A Long-Distance Relationship
After spending every vacation since 1983 researching my roots, two years ago my husband and I decided to spend our anniversary out of the country. I could have searched my French Huguenots, my Rhineland family or even my English, Cornish or Welsh families, but I did not. Instead, we went where neither of us had any family — the Mediterranean. Finally, we would visit the Parthenon, pyramids and Hagia Sophia via a luxury cruise ship.
With a tour group, we flew from New York City to Frankfurt, Germany, and on to our destination, Athens, Greece. During our first breakfast aboard the ship in Athens, we noticed a couple we had met during the layover in Frankfurt. We invited them to join us.
As we talked, I learned their names and hometown, Westerly, RI. I had known one person from that city. He had graciously helped me with tombstone pictures of our Stella family and my Quattromani family, for whom I was writing a family history. I asked the couple if they knew my friend, knowing perfectly well that the chances were one in a million that they would. But to my surprise, they knew him well; he was the president of their bank. Small world, isn’t it? But it gets even smaller.
The couple quizzed me about the Quattromani family I had been hunting in Westerly and Swansea, Mass. They asked if those families were in my bloodline, and I explained that they were the direct lines of my son-in-law. Excited that they took an interest in my family history hunt, I eagerly answered each question.
Sobering a little from my account, I remembered that I must get their last name so 1 could tell my friend in Westerly that I had met people from his hometown. But when I heard their last name, you could have knocked me out of my chair with a feather. It was Quattromani. They knew the people I had been searching. In fact, the man is my son-in-law’s first cousin once removed!
So our anniversary vacation halfway around the world became a genealogy vacation after all. I used the time aboard the ship to collect three generations of information and published the book ahead of schedule.
When I scheduled an appointment with a new doctor, I knew his name was Sing, but I didn’t know how the name was spelled. I presumed that he was Asian and that the spelling (either Sing or Singh) would reveal his ethnicity. But much to my surprise, when he walked through the door he was a blond, blue-eyed Caucasian. The genealogist in me asked, “I’ve been doing a lot of genealogy, and if you don’t mind my asking, what was your family’s nationality?”
The doctor smiled. “My friends kid me about liking Chinese food, but in truth, the name was Singletary. During the Civil War, half of the family sided with the North, and half with the South. The others kept the name Singletary. We became Sing.”
From this encounter, I learned that a name doesn’t necessarily reveal the nationality of the individual.
From the February 2003 issue of Family Tree Magazine.