I love to travel, and I love genealogy. So it was only a matter of time before I combined the two. My mother’s paternal grandparents came from Italy, but we didn’t always know where in Italy. In fact, at one point, I recall my mom saying she thought they came from Florence. I think Sicily was mentioned once before too. But after I started doing genealogy research, I learned they both came from the south of Italy. Francesco Carlo was born in Rosali, Calabria, and Maria Teresa Bianculli was born in Pisticci, Basilicata. After finding their birth records, which also listed their street addresses, the idea of a trip back to Italy was already forming in my mind. It wasn’t difficult to convince my mom and sister to visit this often untouristed area of Italy with me.
Part 1, when we visited the ancestral hometown of my great grandmother, can be read here.
The second part of our trip focused on visiting the ancestral town of my great grandfather. Francesco Carlo was born in Rosali, a small town outside Reggio Calabria, and immigrated to the US around 1902, where he became known as Frank DeCarlo. Prior to our trip I had documented the addresses listed on his and his sibling’s birth records (antenati) and planned to locate them in person.
About 1 month prior to our trip, on a whim, I decided to mail letters to four current residents of Rosali. With the use of the Italian white pages and Google Translate, I wrote a letter explaining who we are, who Francesco Carlo was, and that we were hoping to find relatives. I also mentioned that we would be visiting at the end of September. A few weeks later I received an email from one lady who didn’t think we were related and suggested I contact the church. The next day I received three Facebook friend requests from some Carlos living in the area. I later learned that the lady had shared my letter on Facebook and the three Facebook requests were from people who thought we were related. I emailed a few times with one of them, a young man (GR) who currently lives in Rome but whose father was born in Rosali. I determined we are 3rd cousins. The other two men were father and son (AC and GC) and also 2nd cousin, once removed/3rd cousins to me. All three men are descended from one of Francesco’s brothers, Pietro. Other than a few back and forth emails with GR, and accepting the “friendship” of AC and GC, I didn’t have any other contact with them. My expectation for our trip at this point was that we would go visit Reggio Calabria for a day, then swing by Rosali and try to find the address on Frank’s birth record.
Once we were in Italy, AC messaged me and asked when we would be in town and if we could meet. I told him our plans for visiting Reggio and Rosali and we made a plan to meet in Reggio. Our comunication had been in English up to this point, but when he arrived, it quickly became apparent that he’d been translating his messages. Thankfully I had the Google Translate app on my phone and we were able to use the conversation feature and my basic Italian to communicate. We arranged a time to meet him later and he went home and got his son, GC (who spoke some English) and some photos. They referred to Frank as “Uncle Ciccio.” They didn’t have any photos of Frank, but had some of his brother Antonino “Nino” who also immigrated to the US. We learned that they have tried to find their family that went to America before but hadn’t been successful.
They took us to Rosali and showed us the address where our great grandfather was born (the actual house was rebuilt after an earthquake in 1908 devastated the region) and took us inside AC’s father’s house. They showed us more photos, documents with Francesco’s name (some legal something or other I still need to translate), and their father’s passport. We tried to visit the cemetery with them but it was closed. Then they took us to meet Francesco’s 95 year old nephew, CC, the oldest living Carlo from our family. We had brought photos of Frank and his son, my grandfather Thomas, to share with them. We also met GR’s father, who was visiting from Rome.
After our visit, they returned us to Reggio where we had gelato and coffee with them, and then we said our goodbyes. I went in to the trip thinking we would be some out of place Americans wandering the unmarked streets of Rosali and instead we had family as personal tour guides! I’m so glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and mailed those letters.