Next Few Days

May 1, 2009 at 09:17 | Posted in Trip to Italy 2009 | Leave a comment
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Lesson I

Lesson I

Monday: I was treated to a personal pasta-making session. My sister-in-law makes the best handmade pasta – pasta that reaps the benefit of the love she puts into everything she does for family! Soon I will be adding many more pages to the family cookbook that were given to me by all my sisters-in-laws. Leaving Tarquinia is never easy even when we are this eager to travel down to Itri to see more family.

After my crazy work schedule before I left, I have been ready for rest. I have not slept more than a couple hours here and there so I am at the exhaustion stage. While Val and sister gab on the drive to Itri, I opted for the backseat to grab some much needed rest. Once again it bears mention that the backseat of this car is NOT meant for comfort – the seat is like being on a rock bench so I have rearranged baggage to have some cushioning! It has been rainy so it is a good day to drive and not miss precious time. Family is waiting and we are all anxious to be there!

Grazing Cows in Itri

Grazing Cows in Itri

Tuesday: We are ready for our first full day in Itri. We have gotten up earlier to enjoy a leisurely breakfast enjoying the view and the sounds – song birds are doing their best to sing a welcome and we can hear the bells clanging around the necks of the white cows we see walking on the not too distant mountaintop. The view to the ocean in Formia is beautiful – almost too beautiful to pull ourselves away from but we already have a full day of plans to accomplish. First on the list is a trip to City Hall to make a request for family information. We arrive and can only interrupt our friend for a few moments of his busy schedule. Our marriage is registered properly and we are given an Atta di Matrimonio – not sure why the Consulate does not have it after thirty-two years? Seems we are still being tracked in Boston even though our Florida address relates to Miami. We leave with a promise that our friend will try to locate information on Val’s maternal family line.

While at the Commune, we visit the Information Center and again old friendships are renewed. They are only too happy to share a wealth of information with us and literature as well as posters and old photographs. Their help as well as generosity is astonishing and I am extraordinarily grateful to them. All that was asked in return is for me to give credit back to the Commune of Itri, something I am more than willing to do! No matter how many times I hear others criticize Italians for being rude or not helpful, I know this does not relate to anyone in the Commune of Itri – everyone has always given freely and generously of their time. It reinforces my dream to make Itri our second home.

Carpi and Area

April 29, 2009 at 22:12 | Posted in Trip to Italy 2009 | Leave a comment
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4/11/2009 We have not been able to connect to the internet so I might have to save my blog posts and publish when I return to a connection. We have always rented cars through AutoEurope in the past without issue. This trip we again rented from them. However, this time the little Fiat we have rented is the most extremely uncomfortable car we have ever rented! Granted it is an economy car and small but the back seat is like a rock! Now to boot we find the cigarette lighter is not functioning properly. That means no charging cell phones or laptop! The transformer sparked when I plugged it in the electric plug in the house which made me considerably nervous about attempting to charge the laptop so I will wait a bit. Having a working cigarette lighter would have meant the laptop could be charged more easily. And that does not include the frustrations of the cell phones!

Today we went to TIM to see about my SIM card for the cell phone. Found out that AT&T will not let me use another SIM card for some odd reason – never had that issue before so not sure if it is an Italian thing or AT&T – but it was easier to ignore the remaining few Euros on the card and buy new card along with new little phone – it will be good for two years – a great bargain to have the convenience of a local phone to use!

So far everyone is very enthusiastic about the family history book I made – they are fascinated with the family history and want more! They are also excited about my intended project so will aid in all photography efforts and research with me! That was the best news because I was not sure if they would support the efforts or not! Tomorrow we will be in Tarquinia for Easter – Pasqua!

Project Completed .. Or Just Begun?

March 15, 2009 at 14:41 | Posted in family history, family research, genealogy | Leave a comment
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As a major undertaking of love for our sons I began a Family History Book for them as Christmas gifts. I had taken over two years to write short vignettes, recounting of family tales, first impressions, sad times, good times,  about how Val and I met, married, traveled to meet his parents for the first time, and of later visits back to Italy. I loaded it with favorite photographs I had taken over the years. Then I went to Ancestry.com and took advantage of the MyCanvas program they offer free on site.

If you have not yet looked this program over, it is worth the time. There are a few bugs or quirks that I learned to work around such as making sure to not privatize the file before importing it. Photos cannot be bulk uploaded yet but it is unlimited uploads. There are great backgrounds available so I was able to personalize ours for an  Italian look easily. One of those quirky issues is that it is not possible to save to a file on your hardrive or to a CD – they want to sell the books. They do however, allow you to print out copies – but with a few simple restrictions. When you print, the pages with backgrounds do “eat” ink so be prepared. Read all the directions very carefully so you do not forget issues like in order to keep all the page enhancements be sure to print in normal mode when that button is shown. It only remembers five pages at a time to print (although you can do multiples of those five pages). I chose not to add page numbers because I kept adding too many pages – next time I will be more organized about who I add when and where so that I can use page numbers too. Overall this is a great product and well worth the time to learn to use it! I bet those leather covers are gorgeous too!

Now we are getting ready for a trip to see family. So now I am saving all my work of the family stories and family tree to a .pdf format and burning to disc for everyone. Carrying multiple books would  be much too heavy, not to mention cost prohibitive to print. Almost all have access to computers so they can enjoy the book in its electronic version and then save a family tree file to their computer to continue to work on! It will be fun to see their reactions to all of the research. The last time we shared information I had about 300 people – it is now at 743 and a total of 9 generations. Unfortunately, the maternal line is only grandparents and a dead end! Absolutely no information has been found on the maternal side yet! Hopefully this trip will finally break down some of those  bricks and allow a little light in! Of course this is all in reference to Val’s family – my side has probably double that many included so the files put together would number a few thousand folks.

My sister has been doing most of the work on the Scottish and German clans of our parents. She has made a couple of beautiful books on both families. She has been able to include a lot of the information of our area of Connecticut where we grew up and is expanding that now to Scotland and Germany. I figure I can let her work on that while I try to pursue as much of Val’s family as possible before we lose any more information. So many of the records from Italy have been destroyed over time and are continuing to deteriorate. And of course, older members of the family have been passing away. So I must do all I can now before we cannot go further back.

So I want to tell you all about a great blog Nan’s House – http://nanashouse.wordpress.com  – she is the type you feel like you are sitting at the kitchen table with and just gabbing away together! Anyway – she is also a genealogy fan and has some great suggestions – one of which I am planning on learning and using for my project. It is called Passages Express – you will find the link on her blog – they offer a free trial before you buy and the price is fantastic! Less than Starbucks lattes for two weeks! I am now working on the trial offer version but think I am going to invest in their deluxe because the price is too good to believe and it seems to be perfect for what I want to do! I like especially that it allows burning of CDs/DVDs in both North American and PAL formats – perfect for overseas family members!Check out Passages Express and Nana’s House – you won’t be disappointed!

Tick, Tick, Tick…

March 11, 2009 at 14:33 | Posted in ancestry, family history, genealogy | Leave a comment
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If today’s post seems to ramble, bear with me – my thoughts and emotions are also rambling today. I hear the ticking of a clock in my head and I would rather not be hearing it. Today I am sixty… 60…. SIXTY… how did this happen? When? Why? I am not ready to be sixty….that is more than half my life gone. I do not feel sixty (although there are admittedly days I feel 120 but that’s another post some other day).I am still trying to come to grips with forty. Yes, the photo found here online is current. I just plain am not ready to be old. Who wants to be old..OLD?? Sigh. When I was young(er), I often would comment on women who tried to be younger than their age. This observation of course, does not apply to Sophia Loren .. probably one of the most beautiful women ever — someone I want to be just like when I finish growing up! Talk about gorgeous in style, looks, attitude!

See — told you I was rambling today! I wanted to grow old gracefully – be the gracious, sophisticated, even elegant older woman.  We seem to respect only youth and beauty – hence the booming plastic surgery statistics. It’s not that I want to undergo the knife – I just am not ready to give up energy, vitality, sexy life yet. Who is proud anymore of being their age? We all seem to want to be something we are not. For me it is not just tied up in a number. I never discuss age with anyone. I hate they think of me as old and over the hill (yeah.. I know dumb point given conceivably the entire world could be in the know now thanks to the Internet). At work, I strive to be a little better, a little more efficient, a little more organized, a little more knowledgable than the others to compensate for age. At home, I struggle to be more active, to do more work, again to belie my age. But it is still more than that. What have I accomplished in my life? It is more than half over – what do I have to show for it or have I wasted too much time? Even though I went to college for five years as a teen and twenty-something, I returned to college for a BS in Business Administration to update myself. I finished with a 3.8 overall – so old dogs do learn new tricks. I changed careers in my fifties from retail and office management to the medical field. I know I have contributed to saving lives. So that probably also counts for something. My husband and I together raised four great sons to adulthood. They are all successful in their own rights. That should count too. In the past I did church volunteering to feed hungry folks, taught classes at church for women’s groups, did church counseling. We have done emergency shelter care for families and for children when a need arose.

Yet, has it been enough? I realized today I have lived longer than my father – he died four weeks before his sixtieth birthday. Last month we celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary – by today’s standards, that is an accomplishment too. As I work on all the family records from Itri, I note the women in the family who died in their twenties and thirties. There are few records to detail why or how – life in old Italy was difficult and death early was not unusual. Did they have time to think about growing old? Did they want or expect to accomplish anything worthwhile or bigger than themselves — or did they consider being the best person they knew how to be enough?  Was their focus merely surviving – or did it entail wanting to make a better life for their children than they knew? Once again I find myself caught in thinking of the past generations. I want to know, to understand, to feel what they did — I want their lessons to be ones I learn and then pass on to the next generations to come. That is the accomplishment I seek – to pass that love of family above all to the next generations to anchor them no matter what they face.

Happy Birthday me.

Protect and Preserve

February 24, 2009 at 09:38 | Posted in genealogy | Leave a comment
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I previously wrote about organizing all those notes, Pedigree sheets, surname databases. Today I want to discuss how to preserve and protect those precious photographs. My sister inherited many wonderful antiques and ephemera from her mother-in-law. Wonderful trunks full of family journals, old calendars, cards, letters. All fantastically organized and labeled. Then there were boxes of old family photographs, most labeled with names and dates. Then there were the boxes of super old (more than 100 years old) photographs completely unlabeled, undated. Too wonderful and poignant to toss but no clue to who, what, when, or where. We figure she inherited and did not have the heart to toss either. But that is the unusual – or is it? What will your children say to you in about twenty or thirty years? Mom, dad, who are these people? What were you, they doing? Where was this taken? Will you be there to answer or will they have inherited shoe boxes of photographs of the unknown? When they open those shoe boxes, what will those photos even look like? Will they be stuck together like glue and tear as they attempt to separate them? Or will ink and colors be so faded that the faces are rendered unidentifiable? We live in Florida – land of rain, , lightening strikes, brush fires, hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes. The time to think about protecting and preserving is sooner rather than later! One horrible occurrence could wipe out years of family memories and years of family research. Start by taking some tips from contingency planners and insurance companies. Be prepared ahead of time instead of thinking it will never happen to you. Instead assume it will!

First — keep copies of everything possible. Scan and burn to CDs. Then pass a copy of that CD to an entrusted friend or family member who lives elsewhere. Do a sort of round robin exchange – everyone can find space for a few CDs for someone else. If your cousin holds for you, you return the favor and hold for her. This is even better if you do not live next door to each other! Some folks even go so far as to rent a safe deposit box for safe keeping of the really old special family certificates such as foreign birth and marriage certificates. You have to decide how valuable those are to you and if your budget can handle the expense. Some banks used to offer one free with an account.

Second – back up any of your information on your computer to an external hard drive. I make special folders for the photographs and back them up to the external hard drive along with any family files. Computers do crash and it is not easy to reclaim lost data when that happens.

Third – use a watertight container to store your photographs and other papers. When the roof falls in allowing in rain, or the flood waters rise, this may save those precious photographs.

Fourth – take those digital photographs of the family keepsakes and heirlooms. Maybe it isn’t even a priceless (financially) object – I have an old hat of my dad’s. He’s been gone 25 years but that old straw hat is seen in many photographs and it is priceless to me! Label and caption the photograph. That way at least everyone else will know what it is!

Fifth – don’t forget cassette and video tapes. Burn them to DVDs – not that difficult or expensive to do at home now via SDS cables and a little time. Again remember that CDs and DVDs also degrade, break, or scratch. Make extra copies to share.

Lastly – There are commercial web sites that one can pay to back up computer files  to and store photographs. Using the commercial genealogy sites is an option but remember that the information you post there can bring privacy and copyright issues into play. Research who owns those files you post if you want to be sole owner. Remember too that some family members may not want their information posted on the Internet – so a family tree specifying Living as a name is not really helpful to recreating that destroyed or lost tree! Be especially careful posting information and photographs of children.

I have been spending a lot of my spare time scanning all of our family photo albums. Each photo is scanned, touched up if needed (old color inks faded) and then labeled with names, dates, locations, occasions. Maybe a funny or accurate caption is added when appropriate. These are grouped into manageable file folders. All my wedding folders are into one folder, honeymoon to another, baby’s first year to another, etc.  I tried to take time to label many of the actual photographs also. Never use ink on them but soft pencil on the back to at least give names. If you really want to be industrious, you can print out a scan and label that. Those are a great solution for the family group shots to know who was whom!

If you feel overwhelmed, start with family groups shots, especially the old ones. Then pick one or two favorites from each holiday to save and protect. The reality is that it is not likely all of your children will want all those scenery photo shots from all the family vacations anyway. Trees are nice – but how many tree photos do they want? They will be taking their own someday too! Do this in small bites and you will not be so overwhelmed. And as you take new photos, make it a habit to label them instead of going back later! Your children will thank you someday!

Organization Tips I

February 23, 2009 at 18:38 | Posted in genealogy | Leave a comment
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This past week I told about losing track of a source document on a family member. Being rather detail oriented about my research, this was a disconcerting issue to resolve. I maintain separate databases on each family line in addition to the combination file tracing the entire family. Each database is backed up and saved to avoid losing information in case one file becomes corrupted. Everything is backed up to an external hard drive every session as well as new discs burned and saved every month. Computers are wonderful time savers when they work but horrible when they fail. A contingency plan is not something just for a business but also necessary for anyone who depends on computers for their research work. Having these safeguards in place meant my recovery was only a matter of a couple hours to find my missing work instead of redoing years of family research. I knew that a recent upgrade in software was partially to blame for the missing documentation. Somewhere along the way I lost the physical piece of paper also. Fortunately I was able to narrow my searching to a specific microfilm to go back to in order to again print out documentation.

I keep Pedigree sheets on each family member. Although these are easily printed out from most software programs, I enjoy filling my out by hand. Information included puts as much information as known on each member. Most important is that each is color coded. My basic research started with my husband’s grandfather. As the tree then branched, grandpa’s maternal and paternal lines are both color coded. The male line is blue and the maternal line is yellow. All subsequent Pedigree sheets are printed on color paper to match those codes. This makes it so easy to know where each goes. I keep notebook binders with the Pedigree sheets to take along when I am working on research. Grandpa’s wife and the in-laws are color coded in different colors to track their family lines. By the time these lines go back a few generations, we begin to deal with 16 surnames to follow. Not being able to differentiate would become overwhelming! If preferred these lines can again be branched off into separate files that are assigned their own color codes to follow. As I file each sheet in the notebook, I use index tabs to notate the family surnames. It is easy at a glance to then find appropriate surname as I work on a line.

In addition to the notebook system I also make a manila file folder for each surname. The main surnames are color coded to match the notebook information. The surnames and sources are written on the front of each folder. All scraps of paper whenever I write notes are slid into the appropriate folder. That way nothing is lost until I have a chance to go back and research or document those scraps of notes. I can easily save information I might want later but not have to spend time on sorting it all immediately. This is especially true if also following collateral lines and not just the main branches. I often run across bits of information that I cannot immediately tie into family but do not want to lose track of until later. These folders each hold that information safely until I am ready. While researching online or at the FHL, if a familiar surname is run across, I simply print out the information. Internet URLs are printed on the bottom of the pages and I write in the proper information on the bottom of any certificates I print off of the FHL microfilms. These are slipped into the proper manila surname folders until I know what family they directly tie into. Then they will be rearranged into the proper permanent notebooks. Certificates are slipped into plastic sleeves to keep intact.

I won’t discuss what format to use to document your sources. There are books written on the subject and each proprietary software has templates to use. I will however warn you to document the sources. I document my sources not only on the computer but also on the Pedigree sheets and Family Groups sheets. Especially important is to document the microfilm numbers and complete dates. Even if you lose a piece of paper, those sources will allow you to replace what was lost. If done from the beginning, keeping track of the sources will be habit. It is a bit more difficult if you need to go back a year or two into research to find those sources but even that will be worth the time spent. After six years of research the paternal line along of my husband’s family is over 800 people strong – all thoroughly documented so I am not chasing someone else’s family. I should mention here that all of my in-laws are overseas. Yet all of the research to date has been done here stateside. Documenting and good organization have made this possible. Often information has been passed to me that others feel blend or merge with this family that I find does not. The first names are often repeated in a generational naming pattern and it would be horrendous to straighten out if the wrong information was merged into the files without proving who belongs to whom. By having names and dates documented, it is easier to verify if someone is a direct relative than if no sources had been kept track of.

All of this may sound time consuming and overwhelming. It is much easier to set up and not as frightening once you begin. The initial set up took only two or three hours to make the folders and notebooks with index tabs labeled with surnames. Once set up, it takes only a minute or two to add a new surname to the front of a folder or to make a new index tab for a notebook section. By having it done, my free time is not wasted looking for a surname or a piece of scrap paper. Instead even only 30 minutes of free time can be time spent researching instead of looking for notes and lost papers.

Spring Cleaning and Organizing

February 23, 2009 at 14:30 | Posted in genealogy | Leave a comment
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My next one or two posts deal with some tips to being organized. That will make them a bit lengthier but hopefully worth the reading. If followed most of these tips will save you a lot of time when you research your family tree. Being organized and methodical helps accomplish the research rather than wasting time searching through old work. The further your tree spans back, and the more surnames found, the more important being organized means. All of this will take one afternoon or evening to sort and set up but you will be happy when finished. There will be no more hunting through envelopes, looking behind cabinets, or clearing through a messy drawer or desktop looking for a scrap of paper.

Update to Missing Maria

February 14, 2009 at 22:11 | Posted in family research | Leave a comment
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Maria V. is no longer missing but has been found exactly where she belongs! I had already set up my post for today when Valentino and I decided to spend our morning at the local FHL (well, not so local – it is a 25 mile drive one way). Hat tips here to our favorite volunteer John Whitney – he is a true gentleman and a delight as well as one of the most knowledgeable genealogists I have met in person or read! His guidance has taught us so much over the last few years! We brainstormed with him and decided Maria V. logically had to be connected via a marriage certificate or marriage promise because of the information I had on her. I spent the next few hours reviewing microfilms without any luck. But then with five minutes literally to closing – suddenly success was within reach!
The film I was browsing had a section of marriage banns – not something I expected on this film… and they were in the right year range! Sure enough – there it was 1835 and there was Maria V.’s son promising to marry. And there was Maria V. exactly where she belonged – proper parents, proper dates, and married to Raffaele! Even the street addresses matched!
So Maria V. has returned again to our family tree, this time with sources already documented and saved. And copies are printed out and filed in their proper place with plenty of notations on pedigree charts as well where we found her!
Welcome home – la famiglia is happy! What a perfect ending to St. Valentine’s Day !

Maria Has Gone Missing?

February 14, 2009 at 21:26 | Posted in family research | Leave a comment
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I have learned a valuable and painful lesson this week. Even though I have been a stickler about genealogy organization, I have messed up somewhere. One of my future posts will be about organizing and the beauty of proper sourcing from the beginning. Even saving scraps of notes  helps to recreate in order to prevent double tracing over territory already investigated. But that is for a future post. This is about why we all need to be organized and thorough. So do as I say and not as I foolishly did! One of my documents that would prove my research went missing. If I cannot not have that paper or source in hand, I can not definitively prove three generations are properly in place. Two years of work will be worthless and I will end up possibly chasing wrong family lines. Our family tree will take on the appearance of an over-pruned olive tree not yielding olives!

The woman in question has an unusual name unlike any of the more common and frequently used given names in the family… Maria Veneranda. I had her name and approximate dates. I even had her parent’s names! It seemed pretty likely that I did not therefore simply pick a name out of thin air but without proof, sources, I am at a loss. Why this woman took this particular time to go missing is beyond me – a bit of a curiosity. I “know” I had my hands on her paperwork just before Christmas while working on all the genealogy and history books for our sons.

What makes this all the more curious is that she went missing last weekend when I found evidence that her husband had remarried when their son was approximately four or five years old. Interesting because I had no prior information about her death but there was Raffaele living at the same address, correct age, same parents marrying another woman. What was Maria V. trying to say from all those years ago? Was this a painful hurtful episode for her – had she still not been able to let go of jealousy of another woman raising her son? When my youngest was still a baby, we were handed bad news about my medical condition at that time. Doctors warned me to prepare and to expect the worst – there was little hope given for recovery. The admonition to “put my affairs in order” infuriated me, and I burned with jealousy at the thought of another woman taking my place in my husband’s life and raising my children! Even now after 32 years next week I am still very much Valentino’s wife! Suddenly I felt a kinship to this woman; I could sense the agony of a woman over 100 years ago knowing someone else would replace her – had replaced her. If I find her again soon, I promise to be more careful, more respectful of Maria V. She is the direct familial link – it is her son who would be the great grandfather of my husband – it is her genes that pass down to our sons. I have learned once again to source and document and back-up all information! Maria V. is not forgotten – we will search for her to bring her back to her rightful place in the family tree!

Unexplained Urgency Part II

February 10, 2009 at 17:41 | Posted in ancestry, family research | Leave a comment
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There is an urgency in my spirit, a deep longing so intense it burns to “flesh out” the branches of our family tree. I feel almost consumed, obsessed with the desire to find more of the elusive branches and twigs of our tree. Almost like small black olives on the trees back on the family farm, these names cluster to form a bowlful on the table or a big jug of green oil, pungent and nurturing, but the seeds dropping to sprout more trees slowly slowly growing into a tree of their own. The bible talks of the sturdy olive tree planted by the waters, strong and ageless.

So it is with our Italian family – strong and steady, nurturing yet humble. I’ve not found poets, artists, famous or infamous persons — just common everyday folks like so many others. Villagers, farmers, charcoal makers, butchers – no candlestick maker yet. But they were solid people planted firmly in the earth of their homeland, never straying far from one another — seeming to take their strength from one another, from being so connected to family.

These are the ones now calling me with a greater urgency. As I find new members, the call gets stronger and more urgent. It becomes a persistent calling as if they say, “Hurry! Hurry — I am waiting! I’ve been waiting for so long!” What is it that these souls want? What secrets do they hold for us to discover? Is it that they want so to be remembered, to be known? Or is it more that they want me to be found? So they want us to know how wanted we were/are, expected, thought of, and even loved before we were? Is that their secret? They knew we would be part of them and they were content to live their lives knowing that the future would be secure in our hands as they passed that love of family above all else down to future generations?

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