Before I talk about what my works are made up of, how I make them and why, I need to talk about what I am made up of. My father never gave me an answer about my heritage that satiated any kind of journalist in me when I would ask him about his grandfather as well as our family name. The internet didn’t exist when I started asking these questions. There was no Ancestry.com and the blogosphere was in the far-off future. The only piece of information I had was that he was Italian.
My wife and I were engaged in Italy on an incredible trip to Europe. She is fluent in Italian after studying abroad in Florence. With a new sense of connection to the land and its culture, we returned to America determined to dig deeper into my family roots. While doing research on another subject, my wife stumbled across the blog that would be the tipping point towards my citizenship. Within this blog, an ex-pat living in Italy explained how she was able to get her dual Italian/American citizenship through the lineage of her husband. She documented the procedure step by step which gave us the blueprint towards our own citizenship. It detailed the process: when we would need each piece of paperwork and how to get it.
We hired an Italian translator living in Milan to handle the search for my Italian great-grandfather’s birth certificate, while my wife began sorting through all of the information on the American side. My aunt had done a great deal of research on the subject in an attempt to join the Daughters of the American Revolution. The information she added was very helpful and filled in many gaps. More than one man shared the name of my great-grandfather who travelled from Italy to the United States around the same time. Discerning which one was my relative was a tedious and arduous task and the entire process of collecting documents lasted over four years. A folder full of translated documents that survived a couple of World Wars, bombings, floods, fires, marriages, deaths, births and divorce gave us the material needed to finalize the process.
In early 2015 I received my Italian citizenship and passport. It was in this one final document that I truly felt like my cultural heritage was established. I was able to answer some of the questions about why my grandfather was the way he was, as well as help explain some of my tendencies and mannerisms. Through this, I feel a deep connection to Italian Art and its masters of the past.
In Part II, I will discuss the actual blog that guided our way, individual documents that were crucial in making links, relationships established with the Italian consulate and some of the intimate details of the life and travels of Nicandro Zullo my Italian immigrant great-grandfather. Through this process I was able to gather a deep understanding of my family, loves found and lost, tragic deaths, great journeys and children born along the way. The attached image is of the SS Celtic, the ship on which my ancestor travelled from Naples to New York City in 1910.