are pleasant and fruitful. The shady groves and woods afford many pleasures and delights. The excellent meadows and pastures are richly covered with herbs and sweet smelling flowers, and ever running streams. And among other things, here is plenty of wholesome food with which they feed and fatten their cattle. Here also grow many medicinal herbs of sovereign virtues, against various different diseases.

It brings forth various plants, such as the Plane tree, Vitex or Agnus castus, the Turpentine tree, the Olive tree, Siliqua Silvestris, Arbute or Strawberry tree, wild Saffron, Madder, Licorice, and Tubera or Sowbread. It also has some hot baths, continually issuing from their springs, which cure aches and many other similar illnesses. In various places there are salt water springs of which they make some kind of brine or pickle. It is well watered by many fine rivers, and those are well provided with various kinds of fresh water fish. The sea on each side also yields plenty of fish, tunas as well as sword-fishes and lampreys. In many places here the best Coral is found, both white and red.  

Here hunting and hawking is most pleasant, for in these places various different sorts of wild beasts live, and as many birds and fowls breed and build nests here. Then there are wild boars, deer, hinds, goats, hares, foxes, lynxes, otters, squirrels, martens, badgers, ferrets, porcupines, and tortoises, both of the water and of the land. It is everywhere full of fowls, pheasants, partridges, quails, wood-cocks, ring-doves, crows &c. as also of many kinds of hawks. It maintains some herds of cattle and flocks of sheep and goats. It breeds excellent horses, very swift and of great courage.

Metals were found here in old times, and to this day it still abounds with various kinds of minerals, having indeed everywhere mines with gold, silver, iron, salt, marble, alabaster, crystal, marcasite, red lead or vermilion, copper, alume, brimstone &c. Also many kinds of corn, wheat, silage, beer-barley, rye, trimino (we call it Turkey wheat I think), barly, rice, and sesame, all in infinite quantities. It also abounds with all kinds of pulse (legumina the Romans call it), oil, wine, and honey, all the best of their kind.

There are here everywhere orchards full of oranges, lemons and Pome lemon trees. They also make plenty of excellent silk here, far better than any kind of silk made in other places in Italie. The cotton bush (Gossipium) grows here plentifully. But what shall I say about the kind temperature of the air? For here the fields both in winter and summer are continually green. But above all things, there is nothing which makes my point more soundly than that airy dew or heavenly honey which they call Manna that comes down everywhere from above, and is here gathered in great abundance. So that which the Israelites in the wilderness admired and considered as a strange wonder, is here provided by kind nature of her own accord.

It is also adorned with many good market towns, where markets and fairs are held at certain times of the year. In some places here the ancient custom of the Romans is still preserved at funerals and burials of the dead, where a chief mourner (Praefica they call her) is hired to go in front of the mourners guiding their mournful rituals, keeping time to their howling lamentations. The funeral being done and all ceremonies performed, the dead persons friends and kindred, bringing their own food and picnic gear, banquet all together at the dead persons house.

The women of this country as a matter of course, out of modesty or because the water of this area is good and wholesome, drink nothing but water. It is considered to be a shame for any woman to drink wine, except if she is very old, or is in childbirth.



Political Graffiti from Pompeii   79 A.D.


"Asellina and her girls urge you to vote for Gaius Lollius Fuscus

for Minister of Public Affairs"

Note: Asellina ran an "entertainment house" in Pompeii.

This was written on the outside wall of her establishment.