Tracing your family roots to a foreign country can be an exciting venture as well as a challenging task. Looking for genealogical ties to another country, especially one with a foreign language such as Italian, can mean many hurdles and barriers to overcome. The researcher must become a detective and seek out all the clues and information available to them before starting the journey. Once potential family members in Italy are identified, the researcher will then need to make contact with the individuals to confirm the family ties.
Write down everything you know about your family, including all family names, places of origins, immigration details and dates. For example, if you know your grandmother's maiden, Italian name, or the year she traveled to America and on what ship, write these details down as research starting points.
Interview family members, especially older family members, to confirm the details you already know and add to your list. For example, your great-aunt may remember what year her mother was born, what region or town she was born in and what her mother's sister's married name was. These details can help extend branches of your family tree.
Search databases on the Ellis Island online database at Ellisisland.org or by visiting Ellis Island yourself. Many Italian immigrants passed through Ellis Island on their way to America. You may be able to find the log where your ancestors signed themselves and their family in. Many Italian families took on new first or last names to become more American when they reached Ellis Island. You may know your great-grandfather as Louis, but his given name may have been Luigi, for example.
Research family names in state or city records in Italy in towns or regions you know your family once resided in. You may need to keep an online translator or an Italian-English dictionary on hand during these communications. Emails or letters will be easiest if you do not speak Italian as you will be able to translate the communications at your leisure. If you do call, simply ask if the representative or anyone in the office speaks English, which may professionals in Italy do.
Write letters to potential family members to confirm your common ancestry. Introduce yourself and relay your Italian family history to them to help establish whether family ties exist. Write letters to people currently living in homes where you discover your ancestors once lived, because they may have knowledge or records of the previous owners or residents that can help extend your search.
Search family names on social networking sites such as Facebook. You can search specific cities in Italy in addition to names to help narrow your search. If you find someone who could be a potential link, send them a Facebook message to confirm this.
Items you will need
- Family history
- italy image by Yvonne Bogdanski from Fotolia.com