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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The joys of Ellis Island immigration records

My coworker of Italian descent gently reminded me this week that his ancestors wanted to be found so I did some poking around.  There is some family lore about his maternal side descending from Italian royalty, illegitimately and he wants to find out if there is any truth to it.  The first thing I did was attempt to find this line in the census records, the family immigrated to New York City.   From the census records I was able to determine when his great grandparents arrived in the US. Salvatore arrived in 1911. His wife Angela and children came in 1919.  Using that information I looked for ship passenger / immigration records.  What a great source of information (at least in the 20th century - the late 1800s in some cases provided minimal info).  I found Angela and her children first.  In the manifest, they referenced married women by their maiden names (at least the Italian immigrants that I was looking at) and the children by the fathers last name.   The record also provided her hometown (Trapani) and her mom's name (next of kin).  I know this stuff is usually standard but what surprised me is that they provided the complexion, hair and eye color for each passenger & for each adult passenger, their height.
  Salvatore's record contained the same level of personal information including his home town (also Trapani), his father's name and his father's street address which I was able to look at with Google Maps street view!
  Now that I have a starting point in Sicily I guess it's time to brush up on my Italian!

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