Finding Out Who I Am

The search for meaning has consistently been one of mankind’s biggest distractions and aspirations. The questions “Who Am I” , and “Why Am I Here” resonate with most people. Like many people, I have grappled with both of these questions for most of my life. I have gone through thoughts and exercises to explore the “why” of my life, but until recently, the question “Who Am I”, had felt somewhat incomplete.

Who Am I?

Sangiorgi coat of arms

Sangiorgi coat of arms circa 1669

Recently I had a revelation about who I am, and where I came from in relation to my ancestry. My father’s family to be exact. The information that was shared with me has deeply affected me and gotten me thinking about my family history and my relation to others in ways that I never imagined.

Like everything these days, it all started with facebook. I was checking recent facebook messages when I saw that I had some unread messages in the often-overlooked “other” tab that is reserved for people that aren’t your friends. There I read short month-0ld message was from someone named Chuck St. George and was asking who my great-grandfather was.  He was asking the right person. I’ve been trying to track down information on the SanGeorge family, and specifically my great-grandfather, for years.

I knew that my great-grandfather Orazio SanGeorge and his wife Madeline Zanghi immigrated to the US from Sicily, but that was pretty much all I, or the rest of my family knew. The family tree stopped at the US border.

It’s not that I felt unconnected, but something felt incomplete because I didn’t know any more than that.
Who were my great-grandfathers and great grandmother’s parents? Why did they leave Sicily? I felt deep gratitude and curiosity towards these two, who at a young age decided to leave the old-country behind to risk everything on the dream of America.

my paternal great-grandparents Orazio and Madalena Sangiorgi

My great-grandparents, Orazio and Madalena Sangiorgi

It turns out that Chuck St. George was indeed my cousin and he  had done some extensive family research and tracked the SanGeorge family all the way back to the mid 1700’s in Sicily!  His research revealed many of the things I was looking for all of this time. One of the big revelations to the whole family what that for at least the past 300 years, our family name was Sangiorgi, not San Giorgio as we were all told, and not SanGeorge, Saint George, St. George or San George, as we are named now. If you are interested, here is a copy of the Sangiorgi family tree (click to enlarge).

I also learned that my great, great grandfather Francesco Sangiorgi had nine children, all of whom were born in Valledolmo, Sicily, and most of whom settled in the Western New York/Buffalo, NY area, where my family is from.
In the past I’ve met people in Buffalo with the name Saint George or St. George, or people with family with those names, but I never knew that they were actually my cousins. In one odd circumstance, it turns out that one of my closest friends is actually my cousin.

Another interesting fact is it that the town of Valledolmo, Sicily experienced a mass exodus in the mid 1800’s. Record indicate that up to 8,000 people left that town to arrive, and settle down in the Buffalo New York area. Suddenly my home town and my life seems much smaller, and more connected.

Not only does this information give me more complete vision of my family, it also connects me to a much larger Italian-American community in Buffalo. I’ve been given a gift of a window into the past. A vision of the the faith, the risk and the sacrifice that my fore-fathers took. It gives me a greater appreciation for my current life and the privileges I have because of them. I owe them a debt of gratitude for having the  foresight and courage to endeavor for a better world for them and their families.

Since then I’ve recreated the Sangiorgi Family Coat or Arms, Click here to see it and/or and buy a sticker.

Sicilian Proverb:“ Chi lascia la via vecchia per la nuova, sa quel che perde e non sa quel che trova” Whoever forsakes the old way for the new way knows what he is losing, but not what he will find.” Sicilian Proverb

Contact Jeff

Get in touch with Jeff