Fragile Family Friday – January 22nd

January 22, 2010 at 01:12 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, Fragile Family Friday | Leave a comment
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Today I have decided to add another category to my Carnival of Genealogy blogging: Fragile Family Friday. There are times we realize more than others how tenuous and fragile the threads of family are that bind us together. So I am instituting this new category to highlight those moments. I won’t promise this will be an every week occurrence but rather I intend to save it for those unusual times that deserve to be remembered. So today’s post is a bit unusual for my normal posts but one I think we should take to heart. Family ties can be fragile for a whole variety of reasons. Sometimes, the connection isn’t a clear one but family always referred to a person as a member of the family. Or perhaps it was a step parent or child accepted without question. Or as in this instance perhaps it deals with the concept of we are all one family ultimately. We as genealogists (even we amateurs) often say we are amazed and saddened we didn’t pay closer attention to stories we heard concerning family when we were children. We usually have lists of questions we would ask if possible now of our ancestors if ever given a chance anew.

This week as my sister and I worked on a memorial tribute to our aunt, we poured over old photographs. We chattered away with all the expected questions: “Where was this taken?” “Who is that?” “What’s his first name?” “Whatever happened to them?” Aside from the typical scenario, all of us are in the midst of another tragedy. This past week Haiti was decimated by an earthquake. As with most natural disasters such as a library roof cave in last year in Germany or the earthquake in Abruzzi, Italy, we can only imagine the terrible loss of vital records. Haiti is such an economically poor nation and many of its people do not have a solid education. She has already often suffered with massive hurricane damage so it is not to be expected that reclaiming lost vital records will be a priority for them. The thousands of orphans will have a potential to be adopted but certainly will not have the option of tracing family through unsealed court records given most are now lost forever.

Most genealogists applaud the tremendous efforts of the LDS to microfilm and preserve records from around the world. This time we will most certainly not be able to rely on stored records. So for this Fragile Family Friday I want to propose a suggestion to all of us. Right now there are many organizations collecting funds and that should take priority for now. But we genealogists should consider another donation – that of our time and knowledge. We can help future Haitians who would want to trace their family trees. As with the slavery generations of the US, many times we will stumble across snippets of information in other unrelated records. Keep a separate folder or computer file for these tidbits. Remember to note the sources too. Someday we can all submit these to recreate many of those lost records. It will be a case of indirect information but for someone hoping to find any trace, it will be meaningful. Another way to help is to volunteer your time. Many of us live near immigrant communities. Many of us work with Haitian immigrants. Maybe a group can form to make a short trip together to one of the communities a bit further away. All of us have plenty of knowledge of how to fill our pedigree or family charts. This is the time to gather as much verbal information from elderly members as possible. Maybe they can recant the names of a family who lived near them. Perhaps dates will be sketchy or unknown but names or partial names remembered along with the town. Bit by bit we can help these wonderful people reclaim a proud heritage. We can do this now before a generation is lost forever. This is something we can do at little expense financially but it will produce an invaluable gift to future generations. Family is fragile – we can teach how to protect it in a very special way.

September 11

September 11, 2009 at 08:16 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Current Events, Political Opinions | 2 Comments
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Today many of us are recalling where we were that fateful morning. How many times do we do that exercise concerning the extreme events of our lives? Where were we when the call came that so and so died or was in an accident? I remember where I was for the Big Blackout of the 1960′sw, the riots of the Democratic Convention, the assassinations of JFK and RFK, the first Space Shot for the US, the first step on the moon, the Day the Shuttle blew up (both of them, I witnessed the first in person here in Florida) – my list goes on and on.

And I remember 9-11. That particular morning I was at work, alone in the office. I had a little portable 9 inch TV without cable. I was listening and watching The Today Show as background noise instead of the radio. It seemed time stood still as I watched the first video images of the plane hitting the Tower. Over and over it was played and I could not look away. My boss phoned in, he had heard the radio and wanted to know if I was watching it on the TV. We were in shock as then the second plane hit. We knew then it was not merely a tragic accident but something more sinister. And I cried. The decision was made to close the office immediately – we would do no more business that day but go to our families to be together, to hold them, to love them, to pray for others. No one knew if we were at war or what the next steps would be. We never suspected within a short time that we would hear the tragedy of two more planes approaching their destinations. Life as we knew shrieked to a halt!

I’m the mother of four sons. I began to feel a deep pain in me, deep in the pit of my soul that mothers have felt from time eternal. Would my sons be called to go to war, would we hang stars in the front window? Would this be like other wars? Pride and fear mingled as my young sons discussed their futures. Still too young to go into the service, they nevertheless were realistic and willing to serve if needed. No false visions of glory of war blinded them. They had seen the ravages of the family home that had been bombed to almost nothing in WWII before their father was born. Our family did not lose anyone that fateful day and yet it felt as if everyone lost was part of our family. I cried with each poignant story or photo wall or missing person’s poster that was shown. I felt their despair as so many searched for any shred of information about missing family.

I refuse to be pulled into the political fracas of groups such as The 9-11 Truthers. This tragedy was already politics at its worst. It was and is equal to any other war declared or not. I wish, no, I pray that we have had enough lives lost, enough wars. I pray for better solutions, better diplomacy but the reality of life is that wars exist. Mankind is not perfect. People fight, argue, rob, steal, kill. If we cannot convince father to not beat wives, to not rape children, to not kill each other or teenagers to not kill for someone else’s IPhone, war will not cease as men fight over land. War will not go away and men will not be tolerant of the rights of others to live, to exist. When we have zero murders in our small towns and our large cities, then maybe we can share how with other countries to live a better way. Apologizing to them for slights real or imagined will not make them like us or listen to us. Telling another country to stop building bombs will not guarantee them obeying or caring what our opinion is. Have we been a perfect country? No. Do I believe our government is perfect? No. DO I believe our government caused, or even allowed 9-11 to happen? Do I believe they knew and turned a blind eye? No. Is it possible I am wrong? Of course. But our country is still one of the greater ones. Since the beginning people have struggled and been willing to risk death to come here. They still do. They come because they dream of a better life here, convinced that what we offer is better than what they have. Few try to build rafts to sail from her to anywhere else. Our celebrities tell us that other countries are better, that we are wrong. They tell us those other leaders, dictators are really heroes and intelligent individuals. Fine – but then why do they choose to stay here and enjoy the benefits of our evil capitalistic society? Our country has not always been perfect and yes, she has even been wrong. But she has always been willing to give of herself to others and help where ever and whenever she can. She has joined in fights not of her own choosing, not of her own making.

One thing is certain as I reflect back on 9-11. It has been said that for one moment in time, one proud moment we were all Americans, all one family united in our pain and in our resolve. I say we are still one family. All of us. We are united still in our pain and in our pride and resolve. Some of us choose never to forget, to not lay blame at the foot of Lady Liberty. Rather we choose to support her tired arm as she holds up her torch. We are proud of our country – we still grieve for those lost on 9-11 and we will not forget them. We will not let their deaths be in vain to serve other’s agendas. This country is still the home of the brave, the home of the free. We are willing still to rescue those in need.

Sleep well precious souls of 9-11, sleep well. We stand guard still. We will not forget you – we stand united in our resolve, our pride, our love.

Open Doors…Closed Windows

May 26, 2009 at 09:08 | Posted in Amore di Italia, ancestry, Bits and Pieces, Itri, Italy | 2 Comments
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Most of us have heard the expression “God never closes a door that He doesn’t open a window…”. I personally believe that myself …but… doors and windows seem to evoke other feelings and thoughts for me.

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When I look at a door, a closed door, I want it opened. I want to see in that door. I walk past a closed door or window shuttered and I want to throw them all wide open – to peer into every corner. Not that I want to be the local peeping Tomasina or anything like that. Well, maybe I do??? Hmmm. Guess I might need to think about that…. Nah. I don’t. But I do want to see in all those closed doors and shuttered windows. I want to know who is behind Door # 1 and 2 and 3 and …


 052609_1307_OpenDoorsCl2.jpgI think about the people who live there, what their lives are like, what they wanted it to be like. Were they disappointed, happy, weary? I try to imagine myself inside those doors.. would I be happy there? Was life there what I wanted life to be or would I be disappointed, looking for something more? This is never more true than when I gaze on doors and windows in Italy. I have 052609_1307_OpenDoorsCl3.jpgdreamed for so many years of living in Italy that I wonder if I would find what I dream about or not.

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 But what about those doors and windows that are opened and can never be closed again? Those doors fascinate me even more, if that is possible. I wonder so about the people who lived behind them at one time. Were they there when tragedy struck? Were they a happy group or were they simply getting by emotionally and physically? Did they have the same dreams and prayers that I do or were they too busy to think about a future? Or were they dreaming of emigrating to somewhere else…were they looking for a new life? Why is it I see those 052609_1307_OpenDoorsCl5.jpgpeople as someone with feelings and emotions and dreams and hopes for the future? I can almost hear their laughter around the table as fathers and mothers sit with their families. The sounds seem to still drift from those windows. 052609_1307_OpenDoorsCl7.jpg
 052609_1307_OpenDoorsCl6.jpgIt bothers me more that in today’s crazy world, others can look at the ruins and see joy that an enemy is destroyed. Do they not hear the cries of the children? Do they not think of the pain of the mothers who weep for their children? Do they not see the people as people? For me I wonder if those families heard the bombs, knew the last seconds of terror that they would die? When I see the bombed ruins of Italy I wonder so about those precious souls. My own mother in law heard the planes coming. She ran out from her house to see the plane aiming low and she sought refuge in the arched door of a church. She survived but hundreds died that day and 65% of the town was destroyed. These people who were farmers for the most part – and certainly no one the soldiers needed to fear. But the enemies were hiding in barns and alleys and other buildings and needed to be routed out. Those buildings sit still as silent reminders to the horrors of war but I listen instead for the laughter of the children, the joy of the parents. I chose to remember the families who lived there and see them like myself dreaming of a better future for the children. Throw open those closed doors and windows… maybe sunlight will allow others to see and hear them too. 052609_1307_OpenDoorsCl8.jpg

Sentimental Journey

January 7, 2009 at 14:51 | Posted in family history, family research | Leave a comment
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This month is always a letdown from the holiday hustle and bustle. But it also is a welcome relief – December is not only Christmas but also an anniversary month but additionally a birthday month for more than five people in our family! Sigh…. but we love them all and would not ever want to ignore!
Unfortunately, this month has also seen the passing of a brother-in-law in Italy and a cousin here stateside. Both were people we loved and enjoyed being with. This bittersweet time has taken me on a very sentimental journey as I think about family and pick up my genealogy research again.
What courageous folks my husband’s ancestors were to make the journey here to the US shortly after the turn of the century. They had no idea for sure what they would face – only the promise of a better life by those they knew who had sent back word. And how did that word get back to them? Most were unable to read and write – education even for the young was only affordable by the very wealthy in Italy. TV was not available, not telephones, certainly not Internet. Yet these brave folks were sure that they would find a better life for their families. We have all seen photos of the big city tenements and sweatshops. Most immigrants would settle in neighborhoods where others of the same ethnic background lived in order to be able to speak to others. Language was a huge barrier for many in addition to learning new money, new attitudes, new ways of life.
Val’s family seemed to settle for the most part in New York and in Rhode Island. Cranston, Rhode Island became a little enclave of folks from Itri, Italy. Therefore many family traditions and Italian culture remain to this day. We are blessed that our family held on to some of those special memories. It is my hope that by taking the travel back in time working on their family tree, I will pass those same traditions — and wonderful values of family — on to our future generations.

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