Sunday, March 19, 2017

Those Elusive Italians

Ernesta Maddelena Bergamasco
My nana, great-aunt and their siblings have shared quite a bit with the family about their grandparents from Italy, since they grew up around their grandfather. Of course, there's plenty they didn't know, either. Here's what I know of my Italian heritage, which is also my matrilineal/mtDNA line, as it stands now:

My great-great grandparents (direct maternal ancestors) were Bartolomeo Giovanni Michele Galfre and Ernesta Maddelena Bergamasco. They were married sometime after 24 November 1894 in Italy. They had 8 children, including twins born in Sanremo in 1895 who died in infancy.

Bartolomeo was born 22 January 1869 in San Benigno, Torino, Piedmonte, Italy. He died 5 October 1952 in Lakeville, Plymouth County, Massachusetts.

Bartolomeo had a brother, Giovanni Battista Galfre. Giovanni remained in Italy, where he married, had 8 children, and several grandchildren. We are in touch with his great-grandchildren, our cousins, thanks to letters, email and Facebook.

Their parents were Michele Galfre (born 1836) and Francesca Manassero (born 1839), both of whom were born in Spinetta, Alessandria, Piedmont, Italy.

Michele's parents were Giovanni Battista Bartolomeo Galfre and Teresa DeMatteis. We still do not know if Giovanni and Teresa were born in Italy or France, but we are told Galfre is a French name.

Francesca's parents were Giovanni Manassero and Teresa Cavallo. At this point, we know nothing more about the family.

We do, however, know a bit more about the Galfre side than we do about the Bergamasco side.

Ernesta was born 12 May 1874 in Moneglia or Chiavari, Genoa, Liguria, Italy. She died 8 March 1925 in Middleborough, Plymouth County, Massachusetts.

Her father's name was Guiseppe Bergamasco and all we have for her mother's name is "Giabatta," which fellow Italian genealogists have told me is not a name, or at least not a female one. Of course, my mtDNA has not given me any clues. Neither has my Family Finder (autosomal) test at this time.

We do know Ernesta had 6 siblings: Bartholomew (Bartolomeo?), Angelina, Giovanni, Peter (Pietro?), Peter's twin who died young, and Archie (?). We have different stories about each, such as:


  • Giovanni (John) lived in Boston for a while and visited often
  • Peter had a clothing company in Chile located at Casilla 147, Los Andes, Chile, known as: Fabrica Italiana de Fideos "La Estrella Polar" de Moltedo, Bergamasco y Cia
  • Archie dropped by unannounced as often as he could (which made everyone happy)
  • They had an uncle who was a bishop in Italy.


Ernesta's father supposedly lived to be about 100 years old. The only record I have at this time that names her parents is Ernesta's passport. I wrote to the Stato Civile in Moneglia some years ago and they replied that they did not have a birth record for Ernesta.

However, until this year, Ernesta and Bartolomeo's firstborn twins had remained nameless. During one of my every-so-often "sweeps" of FamilySearch for brick wall ancestors, I found the twins' names - Vittorio and Emanuele Galfre, born 20 October 1895.

So I do hold out hope that as more and more records are transcribed and placed online, I will find Ernesta's birth and/or Ernesta and Bartolomeo's marriage in them one of these days.


Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Time Management for Genealogy

What's that one precious thing we say we need more of to get things done? Time.

And I believe time management is, like the concept of "balance," an illusion. Time is going to do what it's going to do and we can't manage a thing about it. We can, however, manage how we spend that time.

The number one thing that keeps us from working on genealogy? Not having enough time. So the first recommendation I have is to make time. If you need to literally schedule time in your datebook or planner or on your calendar just to sit down and work on research, then do it.

Having a plan helps, of course. Maybe you want to spend the time focusing on a specific ancestor or geographical location or surname. Try writing down your intention. I always maintain a day planner and a separate to-do list, which keeps my research focused on specific goals.

Continuous butt-in-chair time isn't the healthiest thing in the world, though. I know, since I get it constantly, every day both for writing and genealogy. So what to do?

The Pomodoro Technique is fairly popular and one way to work in sprints, take a break to refresh yourself and then get back to it. The general formula is to work 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, work 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, etc. For every 4 25-minute segments completed, you take a longer break of about 15 to 30 minutes.

This can help you break up tasks and goals into manageable pieces to get them done, and the breaks keep your mind fresh. However, this process isn't for every person or every task, goal or intention.

In some cases, your research area might not be comfortable enough to keep you going for longer periods of time, so it is crucial to ensure your chair and desk are at the appropriate heights for your usage. A standing desk might be a good solution for someone with back problems or who cannot sit for long periods of time.

Of course, even if you have a plan and a "time management" technique, the most important thing is to remove distractions. It's far too easy to get caught up in social media, email and more. This is one of the reasons I love to go to the local diner to write - because I don't have a smart phone and they don't have wifi, I don't get caught up in any distractions. Granted, with genealogy it's a little trickier, because we conduct so much of our research online.

But try to focus - close Hootsuite, Tweetdeck or any other social media manager you might use. Set aside or even turn off your smart phone. Maybe you do better with background noise, such as music. If that's the case, try to avoid a radio or TV station that might pique your interest and divert your focus from the research plan for the day.

It might help to have certain days of the week set aside for certain tasks, such as one day devoted to filing paperwork and/or organizing digital files, another day devoted to photos, and then your research time scheduled for the remaining days of the week.

I know when I sit down at the computer to work, it's with a snack, a drink and a plan, and it is with pleasure that I shut out everything else around me and see what I can discover that day.




Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

Saturday, December 10, 2016

2016: The Year in Review

2016 was not a year for me to accomplish much, genealogically-speaking. Shame on me.

I did have one fantastic personal accomplishment, and that was launching a romance pen name that has soared since day one. It's been wonderful and I'm humbled every day by messages from readers, telling me how much they've connected with my stories.

Initially when I set out to write back when I was a teenager, it was to write fiction and sci-fi, my favorite genres to read. Then I moved to non-fiction, which worked out much better for me. I've finally found my niche and I'm very happy in it. As a result, I've been able to pay off the one debt we had and quit my full-time job outside the home to focus on writing full-time instead.

Now that I'll be home, I hope to have more time to devote to genealogy.

Of course, there is one thing I did this year that is, in my opinion, very important to genealogy.

When I first met Kassie Nelson of Across the Rolling Prairie, she had a vision for a genealogical society. It would be a society that wasn't afraid to discuss issues such as integrity and ethics, inclusivity and the darker sides of our family and world history.

Much of what she said resonated with me and I am honored that she chose me to work with her in founding The Rogue Genealogist.

This members-only, free to join community is open to all and has taken a stance on such issues as gay equality and marriage (pro!), the DAPL (anti!), and more. We've also featured blog posts about Negative Evidence, Records Access, Evaluating History Books, Genealogy Elitism, and a fantastic guest post about Digital Humanities.

It is a pleasure to work with Kassie on this project and we have some wonderful things planned for 2017, such as our first Twitter chat.

I really hope you'll check out our website, Twitter, and Facebook, and let others know we exist!

Meanwhile, I'll get to work on putting together my goals - both writing and genealogical - for 2017. I promise.



Copyright (c) 2016 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Wood and Winsor

I always found it interesting that my great-great grandma, Lemuel Augustus Wood, and great-great grandma, Georgianna Winsor, married later in life and had only one child at a time when it seems like most families were having upwards of 10 children.

Lemuel was born 1 November 1845 in Blue Hill, Hancock County, Maine. Georgianna was born 6 February 1851 in Duxbury, Plymouth County, Massachusetts.

When they married on 2 September 1884 in Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, Lemuel was 38 and Georgianna was 33. Lemuel was married previously around 1865, but his wife died in 1879 and they had no children. Georgianna had no prior marriages.

Since they were married in 1884, I wonder if my great-grandma, Lewis Preston Wood, came as a surprise to them on 15 February 1892. That's quite some time between marriage and child!

Lemuel and Georgianna lived in Plympton, Plymouth County, Massachusetts for the remainder of their lives, until 1925 and 1926 respectively. I love the photographs I have of them, because they look like hardworking people.

Lemuel Augustus Wood of Blue Hill MaineTheir son, my great-grandpa Lewis (sometimes spelled Louis) was also a hard worker. He had several jobs in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. I only had about 6 years to get to know him and I was a little scared of him, as he was quite tall, solid and imposing. But he was a sweetheart.

My grandpa Wood also had a strong work ethic. The men in this family worked with their hands, whether on farms, in factories or in construction. I admire that. It's not something you see as much on the east coast anymore, though it's prevalent out here in the Midwest, where I now live.

Georgianna Winsor of Duxbury Massachusetts
Then again, back in the 1800s and early 1900s, we didn't have an instant gratification culture. You had to work for what you wanted, and often build it or grow it yourself.

That's definitely something we've lost these days!







Copyright (c) 2016 Wendy L. Callahan

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Griswold Family of Halifax, Nova Scotia

I've mentioned the loyalists in my ex-husband's family often. They fascinate me and they remain a mystery.

However, I do have loyalists in my family. Very little is known about the past or heritage of Samuel Griswell, found on the Ward Chipman Muster Roles in 1784 in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. There are theories as to his ancestry and DNA links him to the Griswolds of Connecticut.

Samuel's wife was Ann or Nancy, and they had at least 2 children:

Samuel Griswold, born about 1783
Emery Alexander Griswold, born about 1785

And, of course, it is very possible they had more, but we will focus on Samuel and Emery, who married sisters.

Samuel Griswold married Mary Doane on 8 February 1811, the daughter of Nathan Doane and Abigail Perry. Samuel died 3 July 1866 in Cape Negro, Shelburne County, Nova Scotia and Mary died 26 March 1872 in Yarmouth, Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia. They had at least one son - Emery John Griswold - born about 1817.

My ancestor, Emery Alexander Griswold, married Hannah Doane on 22 November 1810 at St. Paul's, Halifax, Halifax County, Nova Scotia. I do not have a death date for Emery, but Hannah died 4 March 1868 in Halifax. They had at least 11 children.

Hannah was Mary's sister and their parents, Nathan Doane and Abigail Perry, both had old Massachusetts roots. Nathan Doane came from the family that settled in Plymouth and Barnstable, while Abigail Perry came from the family that settled in Sandwich. Abigail is also a descendant of William Brewster of the Mayflower.

The grandchildren of our loyalists, Samuel and Ann/Nancy Griswell/Griswold, mostly returned to Massachusetts.

My 4th great-grandfather, George Emery Griswold (son of Emery Alexander Griswold and Hannah Doane) and his wife, Rebecca Parks, had all 14 of their children in Porter's Lake, Halifax, Nova Scotia. An illness took the lives of 7 of their 8 living children in 1861. After they had 6 more children, they settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

I wonder why George, as well as his siblings and cousins, came back to New England after his grandfather left Connecticut. Maybe life in Nova Scotia wasn't so great for the descendants of the loyalists or perhaps they wanted to "return to their roots" in New England.

Regardless of the reason for so many Griswolds to return to the U.S., it is interesting that George, his siblings and cousins did so. My third great-grandmother, Agnes Jane Griswold, married Charles Otis Bartlett and that side of my family remained firmly rooted in Plymouth County after the brief foray into Nova Scotia just a generation prior.



Copyright (c) 2016 Wendy L. Callahan