Are you planning a visit to your family’s country of origin? Have you already visited? A common tip among genealogists, and one that is highly recommended by Mary Tedesco, founder of Origins Italy and co-host of Genealogy Roadshow, is to visit your ancestral town before leaving the country. And, that is exactly how I ended up meeting our Italian relatives!
My sister, Lisa, and her husband, Pete, traveled to Italy on a somewhat spur of the moment trip in 2013. Once there, Lisa emailed me asking for information about our family’s hometown. She wasn’t sure they would get to visit it yet was hoping to and was also hoping to find any relatives that might still be living there. I emailed her a set of family photos and whatever information I had about the town. I looped in my cousin, Tom, and Aunt Irma, who had been there – on the street of the ancestral home – and knew where it was. You see the last contact we had with our Italian family was in 1975 when my Aunt Irma and husband, Tom, took my grandfather on a tour of Italy. They deviated from the tour for a day and went to his hometown of Dodici Morelli and his mother’s hometown of Renazzo. That trip has its own story – lots of them! But, by 2013 it had been almost 40 years since there was any contact between our American and Italian families.
Lisa and Pete arrived in Renazzo at its main intersection and, thankfully, on the street of our ancestors. This is a very small town where most residents only speak their native Italian. Lisa had downloaded the photos I sent to her iPad and speaking only English, she began walking the street, showing the pictures and asking if anyone knew a family by the name of Ranieri or Tassinari. At an outdoor cafe, some men pointed further down the street. Lisa and Pete followed the direction of their pointed fingers and found a large yellow stucco building. They rang the door buzzer and Lisa, ready with her iPad, gasped when an older woman opened the door. Lisa pointed to the photo and in English said, “this is my Nonnie.” The woman recognized the picture and speaking only Italian, welcomed them into her home. She recognized the woman in the picture as her great-aunt!
Lisa and Pete became surrounded by family members. A phone call to this one, another call to that one, and soon the house was filled – all with Italian speaking relatives. Finally, a phone call was made to a cousin able to communicate in English, “Alfredo, come, we have americani relatives here and we cannot understand them.”
This first visit lasted a couple of exciting hours looking at family pictures, telling stories, getting to know each other, eating delicious food, and making plans to stay connected!!!
So remember, when visiting your family’s country of origin – before leaving home, check with other relatives for any information they may have about your family, fill your iPad with documents, information, and especially old family photos, then once there, be sure to visit your ancestral town, look for ancestral homes, and knock on doors looking for relatives!!! Enjoy:)
Donna O'brien says
Watching my sister, Laura travel through her journey connecting with our Italian relatives and sharing her excitement with all of us has been a true gift.
There is also a wonderful additional blessing in all this, our meeting Diletta and Alicia, relatives living in Italy who traveled to America for their first time and stayed with Laura and Frank . When we met them, there was an immediate connection, an instant mutual love between us, as if we have known each other all our lives. They are truly wonderful people, fun-loving, happy, interesting and have brighten our world through Laura and Frank.
Laura has given us an expanded family history, generations of new found relatives and a greater love of family, including our love for Laura herself. What is most endearing is the love and support Laura’s husband, Frank, has shown not just all their married life, yet even more so during Laura’s quest to reconnect with our Italian family.
Laura has also helped to support and encourage my son Michael to do the same as he delves into my husband’s Irish relatives. We are grateful to both Laura and Michael for their love and interest in researching and sharing with us our family history and relatives long-lost. Thank you to both of you!
If you or someone in your family has a desire to learn more about past generations, I can only share with you it is well worth the effort.