My Memory Of My Trip To Camigliano
By Toni DiBernardo Jones
On my recent trip to my Grandfather Annibale Giovanni DiBernardos homeland of Camigliano, Caserta, Italy I was taken back by the simpler way of time these people live there. It was like a scene from an old Italian movie, the neighborhood men sitting outside the neighborhood bar shooting dice. The men were all lined up as they talked about events of the day and what they were planning on doing later while waiting for there turn on shooting the dice. I stopped to watch as some of them played actually almost kneeling on the side of the street shaking the dice in their hands waiting to see if their score beat the gentleman before them. These people were always polite and happy to welcome you, but I couldnít help but wonder if my Nonno and his father Alfonso were all part of that years before and that these men were just carrying on a long time tradition.
The dogs walking the town would run up to you begging to be petted and loved. Everyone was so warm and friendly. They have a way of making you feel as if you belong there and not just as visitor to there homeland. I was accepted warmly and lovingly by my Nonnos family that still remains there. Filomenia DiBernardo was the last daughter born to Alfonso DiBernardo and Finizia Forese was born January 24, 1915 some twenty some years after my Nonno was born and she was the only sibling that my Nonno didnít meet or lay eyes on. My Nonno never returned to the homeland and the family that he loved so much. In the time we are living itís hard to believe how hard our families had it back then. They came to America in search of a better life and most found it here, but lost a lot along the way. Most family members stayed in America never to return their homeland that they loved so very dearly.
So for me, all the years and time that I put into researching my DiBernardo Family History has not only found me my Nonnoís family back Camigliano, but was also a celebration of all my ancestors lives that I never got to meet. However, I feel as if I have been part of their lives by going through and finding all the documents that show that they were people living and not just a name that someone remembered. All of this hard labor took hours of sitting in front of a microfiche machine looking at these old documents written in their native handwriting and trying to figure out what letter is which to help tie your past to your present. On these documents you will find a wealth of information; names, dates, occupations, names of the mayor and, if you were lucky as I was , youíll even find your ancestorís signature if they knew how to read and write. All my family were able to read and write, which was unheard of back then.
I made my firs trip to Italy October 08, 2003 and was with my Nonnos family there for ten days to see their Feast Day Of San Simeone who is the Patron Saint of Camigliano. I had never seen anything as beautiful as this tradition, and they still carry on today. The men carry the statue of San Simeone all around there hometown up and down the streets and in front of every home to show their honor to this Saint, a tradition that has been all but lost to some parts of the United States . I couldnít help but to think and wonder how my Nonnos and Great-great-grandparents must have felt to see this and be a part of all this all those years ago.
My family has a tradition of preparing a goose to eat this day. Alfonsina DíOnofrio who is my Nonnos niece still lives in the old homestead where all my Nonno and his siblings lived, A shrine made into the wall of the home to San Simeone is very common in their homes. Such a strong devotion to their religion another part of our Italian Heritage lost here in America. I witnessed men on their way to work and after work stopping by to bring flowers to the different Saints and just to stop and say a prayer.
All the old world values that our families had generations ago are still strong today and being carried out everyday in our hometowns back there. If I could have just one wish, it would be for everyone who cared enough to be a familyís historian such as I am, for that person to go back where the family started from in Italy and walk the same streets in the same location that their ancestors did and see the old homesteads that are still standing and still in the same family today. To visit the church and experience the wonder and the sheer total awe all of it. I like everyone else who does go back in search of there roots, am making plans to return to the homeland where our families first started out. For, without all the nameless and unknown ancestors, we wouldnít be here today to enjoy the life that we all have come to know and love.
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