Jul 182008

My grandfather, Joseph Palmeri, married my grandmother, Sarina Millonzi.

I knew my grandmother’s birth date. I was fairly sure that she was born in Sicily and came to the US as a little girl. I did not know my great-grandfather’s first name. He died when I was 5 years old. I remember my great-grandmother very well. She died when I was 19. I knew she went by the name of “Mela” and I thought that her maiden name was Parisi. The Millonzis came from a town in Sicily called “Montemaggiore”. But I knew little else.

With my monthly membership to ancestry.com in hand, I do a search for the Millonzi family. 

Millonzi is not a common name, but a bunch of possibilities come up. After rejecting many, I find a New York Passenger List with my great-grandfather, great-grandfather, grandmother, and my uncle.

I see that my great-grandfather’s name is Rosario. It was incorrectly transcribed as Rosaria, a female name. So I submit a correction. It lists his age as 34, born abt 1886.

My great-grandmother’s full name was Carmela. Born in 1892.

My grandmother’s birth name was Rosaria. The diminutive for a small girl would be Rosarina. So that’s where Sarina came from. It says she was born abt 1916. But I know she was born in 1915.

Now I learn that my great-uncle Iggy (Ignatius) was also born in Sicily. He was only 1 month old. With a crossing to the US by ship taking a couple of weeks, either my great-grandparents immigrated with a newborn or he was born on the ship coming over.

It’s humbling to imagine my own family coming through Ellis Island. My great-grandparents, speaking no English at all, with my 4 year old grandmother and my infant uncle. They’re heading to Buffalo to join my great-grandfather’s brothers who came to the US years before.

Carmela (Parisi) Millonzi, Ida (Millonzi) Russo (infant), Iggy Millonzi, and Sarina (Millonzi) Palmeri, abt 1923.

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.