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Genealogy Meets Home Decor

Updated: Mar 11, 2019

What could I possibly mean by “Genealogy meets home décor”? One of my reasons for writing this week’s post is to offer an idea for wall art. Another is to advocate’s DNA test. The third reason is to tell you a wonderful story.

Starting in reverse order, the story involves the Barsi side of my family. I disclose this name because the person involved goes by a different name. He also lives in New York. Years ago, I came across my grandparent’s address book. Since they were gone, I could not ask them about the entry: Gina Barsi, Baltimore. Because I had pestered my grandparents throughout my childhood to tell me about their families in Italy, I knew that one of my great-grandmother’s name was Barsi. When the internet came to life, I searched for Gina on the Ellis Island website. There she was – about the same age as my grandfather and from the same hill town, Pomezzana di Stazzema. They were first cousins.

I wondered why I had never heard about Gina as I was growing up. It turns out that there was no real mystery other than she was a bit of a rebel and there were 2800 miles separating these cousins. To make a very long story short, all my pestering, along with a trip to Italy, many letters, and the eventual introduction of and Facebook, I’ve been able to create my grandparent’s family trees dating back to the 1500s, including the Barsi line.

A couple of years ago, I took Ancestry’s DNA test. Mama mia! Not only did the results estimate my percentages of various ethnicities, but it also gave me a list of relatives. By the way, you can make up a userid if you want to maintain your privacy.

One day, I received an email from a young man saying he had taken the test and the results showed we were closely related. He said he had been adopted and in the most endearing way, asked, “Can you help me find out who I am?” Then he said, “The only thing I know is that my great-great-grandmother’s name is ….” You guessed it, “Gina Barsi.” I replied, “If Gina lived in Baltimore, you’ve hit the jackpot, and I can tell you exactly who you are!” I then sent him a copy of the Barsi family tree in the form of a poster I had made – which leads to the home décor portion of this column.

On a long wall in my home office, I’ve line up three large, identically-sized posters of family trees. There are a few software programs that offer different tree designs that you can use but I had so many branches that I had to design my own. I created them digitally, with a black and white graphic-arts design in mind. I used my favorite framing technique – white matting with white frames. (This emphasizes the image being framed. White on white works best on deeply colored walls). Although I was going for a clean and modern style, I also added a couple of Old World, Italianesque red flourishes and the emblem for the town of Pomezzana.

These posters not only whisk me away in day dreams when I’m otherwise harried and stressed sitting at my desk but I can help other relatives who contact me through I now regularly communicate with various cousins in France, Italy, Argentina, Brazil, and of course, New York. Who needs Air BnB when you have relatives all over the world.

I realize genealogy does not interest everyone, but most families have at least one determined researcher. If you like to solve puzzles, are interested in history and culture, or want unique, original art, give this hobby some thought.

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