Searching for My Ancestor’s Home

Everyone has a story: tell us yours!

Searching for My Ancestor’s Home

Part I

by Diane H.

Anyone who has done any genealogical research knows how all consuming it is. It seems the more you discover, the more you want to know. Each record is a treasure, yet it is just a small piece of a much larger mosaic. You keep searching. You want the whole picture.

Combing through online records has devoured much of my time. You might even say I have become obsessed. Sometimes I get so involved I barely have time to make dinner for my family. I stare at the computer until my eyes burn and shoulders ache. I have been forced to wear even stronger reading glasses. Each time I come across my family name, my heart skips a beat in the hopes that it is someone from my father’s direct line.

So you can imagine how happy I was to find the death certificate of my great-grandfather, Graziantonio. It had his name, age, the town where he was born, place of death, occupation, spouse’s name, father’s name, etc. Only 50 years old, it said he died at 65 Vico Santa Cesarea. Assuming Graziantonio died at home as so many did back then, it might also be the house where he and his family lived.
If you are like me, you have dreamed about going to your Italian ancestor’s hometown and finding the house where they lived. You can picture it vividly. First you see the name of the street and excitement sets in. Walking slowly, following the numbers, you savor each moment. As you get closer, waves of emotion wash over you as you remember your grandparents. You look up and lo and behold there it is: a simple dwelling, still inhabited, maybe even with lace curtains in the window.

You stare at it, memories flooding your heart and mind. You have your friend or spouse take a picture of you in front of the house.
If only your grandparents can see you there and know how much this place and their memory mean to you. You dare to knock on the door and someone answers. In poor Italian, you tell them your name, where you are from and that your grandfather lived there many, many years ago. Slightly hesitant at first, they kindly invite you in and you chat a while. You are standing in the place your ancestor called home, where your grandfather played with his brothers and sisters, where he did his chores. This was what I imagined might possibly happen; it was my genealogy fantasy.

So off to Matera I went with my husband and daughter, camera on my shoulder and hope in my heart. I had been there two years before searching for Graziantonio’s grave, but did not find it. I was bound to have better luck this time; after all, now I had an address.

Second Part is HERE