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 on Treasure Chest Thursday
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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 | 3 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!


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!

Addition to Wordless Wednesday

August 5, 2009 at 10:54 | Posted in Amore di Italia, Bits and Pieces, DiCrocco, family history, genealogy | Leave a comment
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Favorite Photo Ever - 1977 Italy

Favorite Photo Ever - 1977 Italy

I am blessed! It’s still the same!

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 | 1 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.

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