So, now that I had these documents, I couldn’t wait to get started. My organizational skills kicked in and I grabbed my coding sheets to begin my flowchart. And of course this led to many unanswered questions.
So, I called Mom and started the cross-examination about the documents and family. My mother was a woman of very few words, especially about the family. Since she had sent me her fathers’ death certificate, I asked where he was from in Italy. She said “Papa came from Messina”. Ok. Messina is both a city and a province in Sicily.
I did some research and found some tools to help with my next step.
- I found the address for the Stato Civile in the Comune of Messina that accepts requests for birth, death and marriage extracts.
- I then went to the Latter Day Saints web site to obtain a form letter for my request. I started out with a basic one but then began tweaking it to add the information I had.
- I then found a translation web site called Babelfish to help translate my Word document into Italian. This was before Google translate existed.
So, I sent my letter to Messina, Sicily, Italy. In addition, I went to the Italian White Pages, and searched for folks with the surname Cottone in Messina. I then did a mass mailing to all these folks asking if they were related to my grandfather. Yes, I know, a search for the proverbial needle in the haystack.
Two weeks later I received a reply stating that they had no record of my grandfather, Francesco Cottone.
I called Mom and she said “Maybe Margaret could help”. Ok, but who is Margaret? Margaret was Carmela’s daughter-in-law. Ok, but who is Carmela? Carmela was Grandpa Cottone’s sister!!! Really?? Why didn’t I know this?
So, Mom gave me Margaret’s phone number in upstate NY. Before I would call Margaret, I called my older (by 8 years) sister Laurie. She said that she, Mom and Dad would “go up to the farm” to visit Aunt Carmela before I was born. So, I told Laurie that I was going to call Margaret, introduce myself and ask if we could visit.