Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Understanding the Records

The civil birth record abstracted below was very typical for this time period and offered few surprises. It was on a pre-printed form with the appropriate information filled in. 

The father’s age was given but not the mother’s. They do not outright state this family lived in a hamlet, as often seen when this is the case. However, it is intimated when they give a street name and not a house number. Homes in a hamlet were often not numbered.

 Birth Record of Santo Tricarico

"Number Sixty-four
Santo Tricarico

Santo’s birth was reported to the town hall in San Martino di Finita on 16 October 1886 at 10:00 a.m. Reporting his birth was his father, Pietro Tricarico. Pietro was twenty-six years old [born about 1860], a farm laborer, and resident of San Martino.

He declared that the male child he was presenting was born on the 13th of the current month in his home on Via Santa Maria [house number blank]. The child’s mother was Rosaria Corno, his legitimate wife, with whom he resided. Rosaria was noted to be a seamstress.

The child was given the name Santo. The witnesses to the presentation and declaration were: Pietro Lombardo, age sixty, and an onion seller as well as Domenico Pazzia, age sixty, and a farm laborer. Both of the witnesses resided in this town.

Pietro Tricarico was literate and signed at the bottom of the record. Both of the witnesses were illiterate."[1]

[1] San Martino di Finita, Cosenza Province, Italy, “Registro di Atti di Nascita [Register of Acts of Birth], 1886”: record 64, birth record of Santo Tricarico; FamilySearch microfilm #1,640,602.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Understanding Peculiarities Within the Records

The longer you research your Italian ancestors, the more chances you have to see peculiarities or differences within the records. Let's look at the birth record of Maria Carolina Perri.

Birth Record of Maria Carolina Perri

            "Maria Carolina’s birth was reported to the Nicastro town hall on 14 October 1835 at 4:00 p.m. by her father Antonio Perri. Antonio was the son of the deceased Giuseppe [Perri], a farm laborer, and a resident on Strada Calia.

            He declared that the female child he was presenting was born to his wife, Giovanna Vescio, that same day at 9:00 a.m. Giovanna was forty years old [born about 1795], resided with her husband, and was also a farm laborer.

            The child was given the names Maria Carolina. The witnesses to the presentation and declaration were: Saverio di Alessio, age thirty-eight, a farm laborer, and resident of Nicastro as well as Francesco Antonio Angello, age forty-eight, a servant and resident of Nicastro.  Neither the declarant nor the witnesses were literate.

[The section to record her baptismal information on the right-hand side was left blank.]"[1]

The following record in this register also did not contain any baptismal information.  Perhaps the priest at that time was not good at returning the notice of baptisms. The civil official would have given the priest two copies of a notice of birth, which included a section in which to record when the child was baptized.  The priest would then fill in the appropriate information and return one copy to the town hall.

The street this family lived on was unclear in the extracted record found in Maria Carolina’s marriage supplements. It is more clearly stated in this document. Seeking the original copy of a document is always wise, as there are more chances for transcription error within any extracted copy.

[1] Nicastro, Catanzaro Province, Italy, “Registri di Nati [Registers of Birth], 1835”: record number 271, p. 272, birth record of Maria Carolina Perri; FamilySearch microfilm #1,962,182.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Evolution of Occupational Terms - Forese

Often we encounter occupational terms within the Italian records which are no longer in use. One such term is a "forese". 

This occupational designation is a derivative of the designation "forestiero" [in Latin: foris] and means a person working and sometimes living in the countryside surrounding a town, usually a farmer or someone in the forestry trade in more mountainous terrains. This designation is often used interchangeably with the various terms for a farmer. 

The picture above shows a typical farmer's home in northern Italy. Note the stone enclosure on the side of the house for containing the animals at night.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Picture Wednesday - Termini Imerese, Palermo Province, Italy

Update from Portale Antenati

On 25 February 2015, Portale Antenati announced that images from the Archivio di Stato di Cremona  have been uploaded to the website.

Then today, 11 March 2015, they announced additions to the records of the Grosseto, L'Aquila, Caltanissetta, and Ragusa provinces.

Happy Hunting!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Italian Civil Registration

Want to learn more about the civil records of Italy? A course I wrote for the National Institute for Genealogical Studies, Italian: Civil Registration - Part I, is now open for registration!

Register for Course

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

New Resource for Researching Abandoned Children in Sicily and Hospital Records

FamilySearch has an exciting set of microfilmed records titled "Riveli di beni e anime di Sicilia (comuni vari), 1730-1823." From the title, one might think that the resource contains records of the parish census (some call these "manorial records") that were called Riveli in Sicily.

However, the description in FamilySearch's catalog dispels this notion and reveals what could be an awesome resource for those researching abandoned children in the late 18th and early 19th century. Additionally, some hospital records are also included.

"Miscellaneous and administrative hospital records and records of orphans born in Sicily. Volumes include a variety of cities from throughout Sicily. Some records are administrative only and do not contain names. Hospital records often will include names of residents and their illnesses. Orphan records may include the names of the mothers, if known, or may name adoptive parents." 
--- FamilySearch catalog

There are 52 microfilms of these records. Some microfilms are noted to contain the records of certain towns and others are noted to contain the records of various towns.

Watch for future posts that will show examples of these records and what genealogical information can be gleaned from them!

Italian-American and Irish-American Dual Citizenship Course

If you are thinking about applying for Italian-American or Irish-American dual citizenship, you may want to consider taking the course I will be teaching with Melissa A. Johnson, CG through the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research!


Melanie D. Holtz, CG, & Melissa A. Johnson, CG, “Genealogical Applications of Dual Citizenship: Italian-American and Irish-American”

“Genealogical Applications of Dual Citizenship: Italian-American and Irish-American”
Melanie D. Holtz, CG, and Melissa A. Johnson, CG
2 May–9 May 2015
Standard $69.99
Plus $99.99
Attaining dual citizenship can be a life-changing experience, and is sought for a variety of reasons. This course will focus on the benefits of dual citizenship by descent; eligibility requirements for Italian-American and Irish-American dual citizenship; and the differences in how to apply for dual citizenship by descent, choice, or marriage. Attendees will also learn about the laws surrounding dual citizenship, where these laws can be found, and how the Hague Convention affected the legalization of documents around the world.
If you are of Italian-American or Irish-American descent and have ever considered applying for dual citizenship, then this course is for you. You will learn everything you need to know in order to prepare a successful application. Let’s learn how to regain the citizenship of your ancestors!
Professional genealogists wishing to learn how to help people prepare for dual citizenship can also benefit greatly from this course. The focus on dual citizenship with both Italy and Ireland will give you a solid overview of this specialty within professional genealogy.
Melanie headshotMelanie D. Holtz, CG, is a board-certified genealogist, writer, and lecturer. She operates an international business that specializes in Italian genealogical research, Italian-American dual citizenship, and Italian-American heirship cases. She maintains offices in both the U.S. and Italy. She’s authored courses on Italian genealogy for the National Institute of Genealogical Studies and FamilyTree University and will coordinate a course on Italian research in 2016 at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.
Melanie is a former member of the Board of Directors for the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) and the current Chair of APG’s Professional Development Committee, where she’s advocated for mentorship and expanded educational offerings within the organization. She writes about Italian genealogy, resources, and genealogical standards on her blog, Finding Our Italian Roots (http://italiangenealogyroots.blogspot.com). To learn more about Melanie please visit her website at www.holtzresearch.com.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMelissa A. Johnson, CG, is a board-certified genealogist, writer, and editor. She specializes in Italian-American and Irish-American dual citizenship, with a focus on New Jersey and New York City ancestral families. In addition to dual citizenship services, Melissa’s research specialties include New Jersey and New York City from the colonial period to the present, British families in the U.S. and abroad, and genealogical writing, editing, and publishing.
Melissa is the Reviews Editor for the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly(APGQ). She is a Trustee of both the Genealogical Society of New Jersey and the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History. She lectures on Irish and Italian dual citizenship throughout the New York and New Jersey area, and is the course coordinator for Elements of Genealogical Writing, Editing, and Publishing, to be held at the 2015 British Institute. For more information about Melissa, visit her website at www.johnsongenealogyservices.com.
Course Schedule (all times U. S. Eastern)
2 May 2015
  • 11:00am “Understanding Dual Citizenship by Descent: Benefits, Eligibility, and the Law”
  • 1:00pm “Preparing Applications for Irish-American Dual Citizenship”
9 May 2015
  • 11:00am “Preparing Applications for Italian-American Dual Citizenship”
  • 1:00pm “Case Studies in Dual Citizenship: Italian-American and Irish-American”

Thursday, January 8, 2015

New Website for La Memoria dei Sacramenti

In 2013, I posted the following:

"An exciting new initiative is making Italian ecclesiastical records more easily available and found.  The website is called La Memoria dei Sacramenti and is an interdiocese initiative to preserve these records and record where the original records can be found.

This is not a digitization project but rather a portal through which to find what records are available for a particular parish, gain permission to research the records on-site, or through which to order extracts, certified copies, or digital images of the documents.  Additionally, each one of the registers will be indexed by name and you can perform a search of the database for your ancestor's records.

The website also provides a means of searching for parishes and civil jurisdictions (pre-1901) by the name of a particular town which may help you narrow down what parishes may need to be searched.

Still in the beginning stages, there is much work to do.  Currently, five regions have records within their database:
  • Liguria (currently only the province of Genova)
  • Sicilia (currently only the province of Enna)
  • Toscana (currently the provinces of Arezzo, Firenze, Grosseto, Livorno, Pisa, and Siena)
  • Sardegna (currently only the province of Cagliari)
  • Veneto (currently only the province of Vicenza)"

This site can now be found at: La Memoria dei Sacramenti  This appears to be a website they used before moving to the one referenced in 2013. However, there appears to be new entries.

Excitingly, some of these records are now being indexed and the indexes placed online! However, most just tell you what is in a parish's collection and where to find it. This can be a valuable resource in itself. An example of one of the entries listing available records is:

Abbadia di Gracciano - S. Pietro


Stati d'anime
1644-1645 (2 unità)
1647-1651 (5 unità)
1657-1658 (2 unità)
1731-1732 (2 unità)
1740-1741 (2 unità)
1796-1802 (7 unità)
1804-1810 (7 unità)

A list of available parishes by town can be found here.

A list of available parishes by diocese can be found here.

Happy researching!

Update from Portale Antenati

On 12 December 2014, Portale Antenati made some changes to the functionality of their website, making the zooming features easier to use.

On 18 December 2014, over 2,000 registers for the Archivio di Stato di Prato were released and can now be researched.

They are making great progress on this project!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Clerical Errors in Italian Civil Documents

Above is the death record of Giuseppe Aglira'. Please note all of the corrections the civil records official made to this document. If one isn't careful, this document could be interpreted incorrectly.

They appear to have written a few pieces of information for the death of an abandoned child then did their version of crossing out information and inserting the correct information for Giuseppe Aglira'. Everything they wanted to cross out/change they circled. They then wrote “dico:” [meaning “I say” or rather the declarants said] followed by the correct information. Normally, when things were circled, they placed the correction in the margin and did not use the word “dico.” Only the insertion of the father’s name is found at the very bottom. All other changes were squeezed into the document text. I've abstracted all of the genealogically pertinent information below.

Number 655
Giuseppe Aglirá

Giuseppe’s death was reported to the Reggio Calabria town hall on 4 September 1920 at 12:20 p.m. The declarants were Carmine Aglirá, age twenty-two, a traveling salesman, and resident of Reggio Calabria as well as Antonia Crucitti, age twenty-two, a housewife, and resident of Reggio Calabria.

They declared that Giuseppe Aglirá had passed away on 11:00 a.m. yesterday in his home on Via Pensilvania. He was sixty-three years old, a traveling salesman [abbreviated], born in Gerace, and a resident of Reggio Calabria. His father was the deceased Pietro [Aglirá], a farm laborer, and resident of Gerace. His mother was the deceased Anna Palimeri [?], a housewife, and resident of Gerace. Giuseppe was married to the living Antonia Contadino.

The witnesses were: Paolo Festa, age twenty-four, and a farm laborer as well as Vincenzo Fulco, age twenty-two, and a farm laborer. Both of the witnesses lived in Reggio Calabria and were not literate.[1]

So how does this effect the quality of the evidence this document provides on Giuseppe Aglira'?  I'd say it brings nearly the whole document into question. While it is good genealogical practice in general, in this case it would be especially wise to verify the evidence provided with other documentary evidence.

[1] Reggio Calabria, Reggio Calabria, Italy, “Atti di Morti [Acts of Death], 1920,” record 655, death record of Giuseppe Aglira; digitized image, Portale Antenati (www.antenati.san.beniculturali.com : accessed 12 December 2014).

Thursday, December 4, 2014

La Stampa - Archivio Storico dal 1867

If you've been working on your Italian research for quite some time, you'll know that it has not been easy to access newspaper resources for Italy. It's not like in the U.S., where there is a plethora of companies that have digitized a large quantity of the surviving newspapers.

Therefore, it's exciting to see the newspaper La Stampa put all of their issues online. These issues can be found at the link below.


However, newspapers pre-1900 are of little value to those researching ancestors in the peasant class. Not only were these ancestors not literate and unable to read such publications, they often wouldn't have done anything that would have been noted in the newspaper unless it was a criminal act. There were no small town ramblings about who visited who and who traveled to where, as we see in small town U.S. newspapers.

However, they bring great value in increasing a researcher's understanding of cultural context as well as historical and political events.

Happy hunting!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Genealogical Standards in Italian Genealogical Research - Genealogical Proof Standard (Part I)

The Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) provides a measuring stick by which we can determine if our research and genealogical conclusions about a research question are sound. There are five parts to the GPS, all of which must be met for our research to meet this standard.

1. The search must have been reasonably exhaustive. Note that I did not say exhaustive but reasonably exhaustive. Yet what are the practical applications of this? 

Take for example that you are trying to determine the birth date of Maria Arrigo who was born in the town of Termini Imerese about 1850. You know that her husband was Lorenzo Schiavo and that she likely married before 1876, when her son Antonino was born. Termini Imerese was in the Palermo province in the region of Sicily. Since Sicily's civil registration began in 1820, it is reasonable to think that the civil record of her birth would be the document to provide the most accurate information. After all, it was created close in time to the event and likely reported by a participant in the event.

However, any record can err so it is never advisable to base a genealogical conclusion on just one record. What other documents could be researched to find this information? Marriage attachments [those documents that were to be attached to a marriage record, called allegati in this area of Italy] often contained extracted birth or baptismal records of the bride and groom. Additionally, the marriage banns and marriage promise/marriage record would give the couple's ages, providing indirect evidence of her year of birth. The birth records of her children might also provide indirect evidence of her year of birth but do not always give the mother's age.

Another important record would be her baptismal record. This would provide evidence of her baptism but may also give her date of birth. Either way, due to Italian customs, one can assume the child was born within the seven days prior to the baptism. However, in some Italian towns like Termini Imerese, access to parish records is prohibited. Can one still perform a reasonably exhaustive search in situations like this? Yes, the GPS does not say an exhaustive search but rather a reasonably exhaustive one.  The inability to access records provides no evidence either way.

2. Your work must contain complete and accurate citations for all sources that provide evidence towards your conclusion. Therefore, if you had consulted all of the records suggested above (and you found them all) you would have citations to her birth record, marriage banns, marriage record, marriage supplements, and the birth records of all of her children, if her age was given within the record.

The last three requirements for the GPS will be discussed in the next post...