ORIGIN OF THE QUAGLIATA
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
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' on the website
Babelfish 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.
The recipes listed in the forum linked to our page (Italian curd recipes)
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:
latte è 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
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.
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 Sagra della Quagliata is also celebrated in
Civitella Alfedena in August and
San Marco in Lamis. The Quagliata cheese is also made and celebrated in
Castellana in June and
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
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
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.
HISTORY OF THE QUAGLIATA SURNAME
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
Caglia heavily concentrated in northern Italy,
particularly in the Piedmont, Lombardy and Veneto regions, while the rest are
spread out over the entire country.
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 the 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.
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
|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
The Arms of the Aragon
Kings of Sicily c.1450
|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
born. This is our earliest solid evidence of the Quagliata name in
Sicily. Giovanni’s son, Giovan Battista Quagliata was born in 1603.
They worked in Messina. Giovan became more famous than his father. 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
Nativita Vergine by Giovan Battista Quagliata
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 I 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.
Finally, in the late 1700s, we find the
earliest 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
Image by Jaume Olle'
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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