finding your roots

World War I

Suzanne Alt April 26, 2012

I recently found out that my grandfather’s brother was a prisoner of war for five years when he was in the Italian Army in WWII. My aunt had only been married to him for six months when he joined the Army or maybe was drafted, I am not sure which. She said it was tradition that when you married in Italy, you went and lived with the husband’s family. My aunt was supposedly my uncles cousin in some way, she also has French roots. My uncle was not heard from for five years, there were no reports or updates, she did not know whether he was alive or dead but had to remain living with his family. Supposedly at one point she asked if she could go back to her family and she was not allowed to. Then one day a man showed up at her In laws farm and said that her husband would be released in the next two weeks and sure enough, two weeks later he arrived home and they went on to have four children and migrate to the United States. My grandfather came over first supposedly in 1920 and worked in the coal mines and remained a coal miner his whole life, he got black lung disease and finally passed away in 1988. He was born at the turn of the century in 1900 and died in 1988 from complications of black lung and pneumonia, etc. His brother came over later, in fact, my father went and picked up his family from Ellis Island when they all arrived here. My cousin says when he saw my fathers old winged back chevy, he thought it was some kind of plane and they were going to get in it and it was going to fly. He was just a young boy then with a vivid imagination. I also have a grandfather on my mother’s side who was missing in the war, but I always felt like he was still alive, but just never got back in contact with my grandmother and I would love to find out more about him. He was from Ireland. The picture below is my grandfather and his brother with my son when he was a baby, he is 25 now.

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The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Filmed on location across the United States, the series premieres nationally Sundays, March 25 – May 20 at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

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