The Halifax Genealogical Society is filled with residents passionate about discovering as much about their ancestry as possible, be it pirates or Italian office clerks.
BY MATT MENCARINI | STAFF WRITER
No two stories are alike. Stories of the past, of ancestors and families trees. And that's what keeps members of the Halifax Genealogical Society so inspired.
Clyde Stickney, the society's president, said he was “shocked” when he found out that two of his ancestors were pirates who sailed the Bahamas before being pardoned by the English government in 1718. That's when they became “respectable citizens,” he said.
Margaret Calvano was “thrilled” when she and her husband, Nick, decided to visit a records office in Vasto, Italy, looking for Nick Calvano’s father’s birth certificate. Instead, they discovered the records clerk was a distant relative, who took them into a back room and dusted off old books, containing the handwriting of other far-away family members.
The Halifax Genealogical Society, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary 1:30 Thursday, Dec. 13, at the Ormond Beach Regional Library, was formed in Sept. 1992, after librarians, unable to help people with genealogy searches, started sending residents to a group who regularly used the library for such activities.
They were people like the Calvanos and Stickneys, who were passionate about uncovering as much of their ancestry as possible.
“You’re never satisfied until you get back to Adam and Eve, which obviously can’t happen,” Stickney said. “But the mindset is always trying to get one more generation.”
He came across his piracy ancestry by chance, as can often happen with genealogical searches.
Stickney said he found a document containing pardons by the English government and was shocked by what he read.
“I just figured they were from England and found their way to the Bahamas,” he said of his family. “I found this list of people being pardoned and thought I’d check and see if I knew anyone on there.”
After their pardon, Stickney said his ancestors earned a legitimate living, as maritimers, and even had a pew at the local church.
However, not everyone in so lucky in their search for relatives. Others, like the Calvanos, have spent years and years looking to fill gaps in their family tree, hoping for anything.
“I had brick walls for years and then this came through,” Margaret Calvano said. “To have this information to bring back to my children is the most wonderful thing. I don't know how else to describe it.”
Nick Calvano made a connection, over the internet, with a relative living in Saludecio, Italy, and, in 2001, during a visit, he and his wife stopped in Vasto, where his family originated.
The records office clerk had their same last name and turned out to be a relative. He gave them a printout of a family tree dating back to the 1700s, with names Margaret Calvano had never been able to find.
“He was as excited as we were to make a connection,” she said.
They remain in contact with family in both Vasto and Saludecio.
Genealogical searches are easier nowadays than they used to be, though, thanks to technology. Before the internet, when the Calvanos lived in Maryland, Margaret would travel to the national archives and look at documents on microfilm.
Now, all of that information is a few clicks away. But the basic strategy for genealogical research hasn’t changed.
“Basically, what you’ve got to do in genealogy, is search backwards,” Stickney said, “starting with yourself.”