MENOMINEE - She was born in a log cabin during the year of the great flu epidemic of 1918. The mother informed her daughter years later how difficult it was. Her family barely survived! During the time the child was growing up, she would listen to her mother's tales of life in the "old country," Italy.
This child vowed that one day she would connect with her relatives over there. Her mother, longing to see her own mother, father, and siblings, would weave interesting tales of the (famiglia) family and the Alps Mountains.
As she became an adult, she held onto the dream of visiting the old country to see what was so vividly described to her years ago. The years went by and so did life, but the dream persisted on.
Have any of you experienced such a passion of trying to reconnect with relatives in Europe? If so, then you can understand her feelings. As I said before, the years went by. During this time she was able to save quarters and dollars for her trip to her mother's village.
The day came when she could afford to pay for the trip. Oh, how Alice Paul wanted to see the faces of family members and the mountains. The trip was a huge success. She returned with pictures and stories of our family in Italy. But, there was still something missing for her. She wanted to pass the connections with the Italian family to her children.
The years passed again, 5, 10, 20, 30 and she patiently waited and continued to encourage her children to visit, but nothing happened until another opportunity opened another door. That was in 2003, when her granddaughter, Michelle Paul, had the opportunity to compete in an international snowshoe race representing the United States in Fondo, Italy. Fondo was only 30 km. from her mother's village. So once again she packed her things and prepared for a return trip to her mother's village. Alice's dream and vision for herself and family did come true. As I sit here planning my trip to Italy, I'm looking at the photo of the family and mountains my grandmother saw.
Before it is too late for all of you, try to connect with your extended family. Here are some suggestions:
1) If any of your relatives are still living, ask them if they know the name of the village/town/city where your grandparents came from.
2) Check if they have addresses or phone numbers of your relatives overseas.
3) Another option is the computer. Try to track down your relatives using various websites, such as ancestry.com.
4) You may wish to investigate the Ellis Island website. We did, when my wife and I were in New York City a few years ago. We found the ship's log (and in that log was my grandmother's name and destination), along with a photo of the ship.
So, I must say Ciao (goodbye) to all of you until next month. By the time you read this article, I will be in Italy visiting with my Italian relatives. I hope you all have a blessed Easter.
Dan Paul is the administrator at Menominee Catholic Central Elementary School. His columns explore family relationships.