Crolla family legacy

Jan’s mother was born in 1937 in England, more than 100 years after her Great Grandfather was born in Fontitune, a small hamlet outside the town of Picinisco.  Her daughter, who is the family genealogist, wanted to walk the streets of her ancestors and convinced her mother and three sisters to accompany her on this journey of nostalgia.

Say ‘Fontitune’ to anyone in Picinisco and they will ask if you are a ‘Crolla’.  The Crolla family founded this hamlet and they inhabited it almost exclusively for 100’s of years.  It’s deserted now except for the summer months when a few descendants return to spend the summer here.

As we drove the almost three kilometres to the hamlet I reminded the family that in 1825 when Beniamino was born his father would have walked to the town centre with a newborn baby to register the birth and have the child baptized.   It was cool the day we were there but imagine how it would have been in December of 1825. 

Jan had asked me to find the address of the house but since the hamlet consisted of one street only it wasn’t really necessary.  The street was VERY steep and while the houses on the left were crumbling and inhabitable, the ones on the right which had a view of the valley had mostly been restructured and formed a dramatic contrast with the derelict homes across the street.  The street was so steep Jan’s mother could only manage half way and we could only imagine how it was ‘back then’ or even now to live here.  Getting a car to the top would be a challenge.  I didn’t even try.

Convinced that her ancestors had made the right decision to emigrate and make a better life for themselves and their families, Jan’s mother was glad she didn’t have to climb that street every day.

To complete our day I had arranged for the church to be opened and had permission to research some records.  There was an emotional moment standing in front of the baptismal font and altar where their ancestors had stood a century before and also while looking at records recorded more than 100 years ago.


As we chatted over lunch Jan told me of a hospital in Manchester, England where a family tree of two Crolla brothers who immigrated to England was on display in the oncology department.  Apparently these two brothers carried in their DNA a gene for breast cancer and in 200 years more than 31 women, descendants of these two men, had died of breast cancer. Many names on the tree indicated which women were most likely to contract breast cancer.  The hospital is not permitted to contact members of the family at risk so if you know of anyone who may be descended from a Crolla, maybe you should let them know of this study.

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