Last year, I had the opportunity to meet Ann Barsi when I gave a presentation about FamilySearch.org to an Italian cultural group. She has spent 40 years extracting church records in her husband’s village of Pieve di Controne in Italy. These records go back more than 500 years! Ann has just published a book about the history of the area which includes genealogies of all of the original families. Anyone with roots in this village can email her and receive a family tree going back 10-12 generations!
I just had to write Ann’s story. Her work fills me with inspiration and her ability to access these records fills me with longing to be able to do this work for my Greek ancestors. With the help and enthusiasm of Gary’s cousin, David, we have done a similar work — we have been able to trace my husband’s Czech maternal line back to the 1600’s, also through church records in the Czech Archives.
It is possible to learn to read these old records in a foreign language. Ann did it, and I am learning to do it in Czech with David’s help. Truly, it is not impossible to build an ancestral line generation by generation, going back hundreds of years. The only impediment is lack of records.
It is clear to all genealogists that access to religious records is a key component in successfully compiling accurate family trees. Whenever I have written to a Diocese in Greece to ask for information, I have received an immediate and courteous response. Their desire to be helpful is unquestioned and gratefully acknowledged. The problem lies in the fact that we cannot browse the records. We can ask for a specific birth or marriage information, but oftentimes this is unknown. Thus, having the capability to look, page by page, through the records is critical to success. Currently, this is not possible.
Our Jewish friends have a poignant phrase, filled with hope and joyful anticipation — someday in Jerusalem. I will never lose hope that someday I will be able to access church records to find my family through the centuries — someday in Greece!
I hope you enjoy reading about Ann’s work. It was a joy for me to interview her and write this article: Pieve di Controne.