"Why bother?" - I'll tell you 'why'!
Sunday, December 07, 2008 (02:10:11)
Posted by Carole
How many times have we heard family and friends say this to us during our attempts to find, solve, discover something or other, or simply satisfy our curiosity about something?
All of us, throughout our lives set out on some kind of adventure. Maybe it’s only when we try to find friends in a game of ‘hide and seek’, or maybe it’s something larger and more exciting.
The most exciting ‘journey’ I’ve been on didn’t get me in its grips until later on in my life, and for many this is the case. I’m talking, of course, about discovering “who I am”… my forebears weren’t really interested and many allowed the old stories to die with them – Oh if only we had known, I’m sure we would have begun our searches so many years earlier. At a time when many of our grandparents, or even great grandparents were still alive. What memories they must have had. I’m sure that many were very sad and even tragic.
Tales of hunger, lack of employment, parched land where little grew, a feudal system which ensured they stayed at the bottom of the pile…. Yes, they had much to want to escape from and forget, and who could blame them.
But what could they do? Well throughout Europe the rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer. Many wanted to escape ‘pogroms’ in their homelands, others to escape a potato blight, others a land that could no longer feed them or give them the means to feed their families. Oh the reasons to want to escape were many and varied!
But they all had the same goals. These were twofold – the first to skimp and scrape in any way possible to raise the cash for at least one boat ticket that would take them to their ‘Promised Land’ (wherever that might be…). If they were among the lucky ones then their wife and children could travel with them on that first journey, but for many that wasn’t possible. Their loved ones were left with their elders or siblings to survive the best they could, often for years, until money could be earned in the new land and tickets bought for them too. But those journeys must have been pretty dire. You only have to look at ships manifests and see how many traveled with little more than a pittance to support them when they arrived.
And when they did arrive – what did they find? People who spoke a language they didn’t understand. Others who could read and write – when often they could do neither. Strange food and sometimes stranger habits – all alien to them, but now – in an instant – all part of their new life which they had to embrace, like it or not! They must have longed for news from home, and as we have seen here on “Gente” some of those letters described in detail the difficulties their loved ones had with the ‘bread winner’ gone.
Oh, if only we had known, years ago, that we would want to discover all we could about these brave people – how much easier it would have been to have begun our quest earlier.
Mulberry Street, New York
But we now find ourselves together here on “Gente di Mare” with a common purpose. To know our own – and to understand who they were, what their life was like and so – ultimately – to discover ourselves!
This is as good a place as any to set out on that adventure because you won’t have to travel alone. There are many here who have already completed their own journeys, have documented them and share them with the many dilettantes and new found enthusiasts (like me) here on our site. And – unlike your forebears - you will travel, this time via the net, to many places your ancestors went to, but with much less hardship than they must have suffered…
“Gente di Mare” is a free site, and survives on the occasional donation to help us maintain it’s running costs. This way we are able to continue to gradually build a very strong Surname Database which is open to anyone to see, and in addition all the other ongoing work on our other pages. Pages like the Gente di Mare Italian Genealogy,Calabria Exchange, Angilletta, Resources etc.
And – as a little surprise for you all - here is the new ‘home’ page for:
>Gente di Mare Italian Genealogy
Isn’t it awesome? Nuccia has been working on it for sometime and has tweaked it until arriving at this wonderful entry page.