Zizzi(surname of my paternal grandfather).
(updated 11 October2010)
My research has led me thusfar to Belduno Zizzi, mygreat-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather (i.e.10th great-grandfather), who was born about 1538. Following thepaternal line, next is Giovanni Antonio Zizzi, then Palmo Antonio Zizzi, thenGiovanni Zizzi, then Pietro Giacomo Zizzi (who himself married a Zizzi), thenVito Francesco Zizzi, then Giovanni Quirico Zizzi, then Vito Francesco Zizzi,then Vito Antonio Zizzi (who also married a Zizzi; their great-grandfatherswere brothers). His son, my great-grandfather, Giuseppe Domenico Zizzi, wed aZizzi, too (her great-grandfather was Giuseppe Domenico’s grandfather). (Mygrandfather's brother Vito also married a Zizzi, resulting in a thirdsuccessive generation of inbreeding!) Mygrandfather’s name was Vitantonio Zizzi. Several related Zizzi lines also appear on the side of my paternalgrandmother Elisabetta Maria Semeraro. I am descended from Belduno Zizzi atleast 8 times.
The Zizzi surname isuncommon. A Zizzi family settled heavilyin and around Cisternino, Province of Brindisi, Region of Puglia, Italy.1In fact, one of the first entries in the baptism registry of the Church of SanNicola, in Cisternino, is for a Margherita Zizzi in 1559.2 Theearliest mention of a Zizzi yet found in Cisternino belongs to Allegranza Zizzi, who is subject of a document (dated 1558 but most ofthe script is thus far illegible) notarized by BerardinoAmati and on file in the Archivio delloStato in Brindisi. 2AFairly early on, though, the Zizzi family was to be found in nearby MartinaFranca.3 A Zizzi male was reportedly found in the Provence region ofFrance in the early 1500s, although I have not myself seen the document thatpurports to prove it.4 More recently, members of the family haveemigrated to other regions of Italy, as well as to the United States, Canada,Argentina, Brazil, Romania4A and elsewhere.5
Families with the surnamesZizzo and Zizza are found in the same general area on the "heel" ofthe Italian "boot" as Zizzi families are found. However, both ofthose names are also found in fairly large numbers in Sicily, where only several Zizzi familesreside.6 This may indicate a Sicilian origin for the Zizzo and Zizzafamilies but not for the Zizzi family.
Families with the surnameZizi are much scarcer but appear most numerous in Sardinia,where a very small contingent of Zizzi families is also found.7
It is difficult to concludewhether these families are related or to what extent variant spellings of namesoccurred over the centuries, thereby making unrelated families appear relatedand related families appear unrelated. I explore below the possible connectionwith the Zizi family.
The meaning of the Zizzisurname remains a mystery. One source finds the Zizzi name related to theSicilian word "Zizzu," meaning "elegant" or"dandy."8 Another claims Greek origin, in the phrase"tzis tzis," signifying "hiss; whistle" or"persuasive" or "whisper; murmur; grumble," and placesbranches of the family in greater Greece, Hungary and Romania, with especiallylarge concentrations in Cisternino and Fasano, Italy.9 I personallysaw a tavern in Rhodes, Greece called Taverna Zizi. Still others speculate that the name isSephardic Jewish.10 I have also been told that the name is Arabic,or Spanish or Catalan, or Turkish. Given the traditional place of Puglia as a crossroads of the Mediterranean,any of these origins seems possible. A source also lists "Zizza","Zizzo" and "Zizi" as variants, but I question such ablanket conclusion based merely on spelling (no evidence is proferred).11
When I first started research on my Zizzi ancestry, manyyears after my paternal grandparents had passed away, my father and hissiblings gave the impression that the Zizzi family descended from peasants asfar as the eye could see. Not knowingwhat records might be available and whom they might cover, I had little hope oftracing these poor, toiling farmers beyond a few generations. The poor are, after all, largely anonymous tohistory.
Twenty years of research have given a vastly different perspective. As it turns out, at least some CisterninoZizzis in earlier centuries were quite prominent. In 1583, a Vito Zizzi became mayor12 and notary in Cisternino,followed several decades later by a mayor named Pompeo Zizzi.13 A Pietro Zizzi was also an archivist (aliterate, influential member of the community) and a Vitantonio Zizzi was anotary in Cisternino in the 1700s.14 (In civil law jurisdictionslike Italy, notaries perform many functions of attorneys in American-stylecommon law systems.) It was this PietroZizzi who stored at least one document in the parish archives that might bearsome relation to the Zizzi family,15 although analyses conducted todate to attempt to decipher the script and translate the Latin have thus farshown no reference to the Zizzi name. Finally, a Zizzi founded in Cisternino, probably in the early 1600s, a religiousorder called the Congrega Santissimo,16 and the Zizzi family ofCisternino married into local noble families such as Potio, Amati, Molendiniand Pepe.17 Given thatthe Zizzi name is quite rare, it seems probable that at least the CisterninoZizzis are all related and that the aforementioned Zizzis are cousins.
Zizzis in other parts of Puglia may also be ancestors or cousins –and some of them, too, held positions of prominence. In the town of Casamassima, near the City of Bari, a Vito Zizzi (son ofthe notary Andrea Zizzi ) and was mayor in the late1500s and earlier had been appointed by feudal lord Antonio Acquaviva as headof a charity founded by his sister.18 In 1556 the Duchess of Puglia andgranddaughter of the King of Spain, Bona Sforza, gave land for a palace(Palazzo Zizzi) to be built in the city of Bari byone of her personal physicians, Dr. Onorato Zizzi (son of Giacomo Zizzi and husband of Cassandrea Nenna, of Bari)18A from the nearby town ofMinervino.19 Although he wasa favourite of Bona Sforza (Petroni describes him as“dear to her”) 19A, during construction he fell into disgrace andwas jailed; he was later vindicated.20 At least two sources connect this Zizzi family with the Sforzarulers of Puglia, and one suggests a Milanese origin for the family.21 Additionally,Professor Enza Aurisicchiobelieves the name Zizzi derives from the noble Berzizza/Barzizza family, whichcame from Venice but which owned a palace in Ozzero,near Milan.21A
The reference to Milan is tantalizing, since even further back a father (Corrado) and son(Bartolomeo) of the name "Zizi" appear as magistrates in records fromVerona dating from 1301 and 1336. Originally from Imola, this family held acoat of arms.22 Milancontrolled Verona in the late 1300s, which couldhave resulted in the family’s migration to Milan– and still later to Puglia. A variation in spelling should not come as asurprise, since some local Cisternino birth records as late as the early 1800sspell the name “Zizzi”as "Zizi." There is also repeated confusion between the Latin and Italian versions,and between the spoken and written versions, of the name: sources in one town in Puglia refer to the same family as Zizzo,Zizzi, Zizzus and Zizza!23
Of course,Venice controlled Verona at the time of Venice's occupation of southeast Italy,in the first half of the 1500s, and this also could have resulted in themigration of the Zizi family from Verona to Puglia. Indeed, mygreat-great-great-grandfather Vito Francesco Zizzi was married to a Marangi --the name of a noble family from Venice.24
Based on my research todate, I lean toward the theory that the Zizzi family arrived in Puglia from Milanwith the Sforza dynasty in the early 1500s. The family may earlier have originated in Imola as the “Zizi’ family butthis remains speculation. It is possibleto reconstruct a hypothetical genealogy of the early Zizzi family in Puglia based on sources from Casamassima, Bari and Cisternino. One could imagine Andrea Zizzi, father ofCasamassima’s mayor Vito Zizzi,25 as the original Zizzi immigrantfrom Milan to Puglia. He is described as a notary in one source but in fact is not listed ashaving practiced in Casamassima, where his son lived.26 Did he livein Bari, as a courtesan of the Sforza rulers? Perhaps the doctor for whom the Palazzo Zizzi in Bari was built was another of Andrea’ssons. And the Zizzi males listed ashaving fathered children starting 1559 in Cisternino27 may have beengrandchildren of one or two other sons of Andrea Zizzi. One potential link between the Casamassimaand Cisternino Zizzi families may be seen in the choice of spouses. My great-great-great-great-great-grandfatherVito Francesco Zizzi was married to Maria Lucia Mele, while mygreat-great-great-grandfather Pietro Antonio Zizzi married Isabella Pinto. Zizzi, Mele and Pinto are all cited as namesof families living in Casamassima in the 1700s.28 Further, the last will and testament of VitoZizzi, mayor of Casamassima, refers to a Pietro Zizzi, a name found among theearliest known Cisternino Zizzis.29
In 2010, I tested my Y-DNAand learned that my subclade is I2b1c (P78+). It is arare subclade which has not yet appeared with muchfrequency in any particular population, although it seems to be associated withAdriatic peoples.
Noteworthy and Interesting Zizzis from the 1900s tothe present:
o MichelangeloZizzi (poet)
o PaolaZizzi (quantum physicist)
o JamesZizzi (New York Cityarea real estate developer)
o Vitantonio Zizzi (mayor ofMartina Franca, Italy)
o MargeZizzi (bridesmaid at wedding of actress Suzanne Pleshette and actor TroyDonahue (she was the best man's fiancee)30
o FrancescoZizzi (police escort slain during 1978 assassination of Italian Prime Minister AldoMoro)31
Interesting Zizzi facts:
o Thereis a chain of restaurants in Englandcalled Zizzi (they're pretty good -- try the tiramisu!).
o Acompany called Zizzi manufactures clothes for middle aged women and sells themin Denmark, Norway and Finland.
o Thereis a species of pond weed called Potamogeton zizzi.
2. Original document reviewed by the author.
2A. Original document reviewed by the author.
3. Website of Giuseppe Zizzi (no longer active but copy on filewith the author of this website).
4. Based on a document he examined at the Regional Archives ofAix en Provence, Jacques Lapeyre states on his website(http://gw1.geneanet.org/index.php3?b=opajack&lang=fr;p=catherine;n=perrin)that Honoré Zizzi and Catherine Perrin were married 30 November 1510 in PuySte. Réparade, which is a small town 20 kilometers to the north of Aix enProvence. In email correspondence dated 19 May 2005, Jacques indicated that thedocument does not cite the parents or place of origin of HonoréZizzi.
4A. The passenger list for the ship S.S. “La Savoie”includes Agyr Zizzi, son ofBello Zizzi. “Agyr” is aTurkish name. There are many persons of Turkish descent who live near the port of Constanta,in Romania.It is conceivable that his father, Bello Zizzi, wasan Italian sailor who left from Bari or Brinidisi for Constanta,where he met his wife. Oddly, Agyr’s place of birth,last residence and the residence of his father are listed as “Hrupista”, which is in Greek Macedonia.
5. Based on the author's examination of telephone directoriesin various countries.
8. D. Taber, genealogical research on Zizzi name, July 31,1986.
9. Website of Giuseppe Zizzi (no longer active but copy on filewith the author of this website).
10. Carpet dealer at a shop named Anadalous, Place Amrah No. 32,Kasbah, Tangiers, Morocco, July 1997; M. Romanski, anIsraeli Sephardic Jew, April 1999, who also indicated that the name is spelled"Zizi".
11. D. Taber, genealogical research on Zizzi name, July 31, 1986.
12. At that time, a mayor was responsable for keeping an inventoryof property of the citizenry, acting as custodian of documents and reporting tohis superiors (whether they be king or lower feudal lord). Michele Viterbo, Storia della Puglia dallapreistoria alla fine del XVII secolo attraverso le vicende dell’antica Conteadi Coversano, v. II, p. 393.
13. Saverio Ostuni, Cisternino: Libro Rosso Comunale, 1463-1749,pp. 61-62.
14. Saverio Ostuni, Cisternino: Chiese, Riti, Antiche Tradizioni, p. 275.
15. SaverioOstuni, Cisternino: Chiese, Riti,Antiche Tradizioni, p. 275.
16. Provincia di Bari, La Terra di Bari sotto l'aspetto storico,economico e naturale, vol. II, p. A74.
17. EnzoFilomena, L’Armerista di Cisternino.
18. Sante Montanaro, Casamassima nella Storia dei Tempi, vol. I, pp. 484-85, 497-98, 528-29, 664-75,vol. II, pp. 67, 1256, 1262-72. In hiswill, Vito Zizzi himself bequeathed funds to found a social assistance charity– which was not uncommon at that time and even perhaps somewhat in vogue amongthe moneyed classes. See AchilleMirizio, “I ‘Monti de Pieta’ e l’Assistenza Sociale a Monopoli fra Cinque eSeicento”, in Monopoli nell’Eta del Rinascimento, v. III, p. 1023 et seq.
18A. Vito Antonio Melchiorre, Bari Vecchia: Strade, vicoli, corti e piazze, p. 262; Giulio Petroni, Della Storia diBari, v. I, p. 615.
19. Ludovico Pepe, Storia della successione degli Sforeschi neglistati di Puglia e Calabria, p. 245.
19A. Giulio Petroni,Della Storia di Bari, v. I, p. 615
20. www.bdp.it/~batd0001/ungaretti4.htm; Vito Buono and Angeladelle Foglie, Percorsi Turistici in Provincia di Bari, p. 20.
21. www.polonia-wloska.org/biuletyn/Bona%20Sforza.thm; Vito Buonoand Angela delle Foglie, Bari & Hinterland, p. 26; Pasquale Sorrenti, LeStrade di Bari, p. 247; Ludovico Pepe, Storia della successione degli Sforeschinegli stati di Puglia e Calabria, p. 245.
21A. Enza Aurisiccio,interview in Ostuni, Province of Brinidisi,on 13 July 2007; L. Greco & M. Guastella, La Chiesa di Maria Santissima Annunziata in Ostuni: Storia e arte, pp. 31, 103 (fn 9) ;http://www.bed-and-breakfast-in-italy.com/pagina.cfm?ID=3941&IDregione=9.
22. G.B. di Crollalanza, Dizionario Storico-Blasonico delleFamiglie Nobili e Notabili Italiane Estinte e Fiorenti, vol. 3, p. 124.
23. Sante Montanaro, Casamassima nella Storia dei Tempi, vol. I,pp. 664, 980, 1007, 1054.
24. G.B. di Crollalanza, Dizionario Storico-Blasonico delleFamiglie Nobili e Notabili Italiane Estinte e Fiorenti, vol. 2, p. 71.
25. Sante Montanaro, Casamassima nella Storia dei Tempi, vol. I,p. 664.
26. Sante Montanaro, Casamassima nella Storia dei Tempi, vol. I, app. III.
27. Original documents reviewed and summarized by don SaverioOstuni.
28. Sante Montanaro, Casamassima nella Storia dei Tempi, vol. I, app. VI.
29. Testament of Vito Zizzi, in Gli Atti Notarili di Casamassima –Notaio Vito Patrono A. 1597, pp. 157r-177v.