Have family stories been passed down about relatives you suspect were Italians? Researching your ancestry will let you know if you have Italian ancestry. To discover your ancestry, begin your family research in your own home. Next, proceed to record sources to prove or disprove the possibility of Italian ancestry. There are many record sources that will quickly tell you if you have Italian ancestry.
Start a Family Tree
Download and print an ancestral chart or family tree from one of the many websites that offer family tree or kinship diagram templates. Complete the chart by writing your name in the space provided on the left side of the page. Number that line #1. Beneath your name, complete the vital information requested. Add the names of your parents starting above and to the right of your name. Number that line #2 and add your father's name. Below your father, write #3 on the line and write your mother's maiden name. Continue at the top of the sheet numbering the lines from top to bottom adding the parents of your parents and continue working backwards. Note any Italian name spelling variations. For example, Antonio in Italy may be Tony in the U.S..
Ask Your Relatives
Interview family members. Ask parents and grandparents about the people listed on the ancestral chart. Write down all the information provided. Go back to your chart and fill in any missing vital information. Note the naming patterns in the family. Italians tended to name their first born son after the father's father. The second born son after the mother's father. The first born daughter after the father's mother and the second born after the mother's mother. See if the naming pattern is there when you write down names of children in each family.
Search Heirlooms and Records for Clues
Look through home record sources such as family Bible's, old birth, marriage and death records, social security records, immigration papers and naturalization documents. Birth and death records are good sources of locating ancestral origins. Birth records indicate where an individual was born. Some Italian records may list a region in Italy where the person was born. Others may list the village, region and country of Italy as the birth place. Some list the birth places of the child's parents. Death records provide a birth location for both the individual and his parents. In cases where a death certificate informant did not know a town or village where an immigrant ancestor came from, many times at least a country of origin is noted.
Examine old family photos. Photographs provide many clues to an individual's family. Clues come in the form of names, dates and places written on the photograph, the style of dress, the type of photograph and what is in the background of the photograph. Record all clues to help determine if you have Italian ancestry.
Search Census Records
Research U.S. Federal Census records. Census records can be searched online through providers such as Ancestry.com and FamilySearch. The National Archives branches across the country also hold census records which can be searched in person or by mail. U.S. Federal Census records are available to view up through 1930 and will provide a country of origin for immigrant ancestors. If your relatives are from Italy, the country of origin will say "Italy".
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- Photocopy all records you locate to help prove your ancestry.
- Take good notes when interviewing relatives.
- Note spelling variations on Italian village names.
Jennifer Holik, a professional genealogist, has been writing professionally since 2009. She writes for Chicago-area genealogy society publications. Holik has a Bachelor of Arts in history from the Missouri University of Science and Technology.