A Reply from a Gentleman

Everyone at the Language School in Red Bank NJ knew of my research. The fact that I was there with an “incoming” letter in hand was unreal. They had all warned me that answers might not be forthcoming and that outsiders are not let in.

But one gentleman did reply. He is Lorenzo Milano and first cousin to Dad!! He said that he and many other family members [with the same and different surnames] received letters. They all went to Lorenzo to see if I was legitimate. He vouched for me as I had included information not included in official records.

Thus began a many year correspondence between us. But as time rolled on, I decided it was time to meet this wonderful man.

So, in April of 1998, I wrote to Lorenzo to tell him that my sister Laurette and I were planning a trip to meet him and his family. Really, I was planning it, as Laurette had never been out of the country!! I told Lorenzo that we would be in Rome for 4 days, then fly to Palermo and drive to my timeshare Falcone for a week [to visit Signore Giuseppe in Librizzi and see the town] and then drive to Castellammare del Golfo.

Everything was set, we left and arrived in Rome. But a funny thing happened while at the Hotel Quirinale.

View from our room at the Hotel Quirinale in Rome
View from our room at the Hotel Quirinale in Rome


Begin Searching in Western Sicily

Simultaneously I had begun researching my paternal side. Based on the birth certificates I was given, I had written to both the Comune in Trapani and Castellammare del Golfo. No replies. Maybe my requests were not communicated properly. But I was not deterred.

Castellammare del Golfo, Trapani, Sicily 1999 Photo courtesy C.M.

So, I went to the online Italian white pages and began entering all the surnames for Dad’s side of the family. There were many names listed, so I began comparing the names and addresses. As there were some duplicates, I eliminated them from the list. I then began composing my letter [introduction, explanation of my research, list of great-grandparents, their children and how I was related (nonno), their knowledge of this family, closing].  I then translated the letter from English to Italian using Babelfish as Google translate did not exist yet.  (Unfortunately, the Sicilian dialect is not available through Babelfish nor Google.)

I printed out 54 letters, signed them, addressed the envelopes and went to the post office. The postal clerks know me so they had the international stamps ready for me. I mailed them and now it was time to wait, again.

On Valentine’s Day 1998, I received an air mail envelope with Dad’s name in the upper left-hand corner. I froze. As I opened it, I saw that the letter was typed and written in dialect.  I tried to translate it as best I could but I knew I needed help.  So, I called The Language School and  got into the car.