Italian Roots

My Dad is Italian American. His dad, Antonio DellaVecchia was born in Italy in 1903. His Mom, Clara (Chiara) Moro was born in New York City in 1911 to Italian Parents. I haven’t done much research on his family as I feel woefully inadequate as a researcher.

Since completing the Boston University Certificate Program in December of 2017, I have begun to branch out. Now that my husband has retired, I am now able to plan some local research trips to the NYC Municipal Archives and local cemeteries to begin gathering information that isn’t available online.

I grew up in an area of Queens that is near LaGuardia Airport but isn’t Astoria or Jackson Heights. It is now lumped in with East Elmhurst but that doesn’t really fit either. I grew up between Astoria Boulevard and Ditmars Boulevard. Across the Grand Central Parkway from my house was St. Michael’s Cemetery and I always heard that my Great-Uncle Berlendo was buried there and how he was murdered.

On December 19, 2018 I decided to stop at St. Michaels and do a little research of my family there. My first stop was the office where I got the locations of the graves.

My first stop was the grave of Nicholas “Sweeps” Mangini. He isn’t really my relative but my dad always talked about Sweeps. He is Ida Mangini Moro’s brother. He is buried in Section 22 with his wife. Unfortunately I am not sure of her name at this point I believe it was Mae. Screen Shot 2018-12-19 at 7.39.16 AM

I am always saddened when there is no marker. Especially when it is the end of the line. Who will remember them.

I next made my way to Berlendo’s grave in Plot 6. Plot 6 is huge but the office told me how to find the graves in the plot so it was fairly easy to locate. Part of the reason for this trip was to see who was buried in this grave. My Mom and Dad had a disagreement. So this was the easiest way to end it. Well my Dad couldn’t remember the 3rd person and my Mom had the wrong people.

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Well my Dad happened to be correct as he did say that his Uncle Michael was not buried there. In this plot is Sebetino Mangini (who I believe to be Ida Moro and Sweeps’ Dad. I now need to do more research on this line to confirm but the dates do seem to line up), Ida Mangini Moro and Berlendo Moro. Adding these names for my upcoming trip to the Municipal Archives to see what I can find on their deaths. Death Certificates are hidden gems for information.

I then made my way to the St. Michael Mausoleum and my parents were pretty spot on for the locations of my dads Aunt Josephine and Uncle Willy’s resting place which unfortunately did not seem to be marked the are in Section B22.

My last stop for paying my respects were Aunt Jenny and Uncle Nicky in AW104.Screen Shot 2018-12-19 at 7.40.08 AM

If you know me at all you know that I do not do mausoleums generally. They kind of freak me out but I will say these are done really well and are very peaceful.

This mini-cemetery research trip along with my trip the other day to Cyprus Hills Cemetery have lit a fire in me to tackle the Italian and NYC research. I think I am going to like my husband being retired.

Can’t wait to hit up the Municipal Archives in a week or two.

A New Puzzle

Yesterday, I attended the annual Wreaths Across America event in Brooklyn. Since I was going to be there my sister-in-law asked me if I minded checking out her grandparents graves at Cypress Hills Cemetery no problem. She gave me her grandparents names and that they were in the Whitehead plot but she had no clue who they were and the connection beyond her Grandmother was a Whitehead.

As you know, finding a woman in your line can be difficult, as a lot of times there are no records pre-marriage.

I started my visit in the office and I was limited in time as I had to be at the National Cemetery at Noon and it was already 10:50. To my luck I was the only person in the office and gave the names of George and Sarah Behringer. Well they could not find George but found Sarah with the date of death of 2004 and in the Whitehead family plot. To my surprise the Whitehead plot was in Section 1 of the cemetery. Section one is right in the oldest part of the cemetery I would say and faces Jamaica Avenue.

My only problem was nothing was labeled until I found a newer stone with the section and grave number. I was too far back. So I wandered forward and this stone was standing before me.


This thing is huge and my mind was going a mile a minute saying please be the right family. I started walking around it, reading the names of all the people buried there were a total of 23 names including my Sister-in-laws Grandfather, George Behringer. I was at the right place.

Now the fun begins, contacting the cemetery researcher to find how many people are actually buried here, when the plot was purchased and who did it originally belong too  as there is a second name on the other side of the stone of Wilson.

After some preliminary research I believe I found her Grandmother’s Parents to be John and Elizabeth Whitehead according to a couple of census records but that has yet to be confirmed.

I am planning a trip to the municipal archives for my own research, so I am thinking of pulling the death certificates and seeing if I can go back further.

So a new puzzle and I am extremely excited to fit the pieces together.

‘Twas the day before Thanksgiving

Twas the day before Thanksgiving and I have been focusing on family and the blessings of life as is the norm this time of year. I am thinking of those who came before and those who may come after. I am feeling incredibly blessed for all that I have.

There have been several of those family members who came before me that have been heavy on my mind. I can almost feel them reaching out to me to tell their stories.

Martha Winchester Beardsley, who is just a name on a tombstone in Clintonville. She died at the mere age of 20 but left 3 children behind. I know nothing but a couple of dates but I can feel here asking questions.

Arvilla Preston Shumway, who was married at 16, to a man almost 20 years her senior. She went on to have 10 children. What must her life have been like. I hear her story wanting to be told.

My own grandmother, Chiara Moro DellaVecchia, who was born in the United States and then went to Italy for 20 years before returning in 1938. What was the real reason the family returned to Italy. What must it of been like to come back. How had it changed.

We always here the stories of the men but what about the women. Their stories are just as important. Even though the records are sparse their stories need to be told. I so want to put together a profile of those families that speak to me.

I am not a writer and don’t profess to be one but I can feel the family before me asking me to tell their stories and now I need to figure a way to tell those stories and to share them. Our ancestors should not be forgotten and they should be more than the names and dates on a stone.

So today I am thankful for all of my family, past, present and future. Thank you for helping me be the person I am.

52 Ancestors – The Old Homestead

There are families who stay in their homes for generations upon generations, but not mine.

Growing up my grandparents had a farm in Peru, NY but they were the first family to live there. My grandfather’s family had a farm that their family was on for over 100 years and then his family decided to go to Vermont and sold it but they never went. There is a tragic tale of the cows being sick and put down. My grandparents bought a farm in Harkness, NY where they raised my mom and her siblings and then they moved in I believe 1963 or 1964 to a farm on Barker Road in Peru, NY. They had a dairy farm but their taste for farming died after my Uncle Leslie died in a tragic accident.

The then became snow birds and spent their time between Upstate New York and St. Petersburgh, Florida. Maybe that is why I love Florida so much.

My Dad’s parents lived in Long Island City, Astoria most of their lives. My Grandpa Tony came to this country in 1920 and made his way to NY after 1936. They settled into a 6 family house in 1938 until they passed. No one lives in Long Island City any longer.

As I get older I truly believe the Homestead is the people. I would one day love to live on a big piece of property with a front porch and rocking chairs with loved ones all around. Though not anywhere where it snows.



Always learning…

I had a genetic cousin contact me early Sunday morning, asking how we are related. I could tell immediately she was related through my Dad’s family but that is all. A little deeper digging and I could tell she was my Dad’s paternal line.

Unfortunately, that is as far as I could get. Unlike my mom’s family, I do not know much of the family history. My Grandpa, Tony, died when I was very little and most of his family stayed in the old country. What I do know has been pieced together from a document shared with my Dad from his cousin and what I have found.

Another reason I haven’t gotten to far is the Italian naming pattern of son’s. Oldest son gets named after the paternal grandfather. Today I made a minor break through.

Screen Shot 2018-03-18 at 6.02.45 PMI was able to find out when my great grandfather came to the United States in 1880 with his parents. I also love that European women traveled under their maiden names as it gives you one more piece of the puzzle. I also discovered a tiny hint of where my first name came from. My Great Great Grandmother’s name was Chiara (I need to discover what her maiden name was as I do not think the spelling I have is  correct). I am excited to have found some more connections.

I am trying to learn about the different naming traditions as I think once I do that I will be able to break a couple of walls especially as I get back into Ireland, Italy and Norway. Below is my husband’s Norwegian line.

Screen Shot 2018-03-18 at 6.03.25 PMI found a baptism record for Bergetti Netland, I think, but am not 100% sure as from what I have discovered the Scandinavian countries did not have set last names until the late 1800s and what I have read confused me so I put them off to the side until I found a rather high match for my genetic cousin on MyHeritage.

So everyday I am learning different things and moving out of my comfort zone.

52 Ancestors – In the Census

Week 5 of the challenge was In the Census. Census are one of the main records, I use when I look into the family history. Every now and then I will revisit a census record to see what other clues can be found.

I also now go and read the enumerators instructions to better understand what was being asked. Census records have all kinds of bread crumbs in them.

Let’s start with the 1880 US Census for Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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Here we find Leslie Beardsley and his wife Sarah Beardsley. They were both born in New York State. In 1870 they were in NYS. When I found this record I could not fathom why they were in Michigan. If you look at the occupation of Sarah it says student but student of what. Sarah was a student at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor studying to be a doctor.

Next lets take a look at the 1910 US Census for Astoria, NY, where we find my paternal great grandparents and 2 of their children.

Screen Shot 2018-02-14 at 3.18.04 PMHEre we find Dominic Moro, wife Teresa, and sons Michael and Berlindo. Living with them is a boarder Paul Rizzo. The thing I find most interesting is the 1879 arrival of Dominic Moro. We were always told he came to the United States in 1900. This means he arrived with his parents, 20 years earlier, I have never found him earlier but truth be told I did not really look very hard as I struggle with Italian and Irish Research due to naming patterns. New project in  my future.

Don’t forget that State Census are also great for finding our families. Here in the 1915 New York State Census is the first appearance of my grandpa Earl Witherwax.

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Census records have a wealth of knowledge and are the backbone of my research. I think I need to go look at the various census records in my tree. I am also looking for a few elusive family members who seemed to elude the census takers.



Meet Earl and Frances (Stewart) Witherwax, my maternal grandparents and the reason I started this family history journey.


Chiara DellaVecchia Osborne, Frances and Earl Witherwax on her wedding day. April 5, 1997.

My Grandma was my initiation into our family history, though Grandpa took us everywhere. I think he did it to humor Grandma at first, though he was fabulous at throwing out comments like “I knew we were German.”; when you finally realized the origins of the name Witherwax and it wasn’t English like everyone thought.

These two meant the world to our family and were the heart of the family. They are missed every day. It is because of them I am about to embark on a new journey. The journey into professional genealogy.

I am obsessed with finding out about family history, whether it is my family or into discovering the roots of my husband’s supposedly new to American ancestors. We have debunked that theory though we are still diving down that rabbit hole.

Once upon a time I fancied myself Nancy Drew, now I prefer bringing ancestors to life and finding out their stories, they all have a story. We all come from somewhere and our families wants their story told and to not be forgotten

I look forward to sharing this journey with you all.