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A genealogy project begins with gathering the necessary information. Rummage through your attic, basement, or filing cabinet, and ask family members if they have documents, photos, or memorabilia to help you research. Remember to document each piece of information so that it can be traced back to its source.
Start with what you know about your ancestors, including the names of their parents and grandparents and any other siblings who may have died young. Then, work backward using genealogical records and your family’s knowledge to fill in the gaps.
Exploring Italian genealogy can unveil a wealth of information about your family history, tracing back lineages and discovering connections to Italy’s rich cultural heritage.
Fortunately, many of Italy’s 107 provinces have made their civil registration birth, marriage, and death records available online for free. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the country’s naming conventions before you begin your search, as well as its strict privacy laws, making it challenging to access some records.
Look for church records, too, which can be a goldmine. Church books called status animarum (or stato anime) are like family bibles and can provide much more detailed information than civil registration records. Also, check the local archive’s website for digitized military service and parish cemetery records. You can order these via email, but it’s best to visit in person when possible.
Tracing your ancestors involves going backward in time through generations. Start with yourself and work through your parents and their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Once you have a list of 15 or more people, create a family tree to help organize your research and make locating the information you need easier.
Documentation is essential, but you also want to focus on social history to discover how your ancestors lived. This includes obtaining birth, death, and marriage certificates and family letters, diaries, or journals. Reading old newspapers and city directories can also be helpful.
Locating records in Italy can be more complex than in the USA. Since Civil Registration in Italy didn’t begin until 1809 (1820 in Sicily), church records are the best option for locating Italian ancestors before that date. If you know your ancestor’s town of origin (and, even better, their parish), Comuni-Italiani can be an invaluable resource for contact information for local churches.
Avoid giving your personal information to websites that require a password or pay-to-view. Storing your family tree research on your computer or other storage device ensures that it is available regardless of whether you have Internet access. This allows you to share it with other relatives as well quickly.
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While you’re researching your ancestors, be sure to document everything in a way that you can find it again. It may be helpful to allocate each ancestor a number as you find records so that as you work backward, you can always be sure of where to look again for information on the next family member. It is also helpful to write down any important details you discover—from identifying names in Italian records (using capital letters for surnames and abbreviating dates as day/month/full year) to interesting military stories or other unusual aspects of your family history.
As you compile your information, start putting it together in some family tree chart. This could be as simple as a freehand drawing, or you can use an online family tree maker.
Be sure to use primary sources, meaning that you’re using a record created at the time of the event (a birth certificate is a primary source, for example, while a county history book mentioning a specific ancestor’s birth would be a secondary source). It’s also important to consider whether or not you want to include any other elements in your genealogy, such as timelines, pedigree charts, and maps. This can be especially helpful for descendants interested in knowing more about their ancestors’ lives.
When you find essential information like birth and death certificates or immigration papers, it is best to save them digitally. You can use an app or save screenshots on your phone. This will keep you from losing the documents or having to track them down again if they are lost, damaged, or destroyed. You can also store the original or certified copies of these documents someplace safe, such as a folder on your computer or in a filing cabinet at home.
If you still need to do so, it is a good idea to research your Italian ancestors’ neighbors and relatives in America. This will give you a better understanding of the people in your ancestor’s town of origin and help you identify possible records to look for in Italy.Before searching for records in Italy, you should understand the Italian government’s structure and how it affects record keeping. You should also familiarize yourself with basic genealogical vocabulary and have a translation resource handy. Having a grasp of these tools will make your research more efficient and effective.