When I was growing up I thought my maternal grandmother’s family was from Naples. Indeed, they left from that port, like many thousands of southern Italian peasants, but their city of origin was far from the sea. It’s mind-boggling that so many Italian-American families know so litte about their ancestry, but considering the desperate conditions of the Old Country during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it’s no wonder immigrants wanted to forget where they came from and that their descendants were in no hurry to investigate.

It wasn’t until 1996 at my grandparent’s 50th anniversary party that 92-year-old Great Uncle Tony wrote the family history on hotel stationary, mentioning Spinoso (well, actually he wrote “Spinosa”) in Basilicata. In the years that followed, I would delve into my grandfather’s Sicilian genealogy while seeking Italian dual citizenship, but this week my mom and I will travel to Basilicata in search of my grandmother’s roots for the first time. The process will be tricky, as the DeLouise family name has no fewer than 5 spellings in the birth certificates, passports, immigration records and baptismal certificates we have found. Often, the same ancestor has several different spellings for his or her own name. In the DeLouise family, assimilation was paramount and Biagio became William, Gaetana became Katherine, and Domenico became Thomas. It’s gonna be a mess.

In the past, I have taken lots of families to the south of Italy to find their roots. I wonder what this trip holds for Mamma Parla and me. Will we find a distant relative tilling the fields, working in a public office, or running a business? Will we find anything or anyone or have all ancestral traces been erased by poor bookkeeping and immigration? We shall soon find out.

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Basilicata · Culture · Travel

18 Comments:


  • Good luck on your quest! Have some wonderful food & wine along the way and don’t let bureaucracy get to you!!


  • Wouldn’t it be awesome if you find out you have an amazing enologist in the family?


  • Great, Katy! Buona fortuna on finding your roots.

    Do you know my friend Valerie Schneider and her husband Bryan? They are US expats who settled in Trevigno, a small town in Basilicata about two years ago after living in other regions of Italy. Valerie’s family roots are, like yours, in the region.

    RAI recently interviewed them to find out why “Americani” would settle there ;-)

    http://www.2baci.blogspot.com/


  • And of course, that should be “Katie” ;-(

    Marion (sic)


  • Wow, so excited to hear how this turns out! Good luck :)


  • I too had thought that my grandparents were from Naples and then found out that they were from Calitri in the Avellino province. I am lucky to have found the genealogy of the family back to the 1500′s. I visited their town once, but only for a day and the commune was closed. I have to go back! I can’t wait to hear about your trip.


  • How exciting! Good luck and can’t wait to hear how it turns out. My husband’s family comes from the Formia area, and while we have met his extended family on his father’s side, we have encountered similar challenges you have found when researching his mother’s side. I can’t wait to read the results of your own research!

  • Katie

    This si so exciting! I’m hoping there is an enologist, dairy farmer or baker in the family! Fingers crossed. I’ll just be happy to find anything, tho. my grandma passed away in early february so i feel like finding something concrete will be good for the family. i dont know maybe it won’t. we’ll see.

    for logistical reasons (ie my awful navigating) we got down here later than expected and didn’t make it to spinoso but we did confirm it exists by looking at it from afar. crashing at a hotel in viggiano nearby (spinoso has 1600 residents and no hotel). can’t wait to check outta here and head to the homeland tomorrow morning!

    @marian people here spell my name ketty, keti, chetti, you name it. im cool with it:)


  • Jess and I are going in Oct to my maternal grandparents hometown. A first for us. We know of relatives there so it will be interesting


  • Good luck with your search Katie! It’s such a pain in the ass process. I’ve tried several times over the past few years to track down my own family’s roots and had no luck at all. (My grandparents were from Naples and Sicily… vague much?) Sounds like, if anything, you and your mom will have a great trip. I look forward to reading about how it goes!


  • How wonderful for both of you! A great Italian adventure!


  • Looking forward to the updates!


  • I travelled round that part of Italy 18 months ago and loved it. Good luck in your search!


  • I can’t think of a more exciting adventure Katie. Fingers crossed it is fruitful. I always wished an Italian relative would turn-up on my family tree but not with all the German/Austrian sounding names…heavy sigh…


  • Amazing. In bocca al lupo!

    Looking forward to reading about your journey.


  • Good luck Katie P. We had a great time exploring Basilicata on motorcycles in autumn 2010 and stayed in a lovely little place in Matera (that you’ve pictured). Super-friendly and helpful people wherever we went, so may that bode well for your enquiries.

  • Katie

    @sue you will need pork before hitting city hall http://www.parlafood.com/porchetta-il-norcino-bernabei-marino-laziale/

    @angie if you haven’t already looked into it, check out the marriage certificate application (not certificate, application) for your parents and grandparents. there is so much info on their about places and dates of birth, names of family members. when we were doing our dual citizenship thing it was incredible how much info we gleaned from those.

    @nursemegg hiiii!! so fun! we are having a blast doing all of this. next stop, palermo for grandpa’s family!

    @jake here you go! http://www.parlafood.com/a-thorny-family-tree-emerges-in-basilicata/

    @kay im so glad you visited this region. it is so ridiculously special and i say this with no bias whatsoever:)

    @heidi thanks! it was a very fruitful trip. on the plus side, i bet there are some reliable records on your end.

    @arlene crepi!

    @mick p wow that is a great way to see it! people here have been great. i want to stay forever!


  • Wowzer! Before my nonno passed away, I was working for years to do a book in his honor of Lucania, and our people. He was able to look at it before he left us but I know he was proud that I did it! I also came up with a companion book dealing with the language as we call it Lucano. I even started a metal project called Sangue Lucano which deals with themes of my ancestry and the pagan roots of Lucania.

    This is very exciting to see someone enjoy this often overlooked region and it warms my heart!

    I could go on forever but best not to!

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