Who Are Your Ancestors? 4 Miracles We Experienced in Italy
Have you ever wondered who your ancestors are? Well, we have! We knew we had roots in Italy so we made sure to do a little detective work while we were visiting the beautiful country for a month. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again. We LOVED our time in Italy! It was full of visiting historic places, making amazing family memories, eating delicious food, and meeting wonderful people. But the thing we loved most about Italy was our time we spent looking for my family names of ancestors long ago. If you’ve ever wondered if miracles still exist today, they do. We witnessed so many during our 2 weeks of searching for ancestors. So let me tell you the 4 miracles we experienced in Italy while we were searching for our ancestors. And you can decide for yourself if miracles really do still happen…
Our goals for our last two weeks in Italy were to visit the Family History Center, cemeteries, and Catholic churches in the Ruoti and Picerno areas in search for family records. This would help us determine when my relatives were born, who their parents were, and who their parents were and so on. We knew it would be a tedious task and one that would take a lot of time and effort, but we had no idea the numerous blessings that would be poured out upon us as we searched.
Miracle #1- Pompeii
Our first step was to look up and visit the nearest Family History Center for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We knew they would have workers there that could point us in the right direction for our mission. We found an address, saw the hours of operation, and drove the hour distance to start our family history mission. But, when we got there, the center was closed!
We sat in the car across the street from the building wondering what we should do. Just as we decided to drive off to go explore the nearby city of ancient Pompeii, Ethan and Cody noticed a man exit the door right next to the Family History Center. He entered a restaurant two doors down. We quickly turned the car around. They urged me to get out and talk with him to figure out if he knew anything about the Family History Center. I jumped out of the car, stocked the man into the restaurant, and attempted to speak to the man in broken Spanish/Italian/English. I’m sure he thought I was crazy! He was dining with a man who spoke Spanish so between the three of us, we understood each other….mostly. I walked away with information that I thought meant that the center would open up that evening. I walked back to the car and fist pumped the air, so excited and proud that I communicated and understood these helpful foreign men.
After recalling my conversation, Cody went back in the restaurant to get more information since he speaks Spanish. He was not only able to get more info, but priceless info. We got the contact info of the woman that worked in the center. And get this, she is from the Dominican Republic! So, Cody called her and talked with her in a language that he could completely understand, with a woman that had connections to a country that he loved. She was so helpful and promised to meet us at the center later that evening.
When we arrived that evening, we were warmly welcomed by two sisters that were willing to help us. There also happened to be missionaries there that helped translate for us as we discussed our plan of attack. We left with a solid plan, great info, and a determination to move forward in our mission.
Miracles: we miraculously spotted a man that led us to women who would help us! We were in the right place, at the right time and Heavenly Father helped us!
Miracle #2- Batipalgia
On Sunday, we attended church at the nearby branch (small congregation) for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It was fast Sunday and I felt prompted to get up and bare my testimony to the people in attendance. I spoke in English as a sister missionary translated to the congregation in Italian. I spoke of our reason for being in the area and that we hoped to find family names while we were there.
After the meeting, a woman came up to me and, with the help of the elder missionaries in translating, expressed her interest in assisting us. She loved family history and knew her way around the Catholic churches in the area. She insisted on coming with us to Ruoti to help get the precious information that we needed. We all exchanged Whats App info and remained in touch.
Miracles: Ana Maria was at church that Sunday and heard my testimony. The Elders helped us translate back and forth so we could understand each other.
Miracle #3- Ruoti
We picked up Ana Maria and drove an hour away to the beautiful town of Ruoti. We weaved in and out of windy roads and saw gorgeous green countryside. The streets of Ruoti were cobblestoned and tight knit. And tucked away in the middle of the town stood the one and only church in Ruoti.
We had heard that this particular Priest was a grump. So we came prepared with prayer and wine =) Ana Maria had called him prior to our arrival to inform him of our quest. He was waiting and ready to get to work….for a few minutes at least. We got right down to business. We pulled out our family tree and told him some names we were looking for. He helped us for a bit and then suddenly grew impatient and wanted to be done.
Noooo! We had right in front of us, answers to so many questions! He was touching the one and only book of baptismal records dating back to the 1600s. We couldn’t give up so soon! I said a silent prayer. We asked him if we could come back again to have a look and he agreed. We left a little dejected.
But Ana Maria knew her way around family history like a pro. So she helped us navigate to the town’s archive center. We were able to meet with a woman that gave us her contact info if we had any questions in the future for more recent records. She was helpful and a great resource to have in our back pocket for down the road! It gave us a little hope.
Our next stop was the local cemetery. There must surely be some family names found in the cemetery! We divided and conquered, scouring the cemetery for any of our family names. But as we walked row after row, we just weren’t finding the right people. We could only find people born in the late 1800s. We needed older headstones and we just couldn’t find them!
As Ana Maria and Cody were wandering around, they came across a woman caretaker of the cemetery. She told us that the older families in the area built crypts over the older graves. So we wouldn’t be able to see any of our ancestors because they were all hidden by newer graves. Bummer! But then, a miracle happened. She mentioned she had a friend that had a book of the families of Ruoti. It was a book filled with dates and names and histories of the area. What???! Cody jumped on that discovery and asked her if we could get our hands on that book. She quickly called her friend, Rocco, and within minutes, we were sitting in the dining room of this kind man. He allowed us to take pictures of the book, page by page. He sat and chatted with us, in Italian as we tried to understand what he was saying. He was so happy and smiley and made a paper bird for Reese. That book and that man were absolute miracles!
A week later, we ventured back to Ruoti to make another attempt at searching through the old baptismal records. We weren’t sure what to expect and prayed that the Priest’s heart would be softened and allow us to work. And it sure was!! He welcomed us into his office, and then let us be! We had free reign of the books of records. So, we took advantage of his kindness and looked at and photographed every page! He came in from time to time and we communicated in broken Italian. He was indifferent to us being there and didn’t stop us from doing our work. He trusted us and seemed happy that we were finding success. Not only were we able to spend hours looking through the records, but he allowed us to take pictures! Truly a miracle!
Miracles: Ana Maria was willing to spend the entire day with us in Ruoti showing us the right places to go. She was the perfect buffer for us as we learned to communicate in Italian. We miraculously came across the lady in the cemetery who led us to Rocco who had a book of priceless information! And our grumpy old priest softened his heart and let us stay in his church all day long scouring through the ancient pages of records.
Miracle #4- Potenza and Picerno
We had to visit the Potenza archives which was the home of the Picerno records. We met with a Priest and his receptionist and he happened to be the keeper of the exact records that we needed. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the records at the archives, so we made an appointment with him for the following week.
When we arrived at our appointment, he had the records ready for us. But we didn’t realize that their office hours were short that day which meant we didn’t have much time! We slowly started looking through the pages for family names, but we were slow going. And then we had the guts to ask if we could just take pictures of everything and go. And they gladly agreed! So we quickly got to work! We put each of us, kids included, in charge of a book. We had our devices all out and snapping away at each page. We worked for an hour and a half straight and we miraculously finished every book!
Miracles: The Priest had the right records we needed and we were able to quickly zoom through each book, taking pictures!
We hoped and prayed we would find some family names when we visited Italy. But we had no idea how successful we would be. Through faith, fasting, and prayer, we were able to see miracle after miracle unfold. It is such a beautiful thing to experience and recognize miracles in your life. They are there. You just need to open your eyes and look. Miracles still exist and earthly angels are real.