December 17


Find your Italian ancestors with Origins Italy

By Rick

December 17, 2013

tedescoNot surprisingly, quite a few visitors to my blog have origins in Italy.  Like me, they are descendants of Italian immigrants who were born outside of Italy, but retain a passion and curiosity for the “Old Country.”

For the most part, at least in the United States, these Italian ancestors came from the southern regions during the great wave between 1880 and 1920, when a total of 5.3 million arrived to Ellis Island.

The 1910s marked the peak of Italian immigration, with over two million Italians immigrating in that decade alone.  Included among them were my great-grandparents.

Today I’ve invited Mary Tedesco to write a guest post for my blog.  She is the founder of ORIGINS ITALY, a firm specializing in Italian and Italian-American genealogical and family history research.  For anybody who is curious about the journey that their Italian ancestors made, Mary’s company is ready to assist you in your quest.  And more specifically, for those of you with Sicilian ancestry who have expressed interest in coming to Sicily with me this summer, this would be a great way to find out more about your roots before taking the trip.

OK, without further ado, let’s read what Mary has to say about Italian genealogy.

ORIGINS ITALY: Italian Genealogy and Why Everybody’s Doing It

By Mary Tedesco

Are you doing it?  Do you secretly look up passenger lists and Italian vital records online in the middle of the night?  Do you have an account on a big name genealogy research site that your significant other doesn’t know about?  Well, then you’re doing it too.  Genealogy, of course!  What did you think I was talking about?origins

Italian genealogy is becoming a popular hobby with many (and profession for some) with Italian heritage, like Italian-Americans, Italian-Canadians, and Italian-Australians to name a few groups.  In the United States and United Kingdom, popular TV shows like “Who Do You Think You Are” have propelled genealogy into the mainstream and have made it almost cool to be an Italian genealogist.

As a professional Italian genealogist, and founder of the research firm ORIGINS ITALY, I have the privilege helping others explore their deepest curiosities about their own family trees.   In addition to that, I also assist people in navigating the process of Italian dual citizenship.  My work often brings me to Italy to conduct onsite research in records that have not been microfilmed or digitized.  It’s incredibly interesting work and gives me no shortage of cocktail party stories.

Like many Italian-Americans, I am incredibly proud of my family and of my Italian roots.  Italian genealogical research has allowed me to learn more about my family and fall in love with Italy many times over.  I come from a family with both Northern Italian ancestors (Trentino-Alto Adige and Tuscany) and Southern Italian ancestors (Calabria).  This special combination has allowed me relate to Italians and those of Italian descent with ties all over the peninsula.  I am truly a lucky girl!italian ancestors, family origins in italy

There are many kinds people from all walks of life who wish to pursue their Italian genealogy.  Some are focused on just one person; others wish to reconstruct their entire family tree back to Julius Caesar; and still others want to place their family into historical context using military, land, and other records.

Any way you slice it, it works.  Genealogical research has become very customizable.  Every client has different goals and objectives and even some secret hopes for the outcome of their genealogical research.

Sometimes the answers we seek are not actually written in the records, and circumstantial evidence must be reviewed and analyzed to reach a conclusion.  Very CSI, right?  Professional genealogy is not about typing names into a database, although that’s sometimes part of it.  It’s about exploring a variety of research problems from an analytical point of view. The objective is to solve problems using procedures and skills developed though previous research.

After several generations living away from Italy, the knowledge of a family’s ancestral town or towns is sometimes lost.  That’s where genealogical research comes in.   It is possible in many cases to consult records available in the United States (and in other countries where Italians have immigrated) to find the names of these ancestral towns.  These answers do not always come easily, but we’re Italian right, and as the granddaughter of a Calabrian immigrant, I have a “testa dura” (hard head), which means I do not give up when faced with a difficult research problem!

I would encourage everyone to start doing it.  Embrace your Italian family history.  You won’t be sorry, I promise you.  Here are some essential resources to help you get started with your Italian Genealogy:

find out if you have italian ancestorsMany people in my family ask me “When are you going to be done with our family’s genealogy.”  Now I simply tell them, “I’m looking for Adam Tedesco.”  That’s right, Adam, the Biblical first man.  “Adamo si chiamava Tedesco.”  Of course, this is in jest.  But I know my 85-year-old cousin Giuseppe Tedesco is secretly hoping I’ll uncover that the first man’s surname was in fact Tedesco.  Stay tuned for that.

Italian genealogy is about heritage, curiosity, and discovery.  It’s about seeking to preserve our past and looking forward to a bright future.  Remembering and honoring our own history, whether it is Italian or a mix of other nationalities, will only help us to understand ourselves.

Italian Genealogy.  Are you doing it?  I’m doing it.  Everybody’s doing it.

Mary M. Tedesco is the Founder of ORIGINS ITALY, a firm specializing in Italian and Italian-American genealogical and family history research. She speaks fluent Italian and travels often to Italy where she conducts genealogical and historical research and visits family. Mary holds a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from Boston University and a Certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University’s Center for Professional Education.  She is on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Genealogical Council and is also a member of number of local and national genealogical societies. Her favorite destination on Friday afternoons (besides Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester, Massachusetts USA) is Massachusetts Vital Records!  Mary can be contacted via Twitter @originsitaly or through


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Living in the Caput Mundi and trying to decipher Italian culture for the English speaking world.

  • My father and mother were Italian, met in this country. Dad arrived at Ellis Island in 1921, mom as a baby, years before. We found their names on the two ship manifests- I have copies of them. I treasure the heritage they left us. Dad wrote a family tree and his story. My sister, brother and I never learned Italian- they wanted us to be American. It is a regret. Mom & dad wrote them all the time- visited twice. We lost contact with family after they died. But thanks to that family tree and the internet, I found my dad’s family! We met them two years ago on a trip to Italy! We stay in touch with the internet- the teenagers speak English better than my Italian. My father would have LOVED the Internet and Skype!

    • Wow, Claire, that’s an awesome story! For those who are fortunate enough to be able to have this experience, it’s priceless. You’re lucky that your dad did such a good job with the family…I’m sure that made it a lot easier. Thanks for sharing! Rick

  • Finding out about your Italian ancestors is very interesting and rewarding but also very hard. If you want to go beyond a few generations which I have done you really need to go to Italy and the town your family comes from because the records were kept in the churches before the formation of the Italian state. My mothers father was descended from a patrician family and she had a professional researcher trace the family back a thousand years yet we don’t know his mothers maiden name. She was supposedly a wealthy widow from Rome. She married my great grandfather in the early 1800’s and moved to his farm outside of Rome. I would love to find out about her family. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Raymond, you’re right, I tried to do it myself too (with my wife’s help) but had limited success. I was able to find some information, but not everything. Indeed, it sounds like you’ve gotten further along than I ever did. As far as suggestions, I would ask the author of the article, Mary Tedesco:
      She’s the expert and I’m sure she can point you in the right direction. That said, of course there have been wars and natural disasters that have caused some documents to be lost for good, unfortunately, no matter if you’re searching online or on-site in Italy.

  • Hi Rick, I do not have Italian Heritage although I do feel that I was Italian in another life. We had many Italians migrate to Australia in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. One of them being my childhood sweetheart who arrived as a baby from Calabria. I guess that is where my love of Italy and all things Italian started. I wish you a truly Buon Natale. All the best for 2014

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