Oct 152011

One of the first suggestions you get when you start doing genealogy is to talk to your relatives. Well, sometimes it takes a little work to figure out who your relatives are.

Last spring, I used a brute force approach, sending letters to about a dozen Palmeris listed in the Buffalo phone book. I included a bit of the Palmeri family tree, asking if any of them were related to Charles and Barbara Palmeri, brother and sister to my great-grandparents. One of the letters apparently went to the son of a second cousin of my father. He passed it on to his father who gave me a call. We met over the summer and he gave me a lot of information on the Palmeri family that I talk about in another post.

He also gave me some contacts on the Giambrone side. I talked to one Giambrone cousin who put me in touch with another Giambrone cousin.

From her, I learned that my great-great-grandfather, Giuseppe Giambrone, and my great-great-grandmother, Giuseppa (Josephine) (Amico) Giambrone, both came to the United States. He died around 1941. She died before him and is buried in Mount Calvery Cemetery in Buffalo. Now I know where to turn to get their death records, which should be filled with information. I'm also sending a letter to the cemetery asking them for whatever information they have on file. She also sent me a detailed genealogy of the Giambrone cousins.

In addition to the useful written information, I got a photograph of my great-great-grandfather!

Giuseppe Giambrone, probably abt 1920

And a photo of my great-grandfather, Angelo Palmeri, my grandfather, Joseph Palmeri, and my great-grandmother, Maria (Giambrone) Palmeri.

Angelo, Joseph, and Maria Palmeri abt 1918

Jul 012006

The very first step in any genealogy project is to ask your parents and grandparents for any information.

Sadly, most of my grandparents were deceased when I started this, and the only one still living was in a nursing home. I remember putting together a basic genealogy when I was in school. I talked with my great-grandmother and she gave me the names of her parents and some of her grandparents. Like many school projects, that's long gone.

On my dad's side, I knew my grandmother's parents, Carmela (Parisi) Millonzi and Rosario Millonzi. My great-grandfather died when I was a few years old. My great-grandmother died when I was on a teenager. 

My dad said his father's parents were Angelo and Maria Palmeri, but did not know Maria's last name. I might have met one of them when I was little, but I don't remember.

On my mom's side, I knew my grandmother's mother, my great-grandmother, Gramma Wilson. I might have met my grandfather's father, my great-grandfather, Grampa Burke. But maybe not. 

My mom knew that there was something like a Cruice and a de Guehery, but wasn't quite sure how to spell the names, or who went with whom, so she had me get in touch with one of my aunts, who was the family historian. She sent me this family tree with another couple of pages with some of the birth and death dates.

After spending most of my efforts working on and off on digitizing and adding to my wife's genealogy, I used this as a starting point for uncovering my own.

Based on what we knew then, I was 1/2 Italian, 1/4 French, and 1/4 Irish. My mom's parents were both 1/2 French and 1/2 Irish. According to family lore, both French families fled the French Revolution, with the Cruice's escaping to Ireland and then to the US, and the de Guehery's escaping to Germany, then to Canada, and then to the US.

original Burke family tree

May 152006

Several years ago, I inherited a shoebox full of papers when my wife's grandmother, Jessie Dibble Hill Brown, went into an assisted-living facility. In it were 60+ years of genealogical work she had amassed on my wife's family. For the sake of my two young boys, my niece and nephew, and to memorialize her lifetime of work, I set about putting all of her written records on their family tree into the computer.

Jessie did not just have a simple family tree going back a few generations. With the help of cousins and a couple of serious family genealogists, Jessie had traced back her family tree to the founding of the United States and beyond. She had also accumulated many dozens of obituaries over the years. Her genealogical records included very distant cousins alive today who all shared ancestors from the 1700s.

One of her ancestors, Daniel Pomeroy, fought in the Revolutionary War. During the Battle of Long Island, he was a Private in Captain Enoch Hart's & Oliver Hanchetts' companies and is said to have saved the life of George Washington. After the battle, George Washington gave his cane to Daniel Pomeroy, which has been handed down to the oldest son in each generation. That ancestor earned Jessie Dibble membership in the DAR, something she cherished throughout her long life.

Another line of ancestors were the Denisons. Jessie's great-grandmother was Candace Denison, who married Ichabod Crippen Dibble. They Denisons were one of the early settlers of Connecticut. The Denison homestead still stands and is open to the public (http://denisonhomestead.org/).

Denison homestead near Mystic, Connecticut

After I entered in the thousands of names from Jessie's records, I started getting on ancestry.com to see if I could find original records and possibly go back even farther.

One of my discoveries, which only took a little bit of searching through existing family trees and published genealogies, was that her part of Denison family included the Starr family, another old New England family, which included within it the Brewster family. William Brewster, one of the leaders of the Pilgrims, is my boys' 11th great-grandfather. Several other Pilgrims also figure into their family tree.

a likeness of William Brewster

When I was done, I had a family tree for my wife and two boys that went back to the 1500s along several lines, with some tentative branches – twigs really – that could go back to royal families more than 1000 years ago.

Then I looked at my family tree.

I knew the names of my grandparents and half of my great-grandparents. I knew that my dad's family was from Sicily and that my mom's family was half French and half Irish on both of her sides. But little else.

So I set about to fill in my family tree. What started with a little poking around has turned into a serious hobby. 

Full disclosure: These opening blog entries are fakes. By that I mean that I've added dates to them after the fact to try to trace out and preserve the timeline of when I made the discoveries I did. The stories are real. But these aren't really blog posting. Only things posted after around October 1, 2011 are true blog postings. I'm preserving these so that my children can perhaps someday see the work I did and how I discovered the things I've discovered about my side of the family.

I also created a blog because only recently, as I started to seriously research my Italian heritage, did I discover that I may be eligible for Italian citizenship jus sanguinis (by blood). I'll talk about this more in later posts. So part of my interest in putting together this blog was to share my efforts to establish my Italian citizenship with others. Maybe this will all come for naught. We'll see how things turn out.