Finding Italian Roots

Italians, like so many other Europeans, emigrated in droves to the United State. The main reason for emigrating was economical. In fact, very few Italians came to the New World during the colonial period. Italians didn’t come in any large numbers until the 1870 and 1880s. Then, between 1890 and 1924 economic conditions in Italy pushed migration into the Millions. Many of those coming in the earlier years went into the deep south or west to California to work the field and start vineyards. Later, as economic condition worsened, more came to the industrialized cities to work the steal, train and large factories. Some went to Minnesota and Colorado to work the mines.

Descendents of Italian immigrants often have a difficult time researching their immigrant ancestors. Then, as with anyone else crossing an oceans in search of their ancestors, finding records in another language and historical culture can be even more daunting. Fortunately, there are books, like Finding Italian Roots, written by professionals to help researchers find their ancestors, both at home and abroad.

John Philip Colletta wrote the first edition of Finding Italian Roots in 1993. He prepared the book in response to what he saw as a great need to help a growing body of Italian American descendents turned genealogists. This book takes the issue at hand by cleanly separating, but covering, searching family both within the United States as well as tracing family records back to Italy and searching Italian resources.

Chapter 1 gets the research process started, with chapters 2 and 3 describing a wealth of U.S. based records. Then chapters 4 through 6 examine both civil and religious resources in Italy, covering both historical and modern records. Chapter 7 add practical suggestions straight from the author’s own experiences. There is also a glossary of Italian terms at the end of the book.

The book is filled with illustrations and documents, along with step-by-step instructions, point-by-point explanations, and numerous specific examples. Colletta is easy to read, with clear and concise details and explanations. John Philip Colletta is a language professor turned genealogist. He is also a very popular speaker, where his “speeches are famous for their clarity, humor, wit, and warmth.”


Order copies of Finding Italian Roots from Family Root Publishing; Price: $18.62.



Introduction: Americans in Search of Their Italian Roots

A Glimpse of Italians in America

1. Starting at Home

  • Three Basic Facts you Need to Know about Your Immigrant Ancestor
    • Full Original Names
    • Approximate Date of Birth
    • Town of Birth
  • Where to Find These three Basic Facts…and Much More
    • Interviewing Relatives
    • Materials at Home
  • Organizing Your Information
  • Joining a Genealogical Society
  • 2. Published Resources
  • Italians in the United State
    • Collective Biographies of Italian Americans
    • Histories of Italian communities in the United States
    • Published Genealogies
    • City Directories
    • Newspapers in English and Italian
  • Italians in Italy
    • Dictionaries of Italian Surnames
    • Italian National Biographies
    • Genealogies of Titled Families
    • Maps and Gazetteers
    • Italian Local History
  • The Family History Library
    • Instructions and Glossaries
    • Microfilmed Italian Records
    • Databases
    • Form Letters
  • Private Repositories with Italian Collections
  • Internet Websites

3. Key Records in the United States

  • Federal Records
    • Censuses
    • Passenger Arrival Records
    • Naturalization Records
    • Passport Applications
    • Other Federal Records
  • State Records
    • Censuses
    • Vital Records
    • Other State records
  • Local Records
    • County Courthouse
    • Cemetery Records and Inscriptions
    • Religious Records
    • Other Local Records

4. Civil Records of Italy

  • Archivio Comunale (Town Archives)
    • Stato Civile
      • Atto di Nascita
      • Atto della Solenne Promessa di Celebrare il Matrimonio
      • Atto di Morto
    • Certificato di Stato di Famiglia
    • Certificato di Residenze
  • Archivio di Stato (State Archives)
    • Stato Civile
      • Allegati
    • Registri degli Uffici di Leva
    • Minute, Atti e Bastardelli Notarili
    • Censimenti
    • Catasti
    • Registri dell’Emigrazaione e Passaporti
      • Italian Emigration
  • Archivio Centrale dello Stato (National Archives)

5. Religious Records of Italy

  • Catholic Records
    • Archivi Parrocchiali
    • Atto di Battesimo
    • Atto di Matrimonio
    • Atto di Sepolture
    • Status Animarum
  • Jewish Records
    • Jewish Patronymics and Surnames
    • Jewish Local History
    • Published Genealogies
    • Journals
    • Websites
    • Writing to the Jewish Community
    • Civil Repositories
    • Catholic Repositories
    • University Records
    • Cemeteries
    • Centers for Jewish Studies
  • Protestant Records
    • Waldenses
    • Non-Italian Protestants

6. Libraries and Other Resources in Italy

  • Biblioteche (Libraries)
  • Archivi Genealogici (Genealogical Archives)
  • Archivi Ecclesiastici (Ecclesiastical Archives)
  • Registri delle Università (Registers of Universities)
  • Genealogical Institutes in Italy

7. Practical Suggestions for Success

  • Letters Open Doors
  • Italinao, si! Inglese, no!
  • Get All the Goods
  • Postal Courtesy Makes Friends
  • Send Money, But Not Cash!
  • Props Are Worth a Thousand (Italian) Words
  • Culture is More Than Language
    • Interpreting Italian Terms
    • Italian Cemeteries
    • Detto (Called)
  • Local Oral Lore
  • Plan Your Transportation and Lodging


Bibliographic Notes



One thought on “Finding Italian Roots

  1. My grandfather is Italian and said when he came to America he came with $3 in his pocket. Its amazing the things we take for granted being born in this country. Especially now & days.

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