This is an Italian surname, but one probably of pre 7th century Germanic origins. It is believed to derive from Ritz, a personal name which can be a nickname form of the popular warrior name Richard (rule hard), as may be the case here. However it is possible it could be locational from Ritze, a place in Germany meaning 'reedy place'. Curiously Germanic names were well known in Palermo in the 13th century, the the far south of Italy. Although parts of Italy, principally in the north, were amongst the first to try to adopt fixed 'family' names in the medieval period, they defeated the object by adding (and subtracting) diminutives created with each new generation - often to the point where the original name could be reduced to one letter! We do not think this is the case with Ritelli, the letter -'i' indicating a male, probably a son, although the meaning of the central '-ell is arguable but probably a diminutive. To add to the problem of research national records did not commence in Italy until 1890 although Napoleon Bonaparte did try from 1796 onwards to bring some bureaucratic order, even making his one year old son 'King of Rome'. Looking for early family recordings we found them - not in Rome and the north as we expected, but in Puglia and in civil - not church, registers. In fact it is lucky that we have these as the rest of Italy provided only recent recordings which do not assist. The oldest proven register recording we have is that of Donato Ritello and his wife Lucrezia, at the christening of their daughter Teresa on February 2nd 1822 at Peschici, Foggia, Puglia, whilst the last in that group of recordings is of Francesco Ritelli, christened at the same place on July 10th 1860. The surname is now widely recorded in the correct spelling, in the USA and Canada.
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