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!

Wordless Wednesday

August 19, 2009 at 10:19 | Posted in ancestry, Carnival of Genealogy, Fun Reminders of Italy, genealogy, Italy, Itri, Italy, Wordless Wednesday | Leave a comment
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Woman Carrying Water

Woman Carrying Water

 

Valentino with Prickly Fig Cactus on Farm

Valentino with Prickly Fig Cactus on Farm

Monday Madness Puzzle Madness

August 17, 2009 at 09:16 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, family history, family research, genealogy, Italy, Itri, Italy, Madness Monday | 2 Comments
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When we were married I wasn’t terribly young but I was naive. I foolishly believed life would be happily forever after, the stuff of fairy tales. We  were in love, what could go wrong? I had no idea my life would  take to so many twists and turns, it would rival soap operas and reality TV. In his early 40’s Valentino was on his way to work one morning when he was rear ended in an auto accident. Although he walked away appearing unscathed, he ended in many surgeries and permanently disabled. We were grateful he was alive and not paralyzed. More importantly our sons still had their dad! Then one early morning a few years later my world crumbled still further. My cousin was her way home from work the evening before. Stopped to make a left turn to her street, she was broadsided by an individual on house arrest (and wearing an ankle bracelet) who passed a line of cars on the wrong side of the road at over 100 miles an hour. She was rushed to the trauma center, into surgery, and into ICU. That morning I planned on visiting her only to be summoning the ambulance for Valentino! It seemed he had what we at first thought was a blood clot but later learned was a calcified piece of a heart valve that broke loose. We then were totally decimated to learn he needed immediate further surgery to repair and replace the heart valves but that the doctors gave him only a 10% chance of surviving! So now family went from ICU to CICU, back and forth in total shock as we watched, waited, and prayed for these two young and vital people to respond and pull through!

Once the immediate crisis passed and we knew both would survive, we helped them begin the long road to recovery. It was during this time I realied not only how blessed we were but also how horribly fragile life is. And then I realized it was long distance calls to family overseas in Italy that sustained me much of the time. Yet our sons did not know most of this extended family even though Valentino and I did. So began a new chapter of my life. I bought software to start work on a family tree for the boys. I wanted to put names and faces to the extended family of aunts and uncles and cousins by the dozens literally for them. Then almost without realizing it, I was moving sideways into collateral lines and adding more people to the tree. We often referred to people as cousins but I knew they weren’t really the children of an aunt or uncle. Instead I would soon discover they were in reality second or third cousins! For me this was like working on a giant jigsaw puzzle. I wanted to fit all of the names and faces together into a bigger picture so to speak. Except now this puzzle had a lot more than a mere 1000 pieces and the borders weren’t straight edges of a rectangle – these were irregular and growing wider in some places while not in others! Here and there I would have two or three pieces that fit together nicely but I was (and still am) missing connecting pieces in many places. When you try to pick up a puzzle it usually falls apart unless you use some puzzle fixative or glue. The neat part about this family puzzle is that it doesn’t fall apart! The glue that holds it together is love, unending, unwavering love!

Treasure Chest Thursday

August 14, 2009 at 09:04 | Posted in Amore di Italia, ancestry, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, family research, genealogy, Italy, Itri, Italy, Treasure Chest Thursday | Comments Off
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This is the childhood home most of the family remembers best in Itri, Italy. Thiswas not the home until after WWII as it was a replacement for the one destroyed during the war. But it is the one that holds a special place in their hearts because it represents safety, security, love, and family.

Childhood Home

Childhood Home

Wordless Wednesday

August 12, 2009 at 07:38 | Posted in Amore di Italia, ancestry, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, genealogy, Italy, Itri, Italy, Wordless Wednesday | Leave a comment
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La Famiglia

La Famiglia

Family after the War

 

View of Itri 2009

View of Itri 2009

Tombstone Tuesday

August 11, 2009 at 05:42 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, Itri, Italy, Tombstone Tuesday | Leave a comment
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Francesco’s Walk Home

 

Francesco (my father in law) would work all day on the farm and then make the long walk home by the town cemetery back to town. As a good Catholic, he would always remove his hat out of respect when passing the cemetery. He would replace it when he had passed. One night he was especially tired and almost dragging himself home. In his exhaustion he forgot to remove his cap in front of the cemetery. Suddenly something or someone knocked the hat from his head. There was no wind and he was sure he felt someone. He picked his cap up off the road and looked around but no one was there. He waited to replace it until well past the cemetery. When he arrived home he began to tell his wife until he realized everyone was very upset. Concetta’s brother Luigi had died suddenly, the victim of an accident at the sand quarry where he worked. Who or what was after his attention that night as he went past the cemetery? Francesco insisted it was poor Luigi.

Monday Madness

August 10, 2009 at 03:19 | Posted in Amore di Italia, Carnival of Genealogy, Madness Monday | 2 Comments
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The Name that drove me to Distraction!

I am changing a few names here because of Italian very strict privacy laws. A few relatives are still alive to this family that might object to parts of the story but suffice it to say, it is all true to the best of family members’ memories who recounted to me!

His mother had passed away when he was a young boy. His father was a butcher who, according to family accounts, was well-to-do. Being a widower with young children, he sought a new wife to help him. He found her in the seaside town of Sperlonga where his butcher shop was located. She was only fourteen but her family was happy to have a well-to-do son in law and agreed to the marriage. The boy was already out of the house as a teenager when his sister came to him to complain. His stepmother was feeding her own children and her brothers, but not feeding their siblings. He felt obliged to pay his stepmother a visit – he warned her to feed the children or he would kill her. She must have taken the threat quite seriously because everyone lived. No one could explain how it was the father did not interfere himself.

The day of the Italian Wedding reception for our new couple was a wonderful sunny day with lots of activity bustling about. Family and neighbors were coming and going bringing gifts for the young couple. The women were cooking in preparation for the reception. Suddenly a commotion was heard – another had arrived – a tiny wizened old woman dressed head to toe in black. She looked so terrified. Even the groom seemed upset and finally explained this ‘person’ was Sperlonga – everyone began chattering at once – they called her an ostrega (witch) who would bring bad luck or curses to the couple. She had heard about the party and was hoping for food. All the family money had been gone for a long time and she was hungry. Mama’s eyes were filled with sadness and compassion. She tried to speak quietly to the groom but the bride already understood. Mama, a devout woman, wanted to feed the woman; she was not worried about curses. The bride touched her groom’s arm –”Feed her. To refuse will put a greater curse on us in God’s eyes.” So a compromise was reached – the tables in the dining room practically groaned with food and a dish was brought to Sperlonga in the kitchen where Mama and the bride sat with her while she ate. That was the only time the young couple saw her and regrettably took no photos.

By 1996 the bride was working on the family genealogy and wanted to enter information about the grandparents. Visiting with family in Rhode Island and Italy she attempted to find out about Sperlonga but no one could remember her name! She had been so despised that no one ever referred to her as anything but Sperlonga. Yet some of the siblings were friendly with cousins and half-siblings. Every year the family tree grew but without Sperlonga’s information.

The Italian branches found it amusing that the crazy American was able to add so much information each year. They were soon enjoying adding new names too. All that time Sperlonga remained a mystery. They traveled with family on vacation in 2005. While in Itri, they had a chance to visit with a cousin through Zio, Mama’s brother. The cousin and his wife came to dinner one evening. While relaxing with coffee, the family tree banner was unrolled and she asked the cousin to help fill in missing names. He read the eight foot banner and began to laugh.” Why do you still call that poor dead old woman Sperlonga? Hasn’t it been long enough to let her rest in peace?” She looked up suddenly – everyone else was staring at him. “Do you know her name?” “Of course, it’s ….!” She happily wrote as he spelled it!

That weekend, everyone made the trip to Tarquinia to visit another sister and family. One more time the banner was unrolled and everyone had fun checking out new names. Two nieces both excitedly noted Sperlonga had a name – the sister was in the kitchen and heard them. She called out, “that’s not her name! It’s ….!” Now it was the girls’ turns to be shocked! “For five years you did not know. What happened?” The sister laughed that hearing it said wrong triggered her long buried memory! So finally, poor old Sperlonga has been given her name. Maybe this will afford her a bit of peace.

Black Sheep Sunday

August 9, 2009 at 03:36 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Black Sheep Sunday, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, genealogy | 2 Comments
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I have had a difficult time trying to decide who fits the bill for this post this week. I finally settled on: MYSELF!

I’m the one in our family who has always been “out there in front” getting myself into hot water or being noticed or just having fun. Fortunately I never got into real trouble as in breaking the law or being arrested or kicked out of school – too much of a people pleaser for that! When I was younger I was the baby sister to the older quieter smarter and even prettier sister. I was always hearing the admonition to “please try to be more like your sister!” My parents loved me – I never doubted that. My sister and I are friends. But I do believe I aged my parents in comparison to my sister!

I was always looking for fun and more friends. I would rather smile than cry and always had another story to tell. Along the way I remember my grandmother always having her Brownie camera handy. She would line everyone up here or there for one more photo. She drove most of the family crazy then but we love those old photos now. Advance it a bit forward and my father was the one with the camera. Around the war years he took great sepia toned portraits that my mother lovingly hand tinted. They then sold them for extra money. Later he invested in a Kodak Retina Reflex 35mm camera. He took incredible floral and landscape photography and made a slide presentation that my mother gave professionally for years. By the time I was ready for college I owned the same 35mm camera and took studies in black and white everywhere I went.

Soon I was busy raising children and being a wife. I was engaged in all the usual activities with the boys as they grew. Our lives were a series of tall mountain peaks and lowly dark caverns too low to be called valleys. We marked those early years by one family crisis (mostly medical) after another. I was usually embroiled in being the medical advocate for one family member or another, always the vocal out in front one.

Fast forward to the camcorder era. Suddenly there I was again with a camera in hand taking the videos this time. We would travel overseas and strangers would gather to watch me film, marveling in the LCD on the back of the camcorder. Finally one of my sons took the camcorder from me in self defense. He became the videographer – and a very good one at that! Then came those interesting APS cameras. That was too short an era for me! I loved those long long photos great for landscapes and for family shots. They reminded me of those old fashioned photos years ago that rolled out 2 or 3 foot long in the dark sepia tones of my great grandparents’ era. Soon they were gone along with the special frames and photos albums they used to sell for the photos.

Then life changed again for us. My oldest son became a martial arts pro. He has the keen ability to make incredibly high jumps up into midair. And every one (or 90% anyway) of my photos blurred. This son began doing photo shoots professionally and introduced me to the world of Nikon SLR. He’s a little sorry about that now as he feels he’s created a monster of sorts. Once more I am out in the thick of things with a camera in hand. Our last trip to Italy resulted in over 1500 raw photos. And of course there’s this blog and my family history books and other books I write. There’s always one more story to tell or one more experience to share. Our life is probably crazier than most reality TV shows. I used to say I was practicing a script for a soap opera because no one believed half of our trials and travails! I always figured I would share it because to laugh is more fun than to cry.

So I attend City Council meetings where I have become politically but politely vocal. I write books and detail our family history on various websites. And finally I have taken to writing blogs. Am I officially the black sheep of the family? I am certainly the noisiest one. My in-laws laugh and encourage me although I am not sure they always understand me. My sons do not embarrass easily so they too usually encourage or even come up with one more idea. (I have a son helping me to grow my online presence.) And my husband? He winks and says he ‘knew’ I was crazy enough the night he met me. He smiles and tells me thanks for not changing ever. SO I may not be the totally black sheep of the family but I am one of the messier ones!

Surname Saturday

August 8, 2009 at 07:47 | Posted in ancestry, Campodimele, Italy, Itri, Italy, Pannozzo, Surname Saturday | 4 Comments
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– Pannozzo Family of Campodimele

Our trip to Italy helped us to break a few bricks out of the wall that was preventing our research progress. As a result of information gathered in Campodimele with the help of some fantastic city employees, we were able to now further our research here at the local FHL. I was able to find a copy of the original marriage certificate for Nonno Valentino Pannozzo’s parents!

Valentino Pannozzo (grandfather to bonnieshusband) was the son of Onofrio Pannozzo and Maria Concetta DiBratto. On the marriage certificate date June 18th, 1849, we learned Onofrio’s father was Antonio Anselmo Pannozzzo and Onofrio’s mother was Paola Picano. We had learned Onofrio was born Fen 6th, 1826. Maria Concetta was born about 1825 based on her age at marriage. This also let us know that my mother-in-law Concetta was probably named in honor of her grandmother Maria Concetta. The certificate told us Maria Concetta was from the town of Fondi, located to the other side of Itri. Interestingly many of this maternal line still live in Fondi.

Using these newly discovered names, we were now able to push backwards one more generation. Antonio Pannozzo’s parents were Pietro Pannozzo and Maria Grazia Pannozzo. One fascinating fact about Campodimele is that the cemetery boast the names of Pannozzo, Pannozza, Pannozzi, and Pannozze frequently! Obviously many were probably cousins or cousins of cousins, etc. Paola Picano’s parents were Paolino Picano and Domenica Fajola. This takes those family lines back to probably mid 1700s.

Back on Onofrio and Maria Concetta’s marriage certificate we also learned the names of Maria Concetta’s parents. Her father was Rocco Di Bratto and her mother was Angela Antonelli. Moving into collateral lines we discovered several siblings of Onofrio and some of their offspring also. Although I had not been previously delving into too many collateral lines, this has begun to push in that direction. Itri was not that large of a town nor was Campodimele in this era. Therefore we are finding many names repeating and we are finding second marriages after the death of one or the other spouses. Many siblings will also name children after parents and grandparents so it is challenging to sort them out to the proper lines. As I progress I will probably move into extracting as many families from the records as I can. We were surprised how many times others would tell us they would love any information that we can offer on their families in Itri so this will be a labor of love and friendship as we go along!

Surnames:

Pannozzo, Di Bratto, Picano, Antonelli, Fajola

Treasure Chest Thursday

August 6, 2009 at 00:02 | Posted in ancestry, Bits and Pieces, family history, Fun Reminders of Italy, genealogy, Italy, Treasure Chest Thursday | 5 Comments
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Don Camillo Series by Giovanni Guareschi 

Original by Giovanni Guareschi for Don Camillo
Original by Giovanni Guareschi for Don Camillo

(copyrighted to Giovanni Guareschi)

I grew up in the small village of Easton, Connecticut.  Once a week, Samuel Staples Elementary School would walk a class over to the Town Hall basement to the town library. I would check out the maximum number of books allowed because I so loved to read. Soon I was through all of the books in my own division and the librarian made the decision to permit me more mature books. I discovered Don Camillo! Written by the Italian author Giovanni Guareschi, they were wonderfully written simple vignettes of Italian life in a Po River Valley town. The communist mayor was constantly battling the local parish priest. Aside from the flavorful way Guareschi presented an ageless moral and political struggle, this series seeped deep into my soul. I so loved these books, I hated to return them and would renew them over and over. Recently I was able to purchase old fragile copies of a few of them online and fell in love all over again. As a child they burned a dream into my heart of living in Italy but in time I got caught up in life and the dream was buried until I met Valentino. The visits to Itri awakened those dreams again. It was as if I had always known these familiar little villages and towns.

So this series of wonderful books is my offering to this week’s Treasure Chest Thursday. Make an effort to read these books and discover as I did the lure they have. They’re my treasure because they led me to a desire to know Italy. When I met and fell in love with my husband, it was the icing on my cake to fall in love with a native Italian! He is my real tresure and the reason my heart bursts and sings!

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