The Case of the Missing Tombstone

1884-1886 - Rocco Parotto and Maria Fratanduono

Rocco Parotto and Maria Fratanduono, 1884-1886.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

My wife and I had a great time with both of our families celebrating our son’s first Christmas.  I also signed up for a few genealogy classes – First Steps: Discover Your Family Tree, Irish Research 101 and US Military Records.  Note to self: In the future, do not take more than two classes at once. When I return to work in January I’m going to be exhausted.  The classes contain a ton of good information and I want to make sure I get the most out of them.  The Irish course, taught by Sharon Carmack, has been especially helpful in teaching me how to determine where ancestors came from and find passenger lists. I learned that my 3rd great-grandfather on my mom’s side came from Dublin and immigrated through Canada before moving eventually to Detroit, Michigan (thank you First Steps class!).

Over the last several weeks I made an effort to spend time with some older relatives to share what I’ve found and to document any stories or information they might have.  Jackpot!!  For the sake of brevity, I’ll stick to my paternal line…for now.

My Great-aunt Marilyn was at one time interested in genealogy and had done research with her cousin.  She had pictures of my grandparents wedding, and my Great-grandparents Louis & Kitty, whom I’d never seen before.  As she told me stories, it helped bring the pictures to life.  I heard how my grandparents got engaged, and how my Great-grandfather Louis was hit by a car in front of their house, and was trapped under a parked car where he suffered leg injuries.  Later, I was able to find the actual newspaper article of that event from!  The most important thing she showed me was a copy of my Great-great-grandfather Rocco Parotto’s death report from the coroner.  Apparently the Chicago-Milwaukee passenger train hit him in March of 1896 as he was crossing the tracks.

Rocco was born in Calvello, Italy sometime around 1860 and I believe he came to the US between 1880 and 1890.  He was a musician and a laborer.  He married Maria Fratuanduona (maiden name varies in spelling) in 1882, according to the Cook County Marriages Index.  When he died, he left his wife behind with four young children, including my Great-grandfather Louis, who was four at the time.  To make matters worse, Maria was one month pregnant with Rocco Jr.  She remarried after Rocco Jr. was born, to John Worrell, and they had three more children.

My dad, brother, sister and I decided to take a trip a few days ago to the cemetery Rocco is buried in.  Armed with our gloves (it was snowing) and a map provided by the cemetery office, we set out to find his grave.  We checked every grave in the section but couldn’t find him.  After asking the office again, they said no headstone had been purchased.

Money must have been so tight for the Parotto’s that they were not able to afford a headstone.  On the ride home, my dad and I talked about wanting to eventually buy a headstone for him so he’s no longer an unmarked grave.

My search will continue for the Passenger Lists for Rocco and Maria, as well as who their parents and siblings were, but next week I’ll cover my finds from my mom’s side.  Have a great week!

Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Brian Parotto of Hampshire, Ill.

Here are some of the tools Brian is using to launch his genealogy education. Check them out:


2 thoughts on “The Case of the Missing Tombstone

  1. That happened to me this summer! When visiting my parents in Washington, I took a several-hour detour to a graveyard in Oregon where my great great great grandfather was supposed to be buried. Alas, no headstone. But I’m glad to have visited the cemetery.

  2. Janine – thanks for reading the blog & for the feedback! I was glad we went too. Even without the headstone it felt surreal to be standing near where my ancestor is buried

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