Saturday, October 17, 2009

What Vital Records Don't Tell You

After all my research on the internet and in the town hall here in Curinga, there was still a missing piece in the puzzle. That piece is Maria Orlando. I never knew she existed. Her mother, Rosa, had been listed as a single woman on all her vital records, so I assumed she never had children.

I expected that I would come to Curinga to hear stories and read vital records about my grandfather's family, but I didn't imagine I would find Maria. In fact, the afternoon that we realized that Maria could be related to me, I don't think I even understood who she was during all the excitement. I wish I could turn back the clock one week to replay that moment when Eleonora and her father, Guiseppe, discovered that I had a living relative in Curinga.

We were talking to Eleonora's grandmother on my first Saturday in Curinga, and Eleonora was certain that "la nonna" would be able to get us closer to finding a relative. I listened closely, but I got lostat times in the Curinghese dialect. For me, at this point, I had pretty much accepted the fact that there would be no living relatives who were so closely related to my grandfather.

At some point in the conversation with Eleonora's grandmother, Eleonora and her father Pino stood up suddenly and said, "Andiamo!" (Let's go!) I followed them without knowing where we were going or why they seemed so excited. It felt a bit like we were detectives, about to run off to solve the case thanks to a clue her grandmother had given us. The problem was, I didn't understand the clue.

In the car, I asked them where we were going in such a rush. They told me we would visit Maria Orlando at the rest home.

I asked, "Who is Maria?"

"Maria is the daughter of Rosa Orlando, Rosa was your grandfather's sister."

I let this information sink in for a moment. "But, Rosa Orlandonever married. It says "single" on her death certificate."

Eleonora responded, "Rosa had a daughter, Maria, but she didn't have a husband. She was single."

In 1924? A single mom?

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