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Genealogy Search Hints (Mark's 10+ Steps)

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You will have a grand time "finding dead relatives". What is even better is that you WILL find live relatives. I've found many 2nd cousins that my branch of the family lost track of. I've found dozens of 3rd, 4th and 5th cousins. If you have questions  you can email me : .

First a word about spelling. Italian schools did not teach spelling. That's because in the beautiful Italian language, unlike English, almost every letter is pronounced. So words are spelled just like they are pronounced. So if a person heard a name a little differently, it was written down a little differently. Don't get bothered or distracted by this. But later in the USA, this made things more confusing. Here, the spelling of a person's name was important. Once it was written down wrong, it became permanent. Some Italian names changed a lot. When you search the US records, be creative and think about what alternatives and mis-spellings might have happened. Look at this article: They Changed Our Name at Ellis Island by Donna Przecha.

Here are my 10+ steps to to your family history:

1. Talk to all of your relatives.

Get names, dates, places and stories. If you don't have a scanner, buy one and scan ALL the photos you can find. Scan them with at least 300 dpi resolution. Use Grayscale or Color scanning as appropriate. With each one, make a note file (with the same filename) describing the photo (dates, places, people, and stories that go along with it).

2. "Archivo di Stati" in Italy.

There is one in each province. I've written to the archives in Pescara and Isernia. I've sent them many emails asking about my ancestors. They have supplied a lot of good information. They charge for postage and copying but not for research. I use them to look up 1809 to the present. I'm not sure how new of records they have but they have found people for me up the 1930's. You must write to them in Italian with your request. Here is a list with mailing addresses:

I can't remember where I got the email address. It appears the email address is where the xx is the two letter abbreviation for the province. "pe" for Pescara and "is" for Isernia. I don't know the other province abbreviations.

Here is an example of the letter that I use. This one asks about my grandfather ("nonno") Camillo DiVecchia. It tells them the town he was born in, his birth date, the name of his father and the names of his grandparents. You should put in as much as you know. The letter asks for a family tree and for informational copies ("in carta libera" - on unstamped paper) of any records ("atto") found. It says that I will pay for any copying or postage costs. I received the letter originally from Shirley Colaianni Sinclaire. Just replace the words in brackets "[]" with your information. I'm not sure the masculine/feminine genders are correct on all the words but it should be understandable.

To: []
Subject: [Camillo DiVecchia - Sant'Eufemia a Maiella]

[Mark Camillo DiVecchio
United States]

17 settembre 2003

Piazza della Marina 2/4
65126 Pescara - ITALIA

Egregi Signori,

Mi chiamo [Mark Camillo DiVecchio], ed abito negli Stati Uniti all'indirizzo sopraddetto. Cerco informazioni sul mio [nonno], [Camillo DiVecchia]. Nato nel comune di [Sant'Eufemia a Maiella].  Cerco questi dati per conoscere meglio la mia famiglia, e per trovare i miei parenti rimasti in Italia.

Vi sarei molto grato se poteste spedirmi il certificato di stato di famiglia storico e l'estratto dell'atto di nascita di [Camillo DiVecchia],  in carta libera. [Nato nel 1874 (20 aprile), figlio di Michelangelo DiVecchia (Michelangelo, figlio di Guistino e Maria Vencenza Timperio).]

Lo stato di civile non ha le informazioni, e mi hanno consigliato a scrivere a voi.

Vi ringrazio in anticipo per la vostra gentilezza e premura, e vi prego di addebitarmi tutte le spese postali e dei certificati.

Distinti saluti,

[Mark Camillo DiVecchio]

The Archivo will respond with a letter something like this one. It says they searched the records from 1809 to 1928 and found 11 records related to the ancestors of Camillo. They ask that I send $10 to cover the cost of  copying and postage. Note that they are asking for US dollars. I've just sent them money along with copies of BOTH emails. I never had any problem with money loss. Part of that $10 is a money changing fee. The Archivo in Isernia wanted Euros only so I had to get some dollars changed.

Date: Mon, 22 Sep 2003 08:08:39 +0200
From: aspe <>
Subject: ricerca genealogica famiglia Di Vecchia di Sant'Eufemia

In riferimento alla e-mail sopra citata si comunica che presso questo Archivio di Stato si conservano gli atti di Stato Civile (nascite,matrimoni e morti ) di Pescara e provincia dall'anno 1809 all'anno 1928.

Nei registri dei comunbi di Sant'eufemia e Caramanico sono stati rinvenuti  n.11 atti relativi agli antenati di Di Vecchia  Camillo.Per ricevere copia dei medesimi e uno schema dell'albero genealogico la S.V. dovrebbe inviare in busta chiusa una banconota da 10 dollari per coprire le spese di riproduziuone e di spedizione.

Distinti saluti
prot. n. 4167 / X.1.2
il Direttore
dott.ssa Maria Teresa Iovacchini

Here is more letter writing help from the FHL site : Italian Letter Writing Guide .

Here is another example of a letter in Italian:

3. On the Internet

3a. Alien Registration

(Gene Frazzini told me about this)

Since my grandfather, Carlo Frazzini, was never naturalized, he had to register as "an alien of an enemy nation" in 1942.  His Registration Certificate of Identification can be seen at I hope to get a copy of his registration paperwork and the related file.  This file can include names & addresses of family members as well as other information gathered by the government.  Maybe I'll learn where he was (Canada?) between 1892 & 1901. I learned about this from an article in Ancestry Magazine that was posted on  That posting has expired so it's no longer accessible. The article tells what one individual received when he requested an A-file.

I don't know what information could be obtained for a person who was naturalized.  The FOIA Form G-639 has lines for Naturalization information. That implies to me that copies of their naturalization paperwork, and possibly, related files may be available through this medium.

I wanted to specifically request his Alien Registration Files but I also wanted get anything else they might have.  I attempted to convey that by entering the following for Item 5 on G-639:

Specific information:  Naturalization process paperwork, Alien Registration Files & Records; A-file: All papers, records and documents, 1871 to present.  DHS, BCIS (INS).
Purpose (Optional):  Genealogical Research on my deceased great grandfather's family.

The INS is now part of the Bureau of Citizenship & Immigration Services (BCIS) which is under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Field Offices =
Freedom of Information Act form G-639 PDF download =

3b. Military Records

For military records, I recommend that everyone make an application through the National Archives for their parent's or grandparent's records.

3c. Genealogy Data Base Sites

    US Census - This usually requires a paid account somewhere, a good choice is:
        The Godfrey Library at      ($35/year)
    Ellis Island -
        Or use the Jewish Gen Index to Ellis Island

Sometimes when you lookup a person on EI, the record points to the wrong manifest and even the wrong ship. Its happens more than I'd like. But you might be able to find the correct manifest:

1. Go to Jewish Gen Index to Ellis Island
2. Press the "Ship Lists" button
3. Enter the ship name and the date of arrival, then press the "search" button.
4. You should get a record showing you the ship you are looking for. Its a pointer to the first page of that ship's manifest
5. Click on the ship name which should be underlined.
6. This will display the first page of the manifest. Press the "Frame" "+1" "+2" "+3" or "+4" buttons to move ahead PAGE by PAGE through the manifest looking for the person of interest. Not fun but it works.

    Castle Garden
    The Data Banks message boards -
    Check the SSDI (Social Security Death Index) death records available from
        You can order copies of the original application for the SSAN - the application shows person's birth date and names of parents.

3d. Antenati Gli Archivi per la Ricerca Anagrafica

Il Portale Antenati - promosso e curato dalla Direzione Generale per gli Archivi - nasce dall’esigenza di rendere disponibile l’enorme patrimonio documentario esistente negli Archivi di Stato per condurre ricerche anagrafiche e genealogiche, finalizzate alla ricostruzione della storia di famiglie e di persone, ma anche alla storia sociale in senso lato. Attraverso il Portale è infatti possibile sfogliare a video milioni e milioni di immagini di registri di anagrafe e di stato civile, trovare nomi di persona presenti negli atti, ottenere informazioni sulle fonti. Sono attualmente presenti sul portale: 26.498.581 immagini provenienti da 26 archivi di stato (aggiornamento Gennaio 2015)

The Portale Antenati (Ancestors Portal) - promoted and sponsored by the Direzione Generale per gli Archivi (Italian National Archives) - was born out of the necessity to make available the huge treasure of documents that are stored in the State Archives, not only for the purposes of genealogical research, of recreating the history of families and individuals, but also to contribute to the understanding of the social history of communities. Through Il Portale (The Portal), it is actually possible to browse through millions and millions of historical images of records in possession of the State, and to find the names of people in these documents, and obtain information on the documentation as well. Currently (January 2015) 26.498.581 images from 26 state archives are present in the Portal.

This is the VERY BEST  place to find actual scans of birth/marriage/death records from Italy.

The Italian Archives for Genealogical Research web site,  has been hard at work digitizing the civil records from towns in Italy including Sant'Eufemia a Maiella and San Pietro Avellana.

We discovered the records from Sant'Eufemia were available a few years ago and now they have added many more records so that it appears that every available civil birth/marriage/death record from 1809 to about 1920 is on-line. The records from San Pietro showed up in 2020 and cover the records from 1809 to 1899.

Here are the records that are available:


The Napoleonic Era - most of Italy was under French rule and we can thank Napoleon for forcing the Italians to start civil record keeping. Of course before 1809, the Catholic Church was very diligent in keeping baptism/marriage/death records but, so far, none of the Church records have been digitized that I know of.

Before 1844, Sant'Eufemia was not a separate town and its records were kept in the nearby town, Caramanico. So for 1809-1815 records, we need to look at Caramanico where the town is listed in the records as "Villa Sant'Eufemia".

San Pietro Avellana:


The Restoration Era - Napoleon was kicked out of Italy but Italy was still a group of small regions with no central government.

During 1816-1843, record keeping continued and Villa Sant'Eufemia records were still kept in Caramanico

San Pietro Avellana records for this era are contained in one set covering the years 1816-1865


The Restoration Era - Record keeping continued but in 1844, Villa Sant'Eufemia,Villa San Giacomo and Villa Ricciardo were combined to become a separate town named Sant'Eufemia.

San Pietro Avellana records for this era are contained in one set covering the years 1816-1865


The Reunification Era - the country of Italy came into being with the reunification. Record keeping continued.

The Sant'Eufemia records from 1860-1865 are listed under the town name "Sant'Eufemia" while the records from 1866-1920 are listed under the town name "Sant'Eufemia a Maiella".

These birth/marriage/death records are not complete (in particular, missing almost all of the records from the 1870's). Maybe those missing years will be added in the future or else the records have been lost.

San Pietro Avellana records for this era are contained in one set covering the years 1866-1899.

Some years are missing from the SPA records but they are also missing in the microfilmed records at the FHC.

You will notice some birth records indexed as "1871-1893", death records indexed as "1873-1897" and marriage records indexed as "1868-1899". These are what I call reconstructed records. In the 1950's, people from SPA were invited to report to the town hall, the names and birth information for their ancestors whose birth records were lost. These records are the result of that reporting. Keep in mind that the information in these records is from 100 year old memories and may not be correct.

There are records for a lot of other Italian towns are on this site also.

3e. 1753 Catasto Onciario

Mike Livreri, who is researching diNardo, pointed me to a new web site. It contains a digitization in Italian of the 1753 Catasto Onciario from Caramanico. The work on this Catasto was started in 1742 so sometimes that year is referenced. Recall that before 1844, Sant'Eufemia was not a separate town and records were kept in the larger, nearby town of Caramanico. So in this Catasto, are the records about people who lived in what was then known as Villa Sant'Eufemia.

Catasto Onciario were tax documents that listed all the families in the town along with their property and income. You  can read more about Catasto here:

 This document is by far the oldest document from Sant'Eufemia that I have seen. Here is the Italian home page:

Here is a link using Google Translate (but it does not work correctly) :

An English translation has been started but is not complete:

Click on "Catasto 1753". It shows 6 categories of residents. I don't understand them all but if you click on "Uomini" that seems to list the farmers and laborers. There are 436 people listed.

 I used Google Translate to help me understand some of what is being written.

3f. Other Major Genealogy Web Sites

Go to all of the major genealogy web sites and search on your family name:

4. Make a web page with everything you know about your family.

You have probably seen mine at:

Most Internet accounts come with some disk space on an Internet Server for a web site, usually like 5-10 Mb. You create the page on your computer using software specially made to create web pages. Then you transfer that file along with the photos to the Server computer.

Creating the web page is a lot like using a word processor program. Netscape has a program called "Composer", Microsoft has "Frontpage". I use an editor called "NVU". It is done by a group using the Composer program originally done by the Mozilla people :

At their web site, you can download the latest version. Seems to work well and it has a tutorial.

It has many of the same features as Frontpage Express (free version). I think the expensive Frontpage has many more features - of which you will need none if you want to make pages similar to what I did.

I use very few features of HTML. My pages have words, pictures, tables and links. Nothing fancy. Hint: within each web page, keep all the information in cronological order.

If you think you really need a book to use the program, Frontpage would be an OK alternative. I don't know of any beginner books to recommend.

The process is fairly simple but it is different for each ISP.

If you call your ISP, they should have simple instructions on how to do it. They will probably have to give you a different login and password to use for transferring the web page to their Server computer.

Here is a link to a Netscape Composer tutorial:
Here is a link to a NVU tutorial: .

5. Personal Ancestry File (PAF)

From the web site, get a copy of the free program Personal Ancestry File (PAF) (unless you already have a genealogy program). It will let you create, look at, and print GED files. An inexpensive add on, PAF Companion, lets you make more useful printouts.

The LDS Church no longer supports the PAF program. If you look on their web page, though, they list several alternatives.

I enter all the family information that I have into the PAF program. An especially important entry is a note or source annotation telling where you found the information. I guarantee that if you don't do this, in a year or two, you will forget the source of the information.

6. Microfilms from the LDS church which can be used at your local Family History Center (FHC).

They charge to get the film shipped from Salt Lake City to your local FHC, otherwise it is free. These records have birth, death, banns and marriage records.

For my father's hometown of Sant'Eufemia a Maiella, microfilms cover the period 1844-1865. Before 1844, Sant'Eufemia was part (frazioni) of the town of Caramanico and the microfilms from that town go back to 1809. A total of about 45 rolls of microfilm.

In the case of my mother's hometown, San Pietro Avellana, there are about a dozen rolls of film covering the period from 1809 to 1899.

You can look up on the LDS church web site to see if any films are available for your towns:*,0,0

Dick Maile reminded me: "In many cases, if a "small town" is a frazione, the records might have been kept in the next larger city. I've found this to be true in the Abruzzi region. The FHL has an Italian Gazetteer on microfilm. It lists the city or the municipality where the records are recorded."

7. Learn Italian:

You will have to learn enough Italian to get through the records (numbers, dates, etc) and (more importantly) how read Italian handwriting. Here are good spots to start:

Decoding Italian handwriting:

Italian Genealogical Word List:

This book costs money but it is the very best book I have found that decodes the records from Italy. It has examples that walk you through birth, marriage and death records and shows a line by line translation of examples.

8.  A word about "admistrative names":

Here are some words about "administrative names" from Trafford Cole and his book Italian Genealogical Records: How to Use Italian Civil, Ecclesiastical, & Other Records in Family History Research:

In Italy today there is a difference between a person's full name and the "administrative" name used by the anagrafe office. Usually, the administrative name is the person's first (given) name, or the first two if they go together as one name - for example, Maria Rosa or Gian Paolo - whereas the full name may include several names. Only the administrative name is shown on a certificate of birth, so it is necessary to have the extract of the original document to obtain the person's full, legal name. (Some European countries, Italy among them, have laws regarding the naming of children. The English tradition of passing the same name from father to son, with the use of "senior" and "junior" to distinguish them, is prohibited in Italy; so, in Italy, a man's first name may not be the same as his father's because this would give them the same administrative name. Even in earlier periods, a father's name was normally given to his son only if the father died before the son's birth. Instead, Italians traditionally name their children after the children's grandparents.)

9. Build your Family Tree

 Then using the PAF program, start your own genealogy tree.

Whew! Sure sounds like alot of work. But it's fun!

Good Luck

Other Hints

        1st son named after father's father
        2nd son named after mother's father
        1st daughter named after father's mother
        2nd daughter named after mother's mother

        Look at this article:

If worse comes to worse and you hit a dead end in your search....

consider this poem by Merrell Kenworthy (sent to me by JT McKinney):

The Elusive Ancestor

I went searching for an ancestor. I cannot find him still.
He moved around from place to place and did not leave a will.

He married where a courthouse burned. He mended all his fences.
He avoided any man who came to take the U.S. Census.

He always kept his luggage packed, this man who had no fame.
And every 20 years or so, this rascal changed his name.

His parents came from Europe. They should be upon some list
of passengers to U.S.A., but somehow they got missed.

And no one else in this world is searching for this man.
So, I play geneasolitaire to find him if I can.

I'm told he's buried in a plot, with tombstone he was blessed;
but the weather took engraving, and some vandals took the rest.

He died before the county clerks decided to keep records.
No Family Bible has emerged, in spite of all my efforts.

To top it off this ancestor, who caused me many groans,
Just to give me one more pain, betrothed a girl named JONES.

Merrell Kenworthy

More Hints

From:            "Cathy Youngblood" <>
Date:            Mon, 29 Dec 2008 21:44:56 -0000
Subject:         [SanPietroAvellana] Genealogy Findings & Lessons in 2008

Hi Every1,

I haven't had a chance to do much research this past year but I have had some significant finds, mostly due to help from other family history buffs.

The first of my discoveries involved my Great-Great Aunt, Angela Bernarda (Mariani) Morelli and her husband, Ruggerio Morelli. Both were from SPA. The significant discovery I made was that they immigrated to the US and lived for many years and died in Cleveland, OH.  I had asked my grandmother about Zia Angela (as Gram called her many times). Gram said she had a daughter who lived in Cleveland but that although Angela had visited the US, she lived in SPA. Imagine my surprise when looking through on-line Cleveland obituaries to find Angela & Ruggerio had died in Cleveland. Someone (I think it was Wilberta) had posted a link to those obits here on this forum. LESSON: Follow the links and keep an open mind because things are not always what they seem. Just because Gram said something doesn't make it so.

Another interesting find in 2008 involved a census document that Mark had copied for me. It showed my Great-Great Uncle, Fillipo Domenico Carlino, (he was the uncle of my GRANDMOTHER and was from SPA) living near Basalt, Colorado in the 1900 Census. I had known he had been here in the US for a couple of years, so I didn't really read the entire document very well.  One day, as I was cleaning out files, I happened upon the census sheet again and I studied it just a bit this time. SURPRISE - Fillipo was living in the house of my GRANDFATHER's Uncle, Tony Madonna (from Taranta Peligna, Chieti, Abruzzo) and right next door were a whole bunch of my Grandfather's other Uncles. I almost fell off my chair because there was a legend that the two families were acquainted long before my grandparents had met but there was no evidence to back it up. LESSON #1 - Always read every bit of the document and the page before and following if possible. Read every word. LESSON #2 - Take the family stories with a grain of salt but don't discount them altogether.

The final lesson I learned in 2008 was to always try to look at the original document or a facsimile of it. In a pinch a transcription may suffice. In looking at the scanned census documents, I was able to find one of my "ancestors from Mars" actually wasn't quite so Martian after all. I had been looking for this woman for 20 years in Preble County, OH. I found her with her husband and children in later censuses but I couldn't find her with her parents, so I couldn't work the line back to Germany where I was pretty sure it originated. Finally, the scanned census documents have become available and I found her and her family living on the same farm as her parents and possibly her grandmother (not sure of that one yet). There were so many families in the county with the same surname and her name was very common as well, so it took looking at the actual document to put it all together.

Just thought I would pass along a few pearls and my sincere thanks to everyone in this group for sharing their information too. As you see a couple of my discoveries have fallen into my lap because I belong to this group.

Happy searching and Happy New Year,
Cathy (Madonna) Youngblood

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