Friday, January 9, 2015

Middletown Midwife Records

Birth records of any kind are invaluable to genealogists.  These are most often found in vital records for a town or county or sometimes in church records, though baptismal records are more common.  At the Godfrey Library, we are lucky enough to have a very unique birth record for Middletown and Ansonia Connecticut as a part of our collection.  In 2009, Marie Carta donated the record book kept by her great aunt, Sebastiana Grimaldi Misenti, a midwife.  But Sebastiana was not just any midwife: because she was born and initially raised in Melilli Italy, she was the midwife of choice for all the Italian families in Middletown and Ansonia who emigrated from that area.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s the Middletown area experienced a flood of immigrants from the village of Melilli on the island of Sicily.  Immigrants traveled to the Middletown area on the advice of a former resident of Melilli who wrote home about the great opportunities the Middletown area afforded.  Though they were not the first Italians to settle in the Middletown area, by virtue of sheer numbers the population of immigrants from Melilli had an enormous impact on Middletown's history.

Families from Melilli formed a close knit community in the area east of Main Street Middletown.   It was this community and a similar population in Ansonia that Sebastiana served as a midwife.  Her record book in the Godfrey collection contains the names of 934 children she delivered from 1909 to 1935.  Each entry contains the gender and name of the child delivered, the name of their mother and father, and their date of birth.  The records are written entirely in Italian.  The Godfrey was lucky enough to have a volunteer whose first language was Italian to help us index these records.  The index and scans of the original records are available in the Godfrey Scholar Digital Collection.

If you have Italian ancestors from Middletown or Ansonia Connecticut who originally hailed from Melilli Italy it is highly likely that they or their children were delivered by Sebastiana.  She sounds like an amazing woman who made an incredible impact in her community.  Despite this, there is little information to be found about her.  Her grave is a simple stone in the St. Sebastian's Cemetery (found using the Ed Laput Cemetery Project).  These records and that stone may be the only remaining evidence of the life that helped so many.

1 comment:

  1. It would be great to have mid wife records for Pennsylvania as well and other states. A great idea.