Day three in Sicily will be a day I will never forget. Today was an experience that drew me even closer to my family. Today was an experience I am not sure I can even describe. I don’ think I have ever felt a more surreal moment in my life thus far.
We really chose to come to Sicily because of our heritage. Heading into this trip, we knew very little about our Sicilian ancestors. We are staying in the town of Taormina, however we know [from Ellis Island records] my dad’s grandparents came from a town called Canicatti, also in Sicily. Unfortunately, to this day, we do not have a long line of history beyond my dad’s grandparents. Of course he heard his family tell stories about Calabria and Sicily and distant relatives however, as the years have gone by those memories and stories have faded, naturally.
Prior to our trip to Sicily we did some research and were able to learn my dad’s grandfather and grandmother immigrated to America in the 1920’s. The records from Ellis Island indicated their last place of residence was Canicatti. We checked with other family to see what anyone might know about our distant relatives overseas. Although we don’t have living relatives in Sicily we still wanted to go the town they were from and see what we could find out. No matter what, it would still be cool to experience the city of your ancestors!
We rented a car with a driver, Silvano, and drove almost three hours to Canicatti. Planning this trip, we really didn’t have an agenda. We just thought we would drive to the town, get out, walk around, maybe eat, take some pictures and imagine our Sicilian family in their own village. Silvano said he would take us to the record keeping office in Canicatti and see what we can find out – without Silvano I don’t think we would have even known there was a record office in existence!
When we arrived in Canicatti we walked around a bit and went to a cafe for espresso and food. The town was old, pretty small and quiet. Very little English was spoke and understood by the residents compared to Taormina.
We than headed to the Commune di Canicatti. When we got there, the door was locked and the sign said they closed 15 minutes prior! Ugh, we JUST missed it! We come ALL this way and missed our opportunity by 15 minutes?! No way!!!! Silvano tried to get in and knocked a few times. We heard people talking so he knocked some more and a man came to the door! They conversed in Italian of course and all I really heard was “Americano” and we all stood there with big, eager smiles [probably somewhat desperate looking haha] and next thing you know they let us in! They were closed for the rest of the day but somehow Silvano convinced them that we came all this way to learn about our Sicilian heritage so they let us in! What are the chances? This was fate.
We had written down my dad’s grandparents name and approximate birth date on a piece of paper and handed it to the woman in charge. She pulled out this huge book with HAND WRITTEN – yeah, hand written can you believe it???? – names listed line after line. I cannot describe the feeling I got, and I certainly cannot explain my dad’s emotion, when they found his grandfather’s name! When they found his name, she pulled out another huge book with MORE handwritten records! After some time we were able to find the marriage registration of my great grandparents which lead us to believe they were from the town of Canicatti. We also discovered that my dad’s great-grandparents names. He never knew that!!!! WOW! It also told us what “quarter” of Canicatti they were from.
We spent a little time walking the quarter and its neighborhood. The buildings were so old and the neighborhood was quiet. As I walked on the street I tried to imagine my ancestors over 100 years ago and what their life was like. I can’t tell you how much this experience has made me want to instill family tradition and history even more than I ever have before. I want my children to know where their family has come from and the history that is tied to our family. I wish I knew what my great grandparents were like and what life was like for them in Sicily. Or even to know the story of my grandfather and grandmother coming to Ellis Island would be amazing! Of course this is only one side of my family, don’t forget I’m Swedish too 🙂 I am so thankful for this experience to get to know my Sicilian heritage better and now that we know more information, I cannot wait to go home and do more research!
This has been a trip of a lifetime and visiting Canicatti will be a wonderful memory I will have with me for the rest of my life 🙂 I am a very lucky girl to be able to have these experiences and share them with you!
Ciao ♥ The Sicilian Swede
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