Monday, September 30, 2013

Maritime Monday: Fortunato Oneto, Father of Paolo Oneto - Camogli, Italy

I am including this post in Maritime Monday because I have learned over the past few days that the Oneto family from Camogli, Italy has a long standing maritime tradition, something my husband was very pleased to learn. He has a need for the sea. (Go U.S. Navy). We learned last week that his great-great grandfather was also an Oneto sailor. Here’s how:

I had been stuck for EIGHT years on my husband’s great-grandfather Paolo Oneto. I had his marriage record, pulled from the Family Search site. He and Clara Aste were married in 1909 at St. Francis Church in Hoboken, NJ. His parents were listed as Fortunato Oneto and Maria Mortola. I knew from his World War I registration card that he was born in Camogli, Liguria, Italy on October 23, 1886. According to the U.S. census records, he was an instrument maker for Keuffel and Esser, a drafting instrument company, in Hoboken.

Beyond that, I did not know much more. Every few months I would do new searches of the New Jersey records, Family Search, Ancestry, you name it. I wrote to St. Francis, but so far, have not gotten a response.  My funds are limited, so I cannot just run up to New Jersey to dig around, let alone take a trip to Italy. I was starting to lose hope that I had truly reached the end of internet records for Paolo. It happens. Sometimes, you just have to go to the places to get further. I understood this, yet have a lack of monetary resources at the moment. I have to make do until I win the lottery.

Just last week, however, I noticed a set of undiscovered-yet-obviously-glaring-me-in-the-face records on Family Search. These were birth, marriage and death records for Camogli, Liguria Italy. These records are not indexed, but they cover most years from 1866-1910. I took a deep breath and dove in. 100 image views and a complete-overload use of Google Translator later, I found it.



Yes, that is the birth record of Paolo Oneto, born October 23, 1886 to Fortunato Francesco Oneto, sailor, and Maria Mortola. *Insert angelic music here* Yes, I shed a happy tear or two. Eight years is a long time to be in the dark. Not only did this record list Paolo’s parents, but also the fathers of Fortunato and Maria. *Faint*

What intrigues me about Fortunato’s father is that his name was Francesco Oneto. I am really hoping, though prepared to be disappointed, that our Oneto family is somehow related to the Francesco Oneto who commissioned this statute in honor of his family:

Wikipedia Image

Wikipedia Image

Beautiful, isn’t she? She guards the Oneto family tomb in the Staglieno Cemetery in Genoa. This particular Francesco Oneto was the President of the General Bank and apparently, a very wealthy man. The good news is that in my search I found that Fortunato and Maria had another son after Paolo and his name was Francesco Eduardo Oneto, born 1888 in Camogli, so there’s the Francesco name again. Here’s hoping.


In the meantime, I am going through every single image on these databases and pulling out every Oneto, Mortola, Aste and Avegno I can find. I am excited to make these connections and I am learning quite a bit of Italian in the process. Genealogy is a wonderful thing. 

©copyright Piper Oneto

Monday, September 23, 2013

Lena Rector Roberts Arnold 1909-2001

My Great-Grandmother Lena Rector ca. 1940
Lena Rector, our "Nana," was born June 13, 1909 in Marshall, Madison, North Carolina, daughter of George H. Rector and Mollie Davis. She married Roy Adolphus Roberts on June 25, 1925 in Marshall and had my grandfather Dudley George Roberts on November 21, 1928. Sometime between 1930 and 1940, the family moved to Washington D.C. and it was here that Nana left Roy. Nana was hard-pressed to talk about anything unpleasant from the past, but the story passed down to me was that Roy was an alcoholic and that was the cause of Nana leaving him. He died January 22, 1966 in Norwalk, CA.

Nana remarried Norman Arnold sometime after this and moved to Silver Spring, MD. They were the epitome of class and social graces in our world. They were both dressed impeccably at any given time in the day. I remember showing up unannounced to their home one day and Norman, "Nornie" as we called him, was dressed in suit and tie and Nana in her finest slacks and blouse. We were only allowed to touch things in one room of her home and those were the things in our toy box. Though Nornie was not our biological grandfather, there wasn't a single moment where we could tell he wasn't our blood. He loved us all to pieces.


Nana made the best macaroni and cheese on the planet and always had a roast or ham with plenty of vegetables to accompany it. We have all tried and failed to replicate her mac and cheese, although I have mastered a pretty close second. She always said I had "piano hands" and told me not to do anything without gloves. "When you wash dishes or work in the garden, you have to wear gloves or you will ruin those pretty little hands." She knew what she was talking about. I have her hands.


Nana passed away in June 2001 and I still miss her all the time. I can still hear her voice and it makes me smile. "You're gettin' prettier all the time!"

©copyright Piper Oneto

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

President Wilson? That Was AGES Ago!

I have been spending days knee-deep in the College of William and Mary digital archives website. I began looking for mentions of my great-great granduncle Herman Lee Harris, of which there are many! Associate editor of the school newspaper The Flat Hat, officer of the Philomathean Literary Society, officer of the German Club (not the language, apparently), part of the Literary Magazine and the Colonial Echo staff…. The list goes on and on.

The Flat Hat was first published in 1911, when H. Lee, as he is most often called in the records, was a sophomore. I began pouring over these back issues, focused only on finding mentions of him. As I read these articles, however, I realized that something much more than one person was happening here. The revelation hit me as I read a small blurb from the March 4, 1913 issue that read: “H. Lee Harris and C.W. Holler are attending the inauguration.” 

Knowing that H. Lee was a Woodrow Wilson supporter at the time (there was a Woodrow Wilson Club of which H. Lee was a member), my first instinct was “Oh, he went to Wilson’s inauguration… but no, Presidential inaugurations take place in January.” Just to be sure, I googled “President Wilson inauguration” and sure enough, it took place on March 4, 1913. In the same moment, I learned that the inauguration date was changed to January during Franklin Roosevelt’s 2nd term.

President Wilson's Swearing-in March 4, 1913

The magnitude of what I had just read hit me like a ton of bricks:  H. Lee had attended the Presidential inauguration of Woodrow Wilson. To me, a 30 year old, Wilson’s presidency might have been light years ago. But somehow, tying this inauguration and Presidency to H. Lee, with whom I have spent many hours researching and getting to know through the records, made the event seem closer. It also inspired me to find out more. What were the issues of the day that made H. Lee a Wilson supporter? I know from later records that H. Lee served as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy during World War I – did he support the war or perhaps serve simply out of duty to his country, as most of my Harris's are apt to do?

I came to the alarming realization that history and genealogy are not separate. I had a good few hours of kicking myself over not having paid more attention in school. How could I not know that Presidential inaugurations have not ALWAYS been in January? After some serious introspection, I realized that my education had to come on its own time and I should stop being so hard on myself. The context had to be there for me to understand and appreciate what came before. For this, I will be forever grateful to Dr. Herman Lee Harris for inspiring me to examine all aspects of our nation's history and beyond.

In the meantime, if you have ancestors who went to the College of William and Mary, check out their archives website – it is a treasure trove!

© copyright, Piper Oneto

Friday, September 13, 2013

My Mountain Home


This magical log home is the house my parents owned when I was born. It is to this place they brought me, after my mother and I were discharged from the hospital.

My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles built this house with their own hands.




The house is on a small mountain that boasts incredible views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, especially in the wintertime. My cousins lived next door and we played together every day, along with the other neighborhood kids. I lived here from the time I was born until I was nine, when my father sold the house. He had decided that we had outgrown it and we needed to move on.

The loss of this house is just as tangible to me now at 30 as it was at nine. No place is perfect, but for those nine years of my childhood, no one could have told me different. Maybe it was the magic of youth that made this mountain perfect, but I happen to believe it goes deeper than that.

My ancestors settled near Clinch Mountain, part of the Appalachian mountain range, in what is now Scott County, VA. The Carter Family told about this mountain range in their song, “My Clinch Mountain Home.” They also sang of “My Home Among the Hills” and the intense longing that existed to go back after an absence.

Clinch Mountain Range


My Southwest Virginia family loved the mountains and even when they journeyed away from them, it did not take long for them to go back. My great-grandfather moved his young family to Central Virginia in the late 1920’s. My older cousins have said that my great-grandmother always pined to return to her mountains and family in Scott County. Though life was hard, comfort lived in the valleys of those mountains, comfort that was not easy to come by in the flat, scrub pine of Fluvanna County, VA.


For me also, there is security in living near mountains. Tornadoes are rare, there is ample defense from tidal waves and I find the hills' constant reach for the sky inspiring. I revel in the views that exist from mountains. For brief moments, I am larger than life itself, whereas in the valleys, I am just an ant. As long as mountains are in my sight, I am content.

Learning about my ancestors affection for their mountain home has made me wonder if the feeling is genetic in some way. My pining for my childhood log home, high on a mountain, does not ebb as I get older. In fact, as time passes, the yearning gets worse. Could my family's thoughts, respect and love for the highlands of Southwest Virginia somehow have been passed down through the family DNA? Or, is it just the need to escape adulthood and retreat back to a simpler time? Maybe it is a bit of both.

©copyright, Piper Oneto

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Talented Tuesday: The Carter Family

For Talented Tuesday, I am highlighting my cousins, Sara Dougherty Carter and Maybelle Addington Carter of the singing group, The Carter Family from Scott County, Virginia.

My great-great grandmother, Anna Kilgore, was the sister of both Sara and Maybelle’s mothers, Nancy Kilgore and Margaret Kilgore. My great grandfather Robert E. Harris was a first cousin of Sara and Maybelle.


We are honored to have these talented people in our family and thank them for their enormous contribution to country music.


© copyright, Piper Oneto