The following teaser is from an excellent article by Russell Shorto, published in the August 18, 2013 edition of the New York Times:

Recently I began considering my family. Among its manifold curiosities is our last name. People always ask me about the derivation of “Shorto.” The story I’d heard as a child was that after my illiterate Sicilian great-grandparents settled in my hometown of Johnstown, Pa., they enrolled their children in school and said the name aloud: Sciotto. And the administrator wrote it as he or she heard it.

Anecdotes like that were good enough before, but once I began to take a serious interest in my roots they felt soft. I wanted a better sense of who we were and where we had come from.

Read the article.