Friday, July 20, 2012

Family Roots

Malfa, Salina (Sicily)
Seven members of my family crammed into the tiny office at the Municipal building in Malfa, a village on the Island of Salina, off Sicily. The woman at the desk didn't speak English and we don't speak Italian, but that didn't stop us from finding what we were seeking. She opened the giant ledger and flipped through the pages until ...there it was. We looked at each other aghast, smiling. My sister-in-law said, "I have goosebumps!" "Me, too," was my reply.

What had we found? The official record of my husband's great-grandparents' marriage in 1895. My kid's great, great-grandparents! We had planned our trip to that little island having no idea if we were even in the right place. My Father-in-law had pieced together bits of information from his genealogical research with the bits of memories of things his parents had told him when he was young. But we settled on Salina as the place to start looking without any certainty about the location. And there we were, after a five minute interaction with the clerk, with the document in front of us!

This trip was years in the making and had, in fact, been postponed last summer when we realized we needed to plan better for the cost. But it was important to us, so we figured out how to make it work.

My husband's great-grandparents immigrated to the US from the island of Salina, which is now part of Italy. My Father-in-law has always wanted to see where his grandparents were from. My husband, sister-in-law, brother-in-law and I did, too, so we embarked on a three generation vacation to walk in his ancestors' footsteps.

San Lorenzo Church
When we boarded the ferry to Salina, we had no idea what we would discover. We just knew we wanted to see the island (we thought) they had left behind when they came to America. Of course, we'd also spend time together as a family and do some sight-seeing. The fact that we located the marriage documents so easily was amazing. We also visited the church where they were married and secured copies of the church record of their marriage and their proof of baptism. We were amazed by how quick and easy everything was. If not for the pesky language barrier, we would have had the church documents in even less time. Luckily, a kind American college student working in Malfa for the summer helped translate for us.

On the ferry ride to Salina, another passenger had told us the island is "magical." I thought that was a lovely way to describe it. I won't say that finding these documents was magical, but it sure was wonderful. And our desire to trace family roots brought us to a place that is lovely indeed.


  1. I love this post! What a treasure it is to find a piece of family history.

  2. How exciting! I am so glad the island visit was such a success! What an incredible transition that must have been for your husband's great grandparents!

    1. I know! While we were on Salina we visited the Emigration Museum. We learned that 50% of the population left Salina between 1892 and 1924. Of Course that was only 1205 people. Imagine leaving an island that small to arrive in Ellis Island!

  3. Very cool. I especially like the picture of the church.

  4. Truly Amazing Michelle!! Thanks for taking us through your Journey.. felt really nice reading this post.. love your narration.