“The thing that interests me most about family history is the gap between the things we think we know about our families and the realities.” ~ Jeremy Hardy
This is the perfect quote to describe my journey through genealogy! I became interested in family history ten years ago after watching the first episode of “Who Do You Think You Are” (a popular genealogy television show). The initial reason for researching my personal genealogy was simple – I had no idea who my ancestors were beyond my grandparents. Although I remembered childhood stories about the Alpine region of Tyrol and I had fuzzy memories of a few great-aunts and uncles, there was little else to go on other than the surnames of my paternal grandparents.
It didn’t take long before I was digging through online records at Ancestry.com, spending hours poring over microfilm church records at the local LDS family history center, and compiling names and dates into a huge family tree.
Along the way I had help. Bill Genetti of Hazleton, gave me a copy of the original Genetti family tree, along with family records he had collected during the 1990’s. Bill is my first cousin, once removed and one of the many newly-found relatives I met at a family reunion held in October of 2010. At that time I was just a fledgling genealogist, but Bill’s tree and original family records were my road map to further research. The tree gave me a direction as I confirmed names, dates and events. I filled in the gaps, added missing ancestors and included my own facts and stats as I went along.
Soon it was obvious – research was yielding so much more than just names and dates. The memories of real people lingered as ghosts behind static records I found online. People born in another country, who grew up in a little village and married someone from down the road. They had children (sometimes many, many children!), grew old and were buried in the cemetery next to the church they had attended all of their lives. I knew my ancestors had made life decisions that ultimately affected who I am today. Their DNA was part of my DNA. I saw myself reflected back in their eyes and wondered if they ever thought about future generations.
With some sadness, I also realized how fleeting our memories were of those who came before us. In just two or three generations a relative’s memory can slip from family consciousness. When no one is left to remember an ancestor, they become little more than a name with a birth, marriage and death date attached. It was this understanding that resonated in my being and became the spark to continue searching for my forebears. Genealogy was so much more than just tracking down names and dates. Our ancestors had full and interesting lives, contributing much to our family history. I felt their memory should live on, not be forgotten and dismissed to a dusty past.
Today my genealogy mission is to bring ancestors alive through the telling of stories, collected photographs, newspaper articles, and anything else I can find that adds details and richness to their memory. And once you start looking past a simple birth record and into a life filled with a spectrum of emotions and experiences, you find incredible people that shaped our modern existence.
During the past year this has become even more evident to me as I uncover the stories of both “saints and sinners” along with little-known historical details.
In 2019 DNA also played a major role in my genealogy research. Since January of this year, I have helped three adoptees and one person with questionable parentage to identify their true family origin. And guess what – they were all my cousins of varying degrees, linked to me through DNA results! Obviously their connection to our family offers insight into our ancestors’ stories as well as uncovering secrets long ago hidden away. Did you know that at least 10% (and sometimes the estimate is as high as 20%) of births are attributed to a “non-parental event”? That means that one or both parents you grew up with are not your true birth parents. With the advancement of DNA testing it was only a matter of time before unknown cousins began showing up in our matches. For obvious reasons of privacy, I won’t be sharing their stories. However, I am extremely honored to help adoptees with their ongoing ancestral search to identify birth parentage.
Also during the past year I encountered ancestors who went missing, never to be heard from again; plus stumbled upon several relatives who changed their surname, thus cutting family ties and heritage. I even came in contact with a family who changed their surname to “Genetti” after arriving in Hazleton, Pennsylvania – although they had no connection at all to our Genetti family, having immigrated from southern Italy with a completely different surname!
In 2019, I researched a century-old infamous trial involving four cousins, found references to bootlegging and family lawsuits, as well as investigated a few ancestors who met untimely deaths. I also found many family milestones marked by: military courage, successful businesses, artistic achievements, and happy life events. All of these and more are woven into the fabric of our family history.
Through the Genetti website and blog I hope to keep ancestral memories alive, colorful and relevant for today’s cousins. One example of this is a recent series published on our blog, translating a 1902 school notebook kept by Tillie Genetti Zambotti. Our thanks to Tillie’s granddaughter, Anne Marie Shelby, and to our translator, Loretta Cologna, of Cles, Italy for making this happen.
Another way to honor ancestors is through family trees. I began the Family Branch Tree project this year with the intention to:
- extend our current family tree
- include female relatives (missing from the original tree)
- add detailed and well-researched information that might be missing
- and offer a personalized print to individual branches of the Genetti family as an heirloom meant to be passed on to future generations
Through the handing down of family trees, we keep our most recent ancestors alive for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
I will continue to research, dig and uncover our family’s past, sharing fascinating stories I feel are appropriate for publication.
If you have photographs, newspaper articles, obituaries, or personal stories you would like to share on this website, please email me through our Contact Page. I look forward to hearing from you!
Add a piece of ancestral history to your home with a Genetti Family Tree:
Original Genetti Family Tree (click for more info)
3-Generation Descendant Tree of Damiano and Oliva Genetti (click for more info)
3-Generation Descendant Tree of Raffaele and Lucia Genetti (click for more info)
Disclaimer: purchases made through the above links will result in a small commission to me (at no extra cost to you!) This allows me to do what I LOVE to do, supports the costs involved with maintaining this website and helps pay the fees associated with genealogical research. Thank you to everyone who supports this family website by purchasing from our Genetti Family Shop.