Tags: ancestors, famiglia, family history, genealogy, Italy, love of family
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?
Tags: conservator, family research, joy, photographs, preserving photographs
I have been pulled in so many directions and left feeling like there is never enough “me time” and that leads to feeling so selfish that I want to be left alone to indulge in my personal passions. Working nights on twelve hour shifts 3 or 4 nights weekly means days spent sleeping. During my off days I work on all the normal family tasks of keeping a house running smoothly and get to relax with my personal projects only in small increments.
One of those selfish projects is scanning all the old photo albums from my own childhood, my children, and any other photos I find laying around. Most of our photos were labeled and stored in albums fortunately but I do have the usual unlabeled ones that take research to learn who those people were/are or where that one was taken and when. One copy of a photo is saved to a file of similar photos and each labeled properly and completely – then the file is both burned to CDs and saved to an external hard drive. CDs will be given to each son along with his own albums of the actual photos. (This cleans Mom’s house in the process too – ha ha) Hopefully it will mean the photos will last to hand to another generation someday and preserve that much more family history.
My dad used to be a part time photographer around WWII era. He would take portrait photographs of the children in the area, my mom would then hand tint them with color in the style of that era – using a delicate hand to bring the photos to life! He then sold those photos to the parents. By the 1950’s he no longer was selling his work but enjoyed the hobby and passed that love and skill on to his daughters.
My grandmother was the family photographer as I was growing up. Everywhere we went, she held her Brownie camera – an old box camera – in her hands taking photos, posing everyone at every chance. Family would be so frustrated as she made each stand for their picture to be taken – sometimes alone or sometimes in groups. They dreaded those photo sessions at every family gathering. I recently realized that is probably what caused me to avoid taking many photos of people. Mostly I have enjoyed photos of places and things, with people only incidently there. Or my real passion has been candid photos of the people taken without intruding, without posing. Instead I love taking photos of people being themselves. My request to our wedding photographer had been to take candids, not pose groups of people.
It is these bits and pieces – candids in time, or a flower, a tree, a mountain,or a landscape, or an object that for me evoke an emotion, a feeling, a memory. It is these photos that speak to my soul, that call to me to be taken. Yet, recently I have found another call to my spirit, a call to photograph faces, expressions, eyes. There is a need to save those snippets, to preserve the emotions shown there. Now it remains to be seen where this new urgency takes me.
Tags: ancestors, immigration
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.