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...

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Update from Portale Antenati

On 18 November 2014, Portale Antenati announced that the civil registers for the Pendino neighborhood of Napoli were now available.

For larger cities like Napoli, a civil registration office can be found in each neighborhood. This makes  genealogical research more challenging when one does not know the section of town an ancestor resided in.

"The following archival records are available now: Ascoli Piceno, Bari, Bergamo, Caltanissetta, Campobasso, Catanzaro, Como, Cuneo, Firenze, Genova, L'Aquila, Lucca, Mantova, Messina, Modena, Napoli, Pesaro-Urbino Sezione di Fano, Pescara, Reggio Calabria, Torino, Treviso, Udine, Venezia, Viterbo." --Portale Antenati website

Monday, November 17, 2014

Applying Genealogical Standards to Italian Research

Genealogical standards is not a subject one sees taught very often by leading Italian researchers. Yet why is that? Is not learning how to research well to the advantage of any genealogist, whether you are an amateur, a professional, or somewhere in between? One does not have to be a professional in this field to want to perform one's genealogy well, to make sure that all available resources are consulted and to understand what these resources are telling you about an ancestor in their social and historical context.

However, genealogical standards as a whole are taught well by many professional genealogists, using examples that are most applicable to their own research. What one sees taught in English is naturally compiled using examples of U.S. records. However, it was not apparent to me when I first started researching Italian records in depth just how the standards taught using U.S. resources could apply to any type of research, even the ethnic or geographically-based type.

This will be the first in a series of posts on this subject. I'd like this series to be an interactive experience where questions can be asked and answered. Therefore, if you had any questions applicable to this subject, I encourage you to email them to me at:, placing "Genealogical Standards Question" in the subject line of your email. I will either address your questions privately or answer it on this blog, especially if it is a good "teachable" question (omitting the submitters name of course).

The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) has published a book titled "Genealogy Standards," that was updated, clarified, and expanded earlier this year. This should be the "holy grail" of any genealogist wishing to do their research well, no matter what area of the field you work in. This book can be purchased on their website. BCG's website also contains many other free educational resources, including links to free monthly webinars you could attend in an effort to expand your skills. Michael Hait, CG will be speaking tonight on probate records so I encourage you to consider attending the webinar. Access information can be found on BCG's SpringBoard blog.

More to follow!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Evaluating an Italian Death Record for Genealogical Clues

Below is a translated abstraction of a typical Italian death record.

“On 2 September 1847 at 2:00 p.m., there appeared in the Isnello town hall Rosario Conoscenti, age seventy, a peasant farmer, and resident of Isnello as well as Giovanni Paci, age sixty, a peasant farmer, and resident ‘here’.

They declared that today at noon Angela di Domenico died in her home. Angela was single, one month old, born in Isnello, a peasant farmer, and resident ‘here’. Her parents were the married couple Maestro Salvatore [di Domenico], a peasant farmer and resident of Isnello, as well as Rosolia d’Alù/d’Alò [?], a resident ‘here.’ Neither declarant was literate.”[1]

In many areas of Italy, the declarants on a civil death record were often unemployed neighbors of the deceased. Since declarants received a small fee, the deceased's family often chose an unemployed neighbor for this duty. In this way, they could help the person without it seeming like charity. Because of this practice, it is difficult to say whether the declarants really knew the family well or were just unemployed. These particular declarants were also illiterate so they could not verify that the information they gave was recorded correctly. The declarant's literacy is important to note because in genealogical research one must weight the strength of evidence, correlate it with other sources for the same fact, and come to a genealogical conclusion.

The record shows that the deceased was a one month old child, which intimates a July or August 1847 birthdate. She was single, a fact that was not really necessary to record since she was a baby. However, it was standard to include the marital status of the deceased within a the record. If the record was for a married adult, then the spouse's name would be given. 

They stated the deceased's age and place of birth, all key information useful in tracking down her birth record. Additionally, they note that she was a peasant farmer. The occupation of the father is automatically inserted in the death record of a child. Occupations can intimate the social class of the family.

The father is given the title Maestro, often indicative of someone who is the master of a trade. It's not  usually seen when talking about a farmer, the occupation given for this ancestor. I would evaluate other records for Salvatore Di Domenico to see what titles he was given and when. It might also be wise to look at several records surrounding this one to see if all men were given this title. I have seen some civil officials give any male this title, no matter their social class or occupation.

The parents were noted to be a married couple. Therefore, a researcher should focus research for their marriage record prior to that year.

The translation of the mother's surname is uncertain and should be indicated as such within the translation. After checking current Italian white pages for distribution of these surname variants, one sees that both spellings are still found in Sicily, none are in the town of Isnello, but d’Alù is found closer to this locality.

As you can see, there is also more to a record then what is obvious at first glance. As genealogists we should approach any document with an analytical mindset, looking for clues that could help us extend the lineage of the ancestor at hand.

[1] Isnello, Palermo Province, Italy, “Registro di Atti di Nascita [Register of Acts of Birth], 1847”: record 41, death record of Angela di Domenico; Family History Library microfilm #1,618,345.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

More Language Resources on Google Books

Dizionario bolognese-italiano, italiano bolognese by Luigi Lepri and Daniele Vitali - a dictionary useful in translating between Italian and the Bolognese dialect ($).

Dizionario milanese-italiano, col repertorio italiano-milanese by Cletto Arrighi - dictionary useful in translating between Italian and the Milanese dialect (free).

Dizionario genovese-italiano by Giuseppe Olivieri - dictionary useful in translating between Italian and the Genovese dialect (free).

Gran dizionario piemontese-italiano by Vittorio di Sant'Albino - dictionary useful in translating between Italian and the Piemontese dialect (free).

Nuovo dizionario siciliano-italiano by Vincenzo Mortillario (free).

Dizionario italian ed inglese by Ferdinando Altieri - 18th century dictionary useful in finding older Italian words/occupations no longer in use (free).

...and there are many others. Explore!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Multiple Given Names for Italian Ancestors

Those ancestors who are found with multiple given names [i.e. more than two] are often found to be from wealthy families. For example, in the record below, the child was baptized with three names, Giuseppe Gaspare Agostino, only one of which was required to be the name of a saint.

It is not unusual for the mother's and godmother's surnames to be omitted within a baptismal record. The title of Magistro within this record was also a sign that the family was wealthy.

Baptismal Record of Giuseppe Gaspare Agostino Tessitore

Giuseppe Gaspare Agostino was baptized on 18 February 1767 in the Parish of San Giorgio Martire in Prizzi. He was the son of Magistro Salvatore Tessitore and Anna [no surname given], a married couple. Salvatore was the son of the deceased Magistro Agostino [Tessitore]. The child’s godparents were Magistro Gaspare Butera and Innocenzia [no surname given], the wife of Giuseppe Orlando.[1]

[1] Parish of San Giorgio Martire, Prizzi, Palermo Province, Italy, “Registro di Battesimi [Register of Baptisms], 1767,” unnumbered, p. 394, 18 February 1767, baptismal record for Giuseppe Gaspare Agostino Tessitore; digitized images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 1 January 2014). 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Update from Portale Antenati

A notification was posted to the Italian government's website, Portale Antenati, on 20 October 2014.

They note that there were errors in the metadata when they uploaded the images for the State Archives in Pescara. They removed the images last week and should have the corrected set of images reuploaded by the end of this week.

UPDATE: On 24 October 2014, the re-upload of these documents were pronounced complete!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Italian Notarial Records Available Through FamilySearch

FamilySearch's collection of Italian notarial records is growing, due to their agreement with the Italian government to digitize the civil records being conserved in the provincial/state archives. A few other types of documents are being caught in the microfilming process. The above image shows the FamilySearch catalog entry for Val Lemina's notarial records and details the type of records one might find within the notarial registers

In Italy, a notary was required to prepare any type of legal transaction from marriage contracts to loans to land transfers. As such, this was a coveted position which brought wealth to a family. As only those with an education would be granted such a position, notaries were usually of the upper class. This job was often passed down through several generations of the same family.

The Notes section of the catalog entry details the types of documents normally contained within these registers or minute books. Another type of document I've seen quite often and which is not listed, is the Atti di Notarieta', prepared when a person had no birth or baptismal record and such document was required for marriage or other such event. These documents required seven witnesses to verbally state their knowledge of the person's birth and events surrounding it. These witnesses were often close friends or family to the person in question.

Name of Notary
Type of Records
(Registers or Minutes)[i]
Time Period
Giuseppe De Paoli
Giovanni (Giovan) Angelo De Paoli
25 February 1677-26 May 1680
28 May 1680-26 August 1685
26 June 1691-29 July 1697
Giuseppe Maria Lucchese
Michelangelo Lucchese
16 September 1770-2 April 1771
21 April 1771-26 December 1775
Giovan Domenico D'Onofrio
2 June 1771-25 August 1775
1771-August 1785
11 September 1775-1794
1795-about 1810
1808-about 1820
Pietro D'Onofrio
1771-about 1814

Above is a table that I created detailing the surviving pre-1800 notarial records of a town in the Lucca province. [The names of the notaries have been changed by request of the client for whom I was working.] This list is a good example of the gaps often seen between what was likely initially created and what still survives after several hundred years.

[i] Within the notarial records, the minutes are where the notary takes down the specifics of the transaction in short form. He then creates a longer legal document, which was placed put in a separate register.