It’s been an amazing year, with many interesting research works that helped me improve my skills and allowed me to learn new things about this wonderful job.
Here are my “best experiences of the month” for 2019.
Meeting a customer is always a thrill and it’s even more exciting when you managed to discover his unknown Italian cousins and they join the meeting. Being the witness of the reunion between the two long lost branches of the family was a touching experience!
Genealogy is not only names and dates, it’s storytelling. This year’s winner for “gosh-looks-like-a-movie” research is a family from an ill-famed area in Milan, a honest business co-living with a tendency to be involved in thefts, with prison as a result. Researching on old newspapers was like reading a crime novel. The only problem was… how to tell it to my customer!
… then my phone rings and the man the other side of the line has got the same surname I’ve been researching a few weeks ago. He sounds surprised and curious. I think: “it worked again!”
One of the several ways to find unknown relatives is leaving a message at the cemetery. This year it worked several times.
The more ancient are the books, the harder it gets: the bad handwriting is not the only problem (try writing with a goose feather, at candle light and with no glasses!), the worst is when important data are missing, such as parents’ names. When it happens, every new ancestor found is a real joy. In one of the April research works I reached year 1603.
The most important research in May was in a very nice mountain area close to Vicenza, some 400 kms far from where I live. In a 2-days research I could develop my customer’s family tree for many generations and for all branches, and – last but not least – I met very nice people who made of my travel and my research an unforgettable experience.
Top of this month was finding the burying of a soldier died during WWII in Greece. The family had never been informed of the place where his remains had been buried, but thanks to very helpful people in Athens and in Italy the right cemetery was finally found, and a lost grave was given back to the prayers of the family.
I met M., a wonderful woman from the USA, in Switzerland. In the 19th century her ancestors had travelled a lot across the border between Switzerland and Italy and together we followed the same path, visiting the villages where they had lived and stopping, finally, at the church that they had contributed to build with their own hard work.
It was a fascinating “tour in space and time”.
OK, I admit, it was not the result of a single research, but adding the name of the 76th direct ancestor to my customer’s family tree was a big satisfaction! I did not take into account the many siblings of these ancestors and their families, ony direct lines. But the job is not over yet: an entire branch of this tree is still to discover!
Surely the most complete researching experience of this year! It included a pre-job to make sure the town of origin was correct, an on-site research on the beautiful mountains of Tuscany, a visit to the now almost abandoned village and its cemetery, the issuing of birth certificates to obtain Italian citizenship and a transfer to Lucca to have the documents signed and stamped. For me it was a very interesting experience; for my customers, a chance to become Italian citizens.
The October job was intriguing and challenging: discovering the family history of a famous American actor with Italian origins for the PBS TV serie “Finding Your Roots” by Henry Louis Gates jr. It was my first time working for a TV and I had to focus my mind on what could be suitable for a TV program rather than delving into the tiniest details of old records as I usually do. The hunt for interesting stories, the kind and helpful people that I met and the new places I travelled to, made this job one of the most exciting ever.
When I was asked to search the birth acts of grandparents who were both abandoned children, I knew the research couldn’t go far. Well, I was wrong. The relevant archive stored the dossiers of all abandoned babies, and these dossiers include certificates, names of the foster parents, letters with the updates about the baby’s condition… a very deep insight into an ancestor’s life! And – as rare as a gold nugget – the name of the natural mother!
The year ended with the easiest research ever: the parish repository stored a “register of population” written in year 1900 and listing all families that had lived in town since 1634. A single book contained all info of all people of all families. It was definitely too easy to search! The enourmous amount of data filled the previously empty family tree of my customer!