A Place To Find Your Family History

Dick Vara Rememberance

S a l u t i !

Welcome to the GRECI CUGINI Home Page

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"GRECI CUGINI" means "GRECI CUZZINS" and that means everyone with family origins in the Arberesh Town of Greci, Avellino Province, Italy.


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Dick Vara was the first person to have a website dedicated to connecting cousins in the United States.  His AOL site started with the messange above. To many of us the Greci Cugini site became a place to share infomation.  Dick kept the sight going for many years.  When he died and when AOL started to delete all the family sites, Dick's wonderful sight seem lost forever.  With the help of cousins who had copied pages from his site John Mazzarella was able to recreate some of the pages from his great site.   A large part of Greci Cugini was a section where cousins could post stories, pictures, and ask questions. The following is information Dick posted on his own Note page.

Communicating with Grandpa Leonardo                             

Thoughts while sitting on the hillside above Greci...

Thistle and dry grass. Rough bony dry rocky soil. Steep hillsides with paths and ridges where the cattle and sheep graze. They run level and slantwise up and down the side of the hill. There are sheep droppings and cow flaps scattered. Small pines blow and bend in the brisk north wind. I'm glad I have my windbreaker jacket on.

I commune with Grandpa Leonardo - all alone with him on the top of the hill - looking down to the village where he lived and where his father and father's fathers lived for four hundred years before him. The red roofs and stone and stucco walls jumble tight against each other. I try to remember where his house was in the village... over there, to the far right just this side of the church that towers above all the other roofs....! hear churchbells ringing.

                           Grandfather Leonardo Vara at age 80 in 1950 photo   

The road to the ancient farm where my ancestors worked is out of sight far down below me behind the trees and brush. Sheep graze down in the fields on the hillsides leading to the village. Cows too. I hear roosters crowing. The view into the valley is magnificent. Clouds blow by just skimming the rooftops of the village. The high hills around me are barren and brown and ready for the next planting of winter wheat, but the fields below are still green pastures. I see spots of sunlight glowing deep in the valley and watch as they magically come up to illuminate the village..... It's a moment I etched in my memory...and hope never to forget...  By Dick Vara November 1992

My grandfather Leonardo Vara left Greci and came to America at age 17 aboard the steamship "Caledonia" and land in New YOur on May 14, 1888 with a group of about twenty other men from Greci.

Here is a list of their names and ages:

       Palumbo, Giovanni - 25 yo                 Lauda, Niola - 25 yo

       Sasso, Michaleangeo - 35 yo             Meola, Domenico - 23 yo

       Sasso, Michele Antonio - 50 yo         Sasso, Antonio - 23 yo

       Panella, Leonardo - 48 yo                 Olrando, Michelangelo 42 yo

       Sasso, Nicola - 30 yo                         Boscia, Giuseppe - 37 yo

       Sasso, Clestino - 45 yo                      Norcia, Antonio - 48 yo

       Meola, Vincenzo - 30 yo                    Norcia, Raffaele - 25 yo

       Norcia, Nicola - 34 yo                       Sasso, Giovanni - 41 yo

       Norcia, Michele - 52 yo                     Norcia, Raffaela -29 yo

There could have been others from Greci, but these Greci names were all grouped around my grandfather's name on the Passenger List.  All were listed as "Laborers". On arrival they were processed at Castle Garden at the southern tip of Manhattan.  Ellis Island wasn't open Yet.     

The question I'm trying to answer is...Where did Leonardo go when he left Castle Garden?  Some of the family say he went to work "in the coal mines in West Virinia or Colorado" and others think he worked "somewhere on the railroads"  It's a major gap in his life story that I'd love to fill in...maybe I'll get liuck and find some clues!!

This is a portrait of my Great Grandmother Carmela Manes. It is a Colored photograph probably made in Ariano sometime in the late 1800's