THE FAMILY COFRANCESCO
ALBERTO CARLO SILVESTRO COFRANCESCO
A. CHARLES COFRANCESCO
SEARCH FOR THE FAMILY COFRANCESCO
My older brother, Dr. Richard E. Cofrancesco, in 1950 hired a genealogical firm to trace the
family back to its origins. What he received, was a lot of “garbage” about the Cofrancescos being
of Spanish origin! My dad, who was still alive at the time, said ".this is the most non-sensical
history that I have ever seen”, and suggested that he get his money back. Unfortunately my
brother passed away before he could take any further action.. He was a Dentist and contracted
Encephalitis from a patient of his.
When I was a youngster, my dad briefly related our family origins to me. However, when you are
young - “WHO CARES?” As the saying goes “TOO SOON WE GET OLD, AND TOO LATE WE GET SMART”! In the 1950‟s with the start of the Common Market, I found myself traveling to Italy
about six months of the year. I visited towns such as Cerreto Sannita, Massa/Faicchio, Telese,
San Lorenzello, Gioia Sannitica, Solopaca and about 50 others in the area. I have since met at
least 15-20 relatives that I previously knew by name only, or had no idea whatsoever of their
existence. I was AMAZED at how much my dad had related to me, that was now being told to
me by these relatives!
In 1976, being in Italy approximately six months of the year, I thought, “HELL I SHOULD BE
ABLE TO HIRE AN ITALIAN GENEALOGICAL COMPANY AND EXPECT SOMETHING MUCH
MORE ACCURATE THAN WHAT MY BROTHER HAD RECEIVED”! That was one of the worst
mistakes I‟ve ever made ! WHAT A DISASTER!!
Eventually, I hired three different firms, at three different times as a check against each other.
The total cost was about 3,000,000+ lire (approx. $2,000). What I received in return was WORSE
than what my brother received 20 years previously! The only part in common that all three had,
was an erroneous link to the Family COLAFRANCESCO!
The amazing parts of these reports were:
1) Italian High School students knew more about the Colafrancesco‟s, than these firms
2) One had the Cola‟s originating from the area known today as Poland!
One from Mongolia (The Huns)!
One from Lombardia (close but NO CIGAR)!
3) Others too numerous to mention!
At this time I should like to EMPHASIZE - THERE IS NO CONNECTION WHATSOEVER
BETWEEN THE TWO FAMILIES- it was only by co-incidence as divulged later on that the two
chose Benevento as their HOME GROUNDS. However, except for cities and towns like Foggia,
Manfredonia, Cassino, Frosinone, Sora, Arce and other towns, mainly in Lazio, no Colafrancesco
EVER dwelled in OUR TOWNS(unless one fell through the cracks by marriage or changed their
name, which would usually be discovered in Vital Record Search)!
However, to get on with the “SEARCH FOR THE FAMILY COFRANCESCO”, it is necessary to
have a little understanding of European History. Although I studied the subject in High School, I
guess we did not even scratch the surface! In addition, I have found that many “Historians” , as do
genealogists, apparently write “history” to suit their own purposes and objectives! I believe this is
still going on today, however, I will leave that for future generations to decide.
Furthermore, it was even difficult in many instances to reconcile differences between “Historians”!
Some referred to Charles Martel, for example, as the Father of Charlemagne, others, as the
Grandfather, and yet others as the great grandfather! I later found the same to be true of the
Battle of Marignano which many referred to as the Battle of Marilengo/Merilengo!! THIS WAS
MOST IMPORTANT IN THE SEARCH OF FAMILY COFRANCESCO!! NOT ONLY THE
LOCATION BUT DATES AS WELL!!
Today, I have VERY SERIOUS DOUBTS AS TO OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM, PAST AS WELL
AS PRESENT, AND WHAT IT WILL BE LIKE IN THE FUTURE !! THE “SEEMINGLY” ERRORS
THAT I ENCOUNTERED MAKE ME SERIOUSLY DOUBT HOW MUCH OF WHAT WE DEEM TO
BE FACT, IS TRUE!!
Another “roadblock” encountered, was that if a family member did not turn out to be King or other
personage of “HIGH NOTE”, there might not be any mention of him/her in family chronicles or
even in the family Stem!
Also, the difference between the TWO FAMILIES must be clear, I can‟t really fault “genealogists”
on this, as I almost made the same mistake myself, although I had even been forewarned by my
dad! Events were such in the Middle Ages, that it was rather easy to confuse Cola‟s with Co‟s!
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE FAMILY COLAFRANCESCO
Probably the MAJOR confusion arose from the fact that the COLAFRANCESCOS were an OLD
ESTABLISHED FAMILY NOT ONLY IN THE BENEVENTO AREA, BUT ALSO IN MILAN, whereas,
the name COFRANCESCO did not come into “BEING” until approximately 1530!
With the fall of the Roman Empire the LONGOBARDI‟S, a Germanic tribe from what today is know
as Austria and the greater part of Hungary, in the late 400‟s/ early500‟s AD, overran what we know
as Italy! They established two kingdoms: The Kingdom of Italy in the north, extending to what later
became known as the “Papal States”; and the Duchy of Benevento in the south covering the
remainder of the peninsula and the island of Sicily!
The only reason they did not include the Papal States in their kingdom was due to the fact that they
were DEVOUT CATHOLICS and had the greatest respect for the Pope and felt him deserving of
his own kingdom plus they probably were foresighted enough to see that the power of the Papacy
was growing by leaps and bounds and would become a power to be reckoned with in the in the very
near future, WHICH HAPPENED!
Needless to say their capitals became Milan in the north and Benevento in the south.
Since it was custom up until about the late 1500‟s/early 1600‟s to call people by their given(first)
name rather than their surname(last name), most historians were UNAWARE, or did not want to
recognize for whatever reason, that the SURNAME OF THE LONGOBARDI CHIEFTAINS,
LATER KINGS, WAS “COLAFRANCESCO”! It was from this connection that the Empire of Austria,
later the Austro-Hungarian Empire laid claim to Italy for many centuries until 1866 when they were
forced by defeat in the war of 1866 to give up all claims to Italy.
In 780 (?)AD, the Colafrancescos, apparently disillusioned with Pope Adrian I, marched on Rome
and the Papacy. Pope Adrian called on Charlemagne to help the Papacy survive. Charlemagne
quickly defeated DESIDERIUS COLAFRANCESCO, King of the Kingdom of Italy. Meanwhile
ASTULFO COLAFRANCESCO, King of Benevento (Pope Gregory II had elevated the Duchy to a
Kingdom in 715 AD) was advancing toward Rome and had subdued Cassino, Caserta, Frosinone,
Arce, Sora and most of Lazio and Abbruzzo. Charlemagne defeated Astulfo at Capua and sent him
retreating back to Benevento.
The COLAFRANCESCOS from that time on ceased to be a power in Italy, although the Kingdom of
Benevento surived until the mid 1200‟s! In the period 1200-1622, they relied primarily, first on their
relatives the Austrian Hapsburgs (Emperors until 1918) and later their Spanish relatives, the
Hapsburgs of Spain who succeeded the House of Anjou as the Spanish Royal Family under
My “BOMBARDING” of these firms with the History of the Colafrancescos, taken directly from Italian High School Text Books, enabled me to eventually receive EVERY LIRA IN REFUND from all three firms!
Thoroughly disgusted with “Genealogical” firms at this point, I dropped THE SEARCH FOR
FAMILY COFRANCESCO, and went on with my life.
In 1984, I retired and being “empty nesters”, my wife and I went to live in Italy. She is from the town
of Sora in the Province of Frosinone, and we had met while I was on business and also visiting relatives in the area. So we settled in Sora. I did not have, nor do I now have, any desire to live in the Benevento Area. Nice to visit, but live there-NO THANKS!
We spent much time visiting primarily in Cerreto Sannita and Massa/Faicchio where the majority of the family is located. The urge to know more about our family once more overtook me, and since I now had the time to do so, I renewed the search on my own.
It is necessary to understand the “hurdles” that were encountered and had to be overcome, quite frankly in some cases, I was forced to make an “educated” guess due to circumstances
encountered, such as the earthquake of 1688 which destroyed ALL RECORDS IN THE
PROVINCE, and made it necessary for me to try to come in the “back door”, by that I mean “try to link someone who survived 1688 to someone who was alive before 1688, such as my great, great, great, great grandfather who I believe was born 1660 died 1734”, usually the survivors left their history to their family. Not always however, and this made it very difficult at times!
I recalled my dad telling me that our name came into existence beginning with the Battle of Marilengo in the early 1500‟s and that our family could be traced back to a HUGH CAPET, who was the last direct male descendant of Charlemagne. At the time with this information in mind, I felt it would be easier to start at Marilengo.
Lo and behold, I searched maps and history books but could find no Marilengo! With history books, I didn‟t fare much better with HUGH CAPET, nothing more than a reference that he was the founder of the Capetian Dynasty in France which spanned the years 987(?) AD-to present day.
Actually, the Capetian Dynasty ended in 1328 AD. However, what occurred was no more than a name change, from Capet to a descendant who preferred the name of his fiefdom to Capet, and thus emerged the Valois Dynasty with Philip VI of Valois as King.
An additional change occurred in 1589 AD, when Margaret of Valois married Henry IV Duke of Bourbon and established the Family Bourbon as the ruling Family of France under Henry IV.
Here was an intra-family intrigue (of which there were quite a few starting with Charles Martel, the grandfather of Charlemagne). Prior to this marriage the Dukes of Bourbon where also “Princes of Valois”! Down through the years, as a method of preserving titles, domains etc., intra-family
marriages were not “uncommon”. There was quite a history of aunts marrying nephews, nieces marrying uncles and even instances of brother and sister marrying. It wasn‟t until 1516 AD that Pope Leo X, decreed that henceforth no marriages would be permitted between relatives of less than the “Third Degree”, apparently ruling out all of the above and requiring cousins to be no less than third cousins.
Another obstacle that “DROVE ME UP A TREE” during my search in Italy, France and Germany
was that in France, it seemed the only names that were available were Louis, Antoine, Pascal and Michel! In Italy, Luigi, Antonio, Pasquale and Michele! Try to keep about 10 of each of these names, in every branch of the family, in proper perspective(without mixing one with another)! More so when certain of them emmigrated from France to Italy!
I decided that I would start my search in France with the advent of Charlemagne. I visited libraries, monasteries, churches and city halls in places like Paris, Orleans, Bordeaux, Avignon, Tours, and a number of other towns and cities and for a while it seemed I was getting “no where”, and just traveling in circles!
My successes began when a Friar at a monastery in Avignon, suggested that I go to Aachen, Germany the birthplace of Charles Martel. (My history books told me he was born in Paris). The friar turned out to be correct! According to records Charles Martel (known as Charles the Hammer), was the illegitimate son of a Merovingian King, Pepin of Heristal, and was born in 692 (?) AD. His sons Pepin The Short and Carloman, ruled the Empire that Charles had left, jointly. Subsequently Carloman grew weary and retired to become a Benedictine Monk at the Abbey of Monte Cassino in Italy, leaving his brother in sole possesion of the Empire which included most of what today is West Germany to the Rhine River, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, France,