With how busy we knew Pacentro would be preparing for the race, my father found a local English school to help complete some genealogical legwork and research beforehand. On Saturday, we met the young lady and her mother at their English school in Sulmona. I was a little nervous. My genealogical research is close to my heart. It’s a passion of mine, and it’s hard to allow others to help, but their help was invaluable. With their knowledge of the local cultural and ability to speak both languages, they successfully answered most of our questions or at least furthered our knowledge. There’s still much than can be done, but they have greatly narrowed our focus.
Last year, my father obtained official copies of Giovanni “John” Gaetano Pulcini’s birth certificate, record of his parents’ marriage, and Venanzio Pulcini’s birth certificate. During this trip, our goals were to find death records for Venanzio and Maria Carolinia and Maria’s birth certificate. All Pacentro’s birth, death, and other records are kept in books and are handwritten. When you ask for historical genealogical records, the official must climb two flights of stairs to a large room lined with books on bookcases. They are supposed to be organized by type and year. It’s almost impossible for them to find records if you don’t have an exact year of the record you are looking for. Since we had Giovanni’s and Venanzio’s records, we could point them in the right direction; however, we have no record or information about Venanzio’s or Maria’s deaths. We’ve heard that they died in the caves above Pacentro during World War II.
We learned from Giovanno (the man with our family photogragh) that when the Nazi’s invaded Italy, they came to Pacentro and gave the residents one hour to get out. Some went into the caves above Pacentro, others went into the caves over Sulmonna, more went down to live in Sulmonna, and a few stayed and worked with the Nazi’s because they had no other options. Venanzio and Maria would have been in their 80s.
Thanks to the translators, we had a standing appointment at the city office on Monday. We were supposed to be able to just stop in and pick up the documents, but things don’t work that way in Italy. They were expecting us and had a hand drawn family tree of the portion we were researching. The woman who was working in the office did not speak English. Once again, we were lucky and a fluent speaker of both languages was standing behind us. We explained what we were looking for, and she told us to return at 3pm.
When we returned, we came with a gift. Dad purchased a candy flower bouquet for Signora Garafalo. When we came back, she had Venanzio’s father’s birth and death records and his wife, Rosa Buccilli’s, birth and death records. I have the official certificates and copies of the handwritten pages documenting their birth, marriages, and baptisms.
It was apparent that this was becoming a personal challenge for Signora Garafalo. She was on a mission. She asked us to stay later the following day and promised to continue the search.
Dad and I wanted to try and find the aforementioned caves above Pacentro where Venanzio and Maria were rumored to have died during the war. Our translators, uncovered a possible location for the caves. Dad, Janice and I drove up above Pacentro to a hiking trail. Covered in mostly loose gravel, the trail hugged the mountain. In many places, it was only a few feet wide giving way to a steep drop off. I focused on the trail and the underground aqueduct running along and under the trail. Periodically, the cement covered was broken and you could see into this rushing mountain feed aqueduct.
After winding around the mountain, we came to a “bridge”. An unattached piece of metal laid over a gap in the trail about 5 to 6 feet wide. Janice and I stopped, but when dad crossed it and they yelled that he found a cave, we both quickly crossed it.
The trail came to a dead-end inside a cave in the mountain and inside was a river. The aqueducts must merge into this roaring river of fresh water running through the mountain. Just like the Romans, people of this region also harnessed the natural water source from the mountain. It was incredible. Only an old gate kept the water from spilling down the side of the mountain.
We couldn’t see any other caves, but the view of Pacentro, the valley, and the mountains were gorgeous.