thegenealogygirl


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Photograph Showcase: Grandpa Costello & His Guitar, aka Photo Heaven ❤️

COSTELLO, John playing his guitar, November 1960

John Costello, November 1960. Photo courtesy of Barbara Costello.

In May of this year, I shared my joy at finding 7 seconds of video of my great grandfather, John Costello.  In that post I shared that I have exactly 5 photos of my great grandfather.

Guess what?

That is not the case any longer!!

 

{Insert major genealogy happy dancing & celebrating right here.}

 

In July, my sister visited our grandaunt Barbara.  Barbara is the widow of Dan Costello.  Dan is the son of our great grandfather, John Costello.

Aunt Barbara sent my sister home with a lovely chalk drawing created by John’s wife, that I shared last week.  She also sent her home with a small, but very precious, bundle of photographs for me to scan and return.

This photo of Grandpa Costello was among them.  My heart is bursting with joy to see Grandpa Costello in – what I am guessing is his living room? – playing his guitar.  He didn’t like having his picture taken, so each photo is extra special.  Here is, as a 67 year old man, still playing his guitar.  Be still my heart.

❤️

 

Have you been blessed to have photos shared with you, photos you weren’t expecting to ever see?

 

 

ps – Thank you!! for all of the input and advice about my letter collection.  I really appreciate each of your comments, emails, and poll answers.  Between all of you and some conversations with family, I think I have made a tentative plan.  I think.  The part I know for sure is that I will not be sharing the letters here.  My goal is to be ready to begin sharing them with family in January.

As a side note, my sister talked me through every possible way of sharing, all of the issues to consider – both for those who are deceased and those who are living, plus the time required for each avenue.  In all of that discussing, she helped me have an interesting and very valuable a-ha moment.  There are letters missing.  I know this for sure.  There are also letters that have been edited by scissors or permanent marker – by Grandma.  That leads us to believe that she definitely destroyed many letters, leaving no trace, and that the ones that remain that were marked “destroy”, were either too special to her to destroy or she changed her mind about their fate.  We can’t know for certain, but it has impacted our position on how to handle those letters.  One thing all of this has caused me to reflect upon, is what my own wishes are for my personal items like journals and letters.  Hopefully I can make my wishes clear so one day my granddaughter will know exactly what I would have wanted her to do.

 

 


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Photograph Showcase: Grandma Costello’s Art

COSTELLO, Mary, 1939 sailboat art - smaller

This lovely little sailboat was created by my Great Grandma Mary Brown Young Costello in 1939 using chalk.  It appears to be an oil chalk.  My great aunt recently gave it to my sister who brought it straight to me to scan.

What a little treasure!  Grandma Costello was very talented.  She crocheted, cross-stitched, tatted, arranged flowers at a flower shop, and apparently created beautiful chalk drawings.

Aunt Barbara said that Grandpa Costello didn’t like her to draw.  I’m curious about that.  I wish I had been there to ask a few follow-up questions.  Like, did he dislike her art or the time she spent?  Or did she go somewhere to take a class and maybe that was his issue?  Expense, time, or a handsome art teacher?  😉

I am so happy my sister has a new family treasure to love and that she allowed me to capture a high quality scan so we can all enjoy Grandma Costello’s art.

 

Do you have any artists in your family?  How do you preserve and share their work?

 

ps – This drawing is framed under glass.  I did not remove it from the frame because of it’s age and the fact that it was created with chalk.  I scanned it on a high quality flat-bed scanner at my local family history center.  It turned out great!  I scanned it as a .tiff at about 1200 dpi so that family members could print the image in whatever size they prefer.  I sized it down and saved it as a .jpeg to share here.


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John Costello’s DNA – Well, half of it.

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 3.28.41 PM

John Costello, my great-grandfather

 

Just last week I shared my amazing, once-in-a-lifetime find of 7 seconds of video footage of my great-grandfather John Costello.  I continue to delight in it and probably will for the rest of my life.

Seeing John has been so enlightening.  Especially when it is coupled with some recent DNA results.  The last few weeks have felt like “the big reveal” in a few key ways.

Here is what I have always known – John was born in Barcelona to a Spanish mother and an Italian father.  Pretty simple and straightforward.  John was Catholic and attended Mass regularly – usually twice each week his whole adult life.  His wife Mary, who was a Protestant, was baptized Catholic after his death so that she could be buried next to him in a Catholic cemetery.

John had two sons who each had two sons.  From those four grandsons, there are four great-grandsons.  That gave me a potential of ten Y-DNA candidates to test.  I chose my Uncle because that was easiest.  My Uncle took a Y-DNA test for me shortly after RootsTech.

The results surprised me.

A lot.

I was expecting my Uncle to match to a bunch of Italian men with Italian surnames, hopefully several men with the same surname, and hopefully at least one who had a tree and was willing to work with me.  I was hoping this test would help me chip away at the John Costello brick wall.

Well…

That is not what happened.

My Uncle matched to 149 men at the 37 markers level.  149 men who ALL have different surnames from each other and from my Uncle.  All different surnames.

Here is a small sampling of some of the surnames on the list:

  • Persson
  • Benowitz
  • Mudd
  • Plotkin
  • Kalmuk
  • Chiprin
  • Meriems
  • Rosenthal
  • Gladtke
  • Mechlowe

There are 139 others.

When I look at his Ancestral Origins list I am seeing this huge list of Eastern and Western European countries like – Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Latvia, Turkey, Hungary, Germany, and Austria.  Notably missing is Italy.  As I am scrolling through this list I keep seeing the same note over and over again – Ashkenazi, Ashkenazi, Ashkenazi.  About 90% of my Uncle’s matches are noted as Ashkenazi.  The rest are not noted with anything.

John Costello’s Italian father was Jewish.

John Costello, who was a devout Catholic, was the son of a man who was, at least on his direct male line, Jewish.  He descended from a male line of Jewish men.

John’s three children who survived infancy never knew that their father was Jewish.  They knew him as a Catholic Spaniard.  So here I am, almost exactly 51 years after his death, discovering a part of himself that he never chose to share.

For many years no one spoke of the fact that he had any Italian blood.  In fact, no one but his children and myself knew that he was half Italian.  His children learned that fact from him, I from research.  It wasn’t until the last few years when I started asking more questions that they were forthcoming with that fact.  Or I suppose it is possible that just my little branch of the family was unaware of his Italian heritage because of separation caused by divorce – and believed this was a new revelation.  Either way, John’s Italian ancestry was a quiet fact.

I wondered if part of the reason behind this was related to his Alien status – a status he held until his death – and the feelings towards Italians during WWII, the internment of Italians during WWII.  Surely, that was an uncomfortable time for him.  Now I wonder if there was more to it.

Now I am wondering how John felt during the war years – Italian and Jewish?

Now I am wondering what happened to his family members on his father’s side during the war years.  I bet he wondered too.  As far as anyone knows, he had no contact with his family after he left.  None of them were literate, or so the story goes.

But all of that leads me to another important question – did he even know any of his father’s family?  His Italian, Jewish father married his Catholic, Spanish mother and they lived in Spain.  Did John ever meet any of his father’s family members?

There are so many more questions now than there were before.

But suddenly I find myself understanding the lack of information just a little bit better.  Or why John may have chosen not to share information.  Jewish persecution is very real and it’s been going on for what feels like forever.  I suppose if you leave your homeland and everyone around you accepts that you are a Spaniard, that is a safe thing to be.

But that means that so much was lost.  So much knowledge and understanding of our family and our family’s roots.  Traditions and faith were left behind.

In fairness, it may well have been John’s father, or grandfather, or great-grandfather who did the leaving and chose not to share information.  I will never know.

Genetically speaking, 12.5% of me is John.  If his father was 100% Jewish, that would make me 6.25% Jewish – assuming the DNA that was passed down reflected the fractions of the tree, which of course is not how that actually plays out.  But for argument’s sake, let’s say that I am 6.25% Jewish.  That is 1/16.  When you look at a family tree – that is a large portion of me.  A portion that I had no inkling was Jewish.

That is a lot of myself that I did not understand.  That I did not know about.

I have so much to learn about this part of my tree.

So much.

Grandpa Costello – you have left me a puzzle that I will keep working on until I solve it.  Even if it takes my entire life.  Even if all I do is stare at the small pieces you left behind until they are emblazoned upon my brain.  Even if those pieces never fit into a bigger picture because so much of the puzzle has been lost to time.  Whatever your or your father’s reasons were for keeping this a secret, I have learned the truth of your ethnic origins.  I honor it, I treasure it, and I will not keep it a secret from our mutual posterity.

And now to commence the learning.

 

 

ps – Are you now ever-so-curious about my ethnicity estimates?  I certainly was after getting my Uncle’s results back.  Well, I have them.  I just got them last week.  I will share them soon.  Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Note:  Y-DNA is passed directly from father to son.  It mutates very infrequently and very slightly over time.  If you have a brick wall or tricky spot in your tree and you have a direct line male who is willing to test, the Y-DNA test is generally considered a pretty lucky and straightforward gift – unless you are Jewish or from one of a few other ethnic groups with their own unique challenges.  That doesn’t mean the test won’t help you, it just won’t be simple and straightforward like it is for many other groups of people.  If you have questions about the four different types of DNA tests and when you might use them, this is a great read.  If you don’t yet understand that those Ancestry commercials that encourage tossing the lederhosen for a kilt are not accurately representing the limits of ethnicity estimates, read this.

 


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My 7-second, $450 Miracle

Scanned Image 101200097

John Costello, front and center, looking away and pointing.

John Costello is my great grandfather.

 

My Mom knew him.

He died when she was about 11.

But more importantly, his three children that survived infancy were all still alive until November of 2015 when Uncle Dan died.

I have been grilling them for years.  (Nicely)

But…

John Costello is my brick wall.

 

My most recent, most tantalizing, most consuming, most stubborn, solid brick wall.

My collection of tid-bits about him is so small.  And so precious.  Every little bit I add to my John Costello treasury is cause for celebration.  I have exactly 5 pictures of him.  That one up there, plus another shot from this same sitting.  And these:

 

Young and Costello males

L-R: Andrew Young, George Vickers Young, ?, James Young, Alexander “Sandy” Young, John Costello, the two little boys are Vince and Dan.

Young and Costellos

L-R: John Costello, Mary Brown Young, Andrew Young, Catherine Brown, James Young, Alexander “Sandy” Young, George Vickers Young, front: Virginia, Dan, and Vince Costello.

Mary and John Costello

from the back of the photo: Mary and John Costello, Mistrey Castle Phoenix, Arizona, Jan 1965

 

Over Christmas my Mom was in a “I-want-to-get-stuff-outta-my-house” mood.  Among other things, she sent me home with this super-cool-clear-vinyl-60s-mod-flowers-decorated bag filled with old film reels.  She said, “I think it’s mostly dive videos of my Mom, but there may be some other stuff from when I was a kid.”  Intriguing.

(My Grandma was a rescue diver, hence the “dive stuff” comment.)

 

What hidden gems might there be in this magical bag from the 60s?

 

At RootsTech I entered the Larsen Digital drawing and picked up one of their coupons.  After RootsTech I got an email from Larsen Digital to let me know I had won $50 toward their services.  A few weeks later, two days before my RootsTech coupon was set to expire, I was headed in the direction of the closest Larsen Digital drop-off location.  I hadn’t yet figured anything out about the film reels – which had dive stuff and which had childhood stuff – so I just took a deep breath and dropped it all off so that I could take advantage of my coupon and my $50.

The next day I got a call to confirm my order – my nearly $600 order.

Gulp.

 

The one consolation was that they hadn’t yet applied my coupon or my $50 prize.

So, $450 and one month later, I picked up my film reels.

But I was packing to go spend some time with my Dad, so I just threw the thumb-drive in my backpack without watching anything and off I went to good old Kennewick, Washington.

I forgot all about that thumb-drive until my Mom arrived back home from a little trip she had taken.  We had one day together before I headed back home.  During that one day we were both taking care of a few things – she was unpacking, I was packing, laundry, etc.

Sometime in the early afternoon, I passed my backpack and remembered the thumb-drive.  I pulled it out and said, “Mom, let’s see what was on those old film reels.”  We sat at the kitchen table and started watching together.

About 13 minutes, and two video files in, we came across something that absolutely took my breath away.

There was John Costello.

 

Alive, in color, and showing me a 7-second glimpse into his personality.

As soon as his face appeared on screen, both my Mom and I said, “Oh.  {in gentle wonder}  There’s Grandpa Costello.”  After his precious 7-seconds, his wife Mary appears and then my sweet, infant Mom is passed to her Grandma Mary by someone off camera.

That 22-second family moment, immortalized on an old film reel, felt like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, a priceless gift, a miracle.

A good friend taught me how to cut that little clip out of the longer video.

I think I have watched this 22-second video 100 times since last Thursday.  Especially the first 7 seconds.

How is it that those 7 precious seconds have told me more about John Costello the man, than the last 19 years of searching, pouring over records, and asking questions of his children and grandchildren?

I can’t explain it.

But those 7 incredible seconds were worth every single penny of the $450 I spent.

Every.  Single.  Penny.

 

And so my dear readers, I present to you, John & Mary Costello, in all of their color-filled glory.

 

 

My cup runneth over.

 

 

ps – There were 14 film reels in all.  The movies are positively filled with other treasures.  What a joy to have, and what a joy to share with my family.