Brazilian by Birth, Italian by Ancestry, and Canadian by Choice!

By Marcos Dos Santos

My biggest achievement and the happiest day of my life!

One morning not really knowing why, I felt the need to find out more about my roots and my ancestors. To my surprise, once I started asking around, all I could uncover was my family name and little or no history regarding my ancestry. Before I knew what I was getting into, I was meeting relatives that I didn't even know existed, asking them questions about my great-grandfather, the late Salvatore Santoro. Nobody knew when he emigrated to Brazil or where he first arrived.

One thing I found to be common among European families is that if something went wrong with a family member, such as a husband committing adultery and after years of heated arguments and endless attempts mostly by the wife and the rest of the family to keep things together, separation eventually would follow and anything to do with that family member would be erased. For example, he would be cut out of any picture he was in, especially the wedding photos. Then came pictures by himself, which would be burned along with any documents left behind and very, very rarely talked about again. I may have encountered a little more difficulty because of similar circumstances, but that was not the main reason. Somehow, along the years due to the young age of my ancestors when they first entered South America (Argentina more precisely and Brazil by land afterward), things were lost and names were changed.

To make a long story short, after five exciting years of research through the archives of churches and registry offices in Sao Paulo, Brazil and Catanzaro, Italy, and many, many phone calls and letters sent all over to anyone who could give me even the smallest clue about the town where and when my great-grandfather was born; I came up with an idea that proved to be infallible. I started criss-crossing the names of Salvatore's father and his mother's maiden name (in a current telephone directory of the Italian villages back in Catanzaro, Calabria), therefore leading me to believe that if both names were found in the same town, there was a chance that the couple was probably married there and undoubtedly had their children baptized in that community's church - and BINGO!, that's exactly how I found my great-grandfather's date and place of birth. Believe it or not I came up with sixty small towns which beared both names. I wrote to those sixty community churches in Italy and when the replies started coming back, the ninth contained my great-grandfather's certificate of baptism. It turns out he was born in the town of Umbriatico, province of Crotone/Catanzaro, region of Calabria, Italy, on November 25th, 1859. To give you an idea of what I felt that morning, picture yourself winning a 10 million dollar lottery all by yourself! It was truly amazing that after all the years of research, a trip to Italy in 1995 for a month to do further research, would uncover all the secrets which were hiding the true identity of my ancestry.

You maybe asking why I'm telling this story, it's because I needed that document to be able to claim my Italian citizenship, and in doing so, be truly proud of my heritage! I would also like to mention that I am interested in hearing your stories and especially hearing from other Italians who are currently searching for their ancestors. I would be happy to provide any tips or useful information which I have accumulated over the past six years. Arrivederci!

I am always open to new ideas, either locally or abroad which will enhance my experience as an individual. I welcome anyone to contact me through my e-mail address: marco_santoro@hotmail.com

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