One hundred years after the first member of the Barci family emigrated to America, four generations gathered to remember their Italian roots and learn more about their history.
On July 27, nearly 70 members of the extended Barci family attended a reunion at Belmont Lake State Park in North Babylon. Older generations looked through family photos while younger folks crowded around picnic tables strewn with sandwiches and chased a family dog. But they were all there to commemorate the brave journey of Angelo Barci from Tarsia, Italy, to Ellis Island on April 29, 1914.
"He was just 21 years old, did not speak English, and left his whole family, and just got on a boat and crossed the ocean," said Michael Score, 62, a maternal grandson of Angelo Barci. "That's just amazing!"
Barci came to America to escape being drafted for World War I and to search for greater opportunity than the farming job he had in Italy. His wife, Maria Sinopoli, who married Barci on Jan. 29, 1911, joined her husband in America in 1915, after he had settled as a construction worker living in a tenement under the Brooklyn Bridge. They eventually settled in Valley Stream.
Angelo and Maria had 12 children -- nine of whom survived to reach adulthood -- from which came 27 grandchildren, 50 great-grandchildren and 33 great-great-grandchildren. Barci managed to start his own construction company, which he supervised for more than 40 years with the help of his sons, and is still in existence today. He died in 1970 at the age of 78; his wife passed away a year later.
Score, a Valley Stream native now residing in Sarasota, Florida, remembers his grandparents vividly, after visiting them for many years at their home. But he knew very little about his extended family living in Italy.
A high school project about his family tree in 1969 sparked Score's initial interest in the relatives he had never met. Seven years later, on a trip to Europe, Score snuck away from his tour group to visit Tarsia.
"It turns out the whole village was related to me practically," Score said. He estimated nearly 500 people of the approximately 800 living in Tarsia were related to him.
But exploring his family history would take more than just one day. So, 36 years later, in 2012, he returned to Tarsia and stayed for a month.
"I wanted to experience living in my grandparents' hometown," Score said. "Every day I was there, a different relative would have me for dinner."
Score was able to communicate with his newly-found relatives effectively enough to trace his family roots in Italy back to 1763. When he returned, he was determined to share what he had learned with his American relatives. He planned a reunion to celebrate 100 years of his family in America and to reunite with cousins he hadn't seen in almost 30 years. He even invited relatives he has never met and only discovered by researching his family tree on Ancestry.com.
Carmela Massaro, 88, of St. James, a family friend who grew up with Angelo and Maria's children, also attended the reunion.
"It was nice," said Massaro, while sitting at a picnic table in the park, surrounded by old pictures of the Barci family. "Michael had called me and said, 'Would you come?' and I said, 'Of course!' "
Score had T-shirts made for the reunion that read "Barci Family Reunion" written in the colors of the Italian flag, and even created a family coat of arms for the event. The coat of arms was printed on a poster and stood on an easel at the entrance on the pavilion in Belmont Lake State Park, for the family to see as they arrived. It was complete with symbols representing the towns in which Angelo and Maria Barci were born; the Brooklyn Bridge; St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters; and symbols representing integrity and love for one's country.
"It's just so fantastic to get all these generations together," said North Babylon’s Barbara Barci, 77, daughter-in-law of Angelo and Maria, as she laid out food for the guests. "I'm so overwhelmed with the response. They're coming from all over -- Connecticut, Florida, Rochester."
Score was grateful to be part of the Barci family tree.
"I've always been proud of my Italian heritage," Score said. " And I was very glad to see that rekindled with my family."