18 October 2019

3 Reasons To Do Your Own One-Name Study

How much more can you learn by researching one family name at a time?

There's an organization called the Guild of One-Name Studies based in London. Its members study one last name and its variations over time and geography. Maybe that's more interesting for some cultures than others. I looked for my Italian surnames—even the most common one I have—and found none.

That's why I'd rather do my own version of a one-name study. Here's why I think you should do the same.

You Can Connect With Your DNA Matches

Earlier this month I wrote about the benefits of focusing on one genealogy goal at a time. Concentrating on one goal shuts out all the noise and distractions. If you stick to the goal, you'll get better results.

One of my 2019 genealogy goals is to "enter every Pozzuto baby from Colle Sannita into my family tree". I have tons of vital records from my grandfather's town of Colle Sannita on my computer. I'm going through them year by year, stopping each time I find a birth record for a baby with the last name Pozzuto. Then I enter that baby into my family tree.

Labelling my files lets me search for any name. Adding the xxxxx's show me who isn't in my family tree yet.
Labelling my files lets me search for any name. Adding the xxxxx's show me who isn't in my family tree yet.

Keeping my focus on one name builds more families faster. And the more Pozzuto families I build, the easier it is to figure out my relationship to my Pozzuto DNA matches.

As I focus on Pozzuto, I keep thinking about which name I want to do next. Should I do my own last name of Iamarino? Whichever name I choose, I'm going to make a ton of progress.

You Can Find Forgotten Relatives

I searched Ancestry.com for every person named Saviano who died in the Bronx, New York. It was a very specific search for the exact name and the exact place. Saviano is the maiden name of my great grandmother. Her father was my first ancestor to leave Italy and come to America. He settled his family in the Bronx.

Restrict your searches to one last name, not one person, for more discoveries.
Restrict your searches to one last name, not one person, for more discoveries.

There were 14 people listed with deaths ranging from 1906–1947. Of the 14, one was news to me. Luigi Saviano was one year old when he died in 1911. And I don't know who he is. Who were his parents?

I have two 2nd great uncles named Saviano who had children in the Bronx. Neither one could have been Luigi's father because:
  • he had another baby at about that time, and
  • I have close cousins who know about every member of those families.
I also have two 3rd great uncles named Saviano. Their sons might have been Luigi's father, but I don't know enough about them. Did they come to New York? This gives me a new set of Saviano relatives I need to research.

Searching for distant Saviano relatives may uncover cousins my living relatives never knew.

You Can Better Understand Your Roots

I have a PDF of a book on Italian last name origins. It's perfect for anyone with Italian roots. (You can download it from archive.org.) Here's part of what it says for my last name:

Iamarino is absolutely rare and seems to originate from Colle Sannita (Benevento, Italy)…it could derive from a combination of the names Gianni and Marino).…In Colle Sannita, Iamarino has been registered since 1588 as a last name belonging to several local families.

Woo hoo! I'm authentic Colle Sannita.

The book says my name of Saviano is rare, too. And for my name Pilla, it says:

It seems to derive from the medieval name Pilla, present in the area between Benevento and Foggia, but absolutely not used elsewhere. Based on registers of the church in Colle Sannita (Benevento, Italy) the name Pilla is one of the oldest in the area. It has been registered there since 1588, and is still present.

Rock on, Pilla.

You can search for your name origin for free on Google Books. Go to books.google.com and enter a search term (last names, German names, Irish names, etc.). Then restrict your results to only "Free Google eBooks". I found:
Be sure to search archive.org, too. That's where my Italian last name book came from.

What can you learn about the last names of your ancestors? The history behind your many family names may surprise you.


  1. Perhaps this will help you DiAnn...

    Name: Luigi Saviano
    Event Type: Death
    Event Date: 02 Jun 1911
    Event Place: Bronx, New York, New York, United States
    Gender: Male
    Age: 0
    Marital Status: Unknown
    Race: White
    Occupation: Baby
    Birth Year (Estimated): 1911
    Birthplace: U.S.
    Burial Date: 03 Jun 1911
    Cemetery: St. Raymond
    Father's Name: Artaro Saviano
    Father's Birthplace: Italy
    Mother's Name: Vincenza Pisanelli
    Mother's Birthplace: Italy

    Reference ID: cn 3234
    GS Film Number: 1322757

    Citing this Record
    "New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2WDG-X8J : 10 February 2018), Vincenza Pisanelli in entry for Luigi Saviano, 02 Jun 1911; citing Death, Bronx, New York, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,322,757.

    1. So...wow! I do have an Arturo Saviano in my tree who's just barely old enough to be this baby's father. And his father was named Luigi. He is my 2nd cousin 3x removed. But I had no idea what became of him or that he came to NY. I'm going to track him down. Thanks!

  2. You're welcome. I too have used many of your same techniques while sleuthing my 100% Italian ancestors. Appreciate the blogging you do and enjoy all of your posts. We share quite a bit in common when it comes to our goals in researching... been at it for 20+ years. I have commented before and will again... keep up your fine work. Ciao for now... Zio.

    1. Si, Zio. I recognized your name. Arturo and Vincenza married in New Jersey, which is highly unusual for my all-Bronx family. If I can find something that says his father was also a Luigi, he's probably my cousin. Thanks so much for being a reader!