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Moving to MASSA
A new land for the Cofrancescos
We found the first Cofrancescos living in Massa in the Cadastre of 1754. But when and why did they move there, giving rise to one of the two main branches of the family? In this paper we answer this important question for our family.

by Pacifico Cofrancesco
Translated into English with the help of John Cofrancesco

The first map of Massa (1830)
Istituto Geografico Militare 

Most of the Cofrancescos living in Italy, the USA, and other countries today descended from the Cofrancescos of two nearby places in Italy, Massa di Faicchio and Cerreto Sannita, both in the province of Benevento in Southern Italy. As shown in the paper about the origin of the Cofrancescos, both of these two main branches of the Cofrancesco family descended from the Cofrancescos of another town, San Lorenzello, which is between Massa di Faicchio and Cerreto Sannita. In this paper some new information, found in the Catasto Onciario of Massa of 1754, is presented that shows how and why some Cofrancescos moved to Massa di Faicchio, giving rise to one of the two main branches of the Cofrancesco family.    
Related PaperS

The origin of the Cofrancesco Family

The origin of the surname Cofrancesco
The Catasto Onciario of Massa

For about ten years following the 1741 De Catastibus act of Charles of Bourbon, King of Naples, a “census”, called Catasto (Cadastre) was taken in every town in the Kingdom of Naples for the purpose of determining the value of what the people owned. The value of their possessions became the basis for taxes to be paid, rather than the previous method of taxing without regard to a person’s wealth. Thus the poor would pay accordingly theirsrecourses and the rich would pay proportionally more (CATASTO MASSA, fol. 2-r), as stated in one of the preliminary documents of the Cadastre of Massa. This was a revolutionary concept for that age.

In each administrative unit, called Università (university, in the sense of the whole community living in a place), everyone who owned real property had to declare what they owned in a written document called rivelaRivela has the same etymology as reveal, which we could translate as disclosure, as if it was a kind of secret as to what people owned. This Cadastre is known as onciario, because the revenues were estimated in once (ounces), which was an ancient currency of the Kingdom of Naples. In 1754 a Cadastre was started in Massa, as required by the royal act of 1741. At that time Massa was called Massa Inferiore because there was also a Massa Superiore nearby.

In the documents of the State Archive of Naples there are some very interesting preparatory acts related to the Cadastre of Massa, such us the one concerning the election of the head of the community of Massa, corresponding to our mayor, and of the people who had the responsibility to receive and check people’s declarations about their property, called deputati (literally, deputies). On May 6, 1754 the adult men of Massa chose their head, the deputies, and also two land-surveyors and a clerk, who had to write all the minutes (CATASTO MASSA, fol. 6-r). With 7 out of 14 votes, Pietro Ciarlo became the head of the community. Sebastiano Mongillo, Giuseppe Sanzone and Giacomo Morico were chosen as deputies. Marco Ruggiero (at that time the only person of Massa who could write, except for the priest) and Bartolomeo Pastore of Cerreto were elected land-surveyors, and Salvatore Rabuano, probably of San Salvatore, became the clerk. Among the 14 people who participated to the elections there were also two Cofrancescos, Giovanni and Antonio.

In a few days all the preliminary notifications were completed. As required by the law, the Archpriest don Giovanni Martino prepared the list of people living in Massa (called stato delle anime, literally “status of souls”), which was the basis for all the subsequent operations. In about ten days the Cadastre of Massa was completed and all the related documents written. The results of the status of souls of 1754 showed there were 84 inhabitants, including two stable boys not belonging to any family of Massa, distributed among 12 families. The surnames of the families of Massa were Amerigo (Morico), Ruggiero, Cappella, Riccio (two families), Fetto, d’Onofrio, Mongillo, Ciarlo, Sanzone, Capitano, and of course Cofrancesco.
  • CATASTO MASSA, Catasto di Massa Inferiore, State Archive of Naples, Registri della Regia Camera della Sommaria, vol. 1630 (1754)
  • APM, Parish Archive of Massa di Faicchio (province of Benevento, Italy)
  • APSL, Parish Archive of S. Lorenzello (province of Benevento, Italy)

The Cofrancescos of Massa in 1754      

The Cofrancesco family was listed as number 2 of the status of souls (CATASTO MASSA, fol. 10-r), and consisted of nine persons. The first one in the list was Caterina Sagnella (60), widow of Alessandro (Santo) Cofrancesco (I1344). They had four children, Marzia (20), Giovanni (17), Anna Mattia (14), and Carmine (11). In the same family we also find Antonio Cofrancesco (30) and Angela Ciarlo (26), with their children, Nicola (4) and Stefano (2). Antonio was the son of Giovanni Donato Cofrancesco of San Lorenzello, who was the cousin of Alessandro Cofrancesco. Marzia Cofrancesco, daughter of Alessandro and Caterina Sagnella was the first Cofrancesco born in Massa, where she was baptized on Aug 4, 1734 (APM, Lib. Bapt. 1734, fol. 1).

Baptisme of Marzia Cofrancesco - August 4, 1734
Marzia was the first Cofrancesco born in Massa
(APM, Reg. Bapt. 1734, fol. 1)

For long time I wondered why Antonio and his family lived with the family of his cousin in Massa, and the answer to that question came recently while reading the rivela of the Cofrancesco family prepared for the Cadastre of Massa (CATASTO MASSA, foll. 118-r and 118-v). In that document it’s written that Angela Ciarlo was not only Antonio Cofrancesco’s wife, but also Caterina Sagnella’s daughter, because Caterina’s first husband was Giovanni Battista Ciarlo, Angela’s father. Antonio was living in that house, because Caterina was his mother-in-law, and also because Angela received part of that house as her dowry.

According to the status of souls for S. Lorenzello in 1714 (APSL, Reg. Bapt. Lib. II), Caterina Sagnella was the daughter of Giovanni Battista Sagnella and Anna Ruggero. Caterina was 15 and not yet married. We don’t know exactly when she married Giovanni Battista Ciarlo of Massa, but their only child, Angela, was 26 in 1754 so they probably married around 1727. When her first husband died, Caterina and her daughter Angela inherited the home where they lived. It was one of the biggest one in Massa at that time, with six rooms on two floors, located in the center of the village, not far from the Church of S. Nicola, where some Cofrancescos recently lived.
  The Cofrancesco family
of Massa in 1754

Caterina Sagnella (60)
widow of Alessandro Cofrancesco, previously widow of Giovanni Battista Ciarlo

Marzia Cofrancesco (20), daughter of Alessandro
Giovanni Cofrancesco (17), son
Anna Mattia Cofrancesco (14), daughter of Alessandro
Carmine Cofrancesco (11), son of Alessandro

Antonio Cofrancesco (30), first cousin once removed of Alessandro Cofrancesco

Angela Ciarlo (26), daughter of Caterina Sagnella and Giovanni Battista Ciarlo, and wife of Antonio Cofrancesco

Nicola Cofrancesco (4), son of Antonio
Stefano Cofrancesco (2), son of Antonio
The Cofrancescos who moved to Massa

A few years later, probably around 1732 and after the death of his first husband, Caterina Sagnella married Alessandro Cofrancesco of S. Lorenzello, son of Lorenzo. They settled in Massa in Caterina’s home. All their children were born in Massa between 1734 and 1743. We don’t know when Alessandro died, but it was between 1743 and 1750 (APM, Reg. Bap. 1734, fol. 19-r). Although Alessandro did not live in Massa for very long, he was the first Cofrancesco who moved there.

The second Cofrancesco to move to Massa was Antonio, son of Giovanni Donato of San Lorenzello, and it was also due to a marriage to a woman of Massa, Angela Ciarlo, the stepdaughter of his cousin Alessandro Cofrancesco. They married on June 16, 1747 in the Church of S. Nicola of Massa (APM, Mat. Lib. Ter., fol. 10-r) and lived for several years in S. Lorenzello, where their first son Nicola was born on May 22, 1749. Then they moved into Massa in Angela's paternal home, where her mother and her step-siblings were also living at the time of the Cadastre.

For a third time, a marriage to women of Massa caused a Cofrancesco to move to Massa. On January 23, 1755 Simone Cofrancesco, Antonio’s brother, married Elisabetta Mongillo, daughter of Sebastiano Mongillo, one the richest persons of Massa at that time. They lived in the house Simone already owned in Massa, in the place called Pantano, which probably was the heritage of his father Giovanni Donato. This is the same house where Ferdinando (I1186, great-grandson of Simone, I1458) lived in the second half of the nineteenth century, before immigrating to the USA with his family.


Giovanni Donato
* 1613 (S. Lorenzello)
+ aft. 1672
( I76 )

* 1662 (S. Lorenzello)
+ aft. 1702
( I88 )
* 1647 (S. Lorenzello)
+ aft. 1701
( I68 )
* 1703 (S. Lorenzello)
+ bef. 1754 (Massa)
( I1344 )
  Giovanni Donato
* 1684 (S. Lorenzello)
+ 1749 (S. Lorenzello)
( I1453 )
* 1727 (S. Lorenzello)
+ 1769 (Massa)
( I1444 )
* 1730 (S. Lorenzello)
+ 1778 (Massa)
( I1458 )

  Relationship chart
of the Cofrancescos who moved to Massa

The Cofrancescos who moved to Massa
1732   Alessandro Cofrancesco (I1344) of S. Lorenzello married the widow Caterina Sagnella living in Massa and moved there.
1747   Antonio Cofrancesco (I1444) of S. Lorenzello married Angela Ciarlo of Massa and moved there.
1755   Simone Cofrancesco (I1458) of S. Lorenzello married Elisabetta Mongillo of Massa and moved there.
Cofrancesco property in Massa in 1754      

The following is the text of the rivela of Caterina Sagnella and her family (CATASTO MASSA, foll. 119-r and 119-v). Note that the ages of people declared here are different from that found in the status of souls, but the dates written in the status of souls are the correct ones because the priest was the only person who had access to the records concerning birthdates of the people of Massa.
The Widow Caterina Sagnella, 56 years old, of Massa executing the Royal laws for making the General Cadastre, I declare to be a widow as a result of the death Santo Cofrancisco, 56 years old
Giovanni Cofrancisco peasant                                       14 years old
Marzia daughter to be married                                      17 years old
Anna Mattia daughter                                                      12 years old
Carmine son                                                                        8 years old
Antonio Cofrancisco peasant                                        30 years old
Angela Ciarla daughter of Giovanni Battista
first husband,
and wife of Antonio                       26 years old
Nicola Cofrancisco son                                                     4 years old
Stefano Cofrancisco son                                                   2 years old
She lives in her own house consisting of six rooms, upstairs and downstairs, near Sebastiano Mongillo, don Nicola Cappella, and Angelo Riccio.
The rivela of Caterina Sagnella
and Cofrancesco family for the Cadastre of Massa

(ASN, Catasto Massa, fol. 119-r)

The list of property of the family follows:
  • One plot of land with trees, of about 9000 square meters  which belonged to Giovanni Battista Ciarlo, first husband of Caterina Sagnella.
  • One vegetable plot of about 300 square meters near the home.
  • One plot of land with a little farm of about 6000 square meters, belonging to Antonio Cofrancesco, inherited from his father Giovanni Donato.
  • One plot of land rented by Antonio Cofrancesco from the Seminary of Cerreto of about 4500 square meters.

Caterina Sagnella's home today

This was the first Cofrancescos' home in Massa. Some additions have been made to the original building, which was probably built between the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century, after the earthquake of 1688. Many Cofrancesco families lived in this house, and it is still property of a Cofrancesco, Alfonso (I1458), who lives in Magenta (province of Milano, Italy).
In the Foreigner Owners section of the Cadastre of Massa (CATASTO MASSA, fol. 253-r) we find the declaration of property of Simone Cofrancesco, which starts in the following way:
Declaration of the property that Simone Cofrancesco of the Land of S. Lorenzello has in the Village of Massa.
The list of Simone’s property in Massa is as follows:
  • One plot of land of about 4500 square meters with a two-rooms farm house, which will be his home when he marries Elisabetta Mongillo one year later.
  • The other half of the land rented from the Seminary of Cerreto of about 6000 square meters.
Together with his property, Simone actually declares some debts, to be considered when calculating taxes, among them the money asked by him or his father to some persons of Cerreto to pay the dowries of his two sisters:
  • 30 ducati obtained as a loan from Nicola di Crosta of Cerreto, and given to his sister Antonia Cofrancesco as her dowry, at an interest rate of 8% per year.
  • 25 ducati obtained as a loan from Gennaro di Crosta of Cerreto, and given to his sister Anna Cofrancesco as her dowry, at an interest rate of 8% per year.
Antonia Cofrancesco married Paolo Festa on May 16, 1746, before the death of her father Giovanni Donato in 1749.  Probably Simone inherited his father’s debts. Anna married Roberto Fusco a few months before the Cadastre of Massa was finished on February 7, 1754, and Simone had to tend the marriage of his sister, as probably stated by his father’s will.

Simone Cofrancesco's home
in Massa (Pantano area)
Next generations of the Cofrancescos of Massa

Descendants of Alessandro

Alessandro had two male children: Giovanni (I1355, 1737-1802) and Carmine (I1340, 1743-1812). Giovanni's male branch ended in 1824, with the death of his grandson Angelo (I1422, 1798-1824), son of Michele Angelo Barbato (I1366, 1769-?). Carmine had 11 sons. Five of them, as  listed below, had descendants who gave rise to several branches of the Cofrancesco Family that are still living:
  • Alessandro (I19, 1771-?)
  • Pasquale (I1243, 1776-1850)
  • Domenico (I1201, 1779-1840)
  • Vincenzo (I1455, 1782-1844)
  • Luigi (I1203, 1787-1866)

Descendants of Antonio

Among Antonio's sons only Giovanni Angelo Donato (I0120, 1755-1801) survived to adulthood. He married Maria Barbara Mongillo and they had many sons, who all died very young. So Antonio's branch ended in 1801, when his son Giovanni Angelo Donato died.

Descendants of Simone

Simone had two male children who had descendants:
  • Ferdinando (I1443, abt. 1762-1827)
  • Domenico Antonio (I1418, 1769-1819)

Their branches of the Cofrancesco Family are still living in Italy, the Usa and other countries.


Although Antonio and Simone owned land with a small house in the Pantano area, as well as other lands in Massa before they moved there, the main reason of their relocation to Massa from San Lorenzello was certainly their marriage to women of Massa, who they probably met thanks to their cousin Alessandro, who moved there first.

We don’t know of other Cofrancescos who moved to Massa later. In fact all of the Cofrancescos of Massa, and their descendants who moved elsewhere in Italy and to the USA, descended from Alessandro and Simone,  primarily from Carmine's and Simone's descendants, as shown above.

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