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Loreto Aprutino 18 marzo 2000
lettera da Caterina Donatelli


"The admirable perseverance to want to know the origins of your family has reached a happy conclusion. There are a lot of things to tell about the story of our family and I assure you that during these years my grandfather Orazio and my mother always spoke about the uncle of the USA. Uncle Corinto and aunt Adina have told me about your grandfather Guerino who with his wife returned to Italy to visit my great grandmother Serafina who took care of him when he was a baby. And my mother and aunt Maria remember when in 1960 Domenico and his two daughters stayed in their house for some weeks. Even if the ocean has represented an obstacle between us and you, the memories are always alive and we thank you for giving new force to these feelings which are in each of us."


il cognome | il soprannome | philadelphia  | l'albero geneaḷgico | una cronologia

© 2001 Guerino Anthony Buccella. Per favore scrivimi con osservazioni o domande su questo website: [email protected]

il cognome

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The surname Buccella is undoubtedly of ancient origin. According to the Lewis & Short Latin Dictionary the Latin word buccella means "a small mouthful, morsel" or "small bread divided among the poor". It seems to be the diminutive of buccea, which meant "morsel, mouthful". Other similar Latin words were bucca "mouthful" and buccellatum "a soldier's biscuit". While there is no word in the Italian language that provides an exact match to buccella, there are several words that may descend from this etymology including bŕciola "crumb", bŕciolo "bit", boccone "morsel" and bocca "mouth". In any event, the word is befitting of the humble and pastoral lives the earliest peoples of the Abruzzi lived. Clicking on the map to the left reveals that the surname Buccella is not uncommon in modern-day Abruzzo, particularly in the area around Loreto Aprutino and Penne.

cittadinanza1.jpg (196067 bytes)The American version of the name has obviously undergone some changes. The original spelling was still used as late as March 2, 1924 on the ship manifest from the S.S. Colombo, on which Domenico Buccella and his family arrived. However it appears the first change occurred before that, when he filed his Declaration of Intention to become a U.S. citizen in the Cattaraugus County Courthouse in Little Valley, New York on June 5, 1922. On that document (right) his name was spelled Domenick Butchella. While it is impossible to know for sure why the change was made, it is probable that the court clerk, an M.A. Eldridge, anglicized the spelling of the name while retaining its original pronunciation. This spelling stayed the same on all of Domenico's citizenship paperwork including his Certificate of Naturalization on April 4, 1927.

cambio.jpg (125419 bytes)The final change to the surname seems to have occurred on December 3, 1936 when Domenico and his 21-year old son Guerino went to the Social Security Office to apply for their account numbers. That day, Domenico also completed an Employee's Request for Change in Records (left) perhaps to put the surname issue to rest. Maybe the two spellings of Butchella and Buccella had been creating confusion. Who knows? What we can say for sure is that the handwriting on the form is neither Domenico's nor Guerino's and that the name change was from Domenico Buccella to Dominic Butchella, or is it Butchello? While the writing can be interpreted either way, the letter at the end of the surname looks like the "o" at the end of Domenico. Presumably this was the work of clerk "4104", a gutless and arrogant bureaucrat who, unlike M.A. Eldridge from Cattaraugus County, didn't have the stones to sign his name. The Butchella spelling continued to linger, appearing in school records as late as 1945 and in the City of Olean Directory as late as 1950, at which time Domenico was still listed as Domenick Butchella. Guerino was listed as Guerino Butchella as late as 1945, but by 1947 was Guerino Butchello. By the time the 1952 City Directory was published, everyone was identified by the Butchello surname.

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il soprannome

Since the Pescara province of Abruzzo has such a large number of Buccella surnames, it was necessary for the families to distinguish themselves from one another. This normally meant the bestowal of a nickname on each family with the same surname. These soprannomi typically arose from a unique trait associated with the family, such as their trade. I'm sure many of the nicknames were either unintentional or unwanted, but they somehow stuck and were carried down through the male side of the family. Thus girls were born with, and carried, the family nickname but their children did not since they took the soprannome of their father. Our soprannome is "coccià storta" which can be translated in a number of ways. Slang for "crooked head", it can also mean hardheaded or stubborn or having to have the last word. While the soprannomi are not as commonly used today, they are still very much in existence. And to this day when someone in Loreto Aprutino says "coccià storta" they simultaneously crook their head to one side or the other!

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There are well over 100 people in the United States with the surname Buccella. The largest concentration is in the Boston area, followed by a sizeable number around Philadelphia. Since our surname is centered in Abruzzo, it follows that these American families originated from there. While determining exactly where is a bit more difficult, the origin of at least some of the Buccellas in Philadelphia can be traced to Loreto Aprutino. Of course, proving whether or not siamo parenti is another story. As the wave of immigration had steadily increased over the preceding decades, it was customary for ship manifests to contain increasingly detailed information on the destinations of their passengers. While these manifests provide only a secondary source of information, they are still helpful in tracing the steps of our ancestors. On March 15, 1912, Domenico's brother Giuseppe Buccella arrived at the Port of Philadelphia aboard the S.S. Ancona. According to the passenger list, Giuseppe identifies the "Destination and name and address of relative or friend to join there" as cousin Pasquale Buccella of 1004 Ellsworth Street in Philadelphia.

Of course, this doesn't mean that Pasquale Buccella was actually his cousin or that he actually lived at that address or that Giuseppe was actually going there or that Pasquale Buccella even existed! But after digging a bit deeper, some interesting coincidences emerge. According to the civil birth records in Loreto Aprutino, a Francescopaolo Buccella was born on September 3, 1888 to Pasquale Buccella, age 28, and Mariannina Ianiccari. This same Francescopaolo, known as Frank Buccella, died on March 20, 1968 in Burlington, New Jersey. The Certificate of Death identifies the informant as Pascual Buccella of 1113 Ellsworth Street, Philadelphia. Currently, there is a Francis Buccella living at that same address. Keeping in mind the Italian tradition of naming sons after their grandfather, could Francis be the son of Pascual, whose father was Francescopaolo and grandfather was Pasquale Buccella? Possibly. And if so, did Pasquale ever leave Loreto to come to America, and was he ever joined there by Giuseppe Buccella? Is it possible to establish a relationship?

The modern day relatives in Loreto Aprutino always mention Buffalo and Philadelphia when they recount their version of la storia nostra. However, the name Pasquale Buccella does not ring a bell for any of them. Perhaps Ilario (Giuseppe's father) had an older brother who was Pasquale's father; thus making Giuseppe and Pasquale first cousins. Since Pasquale was born in 1859 or 1860, it is conceivable his father was born before Ilario (1843) and Ilario's brother Antonio (1839). Of course, it is also possible that Pasquale's father was a first or second cousin to Ilario, making him a more distant relative of Giuseppe, but a cousin never-the-less. Without delving further into the birth records in Loreto Aprutino, it is impossible to answer this question with complete confidence.

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l'albero geneaḷgico


A close look at the American and Italian branches of the family tree provides some interesting revelations. Almost universally, the Buccella side of the family including Domenico, his siblings and their offspring tend to live well into their 80's and sometimes 90's. The same is not true for the Mariotti side of the family, where the lifespans have typically been in the mid-60's to mid-70's. Perhaps this is the source of the heart disease prevalent in the American branch of the family. Of course American society, with its more affluent and liberal lifestyles and over-emphasis on work, has likely taken its toll as well. There are also some notable physical similarities, especially between the descendants of Domenico and Raffaele, who were close as brothers and who closely resembled one another.

Both Orazio and Corinto, two of Raffaele's sons, could easily pass for Guerino's brothers. And early photos of Maria Buccella (Orazio's daughter) also bear out a strong resemblance. There are other relatives like Maria's first cousin Raffaele, son Manuele and niece Caterina who don't possess as striking a physical similarity, but have a strange, difficult-to-describe familiarity. In addition to their friendship, Domenico and Raffaele also seemed to have shared a personal drive and ambition along with their shorter and stouter appearance. Their brothers Giuseppe and Franco also shared a close relationship, and it's interesting to note that today the interactions and associations among their descendants continue to be close. This is not to say they have little or no communication with Raffaele's descendants. On the contrary, since they live in close proximity to one another and are all coccià storta, there are many, many interactions and family ties. My observation, however, is that the relationships and events of the past have shaped some of the patterns of today's family in Italy.

Se vorreste vedere l'albero geneaḷgico della famiglia Buccella cominciare nel 1807 con la nascita di Raffaele Buccella, scrivimi a [email protected] per la parola d'ordine.

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© 2001 Guerino Anthony Buccella. Per favore scrivimi con osservazioni o domande su questo website: [email protected]