by Julian Michelucci
The Lenci, Lotti, and Michelucci families immigrated from Lucca, Italy to Northern California in the late nineteenth century.
Initially, they settled in what is now Pacifica, then San Pedro Valley, where they worked in the vegetable farms that carpeted this area.
In time, many moved to San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area throughout the following century.
In 2019, Julian Michelucci and the committee he formed with Diane Michelucci Conklin brought them all together again. Read below to hear his inspirational tale.
On June 30, 2019, 101 of my relatives came together for a family reunion, most of whom had never met each other before.
I had been on a search finding family myself for about 2 years, and within that time I aided in organizing this event. It took time, but nevertheless, I worked on it every single day, for I was driven.
In November 2017, I reconnected with a cousin, Ryan Pickett, whom I had not seen since I played soccer with him when I was nine years old.
Ryan and I started to hang out and go to movies. It was nice to become friends with one of my second cousins. That Christmas I also got to meet his family. It was surreal to meet a new family that I never knew I had.
I never knew I had more relatives on the Italian side of my family. I found out that my great aunt who I was named after -Julia Michelucci Gervais- was a family historian. I was also named after my grandfather Julio Michelucci, known by the family as “Babe”. He was the youngest in the family and was Julia’s brother. She wrote a detailed book about our whole family. She described how they emigrated from Italy to the United States and lived near and worked in an artichoke farm in Pacifica, California. Her book is now featured at the Pacifica Coastside Museum. She also designed the family tree that provided me a blueprint to figure out how we’re all connected.
After reading Julia’s book and realizing that there could be more relatives in California, I went on a journey of finding them. I even learned that her father Ulisse Michelucci and half-sister Blanche Lotti helped build the outside wall of the castle in Pacifica which is now known as Sam’s Castle. It was built after the 1906 earthquake to withstand any future natural catastrophes. It is a tourist attraction in these parts.
The first thing I did was to take the ancestry DNA test which revealed that I had many relatives that I had never met.
After I started building the family tree on Ancestry.com, a few cousins contacted me. Diane Michelucci Conklin, who turned out to be a descendent of my great-grandmother, contacted me and told me she had been doing family history research for many years and she saw my family tree online. Our Michelucci grandfathers were brothers, Romeo and Giulio.
We started to talk about family history and I got to meet her two daughters Gina and Kristen, her son Sean and her parents Don and Joanne.
Shortly after that, I met Ginny Perez Mullan, she is the granddaughter of Virginia Michelucci- who was the sister of my great grandfather Ulisse Michelucci. I started to get friend requests from other cousins that were connected to Virginia after sharing pictures of our meeting. Over the next several months, I met even more family members, and the idea of having a family reunion was starting to become a possibility.
To promote the upcoming family reunion, I started a family Facebook group and a genealogy page. I had no idea if it was going to work, but I decided that no matter what, I was going to give this my best shot. Every couple of days I would share on Facebook old family pictures, pictures that I had found. You can find us on this page: Lenci, Lotti, and Michelucci family.
Diane Michelucci Conklin and I decided to form a committee to help organzine the event. Every committee member had their role in the reunion and that included family slideshows, auctions, speakers, and more. Diane was a very good leader in the group and she also designed and updated family tree for the event which we scheduled for June 30, 2019. This design figured on our invitation.
Although I encouraged other family members to tell other members of the family to join, I knew that not every single relative I met would be able to come to the reunion. But I would not take my foot off the pedal. I worked every single day on this journey.
Besides Ancestry.com, I joined 23andMe.com and FamilyTreeDNA.com. I also signed up for the online White Pages so I could find the addresses of people who might be related to us. I used every single tool I had and continued to promote the event. Eventually, others started to hear about it through word of mouth and joined the invitees.
In 1986 my great aunt Julia had organized a family reunion and I still had the video of this event. I found relatives from the video that I would eventually be able to connect with on Facebook such as the Lenci family. Lenci was my great grandmother’s maiden name; John Lenci, Dale Lenci, Cindy Lenci, and Marge Lenci Sparks. If John Lenci had not made this video, I may have never been able to connect with that branch of the family.
I asked Marge Lenci Sparks if she had kept in touch with anyone else in the family, she gave me Francine Brevetti’s address. It turns out that she is an author and has written a book, The Fabulous Fior – 125 Years in an Italian Kitchen. It’s a book about the oldest Italian restaurant in the country where her father a hundred years before was a waiter-and-part-owner. Francine was thrilled to hear about the reunion and agreed to talk about her book at the event.
Before the reunion, Francine informed me that her writer colleague Laura Del Rosso was making panels about the history of Pacifica, and part of her work involved our Italian family who lived and worked on the artichoke ranch. This panel would later be a feature at the family reunion! The odds of this happening were very low but things started to unfold magically just a few months before the reunion.
The reunion was an amazing day and more than I could have ever dreamed. I had initially thought that our reunion was going to be around 20 people at a house, but we ended up having 101 relatives who attended the Peninsula Italian-American Social Club in San Mateo. There were speakers, family charts (designed by Diane Michelucci Conklin) copies of Julia’s book, and lots of great food. It was a tribute to Julia Michelucci and it was great to bring back all the work that she had accomplished in the past.
Various cousins gave talks about their memories of their Italian-American childhood. Francine talked about the book The Fabulous Fior, ago. Ray Renati, our relative and a stage actor, dressed as a priest at and presented a humorous skit.
I felt so proud that I was the instrument for introducing 100 people to their relatives.
So many things had to fall in place for this event to happen. If I hadn’t bumped into my cousin Ryan, I would never have been inspired to start looking for other relatives and I would have never discovered Julia’s book.
Of course, the support of the committee made it all happen.
I hope that this journey inspires others to work hard at whatever is their passion in life.