New Italian American Biography Publication Announced

I’m excited to announce the publication of another book about Luigi Del Bianco, the Mount Rushmore sculptor featured in Lou Bianco’s bookย In the Shadow of the Mountain:

Screen shot 2014-03-03 at 2.52.46 PM

Del Bianco is described by the author as “the man who saved Jefferson’s face and brought Lincoln’s eyes to life.”

The second book about Del Bianco is set for release in May of 2014, according to a recent press release.

I can’t wait to read it! ๐Ÿ™‚

Italian Americans of Boston

For Italian Americans with Boston roots, I’ve got great news from Boston’s North End Historical Society! Documentary filmmaker Maureen McNamara of Kendall Productions is looking for your old photos, home movies, or newspaper clips from the family scrapbooks. Check out what they’ve put together so far:

If you and your family would like to be a part of this historic undertaking, you can send your materials to the North End Historical Society at :

The North End Historical Society is a 501(c)3 non-profit, so they need your help raising the funds for this project, as well! Contributions are tax-deductible, so send them in to or send a check to:
North End Historical Society, Inc.
P.O. BOX 130152
Boston, MA 02113

An Ideal Ancestral Web Site

If you plan to publish your family history online (which isn’t a bad idea! It’s a great way to share information with distant relatives and current relatives who might not share your enthusiasm for research), I would like to share one of my favorite examples of an Italian American ancestral web page done right!

The Mangiaracina family web page is just brimming with all sorts of helpful and interesting resources for their particular family–maps, photographs, stories, recipes, a forum, and pedigrees–a perfect model for anyone who would build their own family site.

When sharing your family tree with your loved ones, web-based media is a good way to make history come alive in the hearts and minds of those who might not be the history buffs that we are.

So check out the Mangiaracina’s web site and build your own. Then send me a link, and I’ll be sure to tell others about your site, too. Who knows–maybe I’ll help connect you with another site, assembled by your long, lost Italian cousins! ๐Ÿ™‚

FamilySearch Brokers Deal with Italian Archives for Online Records

This is great news for Italian Americans who want to learn more about their ancestors! Click on the image, below, for the full story: has been publishing their microfilm holdings to the Internet for the past couple of years (you can see a list of Italian records available online here) but the digitization project announced last week in the LDS newsroom means that we will be seeing more Italian genealogical records on the Internet, and at a greater rate!

Kudos to FamilySearch for making Italian research a priority, and to the Italian State Archives, for allowing FamilySearch to make these records accessible to Italian American researchers! ๐Ÿ™‚

Cosenza’s Records Online:

The Italian province of Cosenza has been transcribing records from their many differentย comuni and posting them online as a searchable database. If you have ancestors from the Cosenza province, you will definitely want to check out this site. Click on the image below to access it:

When searching this database, you will see a results page that shows where your ancestors’ name appears across the various comuni within the Cosenza province, and some of them even have images attached, as in this example:

Can you say genealogical heaven? I wish all of Italy’s provincie had web sites like this! ๐Ÿ™‚

Italian Parliamentary Records Online

Italy’s parliament recently posted an online database that allows users to search–free of charge–the biographical sketches and parliamentary records that all sorts of individuals either working in Parliament or being discussed by them from 1848 up to 2008. This is a small (maybe 12,ooo names) yet fabulous new resource for Italian American genealogy enthusiasts! You can visit the site of this collection by clicking on the image below:

You will notice that there are four different search boxes on this site’s page. The first search box, in the site header’s image, will search everything–even photographs!–for the names or locations that you enter. But the three boxes below it will allow you to specifically search three different collections:

  1. Employee profiles and photographs
  2. Parliamentary work records (meeting minutes, etc)
  3. Laws, acts, bills, both proposed and passed, etc.

Note that you can also browse each of the three collections by clicking on the arrow (triangle inside a circle) hat appears next to each search box’s label (“deputati,” “lavori parlamentari,” and “atti e documenti”).

When searching the three collections, you will want to type your Italian ancestors’ names into all three boxes (because even if they didn’t work in parliament, they might have been involved in cases being discussed), and then enter their hometown into the last two search boxes, just in case there were acts passed or bills proposed that pertained to your ancestral paese (which you might want to include in your family’s story).

When looking through your search results, you can narrow the search criteria according to the fields offered on the right-hand side of your search results.

If this is too confusing, or if you have hits on your ancestors and don’t understand them, drop me a line and I’d be happy to take a look at what you’ve found!

Happy hunting! ๐Ÿ™‚

Italian Ancestral Households Online

Sample Catasto Onciario record (San Lorenzo, 1754)

The Italian family history records available to us on film in the U.S. are, for the most part, just the individuals’ vital records: birth, marriage, and death records. The Family History library rarely films Italian probate records, censuses, and other records that show entire households or offer us more biographical information.

So how do Italian American researchers find information about their ancestor’s households and everyday lives?

We write to archives and ask them to look through the military records, notarial records for us.

Sometimes we’re lucky, and we find a helpful archive employee who doesn’t mind wading through stacks of un-indexed papers for us. But really, that doesn’t happen often.

Enter the catasto onciario

The catasto onciario is an Italian census record that lists an Italian familiy’s household goods, the names, marital status, (sometimes occupation), and ages of its family members, and more. It is a gold mine for researchers!

The catasto onciario has proved so popular among historians in recent years that Italian archives are now indexing or scanning them and putting them online.

The State Archive of Calabria, for example, is scanning and posting the catasti, organized alphabetically by comune (town) to their web site:

The University of Calabria has also been indexing the catasti in their area and posting the indices online with a helpful search engine:

Some comuni, like the comune of Zumpano (below) are transcribing and indexing the catasto for their own locality:

And here we have a web site for a family who was kind enough to scan and post images not only of their ancestors appearing in the catasto, but the entire index, which is helpful to anybody searching for ancestors in the comune of Colledimacine:

As you can see form these examples, the effort to index, digitize, and make the catasti available online is not a unified effort–it is being done by a number of different entities (comuni, universities, state archives, and individual families), so there is no one hub that will tell you whether or not the catasti for YOUR ancestral comune are available online.

The best way to find out if any catasti for your ancestral paese are available online is by Googling the name of their comune, province, or region with the term “catasto onciario” included, then if you find nothing, create a Google alert for those search terms, so that you will be notified if and when the catasto for your ancestors’ town is finally posted!

Happy hunting! ๐Ÿ™‚

Italian American Research on NBC Tonight!

Genealogy buffs and Italian Americans–you don’t want to miss tonight’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are, which will feature a trip to Italy and a murder mystery in actress Marisa Tomei’s family tree:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

How to Find Your Italian Ancestors

With the help of this research guide–written by one of the top experts in the field of Italian Genealogy–Italian Americans can conduct their own family history research!

I heartily recommend this fabulous book to anyone with Italian ancestry who wants to explore their family history:

suzanne's book

Researching Italian Surnames

gensI often use this very helpful web site when looking for surname distribution in Italy. Do you want to know how common your ancestral name is in Italy? Click here.

The site is in Italian, so if you do not speak or read the language, here is some help:

  • Type your ancestral surname into the box on the left under the word “cognome”
  • Click the red arrow
  • The resulting map shows the distribution of that particular surname in present-day Italy
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