A Funny Happened on the Way To……

July 5, 2009 at 18:18 | Posted in Amore di Italia, Bits and Pieces, family research, genealogy, Hints and Tips | Leave a comment
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So here I am “wasting a day” reading all my favorite blogs and I get introduced to another one (thanks to Generations Gone By – again I might add!) who set me to  Genealogue which is one of the funniest sites with still offering great tips and information alike. Admittedly they also offer political commentary as befitting the subject but even if you do not agree, you will enjoy the humor! The information is great though and we should all want to be informed even if we end up disagreeing!

Update on Trip

May 2, 2009 at 17:01 | Posted in Trip to Italy 2009 | Leave a comment
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The trip is wonderful – perfect t! Only a couple minor problems that will not ruin our time here – a car that will not allow me to charge cell phones or laptop, and a frustrating lack of an Internet café handy in Itri! Seems the ones we knew about are gone — and any others are well hidden because no one seems to know about them if they exist! Internet connections here are slow slow dial ups so I am not going to worry about it! This may end up not being a bad thing as it means I will spend time relaxing instead of writing blogs daily and being tied to a schedule. It means I can relax with no obligations to the world back home for now – something I have needed. I am enjoying being free avoiding the usual exhausting tourist routines and just taking whatever comes as it comes.

It is drizzling but our plan is to drive to Latina to visit another sister today and her family. Again I get to be lazy in the backseat and doze! I am so enjoying this!

Lunch is again a complete family affair and sisters share more recipes for me for the cookbook! Soon cooking and recipes leads to more family stories and we are all laughing and crying as stories are shared. All too soon it is time to return to Itri – we have an evening appointment with the priest at Chiesa del Annunziata to try to find Valentino’s grandfather (whom he was named for).

Next morning: We met with Father Giorgi last evening and he was more than happy to help us with our quest. To see old church registers with hundreds of years of history of all the important life events of the town’s residents was awe-inspiring. We have narrowed down the birth and death dates now due to the sisters all sharing bits and pieces of information. He died as a result of an auto accident – a speeding car (a wealthy individual from Rome) hit him as this vital 85 year old walked home from the farm. It was a very traumatic accident in the area for everyone, not just family. We hoped therefore that information might appear. We also suspect he was one of five or six brothers or siblings so we want to track as much as possible. There are a few points everyone did agree on – he was a very strict parent/grandparent. He would warn the little ones to not trample new seedlings – they were his work! He was renowned for his skills as farmer/gardener. And he absolutely loved and adored his tiny wife Cristina. In our one photograph, he towers over this tiny little woman and holds her hand protectively. They tell the stories of how he treated her like a little china doll. This was quite a remarkable fact given that most men of that era treated their wives as property and mere slaves, not friends and lovers. This man made no attempt to hide his feelings for her – what a legacy to leave his heirs! In the photo he wears a black arm band as a symbol of mourning for a son who died in another tragic accident at work in a sand quarry. One strange fact – he normally wore Roman style sandals and this was the first time in a long time he wore shoes – and the photo was taken only fifteen days before his death! At eighty-five he still walked several kilometers each day back and forth to work his farm. Hardy stock like most of the folks of Campodimele.

Master of Lists…or ?

March 26, 2009 at 16:49 | Posted in Bits and Pieces | Leave a comment
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I am the original authoress of lists – seriously – I must have invented the concept – or at least I perfected it (?) – I certainly have managed to take it to a new art form. I will grab a scrap of paper and write a list anytime anywhere. Speaking of scraps of paper, I never met one I did not like so I am also very good at saving scraps of paper – old envelope backs are wonderful, cut bottoms off partially used papers, turn over misprint pages, etc. Anyway, once more in my life I digress. I love to write lists.

I find myself rewriting these lists to consolidate and re-date them. There is comfort in seeing all my bills listed in neat (or not so neat) rows, tallied at the bottom. To the side paychecks are listed and subtracted. Sort of like a budget maybe? (he he) Or how about long lists of tasks to be done, things to not forget to do. It seems at time my time is so over-scheduled, it is easy to forget to do something. Did I remember to write down sleep on any of this week’s lists? An agenda list is nice to have. Then there are those long time lists, the goals, the things I would like to accomplish in my life. And places to visit. My favorites places folder on my PC is FULL of those lists. Everything neatly categorized – until I try to find something I know I read somewhere once before – sigh.

But these lists are not an obsession. I can survive for days without thinking about one and I certainly do not obsess when I lose one or do not have paper at hand to write one down. There is no stress in not making or reading lists. It is just a de-stresser for me when I do have a list to cross off as I go along. A safety valve of sorts to be sure I have not forgotten something when I am so busy all of the time to take enough time to not forget something. Phew. Anyway no stress about it as I go along crossing off my lists if something is undone — well, let me qualify that. There is some stress on the bill thingy part – unpaid bills are stressful, especially if not paid because I forgot them or forgot to cross them off the list (we are NOT going to talk unpaid because I ran out of money first – THAT is beyond stressful and worthy of its own blog). Usually within a few days all items are crossed off of one list and it is crumbled and tossed or shredded. Soon another list is started on another scrap of paper. Sometimes months later I will find an old list in a book or in an unused purse. It is fun then to see what was finished, what was accomplished, what is still undone (that bedroom floor comes to mind here).

I often wonder now if blogging isn’t just another form of lists? An extension of writing lists as we try to make sense of life around us or a hobby, a passion? A list like a blog is a tool to organize our thoughts.  Pleasure and relaxation can become objects of guilt if we are neglecting those other pesky necessary details of life. If we cross off enough of those, do we earn free time, me time? Or is it the me time that gives me the impetus to cross off more of the obligations times?

So it is the same with blogging for me. It allows me to sort and list, to organize, to cut through all the little details, to find the nugget at the center. And it becomes the ultimate list of myself – here and now – and the travel back to family long ago as I do research. It is a comparison list of now against then as I use it to guide me forward and backward towards family and myself.

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.

An Almost Tragedy

March 4, 2009 at 11:01 | Posted in genealogy | Leave a comment
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Last week I almost lost an ancestor – or at least the proof she was ours. It was a frustrating experience but it was “only” paper technically. She had been dead over 150 years and no one I know knew her while she was alive – matter of fact most did not know she personally existed ever. Sure, they knew someone was married to great great grandfather but no one ever thought about it before. Now they are more interested.

This week a friend called many times from out of state. We live several states apart and we see one another rarely. We originally met right here “online’ in the vast Internet world. It was (gasp…) over ten years ago already in the then so new chat room environment. And from ‘chatting’ and then sharing online IMs and online bible studies, we graduated to phone calls and then to the actual face to face meetings! Sure wouldn’t recommend that scenario to anyone anymore knowing what we all know about online predators now! But I digress – sorry! She phoned because her elderly and not healthy Mom had gotten on a bus to the other side of the US and did not arrive when and where expected to!

I could hear the pain in my friend’s voice and feel her panic. She tried calling bus station after bus station across the country seeking any snippet of information or at least some advice. It was little to none. All I could do from this distance was pray and try to offer words of comfort that seemed so empty. We could complain about the lack of responses and this could bring us to new causes to embrace such as authorities listening to a family sooner rather than later when even an adult is missing.

It brought back painful memories of a  visit from my mother in law many years ago. She was in her eighties traveling from Italy to Boston to visit family. She would spend 6 weeks in Maine with family there and then make a flight from Boston to Orlando to visit us. Family drove down to Boston to meet her flight. My husband was not at home – he had gone to help a friend a few miles from us for the afternoon when the phone call came. Mama had not gotten off the plane in Boston. A quick check with the ticketing agents showed she did not make the connecting flight from NYC. Family was near panic level. The first step was to gather up Val and get him back to the house to inform him – a not so pleasant task. And then everyone waited for me to spring into action. I called the airline and got nothing in response. Then I tried to phone the Airport Authority – seemed logical that police would search the airport for her. What a foolish assumption that was! So I began a series of phone calls to first the corporate headquarters of the airline – it was a weekend but I left voice messages with every executive’s answering service I could. And then I began calling every airline ticketing agent I could think of and beg them to contact agents in NY. About two hours into this the phone call came. A Delta agent saw an elderly woman sitting on a suitcase crying. She took the time to speak to her – the agent spoke Spanish and Mama spoke only Italian but they understood each other relatively well considering. Mama had our names and phone number – soon she was on the phone crying with her son in Florida! Then this agent got her on a flight to Boston to family – pretty remarkable considering her original tickets were not with Delta. The next morning we received several phone calls and apologies along with restitution from the original airline (no longer in business interestingly enough). Tragedy averted.  About the same length of time elapsed for my friend and she too finally heard welcome news. Mom had also missed a connection – or at least it ran behind what everyone thought. Another tragedy averted.

And then there was last night. I am babysitting – or actually dog-sitting – for vacationing elderly parents. Their dog is a huge beautiful black standard poodle. She is a love bug and a half with one bad bad habit that no one has broken her of. She sees an open door and bolts for it – and she is gone! Yesterday I went out for a bit. Upon returning home I saw my front door wide open in the cold weather here – not normal for us by any stretch! Seems the sons had gone out and not closed the door tightly and wind blew it open. Misty was gone! After frantic phone calls, all four sons appeared to help search. Poor husband drove back and forth up and down the streets as did the sons. We walked the neighborhood calling her name. No one was reporting her seen even. It was looking uglier by the moment. As I walked, I phoned my friend and asked for prayer – realizing it was not like her Mom missing but this was not going to be easy to tell my Mom about!  Misty is a vital integral part of my elderly parents’ lives. Most conversations always include something Misty did or was doing as we spoke. We’ve even been appointed her guardians if and when something happens to my parents. They did not want her going to an animal shelter naturally. After about three hours I was spent emotionally and physically. I collapsed on the couch in tears when one of my son’s friends came in the house calling me. “Mom – why is Misty running loose out here? She won’t come to me!”  Sure enough – there she was cowering behind a neighbor’s car. Once she saw it was me, she went crazy jumping and yelping and wagging her tail! Tragedy averted! Again!

But – this got me to thinking. What important places of honor our pets are to us! Did our ancestors also have favorite animals? The cattle baron must have had a favorite breeder. Or how about the poor farmer? What importance did his best milker hold for his family? Did the shepherd have a special dog that worked the herds with him? Or did grandma have a favorite cat that slept at her feet near the fire on cold wintry nights while she read or knitted? How many of us have added that special animal to the family genealogy? Even though not technically a relative, they were sure to be a part of the family and certainly played a role in family history. I am going to go back and devise special pages for these beloved creatures. I want to share a bit of their history with future generations in order to share a more complete family view. How about your families? Did they have some special members that deserve to be included?

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.

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?

Hello world!

January 5, 2009 at 23:00 | Posted in Administration Sticky Notes | 5 Comments
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Welcome to my blog for and about our Family or anyone who loves Itri and Campodimele, Italy! Entra, siedi e goditi una bella tazza di cafe metre navighi! Come in and sit for awhile! Enjoy a cup of espresso and browse! Read a little history of Itri and of our family. Mostly this blog will concern ourselves about family – and our passions, joys, tears, sadness – as we journey back in time to research our family roots and as we share the joys of our expanding family.

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