Monday, May 30, 2011

D is for Descendent

My D word is Descendent

I am a descendent of Italian heritage.   All four of my grandparents were born in Italy.  I was the first grandchild born on my mother's side of the family and am the oldest of 27 grandchildren.  I have lost track of the number of second and third cousins on that side of the family.

Ross, and I, along with my sister, Elaine and her husband Al, went to Italy about 5 years ago.  We travelled way up a mountain to the town of Castelnuova di Conza. It is a town in the province of Salerno in the Campania region of Southwestern Italy.  This is where my mother's father and mother were born.

Al is from Italy and of course speaks the language fluently.

We stopped at the local town bar and inquired about a couple of second cousins who we knew were still living there.  Word spread quickly and soon the square was filled with curious locals.  (Especially after Ross and Al decided to buy rounds of drinks for everyone.) They were very helpful and directed us to the home of Giuseppina, my grandmother's niece and my mother's first cousin.

Giuseppina was very wary of us.  In response to our knocking, she yelled "Go Away!"  It took a lot of teasing, re-assuring, and cajoling by Al before Giuseppina finally opened the door, but just a crack.

After Al explained who we were, her whole attitude changed and she very hospitably invited us in for coffee.

Giuseppina is in her seventies and lives alone.   Even though she apparently experiences periods of  dementia, she was able to give us some accurate information about our grandparents.

One of the most interesting and moving things was something that Giuseppina showed us.
She took us into her bedroom.   There was a garment bag hanging on the back of the door.  Al asked her what was in the bag.   She told us that the bag held a dress that she wants to be buried in.  The dress was white because she had never married and was still a virgin.

I was very close to my Grandmother and felt overwhelmed with emotion.  I wondered what her life was like as a young girl.

My particular interest in wanting to visit my roots, was to see if I could find out any information about a family mystery.

In 1913, my grandmother Rachela Annicchiarico, left Castelnuovo at the age of 17 to travel to Naples.  From there she boarded the ship San Guglielmo and arrived at Ellis Island on December 4, 1913.

This was not unusual for that time.  However, the reason Rachela made the voyage was very unusual.
Six months earlier, her father, had also made the journey.   After his arrival to the USA he was supposed to then try to arrange to have his wife and children come over.   The family never heard from him again.

My Great-Grandmother, Assunte, sent her daughter, my Grandmother to the US to try to find her father, Michaelangelo Annicchierico.

She never found her father and to this day what happened to him remains a mystery.

After watching an episode of the TV show Who Do You Think You Are  sponsored by,  I found out that Kim Cattrall  had a very similiar story.
I then became obsessed with trying to solve our family mystery.

I joined and spent several months hunting through records but came up empty handed.

I talked to a few of my aunts and uncles, but each one told a different and conflicting story.
Apparently, my Grandmother would not talk about her father and I sometimes wonder if she actually did find out what happened and was too ashamed to share the secret.

The only way I may be able to put the mystery of Michaelangelo to rest might be to write a story about it and determine the ending for myself.

For more ABC posts visit Learn Your ABC With The Accidental Knitter


  1. Wow. What a really interesting post. I hope you solve the mystery!

  2. What an interesting post. I  wish I had such a rich heritage and interesting family history. All the best on solving the mystery.

  3. wow! chills!  how sweet, special, heartwarming
    and mysterious
    this does have the makings of a great story
    go for it!

  4. Good luck on solving your mystery, what a fascinating post. 

  5. wouldn't it be amazing if you could solve the family mystery

  6. What an incredible story.  I'm thinking how hard life must have been for them all. 

  7. What an emotional journey this must be for you! It would most certainly make an amazing story : )