How it Started

When I was 12, I found a blank ledger book. It was a treasure beyond treasure to me. I debated and debated about what to do with it - it had to be something special. Finally I decided to make a list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to see in my life and then cross them off when I had accomplished them. At first they were simple things, but soon I was adding dramatic things, impossible things, but things still worth dreaming about. Oddly enough, putting them on the list somehow made them attainable. I have kept the book and updated the list my entire life. Here is the story behind some of the entries - successes and failures, embarrassing and proud moments, laughter and tears - the ridiculous to the sublime!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Find Nana's Village in Italy - DID IT

My Nana's (grandmother) family immigrated to the United States from a small village in eastern Italy when she was seven years old.  She traveled across the width of Italy to the port city of Naples presumably in a animal powered cart as only well-to-do people owned automobiles in 1911.  She rode steerage class across the Atlantic through Ellis Island where her beautiful Italian name Maria Giuseppina Iorio, was Americanized into Josephine Yorio.
We traced her likely path from Naples, around the Appennine Mountains and into the hill country.  Thank goodness for GPS, or we would never have found her remote village balanced on the top of an unnamed hill. The village had 1100 inhabitants when she left, today its population is just over 600. These rural hill villages are dying as so many young people leave for the excitement and jobs of the bigger cities. In spite of that, it was a charming tidy village. The church where my great-grandparents, Angelantonia Mastrogiacomo and Dominco Iorio, were married and where my grandmother and her sister were baptized, was closed due to damage from the 2009 L'Aquilla earthquake 100 miles away.

We wandered through the quiet streets hoping to locate City Hall where we might find some information on her family. Along the way I photographed this narrow alley with several doorways opening onto it.  I couldn't imagine how anyone could live in such a confined space.

 The wonderful people at the Municipal records office were very helpful. They found my grandmother's birth records which noted her home address. The gentleman, Tomaso, in the office guided us straight back to the location I had photographed an hour earlier.
 My grandmother's house was on that very alley.  Of all the streets and alleys in the village, why was I so drawn to that one before I even knew it was my grandmother's house?  I will always wonder about that.

I stood in the doorway of 3 Vica Arnaldo, and finally understood why Nana occasionally referred to me as "The Tall One," although at 5'-3" I would hardly be considered tall unless I was standing next to her. The house had two small rooms, one on top of the other.  One door downstairs and one window upstairs were the only sources of light and ventilation. No wonder taking their chances on the unknown in America seemed like a better option - it couldn't be any worse.

The home had obviously been abandoned and locked up many years ago. A small hole in the door allowed us to poke a camera inside and blindly photograph the interior. It wasn't just that my grandmother lived there, it was that she and her younger sister were born in that room. 

My dad actually said it best.  After seeing the dozens of photos we brought back, he said, "It sure helps to explain their lives over here."

Stay tuned for the story of finding my grandfather's village nearly destroyed by the L'Aquilla earthquake.  See more photos on my Facebook page.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kathy, I would love to have you guest blog at about finding your ancestral village in Italy--or use this post from your blog. Would you be willing? I had a similar experience in Calabria, visiting my great-grandmother's birthplace, Scigliano. reach me at frykhaven (at) yahoo (dot) com.

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