Category Archives: Family History

Familia Italia Style


IMG_1300Seven days in Umbria was not enough! This was the part of our Italia journey that I was most excited about … meeting Sweetie’s family connections in Campitello, an 1100+ year old village in the mountains of the Monte Cucco’s National Park.IMG_1275

Family history is one of my passions … when I find another person and connect them into their family tree I almost cry.  Their name may not have been spoken or thought of in hundreds of years  and I feel them … they are not forgotten, they lived, and because they lived we are. I followed the Vergari and Fanucci journeys from Jessup, Pennsylvania back to this deep valley in the mountains of Umbria.

Sadly, as the immigrant generation passed on the Jessup and Campitello family connections were lost, except for photographs of people we didn’t know that were carefully kept in a box of memories.

Sweetie and I knew we wanted to spend time in Campitello and hoped to find some family still there, but how to find them? The internet, of course.  I wrote a letter (having an Italian speaking friend translate it for me) and included Greg’s family tree then sent them cold to every Vergari, Scarinci, Lanuti, and Fanucci in Campitello, Scheggia e Pascelupo and Gubbio for which I could find an address.

Greg Vergari & Mario Fanucci

Greg Vergari & Mario Fanucci

The responses were immediate and overwhelming … I was facebook friended, received email and letters by post.  “Come, Come”, “..don’t know if we are related but Come, Come” , “…I have letters from Jessup; Come, Come”, “I have pictures .. Come, Come”.


L to R … Rita Fanucci, her mother Ubaldina, Daniella Fanucci Bellucci, Greg Vergari, Daniella’s mother Elisabeth Lanuti Fanucci

When we arrived in Campitello, we were greeted with open arms. The table was set for lunch though we weren’t expecting it, and after lunch more cousins arrived; with open hearts … some came with photographs and the letters we had sent.  I had brought a 20′, yes 20′, long family tree and they went to work adding names, correcting my spelling and sometimes moving people into a different family group.

Later they walked us around the area showing us the home Greg’s great grandfather lived in and the church built 1000 years ago which is still in use each Sunday.

The home of Enrico Vergari before he immigrated to Jessup, PA, USA

The home of Enrico Vergari before he immigrated to Jessup, PA, USA

We had thought we would be visiting individually everyone that had responded  to us .. but Daniela made it so easy for us.  She gathered everyone together, opened her home not once but twice!


Greg Vergari, Remo Scarinci & his sister Giovanna

When we arrived we may not have known them, but they knew us. They knew Greg’s father and grandfather and grandmother. They knew the cousins from America and they spoke with fondness of their visits (the last one in 1977). Some remembered and talked about their cousins as if it were yesterday. The first day we met Remo Scarinci and his sister Giovanna (they are double cousins … Vergari & Fanucci side of the tree), Fiorella & Stephano Fanucci (Anna Lisa’s mom & dad), and Mario Fanucci (though not directly related to Greg, he is a cousin to Greg’s cousins through their mother in Jessup).

Did I mention that the interwoven and convoluted connections between Fanucci’s and Vergari’s is the proverbial gordian knot … like playing the fictional Double Fanucci card game made famous in the computer world of Zork.


L to R … Chiara Fanucci Scarinci, Maria Scarinci Braccini, her husband Beneveuto Braccini, Giovanna Fanucci Ceccacci, Dina Scarinci Fanucci, Greg Vergari, Elisabeth Lanuti Fanucci, Quinto Fanucci, Ubaldina Fanucci Fanucci


Sisters. Laura & Lisa Fanucci

The second afternoon at Daniela’s we met cousins from another side of the family. The 90+ year olds shared many memories adding names to the tree that I couldn’t have done alone. With the help of Daniela’s daughter Alice and google translate (Lisa had other commitments that day) we had an afternoon filled with love and memories. (Quinto and his sister Chiara came from Rome to share the afternoon with us.)

Giovanna came again and brought her daughter and granddaughter. Catia is a ceramic artist and with her husband Roberto Fugnanesi has a studio Futuro d’arte (contemporary ceramics) in Perugia.

In between the days we drove to Campitello Giovanna invited us to her house to meet her husband Ubaldo and their daughter Paola who is studying law. Fiorella drove us and Lisa was again our wonderful translator.

That evening Stephano and Fiorella treated us to pizza night in their home in Gubbio.  Stephano’s brother Romano came and we met Lisa’s sister Laura.  We laughed a lot! Fiorella made these wonderful filled biscotti. I immediately asked for the recipe and though I haven’t made them yet I bought metric measuring cups so I could make them correctly without doing the whole grams to cups conversions.

L to R ... Stephano Fanucci, Keri Vest-Vergari, Fiorella Mosca Fanucci, Laura Fanucci, Lisa Fanucci, Romano Fanucci

L to R … Stephano Fanucci, Keri Vest-Vergari, Fiorella Mosca Fanucci, Laura Fanucci, Lisa Fanucci, Romano Fanucci

Stephano is writing a history of Campitello and his willingness to share some of his research with me was an answer to my prayers. (That’s a whole other post to come.)

We said ciao to Campitello and the wonderful family who opened their hearts and homes to us … the rain may have hid our tears but not the smiles on our faces or the love in our hearts for these wonderful people. Family once lost to us through time and an ocean … found again …

Stephano kept asking me why I did family history and the only way I could explain was to touch his heart and Greg’s heart and locked my fingers together.  Love.  Family. Together.  Forever.

L’amore, La famiglia , Insieme, per Sempre


Forensic Genealogy Investigator (FGI) – Case Solved


Last Friday I was scouring an antique store for something my daughter was looking for … I didn’t find what she needed but I did find a small photo album sitting on a stool; it was filled with someone’s memories. Photographs of children and parents, confirmations and graduations and family parties …  postcards of someone’s loved ones for sale. You all know my family history addiction and it always breaks my heart when I see old photographs like that … lost, separated from someone who would treasure them and that may be the only clue to finding that one person whose very existence has been forgotten.

So I did what I always do in such a situation; I put on my Forensic Genealogy Investigator (FGI) hat.   I pulled the photos one at a time until I found a couple with names on the back and took an Evernote Scannable of them.   Later that night I logged into Family Trees and searched for the names of the children in the photographs.  Chills ran up my back when I found at least 20 trees with the same names.  I sent a note to the contacts of the largest trees and within 20 minutes I was receiving responses and requests for the photographs.   Almost as soon as I hit the send button there were return emails saying “yes”, this is one of our ancestors!, “yes”, this is our August Walczyk and his sister Matilda. Thank you! Do you have more?

August Walczyk  from Adms, WS

August Walczyuk from Adms, WS

How do we lose our family documents and photographs, the collective memory of our family stories? How do treasured heirlooms find their way onto antique shop shelves or into flea market baskets tossed in with pink flamingos and outdated electronics?  The Walczyk grandparents obviously treasured the photographs; keeping them for a long time …I think they were ties to their family back east. When they died maybe a son or daughter kept them in that same box on a shelf as a reminder of cousins and family times dimly remembered. Then they too passed on and if the family stories and connections weren’t kept intact the photographs had little or no meaning to that last generation who may have only see an interesting black & white or sepia toned photograph that they felt were of no use to them. That shoe box was placed at the estate sale, someone picked it up and the story continues … where do you think the Cracker Barrel Restaurant gets those old family portraits that hang as decor on their walls?

Matilda Walczyk

Matilda Walczyk

Have you ever thought about where all your family heirlooms might end up? Will they be lost, memories of a lifetime, a slice of history lived never to been seen again … we have experienced such loss in our family (more than once) .  My 4th great grandfather kept journals all of his life.  When he passed on the journal collection was broken apart and one book given to each of his children who lived all over the country.  The journals are lost; in a trunk, a garbage bin, an antique book store somewhere … or did you too have an Aunt Bessie, who ‘did’ the family genealogy and who held the collection of photographs, birth certificates, stories and heirlooms? What happened to them when she died?


Back of August Walczyk Photograph

I’ve been thinking about this ‘problem’ for a while … I’m thinking of gathering as much as I can of what is left of our family legacy and put them together in a collection to be donated to the LDS Family History Center or a university so that future family/historians will have access to them and where they will be at least in a protected environment rather than in a shoe box on a shelf in the back closet … I’m thinking … it’s an idea not fully formed yet.

In the meantime, I’ll be heading back to the antique shop to find the seller of the Walczyk family history and put them in touch with the descendants of the people in their photo album. Who knows they might be related.


Back of Matilda Walczyk Photograph

Back of Matilda Walczyk Photograph

Time Doesn’t Pass … it is Always Now


I love the view from the deck in Council! I can look out the glass door of my office/guest room and see Council Mountain…today there is snow dusting the peaks (uh, yeah, really!), the slopes are late summer brown beige colored sagebrush and cheat grass. The valley cottonwoods and berry bushes are bunches of gold, green and rust … the colors last blast before the leaves turn totally brown, fall to ground to crumble and molder in the duff beneath…food for worms and fields.

View from my Council office

View from my Council office

Last evening was the first heavy coat day of the season…long sleeves weren’t enough, the North Face wind blocker wasn’t even enough to eliminate shivers…our evening walk was pleasant with the parka zipped and my hands (not yet gloved) in fleece lined pockets.

I almost … just almost … wished for summer again.

Wishing for the pleasant past, reliving the unpleasant past, wondering what I’m doing next week, or month or year and then where did time go? I find the concept of Time itself fascinating… like someone said ‘the toilet paper goes faster toward the end of the roll’.

A few years ago I read a book titled The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle , the treatise being that time is only NOW; always living or looking back we miss Now we aren’t living today, looking forward with no foundation in Now we miss living  our Now today.  That I was wasting Now by reliving decisions and actions of the past was such a freeing thought I was able to let go … forgive …  Like the Pinterest quote I saw not long ago reminded me … Learn from the Past and Get the Hell Out of There. I tried living Now, and fell into the Live for today for tomorrow we die mode; what did I want to do, feel, see; mostly selfish and self-fulfilling but mostly I felt something was missing.

My fascination with the concept of Time led me to do some other reading, I’ve become addicted to SciFi books and movies about time travel and paradox and even Einstein’s theory of time and relativity, and sub components of Time.  But when I read this I found what I was missing in my Now (I changed the subject to personalize it for me, I do that a lot when I read): “The pleasant future belongs to those who properly use today. [I] need to find the abundant life as [I] go along. How can [I] be happy tomorrow if [my] “nows” are filled with self-inflicted unhappinesses and unwise delays? Generally speaking, those inclined to count daily blessings have more to count because they help make more possible as they learn gratitude. A constant waiting for a brighter future may cause  [me]to lose the beautiful today. [I] need to constantly remind [myself] eternity is in process now…and then “[I] should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [my] free will, and bring to pass much righteousness [good]” (D&C 58:27) [within the] time structure referred to only as now, today, and without delay…To live more fully each hour and to glean the most from each day is wisdom. How unwise [I am] to waste [my]  todays when they determine the significance of [my] tomorrows. [I] should wisely live a day at a time because that is all [I] have.” Marvin J Ashton

So for my today , my Now will be filled with talking to and helping friends (friends made when Then was Now and friends to be made Now) and Family…today I am searching the past to find family whose Now allowed me to Be Today… today I will find them, say their names out loud again and remember them, Now.



Half Frozen Tom & the Horse Thief’s Cabin

Tom about 12 years old .. with the tipped hat

Tom about 12 years old .. with the tipped hat (the boy to Tom’s right and the little girl are neighbors) the others are Tom’s brothers.


Swoosh! Summer has blown past with it’s run run go go do do mentality and the September lull has given me time to look into the drawers and closets, boxes and piles of projects that always await winter’s slower pace.  After a fine evening and morning of fishing, Greg is making yummy spaghetti sauce from Ray’s tomatoes (ours are still in the fried green tomato stage) and I took a breath and wandered back into my genealogy addiction.  Since 1832 my family has been members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and  each generation has worked diligently  for the salvation of the dead through finding our ancestors. That means there isn’t a lot left for me to do in searching for my heritage. So … I have been collecting stories, researching for information for stories, and hunting pictures to illustrate and share them with my family.  (Remind me to tell you about our My Heritage – My Legacy Grandma Keri weekends some time).  The following story is about my Grandfather Thomas Murdoch Nicol, (Tom), when he was about 10 years old … my Grandpa Tom (or Grampon as christen by my cousin Brad when he was just learning to speak … say Grandpa Tom really fast a few time … you’ll get it) .  I hope you enjoy …

Half Frozen Tom & the Horse Thief’s Cabin 

Written by Keri Nicol Vest-Vergari

The weather wasn’t bad when they mounted their horses that early winter day.  Tom, his dad Hyrum and some others had been visiting and doing business in Heber City, Utah.   They were looking forward to the two day ride through the canyons home to Duchesne. Tom loved being outdoors and sleeping beneath the black star filled sky. As they rode up the canyon, snow began drifting slowly down, fat lazy flakes that brushed their cheeks and powdered their hat brims.  Higher they rode and faster the snow came down, smaller now and sharp, as the wind twisting through the sagebrush pushed into their collars and under their hats, leaving them breathless.

On they rode more slowly. Tom, 10 years old was hunched into his coat, the reins gripped in gloved fingers peeking from his coat sleeves, trusting his horse to pick the safest route. The snow kept falling, covering him and his horse like a wooly blanket.  Finally he could ride no longer; he was sleeping on the back of the horse, stuck in the saddle by legs too cold to feel.

Hyrum, his father, knew they could not continue further in the storm. Peering through the blinding white he searched for the cabin that everyone called the  horse thief’s cabin; empty now, but a haven to wait out the blizzard. Through squinted eyes peering briefly from under his hat brim, Hyrum spotted the old cabin, south of the road in a little hollow.  He hollered to Tom to hang on and the horses struggled through the drifted snow to the leeward side of the cabin. Tom, wake up, climb down.  Tom was almost frozen solid, so I was told and his father had to pry him from his saddle and carry him inside. Whether there was wood for a fire or the circumstances of the night they holed up in the horse thief’s cabin the details are lost.

However, once the storm broke the next morning, they continued to Duchesne through a world of wondrous glittering snow, and the winter sunshine glinting from mounded sagebrush hidden below the blanket of white.  Though the snow hid the road and the way home was more work and slow plodding they finally dropped from the mountain canyons to the high desert terraces of home.

[1] The descriptions of the trip are fictional although the cabin, frozen Tom, and the blizzard are not. Family story of Thomas Murdoch Nicol was related independently by Thomas Keith Nicol (son) and Jean Nicol Robison (daughter) to Keri Vest (Tom’s oldest grand-daughter).

Ruins of Horse Thief cabin, Highway 40 Sheep Creek Utah

Ruins of Horse Thief cabin,  South of Highway 40 by Sheep Creek turn off between Heber and Fruitland Utah


Learn more about Thomas Murdoch Nicol and his family  along with more pictures as