Monday, September 3, 2012

Honor Your Ancestors: Attend a Family Reunion

Alzieri Family Reunion - August 2012
Going to a family reunion is one of the best ways to honor the memory of our parents, grandparents, and other relatives that have gone before us.

The Alzieri Sisters
A reunion organized by cousins of my grandmother a few years ago attracted very few young families.  It made me sad because my Grandma would have wanted us to connect.  She would have been happy to see us visiting with her sisters, recalling her smile and the sound of her voice in theirs. She would have been delighted to see her grandneices, nephews, and second cousins once removed playing with my kids.   It made me proud to be examined by a cousin who proclaimed "You look just like Rose did when she was your age."   It was a way to keep her memory alive,  a testament of her genetic fortitude.   Throughout the day, stories were told -- some important, some trivial -- that might have otherwise been buried and forgotten. 

Grandma Rose wasn't there to see the exhaustive research on the family tree that my dad's cousin Jeff performed on, but she would have been proud that we were there to see it.  A huge diagram was displayed on the wall, including photo copies of documents from Ellis Island that recorded the arrival of our ancestors from Calabria, Italy.

Dominic and Rose Angelo, my great grandparents
One of the most precious documents in my cache of important papers is an essay by our cousin Doloris, who wrote about how my Grandma Rose worked hard and sacrificed, not just to keep our family fed, but to teach the former Italian peasants the American way of life.  She writes about my grandmother: 

Grandma Rose, in the darker coat, foreground left
"Aunt Rose was 14 years old and the sole support of the family...she was the only person left who could speak both Italian and English...They lived in Mayfield.  Aunt Rose taught her family and the DiGravios how to to understand money, how to set a table, all the things that come so natural for us, but were so new to these immigrant families.  Not only did she support her own family, but she sent money 50 cents at a time to my parents to help with the medical expenses for my eyes.  Were it not for her, I may not have the vision I have today.  Aunt Rose is a remarkable person."
Where do we have Sunday dinner when we outgrow the kitchen table?
In the garage of course!
Would you believe that Doloris found me on Facebook recently and sent me a friend request?   There aren't many people left in this world who remember my grandmother's contribution to the overall welfare and stability of our family-- even my father, because he wasn't alive yet to see it.    I'm so grateful to Doloris for recording it, and to be living in a time where connection with her is so easy, even when living so far apart. Still, a Facebook reunion is not the same as a live visit. Funny how our self-reliance, mobility, and online connections can also be the enemy of family continuity.  Why fly to grandpa's when we can Skype with him?

An invitation to a family reunion is a precious opportunity to meet people like Jeff and Doloris.   Where else we bring the box of old photos and have the elders identify those we don't recognize?   We can take pictures and video, and then come home and write about it, too, just in case the future generations aren't on Facebook.

Check out this cool graphic that I got from my friend Scott's terrific genealogy blog Old Blue Genes.  If you're new to geneaology you might start with this post, Tips for New Genealogists:


Anonymous said...

I wanna come to one of your family reunions!

~mel said...

Last year we had our first family reunion on my husbands side of the family. It was very interesting meeting and putting a face to a name with some of those family members we had only heard of. Most interesting though was the genealogy board showing all the way back to the Donner's of the ill-fated trip of the Donner Party heading west.

~ I received the email about winning the giveaway ~ THANK YOU! I can't wait to read it:)

Have a wonderful day!

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

Reunion is always so much fun.

JGH said...

Mel, I've always been fascinated by the story of the Donner Party. How cool that you are related to them!!