For over ten years I have been working on genealogy research on Ancestry.com, always hopeful that one day I would be able to visit the towns in Italy of my three grandparents that immigrated to America in the early 1900’s.
I finally decided to commit and book the trip earlier this fall. Thanks to Mirella and Soutern Italy Travel – even with short notice and Mirella’s vacation scheduled – that dream came true.
I had an idea of what I wanted to accomplish. Hiring a guide/researcher/translator in Italy was important; however, I had no idea where to begin. I came across Mirella’s name and decided to write to her. Even though it was just through an email, I had a very good feeling. Friends and family thought I was crazy. How could I do that without further research and recommendations? However, she asked for no money up front, just payment at the end of our tour day. I thought that was quite reasonable. And as it turned out, money very well spent.
My goal was to visit three towns – Arce, Faeto, and Bagnoli Irpino during my stay. Quite an agenda, I know. Mirella did all the genealogy research and made arrangements for a colleague, Marco, to be our guide/translator for our first stop-over, Arce. And what a day it was! Mirella was able to find and contact a cousin and his family, who we spent quite a bit of time with during our visit.
My son and I actually saw the home where my Grandfather was born. It was vacant and overgrown, but it was still standing! The sight brought tears to my eyes.
In each town prior to our visit Mirella made arrangements for a local individual to give us a tour of some of the local historical sites and history and she made arrangements for a lunch of local cuisine – many of the simple foods I remember from my childhood. She spent three very long days with us — one in each town — translating, answering my many questions, and driving us around to various sites.
In Faeto, she researched and found some land that a vague reference was made to in a will that I discovered of a relative in Pennsylvania. We met with someone at the Town Records office, got maps, and found the exact land.
I wanted to see and get copies of civil and church documents of births and marriages, see the general location of the street or square where my ancestors were born – if not the actual home – go inside of the churches they were baptized in, and hopefully meet a relative. Not a very easy task, I know. However, thanks to Mirella it was accomplished.
Faeto has a history of a special Franco-Provencial dialect. I remember my Father used to be able to count to 10 in it. Mirella found an individual who is involved with others to preserve the dialect. She sang for us and even counted to ten for me.
It may not be a vacation for everyone; but it was a dream come true for me to be able to walk the same streets and paths that my Grandparents did. I understand even better now the struggles they had to deal with and why they made the courageous decision to travel to America.
Victoria L. Germani