The Genealogy Experience by Thomas Pileggi
I was reading wall posts on the Geni Facebook page, and I saw a particularly interesting post from a man named Thomas Pileggi. I thought it would be worthwhile for him to share his genealogy experience with our readers, so I asked him to write up a summary. Here is what he said:
I did my first family tree around 1979 or 1980 as part of a training in Family Therapy. I spoke to a few relatives and was able to put together a fairly respectable 2 or 3 generation tree based on immediate family. My mother had died in 1978, and her side of the family was more distant, so the information there was very limited. Then I put it away, but still kept it in a safe place.
In 2008 about a year after my father died, I saw a little blurb in NY Newsday about Geni.com and it struck a spark in me. I went to the site and then searched for my family tree and began to build on the information there.
My dad’s parents had roots in Maida, Italy so I looked up as much as I could about the town, then found a phone directory. I sent letters of introduction and inquiry to everyone with my surname in that town. I also sent letters to everyone with that name in the areas surrounding my home town outside of Philadelphia. Many responses came in, leading to phone calls and more information. At the same time I started using One World, Intelius, Ancestry and many other websites as well as organizations like the Sons of Italy (where I got a copy of my grandparent’s marriage license) to track down info on both my parents’ families.
I sent letters to long-lost cousins and did surname searches on the internet (which is wonderful & frustrating at the same time). This connected me with someone doing research on my mother’s maiden name. As it turns out, we aren’t related, but he provided me with newspaper clippings, obituaries, etc. which I compared to census reports and started finding that family. I also hired a professional genealogist, but with limited funds, I got limited — but good — results. My Irish roots are harder to find than my Italian ones. I have also reached out to cousins I grew up with, and limited information has come from them about their extended families (people tend to be very happy to see their family trees, but not so much interested in doing the work).
In any case, I have put together a fairly big tree so far. I don’t work on it as intensely as before. I sometimes gather information at weddings and funerals, or just in chance conversations. I plan to hire a genealogist again. I have access to another huge family tree with a shared last name coming from the same little village in Italy, but so far we can’t find a link between the two. Maybe a generation or two further back? Building a family tree is rewarding and satisfying. It gives you a sense of place and belonging in the world. It shows you that you are a part of something amazing.