Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Research in Vasto and Chieti

This is a continuing saga of our research trip to Southern Italy in search of ancestral data.  In this post, we get outstanding assistance from a town official in Vasto, and once again are received as "royalty" in an Archivio di Stato;  this time in Chieti.
This is our 10th post. 

This morning we woke up to face a day with a very ambitious schedule.  We had plans to drive 20 miles south to the village of Vasto and look for records in the Ufficio di Anagrafe.  Then we were going to drive 40 miles north to the Archivio di Stato in the city of Chieti.  We would return to our B&B that evening.  We finalized our plans over a very good breakfast.

Ummm!  Italian Blood Orange Juice

The drive south was scenic and uneventful.  The village, on the Adriatic, was very busy with traffic but we found our way to the city hall and we found a parking garage to rest the car.  We entered the Anagrafe office and found a very long line.  We waited for about forty minutes and eventually we got to speak with the official.  We told him we would like to see records of the Decristofaro family.  We showed him our family tree.  

With one eye on the long line behind us, the clerk asked if we would mind coming back at noon.  He said he could help us then.  

Old Vasto

Somewhat skeptical about the clerk, we said we would be back.  Then we set out for our next goal, locating our ancestral church, San Giuseppe.  With the help of a passerby, we discovered that the church was within a few yards.  We were in the old part of town, and all the old buildings around us made a stark contrast with the modern city hall and the busy city street just behind us.

We approached the church and found the door open.  There was a cleaning crew there, and they allowed us in to look around.

Chiesa di San Giuseppe
After viewing the church, we decided to try to find strada San Francesco Di Assisi.  This was an address on some of the documents I had previously found.   I took a seat on a bench with some fine young gentlemen and managed to get directions to the street.

Can you pick out the "Americani"?
We took in the sights, visited the street, and found another church, the chiesa di San Francesco Di Assisi.  This church was also open and quite a sight to behold.  While I was there I found a family name, Trivelli, imprinted on one of the pews.  Oh how I wished I had time to look this particular family up.  Perhaps this will give me a reason to come back.

Chiesa di San Francesco Di Assisi
After this, it was time to return to the Anagrafe Office.  I must admit, I was not expecting to find any useful information from the clerk there.  Although we had shown him a picture of our family tree, we thought his mind was more on the long line of people waiting for service.  To make matters worse, my grandmother's name, Decristofaro, was akin to the name Smith in the US.  

Well, were we in for a big surprise!

A segment of the Foglio di Famiglia
When we went back to the office, the clerk took us into a back room and he produced two "family foglios" of the Decristofaro family.  Somehow, out of all the Decristofaros in Vasto, he had managed to find the exact families of my direct descendants.

The family foglio is like a census with names of the parents, the children, their birth dates, their death dates, their occupations, and more.  It simply reeks of valuable data.  I couldn't have misjudged this clerk more.  He had the family foglio for my grandfather and my great grandfather.  

What a find.  I couldn't believe my luck.  We took photos of all the information and thanked the clerk, but he was not interested in remuneration.  Sitting here now, I'm wondering if this clerk knew a lot more about this particular family.  I regret not quizzing him more thoroughly, but he was, indeed, a very busy clerk, yet, somehow, I believe he knows a lot more about "my" Decristofaros than I had thought.  Even more, I regret not getting his name and email.

On our way out of town, a miracle occurred.  All of this time in Italy, we have been pleased with every aspect of our trip, except the awful coffee they drink.  That problem was alleviated in a small way when Gay spotted a McDonald's on the road.  We each enjoyed a cup of real coffee, and then it was on to Chieti.

Real Coffee
 In Chieti, we made our way through the busy streets to the Archivio di Stato.  There, once again we were treated as royalty.  Here we found several new records and we got a tour of their impressive facility.  They have over 16 kilometers of bookshelves stored in a temperature controlled environment. 

Research at the Chieti Archivio Di Stato
 When we had concluded our business, the staff encouraged us to visit the Constantine Barbella Museum of Art in the center of the town, but once again, we were stymied by busy narrow streets and no available parking.  (Mental note to self: we must learn more about public transportation in Italian cities.)

This book will be on my Christmas wish list
 We drove back to our B&B and enjoyed a wonderful dinner there.  Later we relaxed with our hosts and got to know each other a little better.  Bepe took us to the back yard to show us a spectacular night time show being put on by an army of Italian fireflies.  There were thousands of the creatures and the light show was marvelous.

With that, we retired for the evening.  Night time thoughts focused on our final adventure; getting back to Rome for the flight home.

There are many more stories and bits of information about our trip in our book, "1800 Kilometers in a Fiat 500" available by clicking the link below. 

Next, and final, post.  A visit with old friends in Sulmona, and a hectic ride to Frascati, for our last B&B (???), Il Paradiso, on the outskirts of Rome.  We reflect on our trip and summarize some of our findings.

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