Saturday, October 3, 2009


I am saddened about the recent events in Messina caused by the October 2, 2009 mudslides, tornado, and floods.

Unfortunately Messina has a history of incredible and devastating disasters such as the earthquake that occurred in the early morning of December 28, 1908. Within minutes the earthquake was followed by a 40 feet Tsunami. Ninety one percent of the structures in Messina were destroyed, and over 100,000 out of 150,000 residents were killed. Estimates of the disaster vary but most agree that up to 200,000 people died in Messina and Calabria (Calabria across the Strait of Messina was also devastated by the same earthquake).

Messina is only one of the many cities in Sicily that has suffered tremendous losses due to natural disasters. Historically, earthquakes, floods, and mudslides have wrecked havoc all over Sicily, including the town of Librizzi. Across the centuries, not many of the Librizzi families have escaped the fury of Mother Nature, my own ancestors often were victims of natural disasters as well.

Perhaps the worst year for my ancestors was the year 1852. The 1852 Librizzi Death Records indicate that huge numbers of people, young and old, died throughout the year, especially during the months of January, February, March, and August. I assume that many of the people who died were victims of influenza or some other contagious disease, but many of those who died at the end of January and in the next two months were victims of the mudslides that occurred in January.

In addition to the Death Records, there are other documents and letters that confirm the events of 1852. Archiprete Francesco Gregorio,the Librizzi priest at that time, wrote a letter to the Bishop of Patti in which he states that this particular year (1852) was beset with "cattivo tempo", bad weather. The mayor Giuseppe Arlotta also wrote a letter stating that the Church della Catena needed repairs due to damages caused by "cattivo tempo". Indeed on January 27, 1852 there were a series of alluvioni e frane (floods and landslides) which smothered to death many Librizzesi. My ancestors were among the many victims that year, especially relatives from the following families : Procopio, Marziano and Gregorio on my father's side; Adamo, Salemi, and Gatani on my mother's side.In fact, in the mudslides of 1852, entire families of my ancestors were wiped out within hours of each other.

I record the following names in memory of my ancestors who lost their lives in the year 1852, included are the ancestors who died as a result of the January 27 mudslide.


Carmelo Tinghino age 1, January 28;
Antonino Gugliotta, age 13, March 21;
Don Natale Procopio, age 34, March 29;
Michele Collorafi, age 2;
Maria Concetta Finicchiaro, age 2, August 4;
Antonia Sinatò, 9 months, August 12;
Rosalia Muscarà, 10 months;
Gaetano Merenda, age 44, September;
Antonino Ficarra, age 8, October 12;
Giuseppe Gugliotta, 10 months, November 12.

Aunts and uncles:

Teresa Salemi, 2 days, January 27(daughter of Angela Adamo and Mastro Gaetano Salemi);
Donna Maria Gregorio, age 40, March 30;
Pietro Merenda, age 88, June 8;
Eufrasina Marziano, age 10, July 2;
Anna Adamo, age 65, December 12.


Donna Carmela Gregorio, age 70, January 27;
Angela Adamo (grandmother on the Luca side of the family), age 45, January 27;
Mastro Gaetano Salemi(husband of Angela Adamo) age 40, January 27;
Carmela Adamo age 44 (Grandma Angela’s sister. Aunt Carmela was also my grandmother on the Calabrese side of the family), January 27;
Teresa Gatani, age 80, August 30. 


Third great grandfather Don Domenico Procopio, age 61, husband of Donna Anna Cilona and son of Don Antonino Procopio and Donna Marianna Muscarà). Don Domenico was "ritrovato morto nella contrada Prato or Ceruto? perchè soffocato da burrasche". He was found dead, suffocated by 'mudslides'. The date was December 24, 1852. I am sure that for my ancestors it wasn't a very merry Christmas that year.
An aside comment: When I was a young child mom used to point out the remains of a demolished house and then she would tell me the story of an avalanche that occurred in the early 1930s. The avalanche destroyed the house and killed its occupants, who were related to us. She then would point to a house next to it which miraculously wasn't touched at all by the avalanche! This past June I met the daughter in law of the people who died in that house, she confirmed the story of the avalanche.

During my June visit to Librizzi I was given a copy of a hydrogeological report of Librizzi and surrounding areas. The report documents a series of mudslides that occurred in Librizzi in the 1800s, specifically the one in 1852 which involved the Quartiere Forgia of Librizzi. It is precisely in Quartiere Forgia where my Adamo-Salemi ancestral family resided when their lives were snuffed out by the mudslides. Sadly a two days old ancestor also died.

May the above ancestors, and all of the Librizzesi who died in 1852, rest in peace.

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