There's an old expression where someone refers to someone as
a PIP. It simply means different, unusual, unique, special. Besides being an
expression of yesterday, PIP also means something today, and it's very dear to
my Italian heart. PIP is an acronym for Pointers In Person. Okay you ask, what
is a "Pointer." Well, Pointer is also an acronym for those who belong
to the Pursuing Our Italian Names Together Italian genealogy organization.
Therefore when Pointers get together for a meeting, it's called PIP. Now that
you're completely confused, let me explain from the beginning.
Ten years ago; a very progressive-minded Italian doctor from
Southern California decided to use his computer as a database for his Italian
genealogy hobby. His name is Thomas Militello. Because he was interested in
knowing whether any others shared the same surnames, he advertised his idea and
was joined by a few, then more, and finally many Italian genealogists from
around the country. Soon, thousands of Italian surnames.were fed into this
database and people like me and those of you who read this column can try to
match their surnames with those in the family tree of countless others ... to
find a match and to share genealogical data. What a marvelous aid for Italian
genealogists, who prior to this "invention" had no such resource.
POINT is one of a kind.
Then came a quarterly journal and an annual directory of all
the thousands of surnames, submitters' names and addresses, originating towns of
the surnames submitted and more.
Exactly six and a half years ago, another original idea
surfaced. Wouldn't it be great, I thought, if those member Italian genealogists
who were clustered together in metropolitan areas could have face-to-face
contact to discuss their goals, their dreams, their obstacles and their
successes. Not only would POINT members be able to dine and chat periodically,
but their gatherings would be open to all those digging for their Italian
ancestors, POINTers or not. Then it happened, first here in Chicago, and
eventually in 22 locations from across America.
Over these past five years, people have inquired about the
proceedings at those PIP gatherings. Are they formal? Do you have to pay dues?
Is this expensive? Does someone put you on the spot? Do you need to be a good
talker to attend? Will I learn anything? Can I get help? All valid questions, to
be certain. Let's walk through the answers.
[For many years] PIP's first Chicago chapter [met] quarterly in January,
April, July and October, on the third Wednesday of the month. These are dinner
meetings from 7 to 10 p.m. Genealogists from throughout the Chicago
area convene at a central location in DuPage County, West of Chicago. The site
of the gatherings is a very Italian restaurant of considerable charm and
atmosphere located on Route 53 in Woodridge. The meal and meeting are held in a
private room and attendance is usually between 40 and 45. [webmaster
note: this is not the current schedule of meeting dates of this chapter.
Please see the home page of this website for current
The excellent food is served family style and the complete
cost, including tax and tip, is $13 [historical price, see
home page for current pricing], a reasonably priced evening by today's
The group chows down for an hour or so, then an informal
meeting follows. There are no dues, fees or costs, except for your dinner and an
annual request for a dollar or two to defray postage costs. Everyone is notified
by postcard about 10 days before the event and an R.S.V.P. is required by the
Sunday prior to the Wednesday meeting. [postcards were
eventually phased out due to email convenience.]
There are almost always first-time attendees. Spouses are
welcome, even if they're not Italian. We love children, but they are happier at
home or with a babysitter than they would be with the group discussing their
Those in attendance may talk, listen or both. There's no
pressure to speak up. We all learn from others' experiences, which is the whole
idea behind PIP. If someone else has been down a certain road and you haven't,
think of the benefit when someone shares what they've been through. This
interest group makes pursuing one's Italian genealogy easier, better and more
The group is usually informed, before the discussions take
place, about the latest developments in the field, new resources that have
become available, and other conferences and seminars of interest.
Many of today's genealogists are computer friendly. Because
more and more researchers are into computers and on line, this subject is
discussed increasingly at each meeting.
The attendees represent the full spectrum of family
researchers. Some are brand new to the field, others have just gotten into it
within the past year, and others have a wealth of experience spanning as much as
20 years. With such a cross section, everyone learns something new every time
To directly answer the question, "Why be a PIP?",
let me respond by stating that, since genealogy is a lifetime commitment and
each step along the road is time consuming and challenging, the genealogist
should reach out for whatever assistance is available. The PIP' group provides
not only an excellent means to acquire better genealogical skills and knowledge,
but just happens to be the only resource of its kind dedicated to Italian
Since PIP is centrally located, has a reasonable meeting
cycle, is not costly,. and offers a unique and beneficial opportunity to learn
more about pursuing your Italian heritage and ancestry, why not consider
becoming a PlPster. We'll welcome you with open Italian arms and promise you
that when you leave, your head will be filled with ideas and your heart with