The sloppy ancestry research of the “Sodder children disappearance”!

(The sloppy ancestry research of the “Sodder children disappearance”!)

Recently I was listening to a podcast “The Sodder Family Tragedy: 75 Years Later”.

The podcast series “Con Artists” itself is well made, interesting and always thrilling. In the above mentioned “Sodder Family Tragedy” the story evolves around George Sodder.

On Wikipedia you will find the following: “George Sodder was born with the name Giorgio Soddu in Tula, Sardinia, Italy in 1895. He immigrated to the United States thirteen years later with an older brother, who went back home as soon as both he and George had cleared customs at Ellis Island. For the rest of his life George, as he came to be known, would not talk much about why he had left his homeland.[1]

The same “facts” are also mentioned in the “Con Artists” podcast.

Unfortunately they are not correct!!!


The sloppy ancestry research of the “Sodder children disappearance”!


I’m doing a lot of ancestry research, so it was easy for me to check if the Wikipedia excerpt is telling the truth.

The first thing I did was checking the Ellis island Foundation records, and they do show only one “Soddu, Giorgio” who arrived in 1913.

The sloppy ancestry research of the “Sodder children disappearance”!
Giorgio Soddu – 1913

His last residence is shown as “Cula, Sassari”. Sassari is a province on Sardinia and also the name of the capital of this province. There is no town called Cula on Sardinia, but a city called “Tura” and a small area that is called “Cala Sassari”. Nevertheless Cula and Tula are so similar that it could be the same place.

Unfortunately this Giorgio Soddu is not 13 when he arrives in the US. He is 28, traveled alone, and paid for the passage on his own. A fact that is mentioned in the original ship document.

He is also not born in 1895 (as mentioned on Wikipedia) but in 1885, which you can find in the original documents on the Ellis Island website..

The sloppy ancestry research of the “Sodder children disappearance”!
Giorgio Soddu

It is also mentioned that he will join his cousin Sato (or Satu) Soddu.

Sodder children disappearance

Again, this Giorgio Soddu, came from Sardinia, but was not 13, was not born in 1895, did not travel alone, and was not accompanied by a brother, who allegedly went back to Italy.

I would conclude this isn’t the one, that is mentioned on Wikipedia!

Even though the towns on Sardinia are very small, with often only a few hundred residents, it was normal at that time to find people with the exact same name repeatedly at the same place. They often did belong to the same family: For example, the father of one boy had a brother, who gave his boy the exact same name as his brother, in remembrance of e.g. the grandpa of the family.


The sloppy ancestry research of the “Sodder children disappearance”!


So let’s see if there is another one!

Yes, there is one. His name was “Giorgio Saddu” according to the ship manifest. He was in fact born in 1895, as mentioned on Wikipedia. He also came from Sardinia, exactly from “Eula, Sassari”, which is again very similar to Tula. He wasn’t 13, but 16, and he likely didn’t travel alone or with a brother.

Giorgio Saddu

There were 4 other passengers coming from the same town “Sassari, Eula”. Now you have to look at the original documents, which are also up on the Ellis Island website.

The name of the town was in fact “Sassari, Tula”, which is the same as in Wikipedia. Handwritten words are sometimes difficult to decipher but this one is pretty easy when your are experienced in looking into old documents.

It also looks like the last name could have been Soddu instead of Saddu. Please have a look:

There is again no brother mentioned who allegedly traveled with him, but there is Gio Antonio Casula (age 25) mentioned in the ship manifest. He was from the same town in Sardinia, and his destination in the U.S. is the city “Thomas, West-Virginia. Giorgio Saddu’s destination was the exact same city (see below). This is for sure no coincidence!

Tula, Sassari had around 1400 residents in 1911. So for sure all the families knew each other.
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tula,_Sardinia)


The sloppy ancestry research of the “Sodder children disappearance”!


There’s another document that shows Giorgio’s name was in fact not “Saddu” but “Soddu”, the exact name we are looking for. The document shows that Girogio got detained for L.P.C. = Likely Public Charge, but then released.

Georgio Soddu

This means Georgio, Soddu did not travel alone and was not 13. There was also no brother who went back home to Italy.

Obviously some of the “facts” about the “Sodder children disappearance” got “improved” to make the story more exciting and interesting…

According to Wikipedia George Sodder (Giorgio Soddu) ended up in Fayetteville, West Virginina and had a lot of kids with Jenni Cipriani. (Source: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K7C9-5S8)


You will find all mentioned documents on https://heritage.statueofliberty.org/passenger-result

If you would like to do more research about Giorgio Soddu (24 November 1895 – 16 August 1969), FamilySearch is always a good place to start.

(The sloppy ancestry research of the “Sodder children disappearance”!)


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