Showing posts with label immigration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label immigration. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

What to Find on Your Ancestor's Naturalization Papers

What did your immigrant ancestor gain by becoming a citizen of their adopted country?

If they came from another country, your ancestor had to file their Declaration of Intent to become a U.S. citizen. They had to present it to the court in their jurisdiction. They had to renounce their allegiance to their former country and its head of state. After this declaration, your ancestor's citizenship was either granted or denied.

My grandfather, Pietro Iamarino, was born in Italy in October 1902. He came to America to find work in November 1920. He started working in Newton, Massachusetts, because his mother's brother lived there. Two months later Pietro moved to Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, and went to work for National Tube Company. The United States Steel Corporation (US Steel) had recently acquired this metal tube manufacturer. They most likely had lots of work to offer a healthy young man like Pietro.

Three years later, in February 1924, my grandfather must have decided he wasn't going back to Italy. He filed his Declaration of Intention in the Common Pleas Court in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, where he lived and worked.

Your ancestor's naturalization papers will hold a lot of facts you need.
Your ancestor's naturalization papers will hold a lot of facts you need.
Naturalization Documents Hold Lots of Genealogy Facts

Here's the information you can learn or confirm with your ancestor's Declaration of Intention:
  • Name
  • Physical description (color, complexion, height, weight, hair and eye color, distinctive marks)
  • Date of birth
  • Residence at the time
  • Immigration details (port of departure, name of ship, port of arrival, date of arrival)
  • Hometown
  • Name, place of birth and address of spouse
  • Current country of citizenship

The Process Continues

On 19 Oct. 1926—two and a half years after his declaration of intention—my grandfather's naturalization process was continuing. His Declaration of Intention and a Certificate of Arrival were filed. Two men who knew and worked with him signed a sworn statement that Pietro had been living in the U.S. continuously since he filed his declaration.

Four more months pass. It's now 24 February 1927: 6½ years since his arrival in the U.S. and 3 years since he filed his Declaration of Intention. Pietro takes the Oath of Allegiance. He renounces all allegiance to the King of Italy. He swears to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

This declaration of intention includes birth dates for the applicant's husband and children.
This declaration of intention includes birth dates for the applicant's husband and children.
Eight months later, U.S. citizen Pietro Iamarino leaves his job at National Tube Company and heads for Youngstown, Ohio. There he finds a job with the Carnegie Steel Company and a room in the home of his father's second cousin, Pasquale Iamarino.

Pasquale's young daughter Lucy Iamarino was born a U.S. citizen to two immigrant parents. Lucy and Pietro, third cousins who had never met before, married in October 1927. Because Pietro was a citizen, Lucy did not have to lose her citizenship.

"What's that?" you say. The U.S. government passed a law in March 1907 called the Expatriation Act. It said an American-born woman would lose her citizenship if she married a non-citizen. If her foreign-born husband later became a U.S. citizen, she would have to go through the naturalization process, too.

Can you imagine having to be naturalized when you've never been outside the United States?

Did this rule apply to men, too? If a male citizen married a foreign woman, did he lose his citizenship? Of course not. What do you think this is—fair? This law didn't go away entirely until the 1940s.

It is possible this law affected my other grandmother, Mary. She was born in New York City to recent immigrants. In fact, she was in utero for the voyage from Italy to America. In 1922 she married my grandfather Adamo, who was from Italy.

I know for sure he was still not naturalized as little as 2½ years before he married my grandmother. I haven't found his naturalization documents. The page seems to be missing from the record collection. So I don't yet know if my grandmother lost her citizenship.

What Was the Process for Our Ancestors?

The basic process of gaining U.S. citizenship today includes:
  • Entering the country and gaining legal permanent resident status.
  • Spending 5 continuous years living here at least 50% of the time.
  • Being at least 18 years old (children can derive citizenship from their parents).
  • Having a basic knowledge of English and of American history. The Immigration Act of 1917 added this requirement. Since my grandfather came here knowing no English, he must have spent his first couple of years here trying to learn the language.
  • Having shown good moral character.
  • Agreeing with the basic concept of the U.S. government system.
  • Swearing an oath of allegiance to the United States.

What Were the Benefits of Citizenship to Our Ancestors?

Our ancestors may have found it a lot easier to get work once they became a citizen. The main benefits of citizenship are the right to:
  • vote
  • hold public office
  • travel freely
  • own land
  • reunite your family.

I have one great grandfather who managed to own buildings soon after his arrival in New York City. Apart from him, I think none of these benefits were as important to my immigrant ancestors as merely belonging.

While they didn't lose their accents, they did adopt the American way of life. They were proud that their children were born as U.S. citizens. America was the land of opportunity, and that's really all they wanted. Opportunity.

What this long process like for your ancestors? How would you fare if you stepped off a ship in another country and had a couple of years to learn the language, the history and the legal processes? All while securing good employment and a place to live.

Our ancestors went through more than we'll ever know to give us all the things we take for granted. Like the right to vote. How will you honor them?


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Friday, November 2, 2018

How Did Immigration Laws Guide Your Ancestors?

Even if your ancestors didn't emigrate to the United States, U.S. immigration laws may have influenced their journey.

When my first ancestor left Italy and made the 3-week voyage to New York City in 1890, all he had to do to seek out a better life was:
  • Have somewhere and someone to go to
  • Not be Chinese
You read that right. In 1882 the U.S. government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, banning Chinese laborers from coming ashore for 10 years. The many Chinese workers already in the U.S. were not allowed to become citizens.

My many ancestors who came to America had no restrictions. They were not Chinese, they were healthy, and other relatives or friends had paved the way for them, helping them get jobs and a place to live.

Immigrants poured into Ellis Island by the boatload, all day, every day.
Immigrants poured into Ellis Island by the boatload, all day, every day.
Before my second ancestor came here, there was the 1891 Immigration Act. There were more and tougher restrictions. Immigrants had to:
  • Not have a contagious disease
  • Not be a polygamist
My people came right on in.

My two grandmothers were born in New York to recent Italian immigrants. But before my 2 grandfathers arrived, there was the Immigration Act of 1903. This was a big crackdown. For my grandfathers to come into New York, they had to:
  • Not be anarchists
  • Not be beggars
  • Not be pimps
Again, no problem for the average impoverished human looking for a better life.

The next big immigration reform was the 1917 Immigration Act. My grandfathers and other relatives had to:
  • Not be Asian, but the Philippines and Japan were OK
  • Be able to read any one language if you were over the age of 16
You may be noticing an anti-Asian pattern. My husband's grandparents all arrived from Japan with excellent timing. Only the Chinese ban was in place.

Some workers, like my great grandfather, came to earn money, went home, and did it again.
Some workers, like my great grandfather, came to earn money, went home, and did it again.
In 1921 the immigration laws began playing with quotas. They looked at the 1910 U.S. Federal Census to see how many foreign-born people were here, and where they were from. The quota for who could come to America was 3%. If there were 100,000 Romanians in America, 3% of 100,000 would be allowed in. If there were 200,000 Pakistanis in America, 3% of 200,000 would be allowed in. If there were 100 people from India, 3 Indians would be allowed in.

This had little or no effect on Europeans, though, because the Western Hemisphere was excluded from the nationality quota. Still, there was an immigration cap of 350,000 people.

But don't be Asian.

The Immigration Act of 1924 slashed the immigration cap to 165,000 people, dropping the nationality quota to 2%, but basing it on the 1890 census, not the 1910 census. Asians were still barred and were not eligible to become U.S. citizens.

Things stayed this tight with no changes until the Bracero Agreement in 1942. But that only effected you if you were a Mexican national coming here as a temporary agricultural worker. In 1943 the Magnuson Act open the door just a crack for the Chinese. They were allowed to naturalize and 105 new Chinese immigrants would be allowed in.

I'm not going to go much further because most of my readers are researching their grandparents. But in 1952 the Immigration and Nationality Act:
  • Stopped excluding races (Asians)
  • Changed the quotas to one-sixth of 1% of each nationality based on the 1920 census
  • Gave preference to skilled immigrants and family reunification
It was this 1952 immigration law that caused an entire branch of my family to go to Canada instead of America. They had family here, but the quotas were too small. They had to turn north. Now there's a big enclave of my fellow Colle Sannita descendants in Niagara Falls, Canada.

Do you have ancestors who came to America, but their brothers didn't? Maybe they went to Brazil, Canada, Australia or England? It's very possible the U.S. immigration laws and quotas played a big part in that decision.

For an interactive timeline of U.S. immigration laws, see the Pew Research Center website. And see a wonderful video about Ellis Island on History.com.


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Friday, October 12, 2018

Find Out What You're Missing on Those Immigration Records

Who and what are you overlooking on that ship manifest?

On 10 February 1909 my great grandfather boarded the S.S. Cretic in Naples, bound for New York City. He came to America a handful of times, earned money and went back home to Italy.

But his 1909 ship manifest is absolutely my favorite. His name is on line 3. But the men on lines 2, 4, 5 and 6 are all from his hometown. In fact, they're all related. Closely related.

Have you ever noticed on any of your relatives' ship manifests that people are often listed by town? You'll see several lines of people from one town, then several lines of people from another town.

Are you looking carefully at the other people from your relative's town? What are their last names? What are the names of the relatives they're leaving at home? Who are they joining at their destination, and what address are they going to?

If you look at these facts, you may find that some of the townspeople are related to your ancestor.

Take a look at my 5 townsmen.

Their relationships may not be obvious. Find all the clues and do some digging.
Their relationships may not be obvious. Find all the clues and do some digging.

On lines 3 and 4 you have 2 Iamarino brothers. They happen to be married to 2 Pilla sisters. Those sisters have a brother Innocenzo on line 5. They also have a sister who's married to Antonio Paolucci on line 6. So the men on lines 3–6 are brothers or brothers-in-law.

They're all travelling with another Paolucci on line 2. He is their cousin, and with some more research, I'm confident he'll be a closer cousin. Maybe he'll be another brother-in-law, too!

The first thing to catch my eye on this ship manifest was the name of my great grandfather's hometown: Colle Sannita. I saw it there with several ditto marks, meaning here were several people from the same town. Not a husband and wife and their kids—but 5 men.

This makes a messy graphic, but humor me.

Look beyond the name and ages, and see all there is to learn.
Look beyond the name and ages, and see all there is to learn.

When I found this ship manifest, I was searching only for my great grandfather, Francesco Iamarino. But all those Colle Sannita people were calling out to me.

This was the first time I learned of my great grandfather's brothers: Teofilo, on the ship with him, and Giuseppe, who they were going to join.

I checked the column where passengers list the name of a relative they left at home. Francesco lists his wife Libera. That's my great grandmother. Teofilo lists his wife Filomena.

Suddenly I had proof for a family story I'd heard. Two Iamarino brothers had married two Pilla sisters. Sure enough, Libera and Filomena were the sisters who married the brothers Francesco and Teofilo.

But wait! There's more!

Notice how all 5 men are going to the exact same destination. They are going to an address in New York City to join Giuseppe Iamarino.

Giuseppe is:
  • Giorgio's cousin
  • Francesco's brother
  • Teofilo's brother
  • Innocenzo's brother-in-law
  • Antonio's cousin

Wait. What? Is Antonio Paolucci on line 6 both my great grandfather's cousin and my great grandmother's brother-in-law? I've got more research to do.

If you're downloading your ancestor's ship manifest and simply filing it away, go back and look at it. How many names, relationships and clues are waiting there for you to discover?


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Friday, August 31, 2018

How to Make the Most of an Intriguing Genealogy Lead

How I turned a random lead into a documented relative.

I'm lucky to have such an uncommon maiden name. Nearly everyone named Iamarino can trace their roots back to the same small town in Italy.

Recently, an Iamarino from Brazil went to visit our Italian ancestral hometown. She visited 3 months after I did. I saw her photos on Facebook and recognized all the places I'd seen on my trip.

I've known about this particular Brazilian Italian cousin for 10 years. A mutual friend told me about her ancestry. Seeing her photos reminded me how much I want to learn about the Iamarinos who left Italy for Brazil.

That's why I'm diving into some Brazilian records on FamilySearch.org. I've chosen a database called "Brazil, São Paulo Immigration Cards, 1902–1980". I've entered only the last name Iamarino in the search area.

Document 1: Immigration Card

There's only 1 result, but it's intriguing to me. The photo of this 80-year-old widowed man, whose mother was named Iamarino, is calling to me.

A search for my maiden name brought up this man. What more can I learn about him?
A search for my maiden name brought up this man. What more can I learn about him?
I don't read Portuguese, but some things are clear. Miguel Basiloni is an illiterate farmer who was born in Colle Sannita (misspelled on the card) on 2 July 1895. His parents were Antonio Basiloni and Maria Iamarino.

My experience with Colle Sannita records tells me "Miguel's" real last name is Basilone, ending in an e. And I'm sure his given name is Michele, the Italian version of Miguel.

So I'm going to search my collection of Colle Sannita vital records and my family tree. Let's see what I can learn about this man.

Document 2: His Birth Record

The 1895 birth record of the man in the photo.
The 1895 birth record of the man in the photo.
Michele Basilone was actually born on 1 July 1895 in Colle Sannita. His father Antonio was a 26-year-old farmer. His mother was Marianna (not Maria) Iamarino. Let's go find his parents' births, shall we?

I'll search the birth indexes for Antonio Basilone and Marianna Iamarino in and around 1869.

Document 3: His Father's Birth Record

There is no Antonio Basilone in the 1869 index, but there's a Libero Antonio Pasquale Basilone. I've got to take a look at him.

Michele's father's birth record includes his marriage to Michele's mother.
Michele's father's birth record includes his marriage to Michele's mother.
There's the proof I need in the column of his birth record. Libero Antonio Pasquale Basilone married Marianna Iamarino on 28 August 1890. Now I have his:
  • Birth date: 15 May 1869
  • Father's name: Michele, the son of the late Pietrangelo
  • Mother's name: Andreana Paolucci, daughter of Giovanni
Document 4: His Mother's Birth Record

I didn't have to go far to find Marianna Iamarino's birth record in 1870. Finally I have a connection! Marianna's parents are already in my family tree. She is my 3rd cousin 3 times removed.

That makes Michele, the somber old man in the photo, my 4th cousin twice removed.

Michele's mother's side of the family was already in my family tree.
Michele's mother's side of the family was already in my family tree.
I'm a little worried because Marianna's birth record doesn't mention her marriage. So I'll keep checking the surrounding years. It's possible that the Marianna born in 1870 died, and another was born and married Libero Antonio.

My cousin who went to Brazil.
My cousin who went to Brazil.
OK, there are no more Mariannas, so I believe I've got my gal. Marianna was not a common name in this town. Ironically, it was my great grandmother's name, but she's from a neighboring town.

More Documents

I'm sure I can find Michele's siblings by searching the birth records starting in 1891.

I may be able to find Michele's marriage record, but only if he married after 1930. There are marriage records available from 1931–1942.

Every evening, with the Yankees playing on the TV, I sit here at my computer. I pick a genealogy project for the evening. Michele was an unexpected project that I'm feeling really good about.

Michele Basilone looks very sturdy and solid for 80 years old. I'm happy to see his face and know that my first search in the Brazilian genealogy records gave me my 4th cousin twice removed. Olá, Miguel.


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Friday, August 10, 2018

6 Ways to Add Another Generation to Your Family Tree

When you started building your family tree, you may have known only your 4 grandparents' names. What fun it is each time you discover a relative's parents' names. You've added another generation to your tree!

Here are 6 places to look for the names of that previous generation. Some may surprise you.

1. Census Sheets

Look closely at each member of your relative's household in each census. You may find the Head of Household's mother, father, mother-in-law, or father-in-law living with the family. The best find is the male head of household's father-in-law. Now you've got the wife's maiden name!

2. Draft Registration Cards

If your male relative was single and the right age, his draft registered card may name his father or mother as his nearest relative. In this example, Tony Jr. is not his real name—it's Anton Jr. But this card is evidence that he is, in fact, named after his father.

The draft registration card for a single man may give you his mother or father's name.
The draft registration card for a single man may give you his mother or father's name.

I'd heard stories about "Uncle Anton" from my mother-in-law. When I found this card, I realized his father's name was Anton, too.

3. Ship Manifests

If your ancestor emigrated during a particular span of years, you're lucky. Their ship manifest may include a column labelled, "The name and complete address of nearest relative or friend in country whence alien came."

Your relative may give the name of their spouse. But an unmarried traveler may name their father or mother.

Your immigrant ancestor's ship manifest can tell you their hometown - and their parent's name.
Your immigrant ancestor's ship manifest can tell you their hometown—and their parent's name.

You may not understand this scribble, but this is my grandfather Adamo naming his father Giovanni as the relative he's leaving in his town of Baselice.

4. Social Security Applications and Claims Index

A while ago I found a collection on Ancestry.com called "U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1935-2007".

If your relative worked in the United States after the 1935 founding of the Social Security Administration, they should have Social Security records. Hopefully you're already familiar with the SSDI—the Social Security Death Index. That can give you dates and places of birth and death.

But the Applications and Claims Index can give you much more! With some luck, you can learn the decedent's father's name and their mother's maiden name.

Plus, if you're looking up a female relative by her birth date, you can learn her married name.

5. Passport Applications

If your relative was a U.S. citizen going to another country at a certain time, they needed a passport. These applications can be a treasure trove. And you even get a photo.

Here's some of what you might learn about your relative:
  • birth date and place
  • address
  • occupation
  • father's name, birth date or age, birthplace and address
  • wife's name
If the applicant is a married woman, you'll get details about her husband rather than her father.

A passport application provides lots of names, dates and places you need.
A passport application provides lots of names, dates and places you need.

This example is from a relative named Walter Smith. It provides birth dates and countries for Walter, his wife Elizabeth, and his father George. It also says when he sailed from Liverpool to the U.S., and on which ship. The next page has photos of Walter and Elizabeth.

That's some valuable info when you're researching a guy named Smith!

6. Vital Records

Of course all genealogy fans want to find their ancestor's birth, marriage and death records. Keep in mind that:
  • The parents' names on a birth record should be pretty reliable. But either parent may be using a nickname rather than their true, full name.
  • All information on a death record is obviously supplied by someone other than the person who died. What if the decedent is an 85-year-old who was born in another country? Will their child, who's supplying the information, know the correct spelling of their grandparents' names? What if they never even met those grandparents?
  • If the couple getting married is pretty young, you can have more confidence in how they list their parents' names. (The "nickname" rule still applies.) But if the couple is older—2 widows getting remarried—the information is more likely to have an error.
  • If your couple got married in the same little town where they were born and raised, the clerk writing the names is more likely to get them right.

The lesson to take away is this: Don't give up on that previous generation if you can't get your relative's vital records. You have 5 other types of records to find, each of which can help you fortify your family tree.


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Friday, August 3, 2018

A Genealogy Challenge You'll Love

The 1st good clue in my challenge: naturalization papers.
The 1st good clue in my challenge:
naturalization papers.
What if a simple genealogy challenge could:
  • Show you how good your genealogy skills are?
  • Help you connect with a new friend?
  • Teach you some new research tricks?
Would you accept it?

A Challenge Arises

The other day a woman reached out to me longing to know about her lost Italian roots. Her grandfather Matthew had given up his Italian name to blend into American society. After Matthew and his wife divorced, their children had very little contact with either of their parents.

The woman who wrote to me loved her grandfather, but knew nothing about his origins. She offered me the few clues she had, and asked if I could help.

Challenge Accepted

When an assignment comes my way in life or at work, I like to take a peek at it and figure out how hard or easy it might be. Many times this quick peek hooks me. I'm interested, and I'm making progress. So I dive in and get to work. That's exactly how I began this challenge.

Here are the few facts I had:
  • Mattio d'Arcangelo was born in 1900 to Valentino and "Ginny"
  • He married Evangeline McElroy and owned a shoe company in Boston
  • His children, Eleanor and Robert, were given Mattio's adopted last name of Matthew.
  • Mattio and Evangeline divorced.
I wasn't getting anywhere searching Ancestry.com for Mattio. I switched to searching for his father, Valentino. I thought his distinctive name would make him easier to find.

Right away I found naturalization records for Valentino d'Arcangelo. I scoured the information, but I had no proof yet that this was the father of Mattio. His naturalization papers did not mention any family members. But they did include his exact birth date.

That May 10, 1873 date helped me match him to other records for Valentino d'Arcangelo. I found a Massachusetts marriage registry book showing the January 12, 1900, Haverhill, Massachusetts marriage of:
  • Valentino d'Arcangelo, age 26, a shoemaker from Italy, son of Mattio d'Arcangelo and Maria Porrea, and
  • Giovannina d'Arcangelo, age 25, from Italy, daughter of Raffaele d'Arcangelo and Felice Subrizio.
There was a good chance Giovannina is the real name of Mattio's mother "Ginny". But I needed more proof.

This 1910 census provides 2 great aunts and a great uncle.
This 1910 census provides 2 great aunts and a great uncle.
I found the 1910 census for Haverhill, and there they were. A family of 6: Valentino and Giovannina (now called Jenny or Jinny), and their children Mattio, Assunta, Pastiano and Mary. Mattio was born in Massachusetts, but his younger sister was born in Italy. The census taker crossed out Massachusetts for Assunta, and wrote in Italy.

A 1902 ship manifest supports the idea of the family returning to Italy for a while. In November 1902 Valentino is returning to America—to Haverhill—without his family. Giovannina and her first 2 children must have returned at a later date.

I found out from the manifest that Valentino was from the town of Bisegna in the province of L'Aquila. Unfortunately, there are no birth records available online for Bisegna after 1866.

I went on to find Valentino as a widower in the 1920 census. A death index shows he died in 1942.

I wanted some more documentation for Mattio—my new friend's grandfather. I saw that his memorial on Find-a-Grave has his name as Matthew F. Matthews. When I couldn't find him in the 1930 census, I looked for his wife Evangeline, and his kids Eleanor and Robert.

Mattio d'Arcangelo, aka Francis Matthews.
Mattio d'Arcangelo, aka Francis Matthews.
I found them living in Needham, Massachusetts, but the head-of-household was Francis Matthews. That memorial with the middle initial F. turned out to be a good clue.

They were a family unit in 1930. But in 1932, Evangeline McElroy Matthews remarried right there in Needham. I went back to the 1920 census to discover Evangeline's parents. That family of 4 consisted of:
  • Robert the father
  • Evangeline the mother
  • Evangeline the daughter, and
  • Robert the son!
I'd discovered quite a bit in one sitting. Mattio's granddaughter was just about in tears.

Your Challenge

Here are 3 ways you can find a genealogy challenge:
  1. Join any genealogy group on Facebook. Every day people ask for help. They may list some of their ancestors' names and dates and ask how to find out more about these people.
  2. Got DNA? You may belong to websites that suggest DNA matches to you. I read about an avid genealogist who is researching and building trees for all his DNA matches so he can figure out their connection.
  3. Maybe you have a friend who's mildly interested in your genealogy hobby. Help get them hooked by starting their tree for them. Ask for some basics about their parents and grandparents: names, dates and places.
Use the clues, your genealogy resources and skills and see how much you can find. Be careful not to make assumptions. Let the facts point you in the right direction.

Document everything you find clearly and thoroughly. List the facts in chronological order and show where each fact came from. Provide this person with the facts and the documents you've found.

Imagine that you are a professional genealogist, and do the best work you possibly can.

Once you've tackled this challenge, you may want to take a fresh look at your family's brick walls!


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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

4 Key Places to Discover Your Ancestor's Hometown

The exact address where my grandfather was born in Italy.
The exact address where my grandfather was
born in Italy.
When my in-law's father died, she knew nothing about his family but his parents' and his sister's names. I offered to build her family tree. With only a few names and the states where they lived, I was able to add several generations to her tree.

It wasn't hard because they'd lived in America for so many generations. Census records offered a way to trace the family's moves from state to state.

But only a few groups of people have lived on the same continent since before recorded history. At some point, everyone else immigrated.

To trace your family back to another country, you must find out exactly where they came from. Once you find that town name, you'll know where to search for birth, marriage and death records.

Here are 4 of the best places to find your ancestor's hometown.

1. Ship Manifests/Immigration Records

The later your ancestor came to your country, the better. Before the 1890s your ancestor's ship manifest may tell you only their home country. A later immigration record can give you that important hometown.

While researching my great grandmother Maria Rosa Caruso, a cousin said Maria Rosa mentioned her Italian hometown often. She called it "Pisqualamazza".

My great grandmother's hometown, seen on her immigration record.
My great grandmother's hometown,
seen on her immigration record.
Unfortunately, there is no such town. My research was at a standstill. So I searched for anyone named Caruso coming to New York from a town that sounded like "Pisqualamazza".

And I found it. My great grandmother's 1906 ship manifest shows it, and the transcription on Ancestry.com helped me read it. My great grandmother's Pisqualamazza was Pescolamazza!

When I found no such town on a map, I Googled it. Pescolamazza changed its name to Pesco Sannita in 1948, so my great grandmother knew it by its old name.

2. Draft Registration Cards

My great aunt told me our Saviano family was from Avellino, but that's not specific enough. Avellino is both a city and a province with many towns. I was stuck.

It was my 2nd great uncle's World War II draft registration card that changed everything. He was 64 years old in 1942, but he still had to register. Thank goodness. Because, despite 2 spelling errors, I learned he was born in Tufo, Avellino. I looked at an online map to find the correct spelling.

This 1942 draft registration card gave me the exact location I needed.
This 1942 draft registration card gave me the exact location I needed.
Shortly after that discovery, I found his 1877 Tufo birth record, and that of his older brother none of my cousins had ever heard of.

3. Naturalization Papers

My grandfather came to America in 1920 at the age of 18. He first went to live in Newton, Massachusetts, where his uncle lived. Then he went to work in Western Pennsylvania where he applied to become a U.S. citizen.

His "declaration of intention" papers include his hometown of Colle Sannita, Italy, and his birth date—which is not what we thought it was. Knowing his hometown, I was able to get his 1902 birth record from the Italian archives. This confirmed that he was born on October 8, just like it says on his declaration of intention.

Naturalization papers can provide birth dates and places -- sometimes for an entire family.
Naturalization papers can provide birth dates and places—sometimes for an entire family.
4. Passport Applications

It's always a thrill when you can find your ancestor's passport application, complete with a photo. My cousin Attilio Sarracino's passport application confirmed that he was born in New York. But his father, Carmine, lived in Pastene, Italy.

There may be typos, but a passport application provides solid information you need.
There may be typos, but a passport application provides solid information you need.
Members of this family went back and forth between Italy and America a couple of times. I found a record of Attilio's 1907 U.S. birth in Pastene, Italy's 1909 register book. They needed him on the record books because his family was planning to stay in Italy and raise him.

Finding these documents helped me make sense of family lore. "Pisqualamazza" wasn't a place. "Avellino" was too vague. And there are 2 towns (Pastene and Pastena) with families named Sarracino!

Before you dive into a new collection of foreign vital records, find all the domestic records. Make sure you know your ancestor's hometown so you don't end up chasing documents that aren't there.


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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Who Was Your First Immigrant Ancestor?

Hard-working men, bound for America
Growing up, I knew my grandfathers had come to America from Italy as young men. When I started researching my family history, I found their immigration records on the Ellis Island website.

According to their ship manifests, each of my grandfathers were joining a relative who'd already made the voyage.

Have you found a ship manifest for any of your ancestors? Are you squeezing every bit of information out of that page or two?

If so, you know each passenger names someone they left at home, and someone who's waiting for them at their destination. The amount of detail depends on the year of immigration. If your ancestor came through Ellis Island, you'll find lots of information.
A ship manifest holds lots of details about your ancestor.
A ship manifest holds lots of details about your ancestor.

Where Were They From, Where Were They Going?

When my Grandpa Pietro Iamarino arrived in New York City on 29 November 1920, he was leaving his "Father Iamarino" in "Collo Samino, Ben." First of all, thank goodness I knew his father's name was Francesco or I'd be mighty disappointed. Second of all, "Collo Samino, Ben." is a typewritten misspelling of Colle Sannita, with "Ben." being short for the province of Benevento. Again, thank goodness I knew the town name already.

Grandpa arrived with $11 in his pocket to join his "Uncle Pilla Di Gennaro" at 22 West Street, Newton, Massachusetts. This lead was a dead end to me for quite a while. Over time, after I'd learned more about Grandpa's family, I realized something. The "Di Gennaro" part of that description meant that his uncle was the son of Gennaro Pilla—my grandfather's grandfather.

So Grandpa was joining his mother's brother, Antonio Pilla, in Massachusetts.

Follow the Leader

So what do you do next? You look for Antonio's ship manifest. Was he the first in the family to come to America, or was there someone before him?

Antonio Pilla, my second great uncle, left Italy for Philadelphia seven years earlier in 1913. The ship manifest says he left his father Gennaro in Colle Sannita, Italy. He was travelling with his brother-in-law. Both men were joining Antonio's brother Innocenzo Pilla in Lawsonham, Pennsylvania, to work in the mine or for the railroad.

Another link in the chain! Next I searched for my other second great uncle, Innocenzo Pilla. He sailed to Boston in 1909 with two of his brothers-in-law. One of them was my great grandfather, Francesco Iamarino.

The group was going to the Bronx, New York, to join my other second great uncle, Francesco's brother, Giuseppe Iamarino.

I can't seem to find Giuseppe's ship manifest, but he's in the 1905 New York State Census living in the Bronx. His seven-year-old son was born in Italy, so the family must have arrived between 1898 and 1905.

My uncle Giuseppe may have been the first in that branch to come to America. That led to his two brothers and one brother-in-law following him in 1909. And that lead to my uncle Antonio joining his brother Innocenzo in 1913. And that led to my grandfather Pietro joining his uncle Antonio in 1920.

A Migration Pattern

The memorial to fallen soldiers in my grandfather's hometown.
In May 2018 I visited the memorial
to fallen soldiers in my grandfather's
hometown of Colle Sannita, Italy.
And what's the best thing about this kind of chain migration for a genealogist? You get to discover more family members. Add dates and locations to their timelines. Find documents for relatives—even if they went back to the old country.

My great grandfather Francesco didn't stay in America. But I've found ship manifests for him in 1903, 1909, 1913, and 1929. He came to join his brother Giuseppe the first three times. He stayed and worked for the railroad for a while, then went home to his wife and daughters in Italy.

On his final trip in 1929 he visited his son Pietro, my grandfather, in Youngstown, Ohio. He may have worked for the railroad for a while. Or maybe he came to meet his son's wife and baby daughter.

It's All Part of Your Heritage

Follow the path of the relative or friend your ancestor joined when they immigrated. You may unwind a series of sea voyages and a bunch more relatives.

Thank goodness our ancestors had the strength to make such a difficult journey—sometimes over and over. You've got to admire what they did to survive. You've got to admire their courage.

Be proud of your ancestors. And keep honoring them by documenting their lives.


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Friday, June 1, 2018

Weaving Your Family Tree into a Wreath

Rural towns - where every family intermarried like crazy.
The type of town where every family intermarried.
You know that feeling when you're researching an ancestor and you find out they're related to you in multiple ways? You can't quite wrap your mind around the complications and your head explodes.

If your ancestors came from a small town—especially a rural town—that entanglement is commonplace.

I recently visited the rural town in Italy my father's side of the family comes from. His father was born there. His mother's father was born there. If your last name is Iamarino, your ancestor was almost certainly born there.

I visited my cousin Maria who told me lots of family stories. As a youngster, she enjoyed asking her mom (my grandfather's sister) tons of questions. And God bless her memory, she was able to tell me a bunch of them.

One story briefly mentioned a name and relationship I didn't know. Giovanni Paolucci was my great grandfather Francesco Iamarino's brother-in-law. Giovanni and Francesco had both been in the Bronx, New York.

I never knew Francesco had been in the Bronx. Most of my family history in America centers in the Bronx. But Francesco was an itinerant worker in mines and railroads. I had never placed him in the Bronx.

This morning I decided to look for Francesco and Giovanni in New York City. Since I have all the ship manifests I can find for Francesco, I focused on Giovanni.

First I looked at Francesco's sister to see if she had married Giovanni. Nope.

Next I looked at Francesco's wife who had several sisters. Bingo. Francesco's sister-in-law Maria Maddalena Pilla married Giovanni Paolucci. But my family tree file had only one 1913 ship manifest for Giovanni. I needed more information.

That ship manifest says Giovanni was born in 1890. I checked the 1890 birth records for the town. Nope. Not born in 1890. I searched the birth records for several years before 1890. Bingo. Giovanni was born in 1883, and his birth record says he married Maria Maddalena Pilla in 1909. So he's my man.

Now, who was Giovanni Paolucci's mother? Uh oh. The small town syndrome strikes again! Giovanni Paolucci, brother-in-law of Francesco Iamarino, was the son of Maria Cristina Iamarino—my 1st cousin 4 times removed. That makes Giovanni my 2nd cousin 3 times removed AND the husband of my 2nd great aunt.

Kaboom!

Giovanni Paolucci's 1883 birth record shows his mother was an Iamarino.
Giovanni Paolucci's 1883 birth record shows his mother was an Iamarino.
At the moment, I still can't place Giovanni or Francesco in the Bronx. But isn't it amazing how a character in a story about my great grandfather just blew open a branch of my family tree?

That's definitely the stuff that keeps us going. Back to work!


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