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
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. 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. Please email me with your questions. If I can’t help you, I may be able to steer you in the right direction. Even if your ancestors are from another Italian town, I can research them. You can also hire a professional genealogist.
Option 3 — Do it Yourself!
In the olden days (oh, let’s say, 10 years ago), you’d find a film (see Step 3), order the film and view the film once it was delivered to your local Family History Center (FHC). Now, many of the films are online and accessible from your home. Read Step 3 for the update.
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 origin 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 — 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. The number 1802916 is the old film number. “Item 3” tells you that there is more than one town on this film, and Chieuti’s records are Item 3. The other number – 5793896 – is the new film number. Notice the camera icon on the far left. This means that this film is viewable from any device. You do not have to go to a FHC to view the film. Yippee!
Other films are not available for viewing at home. The entry below is for Serracapriola deaths and marriages. On the far right side, there is a camera with a key above it. If you hover over this icon, it tells you that the film is viewable with restrictions. This means you have to visit a FHC or participating public library to view the film.
Look at the photo below. Sometimes, you might see a magnifying glass icon. If you hover over it, you will see “Search the Index.” That sounds like the records have been transcribed. I’ve never had any luck searching this way. Please let me know if your experience is different than mine. See Other Ways to Research below for more information.
Step Four — Just Checking
Step Five— Find Your Nearest Family History Center
Now I only go to a FHC if I want to view a film that is not available at home. Find your nearest FHC by following this link. Because of COVID, the FHCs do not have regular open hours. As of this date (Febuary 2022), the FHCs are open by appointment only. I hope that will change.
Other Ways to Research
There are other microfilms 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.
As I mentioned earlier, some records have been indexed so that you can see the pertinent information. (In the past I had better luck with searching indexed records. I don’t know what the problem is.) 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.
I was surprised to discover that my ancestors moved around from different towns. Some of them came from the province of Campobasso. This is a great online resource for searching Campobasso records. A warning though: there is no index search where you type in someone’s name and their information pops up. This is slogging through all of the records for a particular year. I found a lot of great stuff through this website.
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.