The documented history of the Raimondo family goes back to the early 1700's in the southern Italian village of Acquaformosa—in the region of Calabria. Because the village is steeped in Albanian culture and customs (many residents speak Albanian as a first language), it is thought that the earliest origins of the Raimondo family begin somewhere in what is present-day Albania. However, the research to date has yet to offer definitive evidence that this is indeed the case.
Acquaformosa was established in 1501 and originally settled by Albanian refugee families, fleeing the Turkish occupation and invasion of their homeland in Albania. The Raimondos are not listed as one of the original founding families and the earliest Raimondo on record (Guiseppe Antonio Raimondo) shows up sometime in the early 1700's. It's possible the Raimondos emigrated from Albania sometime after 1501. On the other hand, the Raimondos might have been living in Italy all along and for whatever reason (marriage to an Albanian woman living in Acquaformosa perhaps), began to spend their lives exclusively in Acquaformosa. Were they originally Albanian? Or were they an Italian family that married into an Albanian family and continued to do so into the twentieth century?
The Early Years (1700-1830)
Little is known about the early Raimondo forebears—Guiseppe Antonio Raimondo and his descendants Silvio Raimondo (b. 1744) and Silvio's son Giovanni (b. 1795). Not surprisingly, they are described as either peasants or laborers (in various marriage and death documents). Silvio Raimondo (not to be confused with a Silvio in a future generation) married a woman named Veneranda Buono—from an Albanian family. In addition, Giovanni also married an Albanian woman named Caterina Grillo, who was the daughter of a shepherd—a future line of work for the Raimondo family. In regard to the Albanian debate concerning the Raimondos, it's worth noting that the Raimondo men always married Albanian women—a custom that might be considered common by today's standards (eg. marrying into a different ethnic family), but certainly rare for the traditional peasant lifestyle in rural southern Italy. It does lend some credence to the possibility of the Raimondos being of Albanian ancestry. On the other hand, if you're an Italian man living in a small village composed mostly of Albanians, chances are the girl next store that you marry will be Albanian.
Final Years in Italy (1830-1883)
Silvio Raimondo (b. 1830) is the key player in the eventual Raimondo migration to America in the latter 1800's. According to vital records in Italy, Silvio is described at birth as the son of a peasant. He eventually becomes a shepherd (1850's), but during the birth of his children (1860's), he is listed as a laborer. Perhaps the trend (peasant-shepherd-laborer) gives some insight into what his mindset might have been as he made the eventual decision to migrate to America in search of a better life. And like his Raimondo ancestors before him, Silvio married into an Albanian family when he married Anna Cortese (b. 1826) on February 21, 1857. They had four children:
America Beckons (1880's)
Although Antonio Raimondo (b. 1867) is often given the credit for "coming to America," it would seem that Antonio's father Silvio and brother Giovanni (b. 1858) probably deserve the lion share of the recognition. Giovanni arrived a year before Antonio in 1882, and Antonio (only fourteen years old and required to be accompanied by an adult) arrived with his father a year later on the SS Alsatia in the Port of NY on March 24, 1883. It's possible that Giovanni went over first, then sent for the others. What isn't known is whether there were plans to eventually send for Anna Cortese (the mother), or the other siblings Maria (b. 1861) and Francesco Saverio (b. 1864). There is also reason to suspect that Silvio went over in 1883 and eventually returned to Italy until his wife Anna died in 1895.
America—the first ten years (1883-1893)
Despite the fact that Antonio arrived in America in 1883, the first documented appearance of the Raimondos doesn't occur until 1890 (Antonio's marriage application) and 1893-94 (naturalization papers for Antonio and Giovanni). Antonio might have lived in Philadelphia in 1890-1892 (according to his marriage application and birthplace of first son Peter), but for the most part, the first ten years (1883-1893) are somewhat of a mystery. Various theories and conjecture have been offered over the years:
Giovanni originally filed for citizenship in Blair County. The family might have lived in that area.
The family lived and worked for a brief period of time near Bellefonte, PA.
Like other immigrants, they began their American life in the Italian ghettos of New York City, or Philadelphia.
Antonio's wife had family in Maryland and future Raimondos lived in Baltimore, so perhaps they began in Baltimore.
They lived the entire time in Norristown, PA—until they eventually moved to Vandergrift, PA.
The Norristown Years (1894-1914)
During the period 1894-1914, Antonio and his extended family lived and worked primarily in Norristown, PA—according to most records (for example, the 1900 and 1910 Census, tax and directory listings, church records, deeds, and so on). It is also during this time—the early 1900's—that the family name begins changing to "Raymond."
Throughout the 20+ years that Antonio lived in Norristown, several milestone events occurred—both good and bad. Having married Concetta Elmo in 1890 (Concetta was born in 1875 in Acquaformosa and her name later changed to "Jeannette Lemon"), Antonio and Concetta began to raise a family in Norristown, PA. Although Concetta frequently experienced difficulty with childbirth (reports via Lemon family members and the 1900 census suggest that five newborns did not survive childbirth or their first year of life), Antonio and Concetta managed to start raising a family of the following eight children:
Peter Patrick (b. 1892)
Elizabeth (b. 1896)
Helena (b. 1899)
John (b. 1902)
Anthony Jr. (b. 1905)
Joseph (b. 1908)
Francis Sr. (b. 1911)
Victor (b. 1913)
However, that same time period also saw the deaths of the following adult family members:
Antonio's mother (1895)
She died back in Acquaformosa.
Antonio's father Silvio (1906)
Silvio apparently died back in Italy, so he must have returned to Italy sometime between the time of the 1900 Census and his death in 1906. This is just one of many intriguing questions regarding Silvio.
Antonio's brother Giovanni (1906)
He died suddenly one day while chopping wood in the back yard of their Franklin Street residence. He apparently never married, nor had any children.
During the Norristown years, Antonio's family was a member of the St. Patrick's parish and Antonio's primary means of employment was as a laborer—working in a local quarry. However, according to the 1910 Census, Antonio also worked as a watchman in a plumbing supply company. The period 1894-1905 also saw Antonio (and Giovanni) frequently change residences, purchasing property on two occasions—in 1897 and 1905. The property that Antonio purchased in 1905 (206 Franklin Street) remained his residence up until the family moved to Western Pennsylvania in 1914-15.
Vandergrift and Beyond (1914 - present)
When Antonio moved his family to Vandergrift, PA (outside Pittsburgh), whether or not he knew it at the time, it would prove to be the last major re-location for both himself and his immediate family. Despite new tragedies (a son Peter died in WWI and a daughter Elizabeth (Stoccardo) died of tuberculosis in 1916), Antonio found stable and secure employment with the Carnegie-Illinois Steel Corporation and began to build a foundation for his children and future descendants. Also, like the intrepid Atlantic Ocean émigrés before them, some members of Antonio's immediate family would seek fame and fortune in different cities than where their family lived. Two sons (John and Victor) made their home in Baltimore and a daughter (Helena) spent time in Baltimore and Ohio. The other sons (Anthony Jr., Joseph, and Francis) remained primarily in the Pittsburgh area throughout their lives. Sadly, Antonio's wife Concetta (Jeannette) died in 1927 (at the age of 52) from a lingering illness. Antonio lived the rest of his life in Vandergrift until his death on June 11, 1959.
Gypsy Souls—The Raymonds Today
Like a lot of today's families, descendants of the Raymond family are spread out across the United States and living in the following states:
Although people often comment that today's families are too mobile and geographically spread out, the history of the Raymond family suggests that today's generation is no different than previous ones, and not the first to live their lives in places outside of the immediate family area. Often referred to as "gypsies" by other family members, the Raymond family has led a nomadic lifestyle long before Giovanni, Antonio, and Silvio uprooted their impoverished existence in Acquaformosa, and made the voyage to America. Antonio's children have done the same, as have successive generations. Why should today's generation be any different?
And whether the family is originally Albanian or Italian hardly seems to matter anymore. In melting pot America, today's Raymonds are no more Italian than their forebears were Albanian after living in Italy for centuries. The Raymond family—ever mobile and given to flights of fancy and wanderlust—are America personified.
Postscript I: What ever happened to Silvio (Antonio's father)?
It is possible that Silvio made two trips from Italy to America (and back again):
1883 (with Antonio)
Sometime after arriving in America with Antonio, Silvio might have returned to Italy and his wife Anna Cortese up until she died in 1895. It's difficult to imagine that he intended to leave her in Italy and never return (or at least send for her). The 1900 Census records indicate that Silvio had been in America "4+ years" (from 1895), though we know he actually arrived on March 24, 1883 with Antonio. Note: There is an Ellis Island record for a "Silvis Raimondo" who arrived at Ellis Island in December 1895. Thus, it's possible that he made a second trip.
The more puzzling trip (back to Italy) was likely taken between 1900-1906. With his wife now gone and only one son (and possibly a daughter) remaining in Italy, Silvio must have returned home to Italy just before he died in 1906. Perhaps he missed the old country, or did not want to live the final years of his life in a strange, foreign land.
One can only speculate that perhaps Silvio did return to his wife many years earlier, or he would have left her in 1883—never to see her ever again. One possible scenario is that he left in 1883—only to return a few years later—and then came back to America when his wife passed away in 1895. Shortly after, he returned to Italy where he died and is currently buried.
Postscript II: What ever happened to Maria (Antonio's sister)?
The only records that were uncovered regarding Maria Raimondo were her birth in Italy (1861) and a reference to her in the John Raymond will (from Norristown in 1906). John Raymond's will mentions a sister named "Mary Raymond" and living in Pittsburgh. However, nothing has ever been uncovered regarding a Maria Raimondo or Mary Raymond, who may have lived in Pittsburgh. For that matter, nothing has been discovered back in Italy regarding any marriage or death records of a Maria Raimondo from Acquaformosa. She may have moved from Acquaformosa to another part of Italy, migrated to America, or stayed in the Acquaformosa area. In any number of possible scenarios, after her birth in 1861, her whereabouts and final outcome remain a mystery.
Postscript III: What ever happened to Francesco Saverio (Antonio's other brother)?
Francesco Saverio Raimondo reportedly never left Italy, though three of his children did migrate to America. However, some Ellis Island records indicate that he may have made a couple of trips to America—one of which occurred in 1905 while travelling with his daughter Luisa enroute to Baltimore.
Francesco Saverio was listed in all Italian documentation (between 1887-1899) as a cow keeper, and a laborer in 1901. He married Rosaria LeRose (July 10, 1886), though remarried many years later—a woman named Irene Linardi (as cited on his death certificate). Whether or not Francesco Saverio made a few trips to America, he did indeed die in Italy on August 22, 1942. His children include the following:
Luisa (b. 1887) Married Nicholas Di Turi and settled near her brother Joseph in Baltimore, MD.
Caterina (b. 1889) Married Francesco Barletta and probably remained in Italy.
Anna (b. 1891) Married Constantino Buono and spent most of her life in Norristown, PA.
Giuseppino (b. 1893) Arrived in U.S. in 1908. Married Rose Mortillaro and settled in Baltimore, MD.
Vincenzo (b. 1896) May have once travelled to America in 1921, but probably remained in Italy all his life.