Archiver > ITA-SICILY > 2001-10 > 1004404993

From: "Grace Lancieri Olivo" <>
Subject: [{ITA-SICILY-L}] Found Missing Relatives - long
Date: Mon, 29 Oct 2001 20:23:13 -0500

When my Sicilian great-grandmother Innocenza BONADONNA came here the 2nd
time to stay, she brought her two eldest daughters with her and left behind
her husband and 4 youngest girls in Palermo Province. She stayed with her
brother in Manhattan's Little Italy and the 3 women worked sewing men's
suits piecework, trying to save money to bring the others over. It was a
very close knit family, and eventually all but one of her siblings moved to
the USA. Her husband died unexpectedly back in Sicily, and she went back
for the 4 younger girls. When my grandmother married and settled in the
Catskills, Innocenza went to live with her - 2 other daughters lived on the
same road. In those days, a trip to the country was a vacation for city
folk, and all her brothers and sisters made frequent trips 'to the country'
every year. After WWII their children and grandchildren were all marrying,
and the visits slowed - they stopped completely when Innocenza [we called
her Mamarana] died in 1954, and everyone lost contact. No one in my family
could even remember all of their names - we knew one sister had lived on the
other side of the Hudson; one sister had moved to Connecticut; one brother
had never left Brooklyn;another sister lived in Chicago. We were in contact
only with the Chicago relatives, and the one who stayed in Sicily.

I spent a lot of time on the phone looking for them - one Saturday morning I
called every Bonadonna left in Brooklyn with absolutely no results. I then
started on Long Island, only to find a possibility [with a 101 year old
living mother] who had a wife who shrieked into the extension while her
husband and I spoke that he shouldn't tell me anything, that I might not be
a 'real' person. It was a sad day.

I pumped my 79 yr. old mother with a million questions about these cousins,
and took notes. I drove my older aunts and uncles nuts :-) Then one day my
aunt sent me an obituary of a fellow with the right name who had died 'on
the other side of the Hudson'. I waited an appropriate time and called the
house. Bingo! I had the right family. The wife remembered taking her
mother-in-law to my grandmother's house for visits. I dutifully added all
their family info to our tree, and we kept in touch. She knew nothing else
about anyone in her husband's family. Months passed.

Another Saturday morning, and I hit the online white pages searching for the
married surname of the sister who had moved to Connecticut. After a few
wrong numbers, I hit pay dirt. A wonderful lady named Dottie was stunned
when I told her who I was - just the day before she had taken out all the
old photos of their visits to my grandmother's house those many summers ago.
[How eerie is THAT?] She was 80 years old and sharp as a tack - with a
memory that was nothing short of incredible. She talked - and I wrote - for
almost 2 hours. Dottie was my grandmother's first cousin - their mother's
were sisters. She remembered Zio Nicolo from Brooklyn well, but hadn't been
in contact with any of those cousins in decades - but she promised to see
what she could find in old phone books. More months passed.

Two weeks ago I opened my mailbox to find a letter from Long Island - from
the youngest daughter of Nicolo Bonadonna. Dottie had kept her promise, she
had tracked Amelia [called Amy] down. It was a lovely, friendly letter,
giving me her phone # and asking for mine. We talked a long time when I
called her. We talked like old friends, the rapport was instantaneous.
She's a very young and vibrant 73. Another first cousin of my grandmother
who was younger than my mother! Her memories of visiting my grandmother 'up
on the farm' and going to country fairs and feasts flooded back. Saturday
I received pages and pages of written family tree information from Amy, and
we were both amazed to learn that I had actually attended elementary school
at the same Catholic school in Queens with one of her nephews - in the same
grade. He had a Polish surname, I'd never have guessed he was family.

I've plans to visit all 3 of these ladies, as each of them has old family
photos that I'm anxious to see. Dottie has an old wedding photo from when
she and my mother were flower girls in the late 1920's. They have photos of
their parents and other relatives that no one in our family has ever seen.

Amy wants to go visit Ventimiglia di Sicilia next year...maybe I'll tag

The motto of this story is that not all the information is in Italy -
sometimes all it takes some digging here in the USA. Everyone is thrilled
about locating these 3 missing 'branches' of our tree - and they will all be
invited to the next DINA-BONADONNA Family Reunion, and it should be quite
the occasion, they all have large families of their own.

Grace Lancieri Olivo,
Editor, Comunes of Italy Magazine,
ICQ# 7153131

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