Flower power

The writer’s cousins in Potenza, Italy: standing (l-r), Angela Tolve, her daughter Rosa Mancinelli, and niece Antonella Tolve; seated, Angela’s husband Antonio Mancinelli.

When you have ever tried to trace down distant cousins, particularly in overseas nations, you know the way tough it may be, and that you’ll have to be resourceful. I’ve used totally different approaches in numerous circumstances in Eire and Italy, and typically succeeded. However often sheer serendipity works its magic. This account is especially touching for me as a result of I met my aged Italian cousin unexpectedly, due to a confluence of fortuitous circumstances, as I neared the tip of an unproductive week in search of cousins in southern Italy. However this happy-ending story additionally holds some ideas and classes which will assist you as effectively.

One pair of my Italian immigrant great-grandparents, Gerardo Smaldone and Rosina Tolve, married in New York Metropolis in 1892, however I had no thought the place they got here from. In February 2002 I circulated a draft chapter on the Smaldone-Tolve department of the household to a batch of my kinfolk, asking them to assist fill within the blanks. Later that 12 months a distant cousin advised me that when she was going by way of the possessions of considered one of Gerardo’s deceased single daughters, she discovered Rosina Tolve’s marriage certificates that listed Gerardo as Maldone; higher but, she additionally discovered Rosina’s Italian passport dated 29 March 1891! The latter revealed that Rosina got here from Potenza, a small city in Basilicata, southern Italy.

What a breakthrough! Utilizing microfilmed civil registration and church data on the Household Historical past Library (FHL) in Salt Lake Metropolis and at my native Household Historical past Heart, I discovered Rosina’s household. Realizing Italian immigrants’ propensity for residing amongst and marrying inside their very own communities, I puzzled if Gerardo may additionally have come from Potenza. Certain sufficient – I quickly discovered him and his household within the Potenza data and traced my Smaldone and Tolve relations again a number of generations and ahead into the 20 th century. Rosina was the primary of eight youngsters born to Giuseppe Tolve and Angela Maria Lucia Brienza, and all emigrated to New York and Colorado besides the youngest, Rocco. Years earlier I had found the identical sample within the case of my immigrant Irish grandmother Annie Grennan: the oldest little one of Patrick Grennan and Annie Flatley, she emigrated to New York first and was adopted by all her siblings (brothers) besides the youngest, Patrick. After monitoring down and visiting Patrick’s descendants in Eire, I finally mustered up the power to do the identical for my Smaldone and Tolve cousins in Potenza.

Rosina was the primary of eight youngsters born to Giuseppe Tolve and Angela Maria Lucia Brienza…

My spouse Judy and I deliberate a mixed vacationer and analysis journey to Italy for October 2013, so I took non-credit Italian lessons for 2 years at the area people faculty, studying sufficient to “get by.” We signed up for a 10-day bus tour of southern Italy to get acclimated after which deliberate to take a prepare from Rome to Potenza for every week within the hope of monitoring down my Smaldone and Tolve cousins. Within the meantime I immersed myself in analysis and outreach efforts. The civil registration data listed avenue addresses, so I compiled lists of all of the addresses in Potenza the place my Smaldone and Tolve kinfolk lived into the early twentieth century. I additionally wrote letters to the native registrar’s workplace (Anagrafe), asking for a certificato di stato di famiglia storico (certificates of household standing, akin to a household group sheet) for the dad and mom of each Gerardo and Rosina. I by no means obtained a reply concerning the Smaldones, however after a number of months I did get the certificates for Rosina’s household, displaying that her youngest sibling Rocco died in Potenza in 1971 – that, as associated beneath, unexpectedly turned out to be the important thing to discovering my cousins. As for outreach, I posted notices on Italian family tree web sites, and despatched Fb messages to Smaldones and Tolves who lived in and round Potenza, however to no avail.

Having failed to attach with any cousins upfront, and with our journey quick approaching, my solely hope was to seek out them in particular person whereas in Potenza. Utilizing the Potenza addresses I compiled, I ready a discover to submit at each tackle I might discover. The discover (in Italian, after all!) offered a private introduction and genealogical background about my Smaldone and Tolve great-grandparents, named the final relative recognized to have lived at that tackle, expressed curiosity in assembly anybody associated to the ancestral households that lived there, and gave my contact info. We spent a lot of our time in Potenza trekking up and down the streets that criss-crossed this hilltop city, taking images of addresses the place my ancestral relations resided within the early 1900s, and scotch-taping notices on each one! Alongside the way in which we seemed for companies with the household names (none), and requested individuals we met in the event that they knew Smaldones or Tolves. Sadly, none of this yielded a single contact!

As the tip of our keep in Potenza neared, I started to lose hope of discovering any cousins.

As the tip of our keep in Potenza neared, I started to lose hope of discovering any cousins. I solely had one card left to play – going to the city cemetery to search for graves of ancestral relations, particularly my great-grandmother’s youngest brother Rocco Tolve. A younger man who overheard us speaking about get to the cemetery provided to indicate us the way in which! He led us there, down the hill to the outskirts of the city. I confirmed workplace attendant Vito Vaccaro considered one of my notices about looking for ancestors and cousins in Potenza, and the names of Potenza ancestors for whom I had demise dates. He advised us that the cemetery opened within the mid-Twentieth century, which dominated out looking for any recognized Smaldones. It was Rocco Tolve or bust! I advised him that Rocco was my great-grandmother’s youngest brother, that I used to be a relative from the USA, and that I hoped to fulfill cousins in Potenza. He seemed within the ledger and located Rocco’s 1971 burial, then summoned somebody to take me to his grave. Rocco was buried in a vault that even had a small photograph of him.

I took images and was about to depart once I seen the flowers on the vault. Might they lead me to a relative who positioned them or paid for flower service? I went again to the workplace and requested Mr. Vaccaro about it, nervous that privateness may preclude getting any info. However he shortly seemed in his pc and gave me the title and tackle of Angela Tolve! That evening within the resort I used on-line maps to seek out out the place she lived, which was down the hill simply outdoors of the outdated city.

The subsequent morning I walked to her condo advanced. The constructing was locked and I didn’t see Angela’s title on mail packing containers outdoors. I hung round awhile, and was about to depart when a person got here out of the constructing. I requested if he knew Angela Tolve and defined why I needed to fulfill her; he took me inside and knocked on her door. I stayed a number of respectful ft behind him as he greeted the sweet-faced aged girl who answered and launched me to her, as I interjected often that my great-grandmother was her father’s sister. At first she appeared befuddled, incredulous, even suspicious, however I advised her sufficient about our households that she ultimately believed me. A giant smile immediately appeared on her face, and he or she invited each of us in, shocked and touched that I got here all the way in which from America to seek out her. She launched me to her husband Antonio Manchinelli, and referred to as her daughter Rosetta (Rosa) and niece Antonella Tolve. They rushed over and greeted me excitedly (hugs, after all!). All of us chatted, confirmed outdated images, had a snack, and took our personal images of his historic transatlantic household reunion. They invited me and Judy to dinner the following evening at Antonella’s house, our final in Potenza.

A giant smile immediately appeared on her face, and he or she invited each of us in, shocked and touched that I got here all the way in which from America to seek out her.

Rosa and her husband Francesco Pallante picked us up at our resort and drove to Antonella’s house, the place we have been met by a batch of kinfolk; sometimes two or three extra individuals got here in, all hugging and welcoming us. We ate effectively, toasted usually, exchanged household info, and seemed by way of two packing containers of outdated household images that Antonella had. In the end, a cheerful confluence of concerted effort and luck had introduced me face-to-face with my Tolve cousins in Potenza, from which my great-grandmother and just about all her siblings left for America starting within the early Nineties. We nonetheless be in contact, and a few my American cousins have additionally visited them in Potenza. Angela and her husband Antonio lived into their 90s, and not less than Angela was capable of meet her American cousin. Possibly I’ll return some day to proceed my seek for Smaldones!

This lengthy journey provides ideas for others looking for and meet overseas cousins:

• share your analysis along with your prolonged household, and maintain asking for his or her assist;

• it pays to trace down distant cousins – as I found in 2002, you by no means know what household tales and data they might should share, particularly in the event that they break down brick partitions;

• when looking for cousins in overseas nations that you simply plan to go to, attempt to make contact upfront – my efforts failed, however yours is perhaps extra fruitful, notably for those who attempt a number of strategies like posting notices in native newspapers, or asking native clergy to place notices in bulletins,

• for Italy, reap the benefits of the Anagrafe to request, effectively upfront of a go to, the certificato di stato di famiglia storico for every household of curiosity;

• make lists of addresses the place your Italian ancestral relations lived – use them to seek out and {photograph} these websites, and to submit notices there – once more, this didn’t work for me, however hopefully you’ll have success;

• when on web site, go to the native registrar’s workplace – they are able to join you with descendants of your ancestral households;

• and, after all, go to cemeteries – flowers or different remembrances left at a grave could lead you to your cousins, as they did for me; or, if permitted, go away a be aware in a plastic bag for the following relative who visits the grave.