A few weeks ago, after watching “Who Do You Think You Are?”, I was inspired to try, once more, to find out about my Italian ancestors. You see, I tried awhile back, but found it almost impossible to trace anyone back in Italy. The only way I could do it was to write to the churches or the town halls – but there was one little problem – I didn’t know where anyone was born, married, or even died. I knew that they were from Lombardy and the Veneto regions, but that was about it. I know all about my parents, but nothing about anyone before them except for my grandparents’ names and birth years! I felt like I was trying to find a needle in an extremely large haystack (more like in a barn full of haystacks).
When I had tried doing research a few years back, I had signed up for Ancestry.com only to find out that they had very limited records from Italy. At that time, they only had a handful of provinces online, and none of them were anywhere close to the part of Italy I knew my family was from. But much to my surprise, when I went back to the Ancestry website, I found that they had added some more provinces – and some in the Veneto region! So, I readily subscribed – only this time, I joined the Italian site – Ancestry.it. It only cost me $9.95 a year, and it seems like I have access to many of the online records.
Slowly I started doing a search of the towns in the province of Padua, since I figured that was a good starting point since my mom was born in Cittadella in the province of Padua. My mom was actually born in a hospital because her mother suffered from asthma, so even though I knew that she was born in Cittadella, I knew that they didn’t live there. So searching those records wouldn’t help much. But, because of my super-sleuthing abilities, I pulled out my googlemaps and began searching for towns nearby. Then I looked at the records for those towns to see if I could find my grandparents! Lo and behold, I hit the jackpot with Campo San Martino where I found my grandmother’s birth record (and also my grandfather’s!). In Italy (and maybe here, too, I don’t know), they try to link up other major life events and include them on the civil records. So, on my grandmother’s birth record, I was able to find her marriage date and location, and her death date and location! I felt like I hit the jackpot! Her birth record also included her parents’ names, their ages, and their occupations! This little paper held so much information – and with my luck, so many of the ancestors came from the same place that I was able to trace the family back about 4 generations! At times, though, deciphering the fancy script was a challenge…but I think I got most of the information.
It has been so interesting exploring my family’s roots and discovering some of the secrets that these records hold. My imagination starts to wander when I think about their lives and the hardships that they endured. One sad story that I discovered was that my grandfather lost his mother, father, and baby brother all in the same year – and he was only 11 years old and had a slough of younger siblings, too. Who ended raising him and the rest of his brothers? What did his parents and brother die from? What could have been going through his parents’ heads when they knew that they were going to die? These are all questions that I will probably never know the answer to, but I feel like, at least, I have more than I had before.
I look forward to learning more and more as more records are added to the Ancestry.it site. What other secrets will I uncover?
If anyone out there has had luck in doing genealogy research in Italy and can share how they did it, please send me a comment! I’d love to get more suggestions to see what else I can unearth!