Finding nonna

Guest blogger, Cathy Crenna, writes about her family history research and creating a  family tree for her nonna who was born in Caselle di Altivole, provincia di Treviso, Veneto, Italia. Part 2 will be posted on 4 October.

Catherine Crenna, summer garden, Belleville, Ontario, September 2020

My name is Catherine Crenna. I am Canadian, born in 1953 to an Italian mother Guelphina Giovanditto, and an Austrian-Hungarian/German father, Peter Fischbach.  I live in a lovely part of Ontario where I spend my time gardening, cooking, sewing and researching family history!

My nonna, Angelina Botter, born in 1900 in Caselle di Altivole, Treviso, Veneto, Italia arrived in Canada in 1927 at the age of 27. She landed at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia and travelled to Guelph, Ontario to a marriage arranged by her older sister Onorina who had arrived in Canada in 1926.  The man who was to become her husband, and our nonno, was Vincenzo Giovanditto, born in 1892 in Sannicandro Garganico, Foggia.

Bortolo Botter & Carolina Dametto, Caselle di Altivole, c 1900

Nonna had very few stories to share about her childhood growing up in Caselle.  It was arranged for her to go to Venice at the age of 16 to work creating fine needlework and embroidery for a wealthy Venetian family.  Her two elder sisters Amalia and Onorina also went into service at the age of 16, sending their wages back home to support the family. The poverty and lack of opportunity in the Veneto forced many to leave their home in search of a better life, a common immigrant story.  Some went very far, crossing oceans to the North American, South American, and Australian continents.   Sister Amalia remained behind.  We lost touch with her and her family. Old letters and postcards didn’t provide enough information to find her.  I wanted to find out more about Amalia.  I went searching for zia.

Amalia Botter – Milan, date unknown

Family Tree
The first step I used in researching family history was to create a family tree.  I would recommend you start by gathering information on your family using what you already know.  Look at family records, pictures, old birth and death notices and family albums. Check the newspaper archives in your country and in the country of your ancestor’s birth. Visit  a free service to locate family resting places. Click here to visit

Ask relatives to help fill in the blanks.  Visit grandparents, aunts and uncles and ask about their family stories. Tap into that wealth of information.  Once you have gathered your information, put it together in a tree. The Family Tree will help visualize your family and its connections to other families.

Angelina and Vincenzo wedding, Guelph-Ontario, July 9 1927
Bortolo Botter & Carolina Dametto - family tree screenshot
Bortolo Botter & Carolina Dametto – family tree screenshot

There are many online tools to help build a Family Tree. The largest and most comprehensive free website is Family Search . You can create your family tree and view the family trees of others.

Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com are two of the largest commercial databases for building family trees.  They allow you to create your tree at no charge, but you cannot view other trees or do research on stored records without paying a fee. Also click here for a European focus.

However, your local library may have a subscription to the Library Version of Ancestry that will give you access to all the records for no charge. Some libraries will also help you create your family tree and advise you on where the best research resources are located.

Love of Italian language and cooking
I combine my fascination with Italian cooking and with the Italian language by watching cooking videos in Italian.  Two of my favourites are “The Pasta Grannies” and “Fatto in Casa di Benedetta”

They are fun to watch as well as being educational!

Cathy Crenna
20 September 2020


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