01 July 2009

A Man from the Mezzogiorno - Viggiano to Melbourne

Who is or was your most enigmatic relative? Who has had the most mysterious life? What would you like to find out most about that person?

This photograph is of Vincenzo Galito. He came to Australia sometime in the 1880s and was later joined by his wife Mattia and daughter Carolina.

The photograph was taken in 1903. I do not have any photographs of his wife. The only ones I have of his daughter Carolina show her as an old woman in her 70s.

Who was Vincenzo Galito and why did he come to Australia? I know that he was born in the south of Italy, in the village of Viggiano. Southern Italy is known as the Mezzogiorno. In English, mezzogiorno means midday. The region is also called Italia Meridionale.

Viggiano is in the region known today as Basilicata. In the past, Basilicata was known as Lucania. In ancient times it was known as Magna Graecia. Vincenzo was born in Viggiano sometime around 1854. He died in Australia in 1908.

Mattia Galito was born in Viggiano in around 1856. She died in Australia in 1897, soon after giving birth in Melbourne to a child who died a few months later. The family had lived in the "slums" of McGrath Place off Little Lonsdale Street.

Mattia had been a greengrocer and Vincenzo sold ice cream at the Eastern Markets in Bourke Street. They had three daughters who reached adulthood and two children who died in infancy. Only one of their surviving children was born in Italy, Carolina, who was born in 1880.

One of the reasons why the Galito family came to Australia may have been because two of Mattia's brothers had arrived in Melbourne as child musicians in the late 1870s.

The musical heritage of Viggiano is worth knowing about. Did music play a part in your ancestors' lives?

Mattia's brothers were Domenico and Pasquale Gargaro. Their father was called Giacomo. They were part of Viggiano's long tradition of music and migration. I do not yet know if Vincenzo Galito was a musician, too.

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I especially appreciate historical insights.