Friday, August 22, 2014

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Valerie Bertinelli

This is later than usual because I, being the geek that I am, rewatched the episode multiple times trying to catch every piece of information from the various family trees that were shown.  I still missed some bits because they didn't discuss them on screen and the camera didn't stay on them long enough for me to see everything.  It was interesting to see what they skipped over (but more on that later).

I have to admit, I was happy to finally see an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? this season with a celebrity I recognized.  I didn't feel quite as old and out-of-date.  The opening teaser mentioned royalty (I was thinking we'd find another trail to Charlemagne) and another murder (reminding me of my earlier comment that maybe all the celebrities this season would have murders in their backgrounds).  And in the opening sequence I noticed that a sixth celebrity has been added:  Minnie Driver.  I don't understand why it took until the fourth episode to add her, since she was announced as a substitute for Lauren Graham back in July, before the new season actually started.  Unfortunately, since Minnie Driver was featured in an episode of the UK Who Do You Think You Are?, I'm sure TLC will just take that episode and edit it down to make room for commercials, as NBC did with the Kim Cattrall episode.  And of course we still don't know why Lauren Graham's episode won't air (at least this season), though it's likely that the research team wasn't able to find everything they wanted in time.  On the other hand, maybe the research results just weren't as exciting as anticipated?

The introduction to Valerie Bertinelli explained she hit the big time with One Day at a Time and has also published memoirs and a cookbook of Italian family recipes.  Currently she is one of the stars of Hot in Cleveland (which, although it does have Bertinelli along with Betty White and Jane Leeves, whom I think are great actresses, I have not seen).  Bertinelli and her husband Tom live in Los Angeles, a few miles from her son Wolfie.

Bertinelli starts off by talking with Wolfie about her rolling pin, which used to belong to her Nonni (Italian for grandmother).  She remembers watching Nonni use it to make gnocchi, cappelletti, and other pasta.  (If she's the type of person to hold on to something like that, she really is a good candidate for a family history show.  Hooray!)  She was born in Wilmington, Delaware and grew up in Claymont, Delaware.  Her parents, Andrew Bertinelli and Nancy Carvin, married young and have been married more than 60 years.

Bertinelli knows more about her father's side of the family because she was around them.  Nonni was a baker and cook.  She died when Bertinelli was in her early 30's.  There are questions she didn't ask that now she wonders about, such as when and why Nonni left Italy and anything about Nonni's parents.  Bertinelli's mother embraced her father's side of the family, and consequently she doesn't know as much about her mother's side, so she wants to focus on it.  Apparently Nancy ran away when she was 16 years old (nothing else was said on that subject).  The family didn't talk much and some subjects were not brought up, such as where the family came from.  And Wolfie wants to know if there's a family crest (foreshadowing . . .).

Bertinelli starts her research by meeting with her parents.  They show a photo of Nancy with her parents, Lester Carvin and Elizabeth Adams Chambers.  Nancy was only 8 years old when her mother passed away.  Nancy says her older sister told her their mother was English.

Andrew's parents were Nazzareno and Angelina Rosa Bertinelli.  There's a photo of Nonni's mother and several women standing by a "specialità gelato" cart.  Andrew doesn't know who the other women are.  Nonni's mother's name was Maria Mancia Crosa, but Crosa was her first husband's name.  He was Giorgio Crosa.  Maria came to the U.S. after he died and married Mancia; they lived in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania.  Nancy says the name as "Man-chee-uh", a common mistake with Italian pronunciation.

Bertinelli says that she needs more help with her mother's side and has asked a genealogist in England to research the Chambers and Carvin families.  She figures she has enough information to start on her father's side herself and decides to look for the family in the 1920 census on  Bertinelli searches (with no capital letters!) for "mancha."  (When I heard the name proncounced, I mentally spelled it as I thought it would be in Italian, i.e., Mancia.  Mancha is how you spell it in English to get the same pronunciation.)  She finds Gregorio Mancha, "Mary", Angelina (as Angeline), and a son named George.  Andrew comments that Giorgio was called George in English.

They decide that the next step should be for Bertinelli to go to Lackawanna County to find more information on the family.  (Funny how the Internet gets boring so quickly.)  She travels to the Lackawanna Historical Society in Scranton, Pennsylvania, commenting that she never talked about her father's grandmother and where she was from in Italy.  At the historical society she meets Marcella Bencivenni, a historian who focuses on Italian immigration, who says she has found some information.  She has deed book 382, which she has Bertinelli open to a deed dated April 14, 1931, where Maria Mancha, a widow, sells land in Jefferson Township, Lackawanna County, to Nazzareno and Angelina Bertinelli for $1.  The land is the same farm on which the family was living in the 1920 census.  Bertinelli wonders what happened to Gregorio, and Bencivenni tells her Gregorio died on April 9, 1931; one week later Maria gave the land to her daughter and son-in-law.  Bertinelli wants to know why.  Bencivenni says, "If we are lucky, we can find something in about his death."  (With all the talent in Hollywood, this is the best scripting they can come up with?)  So Bertinelli searches for <gregorio mancha>, and they show an article from April 10 (actually the second hit; I did the same search) on the computer:  "Believing He Killed Wife, Cortez Man Takes Own Life; Wife Saves Self by Feigning Death."  And we cut to a commercial!  (In the article, his name is actually spelled Gorgia Mancia; maybe they've set up an "alternative" index entry so people can find it?)

Scranton Republican, April 10, 1931
On returning from the commercial, of course the article is the topic of discussion.  "Gorgia" Mancia was 47 years old.  Bertinelli wants to know why he shot Maria.  She looks honestly confused and is wiping away tears.  Bencivenni says that they may not be able to find the answer (translation:  the research team couldn't find the answer).  (A follow-up article, which was actually the first hit from the search, appeared in the same newspaper on April 11.  It stated that no reason was known to explain Gorgia Mancia's actions.  It also said that the only known relative in this country was Angelina.)   She has another document, however.  This is an obituary for Mary Mancia, from the Scranton Times of July 6, 1951.  It says she died in the hospital and that surviving relatives included her daughter, Angelina; son, George Crosa; and brother, Joseph Possio.  So now they have Maria's maiden name!

Bertinelli now wants to look for immigration information on Maria.  Bencivenni says she should look on  Bertinelli asks if she should look for Maria under her maiden name, and Bencivenni says yes, because she was a widow when she arrived here and more likely would have taken back her maiden name.  (What she should have explained, but maybe Ancestry and the program's producers didn't think was worth the time, is that in Italy a woman's "maiden" name is her legal name throughout her life.  Whether Maria was single, married, or widowed when she traveled to the U.S., her name would have been Possio.  It was only after living in the U.S. that she would have adopted the custom prevalent here, of using her husband's surname as her own.)

Bertinelli finds Maria Possio arriving on the Dante Alighieri on June 12, 1915 in New York.  She was born about 1879, from Lanzo, Torino, her race was "North" (as in Northern Italian), and her occupation was cook.  She was traveling with two children, Maddelena and Giorgio Crosa.  (Maddelena seems to be Angelina, but the difference in name is never brought up, much less explained.)  Bertinelli asks why Maria would leave Italy with two children in tow.  Bencivenni explains that World War I began in 1914, and on May 23, 1915 Italy entered the war, so Maria wanted to leave the war behind her.  Apparently Maria wasted no time, because her ship sailed on May 29.  (Could she really have gotten all of her paperwork, tickets, travel documents, money, everything in order in six days?  I don't think so.  She was obviously planning to emigrate well before Italy officially was in the war.  Other information gleaned from the ship manifest:  Maddelena/Angelina and Giorgio each applied for U.S. citizenship later, as evidenced by the handwritten numbers to the right of their names; Maria's contact in the U.S. was her brother; and someone must have met Maria and the children at the dock, because there is no note by their names indicating they were held as "likely public charges.")

Bertinelli asks how she can find out about Maria's life in Torino.  No surprise, Bencivenni tells her the only way is to fly to Italy and go to Lanzo.

And she goes to Lanzo, wanting to learn about Maria's first husband and hoping that maybe Maria had an easier life in Italy.  At the Lanzo library (Centro Biblioteche) Bertinelli meets Molly Tambor, an assistant professor of history at Long Island University.  Tambor has Maria's marriage record, which shows that Maria Francesca Possio married Francesco Crosa on June 30, 1910, when she was 31 years old.  Tambor first presents the record in Italian, then gives Bertinelli a translation; Bertinelli says she's going to have to learn Italian.  Maria and Francesco already had a daughter (Angelina), who was born April 27, 1908, and they declared her their legitimate daughter.  Bertinelli wonders how they could have had a child and then not married until two years later.  Tambor explains that a church wedding and a dowry, the latter of which would not have been uncommon at that time, were both expensive, so they were put off.  Giorgio was born after Maria and Francesco married.

So what happened to Francesco?  Tambor has a copy of his death certificate, with a translation.  He died on November 10, 1911 of myocarditis (not actually a heart attack, as Bertinelli says).  In 1912 Maria was working, explaining the photograph of her with the gelato cart.  Tambor comments that it was not common for a woman to work.  Bertinelli wonders if she might have been saving money to go to America (a good probability in my mind), and Tambor says that even if she hadn't been, the money she made would have funded the trip.  She adds that Lanzo is a small town, so she had asked if anyone knew about the Possio family and found someone to talk to.  She has already made arrangements for a meeting.  Bertinelli asks if maybe the person will recognize the people in the photograph, and Tambor tells her to bring it with her (I love these heavy-handed lead-ins).

Pietro's postcard
The next day, Bertinelli goes to the meeting that Tambor has set up.   The on-screen translation says that Pietro Possio is Bertinelli's third cousin; his grandfather was Maria's first cousin (which actually makes them third cousins once removed).  He speaks only in Italian, and Tambor appears to be the interpreter.  (I was proud of myself:  I was able to follow most of the Italian conversation!)  Possio has a postcard sent to his grandfather by Maria from Palermo, as she was leaving Italy for the United States (how cool!).  A translation has been prepared, of course.  She wrote the postcard at 10:00 in the morning and talked about how they were scheduled to leave at 9:00 in the evening and that everyone was fine.

They show Possio the photograph of Maria and the gelato cart.  He points out that the little girl on the left is Angelina (which is what Andrew had thought), and an older woman on the right is Maria's mother.  He then takes out a letter that his father, Francesco, sent to Angelina.  (But if the letter was mailed to Angelina, why does Pietro have a copy?)  Angelina was one year younger than Francesco.  He asked for Angelina's children to write and hoped their children would visit each other, and now that has been fulfilled (also very cool).

As she leaves, Bertinelli says that she has more answers now and that her father will be proud of his grandmother.  She's hoping that in London she'll find information on her mother's side of the family, so she can give Nancy the same type of gift.  And off she heads to England.

In London Bertinelli goes to the Society of Antiquaries, where she meets with Else Churchill of the Society of Genealogists.  Bertinelli says that she had never really thought about her English ancestry before and hopes Churchill will find some information for Nancy.  Churchill says she has found quite a bit of information and has created a family tree.  She adds that the information came from censuses and land records.

The tree begins with Bertinelli and goes to her parents, then to her mother's parents, Lester V. Carvin (born 1907 in Newark, Ohio; died 1984) and Elizabeth Adams Chambers (born 1907 in New Jersey; died after 1945).  It goes back and forth between following male and female lines.  Lester Carvin's parents, Bertinelli's great-great-grandparents, were Joseph Carvin (born 1874 in New Jersey; died after 1943) and Ida P. Gooden (born 1877 in New Jersey; died 1909).  Ida's parents were Jacob G. Gooden (born 1842 in New Jersey; died between 1910–1920) and Mary Emma Bishop (born 1858 in Gloucester County, New Jersey; died 1924).  Mary's parents were Benjamin Bishop (born 1828 in Gloucester County, New Jersey; died 1895) and Mary Claypoole (born 1831 in Gloucester County; died 1862; no comment was made about how young she was or that she died only a few years after her daughter was born).  I was a little surprised at the gaps in the research, especially for the 20th century; I know from personal experience New Jersey is not a friendly state when it comes to getting records, but I would have thought that all the money behind this research would have smoothed the way for the research team.  Maybe those missing pieces of information simply couldn't be resolved before the final edits for the episode but the team finished the research later?

At this point Churchill interrupts Bertinelli to comment on how when doing English genealogy one can come across a "gateway ancestor" — one from a well documented family that can link to already established family trees.  (As if only the English have gateway ancestors?)  She points out that Mary Claypoole is just such a gateway ancestor, because the Claypoole family is well known and documented.  We then go tripping merrily up the Claypoole family tree, talking only about the men.  We go from Mary, Bertinelli's 3x-great-grandmother, to her parents, John Claypoole (born 1795 in Cumberland County, New Jersey; died 1877) and Jane (not discussed on screen, but born 17XX in New Jersey; died 18XX).  John's parents were Wingfield (how's that for a given name?) Claypoole (born after 1755 in New Jersey; died about 1806) and Mary Poole (also not discussed; born about 17XX).  Wingfield's parents were John Claypoole (born 1714 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; died after 1770), who had no wife listed at all.  This John's parents were Joseph Claypoole (born 1677 in London, England; died 1744) and Rebecca Jennings (not discussed; born unknown; died 1713 [I think]).  And we stop at Joseph's parents, Bertinelli's 8th-great-grandfather, James Claypoole (born 1634 in England; died 1687) and his wife, Helena M—, also not discussed on screen (and difficult to read; I couldn't see the birth information, and death looked like 1688, but I'm not sure).

After hitting James, Churchill explains that the Claypooles are a well known line of Quakers in England.  Bertinelli asks how she can learn more about the family, and Churchill tells her the best place to go is the center for the history of Quakers in England, Friends House in London.

At Friends House Bertinelli meets Scott Stephenson, Ph.D., the director of collections at the Museum of the American Revolution (who apparently also specializes in Quaker research?).  She tells him that she has learned that her 8th-great-grandfather was James Claypoole, a Quaker.  He tells her a little about the history of the Quakers in England:  how they were persecuted and jailed for their beliefs because they went against the Church of England; in the 1680's more than 10,000 Quakers were in prison.  When Bertinelli wants to know if James was in trouble also, Stephenson pulls out James Claypoole's Letter Book, which utterly amazes Bertinelli.  A bookmark indicates a letter Claypoole wrote to William Penn — upon which Bertinelli asks, "The William Penn?" — dated the 1st of the 2nd month, 1683 (which I believe would have been April 1, because Great Britain did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1752).

William Penn
The narrator gives us a short overview of William Penn and the Quakers.  The religion began in England in the 1650's.  It had many social aspects that diverged from commonly held beliefs of the time, including pacifism, gender equality, and that people could communicate with God without the need of a priest.  Quakers suffered persecution for these beliefs.  Penn petitioned King Charles II for the right to create a colony in North America, which Charles granted in 1681, giving Penn more than 45,000 square miles to create a safe haven for Quakers wishing to leave England.

Claypoole's letter to Penn said that Quakers were reduced to meeting in the streets because they had been locked out of their meeting houses.  Stephenson then shows Bertinelli a copy of the document that essentially founded Pennsylvania, which was written in 1682 in England.  It laid out governance for the province and was witnessed on the back by men who had purchased land.  One of the signatures is that of James Claypoole.  Bertinelli comments on his beautiful handwriting.

Bertinelli wants to know what happened to James and if he made it to Pennsylvania.  Stephenson directs her to another bookmark in the book.  This is not a letter from Claypoole but one about him.  He was elected to the council in 1687 in Pennsylvania, but unfortunately was not well.  The council was on recess during the summer, from May through August.  When it reconvened, Claypoole had died, on August 6.  His wife Helena died a year later, but she inherited several items after his death, including the "largest and least" of his silver tankards, the "larger with the Claypoole Coat of arms."  Boy, did that catch Bertinelli's attention!  After all, Wolfie wants to know if there's a family crest.  So she asks how she can find out more about the coat of arms, and Stephenson directs her to the College of Arms, which controls and records heraldry for the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

As she leaves Friends House Bertinelli talks about how she sees parallels between Maria Possio and James Claypoole.  Both came to America for opportunity and made her world a better place because of the things that they did.  She says Claypoole particularly played a huge part in making America what it is (okay, maybe a little bit of an overstatement) and that she has "a lot to live up to."

At the College of Arms Peter O'Donoghue, the Herald of Arms, greets Bertinelli.  He has another family tree for her.  It begins with James Claypoole.  This is another time when they don't talk about all the people in the tree, and it was hard to see the names and dates because the camera didn't focus on them.  James' parents, not discussed, were John Claypoole (died 1660/6) and Mary Angell (born unknown).  The next name brought up after James was actually his grandfather, Adam Claypoole (born 1565; died March 2, 1632), who was married to Dorothy Wingfield (not discussed, but that's apparently where the given name came from for the Wingfield Claypoole born after 1755 in New Jersey; she was born 1565 and died November 1619).  Adam's parents were James Claypoole (born unknown; died about 1599) and "Jo" (that's all I could read, and I was guessing Joan; apparently she was Joan Henson).

O'Donoghue pauses at James Claypoole and says there's a document to look at.  He has Bertinelli open a book at a marked page, which describes the granting of arms to James Claypoole.  The page also shows the coat of arms.  O'Donoghue explains that James, who was from Norborow, Northampton, was not originally of the gentry but was a yeoman.  He made money and transformed the family's fortunes, then its social standing.  He came up enough in the world and had enough influence that he was made a gentleman.  Once he became a member of the gentry, his children could marry the children of other gentlemen.  And that's what happened with James' son Adam.  Adam's wife, Dorothy Wingfield, was from a longer established, important family (he married up).

We then return to the family tree and follow Dorothy's line.  Her parents (Bertinelli's 11th-great-grandparents) were Robert Wingfield (born 1532; died March 31, 1580) and Elizabeth Cecil (not discussed, although she came from a very important family:  her brother was William, Lord Burghley, an important advisor to Queen Elizabeth I; she was born unknown, died 1611).  Robert Wingfield's parents are totally skipped, and next we see Sir Henry Wingfield (born before 1431) and then Sir Robert Wingfield (born 1403, died before November 21, 1454), neither of whose wives were shown.  Sir Robert Wingfield was Bertinelli's 14th-great-grandfather.  Above his name is a notation:  "Arundel 1.159."  When Bertinelli asks what it means, O'Donoghue directs her to a closed cabinet in the room and has her pull out another book.  Page 159 of that book has another family tree.  (Bertinelli is not asked to wear gloves while looking at either book.  She did handle the pages carefully.)

"Gal nations edward i" by
Unknown, Sedilia at
Westminster Abbey;
erected during reign of
Edward I (1272–1307).
Licensed under
public domain via
Wikimedia Commons.
The new family tree starts with Sir Robert Wingfield and his wife, Elizabeth (now she has a name!).  I had trouble reading her last name and thought it was Greskill, but it seems to be Goushill or something similar.  We hop over to Elizabeth's line at this point.  On screen they skip over her parents, who were Sir Robert Goushill and (Lady) Elizabeth (Fitzalan), and go straight to Lady Elizabeth's parents, William de Bohun, 1st Earl of Northampton, and Elizabeth (daughter of Bartholomew de Badlesmere).  William was the son of Humphrey de Bohun, 4th Earl of Hereford, and Elizabeth, daughter of King Edward I! (This Elizabeth was also the relict [widow] of John, Count of Holland, though he wasn't discussed at all, because, after all, we just landed on a king!  She was the daughter of Eleanor of Castile, who was the daughter of another king, Ferdinand III of Castile.  And with all this royalty, I know it must go back to Charlemagne, but I can't find the path.  So I'll claim accuracy on that point.)

O'Donoghue proceeds to tell Bertinelli that Edward is a great king to be descended from.  He was the quintessential Medieval English king.  He lived a long life, dying at the age of 72 (though Wikipedia says he was 68).  He was about 6'2" and was known as Longshanks because of his height.  O'Donoghue mentions Edward fought in the Crusades but that it was a disaster and says, "Never mind."  And during his reign England began its first steps to what would eventually become Parliamentarian democracy.  (What O'Donoghue neglects to mention is that Edward I expelled all Jews from England in 1290, after having expelled Jews from Gascony in 1287.  "Great" might be in the eye of the beholder.)

Bertinelli is obviously excited at these revelations but appears to be very self-effacing.   She is glad she has filled in blanks on her mother's side of the family tree with so many names and stories.  Now she is heading back to Los Angeles to share the information with her parents.  She's been so in touch with her Italian side all of her life and feels a real connection with Maria (and she brings back the postcard Maria sent from Palermo to show her parents).  She's never had any inkling about her English background but now has to identify with that side of her family as well.  And of course she's thrilled with the "Claypoole coat of arms."  (What they never address in the program is that English heraldry doesn't award a coat of arms to a family but to a person.  Each person in the family entitled to a coat of arms must use a variation of the basic form.  So the Claypoole coat of arms would originally have been James Claypoole's.  His descendants would have differentiated theirs by various devices.  I guess Wolfie will have to come up with his own version.)

On a totally separate note, now that Who Do You Think You Are? is on TLC, I'm seeing commercials for lots of programs from that network.  I have to say, I had no idea so many incredibly tacky, tasteless shows existed.

Whew!  I'm glad I finially finished this one.  All that nobility was very confusing after a while.  Onward to Kelsey Grammer!


  1. So what happen to Molly Tambor's mother? Joyce Carel?

    1. Molly Tambor was one of the researchers on the episode. They weren't researching her family. Did you mean Valerie Bertinelli's mother?

    2. I traced this back through Charlemagne and to Clovis I (481) in 1981. I'll try to find the article.

    3. Great, thanks! I look forward to reading it.

    4. Do you need some help? I have the family chart sitting on my dining room table! It comes from Professor E. Claypool-Bracken, who is deceased now. I have the Wingfield Charts, the place where Nelson Rockefeller ties into the family, The Richard Cecil and Jane Heckington was the connection between William Cecil (Lord Burghley) has the royal descending lines of the Royal family, including Lady Diane's connecting to the royal family through the Cavendish line, and Sarah Ferguson the former wife of Prince Andrew also descending through the Cavendish line. The Wingfield and the Claypool's descend through William Cecil's sister Elizabeth Cecil married Robert Wingfield. Their daughter Lady Dorothy Wingfield married Adam Claypool, Esquire. Adam's home when young was at Claypool Manor in Northborough, Northamptonshire. IT is still standing and was up for sale a few years ago. It has a huge family Coat of Arms over the fireplace. They are listed in the Visitations of Northamptonshire. They had a son SIr John Claypoole that married Marie Angell. (her brother James Angell is an ancestor of Nelson Rockefeller)./ Their son James Clayp0oole (ancestor of most Claypools in America) married Mary Cohn. They had a son James Claypoole that married Jane Bird. Their daughter Elizabeth Claypool b. 1739 married John Osborne b. 1735, my 4th great grandparents.

    5. Thank you for the information and for reading my blog.

  2. I am a direct descendant of Edward I. Amazing how I met a cousin of Valerie's three miles from me in Metairie


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