As you know, you can only have one compulsive obsession at a time, in order to remain sane, that is, and carry on with a family, a job, a life!
Before Open Salon, my obsession was genealogy.
My favorite (genealogy) quote:
“We are the chosen. In each family there is one who seems called to find the ancestors. To put flesh on their bones and make them live again, to tell the family story and to feel that somehow they know and approve. Doing genealogy is not a cold gathering of facts, but instead, breathing life into all who have gone before. We are the story tellers of the tribe”.
Della M. Cummings Wright
In late 1996 I began to wonder. Just like that. I began to wonder. About my ancestry. Not just my mother and father, or grandparents but the “where did it all begin” type of wondering. My quest began.
My mother had a birth certificate hanging in her den. It was her father’s. Michaelangelo Fastiggi was born in Calitri, Avellino, Italia on August 2, 1890, to Vincenzo Fastiggi and Angela DiCecca.
Calitri? Never heard of it. I don’t know exactly what it was but at that point in my life I seemed to be at the crossroads of curiosity and passion. The perfect storm. That’s all it took.
1996 does not seem all that along ago. In Internet years, however, it was an eternity. Ancestry.com launched in 1996. Bare bones. The Ellis Island Immigration website opened its doors in 2001. Rootsweb.com – 1997. So, you can understand that genealogy in the late 90’s was not what it was today. Logging on to Ancestry.com and typing in a name and finding your family back to 1620 – woohoo! Ok, maybe it was never that easy. But my start was at the “National Archives” of which at the time there were about 12 in the whole of the United States. One happened to be in Seattle. Any of you who did any micro-fiche work, know what demanding, eye crossing work that can be. Then, (thank god for the Mormons) were the Family History Centers, where, if they did not have the micro-fiche you wanted, you could order it and come back when it arrived. The search was on.
The first thing I found out was where in the
hell world Calitri was.
It was a hill town. A farming town. Calitri is approximately 80 miles from Naples. In the late 19th century, living conditions deteriorated due to drought, epidemics, high taxes, lack of work; and with the dream of America, southern Italians were leaving in droves.
There is an old Italian saying:
“Well, I came to America because I heard the streets were paved in gold.
When I got here, I found out three things:
- First, the streets weren’t paved with gold
- Second, they weren’t paved at all
- And third, I was expected to pave them.”
My quest led me to what is now a group of over 100 others whose ancestors come from the same town. I created a website for this community of “cugini” (cousins) yes, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th cousins….but “cugini” all the same. And the most amazing thing…not unlike Open Salon, that until one year ago, I had not met any of these friends, these cugini, these family, that I had been conversing with, collaborating with, via internet, phone calls, on the website for the past 12 years.
I want to tell you the story of our connections. Of my website “Calitrian Connections” and more of the history of the Fastiggi’s of Calitri, my heritage, if you care to listen.