Thank you TLC. While I have been sick as a dog for the past week and a half, the cable network took me on a nice little journey. Spending most of the time in bed or laying on the couch with no energy to even read, I could easily enough escape in television. So, my kids and I watched endless hours of one of our favorite shows: “Cake Boss.”
If you haven’t seen it, the show follows a family run bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey, “Carlo’s Bake Shop.” The main subject is cake artist Buddy Valastro, who struggles every episode with his “friggin fondant” and to come up with the perfect cake requested by his clients. These cakes are not your usual Betty Crocker – but true masterpieces.
Along the way, he has to contend with his Italian family, who are also part of the bakery and feel the need to intercede on every project. (Think loud Italian mother who gestures with her hands and thinks she always knows what’s best.)
A new string of shows takes the family on location to Italy – which is the journey I vicariously have been taking while I have been sick. One of my favorite lines from the trip: “They don’t make tomatoes like this in Joisey.” On another episode, the family digs into it’s roots, and goes back to the house where the mother was raised, looking for ” la famiglia” history in Italy. It is a touching episode.
Coincidentally, I have begun the process of researching my own family tree – with the intent of traveling back to the towns, cities, stomping grounds of my ancestors. Genealogy travel is a big travel trend these days – and if you are looking for a meaningful journey with your children, this is a fantastic project to teach them about from where your family came.
However, it is time consuming, overwhelming, and can be costly if you don’ t plan correctly. Thanks to the internet, some family records may be found online. But the first thing you should do is talk to a relative most familiar with the family line you want to research. Get all the names, places, marriages, births, etc you can – AND if you can, double check with another relative. My great aunt’s memory had both my great grandmother and great grandfather coming from Sicily, when really one is from Milan.
After that, it gets complicated… The most famous way to research is to visit the Family History Library in Salt lake City, Utah – notorious for the thousands of records on film there.
You can visit the library’s website, as well as some other libraries that even have started cataloging info online. Other libraries that cater to family searches are:
–Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Ind.
–Newberry Library in Chicago, Ill.
–New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston.
I could go ahead and list a number of other genealogy centered websites to help you with your search – but there is one helpful website with all that information for you -one stop shopping. That is Cyndislist.com/travel.
The bummer is even after all this time and research, you still may not have enough to go on just from internet surfing. Many of the records you may need are in your country of origin. At this point., some people may give up. If you do decide to go to the country yourself, you should know how to speak the language, and understand how to research abroad.
Don’t worry – there is another avenue that I advise, that may not cost more than trying yourself. You can hire an accredited genealogist. Sure, it may not be as satisfying as discovering the birth certificate of your great great grandfather yourself, but it will save you frustration and time. Then you have more to go on should you want to visit – and many of these genealogists will take you on the tours. A good site to find a genealogist who specializes in your country of origin is genealogypro.com. They offer genealogists who specialize in every country.
I don’t want to discourage anyone from digging up his or her roots – the research can be fascinating, and once you start, it is sort of obsessive.
I don’t recommend you travel to say Ireland expecting to just show up in a town you heard your great uncle talking about and expect to find anything meaningful…so the research is imperative. And interesting. Who knew that my great uncle was killed by the mafia? Thanks to a different boss on TLC, I am more eager than ever to take my own sentimental journey….maybe you will too.