Saturday, June 24, 2006

A link to the Past - Castelvetrano

For years and years, I searched records upon records, quizzed elderly aunts and my poor mom to find out more about our family's history -- where my grandparents were born, where in Italy my great-grandparents were from. No one could tell me....those things were rarely talked about in my mother's generation, or if they were, they weren't recorded and thus, never remembered.

After more than 20 years studying anthropology, I decided to record my own family's history -- or as much of it as I could elicit from my parents (my grandparents on both sides died so very young and thus I didn't know them). So before my father passed away, I recorded many of his stories, interviews and the like, and continue to do the same with my mother. But getting past their generation to know my ancestors was exceedingly difficult.

I wrote to the Immigration Office two or three years ago requesting information about my maternal grandfather. Two years ago I received a letter from Homeland Security saying they had my request and I would hear from them. Another year passed and I thought my request was lost. Until yesterday ...

On the day I knew my cat was gone and I was mourning her loss, the mailman delivered a CD with EIGHT pages of immigration information about my grandfather! Talk about an emotional rollercoaster! I was OVERJOYED!!

Within all the legal documents was the city in which my Nonno was born: Castelvetrano, a city in the province of Trapani, Sicily, Italy. MY GOD! A most precious piece of ancestral information!

I called my mother, and needless to say, she was as thrilled as I was! And my sisters were incredulous to know that my request wasn't really lost after all this time and that they, too now had a most wonderful piece of information!

I spent most of yesterday, after making jam, touring Castelvetrano via the Internet and wondering what my grandfather's life must have been like there. I knew he was orphaned when he own parents died when he was a child. He was raised by an aunt (NO one knows her name, DRATS!!) on a farm (we think near Sciaca ... about 50 miles from Castelvetrano since my Godmother believed my grandfather came from Sciaca). When C and I visited Sicily last year, we toured Trapani and took the road not TEN MILES from Castelvetrano ...touring the hillsides (GORGEOUS), farms and olive groves in that area. We also toured Sciaca ... so we were actually in the area where my nonno was born and raised.

Yet to have this confirmed, just thrills me beyond measure! So I sketched Chiesa Madre de Castelvetrano (the Mother Church of Castelvetrano) in honor of my Nonni.

(I'm a bit hesitant to add watercolor to this since it took me HOURS to do this simple rendering.)

I have a list of additional relatives to submit to Homeland Security .... in hopes of finding additional links to my ancestors. Until that information is uncovered, if it can be, I will bask in this link to a place I fell in love with while I save my nickles and dimes to return there again armed with a bit more 'famiglia' than I brought with me last year.


Tami said...

This is a touching story, Lin. Thanks for expounding on it, you mentioned it at EDM but it is so nice to really hear details! Your drawing of the church is lovely! I understand the hesitancy to add any color and know how long pen and ink drawings take, especially for us who are still learning! I think it is very beautiful just as it stands and may look more in keeping with the time you are thinking of, in simple ink.

cosmos said...

Very nice indeed. Do more.

starrgirl's world said...

what a great story! and such perfect timing as well. I am drawn to Italian things - my grands call me "nonna". I'm so happy you had this nice surprise and your drawing is wonderful!

Terri said...

Oh Congratulations Lin!! I can understand just how you feel. I've been researching my family history since my early 20s and know the excitement of a new (and unexpected) piece of information that leads you to a place of origin. And how wonderful that you were there so recently. Those will be (even more) treasured memories now for sure. :o)

Anonymous said...


Thank you for sharing your life us.

It is strange how a sad event can be followed by an unexpected joy. What a great treasure you now have.

Keep drawing those fruits and vegetables. Your shading and colors make them so ripe and delicious.


Lindsay said...

Waht a great sketch and a beautiful story. So glad you have your information now.

Laura said...

How absolutely wonderful, Lin! I can practically hear you jumping up and down from here ;D. Who knows what doors this new information will open in your life---and in your heart? (And the information yet to come!) I KNOW you're piling up those pennies as fast as you can, waiting for the next trip to Sicily!

Bonny said...

This is such an awesome story, Lin! Now you can really appreciate those holiday memories and have a closer tie to your Nonno. That's so encouraging to hear that a government office does really pay attention to the requests of people. Good luck with further searches and family connections.
É veramente "Buona Fortuna"!

Teri C said...

The story is as awesome as your sketch! This building is so different from your usual and so well done. Keep it with your records.

It is so fun to sit with a family tree and wonder about their lives, loves, family and their culture in general.

A happy day superimposed on a sad day.

Alison said...

A lovely happening - good luck with your further search. My sister's partner is scicilian and they recently spent 3 months staying with his extended family who were INCREDIBLY welcoming. My sister is now learning Italian and they are planning another visit.

AnastasiaC said...

This is a great post!!! Im so glad you got the mail you were waiting so patiently for!
I hope you can get to visit the town again real soon!

Kay Cox said...

What a wonderful gift. Nice to know that Homeland Security is doing something so beneficial even if it took a long time. And I love your project of recording your family history. I should try to do the same. Kay

Felicity said...

What a fantastic piece of news (and what timing, life is so strange sometimes)! I love southern Italy, you must be so proud to be able to claim it :)!!