Let Me Introduce you To ... Mary Tedesco of Genealogy Roadshow

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Let me introduce you to ... Mary M. Tedesco. You may recognize Mary; not only is she a professional genealogist, speaker, and author, Mary is also a Host/Genealogist on the PBS TV series “Genealogy Roadshow” (season 2), as well as theFounder of ORIGINS ITALY. 

Mary speaks Italian and travels often to Italy toconduct client genealogical research and visit family. She is the co-author of“Tracing Your Italian Ancestors” an 84-page Italian research guide published byMoorshead Magazines. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from BostonUniversity and a Certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University’sCenter for Professional Education. 

In addition to her Italian ancestry(Calabria, Trentino-Alto Adige, and Tuscany) on her father’s side, Mary also hasdeep American roots (German, Irish, Danish & English) on her mother’s side,and is a proud member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Mary is amember of a number of local and national genealogical societies and serves onthe Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Genealogical Council. 

Q & A With Mary Tedesco

Genealogists.com: How many years have you been involved in genealogy?

Mary: Igot started in genealogy about nine years ago, but my mother tells me I havebeen collecting family stories since I was a toddler!

Genealogists.com: How did you get involved?

Mary: Growingup, I listened with intense curiosity to the stories my grandparents and otherfamily members told about long-deceased ancestors from Italy. I wanted to knowtheir names and how they were related to me and everyone else in the family.These were the greatest people I’d never be able to meet, and I wanted to knowmore about them.

In2006, a coworker loaned me his login to a genealogy website to search for mygrandparents’ passenger lists from Italy. I haven’t looked back since. At thetime, there were few educational resources for how to get started with Italiangenealogy, so I turned to my grandmother. She helped me compose my first letterto a civil records office in Rovereto, Italy to request her own birth record.We continued the letter writing together and obtained my grandfather’s birthrecord from San Pietro a Maida, Italy and my grandparents’ marriage record fromRome, Italy. Then we continued with the requests until we were back to mygrandmother’s grandparents and my grandfather’s great-grandparents. At thatpoint, the city halls told us we’d reached the beginning dates of the civilrecords, and we would need to contact the churches next for more information.That’s exactly what I did (and am still actively doing), of course. Since myfamily comes from three different parts of Italy (Calabria, Trentino-AltoAdige, and Tuscany) researching my own roots will keep me busy and Alitalia inbusiness for many years to come!

Genealogists.com: How has genealogy changed your life?

Mary: It’sa gift to be able to wake up each day and do something that I love. Thispassion inspired me to start a company called ORIGINS ITALY. We focus primarilyon Italian and Italian-American genealogical research. As a Host on “GenealogyRoadshow” (PBS), I’m honored to share moving family stories with each of ourguests on the show. It’s a pleasure to help show people how very cool it is tobe a genealogist and to discover your past. Answering people’s deepestcuriosities about their roots will never get old.

Genealogists.com: What do you love about family history?

Mary: Every dayas a genealogist is different. No two families are the same. Each of our ancestorshas a unique and special story that deserves to be discovered and told. Goingbeyond names and dates, our ancestors lived during and through all the majorhistorical events like wars, political upheavals, economic booms and busts, andall the other milestones that are studied in traditional history classes.Through family research, you can discover how seminal events of world historyimpacted the lives of our ancestors. It’s fascinating and endlessly intriguing.

Genealogists.com: What’s your favorite part of the search process?

Mary: Conductingonsite research in Italy is by far the coolest part of my job. The nerd in mefinds onsite research exhilarating. Setting out on a new client project withall the unknowns and challenges that Italy has to offer on the research frontis never boring! At the onset of the trip you don’t know where the research isgoing or where exactly it will lead. On any given research trip some locationspecific challenges may include: records access issues, limited hours atessential archives, missing records (whether they were lost to time, in anatural disaster, etc). Has the client’s family been in the same Italian townfor a thousand years or only half a generation? The good news for our clientsis that we closely monitor and constantly refine our research approach inItaly. I draw upon a lot of the skills I learned from my background inmathematics and finance to make our research approach methodical, sound, andanalytic.

Genealogists.com: What is your least favorite part of the genealogy process?

Mary: Thereisn’t much I don’t like about genealogy. Citations weren’t always my favoritething, but I’ve actually grown to love them. As a researcher, I want to giveothers – clients, other professionals, etc – the ability to examine my work andget back to the original source. In research, this is of the utmost importance.

Genealogists.com: What do you believe is the most difficult part of family historyresearch?

Mary: It’ssometimes very difficult to stop researching when the client-commissionedresearch has concluded. A lot of times, I wish I could just keep going deeperand deeper into every family’s past, discovering more and more about thatfamily’s history, traditions and culture. I become akin to that family and Idon’t want to stop learning all about them. But, alas, the business ofgenealogy requires that I survive and pay my bills, so I have to stop. Still, Iwish I could do it for free.

Genealogists.com: If you could sit and chat with one ancestor who would it be? Andwhat would you ask them?

Mary: Thisquestion is fantastic! I’d want to chat with my fourth great grandparents, theparents of my third great grandmother Maddalena Mironi. I do not know whattheir names were, and may never know. Maddalena Mironi was abandoned at theHospital of San Sebastiano in Siena, Italy on 19 October 1857. There is noanger or resent, but I would just like to know the circumstances surroundingthe abandonment of this baby girl. Was it an out-of-wedlock birth or anothermore difficult circumstance? Regardless of the circumstances, I’d love to knowwhat happened. What I do think is that they’d be proud of our family.

Genealogists.com: Anything else you’d like to add?

Mary: Inthis world of care and concern, I find comfort in the past. Our ancestorsmanaged to navigate both the tribulations and the joys of their times andbrought their families forward to us, to this world. We learn from them, fromtheir lives that we will continue to survive and progress through thevicissitudes of our modern lives, and that we will have the strength, thepower, the character to overcome our challenges to fulfill our destinies…Itwill make us worthy of both our ancestors and our descendants.

Mary can becontacted @ www.originsitaly.com

Next Wednesday I'll speak with Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings about his love of genealogy.


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Written by


April 8, 2015
Wesley is the founder of hello@traceyourpast.com.

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