Broke Through My First Brick Wall

I broke through my first brick wall recently!

A metaphorical, genealogical brick wall, that is.

I can’t even describe the surprise, relief, and elation I felt ALL AT ONCE. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime feeling.

My family tree has pretty long branches—some going back to the 1600s even. Except for one lonely, stubby branch. This branch has been lonely and stubby ever since I started researching the family tree a couple of years ago.

It’s my mom’s maternal branch. Everyone in this branch is long gone, and my mom only knows a few oral stories. So for the past couple of years, all I’ve found on her Italian grandparents are a few Pennsylvania census records and a couple of ship manifests (passenger lists).

Anyway. So I had a rough idea of their towns of birth, but I wanted confirmation. I sent away for their death certificates, hoping that they would have their towns of birth listed. Nope. I sent away for their naturalization records, which were not found. I spent hours looking at 20 years’ worth of Gioia Tauro birth records on microfilm, hoping to find my great-grandmother’s birth record, to no avail.

And then.

I decided to look on again, where I had found the Gioia Tauro microfilm. I had checked the available records for Grizzana Morandi, my great-grandfather’s alleged birthplace, before. There wasn’t any microfilm available. But when I checked this time, there was a link. Had I missed that link before?? The link took me to a list of online records! The available birth records started the year after he was born so no go there. I noticed that there were some marriage and death records listed as well. I didn’t think that they would get married in HIS hometown. But might as well check…

I hastily figured out their approximate year of marriage and started looking through the 100-page online document. There was no index; I just had to page through. Now mind you, these documents are all in handwritten Italian. I skimmed name after name until page 24. I read their names incredulously: Francesco Grandi and Francesca Repaci. I let out a gasp. But they were common names, after all. I kept skimming, looking for any other clues. And lo and behold, there were their parents’ names!!!

I yelled; I cried. I have no idea what this record says, but I could make out that they were both living in Gioia Tauro at the time and that civil officers from both towns had stamped the record.

So now I know where they were born: She was born in Palmi, south of Gioia Tauro, and he was born in Vimignano, outside of Grizzana Morandi. This record makes my quest to piece together their lives before their arrival in the United States that much more possible. I’m on the other side of the brick wall…


A page of my great-grandparents' marriage record
A page of my great-grandparents’ marriage record

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