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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The journey to craft my narrative; Discovering who I am and where I come from

For years, I had always wanted to research my family history. I had seen advertisements from companies like Ancestry and 23 and Me, which featured people from all walks of life proclaiming the success of their research.

But I was afraid that I wouldn’t find anything worthwhile and that it would be a waste of time, money, and effort to comb through what little information the website might offer.

But I was wrong. I ended up discovering things about my family and myself that I never would have imagined.

I decided to register for an account on On the first day I began to do my research, I was greeted with a treasure trove of photographs and documents that I had never seen before. Three of my most exciting discoveries were a high school yearbook photo of my grandmother, an old photo of my great-great-grandmother and her sister from the 1910s in South Carolina and a ship’s passenger list containing the name of my nonna and her mother when they sailed to the U.S. from Sicily.

I also came across other old documents like censuses, marriage records and draft cards. I felt like I was digging up a long-buried fossil, finding things that were submerged in decades of obscurity. Being the only one in my family to finally uncover these old troves of family history gave me a feeling of pure bliss and excitement.

I felt like a historian skimming through old documents and sources, trying to piece together a narrative. In my case, I was put- ting together my family’s stories so that I could better understand where I came from.

Researching my family history not only drew me closer to the people in my family who came long before me, but it also created a stronger bond between me and the people in my family who I currently know and love.

The stories I would hear from my parents or my grandparents about their past and the people they once knew didn’t feel so remote anymore. I could picture the faces of the people they told me about, imagine what they would have sounded like, and how they would have laughed, smiled and moved.

After learning more about my family’s ancestry, I could talk to my grandmother about the days when she would sit with her father and listen to old jazz records. I could talk to my mother about the long-forgotten fig desserts that she remembers her grandmother making for her during her annual trips to South Carolina. I could talk to my father and my uncle about our ancestors’ roles as record-keepers in the old country.

Suddenly, these were no longer just stories. They were explanations for who I am today.

Why do I love music, especially big-band jazz? Maybe because of my great-grandfather. Why do I have a passion for cooking and baking? Maybe because of my great-grandmother, or the numerous other cooks in my family. Why do I have a strong affinity for writing? Maybe because of my ancestors in Sicily whose livelihoods revolved around writing.

It’s true that not every facet of one’s life can be explained by lineage alone, but I like to think that these things play some role in who I am today. It gives me pride to say that I carry those talents and passions with me.

The value in learning about my personal history came from the formation of bonds with people that I never met. I don’t know many of the people who are part of my family tree, but while learning more about my ancestry, I felt like I had a personal connection to them.

The journey to uncover my family tree is ongoing, but based on what I have discovered, I feel that I have given the greatest honor that I could to those who came long before me.

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