Albanian Family Mystery

Though I’ve never met my grandfather (my mother’s father), I’ve heard a great many things about him including stories of wartime exploits overseas and the interesting artifacts he discovered during his days as an excavator on archaeological digs. What I never knew much about was his family tree, where his descendants originated from and what kind of people they were. But thanks to passenger lists obtained through public family records found online, and a little bit of luck, I’ve discovered a tidbit of information that could lead me to the first big piece of the puzzle.

My Grandfather’s family, the Vranici’s, are said to have come from Albania in the late 1880’s, a time where Albanian moral was at an all time low. The Berlin treaty of 1878 denying their independence, Many Albanians decided to flee the country, most of whom left for other Balkan countries, but some to America. Such was supposedly the case for the Vranici family, Or at least what we assumed was the case. My mother and her sisters had heard many stories during their youth, tales recounting how their grandparent’s family had fled to America to start a new life, leaving behind a chaotic world of fear and persecution. What they didn’t know was that these stories were actually partly false, a little yarn to hide some secret, dark or otherwise.

My interest about the subject arose due to a report I had read about the sheer lack of known immigrants leaving for America in and around those times. Numbers were shown displaying a mass exodus during the wars of 1877-1878 to countries like Serbia, Turkey, and Greece. My journey towards the truth began with the help of passenger lists and records of landed immigrants between 1880 and 1900. I began looking online, perusing family tree sites that might guide me in the right direction. I assumed I would find nothing, and was pessimistic that any of these sites really had anything of use to offer. At first I found nothing at all, nothing at least to prove the point that the Vranici had come over in the late 1880’s. Basically after sifting through countless passenger lists and family records, the Vranici name did not surface. I knew that there was a strong possibility that their name had been changed to hide their identity, so I was still not convinced of anything, one way or the other.

Finally though, after looking a little farther ahead (lists made from 1900-1920) I discovered some telling information. 6 Persons with the name Vranici, landing at Ellis Island, on the 27th of July, 1908. Where they had come from exactly was uncertain. When I showed the names to my mother, she could barely believe her eyes: it was indeed her father’s family! Why this fact had been hidden from her all these years was mysterious, but also a little distressing. During a time of war and even ethnic cleansing, my great grandparents had concocted a story that seemed to only to negate any involvement they may have had with that time. What were they really doing? What kind of people were they? Thanks to the help of online public family records, I’m a little closer to the truth.

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