Delfina is a decendant of a lawyer from 1827 whose daughter married into the nobility of Alfadena. She wanted to learn more about her Picinisco roots. Our day started at 8:45am with coffee in the town square in Picinisco and moved to the town ‘anagrafe’ office where we were allowed to make copies of the 1827 marriage record of her GGGrandmother and the birth records of her two sisters.
We had established that the most likely habitation of this family was the ‘frazione’ of San Gennaro. I had never been there but we set off up the narrow winding road, full of potholes and hairpin bends. We pulled into the town square where there was only a dog to greet us. The silence was deafening, the air crystal clear, and the panorama indescribable. We felt like we had reached the top of the world but we were still surrounded by mountains. We started to explore the tiny streets and were eventually greeted by a man who was renovating his home. When he heard we were searching for the Arcari family he called his wife (an Arcari herself) who promptly invited us into her home for coffee. Sitting inside a house built around the time (maybe earlier) that her GGGrandmother was born, in front of an original open fireplace where a log was slowly burning was a moving experience for Delfina. But the surprises were not over. Our new friend took us back to the square and banged on a few doors until she found the keeper of the church key, and the custodian of the locally produced DVD, just published, about San Gennaro Past & Present. Naturally we each bought one at 15 Euro’s each. The church was in two parts. The original church built in 1703 is now the sacristy with the new church built on to the front during 1870 and named in honour of one of its biggest patron’s Gennaro D’Ambrosio.
Our return to the main town of Picinisco was uneventful and after a nice lunch we met Maria Laura at the church and began 4 hours of research into the paternal family line. We had a couple of stumbling blocks and then hit a brick wall in the early 1600’s just as our time was up. Fred had been in charge of photographing all the records we found and I created a back up, just in case! Good thing I did, Fred’s camera was on the wrong setting and the next day he was horrified to learn that all the photos he had taken that day did not register. All was not lost. Delfina, got her back-up copies of the records along with a GEDCOM File of the search details before she returned home to America. All part of the service.
I visited San Genarro in 1979 with a close friend Guliana Arcari. She was visiting family there and I accompanied her as part of a holiday in Italy. When we arrived our first stop was at a small shop which seemed to sell everything imaginable under one small roof. The greeting Guliana received was heartfelt and then the owner turned to me saying “Questi occi di occi di Valente” Gillian’s advised him that I was a Scottish friend and dismissed his instant recognition of something in my eyes that proved a resemblence to a local family. He even took me outside to show me the Valente family home. Not speaking Italian I did not interrupt their fond reunion but once outside I told Guliana my father’s middle name was indeed Valente. At the time I new nothing of where the name came from or why my father had this name but I was certainly intrigued to find out on my return. It was a strange experience and one I have never been able to let go of. On my return I informed my father of my encounter and asked of the origins of the name. He disclosed that his mother had had a love affair with an Ernesto Valente but in the 1920’s in Leven in Fife Scotland Italian boys with Scottish girls was greatly frowned upon. As a result they were split up by his family and later she discovered she was having his child. When my father was born the Valente family tried to take the baby but failed to succeed but over time Chalotte Wishart left her baby with an elderly couple to bring him up and he never saw her or the family of his birth father again. Naturally growing up feeling abandoned he had no desirae to find his mother or Italian roots. Ever since that visit to San Genarro this story has fascinated me and I have tried to trace both of my grandparents but with no success. Looking back I wish I had started my search sooner but I felt I had to respect my father’s feelings.Sadly he has passed away. Since that time I have had other incidents of being told I looked very like a Valente. One cousin of GulianA’s who has a house in San Genarro told me she thought the likeness remarkable! I’m not sure if this story will ring any bells so many years later but who knows. That encounter in the village ignited a curiosity that has never gone away. Jane Wishart ( Fox)
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I can probably help you to solve at least a part of this mystery by using bth civil and parish records. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a quote and provide your father’s date of birth and the names and ages of his parent’s if known.
This type of child abandonment was common in Italy but I find it strange that a Scottish girl (family) would have done it this way.
My 4th great grandmother, Sabina Cervi, was from San Gennaro, she was born around 1793 and passed in 1855 in Pizzone. Her parents were Giovanni Cervi and Mariarosa Santangelo. I would love learn to more about San Gennaro.
San Gennaro is a small hamlet outside of the main town of Picinisco. IF you would like photos of the church and town email me at email@example.com