view of Salandra, Matera, Basilicata, Italy by Antonio DiPersia

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Someone yelled "MICHAEL" at an Ambruso gathering and 29 people turned their head.

In the later part of the nineteenth century, four brothers from Salandra, Italy, followed Italian customs for naming their children.  Each named their first son after their own father, Michelarcangelo Ambruso, the boys’ grandfather.  There were four first cousins, all born around the same time, who all came to the United States, and they were all called Michele Ambruso.  (I talk about these Four Michaels in my post of 10 May 2013.)   If you think this would add confusion to any genealogical research, you would be correct. 
In an attempt to simplify things, I gave them my own identifying names.  The oldest was Francesco’s son Michele.  He was born over a decade before the others, so I call him Michael Ambruso (b. 1874).  My own grandfather, Rocco’s son, had a middle name so I simply call him Michael Anthony Ambruso.  He was born in 1889. Michelarcangelo broke the naming convention and named one of his sons “Michele”.  That Michele (b. 1847) then went back to following the convention and named his first son Michele.  That son settled in Hartford, CT.  I call him Michael Ambruso (“Hartford Mike” b. 1890).  The fourth Michael was Giuseppe’s first son.  He settled in Philadelphia.  I call him Michael Ambruso (“Philly Mike” b. 1891). 

As you can see, the custom of naming a first son after his paternal grandfather can be both a blessing and a curse to genealogists.  It helps determine who’s who, but unless you give each grandson some differentiating nickname or ID number, it can get very confusing since they all have the same name, which in this case is Michael.  Of course each of those four Michaels had grandsons, living today, that are also named Michael.  Too many Michaels!

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