Last week I took a trip to my grandparents house to drop off my sister for the weekend, and I found some really amazing information. Apparently my great-great grandpa settled into Columbus a block away from the King Arts Complex when he migrated from Italy! I found it amazing that I pass by the home of old relatives every day on my commute and I wasn’t even aware of it!
It wasn’t until recently that my family took an interest in researching our genealogy. It seemed to be a 3rd and 4th generation scramble to recover a heritage that almost slipped out of our fingers as the older generations passed away. For Columbus Italians, this seems to be the trend. Recently, Andy and Erin Dominianni published a book called Columbus Italians to preserve the city’s vibrant Italian history. The book has a picture of Giuseppe and Maria Fracasso, the owners of Fracasso’s grocery that used to reside at 807 St. Clair in front of the house where my great grandparents grew up. Very little trace exists of the Italian community on St. Clair, other than a flag that proudly flies from an apartment porch on 2nd Avenue near Cleveland.
This Thursday at the Heritage Concert, I was able to connect with a woman named Rose who volunteered at the Kids Gallery. We connected over the fact that she probably knew my grandparents at some time or another, living in Columbus. They attended different Catholic schools but grew up in the same area. My grandma recently recounted her family’s walk from her Grandma’s house to St. John the Bapist on Sundays when she was growing up.
It is amazing to see these communities change and transform, from what I have heard and seen it is much different than it was even 40 years ago. To know that the streets that I walk today are the same ones that my family walked at the beginning of the last century amazes me. My ancestors don’t seem quite so distant anymore, nor does the community that I work with currently. Despite the cultural barriers I encounter working with urban youth, I recognize that we are all “Columb-ians”, the ground on which we stand, the ground on which we work and live our lives is all the same. It is encouraging for me to have this kind of connection with the King-Lincoln and Milo Grogan neighborhoods.
Researching my Italian heritage is also making me very excited for what is to come in the next few weeks. After the fellowship, I am going to take a breather and go to Italy for a few weeks to visit some friends. I plan to spend some time in Milan, Piedmont, Lake Como, Florence, Siena and Carrara. I am considering visiting Castions di Zoppola, Udine or Trieste where my family used to live. I can’t wait! I will get back in time for the Columbus Italian Festival as well. If you attend, make sure you come look for me at the Miss Columbus Italian Competition! I will be turning in my application next week and hopefully I can make it to the final round!