Showing posts with label church records. Show all posts
Showing posts with label church records. Show all posts

Friday, June 8, 2018

How to Find Your Pre-Civil Records Ancestors

On yet another episode of "Who Do You Think You Are" a celebrity learned she's descended from a king. The 20-foot-long ancestor charts they unroll so dramatically on TV are likely to frustrate us mere mortals.

Other celebrities' ancestors were on the Mayflower, fought in the Revolutionary War, or were among the Founding Fathers. All have deep, traceable roots in America.

That can make an Italian-American like me feel like a newcomer and a nobody. Antonio was my first ancestor to arrive in New York City in 1890. I had no useful documentation for him other than his 1898 crossing when he was 55 years old and brought his wife and children to America.

So how does someone from Southern Italian peasant stock wind up with the names of a handful of her 9th great grandparents born in the early 1600s?

Here are 2 ways to learn the names of these early, low-profile ancestors.

Hire a Pro to Search Local Church Records

An 1821 marriage record I hired a professional genealogist to find.
An 1821 marriage record I hired a professional genealogist to find.
One of my brick walls was my first immigrant ancestor, Antonio, born in 1843. I still don't know anything beyond the names of his parents.

I hired a pair of Italian genealogists to search church records from Antonio's tiny hometown. The town, Pastene, is basically one long street with a church in the middle and a cemetery at one end.

Unfortunately, it was not mandatory for this little hamlet to keep civil records. And my genealogists learned there wasn't even a church birth record for my Antonio. Thankfully, they focused on another of my Pastene ancestors. I'm absolutely thrilled with what they found for me on his family.

Find "Secondary" Vital Records within the Civil Records

A 1791 church death record found within 1848 marriage documents.
A 1791 church death record found within 1848 marriage documents.
Shortly before I hired the professional genealogists, I wasn't sure where Antonio was born. But I knew he lived in Pastene in 1898 when he brought his family to America. Then a World War II draft registration card told me his eldest son was born in another town called Tufo.

I used my nearest Family History Center to view the Tufo civil records and learned that the family hadn't lived there for long. They came from nearby Santa Paolina, so I had to view those records.

In Antonio's 1871 Santa Paolina marriage documents, I learned:
  • Antonio's wife Colomba was born in Santa Paolina.
  • Colomba's parents were Semblicio and Rubina.
  • Antonio was, in fact, born in Pastene on 7 July 1843.
  • His parents were Raffaele and Grazia.
All 4 of Antonio and Colomba's parents were alive in 1871. If any had been dead, their death records would be in the marriage documents. And you know what's on the death records, don't you? The names of the deceased's parents.

In 19th century Italian marriages, if the bride or groom's father was dead, they needed their paternal grandfather's consent. If that grandfather was dead, guess what's included in the marriage documents? The grandfather's death record and his parents names!

But all 4 of Antonio and Colomba's parents were alive. (Darn?)

That's not the end of the trail. Pastene may not have civil records, but Santa Paolina has plenty. That's how I wound up learning that one of my 5th great grandfathers was Saverio Consolazio.

Here's how I got back that far:
  • Colomba was born in 1845 to parents who were 27 and 29 years old. There had to be more children. I searched birth records for the surrounding years and found 3 of her siblings.
  • I found marriage documents for two of her siblings and learned some more ancestors' names.
  • I found birth records for some of her siblings' children and learned even more names.
Despite finding no death records, I found the names of Colomba's parents, all 4 grandparents, and one great grandparent, Saverio. Always look into your ancestor's siblings!

Remember what I wrote earlier about death records within the marriage documents? If the bride or groom's father and paternal grandfather are dead, that grandfather's death record could pre-date the town's civil records.

These early documents tend to be handwritten copies of church records that include:
  • The name and age of the deceased.
  • The date of death and burial.
  • The name of their spouse (if it says they were a widow, you know that spouse died first).
  • The names of their parents (if it says "fu" or "furono", you know one or both parents have died).
The church records within the marriage documents may include the names of your fifth great grandparents. I found the names of 68 of my 128 5th great grandparents using these two methods.

How many do you have? How many more can you find now?


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Friday, April 13, 2018

Results! Hiring a Professional Genealogist

Chiesa di Santa Marissima del Rosario, Pastene, Italy
My ancestors' church
I finally did it. I hired professional genealogists to do what I can't: find my ancestors' records in a church in Italy.

For one full week I tried not to think about the two genealogists who were visiting the tiny hamlet where my ancestors lived.

And then came the results. Eleven high-resolution images of documents dating back to 1803. The images were numbered one to eleven, and a PDF file gave me a brief explanation of what they were.

I opened up my family tree and went to my grandmother's family. Her parents (last names Sarracino and Saviano) came from this little hamlet called Pastene. I've been there and visited the cemetery. I've viewed the town countless times on Google Earth. It's a long, thin string of houses and an old church. That's it.

With my family tree on one monitor, I started going through the new images on another.

#1 The 1873 marriage record for Giovanni Saviano, the brother of my great great grandfather Antonio. I would have liked to learn the bride's mother's name, but this type of record includes no parents.

#2 The 1842 marriage record for Giovanni's and Antonio's parents, my 3rd great grandparents, Raffaele Saviano and Grazia Ucci. This confirms two facts for me:
  • my great great grandfather Antonio was their first-born child
  • my 3rd great grandmother's name was not Maria Grazia as I'd suspected, but Grazia.
#3 The 1864 marriage record for my great great grandparents Giuseppe Sarracino and Maria Luigia Muollo. One of my goals was to learn Maria Luigia's mother's name, but it is not there. It did tell me that my estimated birth year for one of their sons is almost certainly wrong.

Those are all great facts even though they don't provide what I really wanted: parents' names.

The rest of the documents had me puzzled. I wasn't quite sure who I was looking at. My family tree documents that Giuseppe Sarracino's (from document #3) father was Antonio. But was this him?

#4 The 1821 marriage record for Antonio Sarracino and Vincenza Perrella. Vincenza was from another town. Is he my Antonio?

#5 The 1826 marriage record for Antonio Sarracino and Anna Maria Muollo. Wait, what? I'm still not sure who's who.

#6 through #11 are records of households in the town. The church wrote these lists of the "souls" in their town, but to a genealogist, they're basically a census. OK, here we go.

1803: A husband and wife and their deceased parent's names. They have one son named Antonio Sarracino, age 4. So far, technically, this could be my 3rd great grandfather Antonio Sarracino. He's about the right age. But that's not proof.
1803 church record for Domenico Sarracino's household
1803 church record for Domenico Sarracino's household

1816: The same family with two more daughters.

1823: The same family, but now the mother has died, and Antonio's wife from document #4, Vincenza Perrella, has also died.

1827: Now Antonio no longer has his sisters with him. He has his father, the widower, and his new wife, Anna Maria Muollo from doument #5. They have a new baby named Teresa.
1827 church record for Domenico Sarracino's household
1827 church record for Domenico Sarracino's household

1833: The same family members plus two more children for Antonio and Anna Maria: Giovanni and Mariagrazia.

You know, I'm still not sure exactly what I've got here!

The last document. 1837: Antonio has a household of six people now. His father is not there and may have died. His children are all still alive. Teresa. Giovanni. Mariagrazia. And a new baby: Giuseppe Sarracino.
1837 church record for Antonio Sarracino's household
1837 church record for Antonio Sarracino's household. The youngest baby is my great great grandfather.

That's it! This is in fact the family of my great great grandfather Giuseppe Sarracino. Back up a minute. Now that I know who this family is, let's take a closer look at all the details.

From these six household lists, I've learned the names of:
  • My great great grandfather Giuseppe's three older siblings.
  • His mother's name and her parent's names. Those are my 4th great grandparents Francesco Saverio Muollo and Grazia Cimino.
  • His father's parents' names: Domenico Sarracino and Teresa Mastroberardino. They're also my 4th great grandparents.
  • Domenico and Teresa's parents' names. Those are my 5th great grandparents: Giovanni Sarracino, Rosaria Santangelo, Domenico Mastroberardino and Maria Tufo.
What an incredible revelation! The lack of civil documents for this town had me stuck. But these simple lists found in the church records brought me back three generations. This is something I can't imagine doing on my own. In this remote little town, my broken Italian wouldn't get me very far.

Now I am absolutely planning to go into that church on my upcoming visit to Italy. Simply standing there, knowing the names of many generations of my ancestors who were baptized and married there, will move me to tears.

So what's next? My researchers tell me there is a central church archive that may help me with my Saviano branch.

In the meantime, I have the names and ages of two new great aunts and a great uncle. There's a good chance that inside the Pastene records I've downloaded to my computer I will find their children. The records for those children may tell me more about their mother's Muollo ancestors.

The quest continues!


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