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UPBEAT TIMES, INC. • June 2018 • 27 I
Finding my Italian Roots: A Trip of a Lifetime
by Joanne Mumola Williams, Sebastopol
grew up in an Italian home in Brooklyn, New York. Although my parents were
born in the U.S., all my grand- parents were from Italy and I spent my entire child- hood surrounded by their food, language, customs, songs, and culture. I have always had a strong connec- tion to Italy. I even learned to speak Italian in college (it was not taught to the children at home as it remained the “secret language” my parents spoke when they didn’t want the kids to know what they were saying.) And al- though I have traveled over a million miles in my life and have been to Italy a number of times, I had never be- fore visited the towns where my family was from.
My father’s parents were
from a town called Casamas- sima in the city of Bari. Tey came to the U.S. as newlyweds when they were in their early 20’s. Tey had 8 children and lived a long and happy life but were never able to return to their home country, even to visit. I was told that for their 50th an- niversary, their children saved up for them to either have a big party or to go back and visit Bari. Tey chose a party with their children and grandchil- dren. And what a party it was! My other grandparents came to America when they were younger – my mother’s father
from Messina, Sicily and her mother from Naples. Tey too settled in Brooklyn. Living in certain neighbor- hoods in Brooklyn in the early
parents all the questions that haunt me now. What was it like growing up in Italy? How did you feel leaving your home country? Why did you come to America? Now, as they and all of their children have passed, I have no one to ask. Tey never returned to their country. None of their children or grandchil- dren had been to their towns. I didn’t know anything about my great grandparents.
only had their names and one picture of each of them. I wanted to know more because, as being the oldest gen- eration now (I’ll soon be 70), I knew this in- formation would be lost forever if I didn’t uncover as much as I could and pass it on to my children, nephews,
1900’s was like living in Italy. You could go to the grocery store, the butcher, the fish market, etc. and buy most of your favorite Italian foods and not utter a word of English. You could even buy the Ital- ian
My grandparents Giuseppi Gia- cobbe from Messina and Vin- cenza Gargiulo from Naples.
Il Giornale. So it’s no wonder that despite living in this country for over six decades, my grandpar- ents from Bari never mastered the English language. And although my other grandpar- ents, having come to Amer- ica when they were younger,
spoke both English and Italian, they too lived an Italian life. Unfortunately, when I was young, I didn’t ask my grand-
cousins, and their children. So I’ve been obsessed with putting together the story of my ances- tors. On ancestry.com
I can discover pieces of the puzzle of their lives in America, but I was pretty in the dark about their lives in Italy. As if a sign from the Universe,
we received a brochure for a cruise that went to Italy and the itinerary included Bari, Messi- na, and Naples – All the birth- places of my grandparents. I immediately said to my hus- band, Doug, “we have to go!” We contacted a company
called “Te Italian Side” that does genealogy research. I wanted to get as much infor- mation as I could about my grandparents before the trip. To my surprise, with just the small amount of information I was able to give them (a few names, birthdays and marriage dates), they were able to fill out the family tree for each of my grandparents back to the late
Success is not a good teacher, failure makes you humble. ~ Shah Rukh Khan UPBEAT TIMES, INC. • June 2018 • 27
1700’s! Tey even provided the addresses of where they were born and gave me copies of birth and marriage records from their research. So off we went! In Bari, we hired a guide asso-
ciated with the company to pick us up at the cruise ship and take us to my grandparent’s town of Casamassima. Tere, we visited the block where my grandfa- ther lived, the church where he was baptized and married, and the cemetery where his relatives were buried. It was an overwhelming experience to stand in the very place my grandparents leſt behind and never got a chance to see again. In Messina, because of a mis-
understanding, we thought the port was too far from my Sicil-
... continued on page 30 Weird Facts & Trivia - 7
The average human body is made of 50 to 65 percent water.
An inch of water covering one acre (27,154 gallons) weighs 113 tons.
More than one-quarter of all bottled water comes from a municipal water supply – the same place that tap water comes from.
In a year, the average Ameri- can residence uses over 100,000 gallons of water.
At one drip per second, a faucet can leak 3,000 gallons in a year.
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