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What is an Outlier?

Updated on September 27, 2012



1. Is an observation that is numerically distant from the rest of the data.

2. Is one that appears to deviate markedly from other members of the sample in which it occurs.

Following an Ancestry Link

My maternal grandparents came from a small town in Italy in the Region of Apuglia, Province of Foggia. The name of the town was Roseto Valfortore - loosely translated to signify both "Roses and the fact that it is in a valley near the Fortore River".

My branch of the family immigrated to Canada, as did many others. However, there was also a huge number of Rosetani who immigrated to an area in Pennsylvannia where many found jobs in a slate quarry. Eventually they named their town Roseto.

Back about ten years ago now I became very interested in finding out more about my ancestors. I did a lot of research on the internet, met lots of other folks doing the same thing - researching the same area of Italy that I was and as we joined together and shared what we knew, more and more of the conversation revolved around these two towns, which were fondly referred to by all of us in this genealogy quest as "The Two Rosetos". In fact a book has been written by this name.


More and More Came

Just before the turn of the century there was a huge influx of Italians from this hometown in Italy who had left and were now settling in Pennsylvannia. They came to this particular area mainly because of its close proximity to the slate mines in nearby Bangor. They proceeded to build up their community including their houses, opening up their own church and basically setting up a lifestyle that they were used to, and that made them feel comfortable. Initially they called their town "New Italy", eventually changing it to Roseto in honour and memory of the town they had left behind in Italy.

The Big Time

In their community, now started with the building of their houses and their church, the local priest began setting up different spiritual societies and along with this a calendar of festivals were arranged - mainly one to be celebrated around the same time they would be celebrating back in their hometown of Roseto Valfortore. This particular festival was aptly named "The Big Time" and it ran from July 24 to July 28 each year. There would be a big parade and a local young lady was always crowned "Queen" of the festival. . This festival is still running today.

Along with this the townspeople cleared the land, planting vegetable gardens along with fruit trees. Eventually they grew grapes and made their own wine, just as they had done in Italy. Businesses and other trades started to develop and by 1912 Roseto, PA was designated as the first town in the United States that was 100% Italian. They had essentially created their own Roseto Valfortore

Roseto, PA -  1950's
Roseto, PA - 1950's | Source

Health Issues - or Not!

By the time the 1950's had arrived something was becoming quite obvious. These people had now been in this town for a good sixty years. It happened on a day when a doctor from another state was visiting, giving a talk in a nearby location. A chance conversation with a local doctor revealed something quite startling. While the rest of the U.S. was in a time where heart disease was rampant, no one in this town seemed to be affected by the same malady. Essentially rarely did they find "anyone" in Roseto under the age of 65 with heart problems.

They decided to do a study and went about enlisting the help of medical students and some local townspeople to do the work they needed to do. What made this place different than any other little town in America - or for that matter anywhere in North America?

Medical Histories and Testing

Death certificates from years ago were analyzed. They took medical histories in which family units were grouped together. All of the normal testing was done, and by the end of sumer every Rosetani in Roseto was put through a series of Blood tests and EKG's. The results were astounding.

They found that the death rate from all causes in this town was 30 to 35% lower than what they were seeing elsewhere. There was essentially no sign of heart disease. Certainly people died here - but mostly they died from old age.

Roseto was an "Outlier".

Is it Diet; Is it Genetics

Now they needed to know why this was? Through all of their testing and their interviews they found that the people in this town were not very careful about what they ate and what they drank. in fact they lived the "good life" just in the same way the rest of America was doing.

Why then were these Italians different than any other Italians throughout the whole of the United States, or for that matter North America - as we must also include Canada in this. I know for a fact that there are a lot of "Rosetani" - people from that same home town in Italy - that are in my area of Hamiton and Toronto. Toronto in fact has more Italians "per capita" than Italy itself. So why was this one little town in Pennsylvannia different than all others?

"La Familgia"

The one and only thing they could attribute to this strange phenomenon was "family"' . They had noticed how these people related to each other - as a family and not just as individuals. It seemed that everyone here cared about the next person. The sense of community was huge. It was not only small town, it was small town made up of family - everyone there shared the same values and the same sense of where they came from and who they were in this new world.

So this Outlier example was different. It was not made up of charts, nor was it about genetics. . During the study the doctor had brought in a friend of his - a sociologist from his home State. They now had their work cut out for them - "how to convince" the medical establishment to think of health in different terms. They needed to look past the one person, who might be in a health crisis, to see what lays beyond in the way of friends and family and support systems. Is this not the most basic thing. Are we not "healthier" if we feel loved and cared for? Can it be this simple? I think for Roseto, Pa in that time and place, obviously it was!


Roseto Today

The Roseto of today I believe is quite different than the one of the 50's. I see the population has not grown; it sits at approximately 1633. The culture has changed some too. It is not "only Italians" any longer. There are some new people on the block. I am not cognizant of what the health issues are there now, but I would imagine that it will have changed some since those studies back in the 60's. I brought my mom and her two sisters to visit there back in 2006. It was still a sleepy little town with rows of neat houses lining the main street. And I wonder now if the young folk of today are even aware that their little town was the subject of much curiosity back before they were born. Times have changed!

The Two Rosetos During Festival Time


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    • craiglyn profile image

      Lynda 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you Deb - I enjoyed my visits there with family - so many years have gone by and everything changes somewhat, but it's life.

    • profile image

      Deb Welch 5 years ago

      Beautiful Italian town and people. I enjoyed learning about this history. When I saw the Title (Outlier?), I recently listened to the book on CD of Malcolm Gladwell 's - Outliers: The Story of Success. Up.

    • craiglyn profile image

      Lynda 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I agree totally - and we live in a much busier society today. Everybody is in a hurry to go somewhere. I have always said that it was neat to grow up in the 50's and 60's and I stand by that statement. : )

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 5 years ago from Central Texas

      What a delightful Hub -- and such marvelous history you've presented. Oh, would that such a sense of community existed among us today. Living in a small town I experience a bit of it but even small towns are "going their own way" these days. Best/Sis

    • craiglyn profile image

      Lynda 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you whonu. You are right. There was a lot to be learned from this community. Although I think it has changed quite a bit, but still what an example they were.

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 5 years ago from United States

      I enjoyed the walk through of these Italian towns and found it very interesting. It just goes to show that the town of Roseto, was a rare one and that which we can all learn valuable lessons from in our own communities. This was quite amazing and a great read. Thanks so much for sharing this nice story.