Finding Living Relatives

italian5It seems a natural thing to do. After all one of your ancestors left Italy and almost certainly left behind brothers, sisters, cousins etc. Finding a cousin or two would certainly finish off your family tree project in a positive way.
Let’s think this through. It was probably your Great Grandfather who left Italy. He was probably born more than 125 years ago. FOUR generations! Beyond living memory. Even if they corresponded infrequently with the family in Italy, sending money etc., once they died the correspondence would have stopped as most immigrants didn’t teach their children Italian. Their children may have understood speech but to write would have been impossible. So, for the last two or three generations no one has even thought about the ones who emigrated.
While you have been pursuing this nostalgic journey, they have been living their daily lives in ignorance of your very existence.
Let me ask you how many 3rd cousins you are in communication with today? Or even 2nd cousins. I don’t even have contact with some of my 1st cousins in England. (I emigrated to Canada in 1967 although I now live in Italy). Family ties are often weakened by time and distance but at least you speak the same language.
You want to find cousins in Italy but how will you communicate with them? It’s true that children today learn English in School but their parents learned French, and their Grandparents (your closest relatives) often didn’t even go to school beyond grade 3. Email and Facebook are great resources, but without the language how will you cope. Yes, there is Google translator but you will be communicating through their children or Grandchildren who really couldn’t care less.
The best reunions are with 2nd cousins and in person. Someone who remembers the Uncle who emigrated or at least heard tell of him. If you are planning a trip to your town of origin, then YES, let’s do it. Even if you don’t continue the relationship, you will have some great memories, and so will they. You may see the house your ancestors grew up in, and the church where they were baptized and/or married.
If you have no plans to visit Italy and don’t speak the language perhaps you shouldn’t make this contact unless the relationship is very close and you are prepared to invite the family to visit you.


  1. You are so right. The best part of visiting Italy and England was visiting with relatives I never knew and seeing where my grandparents and great grandparents were born. In Italy I have visited and stayed with my faher’s 1st cousins and my 2nd and 3rd cousins. With what little Italian I knew and their limited English, communication was a challenge, but we managed. In England, I have visited my grandmother’s 1st cousins and my 2nd and 3rd. One cousin has traced a branch of the family back to Domesday and I saw homes where they lived in the 13th and 14th century.


  2. Read archives of June 2011. My trip and Ann’s help meant the world to me with meeting the Italian relatives. We still send greetings on holidays.


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