Friday, April 30, 2010

A Calabrese Family History Lesson

In anticipation of our shows in Italy, I thought I’d share some Calabrese family history. I received this information from my Aunt. So, get ready for a pop quiz at our next show!

Spoiler Alert – We have no ties to the mob (that we’ll admit).

Vincenzo Raphael Calabrese

Our great grandpa, Vincenzo Raphael Calabrese, was born in 1878. His family lived on a farm and grew grapes in a town called Foggia. It’s located on the Adriatic Sea side of Italy but in the interior, parallel to Naples.

One day, our great grandma Celeste was working in the fields near Foggia when a shirtless Cavalry Officer rode up to her. His red chest hair glistened in the hot shining sun and she instantly fell in love. That Officer was our great grandfather who had been drafted into the Cavalry at the age of sixteen. They soon married.

After his service great grandpa opened a small business in Naples and they had two children. But due to a poor economy (southern Italy was very poor) he lost his business and decided to immigrate to the United States. He left Celeste and the 2 children with her parents and made the trip alone. This was around 1900.

Leaving Italy for work was very common at the time. But in prior years people looked for work in other European countries. The steamboat companies who made a good profit on transporting immigrants had advertised the opportunities in the United States, and fortunately, great grandpa fell for it.

Like all immigrants, great grandpa searched out family when he arrived in the US. One of his cousins lived in Chicago so that’s where he arrived.

Great grandpa’s cousin got him a job with Pullman (a company that built railroad cars). This was a pretty good job but he didn't like the structured life in a factory. So, he got a job with the railroad as a cook. He liked working for the railroad since it was out in the open, allowed him to travel and gave him a sense of freedom (the same reasons he like the cavalry). He worked along the western railroad line going through Nebraska.
Meanwhile back in Italy, great grandma Celeste dealt with the loss of their two children due to cholera. After the children's deaths, she decided to make the trip to America. Without knowing a singe word of English, she crossed the ocean alone on the boat. She wore around her neck hung a hand written card with her name and destination. Somehow, she found her way to Chicago and learned that her husband left to work on the railroad, so all alone she kept searching and headed out west. Finally, after all her searching Celeste and Vincenzo reunited in Nebraska. They started a new family and settled down in Hastings Nebraska.

Nebraska had plenty of work until after world war one. Great grandpa worked on farms, and they ended up having nine children. Our grandpa Raphael was the second oldest child and oldest son went to work on a corn farm. And one year he had to eat corn all summer. At that time our grandpa Raphael would have been about ten years old.

Vincenzo and Raphael

Great grandpa then decided to come back to Chicago and start working for Pullman again. He kept his early love of farming and grew grapes at his Chicago home and made wine for himself and family. This was just before the Depression in 1929, so the house they bought was at an inflated price (sound familiar?). After the crash, great grandpa lost his job and never worked again. Our grandpa Raphael then raised his brothers and sisters along with his own family.

Grandpa Raphael

So the family tree is as follows; Great grandpa Vincenzo married Celeste. They had a son Raphael (our grandpa) who married Helen. They had a son James (our dad) who married Judy and they gave birth to 3 sons Jimmy, Bobby, and Davey who became The World’s Greatest Horror Rock Band...and the rest as they say is "history."


  1. That's awesome Jimmy and a really interesting read. My great grandparents also came over from southern Italy around 1916 with their 11 kids. Then my grandfather was born here in NY in 1924.

  2. thats awesome ! good luck on tour

  3. Thanks, it's going to be a fun tour. It's funny how many kids people used to have.

  4. That's MAJORLY awesome, Jimmy!! Thank you!! I love family history stuff ;)

  5. thats pretty bitchin man, my granny had 10 kids haha, so crazy! hey come to the central coast in cali!

  6. Some of my family came over in the potato famine of Ireland. Condoms are a good thing.

  7. I think we are related, my Family also began in Chicago, my father was born there to Antonio Calabrese and Adaline Smiraglia, unfortunately, my family liniage information seems to have died with my grandmother. I would love to have a chance to speak wtih your aunt to see what the connection is. Sidenote, Way to make your dreams come true. I am sure you heard alot of folks say you would never make a living with that type of music but you did. I have a daughter, Also named Calabrese who had a published cartoon called Circumlocution with The Daily Texan, while she was a student at UT, you might enjoy it if you look it up.