Well I have to say that tonight’s show was definitely my favorite and actually lived up to what I was expecting from this series.
I loved everything about this show. The introduction at the beginning was just long enough to provide the background information we needed to know without putting us to sleep and she clearly identified her goals – she wanted to know what happened to Anita Rigali, her grandmother who disappeared when Susan’s mother was just a toddler. Armed with an old photo and some family stories she interviews her mother.
Susan finds out her great grandparents had several children but only 3 lived which is listed on Anita’s birth certificate – As I look through the 1910 Census I find that the same is listed there. It also states that her great grandfather was married previously which they fail to mention.
With the help of her youngest son, Susan undertakes much of her own research. Using Genlabs, she is able to locate where the surnames she is interested in are concentrated the most in Italy leading her to Tuscany. While there, she visits with local historians and goes to the church where her ancestors were baptized. Using these Latin records she finds she has deep Tuscan roots as she is able to trace her family back to 1640.
Once back in the US she uses birth, marriage, city directories and obituaries to trace Anita’s steps – and she does most of this on her own or with the help of her son- which leads her to Rockland County, a place only about an hour from where she lives. It’s important to note that Susan’s son suggests searching using only the first name and birth date of Anita to help track her down – nicely done!
She visits to the house where Anita lived, talked to neighbours and finally visits with Anita’ s nieces.
Susan’s ancestor was colourful but was no different from many we find in our own ancestry. The whole episode encourages people to research their roots and gives realistic exceptions of what one can expect to find or which resources one can use to help them. I hope they use this as a template for future episodes.