The surnames of the work of the Pontine Lagoons (Lazio, Veneto, Emilia, Friuli)

The surnames of the work of the Pontine Lagoons (Lazio, Veneto, Emilia, Friuli)

In this post we will deal with an issue with which we always insist in Italian Ancestors: the use of certain lists, certain records of people as a tool to estimate the place of origin of people, especially when it comes to typical surnames of a particular area of Italy; to delimit search areas when we do not know the birthplace of the Italian ancestor. Let's start with a little history, to know something more about Italy, the land of our ancestors, the one that attracts us and we like to know about it.

The Pontine Plain

The Pontine plain one of the most extensive swampy regions of Europa, located in Lazio; a floodplain located at a very low altitude above sea level, and with little slope. That area was also home to the fearsome Anopheles mosquito, the vector of malaria; the great expanse of water and the hot and humid climate made the Pontine Lagoons the best breeding ground for malaria, being the Agro Pontino a region forbidden to humans. In the 700 square kilometers of this region there were barely 1,600 inhabitants, who lived in precarious dwellings in the fields themselves and were dedicated to grazing and agriculture. His health was poor, and80% of the inhabitants who spent the night in the region were unfailingly infected with malaria and the life expectancy of a farmer was 22.5 years.

With the worsening of malaria after World War I, the Department of Health designed the so-called Bono Integrale. This plan had several phases: draining the swamps and channeling their waters; building settlements with stone houses, utilities and distributing land among veterans; and finally, implement measures against mosquitoes.The coming to power of Benito Mussolini in 1922 allowed fascism to appropriate the project.

Demographic issues

The dimensions of the project were pharaonic. 3 canals were built to absorb the waters of the highlands that went down to the marshes and 8 pumping stations, forests of thickets and brambles were cleared; depressions were raided and dikes erected; in total, 16,500 kilometers of canals were built and 3,000,000 cubic meters of land were displaced. 1 Between 1932 and 1939 five architecturally distinct model cities were built, such as Latina, Aprilia and Pomezia, along with 18 rural villages, satellites of these cities. In the center of the different estates were built hamlets (around 4000), many of which are still inhabited by the descendants of the "pioneers". To get an idea of the labor force that was specified, between 1924 and 1937 it took 18,548,000 working days and an equivalent workforce of more than 40,000 employees in the early years,bequeathing to the 125,000 in 1933, most of whom were Italians considered "racially inferior". 2 The hydraulic recovery, which lasted eleven years, was successful and was exalted by fascist propaganda as one of the most extraordinary merits of the regime. The incidence of malaria in the old lagoons, and throughout Italy, plummeted by 99.8 percent between 1932 and 1939. After the work, the considerable availability of labor favored the establishment of numerous companies, especially chemical, food, pharmaceutical, synthetic, concentrated mainly in the Latin triangle-Aprilia-Cistern.Industrial growth attracted numerous immigrants from central and southern Italy. Immigration peaked in the seventies and eighties and the lands of greatest origin were mainly Abruzzo, Campania and Sicily, which were mixed with locals and settlers from northern Italy. In the post-war period, this work evaluated mostly negatively, as it was destructive especially for very rare species of fauna that lived there and to protect the last strips of habitat, the Circeo National Park was created. 3

The work and surnames

The arrival of people from all over Italy favored, especially in the great centers, an extraordinary mixture of cultures, ways of life, dialects that has made the Agro Pontino a national demo-sociological case study. Returning to the subject of surname search engines, we already explained that these search engines were made in the late 1990s/early 2000s with data taken from line telephone guides, when these works were completed and many of those workers remained in the area forming families. Ettore Rossoni, in his work Origine e storia dei cognomi italiani, mentions some 35 times the possibility that surnames, mainly of Venetian origin, are currently in the Campania area due to the emigration of the workers to the work in the lagoons. Let's look at an example: the surname Bonaldo, typical of the Veneto, is found in a small percentage in the Campania area. Precisely, among the workers in the works of the Pontines, we find several people surnamed Bonaldo.

Database workers of the recovery works of the Pontine Lagoons

The Archivio di Stato di Latina put online a database made from 80,381 pay stubs associated with 58,152 workers from the years 1926 to 1949, but in large part from the years 1930-1939. The analysis of the records highlights the large number of places where the workers came from: from the nearest villages, of course, but also from Emilia, Veneto, Friuli and the regions most affected by unemployment. A variety of peoples and a social and cultural "pollution", which even today constitutes one of the hallmarks of the Pontine land.

Identify the place of origin

Therefore, this database can become, like the lists of Italian immigrants in different countries, a reference on the place of origin of a surname, especially in the case of infrequent surnames. In addition, of course, to provide us with data on possible relatives. The lists are actually records of the first annotations obtained mostly from the workers' statements, often distorted by dialectal variants (for example: Castruciero instead of Castrocielo). Of the 80,381 records, 76,277 could be indicated as the place of birth.The place of birth is not indicated in 3,210 records: 2,047 do not contain that data, 28 were illegible or the poor accuracy of the record did not allow to identify the town of birth while due to the generic nature of the information (for example: Casale, San Pietro, San Maurizio). Other cards register birth abroad and 121 in one of the places in Istria ceded by Italy to the former Yugoslavia.

Query to the database and information provided

The information that makes up the database Obreros de la recuperación de las Lagunas Pontinas is the one that appears on the first sheet of each individual fascicle where the worker's personal data are found (surname, name, paternity, maternity, place and date of birth), his origin and the date of hiring. The cards that are digitized also contain, in a second part, the record of the fortnight, the work done in fifteen days by the worker (dates of the fortnight, hours of work, work, hourly wages, amount, insurance discounts, cause of the suspension of work, work to which the worker has been assigned) while in a third part, on the back of the card, the events that occurred in the period of work (accidents, hospitalizations, dismissals, abandonments, signature of the receipt of the card containing the amount of the insurance marks) are recorded sporadically.

Show 3 footnotes

  1. The triumph of Italian fascism where Caesars, Popes and Emperors failed – Part Two – https://revistasalus.com/2016/12/09/el-triunfo-el-fascismo-italiano-donde-fracasaron-cesares-papas-y-emperadores-segunda-parte/
  2. Italian dictator Mussolini's pharaonic plan to eradicate mosquitoes (and malaria) – https://www.xatakaciencia.com/salud/faraonico-plan-dictador-italiano-mussolini-para-erradicar-mosquitos-malaria
  3. The great bonus dell'Agro Pontino – https://www.nauticareport.it/dettnews/report/la_grande_bonifica_dellagro_pontino-6-4373/