Saturday, May 28, 2011

When Memorial Day is More...

For a lot of people Memorial Day is just a three day weekend. For us it is a day to remember our dead, not just our military people but also all of our family and friends that have gone before. Since we have been working in the Family History Library and rekindling our interest in genealogy, we have been thinking a lot more about some of our ancestors and trying to find out more about them. Dedicating a minimum 8 hours a week to this endeavor has been a great blessing. It has also been a lot of work. Most things worth having are worth working for, don't you agree?

We have ancestors in Sweden, Italy, Canada, Wales and other locations in the UK that are not completely clear to us at this point. We also have some from the US and more specifically the Bay Area, even San Francisco. Jim and his brother, Gary, are not the only guys from our family born in SF. His great grandparents came here and had a baby boy in 1908. We have had oral history on him from Jim's grandmother, but never any documentation. His grandmother was five at the time her baby brother was born. Legend had it that his name was Francesco and that he lived eight days. He was a very large baby, she said 24 pounds at birth. She knew he was buried in Colma a town just south of San Francisco that is mostly cemeteries to accommodate the deaths in the City which geographically is only 7 miles north to south x 4 miles wide. Grandma had made attempts to locate her brother's grave but never had any success. We too have looked at least three times with no success.

We have tried many avenues, all dead ends (No pun intended). Through some detective work we finally discovered that although the people at the old Green Street Mortuary looked in the public records for us, they found nothing because they were looking under the wrong first name. With some clues from a website we found, we solved our mystery on Thursday!

We arrived in the City at 8:30 am ready to find some answers! We had to make our way to the Civic Center downtown so went early thinking parking might be easier. We then decided to go and park at Aquatic Park at the top of VanNess and take the 47 bus downtown. It was just a straight shot and perfect actually.

Plus we got to see this before we went into
the concrete caverns of the downtown area.

This is City Hall. The Public Heath Department
where the vital records are kept on all San Francisco
deaths after 1906 is right across the street from here.

The dome is reminiscent of all
the gilded rooftops in Paris.

Even the Public Health Department is beautifully
appointed with marble walls and antique sconces
and a decorative, high ceiling.

We filled out the paper work and this is Jim waiting
to see if they find anything on our baby boy.
We are pretty excited by this point as they apparently
had found something! At last.

Guess what? The baby was actually named after his father, Pietro. Who had Americanized his name to Peter and his wife was going by Mary even though her name was actually Cattarina according to her birth certificate. So when they were filling out the death certificate his dad said the baby's name was Peter. We also now know his birth and death date and why he appeared so large. He had a fatal intestinal disease that caused severe distention of his abdomen due to swelling, infection, etc. At least that was the diagnosis.

The information we had found earlier that made us suspicious was a cemetery listing for Pietro Franchini, who died in 1908. When I called the cemetery they had no information other than his name Pietro Franchini, a patch of grass, and no headstone. Very frustrating! We knew it wasn't his father as he died many years later in Italy. This wild goose chase was so disappointing until I asked the man at the cemetery, "Nick, do you know at least if this was an adult or a child. "Why, Bonnie, it was a child!" The grave is in the children's section of the cemetery! Bingo! I am so glad we never gave up hope of finding him.

At this point we were pretty sure that the original searches of the records had not been successful because the first name was incorrect and we didn't have an exact birth date. It is not surprising that a five-year-old would not have known that her baby brother's real name was actually Pietro because they called the baby Francesco during his short 8 day life. Both Jim and I started out this day just having a great feeling we would lay our hands on the above document, finally.

Since we were right in the neighborhood we decided to go over to the San Francisco Library to look up some genealogical helps that we had heard about there. We saw this beautiful modern building above built in 1996.

This is a long, stained glass mural of the skyscape on the 6th floor.
I just focused in on the Ferry Building here, but it is much larger.

Back outside we decided to go into City Hall
for a few minute before snagging the bus for Aquatic Park.

This is The Opera House also
on this block at Civic Center

We love to go to The Nut Cracker here every few years around Christmas. Jim performed in the SF Opera as a Super (an extra, not a singer) for an entire season when we were first married. It was so expensive to go I never did get to see him on the stage there! He loved it and the costumes he wore were so elaborate and custom tailored to fit him perfectly.

You don't see a Ferris wheel very often
in the middle of the City!

The other corner of the Center houses Davies Symphony Hall.
We may try to go to the Sing Along Messiah here this year,
another thing on our bucket list.

Entering the City Hall~
A touch of Europe for no flight or fees!

My favorite SF relic~circa 1947!

More of the Rotunda

Seriously beautiful!

The Cupola

Back outside and trying to recover from the
overwhelming eye candy in City Hall,
we waited only two minutes until our bus arrived.
Perfect timing both ways.

Riding back we talked about our new friend and possible relative, Stephen, and how much we appreciated his help these past many weeks. We sent him a photo of the certificate via email and also a cyber hug for all his help. {Italians are like that you know...huggers that is.} We wish he had been here so we could have taken him to lunch to celebrate this victory in finding our baby.

Instead we went back to Aquatic Park and
strolled around a little

and took some photos and then
had a nice picnic

and a nap!

City kids enjoying the warm day and the surf.

Looking straight up from our napping place!

After lunch we wanted to drive over to the house where little Peter was born and probably died. It was so nice to finally have the exact address and not just "North Beach!" It is part of his very short life history.

861 Union Street was his home for his
very short sojourn in mortality!

It was now time for us to go back to the cemetery and actually find the grave in Colma at last.

Our GPS took us through here. Probably the only picture of China Town you will ever see on my blog. Our least favorite part of The City. It is so rundown and crowded and dirty and junky and touristy~with dead chickens and duck hanging in some store front windows. Ugh!

Some big glass cylinders for advertizing that are cropping up around the city. My drive by attempt at capturing one. This one can be found where Sutter collides with Market and Montgomery downtown.

Been here several times, but the anticipation of our
journey's end is mounting this time.

Just up the hill...

After stopping in the office we made our way
to the spot where the baby is buried.

This is the resting place for the babies and children.

His great nephew, now a grandfather himself,
standing in this sacred spot.
An unmarked grave for 103 years of a
precious little baby that belongs
to our family has been found.

And right there where there is no grave marker
one will appear next week with his name on it.
We had already purchased it when we stopped
in the office and we were so happy
we did it when we saw

he was one of very few that did not have one.

It felt like a very sacred and poignant moment
and that somehow we had just gathered him into
our family again, in a real way.

Mission accomplished it was time to go home.

What a beautiful day, every minute of it filled with fun, meaning and adventure and precious moments. I couldn't help but think of Jim's grandmother and how pleased she would be to know we finally found and honored her little brother. The little cross will be inscribed and in place next week. We will go back and lay some flowers there on Thursday and Jim will dedicate the grave. Of course Jim's mom is thrilled and will be coming with us! What worthy, worthwhile work genealogy can be.


Marie said...

I am so happy that you were able to find what you were looking for Bonnie! How wonderful! I really enjoyed taking this trip with you. Your pictures are really fabulous! You are always so good at taking us along with you Bonnie. I always really enjoy our trips together! xxoo

Bonnie said...

Steve wrote:

"Dear Bonnie,

How wonderful that you and your husband purchased a grave marker for little Petey. That is very kind and loving. And it looks like your Thursday was a sweet and tender day, full of excitement and the right kind of Memorial Day memories.

It was neat to read your blog entry. Neat, too, to read that you wrote it on Saturday, the day my wife, sister, son, daughter-in-law and grandson were walking around Fishermen's Wharf, eating lunch at Alioto's, taking the boat around the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, visiting Ghiradelli Square and the Cannery, and otherwise -- oh, did I mention? -- eating! We're going to sacrament meeting at the meetinghouse on the Oakland Temple grounds and then visiting family today. Tomorrow will be visiting family, too. Back home Tuesday night. When do you arrive in Utah? You're sure welcome to stop by for a meal.


Sister Susie said...

Thank you, Bonnie for reminding us of the vast importance that has made America what it is. Thank you for the pictures of sites I am unable to visit.

The Bible says one day the things of this world will pass away, but His WORD shall never pass away.

Christ gave the ultimate sacrifice for mankind as a free gift to have Eternal life where there will be no more death; we will see Heavenly structures that are beyond man's present comprehension, and most of allwe will have Eternity with our Holy, Awesome, Almighty, Creator, Savior, Father GOD!

I can't praise Him enough that He has allowed me to be one of the many that will one day enter into His Holy Presence!

Love to you and yours,

mandy* said...

You two are amazing! I love you both.