Reas of Italy
So where did the REA surname originate from? Can we rely on church
records to be 100% proof of the origin of one’s surname? Who were
its first bearers, where did they settle, which tribes did they
belong to, if any? Are we the descendants of the pre-hellenic Greek
colonists, the local Volscian people, or their conquerors the Samnites,
and later the Romans?
|Click picture to view my family tree
Over the past years I have been researching with great interest
the origin of our ancestors, researching my own tree as far back
as the 1600s. Research places the Rea surname in different locations
around Europe. The origin of my own ancestors is Italian as far
as I can go back; our history starts in the hamlet of Civitavecchia
in the town of Arpino, where the surname REA, and to a lesser extent
REALE, are the most popular surnames. There are many suggestions
as to where this surname came from before this; is it just a coincidence
or are the REAS of Italy related to the REAS in Spain, France, England,
Scotland, Ireland and elsewhere?
possibility is that we may be descended from Angevin knights. The
Angevin dynasty spanned from southern Italy and the borders of Scotland.
The Angevin armies were fighting the Crusades, and on their return
from the Holy Land, some knights were employed as mercenaries by
local principalities in Italy. In the pay of noble families, they
fought their battles and helped train their armies. As a reward,
they received titles, and land and property where they eventually
settled. Evidence to this are the many castles in this region. The
name 'REY' is of French Angevin origin; could it be that knights
with this surname were the root of similar names in Italy, Spain,
England and Scotland?
I do know that
many Italian emigrants left their beloved homeland in search of
a better life during the 19th and 20th centuries. It was in this
period that my own grandfather Marco Rea left his mountain village
with his brother Antonio Rea for England. There were many REAS that
left Arpino and settled within the British Isles. Some settled in
France and further still America, Canada, Australia, and even South
America. We must all be from the same family tree going back, since
we all came from Arpino, or other nearby hamlets.
Italian surnames originate from many sources. For example, those
of Northern and Southern Italy and Sicilia include Arabic, Norman,
French (Angevin), Austrian, and Spanish. In medieval times, surnames
were often patronymics based on the father’s personal name preceded
by ‘di’ ‘(son) of’, such as Lorenzo di Giovanni (Lorenzo son of
Giovanni), although names of saints or religious figures could also
be used. They could also be toponyms referring to a person’s place
of origin either in the form Antonio Pisano (Antonio the Pisan)
or Antonio da Pisa (Antonio from Pisa). Elements derived from professions
or personal characteristics are also found. The prefixes ‘la’ or
‘lo’ (‘the’) were often attached to nicknames. In the 19th century
they were often used to mean ‘from the family of’ and it was quite
fashionable to add them to one's surname.
In my opinion
REA derives from RE, meaning King, or REALE and REALI meaning Royal.
It can also mean culprit i.e REO meaning male culprit, or REA meaning
female culprit. It is also derived from the place of residence of
the original bearer, in this case the name signifies ‘one from Rea’
a town located in Pavia, in northern Italy. Variants of the surname
REA include RE, REALE, REALI, REO, SCHIREA, REANO, BOREA, COREA,
REAVALDA, and other small surnames include RIA, REI, REU, and RET.
when found in Lombardy and Emilia Romagna, is taken from the classical
name ‘REA SILVIA’, the vestal priestess who was the legendary mother
of Romulus and Remus. There is also a REA coat of arms that comes
from Sicily. There are over 542 families in the Frosinone region
alone with this surname REA, not taking into account the whole of
Lazio and Campania. In Arpino there are 210 REA families. In the
city of Sora close to Arpino there are 80 families with the surname
REA, and scattered in nearly all the provincial towns and villages
that come under the control of Frosinone one finds the REA surname
present in large numbers. This surname is one of the most popular
surnames in the province of Frosinone, Lazio, and Campania.
One can say it is truly a southern Italian surname because all
Italian surnames end in vowel. If an Italian surname does not, it
is of foreign origin.
|Charles of Anjou who conquered the Swabian
dynasty and settled in Naples in 1266, beginning two centuries
of Angevin rule of southern Italy
|Castel Nuovo, also called 'The Angevin Castle',
on the seafront at Naples. It was built between 1279 and 1282
by Charles 1 of Anjou, the king of Naples
|The Angevin tower at Civitavecchia, Arpino,
showing evidence of their occupation
|The Rea surname is present in 343 comuni of
Italy. This map shows the distribution of the surname, with
hotter colours representing highest numbers. The key measures
the number families, rather than individuals. Note the concentration
around Lazio and Campania.
Courtesy of http://gens.labo.net/