Sunday, December 21, 2008


Bruno, Angeline, Lucy-1931 Passport Photo

Lucy, Angeline, Bruno-1967 Wilkes-Barre, PA

Pictures of the Piccione Family from Santo Stefano di Camastra

From left to right:
Back: Concetta, unknown, Giovane, Bruno
Front: Lucia, Ninfa, Antoinette, Angeline

Guiseppe, Concetta, Ninfa, Antoinette, Giovane

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Chosen Scribe

This past weekend, I started to feel that my relatives think I am a bit crazy for being so caught up in this geneology journey. As I shared with them the recent findings from the ship manifests, I realized that it was my passion, my curiosity, and no one seemed to share it with me. I felt very alone and disappointed.

It occurred to me at some point during the weekend that I have taken on an important role in preserving the history of my family, even if I don't have children to pass the torch to when I pass some day. In remembering my relatives and recreating images of them, it seems to me that I am doing something that they deserve. They deserved to be remembered and brought back to life.

And then, I received this very moving passage from a fellow geneologist with Calabrian roots, a man who has been a great help to me in my research over the past week. I no longer felt so alone when I read these words that he shared with me . Thank you, JB.

"My feelings are 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.

To me 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. All tribes have one. We have been called as it were by our genes. Those who have gone before cry out to us: Tell our story. So, we do.

In finding them, we somehow find ourselves. How many graves have I stood before now and cried? I have lost count. How many times have I told the ancestors you have a wonderful family you would be proud of us? How many times have I walked up to a grave and felt somehow there was love there for me? I cannot say.

It goes beyond just documenting facts. It goes to who am I and why do I do the things I do.

It goes to seeing a cemetery about to be lost forever to weeds and indifference and saying I can't let this happen. The bones here are bones of my bone and flesh of my flesh. It goes to doing something about it.

It goes to pride in what our ancestors were able to accomplish. How they contributed to what we are today.

It goes to respecting their hardships and losses, their never giving in or giving up, their resoluteness to go on and build a life for their family.

It goes to deep pride that they fought to make and keep us a nation.

It goes to a deep and immense understanding that they were doing it for us. That we might be born who we are. That we might remember them. So we do. With love and caring and scribing each fact of their existence, because we are them and they are us.

So, as a scribe called I tell the story of my family. It is up to that one called in the next generation to answer the call and take their place in the long line of family storytellers. That is why I do my family genealogy, and that is what calls those young and old to step up and put flesh on the bones."---Anonymous

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Naturalization Reading & Rights to Dual Citizenship

I just read through a few informative webpages regarding both naturalization and qualifications for dual citizenship.

I seriously need to face this one. If I don't qualify, it's not the end of the world. But how to find the documents? A nice man from the Circolo Calabrese said he would look around to see if he could find any naturalization records. If he cannot find anything online, does this mean I will need to go to the county courthouse in Luzerne, PA to inquire about the documents?

Naturalized or Not Naturalized?

Here is where I go a little crazy, wondering if my chances for dual citizenship are completely wiped out now that a fellow Calabrese has helped me to find the 1930 cenus record for my grandfather. (Yes, Circolo Calabrese is definitely working out for me! I highly recommend joining this group. )The census says both my grandfather and grandmother were naturalized. Yet, look at the ship manifest for a trip my grandma took to Sicily in 1931, a year after the 1930 census. I don't see American citizen or a passport number next to her name. Could they have lied on their census?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Il Circolo Calabrese

Today I joined the Circolo Calabrese for a quarterly membership. It's a much better deal that the website, and the discussion board appears to be far more active that Ancestry

I have not explored all the membership perks in detail, but I started by exploring the discussion board tonight. I was happy to see so many Italian Americans of Calabrian roots doing research, but I was sad to see there were so few Orlandos there. I don't know if I conducted my search incorrectly within the discussion board, but my search terms, Curinga and Orlando, brought up nothing. I searched for them separately too.

I did, however, find two other people with the Orlando surname who are doing research. One is still an active member so I emailed her.

I find it odd that there are no people with roots in Curinga who are active at this site. After all, there were quite a few immigrants from Curinga and many ended up in Wilkes-Barre , PA like my nonno.

The highlight of tonight's search was the Catanzaro Exchange. At this website, I was able to find a spreadsheet that someone had compiled with all the names of the people who immigrated to the United States from Curinga. My grandfather was listed there, as were two more Orlandos, both women. I was hoping for a big breakthrough, but unfortunately my nonno was not referenced in the ship manifest for either of these two women.

The postive side to the story is that Elia Orlando, one of the female travelers, was destined for Wilkes-Barre, PA. Her mother's name was Felicia and she listed her cousin in WB as her final destination. There is no mention of Carmelo.

The ship manifest added a few questions since my nonno came 4 years earlier. They asked:

Whether a polygamist?

Whether an anarchist?

I got a kick out of those questions...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Falerna, Catanzaro, Calabria, Italy, Civil Registration 1810-1936

I am spending another $30 to do some research @ . I have delved into the international collections and I have found civil records for the town of Falerna, Catanzaro, Italia. I have learned that the keeping of vital records for Italy started in 1866. Phew.... Grandpa was born in 1887. In the southern part of Italy, records were kept as far back as 1809, with the exception of Sicily which started in 1820.

The database (written by hand) contains records for the town of Falerna. It says that the town of Falerna encompasses the frazioni (hamlets) of the Castiglione Marittimo and Falerna Scalo. Records for these localitites will also be found among these records.

I need to sit down now and make sure that Curinga is part of Castiglione Marittimo and Falerna Scalo. I want to say it is, but I have to do my homework first.

Falerna is not far at all from Curinga! This is the exciting news. The frustrating news is that handwritten document is 370 pages long and it's not that easy to peruse on a computer screen.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Surname Discussion Forums

I have been posting on a few discussion forums devoted to the surname Orlando. So far, I have not received a response from anyone regarding my nonno, Carmelo. The discussion board postings are sporadic, similar to my research record! It looks as though people start their research, they don't get very far, and then they move on. I am trying to find a way to be more consistent about checking these boards more frequently, and creating this post is supposed to help me!

So, the two discussion forums I subscribe to are at:

Ancestry Surname Forums-Orlando

Geneology Forum for Orlando Family

Friday, December 5, 2008

Grandpa, send me a sign, please!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently had the opportunity to channel to the other side with a gifted psychic. My intention with the session was to connect with my mother, but it never occurred to me that I would be hearing about my grandfather, Carmelo, when we made a connection with my mom.

I just came across this video at another geneology blog. I thought it would be worth sharing here given the recent experience I had with the psychic. I hope it won't be the last.

A Rollercoaster Ride

Sometimes I became frustrated by this process of trying to confirm my grandfather's identity. Recently, I had to take a step back and remind myself why I got involved in researching my grandfather's history. While part of my motivation has been to seek Italian citizenship, I also feel strongly that this research process is far more important than any passport. Sure, it would be wonderful to have a European passport, and I will be disappointed if I don't qualify, but getting to know my grandfather after his passing has been a very special experience for me. It was as if Carmelo didn't exist for most of my life, until my mom passed. And then, after her passing, I felt compelled to dig deeper into the family history.

It's sad to think that for many years Carmelo was forgotten. He died young, my mom was only 9 years old at the time, so she had little to tell me about him. Whenever I ask relatives, they don't seem to know much about him either. Could there be any living relative who thinks about Carmelo as much as I do? Probably not.

I am going to tell you something that might offend some who don't believe in psychics and channeling. I had never visited a person who could channel to the other side, but I was presented with this opportunity on the spur of the moment a few months ago. I was missing my mother so much that particular day, that I let go of all those voices telling me not to do such a thing and I went ahead with the session. When the pyschic connected with my mom, she knew nothing of my grandfather's name. She told me, "Your mother is with Carmela. Carmelo. Some name like that." Yes, I was dumbfounded. Afterall, at the time, Carmelo's name was frequently passing through my consciousness since I had picked up my research after one year of leaving it aside.

Today my grandfather is more real to me. It's so darn hard not having a picture. I have been told that my cousin had a picture of him, but that picture has yet to be found. So, I imagine him as I do my Uncle Bruno, and that has to suffice.

Anyway, today I received an email from My Italian Family. I have not used their services because they are quite expensive. Nontheless, the email blast they sent was quite informative and it gave me hope about my chances to become an Italian citizen. The last few weeks I have been feeling pretty despondent about the whole situation.

Below is just an excerpt of the email:

"Under Italian law, if your ancestors took the oath of American Citizenship, they automatically surrendered their Italian citizenship. However, children born in the US to Italian immigrants who had not yet taken the American oath of citizenship may have claim to Italian citizenship. Since birth on American soil automatically ensured these children American citizenship, they had no need to be naturalized (which would have terminated the Italian citizenship they garnered by being born to parents who were still Italian citizens). In this way, first and future generations produced by original immigrants, through either paternal or maternal lines, qualify for dual citizenship.
NOTE: "Italian citizen at the time of birth" means that he/she did not acquire any other citizenship through naturalization, before the descendant's birth."

As far as I know, my grandfather never naturalized. I still have yet to confirm it, but there was no social security number on his death certificate. If he was naturalized, my chances of becoming Italian are shot. So, that's where I am in this research process. Trying to figure out if grandpa was ever naturalized.

According to a ship record that I have for my grandmother in 1931, she was not a citizen in 1931. She married my grandfather in 1921. The ship record shows her listed with her three children when she took a trip with her kids to Sicily without her husband in that year. The three children are listed as US citizens, but she is not. Had my grandfather naturalized before marrying her in 1921, she would have become a US citizen. Additionally, had he naturalized after they got married, wouldn't she have gotten naturalized with him?

I know I am creating my history here without documents to confirm my conjectures, but this must be what historians do when they lack evidence or proof, right? You start to put the pieces together yourself, until further documentation can be found.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Weeding Out the Wrong Carmelos

So, these are two pages worth of Carmelo Orlandos who came to the United States from Italy in the mid to late 1800s tothe early 1900s. To start my search, I went to and I entered my grandfather's name with some approximate dates of birth and death.

After that, I looked at the town or birth origin and I googled each town to see which ones are in Calabria. There are only two: one from Curinga and the other from Gerace. Since both of these Carmelos are relatively close in age, I need to look more closely at other information on the ship manifest. As I mentioned in previous postings, there were two pieces of evidence that pointed me towards Curinga, and not Gerace.

  • Carmelo from Curinga had a final destination of Wilkes-Barre, PA
  • Carmelo from Curinga had a father by the name of Bruno

Wilkes-Barre happens to be the town where my grandfather got married, had three children, and died.

Bruno happens to be the name of my uncle, Carmelo's oldest son. There is a tradition of naming your first born after your father in Italian culture.

Not shown here is my grandfather's WWI Draft Card. He registered for the draft, as an alien, in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 1917, seven years after he arrived to Wilkes-Barre. That document confirms he was born in Curinga, so it was the same Carmelo on the ship manifest. The Carmelo from Curinga who had a final destination of Wilkes-Barre, PA.

It seems like he was pretty loyal to Wilkes-Barre, PA. He got off the ship, he went to the town, he registered for the draft, he got married there, he had three children there, and he died there. Can someone tell me you agree with me that this seems to be the likely guy?

A Letter to Curinga/Una Lettera a Curinga

Here is a letter that I composed in Italian, with the help of my Italian instructor. I will translate it in my next post. I was able to make contact with an Orlando family in the town of Curinga, and we exchanged email addresses. I don't know if we are related, but since this family was willing to help and seemed interested in learning if there is a connection between my grandfather, Carmelo, and them, I thought I should take advantage of the opportunity.

The Letter-La Lettera

Caro/a .....,

Come sta? Le ringrazio molto del suo aiuto con l’investigazione geneologica che faccio sul mio nonno, Carmelo Orlando. È molto importante che io sappia la storia di mio nonno perchè io non avevo mai l’opportunità di conoscere Carmelo. È morto in 1937 qui negli Stati Uniti. Io sono nata in 1970. Era giovane e solo aveva 50 anni, ma ha lavorato nelle mine di Pennsylvania ed è morto della polmonite.

Mia madre, Angela Orlando (morta due anni fa) non sapeva molto del suo padre perchè era molto giovane quando Carmelo è morto. Adesso io faccio l’investigazione perchè voglio sapere di mio nonno e la storia della sua vita.

Ecco l’informazione che ho trovato fino adesso.

Date di Carmelo Orlando
Carmelo Orlando è nato il 16 luglio, 1887 a Curinga. È morto negli Stati Uniti il 12 dicembre, 1937 a Wilkes-Barre, PA.

Suo padre si chiamava Bruno Orlando. Ho trovato questa data nei documenti del nave. Carmelo Orlando arrivò negli Stati Uniti in 1909. Il suo destino finale era Wilkes-Barre, PA. Con mio nonno, viaggiavano le seguente quattro persone di Curinga con la stessa destinazione: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. L’informazione del documento:

Franceso Fiore (Sersale, Catanzaro) (M. Salvatore èd il suocero)
Francesco Currado (Curinga, padre: Guiseppe Currado) (amico di G. Tripedi)
Franceso Gigantino (Curinga, moglie: Elisabetta) (nipote di Tripedi)
Francesco Persano (Curinga, padre: Nicola Persano) (cugino di Tripedi)
Carmelo Orlando (Curinga, padre: Bruno) (cugino di Guiseppe Tripedi)

Ci sono due persone nel documento che sono parenti che abitavano negli Stati Uniti. Le due persone abitavanno a Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania:

Guiseppe Trapedi
M. Salvatore
Mio nonno era cugino di Guiseppe Tripedi.

Non so se ci sono altri parenti nostri a Curinga con i cognomi Orlando, Currado, Gigantino, Persano o Tripedi. Il documento di nave indica che mio nonno era cugino di G. Tripedi.

Domande per Lei:

1. Aveva mio nonno fratelli o sorelle? Come si chiamavano?
2. Come si chiamava la madre di Carmelo?
3. Quando sono morti la madre ed il padre di Carmelo?
4. Voi siete i parenti di mio nonno?
5. Ci sono parenti di Carmelo a Curinga o vicino a Curinga?
6. Se risponde sì, come posso parlare con loro?
7. Come sì può ottenere i documenti dal commune di Curinga?

Grazie del suo aiuto. Aspetto la sua risposta.

Jennifer Rafferty

Monday, November 17, 2008

Introducing, Carmelo Orlando, My Grandfather

As someone who has spent the last 4 years doing genealogy research on my maternal grandfather’s family, I can say that there is nothing like that very first moment you make a discovery about your ancestors. When I do research diligently and I uncover something after hours in front of the computer, I get a rush of confidence and I start to think that I have cracked the code, found the secret to researching my family tree. I plug along, inspired by that first initial discovery, but I eventually realize that genealogy research is not for the faint of heart. Major revelations in my family tree and ancestral history have not been overly abundant in the past 4 years, but there have been some gems and those key moments keep me moving down this path of finding my place in the world through genealogy.

I started my research on my grandfather, Carmelo Orlando, back in 2007. I initiated the search for my grandfather’s identity because I was interested in obtaining dual American Italian citizenship. I never, ever thought I would become the family genealogist.

I didn’t know much about my grandfather because he died in 1937, 33 years before I was born. My mother was only nine at the time of his death and her family lost the only picture they had of my grandfather. It’s amazing how a picture validates someone’s existence. My grandfather seemed to be more of a myth to me without any picture to look at. My mother seemed to have so few memories of him that he never took up much space in my mind. That all changed the day I discovered that he would be my link to obtaining my Italian citizenship.

I didn’t know the first thing about doing genealogy research when I got started. I imagine that it’s the same for many of you too. Today, thanks to the Internet, genealogy work has become a lot easier because we can search for records online at websites like Ellis Island dot org and Ancestry dot com.

I initiated my research on my grandfather at ellis island dot org, an amazing, free resource that has ship manifests for passengers who immigrated or traveled to the United States from 1892 – 1924. There I searched for all the Carmelo Orlandos who came to the United States from between the years of 1892 to 1921, which was the year that my grandparents got married in Wilke-Barre, PA.

I printed out lists of names, I googled cities in Italy, and one by one, I eliminated all Carmelos who were not from Calabria. Although I didn’t know my grandfather’s town of origin, I did know that he was Calabrian because my mom always made it a point to mention that he wasn’t Sicilian like my grandmother. So I had that one anecdote to help me.

The process was slow and it took me more than a few days to weed out the wrong Carmelos from regions other than Calabria. Once I was down to a manageable list of about three men, I started to look at the dates of arrival and birth dates for the few who were still left on the list. Amazingly enough, I found someone on the list who had my grandfather’s name and who had a destination of Wilkes-Barre, PA. This man was from Curinga, in the region of Calabria, and he arrived in to New York on March 31st, 1909.

I took a closer look at the ship manifest to see if I could uncover any more details about this man and to my delight, I found something that brought tears to my eyes. As you may know from reading my blog, my grandfather named his first son Bruno. That was my Uncle Bruno, my mom’s brother. In Italy, as it is in many other countries, it is a tradition to name your children after the parents of the husband. I didn’t know how seriously Italians immigrants took this tradition in the early 20th century, but I discovered it reading that historical document. The ship manifest listed my grandfather’s father’s name: It said Bruno Orlando. Just like Carmelo’s first born son. I sat with that information for a moment. I did nothing but look at the words written on the 18th line of the ship manifest as if the hard to read cursive were a portrait of Carmelo’s face. I had found my grandfather: Carmelo Orlando.

Circolo Calabrese