Is Spring Far Away?

February 10, 2011 at 10:13 | Posted in ancestry, Bits and Pieces, Current Events, family research, Gardening | Leave a comment
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One of the wondrous things about this time of year is how spring fever hits many of us. I realize a goodly portion of the country is now hitting cabin fever levels and are snow weary because you are still digging out while tentatively watching those weather forecasts! But many of you are pouring over those seed catalogues and planning gardens. When we lived up north we longed for the first hibiscus and then daffodils and tulips and crocus. I loved walking in the woods to find lady slippers, jack-in-the-pulpits and my all-time favorite wood violets, especially in yellow! When I no longer lived in the woods I turned to small African violets in every color under the sun to fill all of my window sills. I literally have over 60 plants at one time. When we finally moved to Florida my green thumb became very brown and dried out. I could not get anything approaching flowers to grow. Oh, I went every spring and bought all the pretty petunias and pansies to fill the yard. Then came thorny bougainvilleas that had wonderful flowers but horrid thorns. Eventually I learned that this area loves lots of lush greenery but few flowers. I adjusted and went for the mid-tropical look like everyone else. I attempted vegetables but never reached the bounty that we had enjoyed in the northern climate. Sand does not always like vegetables and they aren’t real thrilled with sand either. So it took me time to adjust once again to another learning curve. I wasn’t willing to give up, I just had to find a new approach.

So it is with our families and genealogy research. Sometimes those ancestors are so buried we don’t see where they are. Sometimes the timeframe is off from what we think it should be. And sometimes an ancestor was thriving where we felt he or she should – so we need to change the soil. We need to change the nutrients perhaps. Or the climate. Or the location because of too much or not enough of whatever it is they don’t want. It is easy to dismiss advice of our elders or those who have gone before us. We even equate those simple comments as the ramblings of an old fool – or the stuff family legends are made of. But stop and think for a quick moment. Maybe that favorite dish – that recipe we make because grandma made it because great grandma also made it. Was it adopted by the family because it was gleaned from an old neighbor or friend? Does it not make sense in that we’re Italian but it seems French or German? Try expanding that view a bit – did they move to Germany to follow a lover or perhaps a new job opportunity? Maybe there you will find a missing ancestor and can start anew to trace another branch?

Lately I have been watching our political unrest and stress with growing concern. I decided to plant the vegetable garden for a few reasons. Obviously I want better food in order to be healthier. I want to protect my family from the growing economical issues and inflation hitting our food budget. Most of all I wanted something, anything to take my mind away from all the stress. I wanted to shut out the world and find some peace and quiet for a few short hours. So I garden. I dug the dirt until muscles ached. But I worked the soil until it was ready for my new plants and seeds. I added things the soil lacked. I turned it and tilled until the soil was blended and accepting for my seeds. I set up little starter pots to plant my seeds. Each little pot holds one of two seeds until they germinate. I started with fancy store bought pots but gradually I ran out and had to adapt with other solutions: used plastic containers, old cans, old washed out flower pots, even old newspaper cones. Each choice is another learning experience of what works or not. Within two weeks I am already seeing seeds sprouting, little green shoots peeking through the dirt. This is how my spring fever is being fed now. I can’t wait for what I can’t hurry. It is a process as old as time but it happens in spite of our best and worst efforts. Spring brings new beginnings. And each generation does the same. As we mess up the world around us, the plants adapt and learn to grow in spite of us. Some call it evolution, others call it survival of the fittest. No matter what we do, life goes on in spite of us.

Family does the same. We may walk away but the family exists anyway. We cannot deny those who have gone before us. So it is with the current world situation. Dictators and presidents and kings may try to change people. They want to control them, maybe even eliminate them at times. Yet the hearts of men continue. The desire to grow, to find something better, to find a way to exist is in the hearts of all men. We may not like the choices or even understand them but ultimately man does continue and does find the better way. That is why instead of fighting the dirt it is better to amend the soil, to give it nutrients and fertilizer and water to let it enable the plants to grow bigger, stronger, more nutritious for us or other living creatures. We need to learn from history, not change it to suit ourselves. There is a reason history repeats itself. The bible puts it another way: there is nothing new under the sun. To every thing there is a season.

For now I am working the garden, pulling weeds, watering new plants, watching the sprouts push through to daylight. Spring means new life. So it is for all of us, for all of the world. It hurts to watch when we cannot stop certain things from happening but we know also that these plants have lived for thousands of years and so has man.

This brave little tomato sprouted off a plant that was brown and dead looking. It was left over from last year and spent the winter outside unprotected even through the freezes that seemed to kill off so many of our tropical plants in the yard. It survived and grew new green shoots, then leaves flowers, and now a small roma tomato! The plant proudly boasts more new flowers too scattered around the brown seemingly dead branches. It has decided to live no matter what my opinion of it was.

The Tongue IS Mightier Than The Sword!

January 30, 2011 at 00:55 | Posted in ancestry, Bits and Pieces, Current Events, family history, genealogy, Political Opinions, Spiritual Walk | 1 Comment
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This is another one of those posts that isn’t sure where it belongs. It is alternating positions from genealogy to politics to religion and back again. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of your dear readers (all 1 or 2 of you) could not make it fit elsewhere! Within the families I research there were at various times several family feuds taking place. Seems someone managed to find a reason to be distrustful or even downright hateful over someone or something else. This amongst families who prided themselves on being “god-fearing” decent folks! Consequently researching those families at times I am met with a branch pruned off our tree when it should still be flourishing.

Back on my honeymoon I had a missed opportunity to take a photograph of a family member – an elderly person so I should have known better. Foolishly I thought I would have another opportunity but of course that did not happen. I not only did not get that photograph, no one recalled her correct name. Were there valid reasons for the family rift? Sure. Was it worth not keeping family together? No. Thanks to younger generations learning that painful lesson, we are all benefitting from reuniting the family. I was blessed to have someone find me on a social networking site and even sharing photographs with me. Cousins are getting to reunite and getting to meet newer family members. It’s nice.

One of the other families has a member who took off for an adventure. They never wrote home again or called. Several of us are looking for that person – we have been for a couple years now. No trace, no mentions anywhere. It’s as if they never lived. It is hard to understand why they no longer wanted family. Stranger still that family did not try to keep connected with them because no one could point to a specific problem. Even the family stories never included a remark about this person. Just gone?

One family member decided to marry someone not approved of by the parents for the odd reason of being from another town. “Those” people weren’t as “good”. Or some such foolishness. The marriage lasted through the birth of several children and well into their eighties. Theirs was an incredible love story when men were not so openly professing their devotion to their wives. They stand holding hands in the only known photograph taken just before his death.

I have unfortunately also seen family feuds amongst the church family. Back a few generations most family members didn’t have the option of leaving one church to go to another one. Here in America rural communities usually had one Protestant or one Catholic church. Later there would be more choices and larger cities would also offer others. In Italy most towns only had one parish priest and one church so folks learned to get along or not attend. Sadly now churches seem to splinter frequently or people jump from church to church each time something or someone upsets them. Further those disagreements often take very public and very messy turns especially when the preacher or priest is involved in the disagreement!

And then we come to those public families such as blogs or politics. Nothing sets me on edge, teeth jarring, nerves screeching like fingernails scraping on a blackboard like flame wars on blogs. How is it we can all find ways to banter and chat on a forum, everyone getting along even as they may disagree about problems and solutions until some unknown spark sets off a maelstrom of epic proportions? Suddenly one poster will call out another and off everyone goes huffing and puffing. Name-calling is usually only the least of it. Worse are the threats to drag someone through a “Joe the Plumber” scenario. Google bombs are created to publically harass and humiliate. If Google isn’t enough we can then also subject them to YouTube recordings to live forever in the bowels of the Internet. Some have even had the distinction of driving weaker victims to suicide via the social network. I personally love to read all sorts of blogs and follow all sort of political viewpoints. I tend to lean conservative on most issues but thanks to incidents within my own life, I often understand and even (Horrors! Gasp!) agree with some liberal views also. The last election cycle was a wonder to behold. Members of the conservative family have taken great delight in devouring their own young. The slightest difference of opinion has no room for acceptance.

Granted sometimes we have valid reasons to walk away from a loved one or family member. I just wish we would try to find it in our collective hearts to think long and hard before we say or do things that amount to pruning that branch off the tree. Admittedly I am not a super green thumb but I have learned one lesson over time. When you carelessly whack off branches too aggressively without care or in the wrong season, the tree dies. Soon that branch rots where it was pruned and the whole tree trunk is infected and dies.

Perhaps it was best said long ago – “The tongue is mightier than the sword.”

Ancestor Approved Award 4/4/2010

April 4, 2010 at 19:32 | Posted in ancestry, Awards, Bits and Pieces, family history, family research, genealogy, memories | 3 Comments
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I might be considered too old for a visit from the Easter Bunny but this morning I did indeed find a pleasant surprise: an Ancestor Approved Award thanks to Roots’n’Leaves!

There are a few things, obligations so to speak, that go hand in hand with this award. The first part is to “list ten things you have learned about any of your ancestors that has surprised, humbled, or enlightened you” and then to “pass the award along to ten other bloggers who you feel are doing their ancestors proud.”

My ten:

  1. Humbled: My mother in law Concetta did not learn to read and write until well into her seventies. She wanted to be able to

    read the bible for herself!

  2. Surprised: My father in law Francesco was the cook for the railroad crew he worked with because he cooked better than anyone else in the group! He was quite proud of his cooking skills.
  3. Enlightened: The official in the anagrafe – the office of vital statistics in Campodimele, Italy is a relative of my husband.
  4. Surprised: Facebook is a wonderful social medium to find family members. We have now made contact with several relatives overseas who have also now made additional contacts with extended family. It surprises and humbles me to witness the joy of family reconnecting over such long distances and time.
  5. Enlightened: When I started my family genealogy journey in 1996, I had no idea how passionately I would feel about this quest. What started as a chance to introduce my sons to their dad’s family has become a bigger blessing to me in some respects! I was not sure how my sons would look at all the information. In the beginning they questioned what purpose it would serve. Now they simply enjoy learning about family and meeting them either in person or via the computer and emails.
  6. Surprised: Valentino Pannozzo, my husband’s grandfather wore regular shoes instead of Roman sandals for the first time in a photograph taken two weeks before he died.
  7. Humbled: This same man Valentino Pannozzo in his eighties was still in love with his wife and referred to her as his “little doll” to everyone! How unusual for his era!
  8. Humbled: The love and mutual respect for each other in this family has survived in spite of the separation by distance and has even grown stronger over the years. They are fiercely loyal to one another in all aspects of their lives.
  9. Surprised that once I discovered the name of a grandparent (long forgotten by most in the family) there were suddenly many people (unrelated) I met who knew her and have begun to share stories!
  10. Humbled: I met an elderly gentleman who knew a grandfather well. The day I found his death certificate via the help of an official in Campodimele, I met this elderly man in another town. It was a chance meeting and yet I know there was nothing just luck about it. He regaled us with stories about both the son (a great uncle to us) and father ( the grandfather) that we had never known. And he touched my heart as he cried about the death of his best friend (the son) sixty years earlier. His memories of the incident and how it affected the father touched me profoundly. I understood then how Grandfather Valentino still wore a black armband two years after the death of his son!

Ten Blogs That Also Do Their Ancestors Proud:

  1. Rootdigger
  2. Digging in.. To My Past
  3. Elyse’s Genealogy Blog
  4. Family Tree Writer
  5. Geneapprentice
  6. Keeper Of The Records
  7. Kick-Ass Genealogy
  8. La Mia Famiglia
  9. Our Family Tree Bears Fruit
  10. Sharing Our Family’s Memories

I think you will enjoy these blogs, each nominated for their unique styles. I find something of worth in all their posts each time! I hope you all do too!

March – Women’s History Month

March 6, 2010 at 05:47 | Posted in ancestry, Carnival of Genealogy, DiCrocco, family research, Fragile Family Friday, Italian Cooking, Itri, Italy | 3 Comments
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My mother in law was one of the most incredible women I have ever known. She was raised as a simple farmer’s daughter in Italy and the family did not send her to school. She was in her seventies when she learned to read and write. She decided to learn so that she could study the bible! Incredible!

This photograph was taken only a few months before she passed away but even here, her beautiful spirit shows through! I met my mother in law 3 days after I married her son, the baby of the family – her Tesoro! But from the first day I arrived in Italy, she welcomed me with love and respect and joy. Although the family were unable to travel to the United States for the wedding, she and all of the relatives eagerly waited to greet us.She prepared a beautiful wedding reception for us in her home. The entire month she opened her home to guests from near and far who came to meet me and wish us well.

 As a younger woman she assisted as one of the midwives for her area. If she sent an expectant father for the doctor, the doctor knew he was needed for an emergency. He wanted her to go to school to become an assistant but family obligations prevented that goal. Yet she learned to do many simple first aid techniques and helped where ever needed. During WWII she survived the bombing of her home and evacuation to nearby mountain caves where she cared for her family.


She never had training as a chef or nutritionist but she knew how to prepare nourishing and flavorful meals from meager supplies. She recognized which wild mushrooms were safe to eat. And she raised bountiful garden harvests of all sorts of vegetables. Her farming expertise didn’t stop with plants. During a visit to the us in Connecticut, she taught a woman in our town how to properly milk goats to yield the most milk. I knew she wanted to teach me to make cheese so before she arrived for her visit I went on a hunt for the plastic baskets to use for cheese making. Finally I bought fresh cheese that came in one such small basket and located the manufacturer on the bottom. I called the company in New York to attempt to buy a few. The gentleman listened to my story and laughed – seems the wholesaler only sold in lots of many gross at a time and I hardly needed a couple dozen. Yet he was so impressed that I would do this, he mailed me a few dozen as a gift! Concetta and I spent a happy time making fresh cheese together properly! We found local ‘ pick you own’ fruit farms and then she taught me to make jams and marmalades in addition to putting up vegetables.

During the bad times or when family were in trouble she would take them in and find ways to make do to care for everyone. She helped to raise many of the grandchildren and even great grandchildren as the need arose. Through it all she never complained. This was the meaning of famiglia! Towards the end she cared for first one elderly parent and then elderly in laws. She taught all of us what the meaning of selflessness and humility meant. She taught us love in the face of unpleasantness as well as in the face of love. She walked her faith and shared it with all of us by her deeds and actions as well as her words. Her love for family was so strong that even near the end of her life she had the presence to recognize us and share a hug, a smile, a kiss. As her son sat with her and she held his hand, once again she spoke to her Tesoro and her eyes lit with love! Famiglia! Grazie Concetta – we love you still!

Wordless Wednesday – January 20th

January 20, 2010 at 18:55 | Posted in ancestry, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, family research, genealogy, memories, Wenz Hammerlee, Wordless Wednesday | 4 Comments
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Bicycle fans

Bicycle fans

This is 3 members of my side of the family. Yesterday I spent an emotional day going through old photos – this is a favorite.

Day of The Dead – We Remember Il Morti

November 2, 2009 at 11:03 | Posted in Amore di Italia, ancestry, Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, DiCrocco, family history, family research, genealogy, Italy, Itri, Italy, memories, Tombstone Tuesday | 2 Comments
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Mama e Papa

Mama e Papa

 In Italy, All Saints Eve or Day of the Dead is  day of remembrance and honoring the dead. There is some slight confusion or mingling of the two days – November 1st celebrates the saints and November 2nd is to actually honor the dead. I figured today I would explain to those not familiar with some of the Italian traditions about cemeteries in Italy. Land is at a premium in Italy – available land is needed for farms and housing. Each town though has a walled cemetery usually set outside the main part of town. Inside the walls of the cemetery are considered consecrated land having been blessed by the priest. There is usually an area where smaller metal or wooden crosses adorn the graves of those who cannot afford larger headstones. Headstones in Italy are often works of art with beautiful sculptures on them. Many also have an encased photograph of the deceased. The walls of the cemetery usually are also crypts for those who choose not to be buried in the ground. After approximately 20 years families will reuse the graves for others in the family. Bones of the buried are moved to what is called a bone room housed in the basement area of the chapel. This may seem morbid but is actually a matter of family honor. On this day once a year, everyone goes to the cemetery and honors their deceased ancestors! Flowers are everywhere including at the chapel. Families visit the graves often and bring flowers but this is a special day for everyone. Mass and prayers are offered up for all of the deceased. Sadly we Americans do not have anything of this nature and it is a shame. Our children are not taught to remember those who have gone before us. There is not an emphasis put on valuing what our ancestors did for us. In a land such as Italy where children understand that land and homes have passed from generation to generation, children learn of the sacrifices of their ancestors on behalf of family. It is the respect for family and history that endears Italy to so many of us. It is the call upon many of us to want to return to this sense of family and remembering with pride and gratitude that we understand forms the underpinnings of a civilization that will survive instead of merely exist until something else comes along to replace it.

So it was for me as my mother in law accepted and welcomed me to her family. I was never treated as only a daughter in law but I was loved as a daughter, a member of the family! Of course family has disagreements and times of strife but they are always family, always there to help, to liten, to offer advicde, to love! Famiglia!

Data Back Up Day November 1st

November 1, 2009 at 04:28 | Posted in ancestry, Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, family research, genealogy, Hints and Tips, memories | Leave a comment
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Today is Data Backup Day. In honor of this Geneabloggers is sponsoring a contest for all bloggers writing on the subject. Whether or not one is interested in contests, one should worry and therefore learn how to back up their data! We live in Florida – home to hurricanes and tornados. Anyone using a computer is running a risk of losing their information if they don’t take time to back it up! My personal desktop computer finally died an unhealthy and untimely death when least expected to. I have had several laptops over the years also die at inopportune moments! This journey became a forced lesson in backing up data for me! My present laptop is obviously a more secure one with hard drive protection against sudden shocks and drops. It is also password and fingertip scanned locked. Those afford a slight security advantage while travelling. However if stolen, my information could conceivably disappear too! SO I have taken time for contingency planning as if I were a major company. After all my genealogy, my books, and my blogs are my life’s work! First I use USB flash drives. Each is labeled and dedicated to a specific file type. Some contain all my photographs, some genealogy files, some research documents, etc. I also back up and save all files to CD. Each CD is labeled and stored away safely. Finally I also use a portable hard drive to back up all files. That is what I keep for myself. But the reality is that if I kept all of this just at my own home, it would be destroyed along with computers in any weather disaster or fire. So I have gone a bit further. Each of our sons also has copies of photographs and genealogy files as does another family member. Also some files are stored online. Recreating all of my work of the last 15 years would not be easy but it could be done as a result of contingency planning. All of this also includes my blogs. Each post is saved along with photographs and accompanying work sources! Printed copies of all my work also exist and copies kept my more than one person. Will I ever need to use any of this? Will I ever need to use any of this? Perhaps not although thanks to computer crashes, I have used it before. Waiting until I did need it would have been too late! I am now actively scanning all older family photographs. I have saved all our children’s photos but now I am scanning older generations. I realized we own some of the only existing photographs of deceased family members. One disaster would mean these would be lost forever to future generations. My scanning will include old 35 mm slides as well as making some digital captures of old movies and VCR tapes. This is of course very time consuming but well worth the memories they will provide for the future generations. They probably will not have access to old 8 mm projectors or 35 mm slide projectors. Even VCRs are disappearing from most homes! Passing on DVD copies of these older relics will allow great greats to hear as well as see ancestors! This will bring family to life for them in ways I can only wish existed for me of those from one or two hundred years ago! In doing this, it will be important to not trust only one original copy. Disaster can strike at any time and it would be a shame to not be able to save these memories! Think in terms of sudden storms or wildfires such as California has suffered through – or perhaps earthquakes! No area of the US is safe from some form of weather or climate emergency – in fact every country has such disasters! Be prepared! BACK UP THOSE PRECIOUS RESEARCH FILES AND PHOTOGRAPHS! Back up all of your work including blogs and remember to save a file with source data too!

Wordless Wednesday 9/16/09

September 16, 2009 at 11:03 | Posted in ancestry, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, Wenz Hammerlee, Wordless Wednesday | Leave a comment
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Wordless Wednesday: My dad with his granddad

Dad in Baby Carriage

Dad in Baby Carriage

Dad as Toddler

Dad as Toddler

Surname Saturday – My Side of the Family!

August 28, 2009 at 19:12 | Posted in Amore di Italia, ancestry, Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, family research, genealogy, Surname Saturday | Leave a comment
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Thought I would throw out a few more names we are always searching – but this time they are from my side of the family. My maternal line hails from Scotland and then Ireland – we are looking for Hyndman, Brown, Nelson, and Fleming there. They were in Edinborough, Glasgow, Johnstone, and a few later in PA.  My paternal line were from Germany. The surnames we are searching are Wenz, Schutte, Schatz, and Nagel amongst others. If any of those sound familiar, email and let’s find out if we’re connected or not!

The Policeman and the Case of the Silver Spoon

August 22, 2009 at 19:39 | Posted in ancestry, Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, genealogy | 2 Comments
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One of those crazy earliest memories of my early childhood is my Uncle Clifford. It was always a toss-up in my mind as to who was more handsome, Uncle Cliff or Uncle Harvey. Even as a little one I knew they were both very handsome but Uncle Cliff in his wonderful police uniform usually won the toss-up! We always had wonderful family dinners together, everyone gathered for the Holidays. My dad was a big believer in family and loved entertaining everyone. My mother would make fantastic dinners with enough food for an army. Even her buffets were sumptuous meals. She used pure white damask linen tablecloths that I would watch her iron until no wrinkles were left. Then she would set out stacks of her beautiful china and her prized silverware. Plastic and paper plates were never used inside – only rarely and then only for picnics!

  

Uncle Clifford

Uncle Clifford

               I was about four years old the Christmas I tagged after my Uncle Cliff at one of these dinners. This was the era when women would dress in their best right down to their high heels and men wore suits and ties, even to family dinners. Uncle Cliff, where did you find the patience to tolerate a little one hanging on your every move? As we all progressed through the buffet line juggling plates over-laden with food, I was in awe as Uncle Cliff tucked his silverware in the suit coat breast pocket near his handkerchief. I was sure no one else in the entire world could possibly be that smart!

Soon enough the evening came to an end and family were leaving. One of my aunts was helping my mother clean up in the kitchen. This was before automatic dishwashers, mind you! My mother could not sleep if there was a dirty dish or glass in the sink. Every piece was washed, dried, and put away. Silverware was counted as it was slipped back into the silverware chest. She always worried a piece might get tossed accidently and this had been a special wedding gift! Sure enough – the count was wrong and a spoon had gone missing. They searched kitchen, dining room, and living room looking for it. And then began the messy task of looking in the garbage! I tried to explain that Uncle Cliff had the spoon in his pocket! The two women looked at me mortified! Uncle Cliff was no thief!? What was I talking about? I was in tears now. My Uncle Cliff WAS TOO SMART! He had the spoon in his pocket! My poor mother was so confused by my carrying on! A few minutes later Aunt Bev called. They had made it safely home and then Uncle Cliff realized he still had a spoon in his pocket. Aunt Bev knew Mom was probably searching everywhere right now and wanted to reassure her the spoon was safe! Mom told her I had insisted that Uncle Cliff had the spoon and everyone had a good laugh as Uncle Cliff explained. I was finally appeased as everyone agreed with me that my Uncle Cliff was indeed a clever fellow!

For years family would tease at every family gathering and tell Uncle Cliff to check his pockets. Uncle Cliff has been gone a few years but even now as I wash and dry my own silverware, I remember again my handsome uncle with a smile in my heart. Once again I am four years old tagging after Uncle Cliff, the policeman with a silver spoon!

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