Frank has had a goal of obtaining is mother’s birth records, but wasn’t exactly sure where to go. We knew one place to start was the municipal office in Canicatti, where his mother was born. But we weren’t sure how to find this place – Canicatti is bigger than you would think, and a Google search was not helpful.
So we asked Enza to help. She said, “OK!”
The Municipal Office was in the old part of town, with extra narrow viales (streets) and lots of cars and people darting in and out. It took us awhile of driving around and Enza hopping out of the car (while it was still moving) to look around and ask people on the street for help.
We finally found the right place, but alas, it was only open in the mornings so chuiso (closed). But you don’t stop Enza, who is a retired pre-school teacher and knows or has taught every child in town. You don’t say no to her. She banged on the door until someone came and talked our way in with tears in her eyes for these cousins who had come all the way from America. “Va bene” (ok) they said and opened the door.
They pointed us to an office on the top floor with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves with tall hard-backed books labeled “Nascita” and a year. These were the birth records for all of Canicatti, even today. Each person gets a page with a handwritten entry. For some reason, I loved this – each baby counts the same, whether 100 years ago or today.
Frank and Enza talked to the man who is in charge of records and explained that they were looking for any records of Antoinetta Buccheri, Frank’s mother.
The man was very helpful and said he would research it, and we could pick up anything he found. We left with our fingers crossed.
Tonight, Enza, Salvio, and Cettina (the gang who joined us in Taormina) came to our hotel for dinner and brought the records. A single sheet memorializing the birth of Frank’s mother and another sheet recording her marriage to Frank’s father.
I was struck by the matrimoniale (marriage) record because it looks exactly like the record for me and Frank, since we eloped in Italy. It gave me goosebumps to think that we were now part of this chain of history.
But the most amazing was the birth record. The name listed was MARIANTONIO BUCCHERI. Frank’s face fell – after all that, it was the wrong person.
But no – Enza insisted – everyone in Canicatti knew that Frank’s mother’s real name was Mariantonio – she just went by Antoinetta for short – or maybe it got shorted for her when she emigrated to America.
All these years, and Frank never knew his mother’s given birth name. This could be the key to unlocking even more family history.
This is why we are here in Sicily – there is still so much to be learned.