Discovering Lost Family

DISCOVERING LOST FAMILY by Lauren Agnelli of Chester, CT My father’s side of the family, the Agnellis, were by nature not an outgoing or friendly bunch, so by the time my father died in 1974 at the young age of 43, we never heard from any of them except our beloved great Aunt Toots and Uncle Ambie -- who had always been regular visitors. So the only other Agnellis we knew of were our father, his two brothers, his dad and his mom, our grandparents. By 1974, half of them were gone, and the two brothers never stayed in touch after grandpa’s death and so. . . Back in the ‘60s when I was growing up I did remember, once, hearing about some “country cousins” we had up in Connecticut somewhere, but the reference was so vague it seemed to me like something mythical, an urban legend. Urban animals all, the Agnellis in our family resided in the boroughs of the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens, all a part of greater New York City. We were writers, pilots, salesmen, CFOs, Public Relations professionals, Executive Secretaries. Fast forward to 2005, when I was living in a beautiful place that I’d been purposefully transplanted to in the state of Connecticut. Before this, I’d been a long time lower Manhattan resident, leading an artsy bohemian life supplemented by office work. I finally moved out of the city in 2003 to pursue a change-of-career and earn a Masters degree in Bridgeport, Connecticut. In my new Connecticut life, I studied, worked, moved residences from Milford to Bridgeport to Portland and, in 2005, fell in love with a Connecticut man named Matthew Male who became my husband. Also in 2005, after looking for a home to settle down in all my life, I bought my first property: nearly an acre of land with an old farmhouse and a smaller carriage house a hop away. Now the small town of Chester, Connecticut, became home to me, my husband Matthew, and his three daughters. As I haven’t changed my last name, I was still an Agnelli and the purchase of our Chester home became public record. The local paper publishes these weekly real estate transactions -- and that was where a small, elderly lady and her daughter saw my name in print. Thus it was one late summer’s day in 2005, this strange woman sort of hobbled up to our back door, announcing herself with these words: “Hello, I think we might be related.” (But even if she hadn’t used that opening line I wouldn’t have thrown her out!) So I invited her in, “Really? Huh, that’s cool. Come on in, would you like some tea, a glass of water, something??” This nice older woman told me her name: Helen Agnelli Phinney. At that time, she must have been in her early 80s. She was a neighbor, living just up the road from us, on Meadow Lane, about 6 houses away. That’s two coincidences: I finally meet another Agnelli, and she lives within shouting distance. Amazingly, YES, Helen Agnelli Phinney and I were related because her father was my grandfather’s older brother. Apparently, when the Agnelli family moved to America in 1903 from Italy, there were several young families with Agnelli brothers who brought over their wives and in some cases, their parents. Her side of the Agnelli family settled in Chester, Connecticut, to farm the land and raise horses. The Chester Agnellis were part of the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church congregation, and her parents and some other Agnellis were buried in that graveyard, just barely 2 miles from our homes. Helen and I chatted amiably and she hoped that her daughter, Heather, and I would meet. The third coincidence came when one of my other nice new Chester neighbors, a newly retired widow who volunteered for the historical society and the library committee, chatted with me ten years later about the Agnellis. “My grandmother was an Agnelli,” Diane Narducci Lindsay told me. Friendly, helpful Diane had blue eyes, sandy brown hair and pale skin -- similar to my grandfather, Joe Agnelli. “That makes us second cousins twice removed. Would you like a copy of a family photo from when they all first emigrated to America in 1903?” offered this kind, intelligent, and genial woman, Diane. So. There are three lovely instances, all related to my discovering the lost Connecticut branch of the Agnelli family -- quite by coincidence. . . . or is it??!!
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Date submitted:Sun, 24 Mar 2019 14:38:29 +0000Coincidence ID:10221