Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Italian Resources from Google Books - Dialectical Resources

Occasionally, you will find a dialectical word within Italian genealogical and historical documents. I see them most often in the older parish records. Now with the push to digitize records and resources there are more and more resources available to help you in your research.

Google Books has several free e-books of dialectical dictionaries from different parts of Italy. There are three that I've found particularly helpful within my work.

Vocabulario bresiano-italiano, Volume I

Vocabulario dei dialetti bergamaschi antichi e moderni, Volume I

Vocabulario modenese-italiano, Volume I

The second resource above helped me translate a set of Stato d'Anime [parish census] records found in the Bergamo province. In that instance, the priest(s) used the local dialect, Italian, and a mess of Latin abbreviations, on every page of the census. This may indicate that multiple priests worked on these records during the time frame of their creation. They were progressive records, with vital events and sacraments being added at the time of each event. It was probably one of the most challenging sets of translations I've ever done.

I encourage you to explore Google Books, as more and more Italian resources are becoming available, due to a collaboration between them and the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage. The link below describes this collaboration and details some of the resources they are seeking to digitize through this collaboration.

Google and the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage reach agreement to digitize works from Italian libraries

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research to Offer Unique Opportunities in Genealogical Education


Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research to Offer Unique Opportunities in Genealogical Education

RALEIGH, North Carolina, 9 September 2014. Professional genealogists Catherine W. Desmarais, CG, Michael Hait, CG, and Melanie D. Holtz, CG, are pleased to announce the formation of the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research. The Virtual Institute is a unique educational opportunity for genealogists of all skill levels.

The Institute will offer courses on a wide variety of genealogical subjects, providing “Vigorous” year-round education for the genealogical community using a virtual platform. Each course will consist of a total of four 90-minute lectures, two each presented on consecutive Saturdays, extensive syllabus material, and practical exercises. Limited class sizes of only one hundred registrants per course allows for a higher level of class participation and instructor feedback than typically offered by genealogy webinars.

Courses are currently planned around the topics of genealogical writing, advanced methodology, DNA testing and analysis, and cultural, regional, or record-based research strategies.

Many of these subject matters—as well as the depth of instruction—have never before been offered in a virtual format and are ideal for genealogists around the world. “The Virtual Institute will allow genealogists who work a full-time job or have limited travel budgets to more easily advance their genealogical skills,” Institute co-administrator Melanie D. Holtz stated.

Registration for each course will cost $69.99 and includes digital video recordings of all four lectures, available within two weeks of the close of each course.

For more information on the Institute and to register for upcoming courses, visit and subscribe to the mailing list for updates on future courses.


Michael Hait, CG, “Writing Logical Proof Arguments,” 1 November–8 November 2014
J. Mark Lowe, CG, FUGA, “Preparing the Field: Understanding the Agricultural Records of our Ancestors,” 24 January–31 January 2015
Maureen Taylor, “Family Photographs: Identifying, Preserving, and Sharing Your Visual Heritage,” 21 February–28 February 2015
Donna Moughty, “Strategies for Finding Your Irish Ancestors,” 7 March–14 March 2015
Blaine Bettinger, “(Finally!) Understanding Autosomal DNA,” 21 March–28 March 2015
Billie Stone Fogarty and Rick Fogarty, “Verifying the Family Legend of Native American Ancestry,” 18 April–25 April 2015
Melanie D. Holtz, CG, and Melissa Johnson, “Genealogical Applications of Dual Citizenship by Descent,” 2 May-9 May 2015
Paul Milner, “An In-Depth Look at the Big Four Records of English Research,” 30 May - 6 June 2015
Angela McGhie, “Digging in Federal Land Records,” 19 September-26 September 2015

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are Service Marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluations by the Board and the board name is a trademark registered in the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Filatrice or Seamstress

An Italian seamstress often wove the cloth she used in her trade, although historians do differ on this subject. Perhaps it depending on the level of poverty within the family. The spinning wheel was often in use for more than ten hours a day and it was taken outside in warm weather so that the seamstress could get some fresh air while she did her work. She visited with her neighbors and watched her children play in the streets, often singing a tune to the rhythm of the wheel. A seamstress made clothing, bedding, and other household needs. In coastal communities, she often helped weave and repair fisherman's nets.

An Italian woman needed multiple sets of bedding for her trousseau. Therefore, as her marriage day approached, there was much work being done by her family or the local seamstress. The more sets of bedding a woman had, the more well-off she was deemed to be.

Here in Cerchio - Letters to an Italian Immigrant by Constance Sancetta

Bordighera Press has announced the publication of a new book titled Here in Cerchio - Letters to an Italian Immigrant by Constance Sancetta.

I haven't read it yet (its on the way from Amazon) but the concept of the book is exciting. The book is a collection of real letters from a literate Italian farmer between 1910-13 to his son who was working in the coal mines of western Pennsylvania. If you've been researching your Italian ancestors for awhile, you'll know that literacy was not common amongst the peasant class, of which farmers were a part. This book should provide a unique glimpse into the Italy our ancestors left behind. Not through the eyes of a historian interpreting the records but rather through the eyes of someone who actually lived there.

A contadino or peasant received little to no formal education outside the home. Occupations were often passed down from generation to generation within the same family, parents teaching their children what skills they knew in order to help them survive. Class distinctions were wide and practically unbridgeable. There were the rich and the poor, with precious few opportunities to earn a living that was somewhere in between.

The peasant class in Italy consisted of five general types of occupations: agriculture, fishing, peddlers, traveling artisans and small shopkeepers. Those who lived in coastal towns were often fisherman whose work provided food, as well as income for their families. Any excess catch, over and above what a family needed, was sold to provide for other necessities. Fisherman were considered a lesser class of peasant because they had only one useful skill, while the other peasant groups were thought to have several.

A farmer worked hard for very little wages, often leaving for work before dawn and returning long after sundown. Others plied whatever skills they had: entertaining, herb or firewood gathering...even grave digging could produce a small fee which might put bread on the table.

In the latter half of the 19th century, Italy began to hemorrhage its people, the poorer areas seeing the highest concentration of emigrants. Poverty and forced military constription featured strongly in many Italian's decision to emigrate.

Constance Sancetta's book cam be ordered from Amazon, Small Press Distribution, Barnes and Noble, Ingram Book Company, and Baker and Taylor, Inc.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Diocesan Archives of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn

Did your ancestors settle in Brooklyn, Queens, or Nassau County, NY? If so, the Diocesan Archives of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn may have records that will help the research on your Italian ancestors.

The diocese' website is very well put together and contains several useful resources to enable you to find the sacramental records of your ancestors. The resources below are found on their website. I hope you find them useful!

  • Chronological List of Brooklyn Parishes, 1820-2011
  • Chronological List of Queens Parishes, 1843-2009
  • List of Closed Schools at The Diocesan Archives
Access to the parish archives is by appointment only.

The website of the Italian Genealogical Group also has a great article from one of their newsletters talking about the resources in this archive.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Strength of the Evidence in Italian Genealogical Documents - Part II - Genealogical Sources and Information

Genealogical Sources

There are two main categories of genealogical sources, authored works and records.

1. Authored works - There are not as many authored works in Italian research then one sees in North America. An example of this might be a published family history or a town history, which may mention notable people or noble families.

2. Records - These are the battesimi, nati, morti, pubblicazioni di matrimonio, atti di matrimonio, notarial, censimento, catasto, allegati/processetti, etc.  This is where the majority of evidence lies in Italian genealogical research.

Records are either original or derivative.

An original record is made at the time of the event or close to it, usually by a direct participant in the event. Therefore, a birth record reported by the midwife would definitely be an original record. Could these records still err? Of course. They were created by humans with inherent flaws and there are many reasons why the wrong information may have been given on purpose.

A derivative record is created from a prior record. Therefore, all officially issued copies of records from an Italian town hall [whether an estratto, in international format, or a certificato] are derivative records. However, a photocopy of a civil record or an image copy, as found on FamilySearch microfilm, are not considered derivative as long as no changes were made to the record. The act of translation also makes a record derivative.

Genealogical Information

There are three main categories of genealogical information, primary, secondary, and indeterminable.

1. Primary information is reported by an eyewitness to the event, either at the time of the event or many years later. Therefore, is a death record recorded four days later by two men who lived on the same street as the deceased primary information? I would say for most of the information contained, yes. If they didn't directly see the person slip from life's grasp, then they likely saw the priest arrive to give the final sacraments, heard the weeping, or saw the civil official come to verify the death. That is primary information of the deceased's death date.

2. Secondary information is hearsay. Therefore, an Italian-American descendant who says their great-grandfather was killed in Palermo by the Mafia in 1904 is likely stating information they heard passed down through their family. Unless they have the death record stating his violent death in this city or some Italian court records documenting the murder, then it is likely hearsay.

3. Indeterminable information comes when we cannot determine who might have been the informant, therefore making it impossible to say with any accuracy what type of information it might be. In the death record example above, would a neighbor have primary information of the deceased's parent's names? Maybe or maybe not, making this information indeterminable IMHO.

As in American documents, different pieces of information within a record could be different types of information.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Updates to Portale Antenati (Main Italian Archives Website)

In keeping with their objective to digitize all civil registers held in Italian state/provincial archives and post them on the internet, the Portale Antenati website is continuously being updated with more records. Below are the records that have been uploaded since January 2014.

March 2014 - Genoa State Archives is complete, 246,957 images from 3,210 napoleonic registers

February 2014 - Updated online index with Modena births for the years 1817-1902. Also, the Lucca State Archives is complete, 89,811 images from 970 napoleonic registers.

January 2014 - Completed Mercato District and the Santissima Annunziata [home of abandoned children] in Napoli, 1,195,449 images of napoleonic, restoration, and Italian civil registers.

See the website linked above for more information on this project.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Learning to Cite Italian Genealogical Records

Below are several examples which will help you learn to cite Italian genealogical records. The purpose of citing our work is so that we, and other researchers, can follow our work. Additionally, in this way, we can judge the strength of the evidence found and, if needed, reevaluate the documents for evidence to support a genealogical conclusion.

To Cite a Civil Marriage Promise Found on FamilySearch Microfilm

Noci, Bari Province, Italy, “Registro di Atti di Solenne Promessa di Matrimonio [Register of Acts of Solemn Promise of Marriage or Marriage Promise], 1836,” record 8, page 19, marriage promise of Antonio Schiavo and Celestina Maria Martina; FamilySearch microfilm #1,603,400.

To Cite a Civil Death Record Found at a Town Archive

Ne, Genova Province, Italy, “Registro degli Atti di Morti [Register of Acts of Death], 1882,” record 41, death record of Concetta Piccone; Comune di [Town of] Ne, Piazza del Mosto, n. 2, 16040 Ne (GE), Italy.

To Cite a Stati d’Anime [Parish Census]

Clusone, Bergamo Province, Italy, “Status Animarum, Parrochie Cluxonis, 1833 usque 1842” [Parish Census for the Parishes of Clusone between 1833-1842], record kept progressively, page number not given, likely household number 3 in Tonet al Paghér, parish census entry for the Saverio Rostini Family; Basilicata di Santa Maria Assunta, Via Brasi, no. 11, 24023 Clusone, Italy. 

To Cite a Civil Birth Record Found Online at FamilySearch

Bari, Bari Province, Italy, “Registro di Atti di Nascita  [Register of Acts of Birth], 1851”: record 162, p. 162, image 3002, birth record of Maddalena Fusco; digitized images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 15 November 2013).

[You could also shorten the url to just but be sure to include the access date as changes are constantly being made to the digital locations of documents such as these.]

To Cite a Military Conscription Record Found at a Provincial Archives

Lucca Province, Italy, "Liste di Leva [Conscription Lists]," record 1, year: 1897, military conscription record of Simone Parchese; Archivio di Stato di Lucca [Provincial Archives of Lucca], P.zza Guidiccioni, 8, 55100 Lucca, Italy, conserved amongst the papers of the “R. Prefettura di Lucca,” military conscription office number 854, conscriptees from the town of Lucca.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Strength of the Evidence in Italian Genealogical Records - Part I

In order to understand the strength of each piece of evidence within Italian genealogical documents, one must understand the basics of genealogical evidence analysis and the cultural practices that surrounded the creation of the records.

The best book to begin your studies on genealogical evidence analysis is Elizabeth Shown Mill's Evidence Explained Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. The first chapter covers this subject and the rest of the book shows you how to cite any type of record you may encounter within genealogy. The examples for Italian records are limited but do cover the basics of citing civil records.

Direct evidence is any piece of evidence that answers the research question by itself. Therefore, a civil birth record that states the child was born on 2 March 1856 at 10:00 a.m. in the town of Altomonte is clearly direct evidence of said child's birthdate, place, and time.

Indirect evidence is any piece of evidence which, by itself, does not answer the research question. Therefore, a parish marriage record documenting the marriage of Simone Mattei and "the girl Isabella" provides indirect evidence of Isabella's full name. Her surname was not given so additional evidence would need to be gathered in order to determine her full name.

Negative evidence occurs when information should be there but isn't. Because of this, we then infer our genealogical conclusion by the lack of clearly stated evidence. For example, the death record of Carmelo Catanese gives his parent's names as Simone and Maria Abbate. The sections for occupation and residence following Simone's name are crossed through. While no word precedes Simone's name to indicate he was deceased, the fact that they did not insert an occupation and residence infers that he was deceased and provides negative evidence of this conclusion.

The next post on this subject will discuss sources and information, also valuable subjects to understand when working in Italian records.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Working with the Documents - Part III - Civil Birth Record of Aurelia di Marco

Birth Record of Aurelia di Marco

            Aurelia’s birth was reported to the Altomonte town hall on 13 November 1818 at 12:00 p.m. by her father, Rafaele di Marco. Rafaele was forty years old [born about 1778], a farmer, and resident of this town on Vallina Avenue.

            He declared that the female child he was presenting was born “the day before indicated” [13 November 1818 ?] at 12:00 p.m. in his home and to his wife, Cherubina Perrone. Cherubina was thirty years old [born about 1788].

            The child was given the name Aurelia. The witnesses to the presentation and declaration were: Domenico Paladino, age sixty, a farmer, and resident of this town on Vallina Avenue as well as Saverio Costante, age forty-six, a shoemaker, and resident of the town on Vallina Avenue. Rafaele and both witnesses made their marks on the bottom of the document, as they were not literate.[1]

COMMENTS:  Rafaele was born about 1778 while Cherubina was born about 1788. Rafaele was not literate so he could not verify that their ages were recorded correctly.

A “di” not a “De” was used in Rafaele’s surname [as seen in other records of this family]. They both mean the same thing in the Italian language, “of” or “from.” Capitalization was often used interchangeably when a “Di” or “De” preceded a surname and does not change the translation. This type of surname is patronymical, meaning they were likely the descendants of a Marco. Italians began using surnames at different points in time over the last four hundred years, depending on the locality. Patronymical surnames are just one form of surname seen throughout Italy.

Aurelia may have been born on 12 November 1818. The document says that she was born on “the day before indicated” [logically meaning the date of recordation, 13 November 1818] yet they say that the child was presented on that exact date and time.  It is unlikely that the father grabbed the child and ran to the town hall the moment she was born.

[1] Altomonte, Cosenza Province, Italy, “Registro di Atto di Nascita [Register of Acts of Birth], 1818,” record 64, birth record of Aurelia di Marco; FamilySearch microfilm #1,329,794.