02 August 2019

Adding Family Branches from Another Hemisphere

We used to look for our name in local phone books. Now we simply go online.

I could happily spend every day piecing together my ancestors. For the rest of my life!

On any given day, there's nothing else I'd rather do. It's addictive in a way that's good for your brain. It's your own personal jigsaw puzzle.

Last weekend I started working through my collection of Italian vital records. I want to review each one and see if it fits into my family tree.

I went through every birth and death record from my grandfather's town of Colle Sannita for 1809 and 1810. Most of the people had a connection in my tree! A baby's parents were already there. A deceased person's relatives were already there. So I added the new facts and document images to my family tree.

It's a wildly time-consuming project, and I couldn't love it any more.

Sometimes, though, a bright, shiny object will appear and distract you.

Can you see yourself in the faces of people from your homeland?
Can you see yourself in the faces of people from your homeland?

The object that distracted me on Monday was a photograph of Filomena, born in Colle Sannita in 1896. I don't know how else to say it. I loved her instantly. She brought out all my childhood feelings of love for my grandparents and their siblings.

The woman who posted the photo of Filomena lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She said she was eager to learn about her beloved grandmother's family, but can't seem to get anywhere. She needed help.

Immediately, I opened up my collection of Italian vital records. I found Filomena's 1896 birth record. Unfortunately, her parents were not in my family tree. But I'm connected to at least 90% of the town. Surely I could find a connection.

Would you have helped this woman? Knowing there was a good chance she was your distant relative, and knowing that you had all the documents. Wouldn't you help?

I jumped at the chance. She and I began chatting on Facebook. I kept combing through the vital records.

Filomena's mother's last name was Cerrone. I have a 3rd great grandmother, plus her father and grandfather, named Cerrone. They were from Colle Sannita, but there weren't a lot of Cerrone families in the town.

When I couldn't find a birth record for Filomena's mother, I looked one town away in Circello. My 3rd great grandfather—the one who married my Cerrone 3rd great grandmother—was from Circello. It seemed like a good place to look.

Sure enough, I found the 1870 birth record for Filomena's mother in Circello. I kept digging into each side of her family, in Colle Sannita and Circello. I located siblings for the last person I found. I worked my way back to their parents' marriage. That gave me another generations' names.

I've added 48 of Filomena's ancestors to my family tree so far. The whole branch is still disconnected from me, which is shocking.

I'm building this extended family, detached, in my family tree. Hopefully the connection will come.
I'm building this extended family, detached, in my family tree. Hopefully the connection will come.

I must keep going! Filomena's Cerrone grandfather, for example, had 6 siblings. I must have marriage records on my computer for them. There's a very good chance a Cerrone sibling married someone already in my tree.

I'm eager to find the connection and open up an endless resource for my new friend in Argentina. Our ancestors traveled far from home. Their town's descendants share deep, common roots. And genealogists know how to honor those roots.

I'll leave you with a challenge today. Search Facebook for a group dedicated to your ancestor's hometown. You may find vintage photos, important connections, and distant cousins.

Will you find a fellow genealogist in the group? Together you can spread your shared roots further and further around the world.

I'm eager to get back to my pet project, but first, I need Filomena to be my relative!

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