Everyone in my family knows how obsessed I am about genealogy. Completely obsessed! So it should come as no surprise that one of my favorite TV shows is “Who do you think you are“, who just wrapped up another season on TLC.
Up until this past season, my favorite episode hands down has been the one where Rita Wilson not only finds out she had a brother that died as a baby, but also reunited with her uncle she didn’t even know existed! The reunion with the 96 year old was one that left me teary eyed and it was the only episode I watched multiple times. Who can forget what he said to her when he hugged her? “I had to live this long to finally meet you!”
This season though, the handsome John Stamos (I could watch this man do anything! ) was in for a surprise as well. On his way to Greece to find out more about his roots, he found and chatted with a long lost 1st cousin of his dad, who showed him the cemetery where all his family is buried, and he also found out that his great-grandfather was murdered-which indirectly led his grandfather to move to the US after his great-grandmother was left in poverty and was forced to sell lands and more.
His story resonated with me not only because the area he was in resembles Italy and the cemetery is practically identical, but also because I recently found out about my own 2nd great-grandfather’s murder. A few months ago I found out that one major Italian newspaper (La Stampa), who happens to be very close and around the area my family is from, had been digitized and the archives were free to search. Along with many death and marriage notices I found about my grandparents, which helped expand my mom’s family tree with a lot more information, I was also looking for any news about my great-grandparents and beyond. I did find some, but one branch was eluding me, especially one particular ancestor. I knew my 2nd great-grandfather’s name (the paternal grandfather of my maternal grandmother), approximate birth/death, area he lived, and even what he did for a living, but I could not find anything concrete. Then I came across a death notice of sorts, in the news section. It stated that my 2nd great-grandfather was robbed and stabbed several times and survived long enough for his horse to bring him home, where he died. I have no proof this is really him, mind you, but the name, age, year of death, location and what job he had fit perfectly. I am now looking to find more information. We’ll see. My niece is going to help me since it’s hard to find things when you’re across the atlantic.
It’s interesting to note that his son, my great-grandfather, also died quite tragically in 1919 at 39 years of age. According to the stories we’ve been told, he was an avid fisarmonica player, and he played in local bars at night. On one particular cold and snowy February night, as he was on his way home, he tripped and fell into a ditch and lost consciousness. He froze to death. His wife was just barely pregnant, and had a baby girl that November. That girl, my great-aunt Domenica, passed away only 7 months ago, one month shy of her 97th Birthday. Not too shabby! Her sister was my grandmother Stella, my mom’s mom, which passed away 40 years ago of lung cancer which had spread from breast cancer. They did a double mastectomy to prevent the cancer from spreading, but it was too late. This is why I am so vigilant and paranoid about getting my mammogram done every year.
I think the reason why I love the show so much is because they put stories behind people’s names and dates. It’s very gratifying to learn about your ancestor’s lives and get a glimpse of what they lived through. Many of my ancestors were starving and quite poor people. It makes me realize we are truly so fortunate these days, our lives are so much easier in many respects. Hats off to all who came before us!
Love & Light,