The Dieli Name


We can tell people how to pronounce Dieli and how to spell it, but we can't yet tell them much about its origin beyond the fact that it's most recently Sicilian. We don't yet know where the first Sicilian Dieli came from. Given the history of Sicily, it's not too surprising that the origin of some Sicilian surnames would be difficult to determine, but probably not impossible. We're working on it. If we're lucky we'll discover whether it's origin is Phoenician, or Greek, or Carthaginian, or Roman, or Jewish, or Germanic, or Albanian, or Arabic, or Norman, or French, or Spanish, or even Italian, although the Italians, as rulers, were late comers to Sicily, not counting the Genovese mercenaries who came to Sicily with the Norman invaders of 1061. These Genovese soldiers helped the Normans to capture Caltagirone from the Arabs. The Genovese reputedly built the church of San Giorgio in Caltagirone where I have found most of our family records. So far, this is what a diagram of our family tree looks like.

My father, Salvatore, was born in Caltagirone and my mother, Rosalia, was probably born in Messina. The archives in the church of San Giorgio in Caltagirone, dating as far back as 1566, contain records of many Dielis. The earliest decipherable Dieli record is of the marriage of a Vincenzo Dieli to Agrippina Renda on May 25, 1645. The earliest baptismal record we could find is of their son Giacomo Paolo, baptized on February 4, 1648. We could not find baptismal records for either of the parents.

By working backwards in these archives starting from my father Salvatore's baptismal record, we managed to trace a direct line back to Antonino Dieli, (born around 1730) and Felicia Strazzo. We could not link our branch of the family beyond that because we could not find Antonino's Baptismal record in the San Giorgio archives. Several searches in the cathedral archives in Caltagirone yielded many more Dielis but still no other documents for Antonino and Felicia. Antonino may have been a widower who married more than once, because there are other Antoninos with other wives around this time. For example, there's an Antonino & Margarita Muvali, the parents of Giovanni Benedetto (1756). But without the baptismal certificate for any of them I could not get to the names of the parents of Antonino. Unfortunately, while we could find the index entry for the marriage certificate for Antonino & Felicia (1752), we could not find the certificate itself which means that we could not learn the names of their parents. So that was as far back as we could take a direct line.

The church archives are all hand-written, in Latin. Each volume contains an index and anywhere from 200 to 400 pages with sequentially numbered certificates (this one for Teresa Dieli) entered in chronological order. The sequential numbering of certificates begins with the number one on January 1 of each year. The index is alphabetized by the first letter of the last name, but the entries within each letter are entered in the next space in the book in the chronological order in which they occur. Each index entry has the name, the page number and the sequential number, called a "marginal". The marginal is needed because there is usually more than one certification on each page.

The pastor of San Giorgio, Father Vacirca, went to school with my cousin Pippo. Our grandson Jonathan and our daughter Paula also had a chance to meet Father on one of our later trips to Sicily. When Father Vacirca learned that we wanted to research our genealogy, he very graciously made room for us on his desk and let us have free access to the archives in his office. We also had access to a list of the pastors dating back to 1517. The information we gathered from the archives enabled us to reliably trace our branch of the Dieli family in a direct line back to Antonino Dieli and Felicia Strazzo, the parents of Ignazio Giuseppe Dieli, baptized on April 6, 1758. Our direct line was interrupted here because we were unable to find Antonino's baptismal certificate (with the names of the parents) or records for any other siblings. We estimate that 1730 could be the year Antonino was born if we assume that he was about 30 years old when they had Ignazio. We hope to continue our research in other churches in nearby communities such as San Michele di Ganzaria and Licodia Eubea where there happen to be sizeable Dieli contingents. But subsequent research won't be restricted to the many nearby communities that now have Dielis in them. In the latter part of 1998 I received an email from a Dieli in Palermo who found this homepage while he was surfing the web. He says that his branch of the Dieli family has lived in Prizzi for many generations. Prizzi is a hilltop town about 45 Km south of Palermo and about 50 Km north of Agrigento and about 110 KM west of Caltagirone (in a straight line, and you can't get anywhere in Sicily in a straight line) so the driving distance will be somewhat greater. So Prizzi is a candidate site for more research.

Combining current genealogical information with the archive data yields this more detailed family tree for the Francesco di Paolo & Concetta Recca Dieli branch.

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This page is maintained by Art Dieli.
Last updated 11/22/04