If you are looking for information about your ancestors from any town in Italy, there are three ways to proceed: (1) you can trade information with me, (2) you can hire someone to do it for you, or (3) you can do it yourself. I will tell you about all three options.
Option 1 — Trade With Me
I have transcribed all of the Chieuti marriage records available through the Family History Library for the years 1809-1929. I am in the process of transcribing all of the Serracapriola marriage records for the same years. Although records are unavailable outside of these years, marriage documents often contain details from the 1700s. Consequently, I’ve been able to gather quite a bit of information about many of the residents before 1809. If you provide your ancestors back to the 1920s, I can usually hook you up with your earlier ancestors. What do I ask in return? Information on your ancestors after they immigrated. I am not interested in current, living descendants. Rather, I am interested in only first and second generations.
Option 2 — Hire Someone
If you would like to hire someone to research your ancestors in another town, I can help you with that, too. I charge an hourly rate, plus the cost of film rental at the Family History Center. Please email me with your questions. Even if your ancestors are from another Italian town, I can research them.
Option 3 — Do it Yourself!
Step One — Buy this Book!
This is the book that got me started and it’s all I’ve used: Genealogists Guide to Discovering Your Italian Ancestors: How to Find and Record Your Unique Heritage by Lynn Nelson. Since stealing it from my sister in 2002, I’ve transcribed thousands of records. I can’t emphasize it enough; this is a great, invaluable book and you must have it to help you solve your mysteries. Nelson provides much more detail than I will be providing here. She walks the reader through the step-by-step process of identifying your ancestor’s town, locating films, ordering a film, deciphering unfamiliar handwriting, transcribing the records and recording your data. Buy it! Now!
Step Two — Know the Town
If you know the town of original of your ancestors, congratulations! Really this is the single, most important bit of information you need to proceed. Ask your relatives or try to find documents which might contain this information. If you don’t know the town, Nelson provides (in her book mentioned above) guidance in locating the town name. I have also been able to help people find the name of their town using various websites, even if it is not Chieuti or Serracapriola. You cannot research your ancestors without their town of origin.
Step Three — Find Your Nearest Family History Center
Did you know that the Church of Latter Day Saints (aka, the Mormons) travel the world microfilming documents? Although they do this because of their own religious beliefs, we are the beneficiaries. Find your nearest Family History Center by following this link. When you order a film (see Step Six, below), it will be delivered to the center that you choose as your “home” library. I live in King County, Washington and there are 12 centers in my county. While several are near to me, I go to the center that has the best hours and facilities for me. You can visit the centers and make your decision. Once you find a center, you’re ready for Step Four.
Step Four — Just Checking
Step Five — Look for Your Film
Once you know the town of origin, search the catalog to see what films are available for your town. Enter the place name. I’m using Chieuti as an example. Click on the links until you get to this page.
Let’s say grandpa was born in 1898. So we are looking for the births (Nati) for 1898. On the left side of the page are the descriptions of the films and the right side are the film numbers. Film number 1802916 contains the birth records for 1898. If you click on the number, you can see everything on that film (usually more than you need), and you can order it. You will need to create an account in order to order a film.
Step Six — Order your Film
You can make a Short Term or Extended loan. Short Term is a loan for 90 days. I always get an Extended loan because I am looking at everyone and that takes a long time. If you are only looking for one person, then a Short-Term loan should suffice. Order your film and you will be notified when it has arrived at your Family History Center.
Step Seven — Review the Film
Have you ordered the book I told you about in Step 1? You won’t get anywhere without it. Here’s where you must have Lynn Nelson’s book. Order it and have fun!
Other Ways to Research
Some of the microfilms are now available online. Click on this link and you will see a list of the Italian provinces. Find yours and then burrow down to your town. It’s a bit cumbersome to browse through all the images looking for something. I created a document which has links to of all the yearly indices, so if I’m looking for a birth record in 1889 in Serracapriola, I just click on the link and I’m at that year’s index. Then it’s just a matter of browsing through one year to find the record.
In addition to being able to see the actual images of the original records, some records have been indexed so that you can see the pertinent information. What has been indexed though is limited. For example, if I want to see what records are available for Raffaela Iafesta — my 3rd great grandmother — I enter the information, leaving the town blank. Surprisingly, there was a lot of movement between Serracapriola and Chieuti, and other towns as well. There is only one entry for Raffaela Iafesta, the marriage of her daughter in 1858. Even though Raffaela was born in Serracapriola, the marriage was taking place in Chieuti.
Although this index provides a lot of information, we cannot see the original image. I know that that the marriage records in 1858 are all handwritten, and handwritten records always provide tons of information — birth dates, whether parents are dead or alive, previous spouses and their death dates — which the index does not. So for me, this way of searching is limited. I want to see the original image. For that, I have to order the film.
You can always get help through the Family History website if you need it. You can also email me with general questions and I will, hopefully, steer you in the right direction.