A do-it-yourself guide to filling in those branches of your family tree

Maria Iacaruso

                                Maria Iacaruso - our nonnie's mother

Scanned images of birth certificates (nati), death certificates (morti) and marriage certificates (matrimoni) from Celenza Valfortore are now available online from 1860-1910 thanks to Family Search, a free website from the LDS. Read below for guides to reading old Italian records and handwriting.

Discovering your family history is a very personal quest. Begin by asking all of your relatives for names, dates, places and documents. Collect any information you can, even if it is vague or may be wrong. Start with the present and work your way back in time. If you are American, start with American documents and sources first. A good starting point for researching your ancestors from Celenza Valfortore is Ellis Island's wonderful, free website. If you have nothing but a surname, you can begin your search there. Read the original manifests that are linked to your search results, and you will usually be able to identify the Italian city of birth or residence. If you have roots in New York, the Italian Genealogical Group has an outstanding online index to birth, marriage, death, and naturalization records for the five boroughs. Once you find your ancestor's information in the index, you can write to the Municipal Archives in New York for copies of the documents. If you have roots in Waterbury, Connecticut, contact the Vital Statistics Office at the municipal level. You can also write to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, Office of Vital Statistics. Start at the municipal level first because the state web site reports a long waiting time for documents. These American documents will help you find the date of birth, names of parents and other pertinent information which you will need to know in order to write to Italy for records. Another great resource are the free online lessons to Italian genealogical research created by the Family History Library.

If you have the correct name of your ancestor and an approximate year of birth, you may be able to find their Italian birth certificate, called the atto di nascita, by renting microfilm from your local Family History Library. The Library has records from Celenza Valfortore from 1809-1929 on microfilm. Some records are now available online . I must warn you that old Italian handwriting is very difficult to read. Refer to this wonderful guide by the LDS to help you decipher the records. It is also invaluable to have some degree of knowledge of the Italian language to search the records. At a minimum, I suggest that you know how to read numbers, months, days and years in Italian.

If you have an exact year of birth (and better yet, an exact birth date), you can write to the town hall of Celenza Valfortore, requesting either a summary of the birth record, called an extract, or a complete copy of the birth record, called an intregal copy. Please be aware that the officials at the town hall will not do any genealogical research for you. If you do not give them the correct name or date of birth, they may not even reply to your request. Make sure your request is written in Italian and include a self-addressed envelope. Do not include American postage.