Resources and Strategies for Researching Your Italian Ancestors
Course Coordinator: Melanie D. Holtz, CG
Additional Course Instructors : Suzanne Russo Adams, MA, AG and Paola Manfredi, AG
Held July 17-22, 2016, at La Roche College, Pittsburgh, PA. Registration Information.
Genealogical research in Italy is exciting and varied! A rather young country, Italy was formed by combining multiple city states during Italian Unification (1865-70). However, not all areas of current-day Italy were a part of this process and some were absorbed into Italy by treaty during the twentieth century. Understanding the history of this beautiful country is key to understanding what records will be found and what language they will be written in.
This course will give you a solid understanding of Italian research and will expand your skills and reveal how to go beyond some of the basic record types. You’ll learn about genealogical evidence and information and how we can apply these concepts to the records of our ancestors. We’ll discuss adding cultural context to your family history and what to do when your research encounters an ancestor who was abandoned. Several case studies will be presented which will demonstrate genealogical methodology, as it applies to Italian research, and you will learn about some of the lesser-used resources that can be used to extend your family tree.
8:30-9:45 From A to Z – Civil Registration and the Italian Archival System (Russo Adams)
Understanding the way the Italian archival system functions is crucial to your success in
Italian research. Learn the basics of the archival system in Italy, what inventories and records are available from a distance, as well as how to prepare for a visit to the archives. Participants will have the opportunity to locate resources online for localities they are interested in.
This session will feature a general overview of civil registration defining the conservation designations (Stato Civile Napoleonico, Stato Civile Restaurazione, and Stato Civile Italiano), time periods and laws surrounding civil registration. Participants will also learn where and how to access civil registration via the Italian state archives website, Portale Antenati , and FamilySearch.org. Additionally, the current state of record digitization and indexing will be discussed. This session will “set the stage” for several others, as understanding this valuable record set is important in Italian research
10:15-11:30 Reading Italian in Genealogical Documents (Manfredi)
This course will discuss the basic resources that can be used to help translate Italian
genealogical records. We will compare civil registration records from different time periods and learn how the handwriting and the language changed over time. The students will be provided with a set of sample records that will be discussed.
1:00-2:15 Processetti and Allegati – Understanding the Civil Birth, Death, and Marriage Supplements (Manfredi)
Supplemental birth and death records can often be used as a resource to track hard to find
ancestors. Italians who planned to work overseas and then return to Italy often sent records of their children’s births and deaths back to their Italian hometown.
The civil marriage supplements can also provide invaluable information on your ancestors.
Sometimes three-four generations of one family can be revealed within a single set of
marriage supplements. Students will be asked to build a family tree [within their preferred
family tree program], while each record in two sets of marriage supplements are examined.
2:45-4:00 Italian Civil Records: Finding Errant Civil Records by Understanding the Process of Conservation (Holtz)
Many “missing” civil records can be found with knowledge of:
1) what records were created;
2) where the records can be found now; and
3) an understanding of how to evolve your research plan depending on what record sets you’ve already researched with negative results.
Students will be presented with several cases studies which will display the methods used to find missing records.
4:15-4:45 Q & A with Suzanne Russo Adams, MA, AG and Paola Manfredi, AG, both employees of FamilySearch.org
Join us for a Q & A with two of your instructors concerning the digitization project
currently underway in Italy by FamilySearch.org and learn how to get involved in the
indexing of these records. This session provides the opportunity to ask questions about the
process, the timetable, or the extent of the digitization agreement they have with the
Direzione Generale per gli Archivi (DGA).
8:30-9:45 Latin for Genealogical Records (Manfredi)
The Latin language is crucial to understanding parish records in Italy. Learn the basics of
deciphering by understanding its content, organization and structure.. Experience the
records and try your hand at extracting basic information from documents in Latin!
10:15-11:30 Researching Catholic Ecclesiastical Records (Russo Adams)
In 1545-1563, the Council of Trent began the long standing tradition of record keeping in
the Catholic Church. The baptisms, marriages, burials and other records created by the
Church about its parishioners are some of the best genealogical records in the world. This
course will introduce you to the basic record types found within an ecclesiastical archive as
well as how to use them creatively to “flesh out” a family history. Additionally, the course will cover ways to determine which parish your ancestor might have attended, where the records will likely be found now, and how to access them. Participants will have the opportunity to read and decipher documents as part of this course.
1:00-2:15 Marriage in the Catholic Church: The Council of Trent, Impediments and More (Russo Adams)
The Roman Catholic Church is the predominate religion in many countries. In 1563,
reforms brought about by the Council of Trent required priests to keep records of baptisms, marriages, and deaths. Decrees became church law in 1564 including a decree regarding marriage as a sacrament. Shortly after 1564, priests were required to record marriages. This decree was reinforced by a Papal proclamation in 1595. Learn a little of the history of marriage in Italy and how it changed or didn’t change with the Council of Trent. Explore the process of marriage, impediments to marriage, dispensations, and marriage customs using examples from Italy, Southern Europe and Latin America. You will also have the opportunity to explore several marriage documents to determine if you can
find impediments to these marriages.
2:45-4:00 Evaluating the Evidence in Italian Genealogical Records I (Holtz)
This course will discuss how to evaluate the strength of evidence and information found within Italian civil and ecclesiastical records. The history and process of creating these records will be discussed, a key factor in understanding a documents’ evidentiary strength. Students will be given a reading assignment and practical exercise, which will take 2-3 hours to complete. The practical exercise will need to be turned in by noon on Thursday, so that your instructors can evaluate them before the second part of this session on Friday. This exercise will help the student become more analytical when assessing the evidence a document provides and you will learn how to better apply these concepts to our genealogical conclusions.
8:30-9:45 Stato d’Anime/Status Animarum [State of the Souls] Records: Dissecting These Valuable Records (Holtz)
In certain areas of Italy, the Catholic Church created ecclesiastical censuses for the purpose of taxation and the recording of their citizen’s sacraments and vital events. These records can easily reveal several generations of a family and are especially valuable in those areas of Italy where the majority of civil registration begins after Italian Unification. Students will learn the history and process behind these records, which is important to understanding what the records reveal. We will also discuss how and where to find them and students will actively participate in evaluating several records for genealogical clues.
10:15-11:30 A Widow, Midwife, and Nun: a Case Study (Russo Adams)
A widow? A midwife? A nun? Is it the same woman? Vincenza Picone – Vincenzo Cavataio
als Galuzzo – Soro Rosalia Galuzzo. This session will explore various genealogical and
historical methodologies to discover the true identity of Vincenza Picone. Vincenza’s life
will also serve to illustrate the need to study history and culture in order to understand more about how our ancestors may have lived. Attendees will also learn more about the process of birth and baptism in 17th and 18th century Italy. Students may be provided with several reading assignments prior to class, which will be discussed and evaluated.
1:00-2:15 Processetti Matrimoniali – Understanding the Ecclesiastical Marriage Supplements (Manfredi)
This course will discuss the process of collection for these records, the ecclesiastical laws
surrounding their creation, and where these records can be found now. Tips for accessing
these often hard-to-find records will be given.
2:45-4:00 The Proietti: Researching an Abandoned Child (Holtz)
This course will focus on a very common problem within Italian genealogical research, when your research encounters an ancestor who was abandoned. Does this mean an end to the family line? What records might reveal the situation around the abandonment? Have you exhausted all resources that might provide information on this ancestor, directly or
indirectly? Students will have several required readings, which will help to understand the religious, social and political policies that affected the lives of these ancestors so dramatically.
4:15-4-45 Q & A with Melanie D. Holtz, CG on Italian-American dual citizenship
Join us for a Q & A with your course coordinator who works daily helping clients obtain
their Italian-American dual citizenship. Learn about upcoming laws that will affect dual
citizenship and have your questions answered about the process.
8:30-9:45 The Riveli – Census or Manorial Records, or Both? (Holtz)
In the region of Sicilia, the Catholic Church created a type of census for the purpose of
taxation between the 16th and early 19th centuries.. These records are sometimes referred to as manorial records and can be a valuable resource for Sicilian ancestors who lived before 1820, the start of civil registration in this area of Italy. Students will learn about the history of these records, how and where to find them, and participate in evaluating several records for genealogical clues.
10:15-11:30 In a Soldier’s Footsteps – Understanding Italian Military Records (Russo Adams)
Did your Italian ancestor serve in the military? Chances are he probably did, if born after
1855. Learn more about the history of conscription in Italy and where and how to access
Italian military records including liste d’estrazione [extraction lists] , lista di leva [conscription lists] and fogli matricolari [service records]. Learn how to locate resources online and offline for military ancestors.
1:00-2:15 The Evolving Identity of Matteo Catanese – a Case Study (Holtz)
Matteo Catanese used no less than six different names in the records he created during his
life. This ancestor will be tracked from his birth in the mountains of Sicily to his death in
Pennsylvania, displaying research methodologies, as each piece of evidence is uncovered.
The discussion will include how researching in the records of this ancestor’s “FAN [Friends, Associates, Neighbors] Club” revealed key information that led to a solid genealogical conclusion. Students will use knowledge gained from sessions earlier in the week to understand this ancestor and why he used so many different identities. They will also learn how some genealogical problems require research on those around the ancestor in question, in order to reach a solid genealogical conclusion.
2:45-4:00 Passport Applications at the Archivio di Stato di Napoli [State Archives of Naples] (Manfredi)
Few Italian passport applications dating back to the turn of the last century are still in
existence. However, when found, a passport application can prove to be a valuable resource for those researching Italian ancestors. Several examples will be evaluated and students will learn about the application process and how to interpret the information within these records.
8:30-9:45 Adding Cultural Context to Your Italian Family History (Holtz)
Do you want to write a family history on your ancestors that will last for generations? Learn how to find key resources on Italian cultural context that will add interesting details to your family history. Students will have an opportunity to work on their own ancestral lines during this session, seeking out details that would make a written compilation on their family more interesting and compelling.
10:15-11:30 Evaluating the Evidence in Italian Genealogical Records II (Holtz, Russo Adams, and Manfredi )
During this final session, students will be required to actively participate in a discussion of
the assignments given earlier in the week, within the first part of the “Evaluating the
Evidence…” two-part course. We will work in small groups to facilitate active discussion and all three of your teachers will be on hand to address any specific questions a student has, whether on the assignments or any other subject covered during the week.
Certificates, Farewells, and Lunch