I think Bob would agree that our two days together was worth every penny he spent to have me set up appointments, and the itinerary for his wish list.
Bob, had completed most of his family history research using the microfilms from Family Search and I had filled in the gaps. Now he was coming to Italy to visit the towns of origin of the two lines extending from his two Grandmothers who were both from Ciociara. He would be in Ciociara for two days, Friday and Saturday.
His wish list included the towns of Pico, Pontecorvo, Esperia (Roccaguglielmo), Casalvieri, San Giovanni Incarico, Pastena, Arce, and Rocca D’Arce. He also wanted to visit Montecassino if it could be included. He had questions for the anagrafe in two of the towns on his list and hoped to also access parish records in two of the towns.
May is not a good month to access parish records in Ciociara. Especially the four weeks leading up to Corpus Domini and the First Communions and confirmations of the young people in the parish. One of the parishes was closed to us as there was a local festa in program for that weekend. The other parish priest was involved in a day long program with his confirmation students. However, he was convinced to allow the sacristan to give us access to the church and the records since I was authorized by the Diocese to do research in parish records. Luckily one of the Comune’s was open Saturday morning.
The First day was not without it’s surprises. The sacristan was so taken with our quest he invited himself and his wife to join us for lunch when we asked for restaurant suggestions. It was hard to refuse since he had been so accommodating with the records and had even arranged to open another small chapel for which Bob’s Mother had been named for it’s saint. After lunch we visited Pontecorvo and Esperia before our visit to the Abbazia di Montecassino and at the end of the very long day in Casalvieri we were lucky enough to arrive in time for choir practice so the church was open. Just as we were leaving this magnificent church I noticed an altar close to the exit that bore the name of the Famiglia Zincone. One of Bob’s ancestor surnames. No date, but the church was constructed in the 1700’s so it HAD to be his family. What an emotional find, and we almost missed it!
Outside the church Bob’s companion was talking animatedly to four locals who had just arrived for choir practise. All spoke perfect English and one was even born in Bob’s home state of California. Small world!
Day two had its own set of surprises. The town office let us photograph a marriage record Bob was missing from his tree but did not find the records from the 1809-1865 period we hoped for. They had some but were missing all the marriage records from that period. They did find us an old map of the town which identified the street where his family had lived for centuries and which was now renamed. We set off in great anticipation and there it was, facing a small Piazza and still bearing the number 22. In the Piazza a man was siphoning home made wine into containers supplied by the locals. We sampled it and they produced 5 litre containers for us so we could buy some to take home! It was a scene from the past! Especially the price, 1,20 Euro a liter.
Since we couldn’t do any more than visit the church we set off in anticipation for Pastena with nothing more in mind than to see the town and have a nice lunch. First stop was the church whose doors were closed. Following my own advice I headed for the closest bar and found a white-haired lady who confessed to having the key to the church. Since the bar was also a restaurant, we opted for lunch first then a visit to the church. Lunch was cooked and served by our new friend whose mother bore the same surname of Bob’s Pastena ancestor! She then took us to the church and showed us around. I had been told many years earlier that all Pastena civil and parish records prior to 1900 were destroyed in WW2 so I was surprised to hear her tell us how she had constructed her own family tree with the town and parish records. (Watch this blog for an update on this information)
From Pastena we headed for Arce where we visited the church of San Pietro e Paolo before heading up the mountain to Rocca D’Arce and then proceeded up the narrow mountain road, in first gear, to the cemetery at the very top of the mountain, which almost seemed to touch the sky. The view was breathtaking. No graves of ancestors left here, but interesting to think how the people must have struggled to bring their dead up to this magnificent place which is now overshadowed by telecommunication towers!
Our journey was over, time to return to the land of the living.
Ann, thank you for all your efforts to make this “two-day journey” a reality for me! It would have been impossible without you and your expertise. As I think you know, our collaboration in the service of future discoveries together will continue. I thank you again!
Bob Del Deo