Computers are magnificent tools for the realization of our dreams.
~ Louis V. Gerstner
Do you remember life before computers invaded the personal world? (I’m speaking here to those of us old enough to remember dial phones, I guess.). How did we survive? The information we had at our fingertips came from the books we held—the encyclopedias, the atlases, the newspapers. We had typewriters, magical machines whose keys we pounded in order to put words on paper more quickly and easily. We were the brains behind them, not they behind us. For time and temperature, we dialed a few numbers on a rotary phone, and a woman would tell us what we wanted to know.
I remember the first computer I ever saw. I was visiting a friend who had transferred to Ohio State from Walsh College (which I attended) because OSU had a computer programming major. One night after classes were over and everyone had left, we snuck into the computer lab to see the thing of which he was so entralled. We walked into what I thought was a room stuffed with racks of wires and bulbs and God-knows-what, and he proudly told me, “I’m working on this now.” He handed me a few punch cards and added, “This is a program I’m developing.”
“They look like those cards we use for standardized tests.” I wasn’t impressed. I’m sure I thought that there was no way in the world I’d ever have anything to do with a computer, and little did I know said friend would give up IT for insurance sales and I would be the technology addict I am today. I need that information now, I tell you. NOW. Enter Webcrawler, Internet Explorer, Bing, and my personal favorite—Google.
Google. That incredible search engine has been my friend for years, from before I started any of this research. In 2008, I naturally went there first to see if I could find the town where my maternal grandparents had been born. According to my mother and Aunt Ann, both of whom had died a few years earlier, Grandma and Grandpa were from Petrano, a small town near “Sumone” and “Aquila” in the Abruzzo region. So, I googled “Petrano, Italy,” and I found out that there is, indeed, a Petrano, Italy. Unfortunately, though, it is a mountain in the Apennine range, not a town (Strike One), and it is in the Marche region, not Abruzzo (Strike Two).
What I did find, however, was that there was a town called “Sulmona,” which, given my grandmother’s accent, could be her “Sumone.” I found a few “P” towns near there—Pacentro, Pescocostanza, and Pettorano sul Gizio. Again, given the accent, Pettorano was most likely the “Petrano” of which Grams spoke. When I found an Ellis Island record for Liberata Crugnale of Pettorano sul Gizio, I knew I had the right town. I eventually found my grandfather’s Ellis Island record, and it also listed Pettorano sul Gizio as his birthplace.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much more on my grandparents or their families because, as was the custom back then, whoever was filling out forms wrote names phonetically if they couldn’t understand the person giving the information. And, since my grandparents were illiterate, they had no idea what someone had written for their names. My grandfather’s birth name was Donato Berarducci, but on different certificates, clerks wrote his name as Donato Berardeuci, Donatt Beradm, Donato Beradna, Donatt Beradam, and my personal favorite, Seonato Borarducci. Grandma was luckier, for some reason, and her given name, Maria Liberata Crugnale, was incorrectly written as Liberato Rugnala on my mother’s birth certificate. And somewhere down the line, everyone’s name was Americanized. Donato and Liberata became Dan and Loretta Beraduce sometime in the 1920s, and until I was out of college, I didn’t realize that their real name was Berarducci.
I will admit that finding out this information about the Grands made me more curious about my paternal grandparents. Finding anything on them, however, was impossible. I knew that “Lodyn” was not their real last name, and as I’ve mentioned before, I really knew very little about them. I always thought that they were from the Ukraine, but even that was confusing because, at times, he would refer to himself in slang terms as Hungarian, Slovak, Polish, and Russian. No matter what, Google let me down on them, as did Ellis Island. Mike had joined Ancestry, so I put in my grandfather’s name, and a draft card he had had to sign during World War II popped up.
I still remember how I was lying on our green plaid sofa in Nashville while we were watching a Titans game on television. I saw the link to the draft card and hit it. When I saw that Grandpa’s birthplace listed, I almost rolled off of the sofa. “Oh. My. Gosh,” I whooped.
“What?” Mike mumbled as he was more interested in the game than my research.
“You will never believe where my grandfather was born,” I said to him. “Austria. Galicia, Austria.” To this day, I can’t believe it.
That doesn’t, however, mean that the family was Austrian because the Galicia region was one of those regions that, depending on the time of day, it could belong to Austria, Poland, Russia, The Czech Republic, or Hungary. That discovery, however, led to me discover what I believe is how my grandfather acquired the “Lodyn” name: In the area that once was Galicia and is now part of Poland, there is a town called, “Lodyna.” I have no way to prove this, but given the fact that my father always said the original last name underwent a change because it was too long and incomprehensible, I bet that some clerk somewhere gave my grandfather a new name.
Mike suggested that we head to Italy to see if we could find Pettorano
(Side note: I’ve been so busy doing research into the Italian side that I rarely looked anything up on the other side after that Austrian discovery. Until the other night. While I was rechecking facts to write the longer version of this story, I happened upon the 1940 census which I had used to get information about Grams and Gramps a few years ago, but which I had not checked for the other side. Long story short, I discovered that Grandma had also been born in Austria, and that my then-23-year-old father was still living at home, as was his 21-year-old sister. And, I will tease you and say that something I found shocked the heck out of me, but you’ll have to wait for the book to find that one out.)
On my birthday in 2010, about seven months after we had moved back to Las Vegas, Mike suggested that we head to Italy to see if we could find Pettorano and my grandparents’ birthplaces. You know by now that we went, and we found my grandfather’s house and relatives that I had no idea existed. We found my grandparents’ birth certificates, and we discovered that Grams actually did not live on the mountain but in the ValleLarga, the flat farmland “suburb” of Pettorano.
And, I also started to see that some of the family information that I knew to be true, was really a little less than that.