Sicilian Surnames – History and Onomatology [Luigi Mendola]

Sicilian Surname History and Onomatology

This interesting article, found on the Best of Sicily Magazine website and written by Luigi Mendola, attempts to dispel a few myths while considering the origins and development of various surnames and how they originated in Sicily.

It takes a bit of reading to fully focus on what he is trying to convey but there is some good content and many other links which provide useful information.

What is a Sicilian?

Sicilian Genealogy & Heraldry - Louis Mendola Book - Buy it on Amazon

The first chapter of the book written by Mendola and titled Sicilian Genealogy & Heraldry begins with “What is a Sicilian?” It has been noted that it may be the deciding factor in your successful discovery of Sicilian ancestors and a unique Sicilian heritage.

Here’s a snippet of what you can expect to read…

Unfortunately, the misperception persists, with many Sicilians believing that every Sicilian surname having a Greek or Norman-French root indicates that the family was therefore of Greek or Norman origin in the male line. This is nonsense. It would be like saying that any boy named Cesare was descended in the male line from Julius or Augustus Caesar….

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5 thoughts on “Sicilian Surnames – History and Onomatology [Luigi Mendola]”

  1. Looking for information on my Grandfather …
    Town of Castelvetrano
    Providence of Trapani
    Moved to USA (Louisiana) in later 1800’s

    Name: Antonio Cappadonna

    1. What type of information are you looking for – U.S. or Italian? What research have you done [if any] so far? Some records for Trapani are already available on the Family Search Website so that may be a good place to start. Of course I do suggest you try and do as much of your U.S. research first. Hope this helps.

  2. I am trying to find my grandmother’s family in Sicily. Her name is Maria Vesso born sometime around 1894. I believe she comes from the Palermo-Agrigento area. Any help would be appreciated.

  3. Hi Angela. Have you tried looking through ? There are quite a few records for Sicily available but many are browse only files. Since you don’t have the correct town it my be worth going through the records to see if you can locate for grandmothers birth act. Hope this helps.

  4. The problem with Luigi Mendola’s historical account is that Russo means a Russian, from Medieval Latin from Rus, he rows or the men who row and is NOT a variant of the Italian word Rosso. So, who were all these Russians? The Rus Vikings. All Vikings or Normans (French for a Norseman, i.e, Viking) were called Rus by the Byzantine Greeks. This is why we find the name Russo so common not only in Sicily where it is the most common name, but also in Southern Italy in exactly the regions that the Vikings had conquered and turned the lands over from the Byzantine Orthodox Greeks to the Roman Pope. Look at any map of Sicily of 1154 and it should be obvious.

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