Recorded in at least three known spellings of Calafato, Calafate, and Colafate, this is a surname of Italian origins. It is apparetly one of a small group of surnames which derive their origin from nautical and shipbuilding terms. These include Marinaro, a sailor, Rematore, a rower, Armatore, a ships chandler, and in this case Calafate, meaning a chaulker, one who "chaulked" a wooden boat using usually hemp, to help seal and waterproof the hull. Occupational surnames are relatively common in Italian, but research is not helped by the fact that until about 1870 the country did not adopt fixed spelling hereditary surnames. Furthermore before that date there was little in the way of official central recording of births, deaths, and marriages, as Italy was not a unified country but a loose federation of individual states. Some of these such as Venice were rich and had a reasonable recording system, but most quite poor. As a result it was usually left to individual families to keep their own records. The rich ones often did so, but most did not bother. However in this case we have been able to identify a number of late Victorian recordings in the region of Messina. These include Guiseppe Calafato, who married Gaeta Buscetta at St Andreas, Mazzara, on November 6th 1891, and six years later the christening of their daughter Angela at the same church on July 13th 1897.
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