What I Have Learned by Marissa Perry

As I have researched my past family, I was surprised to find that I am Greek and Italian and only partially Native American. I have thought that I would have had a higher percentage of Native American. It was interesting to see where I was from since I knew I was predominately from Sicily. It was also easier to consider the past with the records that I had, that were not from ancestry.

I have mentioned before that my family is positive on the Italian side. We know where we come from and who we originate from. When it comes to my mother’s side, we are unsure because we have not been able to trace her family line. My mother’s father knows that he is from Mexico. He was the last child of twelve children with only three of the twelve remaining today. My grandma, or my mother’s mom, knows that she is from New York and she does not know her origin so it has been hard for us to differentiate where we are from. Since I am primarily Italian and Greek, we know that our country of origin is Sicily and we are from Palermo. Palermo is known for their rolling green hills and olive tree farms.


The national flag of Italy.

As far as the family history on the Italian side, a lot of the family has worked in the labor industry. The women mostly stayed home with the children and tended to the home. As far as connections to actual history, I was told that some of my uncles were involved in the mob, but I was not given much information on that. There were not many connections to history as far as I am concerned.

The languages my family spoke was Italian, English and Spanish. I cannot speak any other language than English, and I wish that I was able to. I grew up around my grandfather on my mother’s side speaking Spanish and English and my grandmother on my father’s side speaking Italian. Especially while cooking she would sing Italian songs. I believe that my past relatives who came over form Sicily learned how to speak English once they came to live in the Brentwood area.

My family in the present day chose not to be religious and not to go to church. In the past my family has been Christian and always went to church. My parents made the decision to not involve my brother and I in church. I remember going when I was little with my father’s side because my grandmother always wanted us to go since her family in Italy would go every week.

My family’s values are and always have been, “Family First.” This is a firm belief on both sides of the family because we believe that blood is thicker than water or il sangue non è acqua as my grandmother would say. Family will always be there for you no matter what and my father has told me time and time again to never forget that. Another one of our family values is eating meals together. This was very important to my Italian grandmother and she would have dinner every Sunday with all the family. This is something that we no longer do since she has passed on but it will something I continue to do after I have children of my own.

The missing story that I would most like to learn about is the uncles who were in the mob. I just want to know the history behind what Italian mob and what my uncles did. They were very family oriented and from pictures I have seen they seemed very suave. It would be intriguing to learn about their work with the mob and the history behind that. These uncles lived in New York around this time, I am not sure what year. I have seen numerous pictures of them and they do look as if they could be in the mob. They had the typical Italian mobster look, which I think would be an interesting story to tell my children.

I do have many family heirlooms from my father’s side. My grandmother had given me her jewelry box from Italy. It still has all her jewelry and jewelry from her past relatives as well. I have chosen not to touch it and to keep everything in there as is. It is important to me that her items remain untouched so that the stories behind them will not change. There are many items that her mother and her mother’s mom have worn on their wedding day that I will not remove from the box. These pieces hold memories and a past that I believe should not be altered by the present and that remains true to me today. As the box is in my closest on a shelf untouched.

My grandmother’s name was Lavernne Passfiume. I have her last name tattooed on my back and it is important to me because the name means, ferryman, or the man who crosses the river. It is originated from Sicily and it applies since there are many rivers near Palermo where we are from. This name is uncommon in the United States and therefore I cherish the last name, also why I have it tattooed on my body. On ancestry, it mentioned that there were only 495 people with that last name living in the U.S in the year 2010.

My personal interests do feed off onto what my ancestors have done. My family have always been interested in cooking and I enjoy cooking to the fullest. There is something about cooking for a group of people and sitting down to the meal together that is so fulfilling. I also enjoy writing which a lot of the women in my family have held journals in the past.

The few things that surprised me the most was how little they knew about the native American side of me. I wish I could learn a little more about that so I can sit down with my grandfather and discuss his past as much as I have discussed with my father’s side. Overall this whole process has been an intriguing one. I have learned a lot about my family that I did not know in the past and I am thankful that our class could participate in this process.

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