With the holiday season upon us I thought it would be nice to talk about some holiday inspired Italian names. Some names that come to mind are Natale (Christmas) Grazia (Grace) and Bifano (Epiphany). All have been used as first or surnames.
A quick search on Searching the Enhanced Ellis Island Database in One Step using Natale with no variation returns over 2300 persons with the surname arrived through Ellis Island between 1892-1924. By removing the letter e from the end of the name and searching again, the returns are over 3400. By doing a search using it as a first name, which does yield some variations, almost 15,000 hits are returned!
Using Gens-Italia, we find the surname is present in over 956 towns with the highest concentration in the regions of Campania and Lombardy. And of course, if we use Pagine Bianche [the Italian White Pages] to search the surname, we find that 3317 people are listed.
Let’s try the same thing with Grazia. Doing a quick search on Grazia, again with no variation, we find that 3282 immigrants with the surname entered through the New York port. Gens Italia returns the name is still present in 158 towns with the highest concentration in Emilia Romagna while there are only 423 persons listed in the Italian White pages.
The less popular Bifano still returns 119 hits on Ellis Island, found in 72 towns in Italy and 158 hits on the Italian White Pages.
As a side note – while extracting records from various towns in Reggio Calabria, I often noticed that the first names Natale and Natalina were given to persons born either near or on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day. I also found that these births, and many births which took place in late December were not registered until January the following year so my advice is that if you are looking for someone named Natale and are having difficulty locating a birth record, try looking in the months of December and January.
Name Meaning and History – Bifano
Southern Italian: from the medieval personal name Epifanio, ultimately from Greek Epiphanios, a derivative of epiphainesthai ‘to appear’, a name typically given to children born on 6th January, with reference to the Christian festival of the Epiphany, which commemorates the manifestation of Christ to the Magi.
Source: Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-508137-4
Name Meaning – Grazia
Italian form of Grace.
Source: A Dictionary of First Names, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0192800507
This post is dedicated to my good friend “Biff” and his family who I now consider a part of my very special Gente family. God Bless and Happy Holidays.