I have always been interested in finding out about my Italian family, but the roadblocks were almost impossible to maneuver unless I were to make a special trip to Italy and spend lots of time in the churches or city halls. But Familysearch.org changed all that by making some Italian civil records available online (and they keep adding more)!
Lo and behold, when I looked up what was available, I found that the province of Padova, in the Veneto region, had online records!
My mother’s family “immigrated” from there to Lago Maggiore in Lombardy back in 1936, so I knew that I might have some luck in locating information about them while they lived in Padova. I began by finding out where my mother and her sisters were born – that gave me the name of the town in the province. People didn’t move around as much back then, so once you have the name of the town, you can usually find loads of family members’ statistics. And I was right! The records I found contained a lot of information – among them parents’ names, locations of birth, and whether the parents were alive or deceased at the time of whatever event you are researching. The records available online are from 1871 – 1910, and they contain birth, marriage, and death records, and therefore I knew that I should be able to find information about my grandparents within those years, as well as their parents (and maybe grandparents). With just a few simple word clues, you can decipher a lot of information from those documents (of course, it helps immensely if you can read Italian). For instance, if the words “fu” or “furano” preceeded the names of the parents, that means that they were deceased. If it said “di”, then chances were they were still alive. It was tedious going through all the records, but fortunately there were yearly indexes to help with the search. The hardest part was keeping all the clues straight! I had to make a spreadsheet and cross reference all the information I found to see if they really were part of my family’s branch of the tree. I was successful in tracing my grandfather’s part of the family tree back 4 generations! I also unearthed a mystery which I was determined to figure out!
My mom’s mother died when she was 9 years old, so she really hadn’t ever spoken to her about her family back in the Padova Province. But her father lived into his late 60’s so I thought she’d have more information on his family. Unfortunately, I was wrong. He never really talked about them, other than to say that he had lots of brothers and sisters. Well, from doing the research, I realized why he never spoke of them – when he was just 11 years old, he lost both his mother and father (and baby brother) within one year of each other, leaving him and his 7 younger siblings orphaned. But who took care of them? Who raised them? These are the kinds of questions that genealogy research leads to – these human interest stories that make you want to find out more. I was like a dog with a bone and needed to find out what happened. I decided to try something the old fashioned way and did a white pages search (online) for my grandfather’s last name in the vicinity of where they had lived. I found three people with the same last name and decided to write them a letter. Yes, a real letter! In that letter, I described who I was and mentioned the names of my grandfather’s siblings, in the hopes that one of them had descendants still living in the area. In this letter, I did give my email address so that communication would be easier! A couple of weeks after my letter went out, I received an email response from one of them. I found out that they weren’t direct relatives but shared the same last name. She told me that she would be glad to help me find my relatives! She was so nice and I feel like I made a friend – these are definitely the benefits of putting yourself out there and asking for help. People are more than willing to help you!
My second response came about a month later and it was the answer to all my questions. The author of the letter was my mother’s first cousin, whom she never met because she never went back after she moved to Lago Maggiore. Back then, if you moved even only a couple of hundred miles away, you may have well moved to the moon!
Communication, many times, sadly was lost. Not because of family feuds but simply because it was just too hard. Anyway, this letter contained photo copies of pages from a typed manuscript which detailed what happened to my grandfather’s family. Turns out that his parents and baby brother had died of cholera, during the outbreak of 1910 in the Veneto. When they had fallen ill, they had sent the other children (my grandfather included) to live with the grandparents and an adoptive uncle. This adoptive uncle had, at one moment in time, more than 21 people in his household to take care of! Amazing that families cared for each other so closely! This manuscript was written like a story with heartfelt words. But who wrote these beautiful words? How can I get a copy of the entire manuscript, which I’m sure has lots more family treasures? These are questions that I posed to the author of the kind letter after I profusely thanked them for sending me these treasures. I am currently anxiously awaiting their response! I can’t wait to find out more, and I’m so thankful that my curiosity paid off!
The next part of my search: my maternal grandmother’s family! Hopefully I’ll unearth more lovely stories about my ancestors.