Trying to wrap my mind around my Italian heritage

Genetic genealogy is the application of genetics to traditional genealogy. Genetic genealogy involves the use of genealogical DNA testing to determine the level and type of the genetic relationship between individuals.
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lisalu
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Trying to wrap my mind around my Italian heritage

Post by lisalu » 25 May 2019, 04:38

I am a third generation Italian-American since all my great-grandparents on both sides were born in Italy, and my Ancestry.com DNA results are very clear:

76% Southern Italy (Calabria, Campania, Basilicata)
24% Turkey and the Caucasus

That's it! Apparently my ancestors are all from a pretty concentrated area. I know these results are accurate because they correlate with the cities my ancestors were born in or immigrated from according to my genealogy research.

What is mind-blowing to me is that until just a few years ago, I had no idea I had any Italian heritage at all. I was adopted at birth, and grew up in Georgia where I never even knew any Italian-Americans. Long story short, when I finally found my birth family, I discovered they were all Italian-Americans from New Jersey. (I was shocked, I really had no idea, and never would have guessed that!)

Anyway, I clearly have very strong roots to these regions in Southern Italy, yet I know next to nothing about Italian culture other than the general stereotypes most Americans are familiar with. And I have only recently learned something of my Italian-American heritage from visiting my birth family in New Jersey. This is completely foreign to me, and I am struggling to feel the connection. It is in my blood, but not a part of my life experience, which I regret.

I'm going to Italy in September, and don't even have an idea how to begin to "feel" this connection. We're arriving in Rome and will only be in Italy about a week before heading to France, so I don't know if I will have time to get to these Southern regions and/or if it is even worthwhile to do so. What can anyone tell me about this part of the country? Would I be able to do any genealogical research if I did go there, seeing that I speak absolutely no Italian? Are there places to visit that would give me some history and background on the lives of Southern Italians who emigrated to the U.S.? Any thoughts, suggestions, or insights are welcome.

bbivona
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Re: Trying to wrap my mind around my Italian heritage

Post by bbivona » 11 Jun 2019, 02:09

lisalu wrote:
25 May 2019, 04:38
I'm going to Italy in September, and don't even have an idea how to begin to "feel" this connection. We're arriving in Rome and will only be in Italy about a week before heading to France, so I don't know if I will have time to get to these Southern regions and/or if it is even worthwhile to do so. What can anyone tell me about this part of the country? Would I be able to do any genealogical research if I did go there, seeing that I speak absolutely no Italian? Are there places to visit that would give me some history and background on the lives of Southern Italians who emigrated to the U.S.? Any thoughts, suggestions, or insights are welcome.
I think the southern regions are fascinating and absolutely worth going to. The problem is that you only have a week for Italy and then head off to France. If this is going to be your only trip to Italy, it's hard to not go to Rome, Florence, Venice, etc. Those are great world historical cities and everyone ought to see them. That doesn't leave much time for going south and getting a feel for where your family is likely from. We've been to Italy multiple times, so we prefer the south and go there almost exclusively now. There is some of the most beautiful scenery in the country on the Amalfi coast, some of the oldest inhabited structures in the world at Matera, unique trulli at Alberobello, as well as wonderful food, and warm people. In Rome you're probably not going to feel the connection. It's a giant city filled with tourists - big and busy. It's an amazing place, but to me it doesn't have the charm and feel of southern Italy. If you have the time, though, I highly recommend getting a least a day or so where your family came from. That's the best way to get the feel. It's so much better if you have a contact there though. Someone in the family that could be your contact for information.

Regarding your question on places to visit regarding background of the emigrants, there is now a museum in Lucca, which is in Tuscany, not the south.
http://museo.fondazionepaolocresci.it/en/presentation/
At Matera (in Basilicata) there is a museum dedicated to the, for lack of a better word, peasant culture. Museo Laboratorio della Civilta Contadina
http://www.sassiweb.it/matera/musei-a-m ... contadina/

As for genealogical research, not to be a downer, but I suspect that you won't have much success without a lot more prep unless the information you're looking for is pretty specific. In the south there is a lot less English spoken than in the north and I suspect the language barrier at a local comune is going to be a real challenge. If you know what you're looking for and haven't been able to get it from the fairly extensive online records available here, perhaps you could get someone to translate an information request or document request. If you're search is pretty broad, it's likely much harder though. If you decide to try it, I would suggest doing as much online research as you can before you go so you have as much knowledge as possible and have some familiarity with the Italian documents and how they are organized. Go to familysearch.org and read up on what documents are available for your town. https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/search/

Hope some of this helps.
Researching Gibellina, Sicily surnames Bivona, Bonafede, Zummo, Ponzio, Bevinetto, Beninati, Fontana, Cipolla, Bruno, Manfrè, Lanfranca, and Navarra

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