How many of you readers out there have fun with genealogy research?
Well when I was younger I was able to trace the family tree back several centuries. I had a relatively easy task; I had an unusual name, the old timers (at least a few of them) were still alive and our name is found in only one place in Italy
That particular place kept excellent records, was not bombed during World War II and Italy was a place I regularly traveled on business. There were over 120 families bearing the family name still living in that place back in the eighties – now a suburb of Bari.
I was easily able to obtain birth and marriage certificates going back to 1800. Coupled with sit down interviews with my elderly relatives I was able to fill in a nice family tree.
Now, our family tree is quite wide after 5 generations or so – and complicated. My grand father had 8 children – 3 born in Italy with his first wife before she died and 5 more after he married my grandmother in Italy and come to America in 1906.
My father was the youngest of those 8 children
The only mystery to me revolved around the eldest – my father’s half brother, who was some 20 years older than my dad. I cannot recall ever meeting him although I knew all of the others quite well.
Seems the oldest changed his name – shortened it, added an “h” and made it appear more Germanic or neutral. He also changed his first name, from very Italian to generic Anglo-Saxon. If you saw only his name on a sheet of paper you would never identify him as an Italian.
I knew from the old timers that he married and that he had children but other than that, his corner of the family tree was a blank.
Move to the present day: Back in February I posted a piece on this blog – “My God! Are we Norse?” See here:
Well come July I get a notification of a comment. Seems someone was researching the family name and was led by her search engine to my post. Seems our family name was in her family – specifically it was her grandmother’s maiden name. She was trying to do some genealogy research and wasn’t having much luck and was excited to find the post.
Well, ok. So I ask her how much she knows about her grandma? A lot – grandma is still alive lives right down the street from her mom and dad a few miles away.
Then the clue – grandma was always known by the name adopted by my father’s oldest half brother, the mystery one. Geez! Can it be grandma and I are cousins – same grandfather, different grandmothers? Yes indeed!
Then came an exchange of emails; I mailed a packet of info including the family tree (printed out – 6 pages wide not including current generations!) pictures of my commenter’s great-great grand parents, copies of birth and marriage certificates from Italy and a copy of the ship’s manifest of the S/S Prinzess Irene listing my grandfather and a boy arriving in New York – the boy was the one who changed his name and became the great grandfather of the commenter.
Today I got a letter from grandma (she is in her eighties) remembering my parents (though I don’t remember her) and particularly my mother who she said was so kind to her. She is my new cousin.
Turns out the name changer brother had five children (she is the last one living) and lots of descendants; he changed his name to keep his job at the NY Transit Authority – that’s the way it was.
Now I have new cousins and new readers! Yaay!