Identifying Your Immigrant Ancestors – Part 2

What documents and data will best help you on your research journey

SEARCHING FAMILY DOCUMENTS AND RECORDS

We often have documents or records within our families’ files that can provide key information on immigrant ancestors, before and after immigration. Recently, after nearly 20 years of researching my Italian family, I discovered a newspaper article in my grandmother’s files, detailing my great-grandfather and great aunt’s near-fatal exposure to carbon monoxide in the 1930s. The article triggered my living relatives’ memories, providing me with new stories and life details. That memory was followed by other memories that gave me a glimpse into the personalities and lives of my Italian ancestors. 

Don’t limit your research to the files of your immediate family group. Ask your cousins what pictures, documents, or information they have. A cousin, a great aunt, or even a nephew 3 times removed may have a better picture of your immigrant Italian ancestors or perhaps an original document they brought with them from Italy. Records in the possession of extended family can be valuable. 

For example, if you know the birthdate of your great-uncle but not the birthdate of your great-grandfather, you can feasibly search in the military conscription or extraction list for your great-uncle within the Italian Province they came from. In this way, you will likely discover the names of your great-grandfather’s parents, plus maybe his town of origin. 

Some of the most commonly found documents in Italian American families’ files are:

  • Italian birth records
  • Italian Passports
  • Family correspondence
  • Family photographs

Note: for complete list and full descriptions, purchase The Family Tree Italian Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Family Tree in Italy!

Documenting Data

It is essential that you record each piece of information you find about your ancestors and where you found it. Build your family tree as you go along. Otherwise, the next time you sit down to work on your family research, you may end up duplicating the work you did before. There are various family tree software programs available. Each will allow you to more easily record your research and print out family tree charts and reports on your ancestral families.

Additionally, understanding the source of the information  can help when you have two or more documents providing conflicting evidence on the same genealogical fact (which happens more often than you might realize). 

In July, we will share part three to review U.S. sources to consult for immigration clues.

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Learn more about potential next steps to learn about your Italian history or pursuit of dual citizenship.