So the search for Mario Contasino continues.
January 23, 2008
If you’ve just tuned in, Mario Contasino is the man who, in 1931, accidentally ran over Winston Churchill while the future Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was in New York. In real life, Churchill was lucky to escape with just a few knocks and bruises. In the forthcoming Codemasters game, Turning Point: Fall of Liberty, this incident resulted in Churchill’s death, triggering a counterfactual version of history in which the Axis powers occupy Europe and invade America. We’re trying to find Contasino’s descendants in order to honour a man who, had fate been crueller, might have made a much more significant mark on history.
Having found out a little more about the event itself (here), the next step is to identify potentially fruitful avenues of research. The obvious places to start looking for somebody from the past are any census records that might exist; any records of births or deaths (such as probate records, or funeral registers); marriage records; perhaps church records; military service records; voting registers; immigration records and so on. In fact, there’s a good introduction here and here. Most of these sources aren’t available online, or are only partially available online, but over the coming weeks I will be trying to locate as many as possible.
Other possible means of tracking down Mario Contasino and his relatives include contacting the New York Times (one of our best sources for the incident); contacting Churchill’s descendents (since some reports indicate that Churchill and Contasino subsequently became friends); contacting any archives or museums that might have any information (such as the Churchill Archives); and so on.
One place that I probably won’t be looking for Mario Contasino’s descendents is the current phone book: a search here suggests that there is nobody with the surname Contasino who owns a telephone in the United States. There are, however, records for many people with the surname Contadino, raising the intriguing possibility that Mario Contasino may not actually be Mario Contasino’s name: it may be the case that early accounts of the accident spelt the driver’s name incorrectly; or that they got his name entirely wrong; or that Mario Contasino later changed his name. Which is, of course, something that I’ll have to bear in mind while searching through those archival avenues listed above.
Another place that might seem an obvious place to start looking in our modern information age is Google. Unfortunately that, too, doesn’t appear to be very fruitful: type ‘Mario Contasino’ into Google and there are (currently) only four links. Typing ‘Contasino’ extends that to ten results.
It could be a bit of a challenge.
But it’ll all be worth it if we can find Mario’s family, so anyone with information as to their whereabouts, or suggestions about where to look for them should contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org