I am not one to be satisfied with uncovering information about immediate family only. Empty branches of a family tree feel like a taunt, a challenge. I have always had a “the more, the merrier” feeling when it comes to family. My settings on Ancestry.com and 23&Me are pushed to the max when it comes to availability. A 7th cousin is still a cousin and it’s a thrill more than anything else when one reaches out and wants to connect.
According to the obituary of my great-grandfather, Giulio DiBagno, he was survived by “four sisters in Italy.” My grandfather would have known their names, but he passed away years ago, long before I had the sense or inclination to ask him these questions. My mom and her cousins were some help, but time eroded a lot of the information. Memories from visiting Italy in the 1970s were foggy with decades gone by. It was looking like accepting that these 4 sisters may never be known to me was a reality that I would have to face.
If you are searching for Italian records, http://dl.antenati.san.beniculturali.it/?q=gallery should be your compass. When I discovered it, the site was all in Italian, but has since been updated with an English menu, making it easier for those who do not parla Italiano. I taught myself basic Italian when I was younger, lying on my stomach in the living room and reading the translations in the booklets while my mom’s favorite opera records played. I was happy to have another excuse to dive back into the language. Having spent hours on this site (with a lot of help from google translator), I can say that my Italian has improved. Through this site, I found several death records of children with the same parents: Bernardina Di Bagno and Liberato Tursini. Bernardina was born about 1896 making her 3 years younger than Giulio. She and her husband had had 6 children between 1920 and 1934 who all died before they were 2 years old. This site only listed the death records, giving me hope that they had had some who lived. Losing 6 babies was just too sad to digest. Bernardina had been on my radar for some time because of a record I found with her maiden name, Di Bagno, but I couldn’t link her to anyone. A cousin who lived in Italy remembered a Tursini family that they visited, but remembered nothing but the surname.
One day I went back over records I had already viewed, searching for clues I may have missed and finally found something! One of the Tursini children’s death records listed Bernardina’s father as Giuseppe Di Bagno. That clinched it. Giuseppe Di Bagno was Giulio’s father, too. Had I just found evidence that this was one of the four mystery sisters?!
A cousin was looking through her brother’s photo albums from when he visited Italy in 1974. In it she found a photo of “Zio Liberato and Angela Tursini.” Zio means Uncle in Italian. I took this as further confirmation. Liberato Tursini was the man married to Bernardina Di Bagno, making him the uncle of my grandfather and his siblings. The Angela pictured looks like she may be his daughter, or possibly a niece. Also included were photos of a group: “Zio Giovanni, Zia Antonine, daughter Silena, and her husband. San Felice D’Ocre L’Aquila circa 1974,” a photo of 3 children (names I have now omitted to protect their privacy). L’Aquila May 1974,” and a photo of a Sal Mineo lookalike: “Luciano Valone” (also spelled Vallone in other photos in the album), and a younger woman and her baby: “Maria and baby Sonya Valone.” Luciano’s wife and daughter, perhaps? Photos below:
Aside from “Zio Liberato,” I have not been able to find out who the others are, though I believe that Zia Agnese (an older woman who was also pictured) was married to “Zio Gino” and they lived in Genoa (according to a postcard my Grandpap Tony sent one of the family members. It ended up in my hands, courtesy of my cousin Anita).
I found (who I believe was) the female child in the photo named A* on Facebook, now a grown woman, and wrote to her in March 2018, but she never responded. I hope one day she does. I think she may be the key to putting together this puzzle.
I am not giving up my search. Hopefully, more information will come my way and I’ll write more if it does. The branches are too bare for my taste, but it remains a mystery…for now…
UPDATE! The mystery sisters have been identified. They are: Agnesina, Antonina, Benedetta, and Bernardina. You can read the follow-up post here to find out how this discovery was made.