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Pietro Cofrancesco and his children

by John Alling Cofrancesco

This is a brief account of the life of Pietro Cofrancesco who immigrated at the age of 15 with little more than the clothes on his back. He worked hard, married, and raised two children, both of who went on to college and became successful in their chosen profession. Since neither of the children married, this line of the Cofrancescos ended when they died. Fortunately, one of our cousins, Augustine Cofrancesco, met Pietro’s children in their later years and inherited many old photographs. Augustine’s wife Romily Cochrane recorded and transcribed oral interviews with Pietro’s children. I am deeply indebted to Augustine and Romily for the information they provided to me, and which made much of the following story possible. 
Pietro Cofrancesco
Pietro Cofrancesco
1. Pietro was born in Massa di Faicchio

Pietro Cofrancesco was born on April 25th 1875 in the town of Massa di Facchio, Province of Benevento, Italy. He is the son of Ferdinando and Maria Cofrancesco, and the 7 x great grandson of Giovanni Donato Colafrancesco/Cofrancesco who was born about 1560 and died on April 29, 1606. This represents a span of 10 generations. An Italian passport, issued on May 18, 1890, authorized Pietro to travel to New York.  The passport was valid for one year. He immigrated in 1890, arriving at the Barge Office in lower Manhattan, since the Ellis Island facility was not yet built, and then traveled to New Haven Connecticut, probably to join his older brother Simone who immigrated the year before.

Pietro and Rose
Pietro and Rose

Pietro married Rose Blasi in 1900. They lived at 18 York Street in New Haven, Connecticut according to the 1900 census. They later moved to a home at 99 Black Rock Avenue in New Britain, where they lived for the rest of their lives.  They had two children, Paul, born on November 27, 1901 and Helen born in 1905.

Helen, Pietro, Rose, and Paul
Helen, Pietro, Rose, and Paul

Pietro's Tree Line
 1.   Giovanni Donato Colafrancesco
(abt. 1560-1606)

  Mattia Cofrancesco
(abt. 1580-abt. 1645) 

  Giovanni Donato Cofrancesco
(1613-bef. 1683)

 4.   Antonio Cofrancesco

 5.   Giovanni Donato Cofrancesco

 6.   Simone Cofrancesco

 7.   Ferdinando Cofrancesco
(abt. 1762-1827)

 8.   Simone Antonio Cofrancesco
(1808-aft. 1880)

 9.   Ferdinando Cofrancesco

 10.   Pietro Cofrancesco


Pietro's family immigration records
Massa di Faicchio (Benevento, Italy)
New Haven, Connecticut (USA)

Pietro's passport
Pietro's passport

New Britain (1912)
New Britain, Main Street (1912)
2. Helen remembers her father Pietro

In this transcript recorded in 1993, Helen remembers her father.
The Cofrancesco family came from the Province of Benevento in the Town of Massa, a small town at the foot of the mountains.  My father was the first one to come here at about the age of sixteen.  He came alone and sent money back to his family and brought the rest of them over here - paid their passage.  My father was born on the 24th of, some certificates say April, others June 1875.  On the ship they wanted to vaccinate him, but he rubbed it off.  He didn’t believe in all that.  He never had my brother (Paul) or me vaccinated.  When he came here there was somebody who looked after him for a while.  I guess he got some work in the fields or something.  He was a very kind man.  I never remember my father or mother ever yelling at us.  My father was a very smart man even though he did not have the education.  When he came here, he went to night school for a while.  But if he had had a good education he would have been something.  But even so, he assembled the first ball bearing at New Departures in Bristol.

Pietro & Rose
Pietro and Rose

Helen Cofrancesco
Helen, Pietro's daughter,
in the 1990s

3. Pietro's job at Fafnir Bearing Company

Pietro was hired by the Fafnir Bearing Company on September 9, 1911 and worked as a general Foreman for many years.

Fafnir logo

Fafnir logo (1915)

The Company published a newsletter and one edition featured a picture of Pietro (Peter) and an article, which reads as follows.
Aside from being one of our oldest employees, Peter holds the unusual distinction of having supervised the assembly of nearly every ball bearing made by the Fafnir Bearing Company. When he was employed by the Company on September 9th, 1911, the Assembly Department was located in the part of the old building, now occupied by the Receiving Dept. After assembling the bearings it was also Peter’s duty to inspect and pack them. The daily production at that time averaged 45 bearings. The growth of the Assembly Department and of the Company cannot be underestimated, when one considers the fact that quite recently nearly 35,000 bearings were packed in a single day. Away from his work, practically all of Peter’s spare time is spent in the cultivation of flowers. His love for them is well known. The flower garden in the rear of his home on Black Rock Avenue is one of the best in the city. In season, flowers are practically always in bloom. A large variety of roses, dahlias, tulips, asters, peonies, etc., in all their beauty abound. Needless to say, Fafnirites are at all times assured of a hearty welcome. Peter has two children – Helen, who is a teacher at the Smally Street School, and Paul, a student at Yale.

Pietro's signature (1918)
Pietro's signature in a document of 1918
Pietro Cofrancesco in 1911
Pietro Cofrancesco in the photo published in the newsletter of the Fafnir Bearing Company
4. "We've had the best of everything"

Frank Morico, youngest son of Ralph and Maria Giuseppa Cofrancesco Morico remembers that Pietro was close to his mother, Maria Giuseppa, and his Uncles, Antonio and Simone.

The oral history of Pietro’s children, Paul and Helen, however, suggests that Pietro was not close to his siblings, as they grew older.  Not only did he live away from the New Haven area, but he had a different life style and interests.  Paul comments to Augustine and Romily, “We haven't had much to do with any of the relations”, and Helen adds, “I don’t know much about your side of the family”, referring to the descendants of Nicola and his wife Angelina. 

Although Pietro, like his siblings, had little formal education, he attended night school, and while working at the Fafnir Bearing Company, had several of his inventions patented.  He was interested in art and classical music, according to Paul.  “We’ve had the best of everything.  My mother and father took us to the opera.  I’ve met men like Arturo Toscanni, the greatest conductor the world ever had.  (Rudolph) Valentino was a friend of mine”.

Paul with one of his cars

Pietro's Family
Pietro's Family

Valentino's photo
with an inscription to Paul

Paul's painting
Paul's painting

Pietro sent his son to the Yale School of Fine Art for five years where Paul earned his BFA degree. Paul became an accomplished artist and musician (piano and organ). He installed organs in churches and painted a number of murals, but his main source of income was from two sporting shirt factories (Paul’s Sportswear) he established in New Haven near the railroad station. Paul had a wide range of interests, and owned a number of antique automobiles, several of which he lost in a fire at the barn where they were stored.

Paul's painting       Paul's drawing

Paul's painting and drawing

Pietro’s daughter Helen received her BS degree from Central Connecticut Teachers College and her Master’s in Education degree from the University of Hartford.  She was employed in the New Britain school system and taught at the Smalley Street School.  Her teaching career spanned 50 years, for which she received a commendation from the governor.

Helen with her father
Helen with her father

She was a member of First Baptist Church, the Teacher’s Club of New Britain, the New Britain Education Association where she was the treasurer for 17 years, March Chapter No. 21 O.E.S. where she was a past matron, Laurel Court Order of the Amaranth No. 8, and Vashti Shrine No. 2.

Pietro's Home
99 Black Rock Avenue, New Britain
The home (built in 1900) where Pietro, Paul, and Helen lived most of their lives

Peter died on February 4, 1973 at the age of 97 at the Farmington Convalescent Hospital from lobar pneumonia. He was buried at Rose Hill Memorial Park, Rocky Hill, Connecticut. Neither of his children married.

Paul and Helen (abt 1993)
Paul and Helen (abt 1993)

    Paul and his mother
Paul and his mother

Helen as a young girl

Pietro on the Herald
Pietro on the Herald (1967)
Paul died on April 22, 1994 at the age of 92.  His sister Helen lived on Black Rock Avenue until her death on April 22, 1999, at the age of 94. This was exactly 5 years after the death of her brother.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 29 May 2011 )
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