Gesso Sicily, a tiny village in the district of Messina, has been in the spotlight over the last week. It is well known that USA has recorded a large number of Italian immigrants since the 19th century, in particular from Southern Italy and Sicily. After the American election campaign, Italian media focused their attention on the figure of President-Elect Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Jacobs Biden.
It was recently reported that Jill Biden roots are from Messina Sicily, more precisely from Gesso Sicily, where the descendants of her family would still live. However, there is also another realistic hypothesis about the origin of Jill Jacobs ancestors.
Gesso Sicily, are Jill Biden’s roots from this Sicilian village or not?
According to the first hypothesis, it seems that Jill Biden grandfather, Domenico Giacoppo, just one year old, moved to the USA on May 1900 with his father Placido and his brothers. They all were born in Gesso Sicily, a village located in the district of Messina Sicily. This fact has been proved by the immigration registers held in Gesso at the Ethno-anthropologic and Folk Music Museum of the Peloritani Mountains, directed by Mr. Mario Sarica, and by genealogical studies operated in order to trace the family trees of all the local inhabitants.
The curiosity is that once Giacoppo’s family moved to the USA, they turned the surname into the American version “Jacobs”, in order to avoid misspellings. Also, from the archives held in Ellis Island, it is testified that there were at least 5 members of Giacoppo’s family that emigrated to the USA in the same year. It is sure that a large community of Gesso inhabitants -moved to Hammonton, New Jersey- donated the altar to the Mother Church of Gesso Sicily, dedicated to St. Anthony Abate, Patron Saint of this tiny village, as it is attested by the inscription on the side of the altar. Effectively, in Hammonton, into this native community from Sicily, Jill Biden was born in 1951, on the 3rd of June: a lovely coincidence, since it is the day of the celebration of Virgin Mary of the Letter, Patron Saint of Messina Sicily, main city to which Gesso and other small villages and hamlets belong.
The second realistic hypothesis claims that actually Jill Biden roots in Sicily would be from another village of the district of Messina Sicily, not far from Gesso Sicily. In accordance with some evidences and written resources, the origins of Jill Biden Sicilian family would be traced in Castanea delle Furie, where the surname Giacoppo is also very widespread. According to this thesis, Jill Biden grandfather, Domenico Giacoppo, was born in New Jersey from Gaetano Giacoppa, native from Castanea, and Concetta Scaltrito (or Squadrito), born instead in Gesso Sicily.
We are not still sure about which one of these two hypotheses is true, but in any case, what is sure is that Jill Biden roots can be tracked in Messina Sicily.
Gesso Sicily is a small village of Messina located on the Thyrrenian slope of the Peloritani Mountains, about 260 meters above sea level. This town surprises for its thousand-year history: in the Middle Age, this pleasant place certainly favored the foundation of at least two Basilian monasteries (as evidenced by the street toponymy), dedicated to Saint Gregorio and Saint Biagio. Perhaps, a female monastery called Badia was also founded. From the artistic and architectural point of view, the most interesting buildings are the Mother Church, other churches and convents dating back to the XVII century, because they had survived the 1908 earthquake, preserving much of their original artistic heritage.
Gesso Sicily & Messina: the “Jill Biden roots tour”
Of course, the information that the new First Lady Jill Biden is Sicilian is very attractive and captivating, and made happy and proud Italian people, particularly Sicilians. On the Internet, many news are circulating about the First Lady herself remembering her grandmother preparing delicious lunch and Sicilian dishes on Sundays, as ragù meatballs and “parmigiana”. Today people from Messina and Gesso Sicily are excited because of the American First Lady Jill Biden roots: banners acclaiming Jill Biden Sicilian roots have recently appeared over balconies, Italian TV programs and news have dedicated broadcasts reporting from Gesso. The inhabitants await in Sicily Jill Biden to let her discover and visit the ruins of the original house that would seem have belonged to her ancestors.
The resulted mediatic glory might probably have in the future a positive and significant influence all over Messina Sicily territory and its beauties, as well as a great international tourist promotion. We from Discover Messina Sicily will be ready to welcome all those who want to know the places where Jill Biden roots intertwine, that’s why we prepared the day tour “Castanea, Gesso Sicily & Messina: Jill Biden roots day tour”, in which it is possible to visit in a single day tour the birthplaces of her ancestors.
We don’t know if Jill Biden has ever been to Sicily or Italy, but hopefully one day she will come and visit her ancestors’ places for the first time as US First Lady. Then we will be lucky enough to meet her in person and show her our warm welcoming and affection!