When I was 12 years old, I knew nearly half of what I know now about my maternal Italian heritage. Now, 5 years later, I’ve added close to 3 generations of ancestors to my family tree, some in which my nonni (grandparents) hadn’t even heard of. Along side that, I’ve uncovered rows of sisters and brothers, including their children, relatives living on a different continent over than Oceania and Europe, as well as finding documents, certificates and photos presenting the evidence.
My awesome nonna (grandmother), has told me time and time again when she was a little girl in her village in the Tuscan mountains, how the parents and elders wouldn’t tell the kids anything about anyone, “cosa vuoi sappere?” (“what do you wanna know for?”) as she says. This saying, and the countless stories she and my nonno have been telling me over time, have lead me on this mission to uncover the people who lead to the creation of me, my sister, my cousins, my uncle, my mum, my nonni, and their parents. For a long time I have always been defeated by the fact that in such isolated villages of theirs in the Massa-Carrara province, they would of never kept records like the city people from Firenze (Florence) or Roma, or even like my ancestors on my father’s side, the British and French who kept endless piles of documents and censuses containing the details of every birth, death and marriage, even in the smallest of villages up to the biggest cities like London. However, late last year I found records displaying my great grandfather’s journeys to America, as well as my 2nd great grandfather’s journey and countless other relatives searching for work abroad in the 1890’s and 1900’s. My nonni and I thought that was pretty amazing, until the Christmas end of December, when I discovered over 5000 pages of birth, death and marriage certificates from the commune of Licciana online, all the way from 1866 to 1910.
These pages included the birth certificates of my nonna’s parents, my nonno’s father, countless aunts and uncles, as well as their grandparents, including finding my nonna’s great aunt who sailed to America, married and had a family of her own. The feeling of finding your ancestors is overwhelming and what even more special is when you see that on the face of your grandparent, who thought they would never be able to find out who their ancestors were.
So, these holidays, and the holidays after that, I am embarking on this mission to uncover the people, and the facts, of the Italians who lead to me. And maybe I’ll chuck in some tips to help you embark on an ancestral adventure of your own. Buon anno tutti!