Surprise legacy: Genoese dies convinced she has no relatives, but her father had a secret family in America

It took a long process of reconstructing the family tree to discover that Signora Iole, who died in western Genoa at the age of 99, was not the last of her family. Even if she thought she was. And now, her legacy goes to American siblings that she most likely didn’t know she had.

To understand what happened you have to take a step back and go back to the 30s circa: Iole B., Genoese of Sardinian origin, lived as a child with her family, parents and sister in the Ligurian capital. At one point, her father decides to go and seek his fortune in America, but after a while he loses track of her. He was therefore missing for years, and in 1946, Iole’s mother asked for the presumed death certificate and shortly thereafter she remarried.

The months-long research to reconstruct the family tree

Let’s go back to the present: Iole dies after her sister, unmarried and childless like her, therefore the last of her family. A case is opened in court to manage her assets and a company that deals with genealogy comes into play precisely to make sure that the woman actually had no heirs. And here, after months of research and reconstruction, the sensational discovery: not only had Iole’s father not died in 1946 but, after having lost track of him, he had remarried in the US with another woman and had had three children who are still alive, all three of them over 90, and who therefore inherit the amount – recently liquidated – left by the Italian half-sister, around 80 thousand euros. Not a dizzying sum, but the thrill of rediscovering an important part of one’s family history was certainly great.

“It was about six months’ work – explains a GenoaToday Eleonora Grasso, director of the ED Genealogy company, specialized in genealogical research and hereditary devolution, which is based in Arenzano – when we took charge of the case we started the research by consulting, as always, conservatories, parishes, Municipalities also in Sardinia where the family origin. Of course, when we discovered that the lady’s father was missing in the US, we wanted to investigate further: for us it would not have been the first case of a person who apparently disappeared but actually changed his life in another country. Especially in the first half of the 1900s, when still there was no cross-check and the data was not computerized, it was possible to escape the tracking of one’s state of origin”.

The final twist

Once the father’s family had been identified (who had kept his real name) in a small town in New Jersey, Grasso managed to get in touch via the web with the daughter of one of Iole’s American sisters: “She was in shock, knew nothing – continues Grasso -. But the twist came later: obviously he wanted to talk about it with his now very elderly mother, who unexpectedly confirmed everything, saying that he had never revealed anything partly out of modesty and partly out of shame. He knew that his father had another family in Italy to which he continued to send money for a while. He was also exciting for us as we worked on the case discovering new details day after day.”

And Iole’s mother, who in the meantime was left alone in Italy with two little girls? According to reports, she also knew in reality that her husband was most likely still alive. But she, she lost hope of being able to embrace him again, after years of abandonment, she had rebuilt a life and had requested the act of presumed death in order to be able to remarry. No superstition: in this case the decidedly premature act brought ‘luck’ to the man, given that he died in the USA at the venerable age of 103 years old.

Surprise legacy: Genoese dies convinced she has no relatives, but her father had a secret family in America