Q: So far we know our great grandparents are Josephine Dattone and Gaetano DiPasquale. Their son Gaetano left to come to America to wed a Philomena Giannella D'Augustino. Our grandfather also had a brother Joseph who came here first. We are missing the town they came from in southern Italy and any other relatives that were left behind. -- Bernadette
A: Researching in most areas of Europe requires, as you have discovered, that you have the town where the family came from, and hopefully that is their town of birth. A lot depends on when Gaetan DiPasquale came to America.
Be sure to exhaust all records in the United States.
If your grandfather immigrated to the United States after 1906, then the first step will be to locate him on the passenger list. Passenger lists for this time period include a column asking the place of birth of the passenger. This makes getting this information much easier.
If you do not know when he came to the United States, you will want to start your research with the census records. This of course assumes that he arrived prior to 1920, which is the most recent census available.
The census will tell you the year that he arrived, and if he has been naturalized. If he arrived before 1906, the information about naturalization becomes all the more important.
Before 1906, there is nothing on the passenger list that includes the information about place of birth. This doesn't mean that all is lost. There are other records that may supply you with the needed place of birth.
If your ancestor was naturalized, the first step is to find the naturalization papers. There are three sets of papers that are generated during the naturalization process. The Declaration of Intent, of first papers, and the Petition for Naturalization, or second papers, are the two that are the most likely to supply you with the place of birth.
If your ancestor did not go through the naturalization process, or the records you have found do not supply you with the place of birth, there may be another alternative. You will need to exhaust all records that may have been generated for Gaetano once he arrived in the United States.
This means more than the basic vital records. Look for church records. If you haven't searched for a church record of the marriage of Gaetano to Philomena, then you will want to pursue this option. If they were Catholic, the marriage register is likely to supply you with his place of birth.
Other resources may include newspapers and biographical sources. If Gaetano remained in a heavily Italian immigrant area, then it is possible they had their own newspaper. This newspaper may include stories of where the immigrants called home in the old country. Another resource that may prove useful relies on the occupation of Gaetano. Some occupations published annual or semiannual biographical directories sharing information, often including place of birth for those included.
As you know, the step you need to take is to find the place of birth. If you haven't exhausted all the records mentioned above, then you may find your answer there.
Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is an award-winning author of several genealogy how-to books, including The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, The Genealogist's Computer Companion, and Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at [email protected].
See more advice from Rhonda in her columns Expert Tips, Tigs and Trees, and Overheard in the Message Boards.