The following is an excerpt from my book, Forty Days in Italy Con La Mia Famiglia.
When you say you are Italian or Italian American, what does that really mean?
In my book, Forty Days in Italy Con La Mia Famiglia: How to Research Your Italian Roots & Travel to Italy on Your Own Terms (coming on June 13th), I detail how, over two years, I learned about where my family came from in Italy, found living relatives there, learned Italian, and spent 40 days with these relatives. All of which gave me a connection to my heritage that will last forever.
What I want to share with you in this post is the second aspect of doing family history research. While the first aspect is finding the hard data and facts, like birth certificates, ship manifests, draft cards and other items that can give you the timeline of your family history, the second aspect is much deeper.
This second step is painting the real picture of where you came from. The story of your family. Think of yourself as the director of a movie all about your past, leading up to who you are today. The way you are going to make the movie is by putting all the pieces that you’ve found together. In doing so, you are going to add that creative and descriptive touch so the movie becomes interesting. It becomes a story people want to watch.
This is your story…and through our podcast and my book, we want to help you write it.
In my book, I detail how I was able to paint the picture of my Great-Grandpa Giuseppe. He was born in Sarno in 1891, where his parents raised him and his two sisters. They were raised on a farm (I know this because on the ship manifest he indicated “farm lad” as his occupation). Due to poor conditions (based on what my grandmother told me), in 1914 Giuseppe took a leap of faith, boarded a ship from Napoli, and immigrated to the United States at 26 years old.
He left behind everything he knew to create a better future for himself and his family. The ship’s manifest tells us he took the leap by himself—no one else from his family came on the same ship.
You see the kind of stories you can start to build and pass down to the next generation? They are rich, and they are who we are, but unless you take action, do the research, and capture the details, your story may get lost.
I hope the resources we have created on our website here, as well as my book Forty Days in Italy, can help you capture and share your story.
While the facts of your family history are critical to your research and should be its cornerstone, they are only a foundation to build upon, and build you should. You should render the story of your family as vividly as you can, both for yourself and for future generations.
Leave your comments or questions about your family at the bottom of this post, and let’s deepen our Italian American Experience together.
You can check out my book Forty Days in Italy Con La Mia Famiglia here.
Co-host of The Italian American Podcast
Author of Forty Days in Italy Con La Mia Famiglia