Get to know one of our Italian dual citizenship experts: Laura Chambers

LAURA CHAMBERS (Italian Dual Citizenship Specialist)

Laura Chambers grew up listening to her mother’s weekly calls to her Nonna in Italian and has always embraced the ancestry of her immigrant grandparents. She spent the bulk of her career working in television while exploring her own family history in her spare time. In 2015, she decided to kick her knowledge of genealogy up a notch and completed the Boston University Genealogy Certificate program and that convinced her that what had heretofore been an avocation should be a vocation. She has a broad interest in all ethnicities but has a lot of experience with Italian and Irish genealogy (her father’s side) and is the past membership VP of the British Isles Family History Society in Los Angeles.

As one of our Italian dual citizenship staff experts, we asked Laura to share a little bit about who she is and insights into her love of all things Italian!

1.  How long have you been doing this work? 

I started as a hobbyist in 1994 and when I completed the Boston University Genealogy Certificate program in 2014, it kicked into high gear.

2.  What motivated you to pursue this career? 

My father died when I was young and that is when I started researching his family tree. That morphed into a hobby.  When I retired from my career in television in 2020, I decided to turn my passion into my new career.

3.  What was one of the most surprising things you discovered in your work? 

I discovered that my Italian grandmother had an older sister who had died as a baby that no one in the family knew about.  As I was looking through newspapers from the small town where my father was raised, I discovered that he was once an Eagle scout, a bugle player, and the president of the drama club in high school.  He had never shared any of this with our family. 

4.  What is one thing people get wrong when it comes to doing research?  

There is a misconception that many immigrants had their name changed when they arrived at Ellis Island. It isn’t true!  Another issue is that quite a few people will add names to family trees on Ancestry.com without really looking at the documents to verify accuracy.  In my work, I make sure there is documentation to back that information up.

5.  What are the top 3 tips you can share for research?

  1. Leave no stone unturned.  Sometimes, you can find information about your ancestor by researching other members of the family.  This is known as ‘collateral research’.
  2. Keep a research log so you don’t keep looking at the same source over and over again.
  3. If you are only doing your research online, look at several websites like Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. Newspaper databases are also excellent resources for obituaries and you can generally access them for free using your library card!

6.  What is your favorite place/thing about Italy? 

I only had the chance to visit Italy as a small child but I have wonderful memories about the small town on the Italian Riviera called Alassio. We spent a few weeks there and my mother told me I used to run after the ice cream vendors on the beach and yell ‘Gelati!’.

7.  What is your favorite Italian expression? 

My mother’s first language was Italian, so she had a lot of them.  She used to say “Per la cicoria’, which I took to mean ‘Uh oh! Something bad just happened’. It was something said in my house.

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