Origins of the Bongiovannis

Montalbano Elicona
In Sicilian, Muntarbanu)
(Click HERE to see the Montalbano web site)





          Montalbano Elicona (in Sicilian, Montarbanu Elicona) or Montalbano di Elicona is a medieval town north of Mount Etna in the Nebrodie Mountains of Sicily.  It was the birthplace of Gaetano Bongiovanni and his wife Angela DeGaetano, whose son Salvatore Bongiovanni was also born there.  Others whose sons emigrated to America, (some who married Salvatore Bongiovanni's sisters) included the Presti (LoPresti) and the Cernuto familiies.
          The name Montalbano may be derived from the Latin 'mons albus', 'white mountain', because of the snow-clad peaks, or from the Arabic 'al bana', 'excellent place'.  The town is on the River Elicona, hence the name Montalbano Elicona.
           It is on an old Roman route that connects the Tyrrhenian and Ionian seas and is dominated by a fortress-like castle built by Federicu Secundu, the King of Sicily, Il Regno (the Kingdom).  Federicu was known as Stupor Mundi, the Wonder of the World.  Some of the postcaeds below were sent from Montalbano in the 1930's, from Carmela Presti to her sister-in-law Giuseppina Bongiovanni Lo Presti in Buffalo.
         See 2006 photos of Montalbano at


The message says "Accept my affectionate kisses and good wishes
from your sister-in-law Presti Carmela.  Kisses to the family ~ 26 December 1932"

"To my _ _ _ sister-in-law Giuseppina Bungiovanni Lopresti"


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          Montalbano is on the list of most beautiful towns in Sicily, and has an active tourist center.  Information about the town is available at and at  Aunt Angie and I visited Montalbano in 2006 and found it lovely and intriguing.


          Below are two images of Salvatore Bongiovanni's original birth record from Montalbano di Elicona.  On the left is an image that was scanned from LDS Film No. 1726997, Registri dello Stato Civile di Montalbano di Elicona, Year 1897, Number 227. 
        On the right is an image taken on-line from (image 2415 of 1866 - 1899 Births).  Click on each image to enlarge it.

R E C O R D S   O F   B I R T H

Number 272
Salvatore Bongiovanni
*Indicates occupation or condition

one thousand eight hundred ninety-eight, on day twenty-nine of the month of November
at hour eleven thirty-seven AM, in the Town Hall.
    Before me Nicol
Todaro Sparicio Secretary delegated by the Mayor, by
act of eighteen July one thousand eight hundred eighty-two, duly approved

    Official of the Civil Record of the Town of Montalbano Elicona has appeared
Concetta Cernuto, age forty-eight years, *midwife living
in Montalbano, who has declared to me that in the AM at hour six-
fifteen, on day twenty-six of the current month, in the house located at
Via Federico Secondo, no number given, by Angela DeGaetano
housewife, wife of Gaetano Bongiovanni, stonemason,
both living in Montalbano

was born a baby of male sex who she [the midwife] presented to me and to whom she gave the name of
    To the above, and to this registration have been present these witnesses Filippo
, age forty-six years, *herder, and Nicola Terranova
age fifty-three, *farmer, both residing in this Town.
    The declarant has reported the above-noted birth, since she has,
by exercising the skill employed by her art in the act
of delivery, and in lieu of the husband of DeGaetano, since he has found himself,
during the delivery, absent from this town.
This record was read to those assembled but it is signed below by me
because the declarant and the witnesses said they don't know how
to write.

The Official of the Civil Record
Nicolo Todaro Sparici



(Immigration records from

The Lombardia
 Associated Passenger Date of Arrival Port of Departure
 Bongiovanni, Gaetano April 17, 1902 Napoli

Gaetano Bongiovanni was listed as age 40 and a sculptor from Montalbano, whose destination was his cousin Gaetano Tiracorda, at Box 52, Clearfield, Pennsylvania.
Built by G. Ansaldo & Company, Sestri Ponente, Italy, 1901.  5,127 gross tons; 403 (bp) feet long; 46 feet wide.  Steam triple expansion engine, single screw.  Service speed 14.5 knots.  1,360 passengers (58 first class, 1,302 third class).  One funnel and two masts.

Built for Navigazione Generale Italiana Line, Italian flag, in 1901 and named Lombardia.  Italy-New York service.
Transferred to Russian owners, in 1911 and renamed Jerousalim, to Russian Steam Navigation Company service.  Scrapped in 1928.

Photo: Maurizio Eliseo Collection 
The Algeria
 Associated Passenger Date of Arrival Port of Departure
 Bongiovanni, Salvatore
.age 8 years.
August 19, 1905 Auc...
Also on this voyage:

Angela DeGaetano Bongiovanni, age 42
Francesca Bongiovanni, age 20
Giuseppa Bongiovanni, age 17
Vincenza Bongiovanni, age 13 (misspelled as Vincenzo)
Maria Bongiovanni, age 10
Built by Reiherstieg Shipyard, Hamburg, Germany, 1914. 8,156 gross tons; 449 (bp) feet long; 55 feet wide. Steam quadruple expansion engines, twin screw.  Service speed 15 knots.  535 passengers (417 second class, 118 third class).

Built for German-West Africa Line, German flag, in 1914 and named KIGOMA. Laid up during World War I. Sold to Anchor Line, British flag, in 1921 and renamed Algeria. Glasgow-New York service. Sold to Hamburg-American Line, German flag, in 1922 and renamed Toledo. Scrapped in Scotland in 1934.

Photo: Tom Rayner Collection 

 Angie's grandfather
Gaetano (Thomas) Bongiovanni
~ 1913 ~

The San Guglielmo
 Associated Passenger Date of Arrival Port of Departure
 Cernuto, Filippo
.age 34 years.
Oct 24, 1913 Messina

Filippo LoPresti was actually 20 years old on arrival.  He gave his age as 34.

Less than a year earlier, Giuseppe Coniglio had arrived at Ellis Island on this same ship.
Built by D. & W. Henderson & Company, Glasgow, Scotland, 1911. 8,341 gross tons; 470 (bp) feet long; 56 feet wide. Steam triple expansion engines, twin screw. Service speed 15.5 knots. 2,425 passengers (50 first class, 175 second class, 2,200 third class).Two funnels and two masts.

Built for Sicula-Americana, in 1911 and named San Guglielmo. Italy-New York service. Torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine off Italy in 1918.
Photo: Maurizio Eliseo Collection 

       In 2006 we visited the tourist office in Montalbano, and Vittoria Cagnotti  and Rosaria Stagnitti were very helpful.  Rosaria even showed us  how to find Angie's father's birthplace at Via Federico Secondo No. 100



        Gaetano Bongiovanni was a difficult person.   He left his wife Angela DeGaetano after she bore him four girls, because she had not given him a male heir.  He didn't know that he had left her pregnant, and when she had a son, my father-in-law Salvatore Bongiovanni, she sent Gaetano the photo at the top of this page, to confirm the birth of a son.  Gaetano alternately rejoined her, escaped again, to South America, returned to Buffalo, and finally returned to Montalbano alone in about 1935, leaving in Buffalo his wife and five children.
     On 26 May, 2016, I again visited Montalbano and went to the town 'Anagrafe' (Registry Office).  There, a clerk, Milene Faranda, found the index card and death record of Gaetano, shown below.

     The above index card, stamped 1935, shows Gaetano Bongiovanni's vital statistics on the front and the date of his death and the number of his death record on the back.  He was born 20 April 1862* and was the son of the late couple Giuseppe Bongiovanni and Francesca Infantina, and the husband of Angela DeGaetano.  A stonemason, he lived at Via Cuore di Gesu in 1935 and at Via Principe di Napoli at his death.  The note dated 27 June 1940 on the back of the card states that his death record is in the 1940 Register, at Number 35, Part 2, Section A.

* The index card shows Gaetano born on 20 April 1862, but birth record No. 45 from 1860 shows a Gaetano Bongiovanni born to the same parents on 20 April 1860.  It may be that a child was born in 1860, died as an infant, and a subsequent child was coincidentally born on the same day and month two years later, and was given the same name as the deceased child (not an uncommon occurrence).  Records for 1862 births and deaths don't exist, so these possibilities can't be checked.  It's also possible that the date of birth shown on the index card is incorrect.

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Last revision: 16 November 2021 ~ Angelo F. Coniglio,