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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
The Family Tree - June/July 2003
La Genealogia Italiana - Italian

Cav. Anthony Lascio

"Surprises from the Past"

I don't know what you expect to discover when embarking upon the mission of unearthing your roots.  Many genealogists have made surprising revelations among their collection of Italian ancestors.  Let's take a look at what has been discovered by some, including a few of my own mixed in.  Some are bitter, some are sweet.....but they are all true.

+A paternal grandfather who is known to have emigrated to America twice, yet his passenger arrival records have never been found for either time.

+A maternal great grandfather who married four times.  His first wife died during childbirth.

+Great grandparents who married at the ages of 16 and 14 respectively.

+Ancestors who married, each with the same surname, but unrelated.

+Every ancestor, both paternal and maternal, originating from the exact same town.

+An amazing discovery of a Roman Catholic cardinal among the siblings of an ancestor.

+Ethnic connections other than Italian, for example: Jewish, Albanian, Turkish, Algerian and Greek to name a few.

+A remarkable genealogical link to a canonized saint of the Catholic Church.

+A great, great, great grandfather who lived to the age of 115 at a time when the average male life span was 40.

+Paternal lineage traced back to the 1400's.

+Connection made to Antonio Meucci, the Italian inventor who was the original creator of the first telephone.

+Discovering an authentic family coat of arms, which has less than a one percent chance of occurring.

+Inheriting land and a house in southern Italy, which had been passed down by numerous generations for several hundred years.

+A paternal family surname that is completely extinct in Italy today.

+Accepting the reality that a bomb in World War II destroyed every record for a particular Sicilian town.

+Obtaining a death document stating an ancestor's cause of death as an "earthquake".

+Maternal great grandparents who had seventeen children, but only eleven survived to adulthood.

+A ship manifest of the Lusitania, listing an ancestor who emigrated to America on that ship's last voyage before it was sunk by a German torpedo during World War I.

+One genealogist who was greatly disappointed to find a central Italian town he needed to research did not exist any longer as it had been completely abandoned.

+There is the case of a family researcher who discovered his grandmother spent several years in a county work farm drying out from alcohol abuse.  In the same family, he then discovered on an early U.S. census that his own mother was in an orphanage for a time while her mother, the subject's grandmother, was serving time in rehabilitation.  All this was kept in the family closet because it was such a painful experience for them.

+A genealogist was surprised to find a cousin was the mayor of her ancestral town in Sicily when she traveled there to conduct research.  He is a descendant from one of her branches.

These are by no means all of the stories but only a sample, a cross section, of what others have found as they pursue their heritage.  What one individual learns may be similar, it may be different, or it may even be nothing noteworthy at all.  Each individual's ancestry is unique.  The objective in providing you with these true experiences of others is strictly to encourage you to give it your best effort and then enjoy the results.

What happened one hundred, two hundred or more centuries ago in history should reveal a great deal about who you are and who you descended from.  Remember though, with each generation the data grows more scare.  Eventually, beyond the second or third generation preceding you, generally what is available may only be names, dates and places.  But that's okay.  It is precisely that pattern of data which can carry your research efforts back several hundred years and possibly more.  This joy of discovery is exactly what genealogy is all about.  Don't lose sight of that objective.

Family surprises from the distant past can be fascinating conversation and look great in a family history book, but there can also be a revelation of sad and sometimes sorrowful memories of how some of our ancestors struggled with their lives in a time much different from today.  Put everything into perspective.  Appreciate who they were.  Learn from their mistakes.  Revel in their achievements.  But above all else, pass it on to your children, grandchildren and future generations of descendants. What a legacy!!!

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