The Families of Poggioreale Sicily

The Belltower
What has Robert been up to lately?

I'm writing this in September of 2020 as a result of recent personal attacks on my character by a small group of people who believe they should be the rightful repository of all things Poggioreale. In the past few years this group has repeatedly insisted that I hand over more than thirty years of research undertaken by me and entirely at my expense. One of them actually told to me to give her everything when I die. The reason that they give publicly is that they want to preserve and share my work, as if I'm not capable of that. However, they have demonstrated through their actions that their only intention is to attract people in order to sell their products and line their pockets.

These people have accused me of profiting from this hobby of mine and refusing to share. Since I began my website about Poggioreale in 1998, I have corresponded with thousands of people throughout the world and gladly shared what I know without expectation of monetary gain. I have years and years of letters and emails that document this thoroughly. I never thought I would need to prove my altruistic intentions, but it seems I have been wrong.

I am retired from a successful career in a medical field so I have no need to profit from my website or my family history research. I have spent many thousands of dollars of my own money and many years of my life learning about my ancestral town. I have freely shared my research with anyone who asked for help. During my visits to Poggioreale, I have voluntarily fulfilled requests for research without asking anything in return. I continue to do so even today.

Those of you who know me also know that I have always insisted that projects I have promoted have been entirely non-commercial. Absolutely no money has gone to me or anyone volunteering to help. I have always assumed that everyone understood that I have never earned a penny from research in Poggioreale or any project associated with Poggioreale. I never profited from my website, even when it was the only source of information about Poggioreale in the world. Over the years I have been asked many times to help visitors to Poggioreale by showing them around the area while I was visiting. I tried doing that for a couple of years and requested a donation to cover expenses such as gasoline and car rental. It turned out that I ended up making up shortfalls and lost quite a bit of money, so I ended that endeavor. I met a lot of nice people who shared my enthusiasm for Sicily, who appreciated the help, and we forged friendships that have lasted to this day. I've also offered books on the website to share my research asking exactly what it cost to print, bind and mail them. I produced an English translation of a history of Poggioreale and exchanged it for donations to our projects, keeping nothing for myself.

I helped organize the first five reunions of Poggioreale families which were wildly successful and that were attended by people from all over the world. These were done entirely with volunteers, including myself, at very low cost. Some of the people attacking me today have approached us over the years to be allowed to sell products at our reunions and we have always held fast to our non-commercial policy. We were initially approached by these people who professed wanting to volunteer to help with the reunion, but when they discovered they would not be allowed to sell anything, we never heard from them again. I was not involved with nor did I endorse subsequent reunions by others although attempts were made to make it appear that I had.

I've also been accused by these people of copyrighting photos in the public domain. While a few of the photos on my website may have originated in the public domain, the versions I use have been modified and cleaned up by me. This is a time consuming and tedious process and I am certainly allowed to copyright the product of my work. I marked all photos on my website with both a visible logo and an electronic one that cannot be seen. In some cases this merely indicates that the photo originated from my website and was taken from there without my permission or consideration for the privacy of the family that shared it with me. For more than 25 years I have traveled throughout the United States and Italy with my laptop and scanner in an attempt to preserve the histories of Poggioreale families. Many hundreds of people have voluntarily sent me family photos and I have always carefully credited the source. Many of the photos on my website were my own which I took to document and to share my visits to the new and old towns of Poggioreale at a time when I was the only English speaking person visiting on a regular basis.

These people have copied text from my website word for word and posted it on their site without asking my permission or crediting their source. They also posted photos from my website, still with my electronic mark, without any consideration for the source or promises made to those who shared them with me. I wonder how they would feel if I were to steal the products that appear on their internet sites.

This group of people has tried to bully me into helping them make money and I absolutely refuse to do so. One of their claims is that I refuse to share family photos that I have collected over the years. These precious photos were shared with me with the understanding that I would not allow them to be disseminated indescriminately over the internet. Not everyone appreciates seeing a photo of their grandmother in an advertisement for hemorrhoid cream. When it became obvious that some visitors to my website would not abide by this policy, I took the website down, even though it was very, very popular.

Every last one of these people attacking me has benefited greatly from the research I have shared with them, a fact they seem to have forgotten. If you know these people, ask them how much they paid me for my help.

And while we are on the subject of thievery, I'd like to address another problem that contributed to my taking down my website. Before appeared on the scene, I had a section on my site for each of the Texas cemeteries where Poggiorealesi are buried. I spent many hours photographing these grave markers and then researching their ancestry, all of which was posted on my website. Access to this was always free. One of my cousins took every bit of this research and posted it verbatim on findagrave under her name, without so much as a word about where she got it. Ninety percent of the information about Poggiorealesi graves on was pirated in this way. This person is married to the grandson of my father's sister Josephine Loria. How sad is a person who must do this to garner praise and call attention to herself? Hers was one of the first families that I researched in Poggioreale and I made special trips to nearby towns as a favor to them, solely for their benefit. This was at a time when the only way to research Poggioreale families was to go there. All of this was given to them absolutely free of charge in honor of my Aunt Josephine. You know who you are and you should be ashamed.

Of course, I expect people to share the research I've given them, but clearly crediting the source should accompany that. Every last bit of my research and everything I've shared through my website is credited to the person or archive where it originated. In the field of genealogy, uncredited information is suspect at best and completely fabricated at worst. I've seen abundant examples of the latter.

This seems like a good time to mention that the vast majority of people with whom I've interacted over these past 25 years have been pleasant and appreciative of my shared research and the feeling is mutual. The people mentioned on this page have been neither pleasant nor appreciative but are a tiny minority. Short memories and selfishness have ruled the day for some.

Lastly, I want to say something about the fate of the body of work I have amassed which is considerable. I will never permit anyone to abuse my good intentions by trying to profit from my work and the good faith of everyone who has shared their family histories with me. I have made arrangements for everything to be donated to a non profit organization after I'm gone and made available with restrictions at no cost, but not to be made public for 25 years after that time.

Whether you agree or disagree with what I've written here, I'd like to hear what you think of all of this, so feel free to write.

If you haven't heard back from me in about a week, it's probably because your spam filter is overly aggressive and my reply went directly to your spam or trash folder. If you don't find it there, check with your internet access provider to see if my email was screened. AOL is particularly bad about this, so you'll need to write from another account, such as gmail or yahoo. There's nothing I can do about it from my end.

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