Fred had wanted to meet some of his Italian ancestors for several years and had even visited his ancestral hometown of Luco dei Marsi and talked to someone with the same surname without confirming a relationship.
This time he asked for my help and our research came up with some names of people who were potentially still alive. The search had also lead us to the neighbouring town of Collelongo where the family had lived for over 50 years. Further research showed that prior to this, the town of origin was San Vincenzo Valle Roveto.
What a day we had together. We began our tour with a visit to San Vincenzo Vecchio. The original town which had existed for centuries before the earthquake of 1915 had destroyed everything and forced most of the townspeople to move the valley below where a new town was constructed. The old church of San Rocco had been rebuilt but the sacristan directed us to an ancient monastery built in 1400 which had survived the ‘quake and almost certainly would have been frequented by his ancestors. Amazing!
The ‘new’ church in the lower town was closed for repairs so we were not able to research the family in the parish records. Undaunted we set off for Luco dei Marsi where I had requested that the Clerk prepare some civil records for us to pick up as we were not allowed to search the records ourselves. I could see why. The records were stored in a cupboard 12 feet up and needed a ladder to reach. We would not be covered by the town’s insurance if we fell off the ladder so a ‘do not touch’ rule applied. She did get down a couple of the books but all were without indexes which explained why she had not done the search for us. This means we must now resort to parish records to get the information we need as on-line records only go to 1865, but not today, unfortunately.
It was nearing 1pm so we set off for Collelongo and were quickly directed to the only restaurant in town La Torre, which was located in a tower dating back to 1200. They have also 4 bedrooms with private baths, a fabulous view and the food was exceptional. Our next stop was the parish church where just one ancestor was baptized. The baptismal font was the most unusual I have seen. Do you agree?
Now for the best part of the day. Meeting relatives. I never phone ahead as it is difficult to explain how someone is related 3 generations ago and it is so easy for them to say ‘no’. We presented our selves at the address I had found bu there was no response at the door. A flour mill was in full production below the house so we went to inquire if they knew the lady in question. He did! He was her son Fabio and thrilled to meet his new American relatives. His mother had gone out without her cell phone and he didn’t know where to find her. (My guess was the hairdresser!) In the meantime we moved on to our next ‘relative’, an elderly man, who was not in good health and very deaf. Fortunately a neighbor intervened and we were able to get photos of his parents to fill out the family tree.
Before going back to our first relative, we visited the parish Church of San Giovanni Battista where Fred’s Grandfather had been baptized and almost certainly his Great-grandparents had married here.
Back at the flour mill, Fabio’s mother had still not arrived home but he wanted all our contact information so he could telephone the day with his brother who spoke some English. I feel and American vacation coming on…
Fabio loaded us up with bags of his biological flour explaining that is was not chemically processed. I can’t wait to make some fresh pasta. Not sure how Fred is going to cope with his bags of flour but he was on too big a high to worry about that. His dream of meeting his Italian family had come true. Now his next step is getting citizenship and why not?
I think he will be coming back more often don’t you?
Wonderful story. I look forward to future posts with vigor. Keep up the great work.