Exploring & Preserving Our Italian American Family Legacy in the Capital City of Ohio

Feb 23, 2024 2620

BY: Richard Leto

When many of us who share in the Italian American experience attempt to capture and preserve our rich family history, we sometimes find it a daunting experience. I can recall several years ago opening a box stored in my mother’s basement that was full of photos, documents, and records that to me were like pieces of a puzzle.

These abstract records some written in Italian were foreign and distant but were real connections to the old country. Uncovering this treasure trove of family history can send you on a journey to unearth and discover your family story of Italian immigration. However, organizing, filling in gaps, and piecing this material together can be frustrating and rewarding at the same time.

Thankfully today, so many tools exist for us to build out our family tree or better yet build a scrapbook that tells our family story that we can pass to the next generation.  So why not form a group of like-minded Italian Americans who are passionate about their Italian roots and have a desire to perform genealogy research. And so, that is how CIAO Columbus got started and I am glad to be part of it.

Recently in the capital city of Ohio, Columbus, a newly formed informal group called “CIAO: Columbus Italian Ancestry Organization” had a kickoff meeting with a purpose to start the journey and preserve the rich Italian American family legacy many in the group share. The first meeting of about twenty-five members was held on February 18, 2024, at the Italian Cultural Center of the historic Italian Catholic church of Saint John the Baptist (Chiesa Italiana di San Giovanni Battista - located in Columbus’ Italian Village) which in 2023 celebrated its 125th anniversary.

Many thanks go out to our paesani up the road north of Columbus in Cleveland, for they already have a well-established group since 2008 going strong with efforts to research Italian family history through genealogical research. CIAO Cleveland and CIAO Columbus plan to collaborate our shared efforts going future.

CIAO Columbus is the inspiration of three local residences who share a deep connection with their ancestral town of Introdacqua in the Abruzzo region of Italy. Sisters Ida Tiberi-Shook, Tania-Tiberi Wade, and their distantly related paesan Tina Solazzo had been meeting with a group of people led by Mary Lou Casanta at the Abruzzi Club, a local Columbus Italian club founded in 1947, about genealogy. Over the years, these ladies who are members of the Abruzzi club have been extremely involved with the many Italian American happenings in Columbus including the famous annual Columbus Italian Festival along with preserving the history of St. John the Baptist church.

Columbus like so many other American cities once had close-knit sections of the city where Italian immigrants worked and lived in their own enclave. Today, many proud local Columbus Italian American descendants carry on family businesses, and the traditions of their ancestors before them. Genealogy research is another way to preserve our rich Italian heritage/history and honor our Italian immigrant ancestors who crossed the Atlantic many years ago.

CIAO Columbus is focused on engaging its members on a journey to help them explore and preserve their Italian family heritage/legacy.  And along the way, cultivate connections across the larger Italian American community. I am proud and grateful to be a part of CIAO Columbus!

 About the Author

I was born and raised in the Italian enclave of South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (South Philly). I currently reside in Columbus, Ohio.  As a proud third-generation Italian American I have enjoyed informal writing as a hobbyist regarding my family and my Italian American experience. I am the proud grandson, descendant of Italian immigrants who emigrated to America during the Great Arrival and settled in Philadelphia. On my paternal side my grandparents Francesco and Caterina (Tropiano) Leto emigrated (circa 1910) from Santa Caterina dello Ionio (Calabria). On my maternal side my grandparents Aniello and Elisa (Basile) Lucera emigrated (circa 1902/1910) from Comune di Biccari (Puglia).

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