Friday, August 3, 2018

An Italian-German-French-Swiss American Boy’s Story: Genealogy in Buffalo in the 1960s


Image result for gilbert harry doan genealogy


Anyone who knows me is aware I'm from Buffalo. I'm proud of where I'm from and being from Buffalo is an important part of my sense of self. If you've heard me speak about my family history, you know I'm a mutt. German, French, Italian, English, Polish, Canadian, Luxembourgian, and Belgian (like the waffle.) My ancestors came to the western New York area in the early to mid-1800s, some stopping in Canada first, so no Mayflower or Revolutionary War ancestors for me. Which leads to the lecture I heard last night.

The Western New York Genealogical Society sponsored 2 lectures last night by John Philip Colletta, a renowned genealogist and speaker. His first lecture was on the Erie Canal; I've heard this a time or two before and it's a great one, but it was his second lecture that made me want to write. Titled "An Italian-German-French-Swiss American Boy’s Story: Genealogy in Buffalo in the 1960s," John talked about being a new genealogist as a tween/teen living in Buffalo. In the 1960s, genealogy was all about getting back to your Mayflower and Revolutionary War ancestors, which was seen in the first book he got out of the library on the subject, "Searching for Your Ancestors: The How and Why of Genealogy" by Gilbert Harry Doan.

So John went off in search of his ancestors, planning to get to those who arrived in 1630 like Gilbert's, and found, well, nothing. He talked about his research at a church and in the library, about talking to family members and flipping through census microfilm. Finally, one day, he headed to the cemetery where he found his ancestors, surrounded by other people whose names he knew. He searched in Sanborn maps and city directories and found more ancestors. He eventually realized that he may not have had those ancestors who came over before we had a country, but that his family looked like those all around him in Buffalo and that that was even better than what he had started to search for.

He talked about those people who settled Buffalo and Erie County, those who came from Baden, Wurttemberg, Alsace, Lorraine, Luxembourg, and Poland. As he mentioned these places, I teared up, because they were my people, too. There are no kings or Revolutionary War heros, but there are farmers and coopers and gardeners and railroad men and even an innkeeper or two. People who are like me, who lived and worked and raised their families and helped their neighbors.

John mentioned how much genealogy has changed over the past 50 years. He never knows what ancestry people will have in his audiences and he's been changing his lectures to be more inclusive of all ethnicities (my one recommendation here is for him to not use "ladies and gentleman" to be inclusive of all genders). He also mentioned his book "Finding Your Italian Roots. The Complete Guide for Americans," which came out in 1994 and was actually either the first or second genealogy book I ever bought (along with Unpuzzling Your Past), and how books and classes for different ethnicities continue to expand.

I don't know if John does this lecture widely or if he wrote it just for us, but if you get the chance to see it, please do. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Buffalo Gal Won't You Come Out to GRIP

Dessert on Opening Night
One of my favorite times of the year is GRIP, the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, aka summer camp for genealogists. I have attended almost yearly since they began in 2012 and was thrilled last year to find out they were going "on the road" to Daemen College in Amherst, NY (outside of Buffalo and about 25 minutes from my mom's house.)

For the second year in a row, I'm taking Kimberly Powell's class, which this year is Tools & Strategies for Tackling Tough Research Problems. In addition to Kimberly, Angela Parker McGhie, Karen Stanbary, and Nancy Peters are teaching sessions.

Check-in day with an opening dinner was Sunday, July 29th and classes started yesterday. I'm looking forward to getting new ideas for my research and to help others at the library.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Your 8 Greats


I was at a Junior League meeting on Tuesday listening to a speaker on deciding how to donate your money, including through bequests in your will. She mentioned the about 1/3 of Americans cannot name their 8 great grandparents (citing Ancestry.com) and that if you want to be remembered, donations to nonprofits is one way to do it. Based on the response of my fellow members, I think Ancestry might be overestimating.

They say you die twice. Once when you stop breathing and the second, a bit later on, when somebody mentions your name for the last time.

When I teach introduction to genealogy classes, I start with 4 generation pedigree charts and seeing how much participants can fill in. Most can name their grandparents, though not always the maiden name of their grandmothers, but few can name all 8 greats. I tell them that a great first goal is to research to find out who each of their great grandparents are, by starting with themselves and working backwards.

If you're new to genealogy, I recommend the same. Then, post about it in a blog or on social media or tell your family about what you find. Not everyone will be able to make a large donation to have their name live on, but everyone deserves to be remembered. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

52 Ancestors: Caterina D'onofrio

Amy Johnson Crow at No Story Too Small began the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge in 2014.  I am playing along this year.  I will be following my mom’s pedigree chart to start.  In addition to writing these posts, I will be making sure everything I have on the specific individual is in both OneNote and Legacy, do any basic research needed for missing documents, and start research plans as needed.


Me > My Mom > Robert Casell > Alfred Casell > Carolina Izzo > Caterina D'onofrio

As with last week, this is a pretty easy one, since all I have is a name. Caterina lived, for at least part of her life, in Calvi Risorta, Caserta, Campagna, Italy.  She had at least one child, Carolina Izzo, with husband Giovanni Izzo.

Definitely a part of my family tree to look into further.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

52 Ancestors: Giovanni Izzo

Amy Johnson Crow at No Story Too Small began the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge in 2014.  I am playing along this year.  I will be following my mom’s pedigree chart to start.  In addition to writing these posts, I will be making sure everything I have on the specific individual is in both OneNote and Legacy, do any basic research needed for missing documents, and start research plans as needed.


Me > My Mom > Robert Casell > Alfred Casell > Carolina Izzo > Giovanni Izzo

Well, this is a pretty easy one, since all I have is a name. Giovanni lived, for at least part of his life, in Calvi Risorta, Caserta, Campagna, Italy.  He had at least one child, Carolina Izzo, with wife Caterina D'onofrio.

Definitely a part of my family tree to look into further.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 in Review

Another year has come and come.  Another year of not much posting, which I'd like to say will change this year, but we shall see.  My annual review.

1. What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before? Became a library director, learned to swim, went to Cape Cod, went to Steam Town, hired a realtor, was approved for a mortgage & went house hunting (then changed my mind), trained for a triathlon (that ear infections and fractured toes has pushed to 2018), got a massage, marched in a political march, rode in a fire truck & went high in the air on a bucket loader, took Julian to an amusement park & went on rides with him.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I'm not a fan of resolutions; I much prefer a word of the year.  My word for 2017 was "Compass," which was all about focusing on what I want to do and how to get there.  2016 didn't end on a high note in many areas and I spent much of 2017 hibernating, trying to figure out where to go, reading, enjoying carbohydrates.  But somewhere in late summer/early fall, it started coming together.  I stopped reading so much, ate more produce, changed other aspects of life, and am ending 2017 excited about the future, glad that "compass" worked out. 

My word for 2018 will be explore.  Get off the couch and away from the books to explore more of the world around me, in Syracuse & elsewhere (trips [for fun & business] already in the planning stages for Orlando, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, North Dakota, and Steamtown.)  I won a No Boundaries scholarship and am in training for a 5K in February.  I have a new job and am exploring all of what occurs there and possibilities for the future.  I'm focusing much of my alone time on exploring more of my family history, including two big genealogy education experiences (Writing in Syracuse & GRIP in Buffalo.)

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Not  many babies this year; we had Nora join the family as great-grandchild number 8.

4. Did anyone close to you die? Not close, but my great Uncle Danny, the last of the brothers of my Grandpa Acquard, died.  I also have friends who lost parents and grandparents.

5. What places did you visit?  Big trips this year to New Orleans, Scranton, and Cape Cod.  GRIP at La Roche College.  Poughkeepsie, Cooperstown, Kingston, Ottawa, Toronto, and Niagara Falls.  As always, we spent lots of time around Central and Western New York and visited friends in Oneonta.

6. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?   I'm keeping part of the same answer as the past 2 years: a trip abroad. I also want to visit more friends and family - Vegas, South Dakota, and NYC this year hopefully.

7. What dates from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? Labor Day weekend when Julian touched the ocean and lost his bucket.  One of my Christmas presents was a sand pail Pandora charm.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?   Personally: Learning to swim.  Professionally: Becoming a library director.

9. What was your biggest failure? The triathlon I registered for.  Stupid ear infections and fractured toes.  I'm coming for you again this year, sprint triathlon!

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? So many ear infections and fractured my toe while triathlon training.

11. What was the best thing you bought? Vacations!  And new bookshelves from Ikea for the living room.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? All those who continue to resist.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? All things government.

14. Where did most of your money go? Rent, food, student loans, 401(k), vacations (not in that order…)

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Cape Cod! New job!

16. What songs will always remind you of 2017? The Frozen soundtrack, "You're Welcome" from Moana, Julian singing Kids Bop versions of songs, and podcasts. This was my year of podcasts.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Happier
b) thinner or fatter? So much depressing news, so many carbs…
c) richer or poorer? Richer and in much less debt!

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Exercising.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Worrying.  And following the news.

20. How did you spend Christmas in 2017? Christmas Eve with the Casells. Christmas morning at my mom's, followed by a stop with my Dad & Grandma, and dinner with friends in Syracuse.

21. Did you fall in love in 2017? I continue to fall more in love with my little family.

22. What was your favorite TV program? How I Met Your Mother & Friends as background noise. 

23. What did you do for your birthday in 2017? Toronto with Aaron. Christmas market, Curiosa store, coffee house, dumpling restaurant.

24. What was the best book you read? Fiction: So many choices… My "My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry" by Fredrick Backman or "Glass Houses" by Louise Penny or "Down Among the Sticks and Bones" by Seanan McGuire. Non-fiction: This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

25. What did you want and get? A new job!

26. What did you want and not get? A government that is actually "for the people."

27. What was your favorite film of this year? Err… Moana? I watched it the first time this year.

28. Did you make some new friends this year? I continue to get know many amazing people.

29.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? A triathlon finisher medal.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017? Librarian casual (hello cardigans & comfortable footwear!)

31. What kept you sane? Podcasts.

32. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? The ladies on Pantsuit Politics

33. What political issue stirred you the most? The "Me, too" movement

34. Who did you miss? My Grandpa Acquard and Uncle Brian, like every year now.


35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017: Not a new lesson, but a reminder that there are so many people out there supporting me and putting good vibes into the universe on my behalf.  I'm rather lucky.

Friday, September 29, 2017

52 Ancestors: Angela Rosa Palmiero



Amy Johnson Crow at No Story Too Small began the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge in 2014.  I am playing along this year.  I will be following my mom’s pedigree chart to start.  In addition to writing these posts, I will be making sure everything I have on the specific individual is in both OneNote and Legacy, do any basic research needed for missing documents, and start research plans as needed.

Today is the first of my mom’s 16 great-great grandmothers.

Me > My Mom > Robert Casell > Alfred Casell > Marcantonio Casillo > Angela Rosa Palmiero

I do not have a photo of Angela.  If you do, please let me know.

Angela was born around 1845, most likely in Italy, to Rafael Palmeiro and Maria Giuseppa Izio.  She married to Pietro Casillo in the early to mid-1860s.  They had at least 3 children, Giuseppe Maria Vittorio, Maria Domenica, and Marcantonio Maria.  As a family they lived in Roccaromana, Caserta, Campania, Italy, which is also where she died in October 1906.


An Italian-German-French-Swiss American Boy’s Story: Genealogy in Buffalo in the 1960s

Anyone who knows me is aware I'm from Buffalo. I'm proud of where I'm from and being from Buffalo is an important part of ...