Genova to me means time to reunite with our Italian relatives and dear friends. Being in Genova provides a feeling which only those who have discovered their roots can fully understand. Every time I come here, I feel something magical happen.
It took me and my American cousin Randy quite a while to uncover our family roots. For me it was 15 years of on again, off again research.
Randy and I were unknowingly working independently and both were at genealogical dead ends. Once we realized we were working toward similar goals we began sharing our information. After collaborating, many of our blanks were filled in, but we were unable to locate the birthplace of our Italian born nonno and nonna.
By 2002 we knew the family originated in small mountain villages in the foothills of Liguria, near Genova. We had some ideas, but nothing solid. Finally, I became quite desperate so I decided to send letters out to residents in the area who shared our nonna’s Italian surname. The letters contained a brief history of what we knew of our family and old photographs of our nonno and nonna. The request was for anyone having information to send the enclosed postage paid letter back to me. A person who shared the same surname contacted an official in a village who recognized the maiden name of my nonna and got us in touch with our relatives via the mail.
Sandy and I traveled to Italy in 2003 to meet the relatives for the first time. The arrival at the train station was surreal. When we exited the train and walked down the sidewalk toward the parking lot I had the most bizzare feeling ever. I had been here before. I knew the century old buildings. I knew what their designs were, where the cafe was, I knew the old train station’s layout. It was all totally familiar. It was something I have never experienced before and something I have never experienced since. We met my cousin and her family, looked at my nonna’s home. We even were fortunate enough to host family members in Colorado and have stayed in close touch with them ever since.
My American cousin and I continued to try and locate family members from my nonno’s side of the family but we’re having difficulty with locating the mountain town he came from. My Italian cousin helped out immensely, finding his hometown and documents proving it was Tiglieto. After four additional combined visits we were still unable to locate relatives. I flooded the town with letters in an attempt to locate family members. No responses back from family, but we did get responses from two residents with the same surname. One family in particular was especially helpful. They provided us with a tour of the town and were able to locate the house my family lived in, currently occupied by a non family member – again with the same surname.
After three years of waiting, I received my U.S. Freedom of Information Act information for my nonno. I discovered he never became a U.S. citizen (more on that later) and found key bits of information he submitted when he returned to Italy to see his sister after World War 2. I found one document which listed his destination as one of the small mountain towns near Chiavari. I sent another group of letters to residents of the town and was amazingly rewarded by locating a cousin on my nonno’s side of the family. Finally mission accomplished. We first visited his family in 2009 and have stayed close ever since.
Since 2009 I have learned of an Italian law which basically says if your relatives never renounced their Italian citizenship, you have always been an Italian citizen. So, I spent about a year in the application process and now have dual citizenship. This especially helps if you are planning on residing in Italy for extended periods of time.
It is hard to explain the pride and passion Italians have when they know relatives from abroad are trying to locate family. Complete strangers bend over backwards to help out. Our lives have been forever changed.
My roots……Genova, Liguria, Italia