On-Site Italian Research
Jewish Italian Research
My last on-site research trip was in November 2012 and included these adventures:
Wednesday, 31 October
Started at the Biblioteca Statale in Lucca since it opens at 8:20, over an hour earlier than the Diocese Archives. Found the book and the item I needed, got a photocopy, and went to the Diocese Archives. The town map shows so many streets, but they're so close together, it really is only about 15 minutes across the city walking.
The young woman there recognized me. She seems to have gained responsibility, in fact, the older women who used to sit at the head table overseeing things weren't there and she was bustling about doing everything that needed doing and sharing her enormous knowledge with all. She was assisted by a young man who was there on my last trip and still learning the ropes.
When it was time to close, she told me that they would be closed the next day, Thursday, as always. But, because Thursday was All Saints Day, they would also be closed Friday. I was distressed, so she reminded me that an appointment could be made for afternooon research. I jumped at it and arranged to be back there for another 3 hours work at 3 pm.
I had lunch, went shopping, and toured the Cathedral (San Martino) before 3 when it was time to continue the research in the old books.
Thursday, 1 November
Drove up to Ombreglio and took photos of family names in that little cemetery and outside the church. Drove down to the crossroad and got a photo of that unnamed church with no cemetery and took the branch to Pieve. I think this is called the mother church because it's the oldest, not because it's the center. Shot that cemetery and church. You can see some shots where a cloud moved in and then moved on. The road to Gignano was blocked, probably because I like wider roads and they park on the sides, but it was time to find refreshment so I went back down the hill.
Friday, 2 November
Drove down to Roma, lovely countryside!
Saturday, 3 November
With the holiday weekend (All Saints on the 1st and War Rememberance on the 4th) lots of folks left Roma, including those I'd hoped to have meetings with. Oh well, guess I'll have to find other ways to spend my time in this city. Started at the Museo Termi di Dioclezione, then the War Monument, the great National Museum at Palazzo Massimo, followed by Santa Maria Maggiore, Four Fountains, Presbyterian Church, Methodist Church, and Ministry of Defense. Passed by the Episcopalian earlier without photos, next time. Ended with one of my favorites, Santa Maria degli Angeli. Didn't cover much ground this time in distance, but got in plenty of walking with the museums and churches. Still, Roma is a large city and as much as I enjoy the architecture and museums and churches, the masses of people really wear me out. Heading into little hill towns next.
Sunday, 4 November
Drove down to Caserta after an email morning.
Monday, 5 November
Drove up the mountain and into the clouds at San Gregorio Matese. The birth record was no problem, but he tried to talk me out of searching for the marriage. I persisted and he called in an assistant to get the books from the bottom shelf for 5 years (1900 through 1904). He tried again to talk me out of it, and ended up pulling the next 7 books out for me to read myself (1893-1899). The marriage wasn't in that location. He suggested the bride was from Alife. He also said the anagrafe records started in 1930. He also said the 1873 birth I wanted was archived. I tried three different routes but couldn't find the cemetery. It didn't help that visibility was very low due to the cloud sitting on the town. I drove down to the next town (Castello d'Alife) and checked at their Stato Civile office. They checked the anagrafe records and said the family wasn't from that town. I took a photo of a car bought at a Santagata dealership in Alife. Perhaps the first clerk wasn't just trying to get rid of me when he suggested that location. Fortunately, we have microfilmed records for all these towns in the Family History Library, so we don't need to visit each one to find this marriage. Found it later in the microfilm, in a town I'd never have guessed!
We guessed right on the pronunciation of the name. Walking around town, there is a vico Chiesa that ends at the church, along with Via Roma and Via Gregorio Magno. I took photos of all so you can get an idea of the town. Suspect vico Chiesa was via Chiesa on that birth record in 1904.
Tuesday, 6 November
Drove to Francolise before the offices opened to avoid rush hour in Caserta after getting stuck in it yesterday. Lovely little town between Caserta and the coast! The clerk was very friendly and provided photocopies of the birth and marriage as well as an extract of the birth for a dual citizenship application. Got directions to the church in Pezzolo, but apparently took some wrong turns since I found the cemetery, but not the church (San Germano).
Wednesday, 7 November
Drove down to Palma Campania. Arrived before the offices opened, so took some photos around town. When the offices opened and I asked for a marriage about 1878 and the children that followed, they laughed and told me those records were in the archives. They made a copy of the pedigree chart I'd arrived with and gave me a receipt and a phone # to call in a week. I left my card and circled my address in the US for them to send the documents when they were found. Keeping fingers crossed. They never did get back to me, returning in April.
Spent the night in a lovely B&B at San Costantino Calabro (B&B Masseria Caporelli). The olive harvest was keeping them busy, but they offered me a tour of the processing of olive oil and I was delighted. I was able to take some home, wonderful!
Thursday, 8 November
Took photo of San Costantino Calabro before leaving for the drive down to Sicily. Visited the cemetery at Calatabiano. Lovely monuments, but the family I was seeking had left too long ago a leave a trace. Drove on to Troina and the lovely hotel Cittadella. Internet was worse than I remembered, disappointing.
Friday, 9 November
Microfilm project before departure yielded enough information to get a good start here.
Went to the Municipio in Agira to find that the Stato Civile offices were located in the Post Office building down the road. The clerk there was very nice and helpful. Although the death indexes didn't start until 1924 and the marriage index (1866-1923) was arranged by groom, we were able to find most of the items on the list.
Additionally, she showed me the correspondence with another researcher on this family, so I added them to the database.
The two marriages we found in the index for 1874 were located in the archives, back in the Municipio building. So I returned there and was told that I could pick them up on Monday. Took great photos around town, especially love the warrior angel on the war monument and the fountain of Hercules with the story of his labors around the basin.
Drove down to Agrigento and found a new favorite hotel, Tre Torri.
Saturday, 10 November
Caught up on email and took advantage of the rest of the day to visit the Archaeological Museum in the Valle dei Templi in Agrigento. Wonderful!
Sunday, 11 November
Attended church in Casteltermini. The older priest has answered my previous letters and spoke some English. He told me I could research after Mass (9:30) on weekdays. Wonderful, I'll return there on Wednesday.
Monday, 12 November
Drove to Agira to collect those two marriages. They didn't allow photocopies, but did allow digital copies and read them along with me. Wonderful!
The birth indexes in the town don't include the first name of the father and those before 1900 are housed in the archives, so we'll write for this birth record around 1840 once we return home.
The lack of a birth index with accessible records led us to search for children in the death index after 1924. We located one and found their marriage in the index as #24 in 1895. We needed to send for it from the archives.
We haven't received a response to our email to a cousin found on Facebook. I'd requested a meeting last Saturday, or this coming Saturday. Apparently, meeting with the researcher isn't a priority for him.
Tuesday, 13 November
AG Diocese Archivio opened at 10. I made my request and was sent to the head of that department. Seems that the records are kept in the parishes and since the Cathedral is closed for renovations, it was a big deal to access those records. But the department head has a young assistant who was most helpful and knowledgeable. She make a copy of the chart I was working from and noted the items I was most interested in obtaining. She took my contact information and said she'd get back to me, but couldn't say if it would be the next day, the day after, or when. Really nothing I could do about it, so I left thanking her for her assistance. She followed through with an email a few weeks later.
Drove to Grotte. The folks in the Stato Civile were very helpful and friendly. They made extracts of the birth, the marriage of her parents, and the birth of her father for a citizenship application. They also located the individua scheda for her father and grandfather, naming their parents, date of birth, date of death, marriage, etc. I was able to get digital copies of all of the above. I also got contact information for two families in town who are descendants of her grandfather. Tomorrow (14 November), the town offices will be closed for the feast of the town's patron saint, Santa Venera, so the timing was perfect!
Wednesday, 14 November
Returned to the Church in Casteltermini for more work. We started with the marriage the priest had sent me (1725-1745). I was able to correct the translation for the names of the parents of the bride and groom, but both were living in Casteltermini, so no help locating previous residences. A search for the baptism of the groom led to a book with no index (1704-1723). So I searched death records. No sign of him in 1725-1748, 1749-1764. Found his son, Paolo, in the book for 1765-1786). Found him (Pietro) dying at 73 years old (1787-1804), still no mention of the town of his birth, but an age to narrow the baptism search. Searched baptisms around that age (1720-1724), but no mention of him. Searched marriages 1708-1724 and 1695-1707 in search of his father, with negative results. Baptisms in this town start in 1630 with marriages and deaths starting 1631. Too bad this family wasn't here that early. The priest suggested that many folks moved to this town from Sutera, so that's the place to continue this search.
Drove to Alia and over to Caltavuturo (PA) for a new Agriturismo. Terrific views, but cold and windy here on a hilltop in the Madonie Mountains. Took photos around town. Need to check out another potential place to stay for the next few days, at a lower altitude. That's after work.
Thurday, 15 November
Attended Mass at 7:30 in the Matrice in Alia to meet my old friend, the priest who allows me access to his records. Unfortunately, he's being replaced and barely functions. Couldn't access those records, the new priest really didn't want to talk to me.
Friday, 16 November
Drove to Salemi to pick up a document there and nearly got stuck on a narrow street on a steep hill. Need to remember to park closer to the bottom and walk.
Attended Mass at 5 pm in Montemaggiore Belsito and talked to a priest afterwards. He said there were meetings in Palermo the next day, but expected the new parish priest to be there in the afternoon.
Saturday, 17 November
Toured Montemaggiore Belsito awaiting the priest. He didn't arrive before Mass, held by the other priest I'd met Friday. He doesn't have the keys to the archives so I need to wait for the parish priest.
Sunday, 18 November
Attended 1st mass of the day and talked to the parish priest. He said he had to make some phone calls to find someone to work in the archives with me and took my number to call me that evening. He didn't.
Monday, 19 November
The sign outside the parish offices says they open at 10 on Monday, but someone finally answered the door at 10:30. Of course, the parish priest wasn't there. They told me to come back at 4:30.
Went to the museum in Himera, lovely place!
Arrived back in Montemaggiore about 3 and enjoyed a caffe' and cookie. One of the men from the parish offices was driving by (I was walking on the main street, via Palermo) and stopped by to tell me that the priest would see me at 4. Yeah! So I started walking in that direction and a woman crossing the Piazza in front of the church asked me if I was there to research. I said, “Yes” and she said she was going to work with me and we just had to wait for the priest. Almost no waiting (not yet 4, he was early) and he let us into the archives and helped us find the first marriage. He was tickled when I got so excited about locating it and went on his way while the woman carefully pulled one volume at a time from the locked cupboards and we searched indexes together. We located lots of marriages. She was a great help in identifying unusual surnames as consistent with those in town (or not) and told the priest later what a great job I did in reading the Latin and Italian and some of the nasty handwriting to get the information I needed. She agreed (with the consent of the priest) to continue the research on Tuesday. Yeah!!
Tuesday, 20 November
Returned to the archives in the parish at Montemaggiore Belsito. Found more wonderful stuff! As I was leaving, they told me I couldn't continue the work the next day since the funeral for the former priest (the one I'd worked with last November) was the next day. That's OK, I'd worked two days there as planned and will return in April.
Wednesday, 21 November
Drove over to Trapani and down to coast to the salt pans. What a piece of history, and yet still working!
Thursday, 22 November
Went to Terrasini in the morning before going to the Palermo Airport for my flight to Paris.
Friday, 23 November
Flew from CDG to SLC
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My book on CD titled Sicily, Part 1 and Part 2 and is now available on 2 CDs. With a file for each town (plus many other files), it relates the history of Sicily as reflected in the photos, records and festivals of its towns. It contains over 2500 text and photo files and can be ordered at CD order.
My next research trip to Italy is scheduled for April 2013.