Mike and Kathryn Lombardi

Mike and Kathryn Lombardi pose for a portrait with their three sons, ca. 1920. Lisa’s grandfather is standing behind his family.

Have you found yourself this summer in a verdant park next to a glassy lake, surrounded by 80 familiar faces of all ages, eating and laughing and catching up, making new friends with old cousins? Did the celebration make you stop to think of the wondrous journey that brought you all together? Was something new discovered that you never anticipated?

The 80 attending our family reunion last month was a wee portion of what two people started in 1909, as all in, the progeny of our common ancestors approaches 300. These ancestors were Michele “Mike” and Kathryn Grimes Lombardi, my paternal great-grandparents. In 1893, nine-year old Mike came from Italy with his mother and after landing at Ellis Island, traveled across the country to Denver where they were reunited with his father, who worked as a laborer for the railroad.

Kathryn’s parents had come from Ireland in 1870 and lived in New York for at least 10 years before moving to Denver, where Kathryn was born in 1883. After attending the Colorado Normal School, she entered her young womanhood as a teacher.

Though I don’t know for certain how Mike and Kathryn met, a few years before they wed, they lived on the same street less than a block away from each other. This was during the time that Mike was working as a stenographer for the Miller Osborn Spice Company. Also working as a stenographer in Denver at the time was a gentleman by the name of Harry V. Loggins, who married Kathryn’s sister, Anastasia, in 1908—the year before Mike and Kathryn wed. It is not much of a stretch of the imagination to consider that Mike and Harry knew each other, one or the other first met a Grimes daughter, then introduced her sister to his friend. Mike and Kathryn had three sons and one daughter, and from these children our family began to grow.

Which brings me to the “something new” aspect of the day. My cousin-in-law Halli is also a genealogist in our family, and to her goes the award for Find of the Year. She had my cousin and uncle take the 23andMe DNA test and when the results came back, discovered a relation living in Golden, Colorado, by the name of Pietrantonio “Tony” Lombardi. Tony contacted Halli and they had a pleasant conversation during which she learned he had written a book entitled “Nonno, Tell Us a Story: The Story of an Italian Family, From the Old World to the New.” She purchased the book from Amazon and brought it to the reunion to share.

The grand coup in connecting with Tony is that he grew up in the same small town as my great-grandfather—Pagliarone, Italy—and his family settled in Denver, Colorado, as my family did, though 65 years later. I have long known that we have a potential legion of relations in the Denver area, but this is the closest we’ve come to finding one. The 23andMe results note that Tony is a third cousin but so far, I have not found our common ancestor. I am hoping to meet and have a conversation with him myself soon, and perhaps we can figure it out.    

I have only been able to read snippets of his book as my father is entrenched in it now, but I know it will shed much light on what life was like for my great-grandfather and his parents. The family names are all there—Lombardi, Carmosino, Iacovetta—and I look forward to more vividly coloring in the lives of these ancestors.

So much to be discovered and enjoyed, at the many tables of a family reunion.

Lisa Lombardi O’Reilly has lived in Carpinteria since 1997 and is a personal and family historian specializing in making heirloom books out of life stories. She is a member of the Association of Personal Historians, the National Genealogical Society and the Association for Professional Genealogists. For more information, visit yourstorieswritten.com and facebook.com/lisa.lombardioreilly; send an email to lloreillybooks@aol.com; or call Lisa at (805) 680-7375.

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