Murder in Matera – Helene Stapinski

In 1892, Stapinski’s great-great-grandmother Vita left Southern Italy for America with three children and no husband.  All that remained of Vita was a grave in New Jersey and conflicting family stories concerning a murder and loose morals. A hundred years after her arrival, Stapinski visited Vita’s home town in a naïve attempt to learn the full story of Vita.  She left frustrated and tantalized and for ten years was obsessed with returning to make a more systematic search of Italian legal records to uncover the truth of her family. She recounts her process, successes, and failures in a most amusing manner while sharing her newly acquired knowledge of Basilicata as it was a century ago. Eventually she patches together a history of her family, the best that could be done for people who were extremely poor and illiterate and who left behind no records.

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