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# Wednesday, October 22, 2014
"Finding Your Roots" Traces Celebrity Chefs' Italian, Mexican and Chinese Immigrant Ancestors
Posted by Diane



Last night's "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr." on PBS focused on the immigrant ancestors of celebrity chefs of different ethnic—and culinary—backgrounds: Tom Colicchio (Italian), Aarón Sánchez (Mexican) and Ming Tsai (Chinese).

I don't have family heritage in these places, but I think this already interesting show would be even more interesting if you're researching in any of these areas.

I appreciated how this show detailed various motivations for immigrants to leave their homelands, and explained how some would travel back and forth between home and the United States before finally settling here. This was quite common, especially for men, who would come to earn money to take to their families back home. More than half of all Italian immigrants in the early 20th century, Gates said, were "birds of passage."

Here are some highlights of this episode:
  • Tom Colicchio's great-great-grandfather traveled to America in 1901, returned to Italy, then came back in 1906 and went home again in 1911. He was pressed into service in the Italian army in World War I, and finally brought his family to settle in the United States in 1947. The show described the burgeoning population, harsh taxes, crime and an earthquake that propelled Colicchio's family to leave their picturesque town of Vallarta.
  • Aarón Sánchez's great-great-grandfather was a prominent rancher in Mexico who lost everything he had and fled to the United States during the Mexican Revolution. He later was able to get his cattle back. Sánchez's third-great-grandfather, born in Spain in 1822, was the military commander Hilario Gabilondo. In 1857, Gabilondo ordered the deaths of about 70 filibusters (Americans attempting to seize land in Mexico) in an expedition led by former California state senator Henry Crabb. Read more about filibustering here.
The show's researchers traced Sanchez's ancestors in Spain back to his sixth-great-grandfather in the early 1700s. A DNA test revealed Sanchez has nearly 25 percent American Indian ancestry (the equivalent of having an Indian grandparent) and 3.7 percent African-American ancestry. 
  • Ming Tsai's grandfather was a comptroller of a university in China when Japan invaded before World War II. He was sent to a prison in Japan, where he was tortured and contracted typhus; he nearly died. He was able to return to his work after the war, but the Cultural Revolution, during which millions of intellectuals and "bourgeois" were persecuted and killed, forced him to flee.
Many historical relics were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, including steles, or carved stone tablets recording families. The Ming family stele was the only one remaining in their town. It led researchers records at the Shanghai public library (probably jiapu, or books recording paternal family lineage) that allowed them to trace his ancestry all the way back to his 116th-great-grandfather in the 27th century BC.
In trying to find out more about steles, I came across the House of Chinn website, about Chinese genealogy research and the author's own family. You might find it helpful if you're researching ancestors in China. You also can search a surname index to jiapu on subscription website Ancestry.com.
Each chef's cuisine is inspired by the foods of his ancestors; each recalled delicious meals with parents and grandparents. As the holidays approach, it's good to remember that food is a great way to introduce family members to their ancestors. You might even say that the way to a nongenealogist's heart is through his or her stomach.
You can watch this episode of "Finding Your Roots" online, at the show's website.


Asian roots | Celebrity Roots | Genealogy TV | Hispanic Roots | Italian roots
Wednesday, October 22, 2014 10:36:08 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, October 08, 2014
6 Great Italian Genealogy Resources
Posted by Diane

Italian Americans are one of the United States' largest ethnic groups, and they celebrate their heritage during Italian-American Heritage Month in October.


Thomas & Andrews, 1812, David Rumsey Map Collection

The largest wave of Italian immigrants, from 1880 to 1920, brought more than 4 million arrivals, most from Southern Italy.

Italians who've helped shape American history include Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci (whose lent his name to the American continents), Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot), Giovanni da Verrazzano, Francesco Vigo (spy and financier of the American Revolution), Francis Spinola (the first Italian-American to serve in Congress), Francesca Cabrini (founder of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, and the first American saint) and Fiorello LaGuardia.

Following are just a few of the Italian genealogy resources gleaned from our Italian Genealogy Premium Collection:
  • Comuni-Italiani.it: Clicking on one of the regions in Italy on this site, you’ll learn the names of all the provinces; click on a province for a list of all its towns and cities. Then click on the town for helpful genealogy links, contact info for the town hall, and an e-mail link.
  • Newspapers: The country’s largest collection of Italian-language and Italian-American newspapers is at the Immigration History Research Center (IHRC) at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. You can purchase copies of most IHRC microfilm or borrow it through interlibrary loan (ask your local librarian to make the request for you).
  • Order Sons of Italy in America:  Originally called Figli d’Italia, this organization was formed June 22, 1905, by Italian immigrants in New York City. The goal of this still-active group was to help Italian immigrants become US citizens, assimilate to American life, find educational opportunities, and obtain health and death benefits. The aforementioned IHRC is the depository for the organization’s historical membership and other records. Search the IHRC's online manuscript finding aids for Order Sons of Italy to see what's available.
  • Italian Genealogy Group : This New York City-based group has members worldwide. Its website has how-to articles and several searchable databases (most including non-Italians as well) covering NYC births, marriages and deaths; New York and New Jersey naturalizations, Italian commune names, and more.
Our Italian Genealogy Premium Collection has essential tools for discovering ancestors from Italy, including
  • the classic Finding Italian Roots by John Philip Colletta
  • our Best Resources for Tracing Your Italian Roots video class
  • our Italian Genealogy Cheat Sheet download
  • Our Italian Genealogy Guide download
  • Italian Genealogy 101 Independent Study Course
  • the Genealogist's Guide to Italian Names
You can learn more about the Italian Genealogy Premium Collection in ShopFamilyTree.com, and happy Italian-American Heritage Month!


Italian roots | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales
Wednesday, October 08, 2014 10:01:55 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, May 15, 2014
Websites and Organizations for Italian Genealogy Research
Posted by Diane


David Rumsey Map Collection

From 1880 to 1920, more than 4 million Italians immigrated to the United States (often, traveling back and forth a few times first), where they tended to live alongside other Italians in urban areas. Today more than 17 million Americans can claim Italian ancestry.

Among exciting new resources for Italian genealogy are 137 collections of civil registration, church and other records at the free FamilySearch.org.  Most aren't indexed, so to find an ancestor's records, you'd need to know the comune (the basic administrative division, similar to a municipality) and frazione or contrada (similar to a neighborhood) where he or she lived. An ongoing Italian Ancestors Project is organizing volunteers to index these records.

Family Tree University's new Italian Genealogy 101 four-week online course, starting May 19, will help you use American records to figure out where in Italy your ancestors came from, then delve into Italian genealogical records.

Ancestry.com has an Italian sister site, Ancestry.it, but it also has collections of Italian records available with a subscription to the US Ancestry.com site. Some of these will duplicate what's on FamilySearch.org, after an international records-sharing agreement last September.

Many other websites and organizations that aren't quite as well-known also have resources for tracing Italian roots, including In Italian Genealogy 101, you'll learn about all these and other resources for researching your Italian ancestors, including how to access and understand Italian records, and how to deal with common brick walls in Italian family trees.

Italian Genealogy 101 starts May 19 and runs through June 13. You'll find a course outline and a link to register at FamilyTreeUniversity.com.


Ancestry.com | Family Tree University | FamilySearch | International Genealogy | Italian roots
Thursday, May 15, 2014 10:00:02 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, October 02, 2013
The Family Tree Guidebook to Europe: Genealogy How-to for 13 Countries and Regions
Posted by Diane

As you might guess, I enjoy asking people I've just met where their ancestors are from. Here in Cincinnati, the answer often involves Germany, so then I ask about their surnames to see if we have anyone in common. (Then I wrap it up before people start thinking I'm weird.)

Every once in awhile, someone will answer my ancestor inquiry with, "Oh, I'm a mutt" and rattle off a bunch of ancestral homelands.

Well, this is for all you genealogy mutts: The Family Tree Guidebook to Europe: Your Essential Guide to Trace Your Genealogy in Europe.



It collects genealogy research guides to 13 countries or regions of Europe, plus European Jewish ancestors. You'll learn
  • what records are available and where they're kept
  • which records you can get from here in the US using the web, microfilm, books and other sources
  • how to get records from overseas
  • how to deal with language barriers and boundary changes
  • what websites, books, organizations and archives can help in your research
It's a good way to get expert instructions for researching ancestors across Europe in one economical package. The Family Tree Guidebook to Europe is available now in ShopFamilyTree.com (where you'll see the list of countries covered).

You also can get The Family Tree Guidebook to Europe as an ebook.


Genealogy books | German roots | International Genealogy | Italian roots | Jewish roots | UK and Irish roots
Wednesday, October 02, 2013 2:43:52 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, March 01, 2013
Genealogy News Corral, Feb. 25-March 1
Posted by Diane

  • The new Legacies of British Slave Ownership database holds the names of 46,000 slave owners in British colonies who received compensation for the loss of "property" when Britain abolished slavery in 1833 (it outlawed the trade in 1807). The database doesn't name slaves, but it could aid those who are tracing African ancestors by researching the slave-owning families. Search the database here
  • The Civil War Trust's annual Park Day takes place Saturday, April 16 at more than 100 participating battlefields in 24 states. Volunteers help clean and maintain these important Civil War sites by raking leaves, picking up trash, painting signs, clearing trails and more. To learn how you can help, visit the trust's Park Day page and click on the name of the participating Civil War site you're interested in (note that some sites are holding their volunteer events on alternate dates).
... and don't forget about the Heirloom Registry Online Scavenger Hunt taking place next week. Have a good weekend!


African-American roots | Civil War | Historic preservation | Italian roots | UK and Irish roots
Friday, March 01, 2013 11:05:04 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, January 02, 2013
What's in a Name?
Posted by Beth

Bonne année, Gutes Neues Jahr, Xin nian yu kuai, Feliz Año Nuevo and Kali hronia … Whether you say it in French, German, Mandarin, Spanish or Greek, they all translate to "Happy New Year!" Hope yours is off to a great start!

Speaking of languages, genealogists understand and appreciate the value of names and all the family history information that they can provide. Naming patterns and traditions; spellings; pronunciations; and meanings can impact your search for ancestors from a given locale.

To provide added insight to your ancestral search, we've created 15 PDF downloadable reference guides featuring first names from around the world. Each comprehensive guide is presented in dictionary-style format, making it easy to search for names, spellings and their meanings. For example, A Genealogist's Guide to British Names reveals that the name Harry means "ruler of an estate." Rather prophetic for Prince Harry!

Get more information from your genealogical research this year with a better understanding of your ancestral names!

A Genealogist's Guide to Ethnic Given Names
A Genealogist's Guide to African Names
A Genealogist's Guide to British Names
A Genealogist's Guide  to Chinese Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Eastern European Names
A Genealogist's Guide  to French Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Gaelic Names
A Genealogist's Guide to German Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Greek Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Hawaiian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Indian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Irish Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Italian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Japanese Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Jewish Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Native American Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Russian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Scandinavian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Spanish Names


African-American roots | American Indian roots | Asian roots | Celebrating your heritage | French Canadian roots | German roots | Hispanic Roots | Italian roots | Jewish roots | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales | UK and Irish roots
Wednesday, January 02, 2013 12:04:21 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, October 15, 2012
FamilySearch.org Adds Free Records for 20+ US States & 20 Other Countries Including Italy
Posted by Diane

FamilySearch has added more than 70 million indexed genealogy records to the free FamilySearch.org over the past couple of weeks.

The indexed records come from the United States and 20 other countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean.

Updated or new US records are from more than 20 states, plus New England passenger lists.

You can access FamilySearch.org's indexed records by using the search boxes on the FamilySearch.org home page (which will give you results from all the indexed records on FamilySearch.org) or by using my favorite method—searching that specific collection.

You can find the search page for a specific collection in one of two ways:
  • use the place filters on FamilySearch.org: Scroll down on the home page, choose a world region next to the map, then choose a country, date range or collection on the left to narrow the collection list to those covering your ancestor's lifetime. Then click on the title for the collection you want to search.
Got Italian ancestors? More than 8.3 million new browsable images of civil registrations and church records from Italy also were added. Because these aren't yet indexed, you'll need to find the page for the collection and then view records for the place in Italy your ancestor lived. Click here for FamilySearch.org's list of Italian record collections.


FamilySearch | Free Databases | Italian roots | UK and Irish roots
Monday, October 15, 2012 10:54:30 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, May 08, 2012
FamilySearch: 1940 Census Is Only One of This Year's Projects
Posted by Diane

At tonight's FamilySearch bloggers meeting at the National Genealogical Society Conference, FamilySearch both celebrated the progress of the 1940 Census Community Project and emphasized that it's just a part of what the organization hopes to accomplish his year. Here are some stats we were presented with:

  • Getting 400,000 historical record images online at FamilySearch.org is FamilySearch's goal for 2012, and the 1940 census is just one percent of that.

  • FamilySearch.org has collections for 60+ countries, with the United States leading the charge at 200 million images with more than 1 billion indexed.

  • More than 530 million digital images of historical records are on the site, with 1.7 billion indexed.

  • Comprehensive collections include Mexico civil and church records and civil registrations from the Netherlands.

  • FamilySearch has a contract with the Italian government to digitize civil registrations there dating through 1940.

  • Besides records, FamilySearch is also working on a program that has 10,000 volunteers answering genealogists' questions online via VOIP and chat technology.

  • Now for the 1940 census project, 101,000 volunteers have helped index or arbitrate census; 170,000 of them new this year. They were recreuited through genealogical societies (650 are participating), a blog ambassador program, targeted online advertising and other efforts.

  • 95 percent of all FamilySearch indexing activity is for the 1940 census, but as the project winds down, FamilySearch will try to transition those indexers to other indexing projects.

  • 30 percent of all the census records were indexed within 37 days. As of tomorrow, six states' indexes will be published: Delaware, Colorado, Kansas, Oregon, Virginia and New Hampshire.

  • California is more than 40 percent indexed.

  • Archives.com, findmypast.com, the National Archives and ProQuest also receive copies of the volunteer-created index.

  • The 1940 census index could possibly be completed (though not necessarily published) by July.


    census records | FamilySearch | International Genealogy | Italian roots
    Tuesday, May 08, 2012 9:58:10 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
  • # Friday, February 10, 2012
    "Who Do You Think You Are?" Marisa Tomei Episode
    Posted by Grace

    Spoiler alert! Don’t read if you don’t want to know what happened on Marisa Tomei’s episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” on NBC.

    I missed some of tonight’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” and here’s why:

    But I did see that she started out at home in New York, where her mother retold the family legend about how Marisa’s great-grandfather Leopold was killed in a bar by a jealous husband or someone he owed money to. That was the story Tomei wanted to find out about.

    In Italy, Marisa was at first thrown off track by a cemetery record that said Leopold had died of an illness. That would have been a major bummer after all the murder mystery buildup.

    But later (after the part I missed except to notice the beautiful Italian scenery and Marisa Tomei’s enviable wardrobe), newspaper articles and court records show that Leopold was killed by a business partner who'd been fired. The man hired a fancy lawyer and got off with a minor charge, then disappeared.

    I think my favorite part of the episode was the letter a cousin wrote to Marisa to share memories of Leopold’s wife Adelaide. What a dream that would be.

    If you missed this episode, you can watch it on the show's website.

    See our "Who Do You Think You Are?" page for beginning research resources including our free downloadable Getting Started Cheat Sheet, plus show news and tweets.

    If you have Italian roots to research, consult our $4 downloadable Italian Genealogy Guide and the book Finding Italian Roots: The Complete Guide for Americans by John Philip Colletta.


    "Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | Italian roots
    Friday, February 10, 2012 9:57:28 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [3]