A Place To Find Your Family History

Part 7 - THE HEARTHS OF GRECI

The word “focus”, fire, translates to “focolarium”, which in ancient times meant “the family”, and from this came the saying: “to fight pro aris et focus” . Back then in addition to other taxes the people paid a tax that was called the “focus”, fire tax.

At a certain time of the year a representative of the governor presented himself in the country and went around to all the houses to collect it from every family. When they saw the tax collector coming, the taxpayers, more astute than the government, tried to avoid paying the tax by moving away or hiding for several days.

But the collector, smiling at the shrewdness of the taxpayers, entered their deserted houses and went into the kitchen. There they dug through the ashes in the hearth. If they found them still hot they forced the people who lived there, who could only agree, to pay the tax. And from this system of searching the ashes to tax the inhabitants, this tax was called the “focus”, the fire tax.

I wanted to explain this ancient system for collecting fuochi in order to be able to explain the needs of the families who produced the ancient statistics of Greci - a tax that today with an adjective is used as a noun. The music changes but the sound is always the same. It was called fuocatico.

In 1802 Lorenzo Giustiniano, in his regional geographical dictionary in the situations of the towns of the Kingdom of Naples, said that in 1595 Greci was taxed for 75 OfuochiO, that is to say families. Before that year, not finding it in the situations of the Kingdom, he believed that it was an almost abandoned land. And continuing, he records that in 1648 Greci was taxed for 136 1/20, in 1669 for 142 fuochi, and in 1734 for 68 fuochi. The parochial registers are missing for these years so I am unable to check the accuracy of the figures that Giustiniano assigned to Greci.

The oldest state register of the inhabitants preserved in the Greci parochial archive is the one for 1688. In that year Greci had 103 families with 426 inhabitants. In 1694 there were 103 families with 544 inhabitants. In 1695 there were 102 families with 579 inhabitants and finally in 1697 there were 102 families with 552 inhabitants.

Of the earlier era of which Giustiniano speaks, as to the state of the inhabitants listed in the parochial registers for the population of Greci, I have been able to read the 1601 "fuochi" in the State of Naples archive which records the hearths on which fire taxes were paid by people who lived in Greci that year.

In that year the fuochi, that is to say the families of Greci, were no more than about twenty, because no doubt all the other families had moved away or were hiding to avoid paying the government tax. Among the families found registered:

1) Pietro and Giovanni Nescia
2) Giorgio Gliatta
3) Francesco Cors
4) Todaro, Pietro and Agostino Luso ;
5) leccia Norci
6) Giovanni De Mascia
7) Angelo de lanno
8) Inno and Stamatto Lauda
9) Stamatto and Paolo Sasso
10) Giorgio lecci
11) Giorgio De Ghiescia Sterrazza
12) Giovanni Cors and others.

In 1601 while the war of Flanders was still on, that is to say the revolution of the Low Countries against Phillip II, that lasted from 1566 to 1648 and ended with the Peace (Treaty) of Westphalia. Therefore, almost all the heads of the families in Greci, that I have enumerated taken from the fuochi of 1601, in accordance with their custom under the leadership of their albanese captains, Nicolo Pappada and Germane Cuomo, went to fight and lost their lives.

Among others of our ancestors, who died that year in Flanders, for a cause that was not that of their own homeland - Pietro and Giovanni Nescia, Francesco and Nicola Cors (father and son), Todaro Luso, Paolo Mascia, Stamatto Lauda, Giovanni De Mascia, Angelo de lanni, Paolo Sasso and many others. Parrecchie? of the families that are found registered in the fuochi of 1601, now do not exist any longer in Greci.

On the basis of these fuochi and of the parochial registers for the year above written, 1601, families in Greci of purely Albanese origin are:

1)Bina
2) Flamingo
3) Mascia
4) Meula (now Meola)
5) Mandes (now Manes)
6) Vara
7) Filaseta [Filafeta]
8) Borscia (now Boscia)
9) Pinto
10) Panella
11) Rex
12)Poppa
13) Pucci
14) Lucchese
15) Sollazzo
16)Cozza
17) Luso (now Lusi)
18)Lauda
19)Norcia
20) Gliatta
21)Bellusci
22) Sasso

In all cases based on the fuochi records and parochial registers I find that in those times the young and the (don-elle?) of Greci did not get married outside their community. If they did, they never married with the “fotestieri”, that is to say with the Italians. Rather, they married their fellow countrymen from Albanian places close to Greci, that is to say from Casalvecchio or Castelluccio dei Sauri (today Italianized) in Foggia province. This shows the instinct they had from ancient times to preserve their race pure and intact in the midst of people who were strangers to them, even in Italy their land of refuge.

This instinct that in our times my friend cav. Anselm Lorecchio translated so well in this (strofe?):

Cursed be the woman Albanese ?
That smiles at the grasping stranger
(Son ?) for us this land, and the proud
To blaze of our (belta?)

Translation Draft by Dick Vara - 4/9/97