Paolo Sulfaro

Paolo Sulfaro

I am very excited to present my research on Paolo Sulfaro, my great-grandfather, who was born on the 25th of October, 1882 in Curcuraci, Messina, Sicily, Italy. He is very obviously the star of my family tree. Just take a look and see what I have found about his life! His father was Giuseppe Sulfaro and his mother Giuseppa Sulfaro. Curcuraci was a village town near the city of Messina.

Paolo Sulfaro's Birth Record

Paolo Sulfaro’s Birth Record. FamilySearch.

He travelled to the United States three times in his life. His first trip was in 1906 to visit his cousin Antonino De Stefano in West Virginia. He was 24 years old. He travelled on a ship called “Roma”. It departed from Naples and arrived at Ellis Island on the 24th of October 1906.

Roma. Ellis Island.

Roma. Ellis Island.

Roma Ship Manifest.

Roma Ship Manifest.

The above is an extract of the Roma Ship Manifest. The manifest is very large, and spans over four legal sheets of paper (2X A4) so cropping it makes presenting it a lot easier. Please click on the image to read the small print. As you can see their handwriting was no better in America than it was in Italy. (Thank goodness for computer generated records later on!) These manifests are great sources of information on your ancestor. Here we are told that Paolo is 5 ft 4 inches tall, had brown hair and brown eyes. He was a laborer who paid for his own passage. He had never been to America before, and was single. These records can also be problematic, however, with the place of birth incorrectly written as “Giardini” when it was in fact “Messina” or more concisely, Curcuraci, Messina.

At 11.15am, on the 9th of August, 1908, Paolo married Gaetana Sterrantino. Gaetana’s father Pasquale Sterrantino was present at their marriage as a witness.

gaetana and paolo sulfaro's marriage record

Paolo Sulfaro & Gaetana Sterrantino’s Marriage Record. FamilySearch.

These images can be a little hard to read so here’s a partial English translation for the marriage record above:

The year of 1908, August 9, at 11.15 in Giardini Courthouse open to the public. Next to me Cacciola Gaetano councillor holder of the position of Mayor registrar, dressed in official uniform, personally appeared: 1. Sulfaro, Paul bachelor of twenty-five years laborer, born in Messina, residing in Giardini was the son of Giuseppe, a resident living in Giardini and Giuseppa Sulfaro, resident living in Giardini 2. Sterrantino, Gaetana unmarried, aged twenty, housewife, born in Giardini, Giardini resident daughter of Pasquale, residing in Giardini and Cundari, Pancrazia, residing in Giardini.

On his second trip in 1909 Paolo travelled with his brother Antonino. They travelled on the “Konigan Luise” from Naples and arrived in Ellis Island on the 19th of February 1909. The manifest states that they were going to Blackwell, West Virginia. Just a little over 7 months after their marriage, Gaetana Sterrantino gave birth to their first child, Giuseppina Sulfaro, on the 16th of March 1909. It is unclear whether Paolo was back in Italy in time for the birth.


Konigin Luise. Ellis Island

The Konigin Luise ship manifest

The Konigin Luise Ship Manifest

Paolo’s name isn’t listed on this part of the manifest, but he is line 6. There isn’t too much information here, except that his birth place is correct as Messina. Again, click on it to view in full resolution.

On his third and final trip to America Paolo travelled to meet his brother-in-law Rosario in New York. Rosario had travelled to New York on the 25th of July 1912 on the ship “Canada” with his sister Maria to visit their sister Agatina and her husband Salvatore Marino at 179 Madison Avenue, Albany, New York. Paolo joined him on the 20th of September 1912 on the ship “Konig Albert” which had departed from Palermo.

Konig Albert. Ellis Island

Konig Albert. Ellis Island

The Konig Albert Ship Manifest

The Konig Albert Ship Manifest

Paolo is listed above in line 14. In the area where it asks if the passenger is visiting a relative, it has the name Marino, Salvatore. Albany, NY listed. It also says he had a natural complexion.

Paolo and Gaetana’s second daughter and child, Pancrazia “Nella” Sulfaro was born on the 22nd of October 1912. It is also unclear whether he was back in Italy for the time of her birth.

World War One was on the brink of beginning. Paolo had been exempt from military service in 1902 due to thoracic inadequacy and oligemia. But on the 23rd of October 1916, he was reexamined and reported fit. He enlisted into WW1 and arrived at the front on the 9th of February 1917. On the 22nd of May, 1917 he was reported missing and presumed dead as a result of the 10th Battle of the Isonzo. He was officially declared missing on the 28th of January 1921. He fought and died on Monte Vodice, Gorizia, Friuli-Venezia, Italy. He had been in the 248th regiment from Girgenti, Sicily.

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Paolo Sulfaro. 149th Infantry regiment soldier, born Oct 25 1882 in Messina, the military district of Messina, lost May 22 1917 on Mount Vodice in combat. (Taken from the Militari Caduti Nella Guerra 1915 – 1918)

Regio Esercito Italiano. The Decree stating that Paolo Sulfaro had died during combat in the war.

Regio Esercito Italiano

This decree was sent along with the Croce al Merito di Guerra, the war merit cross, a bronze cross which was instituted by King Victor Emanuel III on 19 January 1918 and was also awarded to those who, wounded in combat, were given the Medal of the Wounded or to those who, mentioned for war merit, received a promotion.From 1922 onwards a bronze sword on the ribbon designated such an award. Paolo was awarded the Croce al Merito di Guerra posthumously on 12 December 1923. His cross has been lost. But it would have looked like this:

merito di guerra

Half of his memorial certificate. The other half is missing.

Half of his memorial certificate. The other half is missing.

I have done a lot of research trying to discovered whether Paolo’s remains were ever found. There is a memorial with the names of those who did have their remains identified, and Paolo was not among them. We can only assume that he was buried in a communal grave or simply buried on the mountain during the war. A memorial plaque with his name on it is in the entrance of the Santa Maria Raccomandata church in Giardini-Naxos, Messina, Sicily, Italy. (The same church Paolo’s son Giuseppe Sulfaro married Maria Stagno in.) Paolo and Gaetana had been living in the town of Montalbano Elicona when he enlisted into the war. This is why he was put into the Girgenti regiment.

Gaetana Sterrantino never remarried and received benefits from the military for the rest of her life. She gave birth to my Nonno, Giuseppe Sulfaro, a few months after Paolo’s death.

paolo sulfaro

Memorial in Santa Maria Raccomandata, Giardini