This is the short story version of how I got into genealogy:
It was on an evening in December 2010. My boyfriend, now husband, was on Ancestry.com. We were chatting about how one of his relatives had started researching their family tree and had found out a lot of information. The point of interest was that apparently they had discovered that they were descendants of Kings and Queens. (Isn’t that how all ancestry research begins?) So he was on Ancestry to see if he could retrace the trail that led to royalty. I followed along as he excitedly showed me how 25 generations ago his family was part of some ancient royal dynasty. We didn’t know, novices that we were, that ancestral hints on Ancestry could be merely links to other family trees where people may assume they were related to a person based solely on their last name. But the excitement of finding out where your family came from, who the people that carried your names were, and sometimes even what they did for a living piqued my interest.
I did a search for the only three last names that I knew in my family: Mangani, Sulfaro and Stagno. Some results for Sulfaro and Stagno came up, but nothing that I was able to access with a free Ancestry account. I was also slightly disappointed to see that there weren’t any family trees published with these surnames. Most records came from census’ and American ones at that. I needed Italian records.
I didn’t give up. A few days later I was back on my laptop doing another search, but this time it was on Google and I knew another two surnames. My paternal grandmother’s last name: Rapisarda, and Oglialoro, the maiden name of her mother. I did a search for online ancestry records and found FamilySearch. Using the five last names that I knew, I looked for something, anything, that could reveal a link between my grandparents and these elusive, unknown ancestors who everybody had forgotten.
Ramacca, Catania, Sicily.
Yes! That was the name my Nonna had told me. My great-grandfather and in the small town in Sicily where my father’s family were born. But even as a novice genealogist, just getting her feet wet in the ocean of records, I knew that I couldn’t just accept that this was my Francesco Rapisarda. He might be another Francesco Rapisarda. The first record I found was a birth record, with no information on who his parents were – just a birth date.
I did another search. This time for Oglialoro. The maiden name of my great-grandfather’s wife.
b. 18 September 1895 Ramacca, Catania, Sicily.
Parents: Francesco Oglialoro & Gaetana Verde.
Husband: Francesco Rapisarda.
Marriage Date: 21 September 1912 Ramacca, Catania Sicily.
This was it! My very first successful venture into genealogy. It is now the 7th of February 2014 and I have spent thousands of hours, and hundreds of days researching, collecting, emailing and recording information about my family tree. The addiction of finding another member of my family is only surpassed by the unique details that I can find about their lives. From war heroes to foundlings, my research journey has taken me to Sicily, through comune and church archives, ancestor’s homes and cemeteries. I have learned to translate ancient and often deteriorating documents in Italian and Latin, how to operate a microfilm reader, what genealogical websites are most useful to me, the history of the places my family have lived and the most time efficient ways to find new information.
I am 24 years old and with a Bachelor of Arts in hand and a Master of Journalism in the works, I want to add one more thing to my education: the ICAP GEN Genealogist Accreditation. My love for writing, and passion for research can be put to infinite uses as a genealogist. I come from a background of Italians, and apparently, a solid line of Sicilians. I aim to become an expert in Italian Genealogy, with a specialization in Sicilian ancestry.
The purpose of this blog will be to record my journey on ICAP GEN to becoming an accredited genealogist. Pass or fail I hope it becomes a valuable resource to other budding genealogists hoping to take another step in their ancestral journey.
Stay tuned for updates.