Long Distance Family

Before the holidays, I had my first phone conversation with a distant cousin I connected with on one of those genetic testing sites. I don’t make it a habit of reaching out to complete strangers with loose genetic ties, but I had been looking for Italian family on my father’s side in the United States and he had the same surname as my my paternal grandmother before she got married. I didn’t have a relationship with my father, so I didn’t have the benefit of having direct family introductions. So I sent him off a message and we’ve been connected for a few years now.

William lives down in the Berkley area, so it’s nice we’re in the same time zone. He’s in his 60s, has been married for many years, and has kids and grandkids. Our connection is that his grandfather was siblings with my great grandmother Louisa. My great grandmother’s parents moved to Iron, Wisconsin from Italy for a better life and there were a lot of mining jobs there and in Michigan’s upper peninsula in the early 1900s. That’s how one side of my Italian family got here.

Anyway, I spoke to William on the phone and we talked about his trips to Italy that I’d seen him posting about on Facebook. He’d posted some photos about his trips to the Dolomites (3 times per year!) where our Italian family is from. We exchanged a few messages and he decided to just call me up on Facebook Messenger instead of typing it all out. It was nice to have a real conversation with someone I’ve never met in real life but for whom I’ve grown to appreciate from afar.

He knew that me and my wife were planning a trip to Italy in late spring, so he wanted to give me tips. I told him of our tentative plans and he guided us to some better decisions, even connecting us with a personal friend and mutual family in Cadore. Two sides of my family are from Vigo di Cadore, and he gave me the details of a great Air BnB the next town over.

I took a sneak peak of the town on Google Street View and the walls of mountains surrounding that area are both majestic and intimidating. The town is Lorenzago di Cadore and I think we’re going to book the apartment this week.

The way Italian citizenship works through the Jure Sanguinis (citizenship by descent) is that if you weren’t born there you have to register in the comune (town) of your last Italian ancestor, so I’m registered up in Vigo di Cadore, right next door. From family records, I have the address of the place where my great grandparents lived and the cemetery where they’re buried. Although they emigrated to the U.S., they ultimately didn’t end up liking it here and moved back!

I’m excited to finally get to visit the area. We are lucky to have my parents watching the kids for us while we’re away for 10 days, which will be strange for sure, but this will be our first vacation alone of any length in 5 years since having our son. We love to hike and are really looking forward to some mid-elevation hikes in the Dolomites for a few days before we head south. I hear the people are nice and welcoming, and the family I still have there sound excited to meet distant family who were descended from the Italian diaspora of the early 20th Century.

Things are feeling more real and I’m looking forward to my first international adventure since 2007. Hopefully many more to come.


  ✴️ Also on Micro.blog

Bryan @bryan