September 23, 2017

A Family History Murder Mystery: The New Genealogy Gems Book Club Pick

“A  true story of passion, family, and forgiveness in Southern Italy.” The subtitle to this family history murder mystery promises a LOT–and it delivers! It’s the new pick from the popular Genealogy Gems Book Club.

 

As a child, Helene Stapinski heard stories about her great-great-grandmother who fled Italy–with young children in tow–after being involved in a murder. Parts of the story were vague: who was killed? Why? When? How? Nobody knew. But other details were startlingly precise and consistent. She had to leave her husband behind. A man named Grieco helped her escape. A child was lost on the way to America.

Years later, Helene embarked on a 10-year quest to learn the truth behind this family legend. Her journey took her to Matera, Italy, “a province tucked away in the farthest reaches of Southern Italy…filled with such intense poverty that no one really liked to talk about it.” On her first trip, Helene got to know the region, some distant cousins, and a bit of local history–but came away with few answers about any actual murder. Other than that some of the locals didn’t want her prying into it.

But she didn’t give up.

And eventually, after traveling again to Italy, her determination and a small band of helpers led her finally to a 600-page criminal file from November of 1872.

It was true: there was a murder. But it wasn’t exactly as the family had said. In fact, the truth was SO different that Helene realized her family was not who she thought they were. And that meant Helene herself was not who she thought she was.

The rest, you can read for yourself in Helene’s new memoir, Murder in Matera: A True Story of Passion, Family, and Forgiveness in Southern Italy. It’s part history, part re-imagined family story. It’s a story of poverty and power, love, tragic decisions, and a courageous and desperate woman’s leap for a new life across the ocean. Helene continues to unravel a past that she explored in her fantastic first family history memoir, Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History, an all-time favorite of mine. I read it again whenever I need a little boost of motivation to keep my own research going. Helene is so fantastic at telling her family stories within the bigger picture of the times they lived in–and her personal response reminds me how important my own family stories are to my own identity.

The rest, you can read for yourself in Helene’s new memoir, Murder in Matera: A True Story of Passion, Family, and Forgiveness in Southern Italy. The noted journalist continues to unravel a past that she explored in her fantastic first family history memoir, Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History. This new book is part history, part re-imagined family story. It’s a story of poverty and power, love, tragic decisions, and a courageous and desperate woman’s leap for a new life across the ocean.

Watch below as Helene introduces us to her genealogical journey:

New to the Genealogy Gems Book Club?

The Genealogy Gems Book Club serves up delectable reading choices for family history lovers! You’ll find top titles from best-selling authors from around the world: novels and true stories about families, family relationships, the search for identity or fascinating times in history. Click here to see what’s been on the menu lately.

…And thanks for sharing this recommended reading with your genealogy buddies!

About Sunny

Sunny Morton is a genealogy writer whose work is read by thousands in magazines and online. As a Contributing Editor at Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems, she frequently posts on the news, but also loves to share quick research tips, reveal little-known resources or take genealogists for an exhilarating dive into deeper research topics and techniques. She's also the author of My Life & Times: A Guided Journal for Collecting Your Stories.

Comments

  1. Thanks for bringing “Murder in Matera” to your podcast listeners. I would to mention to your listeners that Ms. Stapinski will be at the Brattleboro Literary Festival, October 12-15, in Brattleboro, Vt. Our schedule will be posted at the Festival web site, http://brattleboroliteraryfestival.org/authors/nonfiction-authors/ in the coming days. The Festival is a great event for book lovers: three days of readings by more than 50 authors in Brattleboro, Vt. located about 100 miles from Boston, Ma; 80 miles from Albany, NY; and 85 miles from Hartford, Ct. Author and CNBC host Bill Griffeth, author of, “Stranger in My Genes,” will read from his book. AmericanAncestors genealogist, Christopher Childs will also be there to interview Bill. All events are free.

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