Heart of a Southern Woman

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Genealogy Research Identifies Easter Traditions from Relatives and Ancestors Worldwide

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In my genealogical research, I have learned that my family is a typical American melting pot of ethnic origins! Our ancestors hail from Denmark, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, and Switzerland—at least. As we are preparing for our own Easter celebration, I was wondering how similar or how different some of my ancestor’s traditions might have been.  

Our own traditions include attending church as we were raised Protestant and believe that Easter represents the death and the rising of Jesus Christ, Son of God, to save us all from our sins and to give us eternal life.  It is basically, the basis of our Faith, and, is such an important time in the life of Christians.  We celebrate Easter with a long season of Lent.  However, Holy Week is marked with Maundy Thursday Communion in church on the Thursday before Easter Sunday.  This communion celebrates the Lord’s last supper with his disciples. On Good Friday, we gather at church to mourn the death of Christ upon the cross. Our own church holds a “Tenebrae service of Shadows”.  One of our daughters will sing special music with the choir, “One Sacrifice”.   The service itself begins with 14 lighted candles in the sanctuary, and as Christ walks his final passion, each candle is extinguished to signify his abandonment.  Easter Sunday, we gather to celebrate the joy of Christ’s resurrection and His salvation for each of us individually throughout the whole world. This is an astounding day for many of us faith wise!

Part of the joy of Easter at our house is gathering with family and friends for dinner.  Many in the United States serve ham for this dinner with other spring vegetables especially like asparagus and carrots for the Easter bunny. Surely you see turkey and beef as well. My own sister, however, serves a Crown Roast of Lamb every Easter without fail!  Bunny rabbit salads made of half pears are a treat for our family.

Since our family includes young grandchildren, an Easter egg hunt is in order for the day!  Of course, we give the children Easter baskets full of trinkets, chocolate, and other candy.  We hard boil and decorate Easter eggs as well.  In our own family, we often hide the baskets and the children have to follow clues to find them!

Easter 2015, hunting eggs with Katy and Evie

This is one way to hunt eggs! -grandchildren of author, personal library, HY Holshouser. 

Evie, Katy, and Liam with Easter Bunny, 2016

Grandchildren visiting the Easter Bunny—from the personal library of this author, H Y Holshouser.

What about our Hogue ancestors from Scotland?  I understand that they especially were sheepherders and that their and most Scottish Easter dinners include roasted lamb!  As with us in America, chocolate is the taste of the day!  Dessert might be chocolate cake and coffee! Chocolate eggs and bunnies are ever present for both! Easter egg hunts, horse displays, and battle reenactments make for fun and festive occasions. Of course, churches throughout Scotland hold special Easter services like ours, to celebrate Christ’s rising from death and giving us the grace of salvation. We had many ministers, mainly Presbyterian, in our Hogue family.  In fact, we are told that our first immigrant from Scotland was a Covenanter.  A covenanter was one of the many Scottish people who fought against the Catholics for the right to have their own personal covenant with God. In fact, his persecution by the Catholics apparently led to his flight to America.

Our Kearse family from Ireland and the same ancient family, the Des Cearsais of France, how did they celebrate Easter?  The French word for Easter is Pâques. To say Happy Easter, you can say “Joyeuses Pâques or “Bonnes Pâques.”  According to my general research, Easter is an important holiday in France also. It is a religious one, and a lively, fun time with Easter egg hunts to honor the coming of Spring. Like Ireland, roast lamb is the choice for a large family meal. In Ireland, it is also an important religious holiday as well, with many traditions. Confession on Good Friday, silence on the Saturday before Easter lends to a meditative state. Eggs take center stage on Easter as they are given up for the forty days of lent by many.  Chocolate eggs, decorated eggs—all symbolizing Spring, new beginnings, renewal and joy!

What about the Langhornes and others from England? Among many lovely and fun Easter traditions, Easter parades are one of the greatest. Children and adults don new clothes for good luck, and often children make elaborate paper hats to wear as they march in their local town parades!  Fun! Egg rolling, hot cross buns, Simnel cake, Morris dancing, and so much more contradicts the vision of the staid Englishmen and women! 

Abingdon Traditional Morris Dancing Princess Royal

 

Our marvelous Italian ancestors and relatives add so much spirit to our family. The BottosRaffosRivaros, Costas, DeSantos,  and more, mostly originate in the coastal area of northwestern Italy, near Genoa. Italy of course, is home to the Vatican, and the place for the pilgrimage of so many Catholics on Easter.  My mother’s Italian ancestors were Catholic as well.  Mass on Good Friday in St. Peter’s Basilica is followed by the Pope leading a candlelight procession on a walk symbolizing Christ’s walk to the cross.  Our own church reenacts this walk to the cross, and we are protestants.  

St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City, Andreas Tille – Own work, Permission details Quote of http://fam-tille.de/italien/rom/2004_030.html – Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this images under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published

 

As I understand it from relatives, northern Italian Easter feasts often feature ham, like us!  Interesting. Of course, salami is a big choice as well.  Colomba, a dove shaped cake, made of almonds, egg whites, and sugar, is probably the most famous cake and available worldwide these days.

Italian bread with almonds and sugar,Colomba-Pasquale

Colomba Pasquale, An Italian Sweet bread J.P.Lon~commonswiki

What about our German JungblutsYoungbloods? And my husband’s Haulzhausen—Holshouser family?  According to a wonderful article from DW –Deutsche Welle —  http://www.dw.com/en/german-easter-traditions/a-1520904 — the Germans of course, also celebrate a religious holiday like most Christians.

Although mainly a Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, Easter also marks the beginning of spring. The Germans, of course, have a whole range of customs and traditions to celebrate the change of seasons in proper fashion.

A time for eggs and bunnies

Eggs and bunnies are two of the oldest symbols of Easter in Germany and every spring shops boom with eggs and bunnies made of chocolate, cardboard or flowers in different sizes and wrappings.

The tradition for using eggs and bunnies for Easter originates from pagan worshipping where they were symbols of fertility and new birth and traditionally used for celebrations of the coming of the spring.

The Germans have a number of egg games which the children play over the holidays. One tradition is to blow eggs and paint them in multiple colours and patterns on Good Friday. The eggs are then put in a basket for the Easter bunny — Osterhase— to hide around the house on the night leading up to Easter Sunday. On the morning of Easter Sunday, the children go hunting for the eggs and often find that the Easter bunny has also left chocolate eggs and Easter presents for them to find.

It is also a custom that friends exchange the painted eggs as gifts or that young people in love paint eggs for their sweetheart.” Now that is a different tradition, which I find so special and romantic!  

For the Netherlands and our Van Vreeland, Van Swol, Voorhees, and Banta families, what was Easter like for them? According to many articles, they celebrate much the way we do…. or we celebrate much the way they do!  One of our favorite meals is a festive brunch and apparently, it is theirs as well:  eggs, cheese, ham, rolls…and did I say eggs?  The Dutch also take great pride in providing the thousands of tulips to decorate St. Peter’s in Rome for the Pope’s Easter service.  Wow!  Back home, they are also known for their beautiful painted eggs.  However, they do not have the Easter bunny, but the “Paashaas, the Easter hare!  

Our ancestors represent many more countries and traditions from around the world, but as you and I can readily see, we are more alike than different.  This Easter, as I pray, and as I play, I will have a keener sense of connectedness due to my genealogical research, and our worldwide collaboration.

Until we meet again, Helen Youngblood Holshouser

 

 

 

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Catharina Revaro Botto Raffo–My Italian 2nd Great-Grandmother–52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, #36

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Mirror from Revaro family in Italy

“Mirror, Mirror, on the wall…tell me your stories, tell them all!”  (by Helen Y. Holshouser with prompting by sister Anne) This beautiful mirror hangs in my sister’s home today in 2014.  It has been in our family for  almost 200 years, maybe more. It belonged to my second great-grandmother, Catherina Revaro, born about 1825. I do not know where Catherina got the mirror, or how long it might have been in her family, but we are told it is a family piece from Genoa, Italy where she was born.  We have an oral history story passed down in our family about Catharina.  Mother always said that Catherina, called Catherine in our family, was the daughter of a wealthy family in Genoa, Italy. They had a large department store there and in Rome perhaps. Catharina was a student in a private girls school, located  in a convent. However, she had fallen in love with a boy named Luigi Botto!  They supposedly left Italy together, coming ultimately to Richmond, Virginia where they married and had two children, James Lewis Botto 1857-1923, and Mary Catherine Botto, 1858- 1906, who married James Kerse and became my great-grandmother.  Catherine married a second time to Nicholas Raffo in 1866, and had another son named John Francis Raffo, 1867-1951.

I have always loved all things Italian, perhaps this line of relatives explains that trait or propensity! In fact, it was pursuit of knowledge of this, my Italian heritage which originally got me started in genealogical research! I quickly learned that they were not easy to research, because a lot of the records were written in Italian and/or Latin! However, after many years of working on this effort, and help from other researchers, I have put together this picture of the Italian branch of our family. 

My first effort was to prove just how my great grandparents came into the country! My first find was a family of Bottos (I did not have her maiden name Revaro at the time.) who arrived on July 18,1844, on the ship Constantine in the port of New York from Genoa, Italy! I was so excited! On board you can clearly see the family with Joseph Botto, 38, Marie, 36, Luigi 12, Catharina 14, Benedict 10, Maria 8 and Giacomino! Wow, what a family! Luigi at 12, matched the 1832 birthdate I had. But weren’t they very young to be marrying? And the whole family was with them! Hmm, didn’t quite jive. But it was all I could find, in this my first week of ever doing genealogical research! I still thought this must be my family. Maybe this was Luigi, and Catherine was elsewhere, or maybe the other way around. Or maybe they were already married, a shotgun wedding?! LOL Obviously, I needed more information. This is the Constantine’s passenger list for you to see:  

Botto family on ship Constatine, July, 1844

source: ancestry.com

 

I decided the family above could not be my Bottos, when I followed them to Kentucky, then when I actually met on ancestry some of their descendants, living in Boston, Massachusetts, I learned  this was their family, not mine!  Back to the drawing board, I found many Louis Bottos,  and few Catherines. But finally, I found this document, and I believe it fits better than most, the ship’s passenger list includes both a Luigi Botto age 26 and a Catharine Botto age 20, on board the ship Switzerland, arriving in 1855! That would be perfect timing for them  to get to Richmond,Virginia and have two children in 1857 and 1858!  However, if the marriage certificate below is correct for them, they should have been in Richmond by 1853! Oh dear, this is the way genealogical research works, just search, and search, and eliminate and search some more! 

Botto ,ship passenger list with Luigi and Catherine

source: ancestry.com

source infomation for passenger list for Luigi and Catheribotto

source: ancestry.com

 

Keeping this, I went on to research more and see what I could find.  I knew that Catherine had married a second time because she had a son named John Francis Raffo that I could see on the censuses. So I searched for both Raffo and Botto information. Finally i found a marriage certificate on ancestry.com for Nicholas Raffo and Catharine Botto also Catharine Revaro, father Anton Revaro! There was her maiden name! Alleluia!  

Name: Catharine Botto
[Catharine Revaro] 
Gender: Female
Age: 43
Birth Date: 1823
Marriage Date: 7 May 1866
Marriage Place: Richmond, Virginia, USA
Father: Anton Revaro
Spouse: Nicholas Raffo
FHL Film Number: 33620
Reference ID: p 90

 

It wasn’t long before I decided to take my DNA through ancestry.com, which showed I was 5% Italian in my ethnic makeup. Cool! That combined with knowing Catherine’s maiden name, helped me learn much more about my family, including meeting  cousins and other people researching them! One of those folks was a researcher who spoke Italian and Latin and researched original records even from the Vatican! I was very impressed! Diane ended up finding the birth certificate of  my great, great grandparents, Louis Botto and Catherine Revaro. On the certificate you will notice that her name had been anglicized to Rivers, and his was written as Botte, typo or a name change, I am not sure. I already had the date of the Raffo marriage from censuses, and the date on the Botte marriage certificate agrees. However, the Botto name appears on censuses and many other records. the ages and dates of birth don’t match for Catherine, but this doesn’t overly worry me as I find this often the case.  This gave me his parents names as well! My Italian roots were growing! 

Virginia, Select Marriages, 1785-1940 about Catharine Rivers

Name: Catharine Rivers
Gender: Female
Age: 22
Birth Date: 1831
Birth Place: Italy
Marriage Date: 3 Sep 1853
Marriage Place: Richmond, Virginia
Father: Andrew Rivers
Mother: Mary
Spouse: Louis Botte
FHL Film Number: 31855
Reference ID: p 1 # 39

 

So, we have Catherine Revaro coming to Virginia from Italy and marrying Lewis Botto in 1853,  naming their children James Lewis and Mary Catherine Botto.  In 1866, Catherine married for the second time. I have not been able to ascertain what happened to her first husband, however,  no death notice, find-a-grave document, no military record that I can find! There are other Louis Bottos in the United States as well.  In the Richmond City telephone directory of 1876, Catherine is listed as Catherine Botto, widow of Louis Botto! In 1876, she was a widow all right, but the widow of Nicholas Raffo who had died in 1873! Catherine ‘s first husband must have died, besides being listed as a widow in the phone directory, when Catherine herself dies in 1903, we can find an obituary in the Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper that states that a “solemn requiem mass” was said at her funeral at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, the church where the family attended for years. She would not have been thus honored if she had divorced. The Catholic Church would not have allowed it. 

 

Obituary

Mrs. Catharine Raffo

Mrs. Catharine Raffo, mother of Mr. James L. Botto and Mr. John F. Raffo, of the fire department, and Mrs. Mary C. Kerse, wife of Sergeant James H. Kerse, of the First Police Station, died Saturday morning.  Her funeral will take place Monday morning at 10 o’clock from St. Patrick’s church. The interment will be in Mt. Calvary.

The following gentlemen will act as pall-bearers:

Honorary-Richard M. Taylor,

H.M. Smith, Junior

Dr. David Coleman

Dr. W. H. Scott

John Frischkorn

John Mann Jr.

Joseph H. Webb

Edgar Shine

Active:

F.J. Purrater,   Anthony Griffith,

Claiborne Epps,  Andrew Donald,

Frank Overman,  Peter Gonella,

Captain W.B. Whitlock,

James Burke

Raffo died April 25, 1903, at the residence of her son-in-law, James H. Kerse.  2612   East Grace St.

MRS. CATHARINE RAFFO

The funeral will take place Monday morning, April 27th,  at 10 o’clock, from St. Patrick’s Church with a requiem mass.

Friends invited to attend Interment Mt. Calvary.

Washington and New York papers please copy.

 –published in the Richmond Times Dispatch, April 26, 1903

_________________________________________________________________

 

 

Catherine Botto Raffo's funeral announcement, Apr. 28, 1903, The Richmond Times Dispatch

–published in the Richmond Times Dispatch, 1903 

 

Five years after her death, her granddaughter Marie Botto Kerse, my Great Aunt, wrote this tribute to Catherine which was published in the Richmond Times Dispatch as well, in 1908:

In Memoriam

In sad but loving remembrance

of my devoted Grandmother,

Catherine Botto Raffo

who died five years ago. 

April 25, 1903.

Every year the good God calleth

some loved one to endless rest,

and our hearts, though filled with anguish, 

can but cry, “He knoweth best.”

But a year and distant cometh,

when we tread the vast unknown, 

we shall find our ransomed loved ones,

seated ’round the great white throne.

Marie B. Kerse–genealogybank.com, Richmond Times Dispatch

“Loving remembrance of my devoted Grandmother”! Those words say a lot about Catherine Botto Raffo! How interesting. I’ve been thinking of her children. James Lewis was born in 1857, his sister Mary Catherine in 1858, they were only 9 and 8 years old when their mother remarried. Had they known their Dad at all? Then their stepfather dies when they are 15 and 16! After her marriage in 1866 to her second husband Nicholas Raffo, her son John Francis Raffo is born in 1867. His father dies in 1873–at six, he probably only had hazy  memories of his father. Those are rough  events in young lives. The Civil War was waged during their childhoods, Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy! What must they have seen and heard! 

Yet, we know that John Francis Raffo grew up to become a firefighter, then chief of the Richmond City Fire Department, spanning a fifty year career with them!  One of John Francis’ great, great-grandchildren sent this picture to me, which I treasure. Yes, his descendants are alive and well and going strong.  I am regularly in touch with one of them on facebook, and another I have met in person. (more of that at a later time) Among them are soldiers, a priest, and many other s including genealogists. This is a line of descendants any mother would be so proud to call her own! 

Raffo family

left to right in this photo of the Raffo family taken on their front porch in the Churchill area of Richmond, Virginia: 1. John Francis Raffo, Jr. (Jack) 2. Nicholas Coleman Raffo 3. Frank McLaughlin Raffo 4. John Francis Raffo 5. Mary Margaret Finnegan Raffo (Minnie) 6. Anita Raffo 7. Catherine Raffo Beaty 8. James Coleman Raffo 9. Anna Raffo Eagle 10. Mary Margaret Raffo (Minnie) abt. 1918 Churchill, Richmond, Virginia, USA, given to this author by Coleman Raffo, 2014

Catherine’s daughter Mary Catherine Botto married James Kerse and became the mother of my grandfather Thomas Philip Kerse.  She had four children in fact,  but two of them died young, Andrew Leo in infancy and  Kate, the twin of Marie, died at age 17 of a burst appendix.  In fact, because Kate died of a burst appendix,  when her brother Thomas Philip came down with appendicitis in his early twenties, the family hired a private duty nurse to take care of him. That nurse turned out to be Katherine Steptoe Kerse,  who married Thomas Philip and became my cherished grandmother! They went on to have seven children, twelve grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren, and so far, 4 great- great- grandchildren!  We have several college professors, lawyers,  building contractors, teachers, and firefighters! Catherine can be proud of this line of her daughter’s.

Now James Lewis Botto was very different from his sister and half-brother it seems. He was a local politician, and owned a night club in downtown Richmond called  St. Helena’s.  He was married with six children, four sons and two daughters. Both daughters married men of excellent standing from great families in Richmond. The father and two of his sons went to jail. The father, James Lewis,  for only 3 months for bringing illegal liquor into the state to sell at his club during prohibition! A rum runner in the family! The other son, William Joseph Botto, a policeman forced to resign, went to jail only 30 days on this same charge, but then he was charged with domestic violence in 1914, assaulting his wife!  He left his wife and disappeared. She had him declared dead after several years! In 1930, he disclosed who he truly was, just  before he actually died in a hospital in New York! It is hard for me to believe this happened in my own family! Another son,  John Francis Botto went to the penitentiary for 15 years for attacking a 13-year-old girl! Good gracious–what happened in this line of family?! As bad as this seems, we must remember that four of the six children in this family turned out to be excellent citizens, it is not right to judge them poorly  on the merits of their father and two brothers! However, it is curious, just how is it that some siblings make such bad choices with their Dad, and most make great choices. The heirs of this family were all female, so the Botto name from James Lewis’s line died out, there are descendants, just not with the Botto name. Since he was the only male heir of Luigi Botto, his line of Bottos did not continue. 

I knew we had Italian ancestors, my mother talked about it a lot. But I did not know they were alive and that I could have gotten to know them while growing up!  What a shame to miss knowing family until you are in your sixties! I have a clue as to why this might have happened .  Catherine Botto Raffo died in 1903, having outlived both husbands by many years. We were told that Catherine was an excellent money manager, and indeed, when she died several things were published in the Richmond Times Dispatch giving us a glimpse into her business acumen. As a successful business woman, she had amassed  a fair amount of property. I don’t know how she left it, or if she even had a will, but according to the paper, in 1907, John Francis Raffo sued his half-brother James Lewis Botto et al (did that include my great-grandmother Mary Catherine Botto Kerse? Probably.)  I don’t think that is all that unusual however, heirs who inherit equally–one or more want to keep the property, others want their money for their share perhaps. Whatever the situation,  John Francis Raffo sued and the court ordered that the lots in downtown Richmond be sold, and the money divided.  I imagine that caused great division within the family. Perhaps the Raffos and Bottos no longer spoke, how sad. What would Catherine think? Would she focus on the positive, the many descendants who’ve done well, been responsible and active citizens. Or would she just be devastated about her one son’s family and the  two of his sons who got in so much trouble! What an interesting family, wish I knew more, perhaps I will learn more one day.  Finding interesting stories like these, and meeting living cousins, discovering lines of relatives you didn’t even know existed, that’s what makes genealogical research so exciting!  

Che cosa hai intenzione di fare sulla famiglia ? Loro amore ! What are you going to do about family? Love them! --Helen Y. Holshouser

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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