Rooted in Success
In this month’s Personality Profile, Ciao Pittsburgh chatted with Rich Venezia of Rich Roots Genealogy. Rich, who grew up in central New Jersey, currently makes his home in Pittsburgh. Rich was kind enough to respond to some of our questions about his roots, his career as a genealogist as well as his Italian heritage.
CP: First, tell us a little bit about yourself, your family, and what you do for a living.
Rich: I’m a professional genealogist and have been for the past few years. I started researching my own family when I was a teenager, but I cycled through various careers before landing at this one. I worked as an actor for a while, in PR & Marketing for a theatre, in the non-profit world, and also in study abroad before starting my business, Rich Roots Genealogy. My parents are both semi-retired, but were long-time high school teachers. My brother is also a high school teacher. I suppose I was the only one in the family who wasn’t bitten by the education bug, but I reckon I am an educator, of sorts – just in a less conventional way.
CP: What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?
Rich: I’m very lucky that I grew up knowing who my ancestors were and even what a lot of my great- and 2x-great-grandparents looked like. It wasn’t until I started doing genealogy that I realized how rare this was. I love being able to reconnect people with their lost, forgotten, or misplaced family, and to unite them with their heritage. It’s an indescribable feeling when someone tells you the work you’ve done has had an impact on their life. Learning about your ancestry can teach you a lot about yourself.
CP: Where are you from and where do you currently live?
Rich: I grew up in central New Jersey among many Italian-Americans and now live in Pittsburgh. I love it here – I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
CP: Can you tell us about your Italian heritage?
Rich: My mom’s family is from the Province of Salerno – mostly in the Cilento area, along the coast. I like to say that my Italian ancestors were immigrating for almost three generations before they came to the USA – I have nearly a dozen ancestral towns just on my mom’s side. My dad’s family is from all over the south – Salerno (Baronissi and Pellezzano), Foggia (Monte Sant’Angelo and Rodi Garganico), Potenza (Rapolla), and Avellino (Atripalda). Five of my great-grandparents were born in Italy, and a sixth was born right after her parents arrived. My only non-Italian-American grandparent, my Grandma Camperlino, learned to cook Italian food from her mother-in-law – and was always cooking Italian. I was flabbergasted as a child when I learned she wasn’t a true Italian! I identify very strongly with my Italian heritage, and am so happy to be able to help others explore theirs. [Read more…]