"A family tree can wither if nobody tends its roots."

Jul28th2012

Breaking Through The Brickwalls

by  Phyllis Zeck

Roy and Elvira Weber

There is a saying in the genealogy world when we have searched and searched for an item or a family member and can’t find what or who we are looking for; we have hit a brick wall.

This is what happened to me as I searched for any trace of Antonio Del Principe’s descendants.  Antonio was the oldest of the Del Principe brothers.  I am now in contact with the descendants of Giuseppe, Amelio, Serafino (John), Octavio, Paulo, and Francesco.  I just had to find the descendants of Antonio!

In May of 2011 I went to Chicago to visit my family and friends.  In between activities (when I was supposed to be relaxing), I drove my sister Lori crazy by dragging box after box out of the basement and went through them in an effort to find some of my “missing” relatives.  I was particularly driven to find a descendant of Antonio’s.  He had two daughters but I could find no trace of them.  My quest was to find Elvira and Eileen’s married names.  I looked through grandpa’s address books and through the obituaries grandpa had cut and saved.  I looked on the back of photographs for clues.  No luck!

Imagine my complete delight when one day in mid July I received an email from Mary, the granddaughter of Elvira!  Antonio had two daughters.  Elvira (Snookie) Antoinette was born in 1920 and Eileen (Turk) Lucille was born in 1921.  I thought Elvira had only one child but Mary informed me that Elvira and her husband Roy had four children: Margaret, Antoinette, Greg, and Madeleine.  Mary is the daughter of Greg.  Eileen married and had one son named Ron.

Mary and I have sent many emails flying back and forth and she has generously shared some stories and photos which I will share in future blog posts.  In the mean time, I hope you enjoy this beautiful photograph of Elvira and Roy Weber on their wedding day.

 
 

Jul24th2012

Family Heirlooms

by  Phyllis Zeck

I have added a new page to my geneaology website that is devoted to our family heirlooms; a very important part of genealogy.  Family treasures help connect us all in a personal way.  Whether you’re sharing or viewing an item, photos and stories help link us all together.  When my grandparents were young they were able to share their heirlooms in person by running across the street to visit with family.  New generations have spread out across the world so we need to share via photos and stories.

Family heirlooms past and current belong in this website.  We have to think about the generations yet to be born.  An item doesn’t have to be “old” to be a family heirloom.  For example, if you are a collector send me a photo of an item in your collection so that your great grandchildren will know a little about you.  If you have a photo of an heirloom that you would like to display, please  email it to me (along with a comment) and help this new page grow!

 
 

Jul16th2012

The Festival di San Giovanni Baptiste by Susan

by  Phyllis Zeck

One of the first blogs that I wrote (see post from Oct 30, 2010) about was the town that my great, great grandmother Filomena Ursitti was born in on May 8, 1837; the town of Opi, Italy.  Susan stumbled upon my website in her search for information about the Festival di San Giovanni Baptiste (the patron saint of Opi).  Susan was planning a trip to Italy in 2012 to participate in the festival.  She would be traveling with her daughter, sister, cousin, sister-in-law, and friend.  

Susan wrote “My grandparents originated from Opi.  For years, we heard about Opi and enjoyed the family, food, customs and life my grandparents lived as Italian Americans.  Our grandparents,  parents, and extended Italian relatives were part of a group called San Giovanni Battista Society.   The group was in existence for 100 years and then ended about 8 years ago.   It started in Detroit, Michigan in 1908 from Italians who immigrated from Opi, Aguila, Abruzzo, Italy. The families found strength and support from each other through the San Giovanni Battista Society. One of the eldest members died recently, Lucy Boccia.  This was our connection to family with Opi names:  Boccia, Gentile, Tatti, DiPero, DeSantis, DeVito, DeLoro.”

Susan and I are connected through our Boccia and Gentile ancestors.  Below is a blog Susan has written and graciously allowed me to post.  Thank you Susan, I hope you are able to enjoy many more summers to come in our home land!

The view from Via Salita La Croce is beautiful, unique and narrow.  We stayed at Antica Rua B&B.  From our doorway look right and the via ends at a little hotel at the downside of the village.  Look left up the via toward the little castle at the village  square.

But there is more, higher, farther and narrower.  Nicolangelo Leone walked down the via to the B&B to welcome us and invite us to his home.

Side note:  Every step you take in Opi is either up or down, since the village is built on the top of a mountain.  Just imagine how healthy one must be to live in Opi.  Nicolangelo is 89 and he’s turning 90 on 15 January 2013.  In Italian, he told us he went to see a cardiologist for his heart.  Oh no, we were instantly worried and concerned until he quickly presented to us his prescribed medicine –  the package read for “indigestion.”  Ooohh, thank goodness.

We walked up, past the bar, past the castle through a narrow walkway, up the stairs, past the Santa Maria Assunta church, turned left onto a smaller via, and arrived at Nicolangelo’s beautiful green door.  

Welcome!  Benvenuti a cinque donne americane.  Please come in….Saluti Nicolangelo.

You are a very charming man and you stole our hearts from day one!


 

We were invited to meet the Officers of Opi at cappella San Giovanna Battista on Sunday, June 24, 2012, at 4:00 pm to look at documents.  We met so many people in Opi who introduced themselves and asked in Italian:  How are you related to us?  Who are your closest relatives that live in Opi?   In my best Italian, I explained our Opi heritage and how our families in the US stayed connected through San Giovanni Battista Society (SGBS).  Also, explained SGBS morto in 2008.  Yes they understood, but…   the connection.  How are you connected to us?

Cappella San Giovanna Battista

When introductions are made, Opianni’s say the last name first.  Because of the culture, it was difficult for Opi people to grasp how le cinque donne americane were connected.  In Opi, the women keep their maiden names.

Left to Right: Christine Murphy (Boccia), Padre Rossi, Susan DuBois-Reetz (Boccia), Georgio Cimini, Maruzio, Marilynn DuBois-Wieczorek (Boccia)

In the red bag, Maruzio brought the booklet:  Societa’ San Giovanni Battista 75th Anniversary Banquet and Dinner Dance, June 26th, 1983 at Roma Hall on Gratiot Avenue in East Detroit, Michigan, a letter from Orazio Paglia, and a list of Members and Sponsors of SGBS.  It’s amazing, those documents were 29 years old.   Here was the validation!  Maruzio pointed to names:  Benjamin Boccia, Gene and Susan Reetz.  Oh my Godda!  Yes, that’s us.  We pointed to relatives on the list:  Marilynn Wieczorek, Christine’s parents, our parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  All the same names:  Boccia, Gentile, Tatti, Paglia, Cimini, Ursiti, Sabatini, Ricci, DiVito, and more.  So exciting!  Everyone was talking at once.  We were happy and filled with so many more emotions.

This is Orsola Gentile hugging my daughter, Corinn. Look at how cute they are and there is a resemblance. My grandmother’s name was Grazia Gentile. Corinn and Orsola look like sisters. We were celebrating the SGB feste, listening and dancing to a live band in Opi on June 24. Very fun!

Nicolangelo and I are speaking Italian. I learned enough with Beginner I & II language classes at the Italian American Cultural Society to be able to carry on conversations. I kept telling Nicolangelo that I was married “marito” , but he took off his wedding ring and pretended to throw it away. He was very charming.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

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By Susan DuBois-Reetz (Boccia)   Pictures by Corinn VanWyck

 

 
 

May18th2012

The Del Principe Brothers in the 1940 Census

by  Phyllis Zeck

I was able to locate my grandfather Gilbert and 4 of his brothers at the Ancestry website.  To view what I found, log in if you have an account.  Enter the state of Illinois, the county of Cook, and the city of Chicago.  Scroll to district 103-1577.  At the top of the page you will see page 1 of 24.  Use the right arrow to take you to page 11.  Joe is on line 22 and Gilbert is on line 24.  Henry (Hank) is on line 28, Paul is on line 31, and John is on line 32.

Scroll to the bottom of the census to see that Anna Del Principe (line 29), Hank’s wife, was asked supplemental questions in this census.

 

 
 

Mar11th2012

Counting down to the release of the 1940 U.S. Census

by  Phyllis Zeck

Those of us who are genealogy fanatics are tapping our toes waiting for April 2nd which is the release date of the 1940 U.S. Census.  The census information is released to the public 72 years after it is taken.  For the first time the census will be available in a digital format.

The 1940 census contains 49 questions ranging from the standard questions such as address, names of people in the household, ages, and occupation to questions aimed at people 14 years and older requesting in depth information about employment and wages.  These questions, in part, were to determine how households were affected by the great depression.  Below is a short video about the 1940’s census.

In the 1940’s:

  • The US population was 132 million.
  • The national debt was $43 billion.
  • The average salary was $1,725.00 a year.
  • Minimum wage was 30 cents an hour.
  • A new car cost $850.00, a gallon of gas was 11 cents.
  • A first class stamp was 3 cents.
  • A gallon of milk cost 54 cents.
  • Fifty five percent of US homes had indoor plumbing.
  • Life expectancy at birth was 65.9 years for females and 61.6 years for males.

You will not be able to search the 1940 census with a person’s last name.  You can search the records with an address or with the Enumeration District number.  You will be able to obtain the Enumeration District number using this link http://stevemorse.org/census/unified.html.

Click on the following link to see detailed questions the census taker asked https://www.familysearch.org/1940census/enum_instructions

For more information about the census click this link http://www.archives.gov/research/census/1940/

Happy searching!