Thursday, June 7, 2012


I first happened upon genealogy almost accidentally. It actually started when I was trying to create a tree of my current extended family because part of it is a "big, fat Italian" family which my husband can't keep track of. But in order to head the tree, I needed my great grandparents names so I asked my mom and she happily supplied them.

And then came the fateful moment when she said to me "You know, I have the names of their parents too, if you want." Sure, why not? What could happen? That I would find it so incredibly fascinating that these people I'd never even heard of had been a part of my parents and grandparents lives that it would launch me into years and endless hours of both frustrating and exhilarating research? Nah! How could I have imagined that's what would happen?

I was fortunate that my maternal grandmother had already done a lot of research on her tree and also some on my grandfather's. She had inherited or collected dozens of photographs dating back to the 1860s, diaries, family bibles, and even love letters from the 1830s. So I had a lot of material to work with on my mom's side. Even so, I have accumulated even more information and generations my grandmother had yet to find. I wish she were still around to see her tree today, I think she would have been thrilled with what I've found and also amazed by some of the online resources available.

Because of this, I really focused on my mom's side of my tree when I was first starting out and somewhat neglected my dad's side, which was an entirely different story in what I had to work with. My paternal grandmother, my Nan, was a full blooded Italian whose ancestors had immigrated mostly in the early 20th century. They brought little with them and much of what photographs or documents they may have acquired post-immigration was lost in a fire. If they had knowledge of their own ancestors who lived and died in Italy, it was not passed down the generations. Therefore, my Nan's tree dead ended with my second great grandparents. And given the lack of Italian records online, that is pretty much where my Nan's tree has stayed.

My paternal grandfather, my Pop, had some information on his mother's side of his family, which was useful in tracking back further. However, he had little knowledge of his father's side. When he was a child, his parents had divorced and his father had effectively abandoned the family. They did reconnect when my Pop was an adult with kids of his own, but the driving force behind the reunion was his father's third wife. The damage that had been done never really allowed for a close relationship between my Pop and his father so it's not surprising they never really got around to discussing much about their heritage.

And my research was inhibited further by the fact that I'm currently living in England. I have one known English branch on my mom's side but otherwise, I had to do all my research, including post-immigration in the United States, online with only brief bursts of offline research when I would visit my parents in Pennsylvania, where most of my ancestors eventually settled (well, where all of them eventually settled).

As I started hitting brick walls with my mom's tree, I started turning more and more to my dad's. Sure, it's more difficult to research when you have less to go on and with one exception, I haven't gone back nearly as far in generations as I have with most of the branches on my mom's side. But this can make it all the more rewarding when I do find records. While I have struggled to find older generations, I have focused intently on analyzing the lives of the names I do have already and it has been more rewarding than name-collecting. I've applied these deeper analysis to my mom's side too and the result has been an accumulation of stories which I'm complying into a book. I may share parts of it here.

So, this is my story. I thought I might share in a blog my journey through my genealogy adventure and perhaps along the way, readers might find it interesting or even helpful and share their own experiences in turn. I don't consider myself an expert genealogists, especially since much of my research has been restricted to online. Nor am I a professional writer. But even so, in much the way I felt the urge to write down my ancestor's stories, I also felt the need to put down my own.

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