Monday, November 25, 2013

Blind Spots

Every so often, in the course of my research, I come across something that makes me say "Duh! I already knew that!" or smack myself on the forehead and ask "Why wasn't I looking for that?" These moments always make me doubt myself, because how could I be so dumb? One occurred this weekend.

It had been awhile since I focused on Italian research; thanks to my recent trip to Ireland, I'd been seeing genealogy through emerald-colored glasses. This weekend, however, I finally had some free time and decided to return to Antenati, the Italian government website that houses vital records online.

I was looking for the family of Domenico D'Ingeo and Anna Pace, and I really thought I wasn't going to find any more of them; I was just being thorough. They had 5 kids (right?): Vincenzo, Rosa, Angelica, Giovanna, and Maria. The eldest two were certainly born in Italy, but it seems that the younger girls were born after the family had moved to Brazil. (This is a point of contention in the family, but although I can't prove it yet, I fall into the "probably born in Brazil" camp.) Having already found birth records in Italy for Vincenzo and Rosa (plus an earlier Vincenzo and Rosa who died as infants), I wasn't expecting to find anyone else. However, the Brazilian records on FamilySearch are not indexed, so I wanted to cover all my bases in Italy before tackling that project. (The Italian records on Antenati aren't indexed, either, but I know where they lived in Italy, and browsing the town of Toritto is far less daunting than browsing the entirety of Brazil.)

coffee plantation, Brazil
Coffee berry pickers, probably in Sao Paulo state inland, Brazil
By Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection. Copyright by E.M. Newman. No known restrictions on publication (Library of Congress) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

I was surprised, then, to come across a D'Ingeo born in 1896, and it was not Angelica, Giovanna, or Maria - it did not disprove the "born in Brazil" theory. It was someone I'd never heard of before: Francesco D'Ingeo, b. 5 Oct 1896. Unknown babies are, of course, not uncommon in genealogy, and I figured that this boy was another baby who had died young and who hadn't been recorded in the family oral tradition or shown up in later records. (See: the first Vicenzo and Rosa, who I hadn't known had died in infancy.)

Then I realized how wrong I'd been: I don't think Francesco actually was unknown. Another child, likely he, figures prominently in the family's "creation myth," as it were:

After Anna died, Domenico remarried (or lived with someone? or had a housekeeper? There was another woman in the house) and she mistreated the kids. When he found out, he decided to move the family to America, but while they were on the trip over, the quota was filled and the ship was turned away and went to South America instead. They settled in Brazil, where they lived for a number of years. While there, one of the sons was run over by a trolley (or horse and carriage? or wagon?) and killed. Sometime thereafter, the family moved to America.

There are a lot of differences of opinion in the family, and plenty of demonstrated inaccuracies in this account, from the fact that it all happened before the US even had immigration quotas; to likelihood that several of the children were born after, not before, the family arrived in Brazil (and that Anna was likely with them when they made the move); to, apparently, the fact that they went from Brazil back to Italy and then to America. But no one has ever expressed any doubt that there was a brother who was killed.

The brother's death certificate was on my list of records to find. His birth certificate was not. I always though of him solely as a boy who died, and somehow, not as a boy who was born. I never wondered what his name was, or whether he'd been born in Italy or Brazil. He showed up in an otherwise-suspicious story and while I didn't doubt his existence, I really didn't give it any thought, either.

And when I came across him (probably) in the 1896 Atti di Nascita, it never occurred to me that it could be him. Of course, I'm not done with the Italian birth records yet, and haven't begun on the Brazilian ones. Maybe Francesco was a baby who died young, and the brother who was killed was someone else entirely. Regardless, I had such a blind spot where he was concerned that I found myself inventing a place for this "new" child in the family - a plausible one, of course, but one that completely ignored what I already knew.

I'd like to close by asking you to look at your own blind spots, but they're the kind of things you don't know exist until they show up and make you feel like idiot. So instead, I'll ask you to make me feel better: am I the only one this happens to? Or have you ever realized that you're completely ignoring something you already knew?

May 30, 2016: This post submitted as a part of the Genealogy Blog Party at Little Bytes of Life, for the topic "What Was Your Genealogy 'Duh' Moment?"


Claudia said...

You're not the only one, I have done that myself and then think "how stupid could I have been."

Claudia said...

You're not the only one, I have done that myself and then think "how stupid could I have been."