Italian Genealogy, Family History, Travel, Culture, and More!

Alexander Anthony and mother Susan

Episode 3 of Season 2 of PBS’s “Genealogy Roadshow is now available online! This episode was filmed at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA. ORIGINS ITALY’s Mary Tedesco is one of the hosts / genealogists featured on the show. Tune in Tuesday, February 3, 2015 on PBS for the next new episode. Check your local listings.

Click here to watch @!

Photo credit: Daniel Burke

Kenyatta Berry, Joshua Taylor, and Mary Tedesco

“Genealogy Roadshow” season 2, episode 3 airs on January 27, 2015 at 8:00 PM  ET on PBS.
Check your local listings.

Philadelphia, PA – Franklin Institute

At Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute, a team of genealogists uncovers fascinating family histories. A man learns that the event that drove his family to the City of Brotherly Love changed the course of history; a man may be a Viking descendant; another’s family could have part of one of history’s biggest scams; a young man hopes to confirm his relation to a signer of the Declaration of Independence; and two sisters learn their ancestors were part of the great Irish migration.

More info:

Episode description courtesy of PBS.
Photo credit: Daniel Burke.

Pictured are the “Genealogy Roadshow” hosts: Kenyatta D. Berry, D. Joshua Taylor and ORIGINS ITALY Founder Mary M. Tedesco.

Em Piro discovers her genealogy

The January 20, 2015 episode of “Genealogy Roadshow” (S2, E2) featured several guests wanting to get to the bottom their family stories.  Em Piro of St. Louis, MO was one of these guests.

Through family lore, Em believed that her great grandmother, Isabella [Rizzo] Piro, from Sorbo San Basile, Calabria, Italy, came to America to marry a “Cowboy from Wyoming;” and that after her arrival in Denver, she didn’t like the cowboy and decided to marry somebody else – Em’s great grandfather Eugene Piro.  Em contacted “Genealogy Roadshow” wanting to know who the “Cowboy” was in this love story.

Immigration stories in families of all nationalities are commonly passed down through the generations.  These stories become the family lore. Why is that?  Possibly, it occurs as a way of beneficially establishing prior personal events and histories that may otherwise be unremarkable, embarrassing, unsavory or even scandalous. It codifies and legitimizes the past and shapes our thinking about our ancestors. But under the cold light of research, sometimes family lore is unraveled.

One hundred years ago when Em’s great grandmother, Isabella, journeyed from Sorbo San Basile, Italy to Denver, CO, there were very few resources available to inform her of what to expect.  Her knowledge was probably based on letters from friends and relatives already living in Denver.  There was no Wikipedia or YouTube to give her a glimpse of what life would be like in Denver in 1912.  And for all Isabella knew, there could have been a cowboy waiting there to sweep her off her feet.

Three steps to start researching your family stories:

  1. Ask your relatives (and family friends) for their versions of the family story.
    • In the case of the immigration story, ask folks who may have heard the story directly from the immigrant.
  2. Conduct genealogical and/or historical research focusing on:
    • The ancestor or ancestors who are the subject of the story.
    • Any other individuals who may be included in the story.
    • Historical and cultural context. This kind of research can help us step inside the shoes of our ancestors.
  3. Most of all, have fun with this research – it’s part of your personal history!

So who was Isabella [Rizzo] Piro’s “cowboy?”  Did she find him?  Watch this episode of PBS’s “Genealogy Roadshow” to find out!

Learn more about Italian Genealogy.

-Mary M. Tedesco, ORIGINS ITALY.

Photo credit: Jason Winkeler

St. Louis Central Library

Episode 2 of Season 2 of PBS’s “Genealogy Roadshow is now available online! This episode was filmed at the Central Library in St. Louis, MO. ORIGINS ITALY’s Mary Tedesco is one of the hosts / genealogists featured on the show. Tune in Tuesday, January 27, 2015 for the next new episode. Check your local listings.

Click here to watch @!

Photo credit: Jason Winkeler

Domenic and Katie Giardina with Mary Tedesco

Two young people met in New Orleans. They became friends, over time fell in love, and got married. What are the chances that this couple, who met randomly in the “Big Easy,” have Italian roots from the same tiny island off the coast of Sicily? Are their two families connected?

On the January 13, 2015 episode (S2 E1) of “Genealogy Roadshow,” ORIGINS ITALY Founder Mary M. Tedesco, a Roadshow Host, revealed a family connection between the Italian-American couple, Domenic and Katie (née Spizale, originally Speziale) Giardina, of New Orleans, LA.  As it turned out, members of the Giardina and Speziale families immigrated to the USA together; shared some civil record witnesses back in Ustica; and even lived near each other in Ustica!

Research of the Giardina and Speziale families began in New Orleans.  An 1883 passenger manifest revealed some familiar surnames — Speziale and Picone (a maternal line of Domenic Giardina).  Italian genealogical research confirmed that members of both families were on the ship to America together, making the 1883 passenger manifest genealogical gold!  But research did not stop there.  Attention to detail and thinking outside the box are of the utmost importance when conducting family history research, which is exactly what the “Genealogy Roadshow” research team did.

Historically, at least two witnesses were needed to register an Italian civil birth, marriage or death.  Careful examination of Italian records revealed that a man named Michelangelo Caravella was a witness on the records of both sides of the family, thus connecting Domenic’s and Katie’s families in Ustica.

In addition to connecting the Giardina and Speziale families on the ship to America and through Michalangelo Caravella in Ustica, the records also reveal that the families lived less than 500 meters apart in Ustica before they came to America.  Ustica is quite a small island, so it’s entirely possible the families knew each other before immigrating to America.  At the very least, Michalangelo Caravella was probably a mutual friend or acquaintance of both families, and a timeless link back to Ustica.  Moral of the story – don’t overlook any name or detail when conducting genealogical research. Connections are found in the most unexpected places!

Katie and Domenic – you’re “A Match Made in Ustica!”

Watch “Genealogy Roadshow” Season 2, Episode 1 @ PBS.

Learn more about “Tracing your Italian Ancestors.”

-Mary M. Tedesco, ORIGINS ITALY.

Photo: Pat Garin

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