Back to My Roots
When you trace your origins back to their very humble beginnings, it can be a life-changing experience.
I had always been proud of my Italian heritage, with an unpronounceable last name and wild mane of curly hair. But I had never thought of the family that made my life possible. The brave DiPetta immigrants that registered at Ellis Island only to have their name changed and start a new life in a new world.
I was fortunate enough to see the beginning of my immigrant great-grandfather’s journey to America in person. On a recent trip to Italy, we stopped in the tiny, 3-street hometown of my DiPetta relatives. A tiny, isolated town (almost a village), tucked into the Tuscan hills of central Italy, Colle d’Anchise is the home of my family.
The chickens in every backyard were probably dinner for the week, and the small town square was a large as my living room at home. The church of the town was barely 1/100000th of the Vatican, but the monument labeled “I CADUTI IN GUERRA” stopped my heart cold.
The obelisk marked with the names of “THE FALLEN IN WAR” included one of my family. And their sacrifice etched in stone made the progress of the DiPette’s in America all the more real.
Without their decision to give up their small-town farm life and move to America, nothing I know would have been. I myself would likely not have been possible, my family’s successes and growth would not have been possible and my freedoms as an American would never have been possible.
Tracing back the steps of my ancestors that immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s to walk in their own literal footsteps taught me to be thankful for the sacrifices of those before us, the beauty that is a diverse country, welcoming of those from outside, and the progress of a nation that was birthed from those brave enough to step outside of their homes.
Editor’s note: Want to learn more about how the 2019 Commemoration is highlighting the diverse contributions of America’s three founding cultures? Don’t miss the 1619: Making of America Summit.