My genealogy interest began in the 1980’s. Researching my mother’s English ancestors seemed like a piece of cake compared to researching my father’s Sicilian roots. For many years I was at a dead end until the fall of 2014 when I visited Palermo, Sicily and worked with a local research guide. We were blessed to locate and reconnect with living relatives, after a 100 year disconnection, due to the death of our great grandfather, Angelo Comito.
Since then, my Sicilian passion has been ablaze! I found digitized church records via familysearch.org and discovered my Comito family tree as far back as the 1600’s. In the spring of 2015, I returned to Sicily and stayed with family. They opened their hearts and homes introducing me to traditions, culture, foods and day-to-day life. I am in communication with my Sicilian cousins on a weekly basis. At the end of July, I am returning to Sicily for a third time! Call me obsessed but I’m already budgeting for a fourth visit to Sicily in 2017 or early 2018!!!
However, the family circle was completed in June when my Sicilian cousin Leonarda and her husband Antonino visited America to celebrate their 50thwedding anniversary. Our American cousins exposed them to our culture, cuisine and families. They were not too happy with the cuisine, just saying. But the most touching event was the day we went to Coldwater, Michigan, located 2 hours southwest of Detroit and where my great grandfather Angelo died and is buried. As we stood at his grave, Leonarda was deeply overcome realizing in that moment she connected 100 years and thousands of miles with the great uncle she never knew. Time and eternity melted away as Angelo’s family was unified again.
With popular television programs like “Who Do You Think You Are,” “Genealogy Roadshow” and the PBS series “Finding Your Roots” people are drawn to learn more about their ancestors. If you’ve ever desired to know more about your family roots but were not sure where to begin, or if you’re feeling overwhelmed, I recommend starting with a few sites:
- familysearch.org free account to search US/international digitized documents and valuable resources (access to thousands of digitized Church records)
- ancestry.com this is a fee-based site, rates are monthly, quarterly and yearly
- myheritage.com a free site to limited search, but rates apply for full access
- http://libertyellisfoundation.org/passenger free account to search passengers and ships to America via Ellis Island
Don’t be surprised if you see errors, like misspelled names and incorrect dates. Also, if you’re researching southern Italian ancestors, the women do not take the last name of her husband. They keep their maiden names their entire life. Also, if you’re on Facebook, search genealogy sites, like Sicilian, Italian, or German pages. People can give you tips and also help with translations, usually at no cost.
One final tip: If you do not have a computer or Internet access, no problem – visit your local library where staff is more than willing to assist and services are free.