My God! Are We Norse?


Toritto, Italy

I have an unusual last name.


Actually it was Scarangella.  It was changed by the bureaucrats at Ellis Island who mistook the cursive “a” for an “o”.  So that became our name.  In Italy our name is not found with an “o” at the end.

And our name is found in only one place in Italy.


Toritto is today a suburb of Bari, down by the heel of the Italian boot, perhaps where one might wear a stirrup if riding horses was your thing. Bari is a pleasant Southern Italian city right on the Adriatic with the well deserved reputation of speaking the worst Italian in Italy. It has a long history going back to pre-Roman times. It fell under Roman control in the third century  B. C.


After the fall of Rome it was ruled by Byzantines, Moors, Normans, French, Spanish etc. as part of Napoleon’s empire, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the Kingdom of Naples. A long varied history indeed.

I have been able to trace our family history back centuries.  Bari was not destroyed during World War II and the town keeps excellent records. The family name is carried by over 120 families in Toritto today.  A street, via Scarangella, can be found in the old city center.

The name is found virtually no where else in Italy and the persons living elsewhere can usually trace their lineage back to Toritto / Bari.

I have been curious as to where this very Italian name originated.

Initially I thought the name involved an angel (angella) and perhaps a variation of the word “sacred” – sacra in Italian. Southern Italians do have a habit of dropping the first vowel. This however seemed much too simple.  And knowing some of the family I doubt that our surname came from something akin to “holy angel”.

So I went a little deeper.  And was astonished,

Seems our last name is a “pet female variant” of Scaringi – old Norse, rooted in the Scandinavian name Ansigar – which translates to “God Spear”!

The origin of our name is Scandinavian?! Who us??

Apparently Ansigar is the old  Scandinavian form of Ansgar – resulting in myriad forms of the first name Oscar and apparently the origin of our last name as well.   Seems”Scaringi” or “god spear” resulted in some little girl or comely young woman being call “scaringella”, a nickname for a little girl or comely female Scaringi.  Some families still carry the original spelling while others, like ours, changed the “i” to an “a” or more rarely, an “e”.

Now how did a name of Norse origin wind up in Southern Italy?

Well in 1067, one year after the Norman conquest of England, the Normans landed in Bari and took it from the Byzantines after a three year siege.

And the Normans, according to Wikipedia, “were descended from  Viking conquerors of the territory and the native Merovingian culture formed from Germanic Franks  and Romanised Gauls.  Their identity emerged initially in the first half of the 10th century, and gradually evolved over succeeding centuries.”

The family name has existed in Bari for centuries – and no where else.

I’m wondering if we had a Norman rascal in the family tree!!





About toritto

I was born during year four of the reign of Emperor Tiberius Claudius on the outskirts of the empire in Brooklyn. I married my high school sweetheart, the girl I took to the prom and we were together for forty years until her passing in 2004. We had four kids together and buried two together. I had a successful career in Corporate America (never got rich but made a living) and traveled the world. I am currently retired in the Tampa Bay metro area and live alone. One of my daughters is close by and one within a morning’s drive. They call their pops everyday. I try to write poetry (not very well), and about family. Occasionally I will try a historical piece relating to politics. :-)
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42 Responses to My God! Are We Norse?

  1. Elaine Ortolani says:

    Hello! I just came across this blog when searching for family history (for the millionth time) on my grandmother’s maiden name, Scarangello! I’ve hardly ever found anything at all! Thank you so much for writing this. Wonderful!!


  2. Elaine Ortolani says:


    Thanks for your response! I know a lot, actually. She lives right down the street from my mom and dad here in Texas! Grandma’s always lending a hand in my ancestry projects. I’m pretty sure she has been a Schrang her whole life (she is a Woods now, my maiden name). I think she said that they shortened the name to Schrang at Ellis Island. She was born in New York along with most of her siblings, my father and uncle. I can hardly ever find anything on the ancestry sites, but I’d love to get around to compiling everything I can find to give to her. Thank you so much!



    • toritto says:

      Heehee! Elaine, you and I are cousins! Your Great grandfather. (was he named James or Jimmie?) was the eldest son of Francesco Scarangello (my grandfather) and his first wife, Antonia Geronimo. He changed his name to Scrang. I was once in contact with the Scrang’s in New Jersey years ago. If Jimmie Scrang is your greatgrandfather you are directly related to the Scaran Oil folks on Staten Island as well. Your great grandfather was the eldest on of Francesco; he had threee children with Antonia. She died and Francesco remarried my grandmother Laura Devito. My father was the youngest of their five children. Can I contact you via email? I have an email for you from WordPress. Regards.

      PS – small world ain’t it? 🙂 You can see Francesco’s picture on my blog post here:


      • Elaine says:

        Wow! What a small world! Yes, I have a baptism certificate for my great grandfather, James, and I just noticed it’s from the archdiocese in Toritto! Yes, please do email me! Thank you for all of the information. It seems you’ve done your share of research for sure! I’m just an amateur here. I can’t wait to tell Grandma!


  3. toritto says:

    Sent you an email! Regards.


  4. Pingback: New Cousins | toritto

  5. fred salerno says:

    I have been doing a lot of research on my family and I ran across your post. Any chance you have a Betito and Martha Scarangelo Florio or a Gaetano and Maria Concetta LaForgia Scarangelo in your family tree? I have seen it spelled with one “L” in most of our records but I don’t want to discount your info because you spell it with 2 “L”s. In researching the Florio side of my family I came upon a wealth of info on the Scarangello relatives after Gaetano but not before. Hoping you might be part of the same family and might be able to help fill in some gaps. Many thanks, Fred Salerno


    • toritto says:

      Hi Fred! My great grand father was named Gaetano Scarangella; he was born November 3, 1838 in Toritto Italy. I know he had one child – my grand father Francesco – born Nov 16, 1872.

      Did Gaetano have other children? Very possibly. When my grand father Francesco came through Ellis Island in Jan 1906 it was indicated on the manifest that his final destination was New York City and that he would be staying with his brother GAETANO.

      Francesco had eight children – the oldest was with him at Ellis Island and was also named Gaetano. He later changed his name to Jimmie Shrang (to keep his job at the Transit Authority). His descendants can be found in New Jersey and Texas,

      No Florios or LaForgias. Sure it isn’t Lafragola? With that I can help.



  6. M J Hansen says:

    Hi, I have found the above info very interesting. My grt. grandfather was Francesco Scaringe (c.1831-1920). He came from Italy. I do not know the village. My research led me to think he may be connected with the name Gaetano. Imagine how surprised I was to see the link to that name in the conversations above. Maybe there is hope, maybe I will find the original family of Francesco one day. More surprise to see that in Southern Italy, there is the habit of dropping the first vowel. In NZ Scarenge became Schringe for a while. Then there were other variations. My Francesco arrived in NZ about 1845. He married an English born woman and they had a family of 11 children. He died aged 89 yrs. His son Philip Vincenzo Scoringi had nine children. Many of his children had strikingly blue eyes. This may be from their English ancestry. Perhaps strengthened by the possibility of Norse ancestry further back.


  7. toritto says:

    Hi MJ! Glad you found this useful! My grandfather, Francesco Scarangella, named his eldest son Gaetano (my dad’s oldest brother) – he too changed his name to Schrang. He was named after Francesco’s father (my great grandfather) and the name alternates back several generations as children were name for the paternal grandfather. I, for example was named after Francesco by my dad. So Gaetano is a common name among the Scarangella, Scarangello, Scaringella, Scarengella. We all seem to originate around Bari and mostly in Toritto, Italy. Usually anyone one of us can trance their linage back there. Regards.


  8. M J Hansen says:

    So kind of you to reply Toritto. Thank you. I enjoy your blog and your poetry. What a pleasure it has been to view Mr Scarangello on utube speaking about the business Scaran Heating & Air Conditioning begun in 1930 by his father. He is a humble, good-humoured businessman who cares about his customers and his employees. If all of us who descend from Scaringi, Scarangella and all its variations are as nice as this man, life will be so very good.


    • toritto says:

      Hi MJ – Frank Scarangello of Scaran Oil in Staten Island and I are first cousins. His father Vito and my father were brothers – just two of eight children. Frank passed away several years ago. Regards.



      • M J Hansen says:

        Hi again – In NZ, instead of the Italian naming pattern you described, the name ‘Frank’ was passed from the eldest son down to the next eldest son. Francesco Scaringe (Frank I born c.1861), his eldest son was named Francis (Frank II born 1863). Frank II’s eldest son was named Francisco (Frank III born 1886 – he had no son. His wife was a stewardess who travelled on ships between NZ and San Francisco). Italian names in the NZ family: Philipo, Philip, Vincenzo, Steffannia, Ivor, Vergenico. These give no clue to Francesco’s village. Though one name might, it is Carnegie – I see there is a village Scarnegie in Southern Italy. (However, in NZ there was a wool ship named Carnegie.) Francesco came to NZ aged 14, alone, about 1845. His occupations: butcher, boatman, master mariner. The surname has anglicised to Scoringe & Scorringe. Philip Scorringe had a son Jimmy born 1940.
        Regards, Marion.


  9. Vin says:

    My last name is Scaringi and I always wondered about its origin. Where did you find info about it being of old norse origin?



    • toritto says:

      Hi Vin – I traveled to Italy many times during my corporate working life and had the opportunity to visit the old town, get records and meet with distant cousins. It was where I first heard of the origin. I later checked it out on and sure enough it had the same information. True? Could be. It’s the best I have! Regards.
      🙂 Frank


  10. Ava says:

    Wonderful article! Do you happen have any “Florio” or “Visceglie” in your family tree? Both “Toritto” names 🙂


    • toritto says:

      Ava – Not that I could find however my grandmother was a Devito; her sister (my great aunt) married into the Poveromo clan and we have Antonia Geronimo as well – all Toritto names. Regards, Frank


    • Fred says:

      Just visited Toritto with the family. We saw an 102 year old relative who was a Viseglie. Our grandparents were Simonetti and related to the Florios. In the family tree are the Scarangellas and the Poveromos. I would love to connect and share our information. Fred


      • toritto says:

        Hi Fred – I have a family tree on this computer. Next day or two I will look to see how I can get it to you short of printing it our and mailing it. Regards


      • Ava says:

        Would that be Josephine Viseglie by any chance? I am descended from the Simonetti family too 🙂 Through Bettina Simonetti, born 1880, daughter of Benimino and Felicia. (“Felicita?”)


      • Fred says:

        Ava, Yes it was Josephina and she is the half sister of Bettina’s daughters. I have her picture that I can forward to you. We also have a fairly researched family tree. My email address is fredsalerno1@ Best regards, Fred


      • Ava says:

        Hi Fred! Are you aware of a Bettina Simonetti who married Giuseppe Visceglie? Did you meet Josephine, half sister to Domenico Visceglie? How cool to find this connection!

        To the author, I know of an Angela DeVito. Did she marry Giuseppe Imbasciano? If so, her daughter Grazia married a Simonetti, and Grazia’s grandchild Bettina would in turn marry a Visceglie. Have we hit upon a connection?


      • Fred Salerno says:

        Ava – Thank you for messaging me. We have indeed hit upon a connection. Let me explain my connection to Angela DeVito all the way thru to Bettina and to me.
        Angela DeVito married Giuseppe Imbasciano – they had a daughter, Grazia.
        Grazia Imbasciano married Giovanni Simonetti (my great great grandfather) and they had several children.
        One of their sons, Benimino Simonetti (my great grandfather) married Felicia Minicelli and they had four children – Charles, John, Bettina and Joseph. All but Bettina came to America in early 1900s
        As you mentioned, Bettina married Giuseppe Visceglia (and I keep in touch with one of their descendents). Bettina died giving birth to her daughter Theresa. Giuseppe remarried and had other children, one was Josephine, who we met in Toritto.
        Joseph Simonetti (my grandfather) married Marie Mongelli (my grandmother) and they had 7 children – the third one being my mother, Frances Simonetti.
        I would love to know where you fit in this portion of the family tree. I have done extensive research on my family tree and I have uncovered a wealth of info on many relatives. My email is If you would like to discuss this further, please email me directly or send me your email address. I look forward to hearing from you. Regards, Fred Salerno


      • toritto says:

        Ava -re your to the author note – My grandmother was Laura DeVito.- she married Francesco Scarangella. Her sister married a Poveromo and moved from Italy t the Bronx. I don’t know of an Angela DeVito in the family. Regards


  11. archecotech says:

    In the end all of us come from the Norse especially if we are western europeans, I know since I can trace part of our family tree to them as well, welcome to the family.


  12. Susan Scarangello - Degregorio says:

    Hello, my father , Greg Scarangello is Frank Scarangello’s youngest brother (Scaran Oil). We are from Sataten Island. I just shared this post with my family. We’ve enjoyed reading your blog and I think we have read one of your publications. Interesting to know we may have Nordic roots. Our Grandfather, Vito’s mother had red hair , which could be a result of those Nordic roots. Also was nice to hear an explanation of the meaning of the last name. – God Bless You – Susan


  13. Kris Scarangello Kosheff says:

    This explains the red hair that I and my brothers have!! Thanks . I prefer the A to the O and my grandfather Vito always said it was Scarangella! Vito lived on Staten Island . My father is Gregory. His brothers are Frank who has passed away, Anthony and Willy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toritto says:

      Kris – Your grandfather Vito and my father Dominick were half brothers – same father, different mothers. Vito’s mother was Antonia Geronimo. My grandmother was Laura Devito, your great grandfather Francesco’s 2nd wife whom he married after Antonia died in Italy. My father was the youngest of all the children (8 in all), born in 1919.

      I knew Vito (who was my uncle) and Frank (my cousin). I last saw Frank about 12 years ago. I lived in Richmondtown and Pleasant Plains, close to the Scaran oil office.

      We are all family sweetie. I am retired, 73 years old and living outside Tampa. I have two daughters, both married here in Florida.

      If you want an email address let me know.




      • Kris Scarangello Kosheff says:

        Thank you Frank! So nice to connect with you. When my Uncle Frank passed, I stumbled upon your blog and thought we had to be related . I was so excited to read your book , I immediately purchased e- copies and sent them to my father, Uncles Anthony and Willy ,and my brothers and sister ( Susan).
        I truly enjoy your writing ! I live in North Andover, MA with my husband Jon and two daughters now in college. My Dad lives in Saratoga Springs NY. Please send me your email and I will send you a copy if a picture I found recently of my ” Pop ” Vito, my Dad and his brothers.


  14. toritto says:

    And you might enjoy reading about “Jimmie Schrang’s” kids (Gaetano Scarangella – Vito’s older brother who changed his name) living in Texas, outside of Dallas!



  15. John says:

    So glad to come across this blog. My mom i an Imbasciani and I have been researching for years. The family tree is quite confusing as there are so many of the same first names and multiple marriages for some Imbascianis. I think there are Bitettos and Simonellis in my tree. We live on Staten Island along with most of our immediate/extended family. I would love to make contact and need to renew subscription to ancestry to view and share information. You can contact me at e-mail provided and hopefully, we can go further. Thanks a million!


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  17. Matt Harsch says:

    Hi Frank! I am Margaret Domenica’s youngest grandchild, so therefore your 1st cousin, 1 rem.

    Thanks for all the research! Since I recently got the fever for digging into this, everything I could grub from here has helped tremendously! Such interesting stories and such that I would probably not have never found….

    I am the 4th child of John Harsch, sister of Evelyn. I *do* quite remember “Nana” talking about Dominick, but no stories to relate unfortunately. Since we had moved from Sayreville, my parents and I had visited Vito/Nettie on several occasions through the 70-80s, so you & I may have been introduced at one point, but I would have been barely into teenage. My brother, John, and I also had visited with Frankie on LBI up until he passed, so we also may have met in passing there.

    Again thanks for all *your* interest in this. The Norse article is fascinating. The Harsches are now spread all over the US. I’m near Philly. If we have any contact with the NJ area it’s usually through the Beynons (Evelyn’s kids), whom you may know, but I would love to keep in touch. May have to Amazon to buy a book now… 🙂
    Take care!

    Liked by 1 person

    • toritto says:

      Hi Matt! I often wondered what happened to the Harschs! The last time I saw your grandparents was probably around 1960 at our house. Yikes I’m old! (74).

      I sent you an email so that we can keep in touch. I have lots of info I’ve collected over the years on the family tree. I know where all our other cousins are!

      Best regards



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  19. Lenora says:

    My maternal grandmother came from Torrito also. Her last name was Gianinni. There are some Gianninis still in Torrito. My paternal grandfather is from Southern Italy also. Oddly, we are the only Porzillo’s in the US. I found many on Facebook who are in Souther Italy and family features are there. Thanks for the article and information.

    Liked by 1 person

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