In this episode, our own co-host Anthony Fasano breaks down his recent trip to Italy during which he visited the ancestral villages of seven of his eight great-grandparents. Anthony did what many Italian Americans hope to do at one point in their lives – connect with their relatives who never left the homeland. During this episode, he not only shares some stories of connecting with his family in Italy, but walks us through the steps he took to prepare for the trip and the actions he took in those small villages to find records and connections.
In the Italian American Story Segment, we interview Lou Del Bianco, a man who has spent years fighting to get his grandfather Luigi the recognition he deserves. Luigi Del Bianco, an Italian immigrant, was the chief carver of Mount Rushmore, but if it were up to the history books and Mount Rushmore’s officials, this would remain an unknown fact; it’s thanks to the work of Del Bianco’s descendants that his story is becoming known. More during the episode….
“One of the great joys of traveling through Italy is discovering firsthand that it is, indeed, a dream destination.” – Debra Lavinson
- “We never knew that my grandfather had a middle name Giorgio.” – Anthony Fasano on finding his Italian relatives
- “They took us in like family that they knew their whole life.” – Anthony Fasano on his Italian relatives who he found
- “I felt very connected to these people, immediately.” – Anthony Fasano on meeting his Italian relatives for the first time
- “She looked at me like she was waiting for me for years.” – Anthony Fasano on his relative in Italy embracing him
- “Whenever I go to Italy, when it’s time to say goodbye [to my family], we are all in tears.” – Dolores Alfieri
- “It can be a life changing experience.” – Anthony Fasano on finding your relatives in Italy
- “For the past 45 years, I’ve been looking for him.” – Lou Del Bianco on his Italian immigrant grandfather Luigi
- “He was the only trained carver on the [Mount Rushmore].” – Lou Del Bianco on his Italian immigrant grandfather Luigi
- “He put the soul into those faces.”- Lou Del Bianco on his Italian immigrant grandfather Luigi, the main carver on Mount Rushmore
Here are the steps Anthony’s summarized about his trip to Italy:
- Talk to relatives – Try to find out names, birth years, death years, towns they lived in, and any other information about these relatives.
- Online research – Use online ancestry websites to try to find ship manifests and other documents that can help you determine the age of your relatives, their siblings, and the village they came from.
- Find addresses – Try to connect with family, search online by putting in the last name and the village name for addresses and send letters in Italian (include your Facebook profile for ease of connection).
- Social media – Use social media, especially Facebook, to connect and get to know your Italian relatives before you go to Italy.
- Learn Italian – Consider learning Italian to help you really connect with your relatives, and also to help you if you visit the municipality in the village.
- Prepare your information – Type out all of he information you have in Italian to bring to the Comune (village hall). This is important. Type out all of your information and then use the Google Translator to translate into Italian so you can hand it to someone there.
- Visit your ancestral towns (allow multiple days if possible).
- Know when the local Comune records office is open. Call ahead or visit its website.
- Learn enough Italian to ask the right questions, but present the information in writing at the Comune.
- Provide the birth year and last name in the records office, or the death year if the relative died in Italy.
- Ask for a copy of the birth certificate and look to see if the address of birth is located on the birth certificate, and then visit the house.
- Visit the birth addresses and take photos (of course)!
- Go to the local coffee shop and tell them your names to find additional information about your relatives.
- Be wary of people telling you they are your relatives and they are not.
- Don’t short yourself time. Set your itinerary so that you are not rushed in your ancestral villages.
Anthony Fasano and Dolores Alfieri
Co-Hosts, The Italian American Podcast