Exploring Italian-American Family History

Whether or not you find the information you’re looking for, it’s important to set up an efficient filing system. Naturalization records can tell you when your ancestors arrived in America and even the name of their ship. These and other staple records can also help you create clearer timelines as your research progresses.

Census Records

In the United States, census records can help you identify family members in the early years of immigration. They can also reveal clues about the ancestor’s lifestyle and experiences in America.

Start by reviewing basic information from pedigree charts and family group sheets that you have already compiled. Read a few basic how-to books on genealogy. Then, identify your ancestor’s neighbors and relatives in America. This will help you find records in the next step.

The National Archives has an extensive list of Italian genealogy records and is located in several cities in the United States. You can use their website to locate specific record collections and identify the microfilm you will need to access at a regional research room. If your ancestor was a bird of passage, check out their names in multiple passenger arrival lists. Southern Italians had a high rate of return migration, and some men traveled back and forth between Italy and America until they could afford to buy land in their homeland. Also, they only became naturalized citizens once they had lived in the United States for several years.

Birth Records

Tracing your Italian family history is a fascinating and rewarding project that can connect you to a rich heritage. Begin by gathering as much information as possible about your ancestors, including their birth, marriage, and death records. Talk to family members and search your home for documents, pictures, and items of interest, such as family Bibles, diaries, letters, and newspaper clippings.

It’s time to expand your research once you have a solid starting point. Start with the free genealogy database website. This site offers millions of records that can help you discover your Italian roots, including birth, baptism, marriage, and death records. The FamilySearch wiki is a helpful tool to navigate the site.

Many local libraries have access to city and county censuses, genealogical indexes, DAR lineage books and photographs on microfilm. The library should also have state and federal records available on request through interlibrary loan.

Marriage Records

The Catholic Church has recorded births, marriages, and deaths for centuries. These church records are a vital tool in discovering your Italian ancestry. They can provide information on the parents and their ages and can be used to determine your ancestor’s town of origin.

You can also find supplemental information from matrimonial records. Often, these records contain information on three to four generations and are a gold mine of information. These records are often handwritten and may include extracts of a couple’s birth or baptismal records to establish their age, or death records for parents who could not offer consent.

The National Archives provides various resources for genealogy researchers, including access to historical newspapers, maps, atlases, and other research tools. The Library of Congress also has extensive genealogy collections and offers online access to its collection, including the U.S. Census, marriage, and other civil records. Its Digital Collections serve up everything from WWII enlistment forms to passenger lists for millions of immigrants to the country, including photos, maps, manuscripts, and books.

Death Records

When researching Italian genealogy, it’s important to remember that your ancestors lived in a very different culture from you. That means more is needed to find names, dates, and places; you also need to understand their world.

That means examining their social history and learning about their customs, which will help you interpret the information in the records. It’s also important to understand that as you read about their world, you may discover why they made certain choices and how those decisions impacted their descendants.

Fortunately, several online resources can help you track down your Italian ancestors. You can begin by searching for children’s death records, often revealing parents’ names. As you search, it’s good to note all siblings with that surname and their birth years. This will make locating the exact ancestor easier when you find their record.

Military Records

Identifying military service is a key part of researching any family history. Your research path will depend on the branch of service, whether it was a regular or volunteer unit, and whether your ancestor was an officer or enlisted man/woman. You will also need to determine if they were granted a pension.

The Library of Congress provides access to several genealogy resources, including historical newspapers, maps documenting land ownership, and tips for tracing African-American families. Visit its Genealogy Collections page to see the content that is available free of charge.

FamilySearch provides online access to many United States records, including censuses, immigration and naturalization records, church records, and more. It is a great starting point for any researcher, especially for Italian Americans, as it allows linking to Italian records that are searchable in English.