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With a few exceptions, hereditary surnames, the last names passed down through the males of a family, didn't exist until about 1000 years ago.  In a world where most folks never ventured more than a few miles from their place of birth and every man knew his neighbors, first, or given names, were the only designations necessary.  During the middle ages, as families got bigger and villages got a bit more crowded, individual names became inadequate to distinguish friends and neighbors from one another.  One John might be called "John son of William" to distinguish him from his neighbor "John the smith" and his friend "John of the dale."  These secondary names, weren't quite yet the surnames as we know them today as they weren't passed down from father to son.  True surnames, hereditary names used to distinguish one person from another, first came into use in Europe about 1000 A.D. However, it was not until about 1500 A.D. that most surnames became inherited and no longer transformed with a change in a person's appearance, job, or place of residence.

Surnames, for the most part, drew their meanings from the lives of men in the Middle Ages, and their origins can be divided into four main categories: 1) Patronymic names: last names derived from a father's name.  For example: son of John became Johnson, or the Gaelic prefix 'Mac' (MacDonald - son of Donald) and the Norman 'Fitz' (Fitzpatrick - son of Patrick).  2) Place names or local names: names derived from geographical or botanical features, or compass points.  For example: Brooks (lived by a brook), Atwood (lived by a woods) or Eastman (lived east of town).  3) Descriptive names (nicknames): names derived from a physical or other characteristic of the first bearer make up an estimated 10% of all surnames. For example: Broadhead, Armstrong, or Goodman.  4) Occupational names: names derived from the occupation or status of the first bearer. For example: Miller, Smith, Cook, Baker, Taylor and Cheeseman.  (The source of the preceding information was the essay 'Last Name Meanings and Origins' found at Genealogy.About.com)

Our research seems to show that the name Quagliata falls into the category of occupational names.  In Italy, there is a type cheese and/or cheese dessert known as 'Quagliata' that is made from freshly coagulated milk.  The practice of making 'Quagliata' goes back for centuries.   The following description is taken from The Four Seasons of the House of Cerruti, which is a translation of a 14th century Latin manuscript known as Tacuinim Sanitatis in Medicina (Tables of Health in Accordance with Medical Science): "
Junket is coagulated milk which got its name from the reed baskets in which it was put to drain.  The best junket is made from the milk of young animals and makes the blood phlegmatic.  It is useful in treating swelling of the stomach, but it lies heavily on the stomach and is therefore more suitable for robust, young people with hot temperaments.  In any case eat it infrequently, at breakfast, sprinkled with sugar or a pinch of salt to prevent somewhat its heaviness in digestion."  The passage is suggesting the use of milk curd for treating stomach swelling and pain.  The curious word in the translation is 'junket'.  'Junket' comes from the word 'juncus', the Latin word for a rush - a marsh plant whose stems and leaves are useful for making mats and baskets.  Long ago, a type of cream cheese was prepared in baskets made of rushes or reeds, and the cheese took its name from its container.  In Italy, in the Middle Ages, this cream cheese was called 'guincata', a derivative of the Latin 'juncus'.

Checking the translation of 'quagliata' leads us down a somewhat twisted path.  It turns out that translating 'quagliata' from Italian to English returns the word 'junket', the English word 'junket' translates to Italian as 'giuncata', and the Italian word 'giuncata' translates to English as curd or cream cheese.  Additionally, in Italian, the word 'cagliata' means curd - note the similar spelling of 'Quagliata'. A search of Italian websites shows there are still Italian curd recipes circulating that use the Italian word 'Quagliata' as the name of the milk curd or soft cheese.  Coupling this information with the above passage, it is evident that the process of making 'Quagliata' goes back to at least to the 1300s.

I asked our cousin, Vittorio Quagliata of Milan, Italy for his thoughts on this information.  Vittorio's response: "
I think your essay is quite correct and accurate.  I'm quite certain that the name comes from the "Quagliata cheese" even if I like the "Arabian" sound of the word in Italian (remember that Sicily was an Arab emirate for almost two centuries, between 800 and 1000 A.D.).  The 'Quagliata cheese' is also used in northern Italy, especially near Genoa.  In fact the recipes I've come across are mostly from the Genoa area.  Actually 'Quagliata' is the Italian version of the Sicilian word 'quagghiata' that literally means 'cagliata' - e.g. Sicilian: 'u’ latti quagghiau'; Italian: 'il latte Ť cagliato'; English: 'the milk curdled'."

Originally, Quagliata was made from fresh milk, preferably from young animals (traditionally from young sheep).  The milk was sweetened and then curdled with lemon juice or left to sit in the heat to age and curdle for up to three days.  The cagliata was then put in a reed basket or cheesecloth to drain/strain for at least 2 hours.  At this point the process has produced the semi soft Quagliata cheese - looking like ricotta cheese, but with a courser grained curd.  In the photo on the right, women prepare to make cagliata with lemon juice.  You can see the small reed baskets on the stone stand.

Photos from Castelmezzano.Net

In southern Italy, southeast of Portenza, there is a town named Castelmezzano.  There, on the first Sunday of May, the Sagra della Quagliata (the Festival of the Quagliata) is celebrated.  The "Festival of the Quagliata" recalls the peasant shepherds making ‘Quagliata’ cheese from the milk of their sheep, goats or cattle, a traditional handicraft. Festival goers are invited to take part in the production of the cheese. As soon as it is curdled, the fresh cheese offered to all those who participate in the celebration.  In the photo on the left, women from Castelmezzano are packing the cagliata into reed baskets to drain in order to make the Quagliata cheese.

The Quagliata cheese is also made and celebrated in Frosolone in September, and in Valle Castellana in June.  The Sagra della Quagliata is celebrated in Civitella Alfedena in August, and in San Marco in Lamis.

We have also polled a number of family members from around the world to check for alternative derivations.  Thus far, everyone who responded agreed with the 'coagulate/curd/cheese' derivation of the name.  There also were a couple of interesting responses.  Angelo Quagliata, of the Cleveland, Ohio family, agreed with the 'coagulate/curd/cheese' derivation, and also sent us a vernacular meaning - "
...in the vernacular, [quagliata] means to gel or solidify opinions around a conversation that started out being 180-degrees apart, and arrived closer to the middle."  Sara Hughes, of the Sydney, Australia family, sent in a message from her sister who agreed with the 'coagulate/cheese' derivation, but also sent a question about quail - "When I was still living in Brisbane, a barrister who had just been to Northern Italy told me that he went to a restaurant and there on the menu was 'quagliata'.  In that case he understood it had meant little quail (ie the bird)."  Actually, the Italian word for 'quail' is 'quaglia' - very similar, but not the same.  Evidently, the barrister was slightly mistaken about the spelling he saw.

In researching this subject, the 'coagulate/curd/cheese' connection to the name is easily the leading candidate for the most likely derivation of the name.  Even more evidence became available when Italian cities began showing up on the web with their event calendars listing 'Sagra della Quagliata'.  The exact spelling and usage of 'quagliata' as it relates to cheese, cheese production or cheese celebrations is convincing evidence for the occupational origin of the name 'Quagliata'.  At this time we conclude that the name 'Quagliata' originated in the 1200s or 1300s as an occupational name.

The history of any particular surname is a difficult subject to tackle.  Since surnames arose from a father’s name, place names, descriptive names or occupational names, it is inevitable that a particular surname could’ve been used by many unrelated families.  For instance, the occupational name ‘Baker’ could have easily been used by many unrelated bakers across Europe.  Also, surnames often underwent changes over the course of time and different dialects could produce a variety of different spellings and pronunciations.  Additionally, changes in spelling frequently occurred between father and son, adding to the confusion.  The possible variations of the Quagliata surname that we have found include Quagliati, Quagliato, Quaglieta, Quaglietta, Quaglietti, Guagliata, Guagliato, Gugliotta, Gugliotto, Quaglia, Quaglio, Quagli, Guglia, Gaglia, Gagli, Cagliata, Cagliati, Caglia, Caglio, and Cagli.  All of these names produce distribution data on the gens.labo.net website (the data base is from a LABO study done in 2000).  The Quagliata variation is distributed across Italy, but much more concentrated from Rome south to Sicily (maps below).  However, the most similar spelling variations of Quagliati and Quagliato are more concentrated in the north.  The surnames Quaglia, Quaglio, Guagliato, Gugliotto, Guglia, Gaglia, Cagliati and Caglia heavily concentrated in northern Italy, particularly in the Piedmont, Lombardy and Veneto regions, while the rest are spread out over the entire country.

Quagliata distribution in Italy

Quagliati distribution in Italy

Quagliato distribution in Italy

In the years after surnames began to develop, 1100-1400, only persons of rank were entered into the public records, which makes it difficult to do genealogy research.  One source we used, Traceit, says our group of surname variations originated in Piedmont.  This region of northwestern Italy, with its port city of Genoa, rivaled Venice in commerce and trade.  For centuries, Piedmont acted as a buffer zone between Italy and France.  It experienced rule under the Franks and the Lombards who invaded most of Italy during the 6th century.  Under Frankish rule, Piedmont became part of the dynastic House of Savoy.  While under Savoyard rule, this area of Italy incorporated part of what is known today as Savoy, France.

We have confirmed that the surname variants, on average, are more concentrated in northern Italy.  However, the ‘Quagliata’ spelling is more concentrated in the south.  Another close variation, ‘Quaglietta’, is also more concentrated in the south.  In addition, there is a town in Campania, east of Naples named Quaglietta.  It’s not too far west of Balvano; a town we know has a number of Quagliata families and is the leading candidate for the home town of the southern Italian Quagliata family.  These pieces of evidence indicate there is a long history of the surname variants in southern Italy and the ‘Quagliata’ spelling most likely originated there.  Another piece of supporting evidence for this conclusion is the Italian word ‘quagliata’.  Since the Sicilian equivalent is ‘quagghiata’, it’s more likely the surname spelling ‘Quagliata’ originated in southern Italy and then spread into Sicily. Quagliata surname variants settlement pattern from 1100-1500

From 1500 BC to 1000 BC the Siculi, Sicani and Elymni arrived in Sicily from the Italian mainland, North Africa and Asia Minor.  Sicily and southern Italy became the crossroads of the Mediterranean as the area came under the influence of many different groups: Phoenician 1000 BC, Greek 700 BC, Carthage 400 BC, Rome 260 BC and Islamic Saracens in 825.  In 1060, the Normans founded the Kingdom of Sicily which included most of southern Italy and Sicily.  In 1195 Germany took over and then France in 1266.  It was during this time that the Quagliata spelling of our surname appeared in southern Italy, probably in the area of Balvano.  In 1282, the War of the Sicilian Verspers against the French king, Charles I, brought independence to Sicily, resulting in two separate Kingdoms of Sicily - one on the island of Sicily, and one on the mainland, also known as the Kingdom of Naples.

Maximum Extent of the Aragon Empire
Maximum Extent of
The Aragon Empire

The newly independent Sicily ceded sovereignty to Peter III of Aragon, King of Spain, beginning a period of Spanish rule that lasted almost six hundred years.  The Aragon empire was large and far ranging, from Spain to Greece.  On the right is the Arms of the Aragon Kings of Sicily.  The shield is from Aragon, four poles of red on a gold background.  The black eagles are from Sicily and are associated with Friedrich II von Hohenstaufen, King of Sicily (1197-1250).

The Arms of the Aragon Kings of Sicily c.1450
The Arms of the Aragon
Kings of Sicily c.1450

During the 1100s and 1200s, a conflict arose between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire.  The Investiture Controversy, also known as the lay investiture controversy, was the most significant conflict between secular and religious powers in medieval Europe. It began as a dispute in the 11th century between the Holy Roman Emperor and the Gregorian Papacy concerning who would control appointments of church officials (investiture) which would lead to many years of conflict and warfare.  In Italy, the faction known as the Guelph Party supported the Papacy, and the Ghibellini Party supported the Holy Roman Empire.  Broadly speaking, Guelphs tended to come from wealthy mercantile families, whereas Ghibellines were predominantly those whose wealth was based on agricultural estates.  Guelf cities, like Genoa and Florence, tended to be in areas where the Emperor was more a threat to local interests than the Pope, and Ghibelline cities, like Pisa and Siena, tended to be in areas where the enlargement of the Papal States was the more immediate threat.  Open hostilities died down by the 1300s, but cities and families still used the names as a sign of their support until Emperor Charles V firmly established imperial power in Italy in 1529.

In the 1300s, the Latin manuscript ‘Tacuinim Sanitatis in Medicina’ was written, containing the passage about using ‘quagliata’ to treat swelling of the stomach.  During this time, the Quagliata surname was spreading south toward Sicily.  In 1442, the Spanish king, Alphonso of Aragon, reunited the Kingdom of Sicily and the Kingdom of Naples.  In the 1500s, the artist Giovanni Quagliata was living in Rome.  His birth place remains a mystery, but if he was born on the mainland, it's highly likely he was part of the Quagliata family located in Balvano.  Sometime before 1600, Giovan Domenico moved to Messina and married a woman from there named Francesca LeDonne.  This is our earliest solid evidence of the Quagliata name in Sicily, and Giovanni might well be the link between the mainland Quagliata lineage and the Sicilian Quagliata lineage.  Giovanni’s son, Giovan Battista Quagliata was born in 1603 in Messina and became more famous than his father.  Don Juan Josť of Austria, Viceroy of Sicily, granted Giovan a noble title with a coat of arms (seen on the right, click for a larger view).  It's interesting to note that the Quagliata Coat of Arms displays two Ghibellini castles, meaning that the family is an old one and a member of the Ghibellini Party that opposed to the Pope in central and northern Italy in the 1200s.  Along with his noble title and coat of arms, Giovan was also granted some land in the countryside area of Forza D'Agro, Sicily, between the city and the sea, where the new city of Sant’Alessio Siculo later developed.  It is certain that some of Giovan's family settled there and that he is an ancestor of the Quagliata families that trace back to Sant'Alessio Siculo and Forza D'Agro.  Moreover, it's possible that all of the Sicilian Quagliata families are related through him.  In 1701, the War of Spanish Succession erupted throughout Europe, finally ending in 1713 with the Treaty of Utrecht.  Sicily and Naples were again separated as Sicily had become the property of Duke Victor Amadeus II of Savoy.  It was probably about this time that the southern Italian Quagliata branch and Sicilian branch of the family lost touch with each other.  In 1718 Duke Amadeus II had to return the island of Sicily to King Philip V of Spain.  In 1738, Spain once again united Sicily and Naples as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Coat of Arms of Giovan Battista Quagliata  c.1650
Coat of Arms granted to
Giovan Battista Quagliata
by Don Juan Josť
Viceroy of Sicily

The Apparition of the Virgin Mary to Saint Paul by Giovan Battista Quagliata  c.1647
The Appartion
Of the Virgin Mary
To Saint Paul
by Giovan Battista Quagliata

Finally, in the late 1700s, we begin to find more documented evidence of our Quagliata forefathers.  Giuseppe Quagliata of Forza D’Agro, Sicily was born in 1775 and is the patriarch of the NYC/Connecticut family. Carmelo Quagliata of Sant’Alessio Siculo, Sicily was born in 1780 and is the patriarch of the Cleveland, Ohio family.  Carmelo Quagliata of Forza D’Agro, Sicily, the father of Mario Quagliata (1843-19??), was born about 1781 and is the patriarch of our main tree.

On the right is the Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies.  The oval seal contains the Arms of many of the kingdoms that at one time or another, ruled Sicily.  In the upper right, you cans see Aragon’s four red poles on gold as well as the Arms of the Aragon Kings of Sicily.  This rending pictures the seal with the flourish of accompanying collars, five order medals and crown.  The Coat of Arms appeared on the Sicilian flag through 1861.  A description of the symbols on the Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies can be found here.

Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies
                                                          Image by Jaume Olle'

In the 1800s there were a series of conflicts that culminated in 1860 when Giuseppe Garibaldi’s troops brought about the unification of Italy and Sicily.  At least two of our ancestors fought in these wars:  Mario Quagliata (1843-19??) and Giuseppe Quagliata (1840?-1920?) of the Caltanissetta family.  The wars claimed a terrible toll, about one million lives.  The many years of war and military actions wreaked havoc on the Italian economy, as well as the day to day life of Italians and Sicilians.  The conditions lead to the great migration from Italy to the Americas.  In the late 1800s, members of the Quagliata lineage began to arrive in the United States, settling principally in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio.  There were also a number of Quagliata family members that immigrated to South America and Australia.  The migration continued until the middle of the twentieth century.
The available information indicates that historically, variants of the Quagliata surname were first found in northern Italy in the 1100s.  By the 1300s, the variants spread east across northern Italy and south along the west coast of Italy into the area of Rome.  During this time, the ‘Quagliata’ spelling appeared in southern Italy, probably in the Balvano area, and spread south toward Sicily.  By the 1500s, the surname Quagliata was well established in southern Italy and Sicily.

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