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JUNE 12, 2010 1:41AM

My Obsession Before Open Salon: Genealogy

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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.

CharlesFastiggi Birth Cert 


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. launched in 1996.  Bare bones.  The Ellis Island Immigration website opened its doors in 2001. – 1997.  So, you can understand that genealogy in the late 90’s was not what it was today.  Logging on to 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.


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genealogy, italy, ocd

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I've got a lot more....if you care. The website has not been updated in a while. Maybe this will be my inspiration, who knows. But Open Salon is my obsession now!
Just got interested in my ancestry and would LOVE to hear more, Tril, because I think several obsessions are necessary and that ancestry one always stumped me. R

PS: Canentri sp? looks lovely!
Beautiful and such a great analogy. I love this post. I am, unfortunately, well researched back to the Puritans (mother) and not researched much farther than Scottish peasants (father). But I FEEL Italian sometimes.
I had some interest in this when somebody told me about some possible Indian blood somewhere in our history. I tried to find out about it all but my motives were not pure. I wanted to prove I was part Indian so I could fish in restricted places. Never did find the link, especially since I never knew my blood father or his family. Everyone needs a magnificent obsession, at times OS is that.
How exciting and what a great project. Trying to trace my ancestry is one of the hardest things I've ever done. Thanks for sharing this peep into your past.
Extraordinary. The birth certificate - what a treasure map! That's how I see birth certificates - finding my papa's birth certificate was the beginning of a journey that ultimately led me down a direct ancestral path 25 generations long. So I am fascinated with this journey of yours! I'm off to visit the website!
Yeah, got to know the past, that which made you, YOU!!! :)

I traced my mom's mom daddy's side of the family all the way through the founding fathers of the original 13, and back to the 1600s, thanks and the Mormons too!! :)

Fun to go traveling back to see where the family roots split(and nice to see them split, for the most part!! :D Had a strange root that went back onto itself, which could explain a lot!! ~:D)
This is really cool.
I don't know how far I could go, I don't think our records are so well-kept.

Now you're going to have two obsessions, because OSers will start asking for you to update that site!
Yes, I would love to hear more Trilogy! I have Italian ancestors too ... but I know very little of them unfortunately. Yes, more please!
I love the quote you found: "We are the story tellers of our tribe."
sounds like a winner to me! i'll check the link later today.
Love the street paving saying. And all too true, I'm afraid.
Thanks for this!
Marlene, this is fascinating to read about what you have found in your genealogical searches! The amount of information on the web has been a huge boon to researchers and has saved countless hours, gas and traveling costs! Also, the online forums have allowed people to pass along information to each other in a rapid manner, without the delays and costs of the mail, etc.

I have enjoyed delving into genealogy since I was in high school. In fact, the first time during high school days that I traveled into Manhattan by myself included a stop at the NY Public Library on Fifth Avenue and right on into the genealogy department that was just beyond the North Reading Room, but these days is in a room overlooking 42nd street that is not so dark and has a lot of windows!

When I went on that first trip to the NYC library it was to look at the three volume set on the Whitney family of CT which my maternal grandmother was a member of. Little did I know that my small local library had the same three volume set on a high shelf that I would discover over a decade later!

My recent repost of the day trip to Clermont is also tied to a lot of genealogy that I did of my wife's family. It was not until I visited the bookstore at Clermont and bought a thick volume of Livingston genealogy that I was able to finally follow the generations from the earliest days listed to the present day. I saw the same book in NY at the library, but the lack of time to really study the book carefully prevented me from finalizing my search. That's the beauty of the information on the web, you can look at it at home without having to rush yourself, such as is the case for me at the library.
P.S. that's a wonderful resource you have created on the web page that you provided the link for!
Ah T! I continue to see ways you and I are alike. Ive had this ancestor bug for some time now (cant call it an obsession yet). Started when I planned our first trip to Italy. Sadly though, I am at a dead end with the net and need to spend some time in Hoboken to see if I can break this logjam. But truthfully, I never thought of putting up a website and allowing others to connect. What a wonderful idea.
I await more of this story....
Glad to hear you got to meet your "cugini." In my family, my oldest sister gets to take care of all of this. I just listen.

I liked the when I got to America saying ... and the truth that followed.
I love this. As you know from reading some of my posts, Open Salon is the perfect forum for these old stories! I love it. keep on sharing. R.

PS cemetary rubbings anyone?
"And third, I was expected to pave them.” I love this line. I haven't been that far back, but I may look now. Very Interesting!
I so interested. I have been dabbling and so has my husband on this very subject. Somday, we will dabble together and learn more. I have friends who are currently do this and visiting dead relative in various graveyards across the nation, they are fascinated. Good work and yes, I would read, pm me so I don't miss any! R
Thanks all. I'm on my way out the door right now for the day. the SUN CAME OUT IN SEATTLE....I wouldn't be surprised to see it as "breaking news". Anyway, I'll get back to your comments. thank you all for your interest. One of the best stories is HOW we all connected on the internet. I'll write that one next. thanks again.
roots are very interesting. glad to hear that OS is one of your obsessions, too. rated.
Thanks Caroline. We are all obssessed, aren't we?
Wendy - you think several are necessary? I know I couldn't take one more.
Alison, you can be my "cugini" anytime.
Spud: I don't think it matters what your motive, I think we all need to know where we come from, if possible.
Fay: there is a lot of luck involved.
Kit: The Birth Certificate...oh yes, you automatically get to go another generation back. Names of the parents, maiden name of the mother...a treasure hunt.
Tink: those strange roots that go back on themselves. I think we've all got one or two. 'splains alot.
Oh Vanessa - don't be giving anyone any ideas. Have your ancestors always been from P.R. or did they come from somewhere else?
Kate: An Italian Australian. fascinating.
anna1liese: thank you for being the first one to appreciate that poem. When I first read it, it spoke to me. I had to have it. It was about me. Too bad I didn't write it :)
diannani - thanks
sixty - true, and thats what most of the Italians, etc did in the early 1900's. they paved the streets.
design: That's how I got such a great start, was in actually finding the "people" on line who were looking for the same thing I was. My group/website are all people who's ancestors came from the same town, which is what makes it so different than those connected by family names. Of course, after going back to the 1600's we are all connected, intermarried, etc etc.
There's something about walking into that Library, though, wouldn't you say, opening the books, that is so much more satisfying than finding it on the Internet. glad to meet a fellow genealogist.
Tim: thanks & good luck. The connections are half the battle.
Scarlett: thanks and glad someone in your family is recording your history.
Bernadine: Yes, I have cemetary rubbings...but not from italy, as I havn't been there....yet!
Scanner & Shelia: I would encourage you both to take a look at your past - you will get hooked.
I loved the "storytellers of the tribe" quote too. I never thought much about geneology....till now! That's just what I need, another obsession! *smile*

I have an off and on obsession about genealogy too. You make me want to drop everything and go those sites and resume my quest. I envy you the riches you found. My search will reveal far more polyglot and sad results. But I still want to know.
You came from a cool place
Charlie: You can never have too many is too short.
Greg: It's all in the knowing...doesn't always have to be good.
I was at my moms and she just gave me a huge box with letters and records in it."here you go .figure out who you are" im looking forward to it.I want to hear more!