Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans Day 2012 - Francis Marion Huffman

I thought I would choose this Veteran's Day to write my first post about my biological ancestors. Today's post is about Francis Marion Huffman, my 3rd great grandfather who was injured in The Battle Of Shiloh during The Civil War. Francis Marion went by his middle name, Marion. He lived near Eighty Eight in Barren County, Kentucky where he worked as a farmer.
Francis Marion Huffman was born in Barren County, Kentucky on the 31st of August, 1822. By the start of The Civil War Marion was already in his late 30's, married and had 5 children to support. Marion's younger brothers Jonathan Clark Huffman and Louis Francis Huffman decided to enlist in the war in September of 1861. Their cousins, Stacey Huffman and Albert and George Baldock also enlisted. Marion joined his brothers and cousins and together they enlisted on September 24, 1861 with Capt. Chenowith's Company of Home Guards on the Union side. Marion mustered in for a 3 year period of time. He must have had strong reasons to leave his farm, wife and children who undoubtedly had to make huge sacrifices in his absence. His children were young, between the ages of 5 and 11. It is possible he believed the talk that the war would not last long. Regardless on April 6, 1862 Marion's company was at Pittsburgh Landing, Kentucky for the start of what would be known as The Battle of Shiloh. This battle would become the bloodiest battle ever seen at that time and resulted in the deaths of over 24,000 men. On the second day of the battle, Marion was shot in the foot and carried off the battlefield. The shot shattered a major bone in his foot and surgery had to be performed to remove the shattered pieces of bone to prevent infection. The injury left Marion unable to walk on that foot. According to his military records he was discharged from service on February 4, 1863. Just weeks after Marion's injury his younger brother Louis died in a military camp of a fever caused by the measles. Marion went back to his farm near Eighty Eight in Barren County and tried to continue farming, however due to his injury, we was unable to keep up with the hard labor. He died 11 years later as a result of his injury which had developed gangrene from his foot all the way up his leg to his thigh and pyaemia (a type of septicaemia).
Marion's father Thomas was a veteran of The War of 1812. His descendants have participated in every war since then.
On this Veteran's Day, I am grateful for all our veterans past and present for their sacrifices to protect us all.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Workday Wednesday - Carl Stohn, Jr., Chicago Producer and Director

While going through some pictures, I found this picture of my parents with Carl Stohn, Jr. (far right) a man who should be a Chicago legend. Sadly, he is not. This blog post is my feeble attempt to write something about this great man who I remember fondly. Carl Stohn, Jr. was born in Canada but moved to Chicago sometime before 1950. When my father first introduced me to Mr. Stone, I was a young girl, probably around 1968. For the next 10 years I would meet with and talk to Mr. Stohn. My father ran a business that provided seminars (and an annual conference) to electronic engineers. The seminars lasted a week and were arranged by my father four times a year. When my father moved his offices from Wabash Avenue in downtown Chicago to the suburb of Oak Brook, he began hosting the seminars at Pheasant Run Inn located in St. Charles, Illinois. It was here my father met Carl Stohn, Jr. who produced and directed plays at the theater in Pheasant Run. The theater was a new concept - dinner theater. During his career in Chicago, he directed many of the great screen legends in popular plays of the day.
By 1950 he was already a well known producer and at that time also acted. During this time he produced plays for the only winter stock company outside of the New York area. When Carl Stohn joined forces with Tony DeSantis to produce and direct plays at Drury Lane Theater in Evergreen Park, the concept of dinner theater was new. Mr. Stohn was an innovator in the industry. When Pheasant Run opened their dinner theater they recruited Carl Stohn to produce and direct their plays. He had a reputation in the industry and was able to attract many big name stars to perform in his plays. Pheasant Run Dinner Theater was set up like a restaurant on multiple levels with a stage in the front. Patrons would enjoy a full course meal followed by good entertainment. He was well spoken, witty and a very sharp dresser. He was a class act. He also liked a bit of flash and always wore stunning jeweled cuff links and several diamond rings.
On August 21, 1980 Carl Stohn, Jr. was brutally assaulted, mugged and shot in the head. Several south side gang members were put on trial for his murder. It is ironic his death occurred around the same time as the decline in popularity of dinner theater. Although he seems to have been forgotten by most, I will always remember him.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mystery Monday - Genie Hooten/Davis Smith

I have begun working on my biological family tree. After over 2 months of visiting my brother and sister every week and I feel I know them better, it is time to put on my genealogy hat and begin asking questions. The Huffman family is fairly well documented as far as anyone born Huffman is concerned. There is an amazing website called Huffmans To The Barrens that includes many sourced documents and photos. Of course, I am looking for my own sources and verifying as I move up the tree, but my Huffmans (yes, I have more than 1 line) have been made easy for me. To make things even easier, Family Search has many records for Barren County, Kentucky available online. So last week, I was in Vermilion County visiting my new family and the time has come to begin asking questions. My grandmother was Mary Elizabeth Smith. It is her mother that is the big mystery and the subject of today's blog post. Her name was Genie (Hooten) Smith and she was adopted into a family by the name of Davis as a baby or young child. I doubt she was legally adopted since all family references to her include the name Hooten, not Davis.
Genie was born on October 15, 1887 somewhere in Texas. According to the 1900 census, she is living in Hiseville, Barren County, Kentucky as the adopted daughter of Benjamin K. Davis (aged 62) and his wife Martha. Genie is the youngest member of the household at the age of 11. Also living in the home are the other children of Benjamin and Martha:
  • William K. Davis, age 30
  • Charley B. Davis, age 25
  • Philip Walthall, age 25 (husband of Bessie)
  • Bessie M. Walthall, age 23 (daughter of Benjamin and Martha)
  • Myrtie M. Davis, age 19
According to this census Genie's mother was born in Texas also. The Davis family were all born in Kentucky except for Benjamin who was born in Illinois (although his parents were Kentucky born). So, how did Genie end up with this family? How did she come to arrive in Kentucky from Texas? Hiseville, Kentucky is 982 miles from the Texas border and back in the 1890's it would have been a journey that took weeks to arrive from Texas to Hiseville. As I examined this census record, I noticed others in the household that were not listed as family. A man named Hartfield Wood, age 26 was listed as "black" and a laborer. I assume he worked on the farm. Laura Wilson age 54 and Louisa A. Davis, age 82 are listed as boarders.
As I followed the Davis family forward in time through the census records, things get a bit more interesting. Philip and Bessie Walthall end up living in Texas so there may be some sort of family tie to Texas. I will have to pursue this.
So, the next logical step was to obtain a copy of Genie's death record. So during my recent visit with family, my brother and I went to the Vermilion County Courthouse in the hopes of finding Genie's death record. We filled out the form, paid the fee and read the record. It stated her father's name as James Hooten. Great, verification of her father's name! However, it listed her mother's name as unknown and her place of birth as unknown, Texas. Not much help there. Texas is a huge state and there were many men named James Hooten there, so, I now officially have my first brick wall of my biological family tree. I believe Genie had no idea who her mother was. I believe she was adopted because her mother died shortly after her birth. I am just guessing here but it makes sense that is why her father's name was known and her mother's name was not. If this is true, her marriage record may read the same way - mother unknown. Regardless, my next step is to find the marriage record of Genie Hooten or Genie Davis to Elon E. Smith in Kentucky. I also need to find out if any records of adoption exist for Genie and the family who raised her, Benjamin and Elizabeth Davis. As I said before, I doubt they adopted her because family photographs and her death record refer to her as Genie Hooten, not Genie Davis. In the meantime, I am keeping a watchful eye on anyone named Hooten in Texas. It is interesting to note that Genie's father's name was known but her mother's name was unknown. How did Genie know her father's name? Is it possible she knew him? I can relate to Genie, although our circumstances were very different, she was adopted, just like I was. I find this the perfect first brick wall of my biological family and am very excited to see what I can find on my 2nd great grandmother and her family.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Follow Friday - Google Cultural Institute

For those of you who have never seen Google's Cultural Institute, it is a must see. It presents history from the 20th century in a unique and personal manner. It begins in 1905 with a section called Imperial Exposures which tells the story of Asian rulers in 1905 with stunning pictures. For me the most interesting sections are the sections regarding the Holocaust during World War II. The sections called 1941 They Were Children about the Jewish children of Paris that were deported and rescued is an amazing story which is illustrated with words, photos and documents. When viewing this site you may need to keep tissues handy. I have read many of the stories which are presented beautifully and read a new one each day. It is well worth a look. You can view the homepage for The Google Cultural Institute here.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Funeral Card Friday - Catherine Napolitano And The Cappetta Funeral Home

This is one of two funeral cards I have for my grandmother whom I was named after. Catherina Maiuolo (Maiola) Napolitano died on 5 October 1958. Every Sunday we visited her grave and I still find it a bit strange to see my own name on her headstone. I don't remember her but she has lived in my heart from family stories. Still, it has always made me sad that I never really knew my Nonna. She is buried at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois and from her grave you can see the grave of her sister Mary Sapone and her brother Frank.
If you look on the back of the funeral card, you will see the name of The Cappetta Funeral Home. The Cappetta family has buried every generation of my family since they arrived here from Italy. My great grandmother Natalina Scrugli Maiuolo died on 11 September 1932 in Cicero, Illinois. A few blocks away from the family home at 1232 South 59th Avenue was the Cappetta Funeral Home. Anthony Cappetta was the funeral director at the time. His son, also named Anthony handled the funeral of my niece and my mother as well as so many other members of my family. His son Anthony has joined the family business and one day (hopefully a long time from now) will handle my funeral. Soon I will follow up with a series of blog posts about Cicero, Illinois and hopefully include a post on the Cappetta family.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Motivation Monday - Time to Reorganize

The past 2 months I have totally set aside my personal genealogical pursuits to become acquainted and comfortable with my new found family. I have seen my brother and sister every week since our first meeting and we talk on the phone in between visits. Until now we have just gotten to know each other. Now, I have decided, the time has come to learn more. The fact is I have missed 53 years of my brother's life and all of my sister's life. They grew up in a small southern influenced town and I grew up in and around Chicago. We had very different lives and influences. It will take so much time to catch up but I have formulated a plan for us to learn about what we have missed and hopefully make it fun.
Now with these additional family lines to pursue, I find the need to really organize myself and prioritize a list for each family line before I become totally unorganized and overwhelmed. My websites are all in great need of my attention as well. It has been quite some time since I have made any updates or added records and information. I have had extractions and several years of marriages for Montalto Uffugo, Italy to put online, but have not done so. In all honesty, I have been distracted by many things going on in my life. The time has come for me to get it together. With my new found Huffman family, I need to do what I do with my family - put my research online. I have decided to revamp my website Early American Ancestors to add my Huffman family lines. Most of this family's lines date back to the 1730's or much earlier in the United States so this site would seem an appropriate place for them. So as I prepare to write the story of the Huffman and Smith lines it has occurred to me I am at both a great advantage and disadvantage. The disadvantage is I did not grow up hearing the old family stories. I did not even know my grandparents, or my biological mother. I have no personal memories of any of them and never will. I have seen many pictures. Some of those pictures tell their own story. And that is part of my advantage. I am forced to look harder and think deeper with each picture and story I hear. This family has deep southern roots and my brother and sister both have memories in Kentucky and family that stayed there. I have taken nothing for granted and have fresh eyes. Little things no one normally would think much of have been huge for me. So now that I have gotten to know my brother and sister more, it is time to begin asking questions, gathering stories and of course, getting more pictures. First on my agenda for the Huffman and Smith families is to gather information from everyone I can and learn the stories that have been passed down, try to document these stories and if possible, prove them. Once that is done, I can begin putting them and their stories on my website for future generations and other family members. It is a huge task that will take a lot of time, but since I have learned from past mistakes, I am hoping to document this family well. I am hoping to split my website Early American Ancestors by northern regions and southern regions to accommodate my 2 family lines. Which reminds me of how incomplete that site is. I also need to work hard on adding town and surname information to my New England families there. This entire website needs to be worked on before I can add my biological families.

As I look at the Huffman family I realize some of the things I took for granted with my Napolitano and Dewey families. My parents loved to tell tales of the past and although some of those stories I was curious about and I actively researched, many other stories I took for granted and did nothing with them. Some stories you just cannot research, but I realize now that most of those stories I have not documented anywhere. It now occurs to me that it is long overdue that I write these stories as soon as possible to preserve them for future generations. Once I do that, I need to compile all my documents, photographs and GEDCOM files and send them to my cousins or their children on flash drives.

Lastly, I need to look at all my websites and update them. I have complete years of records I never extracted to put online to share for Cosenza Exchange. I also have records I extracted but never put the extractions online. With so much to do, I have decided to create a schedule for each website to help me stay on task with reasonable deadlines that it is manageable and not overwhelming. My goals will be to work on each website once a week. Because I have so much going on in my personal life now, I will try for now but begin in earnest January first. It will be an exciting new year for me!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Talented Tuesday - Mattia Preti of Taverna, Cosenza, Calabria

Mattia Preti was born in the Cosenza Province Comune of Taverna on 24 February 1613. Both Mattia and his brother Gregorio had a passion for art early in life and sometime before 1630 Mattia followed his brother Gregorio from his small town of Taverna for Roma to pursue his dreams. While in Roma, Mattia studied art and was greatly influenced by the art of the great master Caravaggio. Both Mattia and his brother Gregorio studied at Accademia di San Luca while in Roma. It was in Roma, Mattia's artist abilities began to blossom. Mattia sold his first painting here also. Between 1640 and 1646 Mattia made several trips to Florence after which he returned to Roma.
In 1656 Mattia left Florence for Naples where he stayed until 1659. He studied here under Luca Giordano (1634-1705). While in Naples, what was considered to be among Mattia's greatest masterpieces were painted. They were are series of frescos painted on the seven city gates depicting the plague. Painted throughout these frescos were images of the Blessed Mother and saints delivering people from the plague. Time has destroyed these frescos, however, some of Mattia's sketches have survived and can be seen today in the Capodimonte Museum in Naples.
Mattia was often called "Il Cavalier Calabrese" (The Knight of Calabria) which was a reference to his place of birth. During his time in Naples, he was made a Knight of Grace in the Order of St. John. This order was headquartered in Malta so in 1659 Mattia left to visit there. He never left Malta. While in Malta in 1661 Mattia was commissioned to paint a new altarpiece for the chapel of the Aragonese Langue by Grand Master Martin de Redin. After that was completed more commissions followed. His work adorns the Cathedral of St. John. His work there would not complete until 1666. The result was stunning and these wonderful masterpieces can still be seen there today. If you cannot afford to travel to Malta to view his amazing work, you can view these stunning masterpieces at the official website of St. John's Co Cathedral.. Mattia Preti died in Malta on 3 January 1699 and is buried in the same chapel at St. John's that bears his greatest surviving art.
Most of Mattia Preti's art survives today in some of the world's greatest museums. The Lourve in Paris holds at least 15 works. The National Gallery in London hosts his painting The Marriage At Cana. Further works can be seen in art galleries and museums throughout the United States, Canada, Italy as well as Copenhagen, Romania, Madrid, France, St. Petersburg, Russia, Australia, and Vienna. His portrait of a Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, Martin de Redin done in 1660 can been seen in Chicago's Art Institute. It was Martin de Redin who commissioned Preti to paint the alter at The Cathedral of St. John in Malta. This beautiful art can still be viewed there. A list of museums that hold Preti masterpieces can be viewed at Art Encyclopedia with links to images of his art on the museum websites.
If you are interested in other artists born in Calabria, you can view a previous blog post about Giuseppe Naso of Tropea here.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mystery Monday - Help Us Find Our Siblings

Today I am going to do something a little different. As a follow up to my previous posts Surname Saturday - Huffman and Thankful Thursday - Meeting My Biological Family, my new found biological family has made it clear that they want to find our other siblings who were adopted into other families. By my biological family, I mean all of them, not just my brother and sister. This is an open letter to our missing siblings. If you were adopted, please read on. If you know someone who was adopted, please share this with them. If you are a member of the genealogy community, please, please share this post and help us to get the word out in the hopes that it will help us find our missing family members.
We are looking for children born sometime between July, 1955 through early 1963. One of our missing siblings was born in Chicago probably at Cook County Hospital. I was left at the Chicago Foundling Home, however, my brother or sister could have been left at a different orphanage. The other sibling(s) would have been born in Louisville, Kentucky, and may have been adopted into a family in either Kentucky or Southern Indiana. If the children have obtained a copy of their non-identifying information that they are entitled to by law, their mother's age would match a birth date of 9 November 1935, she was a waitress and listed her ethnicity as German and Irish and German and Dutch (although that is not entirely accurate so your information may be different but should contain German) on my paperwork.
Please help us by sharing this post. Below is our open letter to our missing siblings.

Dearest brother and/or sister,

Our family is incomplete without you and we want to find you so very much, but, due to privacy laws we cannot. Because of this, you have to find us. We will try our best to help you find us. Please know, we love you and all we want is the chance to know you. There is a hole in our hearts and souls that only you can fill. We have missed so many years already, so please hurry because we miss you in our lives. Help us make our family circle complete. You may be wondering how to do this now so we will tell you. Illinois opened up adoption records to adoptees in November, 2011. That is how our sister found us. To our sibling born in Chicago, you can obtain a copy of your original birth certificate that will have the name of your biological mother on it. If her name was Shirley Huffman, born in Rossville, Illinois, the you will know you are our sibling. Go to this website, download the PDF form linked at the bottom of the page, complete the form and mail it along with a check to the address on the website. To our siblings in Kentucky, you will not have the option to do this, however, our sister Cathy's adoption was not sealed by our mother, so maybe your records were not sealed either. Kentucky law and your options to find us can be located here. You have an option to obtain your original adoption records so all you have to do is write them. Another option to find us is a DNA test. Our sister Cathy has her DNA on 23and Me or Family Tree DNA but you can have your DNA tested anywhere and upload your raw data to Gedmatch free. If you are our sibling you will show up as a family match with our sister Cathy and will be able to contact her at any of the 3 sites. We are doing all we can to find you. The rest is up to you. Here is a picture from our joyful reunion with our sister. Do not be afraid because there is nothing to fear - the entire family wants to welcome you with open arms. Please find us! You can email us at

Love, Your brother Barry and sisters Cathy and Michele

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11, 2012

Today we remember the saddest day in this young country's existence. That fateful morning, it was a beautiful sunny day in New York, as well as Chicago where I live. I was driving to work that day and had my car radio on to Howard Stern who I did not normally listen to. When I heard him talking about a plane that hit the World Trade Center, I became agitated and thought how he went too far and that was so not funny. I thought it was another bad Howard Stern prank and it never even occurred to me that it could be real. I changed the channel and that channel also talked about a plane hitting the Tower. I was stopped at a red traffic light when it hit me - this was real. Without thinking, I looked at the man in the car next to me, shocked. He was already looking at me, his jaw had dropped open - I think mine was also. We looked at each other in shock for a moment - eleven years later, I still remember his face. I arrived at work and did not want to leave my car radio. I rushed up to my 4th floor office, unlocked my desk and pulled out a small battery operated combination radio and flashlight I kept there in case of emergency. Co-workers already had their own radios turned on. As I was rifling through my desk, I heard a co-worker yell "oh my God, it's a terrorist attack - another plane hit the second tower!" As the day went on, our Vice President put a portable television in a small conference room so we could watch the news coverage as our time permitted. The phones were quiet that day...the sound of multiple ringing phones that were heard every day were silent that day. We all know what happened that day and the days and weeks that followed. Every year all Americans have paused to remember every September 11th since. We remember those that died, those that survived, and those brave heroes that helped this nation make it through. Every year since I have paused to pray, to remember and to be grateful for all I have. That is until, September 11, 2010. That day I spent holding my mother's hand until she took her last breath. That day, I forgot, until I got home after my mother died. Now, on September 11th, I remember the attacks that day and I still pray for the lost souls that day and for the survivors and the heroes. And I also remember the most beautiful woman I have ever known, my mother, who died 2 years ago on this solemn day.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Thankful Thursday - Meeting My Biological Family

It has been a few weeks since I received my original birth certificate. As I announced in a previous post Surname Saturday - Huffman I was adopted and just received my original birth certificate in August. Before I tell my story, there is something I have to explain. My life has been like a puzzle with missing pieces. There are pieces of me that never quite fit anywhere. I did not look like anyone and often heard people casually state they had grandma's eyes or their mother's bone structure. These comments happen more often than you think. But many of the missing pieces had nothing to do with appearance. It was also my personality - the essence of who I am. Things like morals and ethics are all taught and my parents taught me well. And part of who a person's personality is molded by their environment and experiences in life. We are, after all, constantly changing and it is our life's experiences that help change us. But a part of each person's personality comes from somewhere deep within their genetic make up. I have always known this because a huge part of the person I am had no explanation and I never understood that part of me. As time went on I realized I was trying very hard to fit into a mold but I never quite fit. I have tried all my life to fit that mold and because it never quite fit me, I was not comfortable in my own skin.

Soon after I obtained my birth certificate, I discovered I had a biological brother. I wrote my brother and waited to see if he would respond. I waited over a week and when I heard nothing, I began the process of accepting the fact I never would receive a response. I was sad, but I understood and had hope he would change his mind. I woke up on my birthday and made my coffee as usual. As I was sipping my coffee, my phone rang. I answered it and heard "Happy birthday Sis!". I was speechless - and trust me, that NEVER happens! We talked for about a half hour and one thing was clear. He was just as happy as I was! After I hung up the phone, I cried - very happy tears. It was the best birthday I ever had. He called me back a few days later (as promised) to arrange our meeting. It was during this phone call I learned I also had a sister! A sister and a brother! My head was spinning! And, the best part was they seemed as anxious as I was to meet. I was overjoyed! After 50 some years of separation, I was about to meet the siblings I never knew I had. The first time I would come face to face with a biological family member. During my initial phone conversations with my brother, he seemed so excited and happy which instantly quelled all my fears. I will forever be grateful for his obvious enthusiasm.

As I drove the 3 hours to meet them, I felt every emotion you can think of. And I wondered...would they like me, would this be our only meeting, what were they thinking and so much more. I worried I would get too emotional and make a fool of myself. I decided I was thinking too much and turned up the car stereo and tried to relax. As I pulled my car into our meeting place, I took a deep breath and got out of the car. Lots of hugs ensued. Except for the birth of my daughter it was the happiest day of my life. I never expected the warm welcome I received. And it just got better as the day progressed. It was still a shock but my brother's happiness was contagious. Considering they never knew I existed, I am sure they were in more shock than I. By the end of the day, I would learn all my fears were for nothing, but was glad I expected the worst because it just enhanced my joy that day. The day began meeting my new found brother, his wife, my sister and her daughter (my niece!). The day ended meeting a few cousins and the sister of my biological mother, my aunt. The day was overwhelming (in a good way). I had so much to absorb. Seeing people who looked like me for the first time was so surreal and so amazing. I saw so much of myself in my brother, but not just our faces, but also in his personality. I thought I must be wrong. What made it more amazing was each one of their reactions to me. Every person I met made it clear I was very welcome - as a member of the family. That was something that I had not expected and honestly a scenario that never occurred to me. I never looked past the moment, it was way too scarey for me. All that fear is gone now, replaced with joy. As I met a cousin and my aunt, I felt this strange feeling that I can only describe as a familiarity like I had met them somewhere before...but I knew that was not possible. They lived over 100 miles from me. It was a wonderful day I was told the annual Huffman family reunion was the following weekend and was asked to come and of course I agreed. During the week, I talked to both my brother and sister on the phone and chatted online with my brother's wife almost every day. It occurred to me that I genuinely liked my brother, his wife and my sister so much that if we had not been related, I still would have liked them as friends. The day of the reunion came and the day began badly - I was running late due to many reasons I arrived and met my brother in a parking lot so he could show me the way to the park and of course, so I would not have to walk in alone. I will not go into detail about the day but it was amazing. And as I met and talked to each member of this large and beautiful family, I began to see so much of myself in them both visually and in their personalities. I was not nervous but was completely at ease and I was myself. I recognized much of my own personality in so many of these people. The day ended too soon and I left wanting more time. I got in my car and began the 2-3 hour drive home. As I drove, I thought about the day and the conversations. My first visit to Rossville (before I wrote my brother) ended at the grave of my biological mother. I knew I was a secret (she left Rossville for the orphanage in Chicago when she was 3 months pregnant) and I asked her what would she think if I broke her secret and wrote my brother. As I began to cry, I looked up and saw a sliver of a rainbow. About an hour into my drive home from the reunion, I was thinking about what my new uncle had told me. He told me he asked my mother if she ever thought about those babies she left at the orphanage shortly before she died. She told him, every night before she went to bed. As I drove, I thought about that statement and how very sad it was. It must have been such a heavy burden for her to carry. I began to cry and as I looked in the rear view mirror, I was shocked to see a rainbow. I had to pull off at the exit. I pulled into a parking lot and cried. And I thought about everyone I met. I was thinking about all the similarities I saw in my own personality. And for the first time it occurred to me, I fit in. I was myself completely and never once tried to fit a mold - I did not have to. It was then I realized, all the pieces to the puzzle that was me, fit perfectly together. I am part Huffman, part Napolitano, part Dewey and part me. I now know who I look like and finally understand why I am the person I am. I can at last be comfortable in my own skin. I have been truly blessed with not one, but two awesome families. I would be remiss if I did not thank my friend Jim Bianco, who gave me the push and support I needed to find my family and in that process, myself. I now feel complete. If you were adopted and hesitating to find your family, my advice is this. Do it! Even if your story does not have the happy ending mine did, it is worth the risk. Unless you try, you will never know.
But, this story is far from over. If you read this well, you may have caught what my uncle asked my mother...those babies...plural. I was not the only baby my mother gave birth to and had to leave at an orphanage. There are more missing siblings! Another child was born in Chicago and we believe 2 were born in Louisville, Kentucky. And this warm and wonderful family wants to be reunited with them too. And so a new journey begins, to complete our family. My next blog post will give all the information I know regarding my other adopted siblings. I hope you will share it and help us find them.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Matrilineal Monday - What now?!

As a follow up to my previous post Surname Saturday - Huffman one big question remains - what do I do now?! The year I was born, single mother's were not allowed to list the name of the father. My DNA seems to support the information she provided on my non-identifying information that he was Italian since I do have DNA that would match Italian regions. My birth mother is deceased so she cannot tell me. With no name, there is not much I can do about that at the moment so my focus now is what I can do, my maternal lines.

I am certainly not new to genealogy. I spent the past 15 years or so working on the lines of my Italian father and my mother's German and American Yankee lines (by mother and father, I mean my adoptive family, the only family I know and love). I have done research for more people than I can count. However, this is so very different. When I obtained my original birth certificate last week, after obtaining the 1940 census record of my birth mother and her family, I began a new tree on Ancestry. I added the names, dates and places of the Huffman direct lines I knew. The Huffman lines I descend from are well documented and since I knew my original surname of Huffman over a year before I received my original birth certificate, I was familiar with them. I had 3 generations of direct line information and documents to enter and more for a 4th generation that still needed proof. After I entered everything I had documentation for, I decided to look at other trees. I was anxious to see how many names I knew from my DNA matches. However, it never occurred to me that I would find trees with relatively close connections on Ancestry. I found trees that were obviously grandchildren of siblings of my grandparents. They were full of pictures but no pictures of my grandparents or my birth mother. Unsourced information is in the tree that I have not found elsewhere (yet) so I would like to ask about it. Obviously, since I was adopted, I have no stories of my biological family and have no idea what they were like. It would be a wonderful thing to know. I also found other trees that appear to be even closer biological family. So now what?! I never hesitated in the past contacting tree owners with questions but this is very different. I am unknown to them and I will undoubtedly be a shock. They may know my living family and may have known my birth mother and her parents. I never thought this far ahead. If I don't ask, I won't know. On the other hand, I am a very sensitive woman and my feelings are easily hurt. How many of these people will ignore me, or worse respond in a negative manner? And it will probably be quite upsetting and emotional for them as well. I am more concerned about that. One thing has surprised me and that is my feelings of shame. When I went to Rossville and as I see these trees, I find myself feeling quite ashamed and am not sure why. I have never been ashamed before, so why now? I am certainly not ashamed of my birth mother, quite the contrary. What she did took great courage and I am grateful. I certainly have done nothing wrong. My reasons for my quest however, are quite basic, I wish to know more about who I am, why I am the way I am, who I resemble and what my health risks might be. Things most other people have known their whole lives but have been a total mystery to me. My quest to know my biological roots has turned into an unexpected therapy session so for now I think I will finish my research plan and prepare for my trip to the Newberry Library next week. I have much to learn about Southern roots and in the words of a famous Southern belle, tomorrow is another day.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Surname Saturday - Huffman

Today, I am coming out of the "genealogy closet". This is not easy for me. Today's blog post is the most personal thing I have ever written publicly. After years of working so hard on the Napolitano and Dewey families, I have met so many wonderful cousins and I hope this does not change anything for them. I was adopted. I was raised by a Napolitano and a Dewey and love them with all my heart and soul and they are the only parents I have ever known from the time I was a month old. All I am morally and ethically comes from them. My "adopted" family IS my family. But, I always felt different, because I was very different. My cousins all had dark eyes, dark hair and I was the tallest member of my family since the age of 11. I did not look like anyone with my blue eyes and blonde hair. I never quite fit in. There were always so many questions. But the biggest questions were who was I, where did I come from, why was I given up, what was I (ethnically) and did I have brothers and sisters somewhere. I was raised with such strong Italian roots I always wondered if I really was. Pictured here is The Chicago Foundling Home where I began my life. It is gone now, replaced by a parking lot for The United Center. About 3 years ago, I wrote for my non-identifying information which adoptees are entitled to by law. The information I received told me my birth father was 100% Italian and my birth mother was German and Irish and German and Dutch. She was 22 years old, a waitress and unmarried. Last year I took not one but 2 DNA tests after I learned the surname of my mother, Huffman. What I did not know was her first name. Last Saturday I received my original birth certificate. I now know her name. It did not take me long to find her as well as answers to some of my questions. She died in 2010. Her husband died in 2000. Her sisters also died so it is doubtful I will ever learn the true identity of my bio-father. Someone living may know, perhaps her best friend if she is living. But it is doubtful. Still, I have hope.

She came from a very small town in downstate Illinois called Rossville. My original birth certificate was very blurry but her name, place of birth, and age were very clear. Shirley Huffman, age 22, born in Rossville, Illinois. It was not hard to piece together parts of her life. Within a few hours, I learned some of her story. The birth certificate told me the first part. She had a child before I was born. She left the small town of Rossville and her 4 year old son and went over 100 miles to Chicago, when she was 3 months pregnant with me. She lived the next 6 months of her life in The Chicago Foundling Home (pictured above) until I was born. It must have been so difficult for her to leave the safety and security of her family, home and small town for a treacherous neighborhood in Chicago, all alone and pregnant. No home, just a bed in a room with other beds of other expectant mothers. I cannot imagine how hard it was for her to leave her young 4 year old son for 6 months. I can only assume after I was born she went back to Rossville. Back to her parents William Marion and Mary Elizabeth (Smith) Huffman and her 4 year old son. It took great courage to have and keep a child at the age of 18 back in 1954, and I can only assume that a second child (me) was too much to bear financially and socially. Her parents must have been quite unhappy about me. After reading the birth certificate, the first place I looked was the 1940 census where I found her living with her father, mother, 2 sisters Lorene and Betty and younger brother William. She was the only Shirley Huffman in Rossville in 1940 and her birth date matched perfect. Other searches revealed she married (Robert) Daniel Allison in 1963. What I found after that, I never expected. Shirley had diabetes. This disease caused her to go temporarily blind and destroyed her kidneys. Her grandson (who would have been my nephew) gave up a career in football to donate his kidney to her. This story was made into a movie by Showtime and starred Debbie Reynolds as Shirlee (Huffman) Allison. When I learned this I knew somewhere there would be a picture of her in a newspaper article. At last! I could see what I have wondered my entire life...what she looked like and did I look like her? The only picture I found pictured her wearing sunglasses so I could not see her eyes but what I did see revealed I do look like her. I did not expect the tears that followed. Next I rushed off to the library to rent the DVD of the movie. Watching the movie was so surreal not to mention emotional. I was quite surprised by some of the thoughts going through my head when I watched it. I probably noticed things in that movie that no one else would.

I learned this small town had a Historical and Genealogical Society that was only open a few hours on Tuesday and Saturday. So, a few days after I learned her name, I drove to Rossville. Once I finally arrived there, I found myself quite nervous and it occurred to me I had no idea how to handle this delicate situation. Shirlee was no longer alive but her son is and he still lives there. I did not want him to find out about me through gossip in the small town. I did not want to mention her name. I tried to get what I came for - the yearbooks. I wanted pictures and that was my only way of getting them. I tried but the woman who was working at the historical society had a book I needed that she would not let me look at. She was very nice, but I imagine she had the privacy rights of living people to consider. I had no choice but to reveal her name. After that she was able to pull the appropriate yearbooks and these revealed several pictures and more information. She was quite active in school and was in sports, a cheerleader, in choir and on student council. Each activity meant another picture. A thousand thoughts raced through my mind as I turned the pages of each book. I was told of a town genealogy book that was done and found the entry for her family. I was not able to focus properly. In just a few days, I was overwhelmed with so much information. I could have probably gotten so much more but I had a hard time processing everything. I will have to return for what I missed. I have written my (presumed half) brother and wait to see if he responds. When I was finished at the historical society, I went to the cemetery to pay my respects. Her parents and grandparents are buried there also. It was a very hot, sunny day but as I arrived I noticed a few clouds. I did not have the location of her grave so every time I got out of my car huge raindrops fell then stopped. Finally I saw her grave from my car and when I did it was raining (not hard, just those large rain drops) but the sun never stopped shining. As I got out of my car the rain stopped and as I stood in front of her grave, I saw a small portion of a rainbow in the sky. Overcome with emotion I never knew was there, I cried for a long time. After, I felt a peace I have never known before. This is the beginning of my journey to discover who I am and where I came from.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thankful Thursday - Genealogy Bank

Today I am thankful for Genealogy Bank and I will tell you why. I have spent the most time searching for information on my ancestor Abel Kent Sr. than anyone else for several reasons. The primary reason, however is due to a document located in the Connecticut State Library. This document has become a source of a birth date for Abel Kent that I can now say with confidence is a mistake made by a well intended man. This man attempted to group all the families of Suffield, Connecticut into family groups utilizing the Suffield records. The page he wrote about the children of Noah and Deliverence (Granger) Kent listed their son Abel with a birth date of September 20, 1753. This is actually the birth date (in a different year) of Abel's sister Deborah. Thanks to an article dated March of 1766, found on Genealogy Bank, I learned my ancestor Abel Kent was living in Lanesborough, Massachusetts in 1765. This article gave me more than that though. It contained an important piece of history for that town that I had never seen before despite reading all the local history books and even better, my ancestor Abel Kent was involved. The event in the article described "The Lanesborough Affair". I learned an important piece of history and a great family story which lead to the arrest of my Abel. Before this article, I did not know Abel had ever lived in Lanesborough, although I knew his brother Noah lived there. This article led me to further research at Chicago's Newberry Library to learn more and leads me to another person I am thankful for today. My friend James, who went to Pittsfield to research Lanesborough and New Ashford for me. I did not even ask him! I now have dozens of documents detailing what once was 20 missing years of Abel Kent's life that I did not know. These documents provide further proof that Abel was indeed the son of Noah and Deliverance (Granger) Kent and could not possibly have been born in 1753, therefore had to be born on September 26, 1742. The newspaper article found on Genealogy Bank told me a great piece of lost history that my ancestor was involved in and lead me to so many more great documents, thanks to my friend James. The 20 year gap is now filled with land documents, documents that detail Abel's service to the towns of Lanesborough and New Ashford, his participation in Shays Rebellion, another huge piece of American history and more. Today, I am thankful for Genealogy Bank. I am thankful for my friend James, who taught me so much of what I know about genealogy everyday. If you want to read more about Abel Kent Sr., Lanesborough, The Lanesborough Affair or New Ashford, I have published more on my website Early American Ancestors and put many of the documents found there, including a transcription of the article found on Genealogy Bank regarding The Lanesborough Affair.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - First Church of Suffield

Pictured here is The First Church of Suffield, Connecticut, then and now.



Sunday, July 1, 2012

Matrilineal Monday - The White Widows Of Italy

Between 1880 and 1920 a mass migration out of Italy cut the population of many towns dramatically. Immigrants left Italy in huge numbers during this period. Approximately one third of those immigrants came to the United States. There were many reasons for this mass migration during this time frame. Crops were failing due to over farming caused by greedy feudal landlords, Phylloxera destroyed many of the vineyards, and a series of many natural disasters and outbreaks of illnesses such as cholera made earning a living and surviving in Italy difficult. Something new began to occur during this time period. It became so common, it was given a name and the wives left behind were called White Widows. Leaving Italy was not as easy task and could be quite expensive. Often men would leave their families for other countries and look for work. Once they found work in the new country, they would obtain proper lodgings for their families and send money for their passage so the family could be reunited in their new country. However, this did not always happen. Sometimes the husband would leave promising to send for his wife and children when he obtained work, and would never be heard from again. The wives that were left behind to feign for themselves and their young children were called white widows. Food and jobs in Italy were scarce during this time. Most of the men that left Italy probably left intending to send for their families. However, once they found work in America, they had to pay rent and eat. Many also had to send some money home for their families to survive. Saving money for ship passage for the family would have been difficult at best. The lucky ones would have found good jobs with opportunity to save but many did not. Other circumstances also lead to men leaving their homeland and families behind also. Many of these men after a period of time gave realizing that the reality of their finances would never allow them to send for their wives and children. Some of these men continued to send money back to their families but for some of these white widows, their husbands were never heard from again.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Surname Saturday - Cefali/Cefaly of Cortale, Italia

I have written in the past about discovering a cousin who was an artist in Tropea named Giuseppe Naso. Years ago when I was researching Cortale in Calabria, the town my grandmother was born in, I read about an artist who was born there named Andrea Cefaly. Pictured here is a statue he made that rests outside the church Santa Maria Cattolica Maggiore in Cortale. Andrea Cefaly (1827-1907) is known more for his paintings than his sculptures and created one painting that hangs in the Louvre in Paris. But this sculpture is really quite interesting because it is a political statement that holds a key to the identity of this family as well as an interesting period in Italian history - the unification. He sculpted it around 1870 and named it "Italia". The statue of a woman represents Italy and you will notice her back is to the church. This was a political statement representing the separation of politics from faith. It was a strong and popular sentiment around the time of the unification of Italy. The family of Andrea Cefaly supported this movement with all their hearts and the father of Andrea, Domenico was also a supporter of a unified Italy, with the separation of church and state. The grandson of Andrea, also named Andrea (referred to as Andrea Jr.) was also an artist.

Years after first reading about the famous Cefaly family, I found the 1811 marriage act of my third great grandparents Antonio Frontera and Domenica Schinnea. This document listed Domenica Schinnea's mother as Vittoria Cefali. I wondered if there was any relationship to the more famous Cefaly family but I assumed I would never know since Vittoria was born about 1754, long before civil records were kept. I also assumed there was probably no connection since the names were spelled differently.

This week while extracting the early marriages that occurred in Cortale I made 2 discoveries. The most exciting discovery was the marriage record of Vittoria Cefali to a second husband named Giuseppe Cefali. This document provided me with the names and dates of death of Vittoria's parents. Vittoria's father was Giuseppe Cefali who died in Cortale on 7 October 1773. Her mother was Giulia Pellegrino and she died 8 September 1766. I will probably never know their parent's names. The second discovery was while reading each marriage record that occurred between 1809 and 1819 there were many Cefali marriages but not a single marriage that contained the spelling Cefaly. It is currently my belief that the spelling of the surname changed. That is not unusual and I found many changes to surnames in my grandfather's town. A review of more records is needed to be certain. I will also need to examine the early allegati records and will need a lot of luck to obtain enough information on the Cefali families if the 18th century. For now, I am happy I have the names and dates of death of Vittoria Cefali's parents. Still, I cannot wait until I can read more records on Tuesday!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Those Places Thursday - Chicago's Little Italy

Today, people who don't know any better think Chicago's Little Italy has the largest concentrations of Italian Americans in Chicago. This was once true, however, every time I return to the "old neighborhood" I see less and less of what was once Little Italy. It is getting harder to imagine what my grandmother saw over 100 years ago. Few Italians remain there now. Pricey Italian restaurants line Taylor Street now along with many chain restaurants. Even the iconic Mario's Italian lemonade stand is no longer owned by Italians (or at least it wasn't in the late 1990's when my daughter's school friend's family owned it). My best friend and I used to hang out there back when we were in high school until we were 21 or so. A group of neighborhood boys we knew rented a storefront on Taylor Street and called it "the club". They built a bar out of plywood and had parties there. Today the club is a Subway! 35 years ago as I would walk down Taylor Street, I could still imagine my grandmother walking down the same street trying to sell her shelled peanuts to the bakeries and restaurants. You could still see the Italian faces, hear Italian being spoken on the street, smell the food cooking and the heavenly smells from the bakeries permeated the neighborhood. Today, I see another commercialized neighborhood of Chicago and the amazing smells are long gone. Many of the old houses, apartments and tenements that helped give this area it's identity have been torn down and replaced by new buildings, a skyscraper and housing and school buildings for the University of Illinois which has largely taken over "Little Italy". The area lost most of it's ethnic identity. However, much is left and there are many places you can still walk and imagine. You just have to imagine harder.

I had never heard the term "Little Italy" until the 1990's. Those of us with roots there have always called it the "old neighborhood". Although constantly changing, one constant has been the church of my family, Our Lady of Pompeii. Our Lady of Pompeii originally was started in 1910 to relieve the Guardian Angel Church which was having a difficult time keeping up with the burgeoning influx of Italian immigrants to the neighborhood. A permanent church and school was built in 1923 and finished in 1924. The church has maintained it's Italian background and has huge celebrations for many of the Italian Saints. After many of these feast day celebrations a luncheon is served in the basement of the adjacent school. The food served is to die for! The Guardian Angel Church is long gone and has been replaced by University of Illinois buildings. Our Lady of Pompeii has always been the heart and soul of the neighborhood. This church is now a national shrine and has changed much during my lifetime. The old doors in the front of the building were replaced in 1993 with beautiful brass doors with figures hand carved in Corleone, Sicily. The alter which was surrounded by gold tile for many years has been stripped away to reveal the old walls. A new statue of Padre Pio has been added as well as many other adornments. But many of the old statues hold a place of prominence throughout the church and the ceilings and columns still hold the original painted work. I can still feel family here surrounding me despite the changes. The church itself has maintained the most important traditions of it's Italian roots. It is a place of the Catholic faith but more importantly, it's Italian Catholic faith. There is a difference. For most of my life, I attended church here with my parents. It became important to my father to attend this church on occasion. Although my father was never a big church goer, attending church here was his way of connecting with a family that was long since passed. The last time we gathered as a family here was Santa Lucia day several years ago. Their church service and following festa meal in the basement of the school made it a memorable day. The meal after the church service made me smile. All the women got in line to get plates of food for their husbands and children before their final trip to the food line to get their own food, in true Italian fashion. Family first, always. I had seen this ritual at every family gathering as I grew up. A small gesture that made me feel so loved and protected.

Since I cannot possibly cover everything I want to in one post, I have decided to make this the first in a series about the old neighborhood. Look for my future posts about Arrigo Park, Columbus Park, Loomis Street and posts and pictures about the original buildings and architecture that remain in the neighborhood and life as it was there 100 years ago.

Wordless Wednesday - Our Lady of Pompeii Shrine, Chicago

Our Lady Of Pompeii Shrine, Little Italy, Chicago

Left side of Alter and the back of the Church

Ceiling art and statue of San Francesco di Paola, Patron Saint of the Calabrese people

Friday, May 25, 2012

Funeral Card Friday - Napolitano/Maiola

As part of my series of my mother's funeral cards, this funeral card is the funeral card of my grandmother, Catherine Maiola (Maiuolo in Italy) Napolitano who died 5 October 1958. She was about 59 years old. You will notice the name of the funeral home at the bottom is (Anthony) Cappetta Funeral Home on Roosevelt Road. This funeral home was located 3 blocks from my grandparents house and the Cappetta family has buried almost every member of my father's family since they came here from Italy. The original proprietor was Anthony Cappetta. His grandson Anthony (the 3rd) and his great grandson Anthony (the 4th) took care of the arrangements for my mother in 2011.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Treasure Chest Thursday - Italian Processetti Records

My favorite of all Italian records are processetti or allegati records. If you are lucky, you can obtain 3 generations of your direct line ancestors with a single series of processetti documents for one couple. Processetti documents are a series of documents that was required to be provided to the Municipio when a couple was completing their marriage banns. Before a couple could marry, marriage banns had to be posted for 3 consecutive weeks in a public place (usually the municipio) before a couple could get married. This practice is still law in Italy, however, today many towns post the pubblicazioni on their websites. When a couple would go to the municipio to complete their first marriage bann, they were required to bring in a series of documents that vary depending on their personal circumstances. The documents are always noted on their marriage bann. These series of documents always include either a record of baptism or atto di nati (birth act) for both the bride and groom. Other documents that are provided depend on their individual circumstances. If one parent was deceased prior to the date the first marriage bann was posted, that parent's atto di morte was included. Because the atto di morte lists the names of the parents of the deceased, it can be a quick way to obtain the names of another generation. If both parents were deceased, the grandparents appeared at the municipio, however, if they were also deceased it is highly likely their death act were also included. If the bride was under the age of 18 and the groom was under the age of 21, they were considered minors. In the event an orphaned minor married, a family counsel meeting was held with 3 men of each parent's family who had to agree that the marriage would be in the best interest of the minor child. Many other documents may be found in these series of records which are the richest in genealogical information in all the available records (in my opinion).

Friday, April 27, 2012

Funeral Card Friday - Minnie Rosales

Last week I wrote about my mother's collection of funeral cards that I received after she died. She had saved the majority of funeral cards from every funeral she attended since 1948. I promised to feature a new one every week so today I have decided to share the funeral card of Minnie Rosales. Domenica (Minnie) Rosales was the sister of my "uncle" (we called him uncle, he was actually married to my father's cousin) Frank Yapelli. Both Minnie and Frank were born in Cortale, Catanzaro, Calabria, Italy. Minnie was an amazing woman who I will always remember for her acts of kindness to me (for now, that will remain between her and I) and she used to sing beautiful songs that she heard growing up in Cortale. In retrospect, I really wish I would have filmed her singing those songs. Often as she would sing those songs, she would get a far away look in her eyes, as if she was remembering her mother singing them to her, long ago in Italy.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Obituary Sunday - Dix Dewey, My Uncle

Pictured here is the older brother of my mother. I never knew him because he died long before I was born. But my mother, who had been very close with him, spoke often of him and I do not believe she ever got over his tragic death. At one time she had a small newspaper article in a scrapbook regarding his death. I remember seeing it when I was a child but somehow that article got lost. So, yesterday I decided to go to Elgin, where they lived, to look for the newspaper article at the Gail Borden Library. Since I had his date of death, it took no time at all to find the article on the microfilm containing the 1948 editions of the Elgin Daily Courier News. What surprised me when I found it was it was front page news. The article was quite lengthy and detailed. Located directly under the headline "Quakes, fire wreck Jap City" was an article "Elgin man drowned in quarry pool". I skimmed the article on the microfilm machine but was more interested in copying it rather than reading it. I wanted to read it alone at home. So I printed the front page article and it's continuation on page 3 as well as his actual obituary on page 2. Then I left to look at 3 homes my mother and her family lived in during her 30 years in Elgin. When I got home, I read the article and the obituary. My mother's memories were very accurate to the article, however, there were a few things in the article that I did not know. My uncle was an expert swimmer, this I knew but according to the article, at the time of his death, Dix and his friend were working on a clown diving act that was to be staged in Chicago the following month. A clown diving act?! I did not recall ever hearing that before! I also learned that emergency personnel had worked 2 hours to try to save the life of my uncle. Such valiant efforts which unfortunately, were in vain. Although there were several mentions of an "illness" and seizures, the name of that illness, epilepsy, was never mentioned. My mother had mentioned he was seen having a seizure and falling into the water and someone had tried to save him, the article mentioned the names and addresses of 4 people who had dived into the water to save him. Also in the article were 2 other things I did not know. Dix was "prominent in Masonic Lodge work, belonging to Elgin Lodge 117, A. F. & A. M. Bethel Commandery. 36 Knights Templar, Cryptic Council 46, R. & S. M. Royal L. Munn Chapter". I knew both his parents, my grandparents, were active in Masonic lodges but I never knew Dix was. I always had much compassion for this uncle I never knew. Mom told me many things about his life, most of which were tragic. Dix never married because of his Epilepsy. He left no descendants and all his siblings are now deceased. After reading this article, I have decided to tell his story in a future blog post. Perhaps there is no one alive that cares about his story since he left no descendants, however, mom cared deeply and his story deserves to be told. Perhaps this research will help me to know the uncle I never was able to know in life. This article gave me information I need to discover more of my uncle's story and I am aware of another newspaper article about the bus crash he survived, that left him with a severe head injury that mom believed also caused his Epilepsy. I will complete my research to learn more about Dix Darius Dewey Jr. and write my final story about the life of this uncle I never knew. Pictured here is Dix (far right) with his friends at the quarry where he lost his life on Sunday, June 27, 1948.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Surname Saturday - Maiuolo

My grandmother was born Caterina Maiuolo in Cortale, Catanzaro, Calabria. I was named after her. I am ashamed to admit that I have not done much with her family tree. I have done extensive work on the family of her mother, Natalina Scrugli and have gotten all the records will allow on her family in Tropea. Of course her husband's family in Montalto Uffugo is complete also. But the family of her father in Cortale, kind of got lost in the shuffle. Perhaps it was because when I began years ago, we knew the most about my grandmother's family, but that is no longer true. Some of my frustration is the records for Cortale were only microfilmed up to 1861. Although I know my great grandparent's names and am able to go back further in my ancestry, I would love to see family relationships of the next generation - my grandmother's cousins. So many people came to Chicago from Cortale, many of whom attended family parties and my father was never clear on who was related. I also need family records of death and marriage after 1861 on my great grandfather, Giuseppe Maiuolo and his wife's parents. My many letters to the Comune di Cortale have gone unanswered despite phone calls a friend in Italy made on my behalf. So, it is time to return to the microfilmed Cortale records to see what I can find. I have ordered the microfilms I am missing and will be documenting all the Maiuolo surname events along with my other surnames Frontera, Schinnea, and Parisi.

So far, this is what I know of my ancestry.

  • Giuseppe Napolitano and Caterina Maiuolo

  • Giuseppe Maiuolo and Natalina Scrugli
  • Domenico Majuolo and Maria Frontera
  • Pietro Majuolo and Rosaria Parisi

At most I will be able to get 2 more generations but it is possible since Pietro Majuolo and Rosaria Parisi were both born in the 1700's, I may get no further back than what I already have. Although I still have a few lines in my mother's family that I have not gotten to yet, this is the last of my Italian research. That makes me very sad. I will miss looking for my family in Italian records.

Funeral Card Friday - 64 years of funeral cards!

Shortly after my mother died my father gave me several bags full of mom's papers and books. In this bag was a small stationary box that I recognized. My mom was quite the letter writer so many times I had given her boxes of stationary as gifts. I fulled expected to see stationary in the box (silly me!) but when I opened the box I saw tied with gold ribbons 2 stacks of funeral cards! As I looked through the cards it became clear that in this box was the funeral cards of every wake or funeral she had attended since 1948! I had no idea she had kept them all. These treasures should be shared and my websites are not really the place for them so each Friday I will write a brief blog post for each card. For my first featured card, I will post her most treasured card. The funeral card of her brother Dixie. I remember mom kept this card with her a lot and often put it in her small bible she brought to church. Not a day went by that she did not remember her brother who died at the age of 30 years old Dix D. Dewey Jr. died on June 26, 1948 after he had drowned in a local quarry. He was an expert swimmer, however, he also had epilepsy. While sitting on the edge of a dock, he had an epileptic seizure and fell into the water. I don't think mom ever got over his death. I remember her telling me she had been on a date with my dad and he was driving her home. As they pulled up to the house she saw the police cars there and thought something had happened to her grandmother who lived with them. When she got into the house she was devastated to learn about the death of her older brother. This card is the most worn of all of them since she kept it with her a lot.

On the back of her brother's funeral card, my mother taped the newspaper clipping of her father's obituary.

Family Tree DNA

I had my DNA tested at both 23andme and Family Tree DNA. I don't normally do this sort of thing, but Family Tree DNA currently has a sale too awesome to ignore. For those of you on the fence about testing your DNA, now is the time to get off that fence! The more genes in the pool, the more we all learn! And don't forget to download your raw data when you get it and upload it (free) to for even more DNA matches and results. This sale ends April 21 at 11:59 pm so you had better hurry! I have listed below the pricing for this sale.

New Kit Prices

Y-DNA 12 $99 $59

mtDNA $99 $59

Y-DNA 37 $149 $129

Y-DNA 67 $238 $199

Family Finder $289 $199

mtFullSequence (FMS) $299 $249

Y-DNA 12 + mtDNA $179 $118

FF + Y-DNA 12 $339 $258

FF + mtDNA $339 $258

FF+ Y-DNA 37 $438 $328

FF + mtDNAPlus $438 $328

Comprehensive (FF + FMS + Y-DNA 67) $797 $657


Y-DNA 12 $89 $59

mtDNA add-on $89 $59

Y-DNA 12-25 Marker $35 $59

Y-DNA 12-37 Marker $99 $69

Y-DNA 37-67 Marker $99 $79

Y-DNA 25-67 Marker $109 $159

Y-DNA 12-67 Marker $199 $148

mtFullSequence upgrade (HVR1 to Mega) $269 $199

mtFullSequence upgrade (HVR2 to Mega) $269 $199

mtFullSequence add-on $289 $219

Family Finder add-on $289 $199

Orders must be in and paid for by 11:59PM on Saturday April 21st, to receive this offer.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sorting Saturday - Who Am I Missing Again?!

This week I have come to realize genealogically speaking, I am a mess! I have close to 3,400 names in my family tree and I have no idea which lines still need work! I was trying to find a name of a person for someone I was helping from my grandfather's town of Montalto Uffugo who should have been in my tree but was not. All those times I said, "I'll add that later" is catching up with me. So, how to get back on track? Over the past year, I decided to organize my Kent family because they have been the most difficult. I began using One Note which worked out so well, it has occurred to me to utilize that for all my family lines. That is a whole lot of data entry though! Then there is the problem of all the "stuff" I have. Original documents from both sets of grandparents, parents not to mention my own documents and that of my daughter. My grandmother Napolitano's sheet music, photographs and misc. items that belonged to her in my possession. I have my grandmother Dewey's fine china teacup collection, quilts she made out of her husband's old ties, photographs, hand made
handkerchief's and table linens not to mention my great grandmother's (Etta Kent Dewey) cedar chest and crystal set and jewelry. I have 5 large boxes full of photographs, many over 100 years old and are rapidly deteriorating. This is just some of what I have been given. I live in an apartment so at some point what do I do with all this stuff?! I cannot keep it all! I have come to the conclusion that I need lists to get myself back on track. It will take some time so I will have to be patient. I need to prioritize this list. #1 on the list has to be scanning all the photographs beginning with the oldest before time consumes them. Now would be a good time to order that "Flip Pal" I have been wanting! So here is my list: 1. Scan all photographs 80 years old and older and save them to my portable hard drive and 1 "cloud" location!!! 2. Scan all other photographs and save them to my portable hard drive and 1 "cloud" location 3. Photograph and document all objects I have inherited from my family and save them to my portable hard drive and 1 "cloud" location 4. Create a One Note notebooks to keep track of all lines that need to be worked on - One notebook for each main line 5. Organize notes and source documents on portable hard drive and on my web server 6. Take time somewhere in there for me!! This ought to keep me busy! My next question is, what do I do with all those photographs once they are scanned?!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thankful Thursday - Happy Birthday Mom!

Today would have been my mother's 93rd birthday. Today (and always) I am thankful for knowing this amazing wonderful woman who was a shining example of how to live, love and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. Not only did I have the privilege of knowing her but I was blessed enough to have her as the most wonderful mother on the planet! (I know, I am biased) Today would have been her 93rd birthday. So today, I will do something I have never done before. I will write something about the life of my mother, Dorothy Kent Dewey Napolitan. Mom was born on April 5, 1919, the second child of Dix and Myrtle (Schmitt) Dewey (another amazing woman!) in Chicago, Illinois. Some time between 1920 and 1927 the family moved to Elgin, Illinois. She had the most amazing red hair and beautiful green eyes that could see into your soul. During her youth, mom was very athletic and participated at school in volleyball, swimming and many other sports. Mom was always a caring and nurturing woman and she decided in high school that she wanted a career before marriage. A career that would allow her to help other people. So, mom went to Elgin's Sherman Hospital school of nursing and became a licensed professional Registered Nurse. Mom graduated from school in December 1940 and officially became licensed on January 24, 1941. This was an era when educated women with careers was very rare and most woman married right out of high school. Soon after Mom became a nurse she moved downtown to an apartment near the hospital she was employed with, Wesley Memorial Hospital (today it is Northwestern University Hospital). Mom's career in nursing was very interesting.
Back in the 1940's nurses were not paid very well. So, mom also began doing private duty nursing in addition to her job at the hospital. One of the jobs mom took paid so well she quit her job at Wesley hospital to do it. The famous Phillip K. Wrigley family hired mom to come to their summer home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to care for their son who had contracted a serious illness. This son was William Wrigley III, who took over the famous chewing gum/sports empire in 1961. She spent the entire summer there caring for him. Later, after William assumed the President role of the Wrigley Corporations mom had written him a letter. He wrote her a beautiful letter back in which he told mom how fondly he remembered her and her kindness and caring. Mom was always very proud of that. During this time Mom dated men, but was busy with her career and family life and was not impressed by most of her dates. When I was in 8th grade my dad finally agreed to allow me to wear make up so my mother and I went shopping for some lip gloss, mascara and blush. I choose a Revlon product and mom smiled at me and asked me, "Can you keep a secret between us girls"? I dated one of the Revson brothers! I was fairly shocked and I wish I could remember his name but that was a long time ago. I asked her about that several times over the years and each time she gave me a little more information. Around 1947 Mom went to work for a company that employed my father. Meeting him changed her life. My parents married at city hall on May 7, 1949. Mom was raised Protestant and Dad was raised Catholic so they could not marry in a church - yet. Sometime after the arrival of my brother and I Mom converted to the Catholic faith and was devoutly dedicated to her new religion. My brother, my mother and I were all baptized together in 1960. Mom taught me faith well. She also taught sewing classes after school at the local Catholic grade school. She had the patience of a saint, something she tried so hard to teach me. Mom and Dad spent 3 months during the winter months in Florida every year. Each day she would swim 100 laps in the pool. One day when I was in Florida with them, I asked my mom why she did not swim that day. She told me I swam 100 laps a day all those years and now I am done. She was in her late 70's at the time. My mother was an amazing mother and there was never a doubt in my mind about how much she loved me, even when I messed up. She loved my father's family with all her heart and often took me to visit my grandfather's cousins and their children (who were her age) whom she admired greatly. Her love for my father was so beautiful and I have never in my entire life seen anyone love the way my mother loved my father. Until the day she died she looked at my father as if she just fell in love with him. It was an amazing thing to see - that much love and admiration always. Her face literally would light up every time she saw him. After 61 years of marriage!! Mom had many heartbreaks and struggles but through it all she bore everything with dignity and grace. She taught me how to live, love and the lesson that took the longest for me to to stop and be thankful for the joy and beauty that surrounds us stop, smell and appreciate the beauty of a flower and each person in my life. To look deeper because everyone is so beautiful but some people you have to dig a little deeper to find that beauty and in the end, it is so worth it. If I could be half the woman my mother was, I would be proud and happy. Happy birthday Mom! I love you and miss you more than words could express.