Marisa Tomei. I'm not very familiar with her professional career but I found her to be very likable and genuine. While I don't have any Italian roots, her journey to Italy and the discovery of family stories was interesting and enjoyable to watch.
Two key points struck me from watching this show.
1) The Fourth Generation Snap
It's seem clear to me that the fourth generation is where the link breaks in families. Marisa had limited information about her great grandfather. It may be that events such as immigration or early death are really the factors behind these breaks. But none the less by the fourth generation family history information is either lost, forgotten or morphed into something erroneous (as it was in Marisa's case). This is where it transforms into the realm of oral history where we say it's based on a kernel of truth but not the whole truth. Marisa and her mother did have some of the story right about her great grandfather but the story shifted to have negative connotations which turned out to be untrue.
Many regular people (by this I mean non-genealogists) can't name any of their great grandparents. Some even have difficulty with their own grandparents' names. Is it that we feel connected to the generations that we have known personally and anything beyond is simply history? Or have we given up trying to pass down a strong sense of family history that will continue from generation to generation?
2) We carry emotional burden on the past
One of the most interesting aspects of this episode was that Marisa's mother was carrying some family shame because of what happened to Marisa's great grandfather and becuase she believed that he had somehow disgraced the family. It's interesting that someone who has been dead for three generations can impact the emotional well-being of the living. She was carrying around a very real sense of shame and yet it was not true. The great grandfather had not disgraced the family. In fact, the opposite was true. He was a man of honor and the person who killed him was the coward.
It strikes me that emotions surrounding family history are powerful indeed if you can be weighed down by something you've been told that is several generations in the past. I wonder how many people are carrying a burden that is not founded on truth? Is the answer to withdraw emotional baggage from previous generations in a wholesale dump or is it better to try to seek out the truth for better or for worse? In this case seeking the truth worked out well but it many case I imagine it wouldn't.
For me, this was a very thought provoking episode in these two regards. I'm sure I will continue to look for examples from others. If you've experienced either scenario in your family let me know. And let me know how it played out.
Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons