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 book In the Shadow of the Mountain:

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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! 🙂

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

Cosenza’s Records Online:

The Italian province of Cosenza has been transcribing records from their many different 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! 🙂

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! 🙂

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

Find YOUR Ancestors Here!

Thank you, Italian Genealogy Group, for all the effort and hard work that went into into these databases of immigrant records!
Those of us who use these databases should consider the time and expense required to undertake such an enormous project; I propose thanking them with a donation, especially because they offer these databases FOR FREE (unlike some other sites whose names don’t deserve mention here).

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

Italian American Heritage

I became a genealogist because, from a tender age, my mother regaled me with all sorts of interesting tidbits from our collective family lore. The people who preceded me became real to me, and I wanted to know more about them as a result!

Not only did mom’s efforts spark an interest in family history, but they also instilled in me a love for my predecessors and a desire to honor their name–my name. As a result, I lived my teenage years in a manner that would reflect well on our family name, and avoided some of the common traps of adolescence (rebellion, partying, etc) as a part of this effort.

history-channel-vid1Today I am highlighting a product that I recommend to families who want to instill a similar familial pride in their Italian American family. I recommend watching the following documentary together.: The Italian Americans, a History Channel special on DVD. To order this DVD, click here.

Restricting Access to Catholic Records

Catholics told not to give LDS parish data
By Geoffrey FattahDeseret News
Published: May 4, 2008

The Catholic Church has ordered dioceses across the globe not to give information in parish registers to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Vatican Congregation for Clergy issued a letter directing all Catholic bishops to keep LDS members from microfilming and digitizing information in registers, according to the Catholic News Service.

To read the complete text of this article, click here.

On a lighter note, a prominent UK writer had some funny arguments against this restriction of church records to researchers. You can read it here.

Networking with Italian Americans


If you are an Italian American who wants to know more about your ancestors, you are not alone!

The POINT (Pursuing Our Italian Names Together) organization is the most comprehensive Italian American family history groups anywhere. Their local chapters, magazine, and e-mail digest are so helpful to members of the Italian American community. And don’t forget the POINT National Conference (where yours truly has been a presenter!), where you can mix and mingle from POINTers from around the world as you learn the latest and greatest research strategies for compiling your pedigree! 🙂

  • Introducing

    Jenny Tonks, M.A.


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