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

Agents of Change

Ja-Naé Duane

Ja-Naé Duane

Change is a tough subject. Many people hold on to habits and ideas. What can make people change? What can make a household, or a community, or a city change? And how can a few forward-thinking people be Agents of Change?

These are the types of questions we will be discussing when Ja-Naé Duane come to visit the Triad on her Agents of Change Tour on Wednesday, September 4th at noon at the Moose Cafe, at the Piedmont-Triad Farmers Market.

Ja-Naé  is no stranger to these types of events, a few years ago she came through Greensboro as her and a few friends made their way across the U.S. on the Our Revolution tour.

[quote]The goal of the Agents of Change Tour: To restore creativity to the soul of the world![/quote]

When I asked her what the agenda would be for this lunch meeting Ja-Naé  said, “I want to have a conversation about the economic development of the Triad area, what is working, and where is there a place to start collaborating.” “The goal is to come away with an action item to build up our local cities.”

As someone who has done this is major communities across the nation, Ja-Naé should give a unique, experienced perspective on the types of questions that many of us ask regularly about our area.

Join us on Wednesday, September, 4th at noon for lunch and invigorating discussion about these lofty issues, and how we can make them into reality in our area. This is a free event. (you just pay from your own lunch) We will be in a private room at the Moose Cafe, at the Piedmont-Triad Farmers Market.

Please contact Jeff here, or via Twitter if you have any questions, or to let us know if you will be coming.

Here is the TEDx talk on Happiness that Ja-Naé gave earlier this summer:


About Ja-Naé Duane

One-woman revolution Ja-Naé Duane is an intrepid speaker, strategist, social scientist, artist, creative economist, and author of How to Start Your Business with $100 has captured the media’s attention, appearing in The Associated Press, NPR, Classical Singer Magazine, The Boston Globe, and Business Week. Her impressive skill set and unwavering commitment to improving the quality of life for the global community garnered Ja-Naé a nomination as one of New England’s Most Innovative Leaders of 2007. Ja-Naé spearheads a plethora of ventures as CEO of Wild Women Entrepreneurs, CEO of Ja-Naé Duane Ventures, Co-Founder of the Massachusetts Artist Leaders Coalition, and Founder of The Leaders. Additionally, Ja-Naé is a professional opera singer, a social media strategist, and a faculty member at Northeastern University. Her latest book, “How to Create a Revolution: A Step-by-Step Guide to History’s Social Influencers” can be found on Amazon and iTunes.

Contact Jeff

Get in touch with Jeff