Monday, August 13, 2012

Searching for the Family of Carmelo Psaila from Sliema / Msida, Malta

I have been doing Maltese genealogy for about 15 years on and off, and I must say I still love it.  Some say it is the rich man's hobby because of all the money you spend on research trips, documents, and certificates.  Although that may be true, I think it is more for the obsessed.  There must be a level of OCD going on for me because I just can't seem to get enough of it.  I find myself, at times, unable to put my research down.  I am always thinking about what I have and what I need and how I'm going to get the job done.  The racing thoughts go through my brain during the day and  night creating a level of anxiety.  What makes it all worthwhile is when I do find something.  That's when I get a huge sense of accomplishment.   I have a saying that "It's easy once you know where to look."  The problem, of course, is where to look.  The one thing that  calms me is writing down the To-Do lists or calling one of my fellow researchers and bouncing ideas back and forth with them. 

I have a large family that really doesn't quite know what to make of all this.  They don't understand my curiosity.  They like to see the results but don't care much about how much effort went into obtaining the documents, or how much trouble I went through to get that certain photo.  When asked I explain that genealogy is like a huge jigsaw puzzle.  You are always looking for that one piece that fits in with the rest of the puzzle.   They are clueless, but I don't mind.  I still love sharing the "golden nuggets" with them.  After all, what I find belongs to them too. 

One thing that I have learned is that you must allow the story to reveal itself to you.  Don't let the  so called "facts" fit the story. Allow the stories to fit the facts.  In other words -.  Let the truth unfold.   NEVER ASSUME!  That's hard to do especially when you have nowhere else to turn.   When you start guessing that's when it gets really confusing making it easy to make mistakes.  In genealogy, you have to have three documents from three different sources (i.e. birth, marriage, death) before you can be confident enough that you are on the right track.  There are so many variables that play into the research that really anything can turn for you at any time so ALWAYS stay with the clear facts.  The best examples I can give are the names.  You may think that it's as easy as putting a surname in a search engine but the Maltese had nicknames, and many of them don't even go by their real names at all.  They go by their nickname.  My father's nickname was Gabrieleen.  So, if I were to go to his old neighborhood and ask about a Carmelo Borg they probably would not know who I am asking about.  I won't be able to find anyone who knew him, but if you ask about "Gabrieleen" now that's a different story.  

So, with all my knowledge on how to do genealogy tucked away safely in my brain I have set out to find my father's family.  There is no bigger dream for me than to find my Psaila relatives, Carmelo Psaila, my grandfather and Giuseppe Psaila, my uncle.  You see, even though my father is a Borg his real surname should be Psaila.  In order to find my grandfather, I think it's best to ask around for information on "Tripoleen," his nickname.  The documents, of course, will be under the official name, but if I am to locate his family what I really need to do is go into the town of Sliema or Msida and ask about "Tripoleen" to see if anyone remembers him.   To read about Maltese nicknames please go to:

I am yearning for the day that I meet the Psaila's.   Everyday, when I wake up, I say to myself  "Today is the day I will find my Psaila family."  That may sound silly to some but for me; it is the best way I know to have the universe bring them to me.  I would tell them all about my father and our family.  I would listen intently to all of their stories, gathering more clues, of course.   After we exchanged the stories, I would show all the pictures and movies of my family.  We would exchange addresses and phone numbers, and we would stay in contact for ever more.  I'm anxious to see their faces and hear their voices.  I want to touch them and hug them.  It will be one glorious day, that I am certain of. 

My uncle, Giuseppe Psaila, is my father's half-brother.  I know this because he is listed in my grandfather's will as the only legitimate son to Carmelo Psaila and Vittorina Zammit.  He is the person of interest, at the moment, because I think, I have the best shot of finding him first.  I know he was born 27 Sep 1924 in Tripoli, Libya, but I don't know if he ever made it back to Malta or not.  His father did ....

Carmelo Psaila was already married to Vittorina Zammit when my father was born.  

Carmelo Psaila traveled to Tripoli to work, and Vittorina soon followed.  That was in 1921.  Libya, for some time, was under Italian rule.  Italian colonization (1911-1934) then Italian Libya (1934-1943).  Sometime in the thirties, Carmelo Psaila, spoke against Mussolini and ended up a political prisoner.  He was sentenced to six months in jail.  At the end of his prison term the Libyan government took his passport and put in on a boat back to Malta.  From all of my searching that's about all I know about him.

The challenge, of course, is to fill in the blanks.  I have another saying that genealogy without the stories are like a tree without any leaves.  So, it's important to me to try to find the story; the stories that would color my world.  The real stories about our lives are always going to be better than anything you can make up, right?

So, whenever you are trying to find the stories, you will have questions, and I have a lot of questions.  A lot of this don't make sense to me because I have no idea what happened my grandfather or his family.  I wonder what he went through as a prisoner.  Where were his parents, brothers and sisters?  Did they suffer the same fate?  Where is his wife Vittorina and Giuseppe now?   Did they stay in Libya or did they go back to Malta too?   These questions still linger.

1 comment:

Jared Psaila said...

What's weird is my last name is Psaila and my dad was born in Malta.....


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There are more Maltese outside the Maltese Islands than there are citizens residing in the country itself. The Maltese outside Malta are either emigrants or descendents of emigrants. The countries which have most traditionally hosted the Maltese diaspora are Australia, Canada, the U.S.A., and Britain. Nevertheless, there are Maltese living in virtually every country around the world and this blog will travel the world in hopes of bringing the Maltese back to Malta.

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