POINT Chapter 15 Meeting -November 4, 2006

POINTers In Person
Lou Costello Chapter 15

Northern New Jersey


Pursuing Our Italian Names Together

November 4, 2006



The Northern New Jersey chapter of POINTers In Person met on November 4, 2006 at the
Elmwood Park Municipal Building.  Eighteen people attended.

Maria Carparelli (#2100) opened the meeting by mentioning to the chapter that a note was received from Donna Luzzi (#2598) of Virginia.  She had found a tombstone photograph on the ground while visiting a cemetery in Lodi, NJ and wanted to know if anyone in the chapter could locate the people who were connected with this photo, so that it could be returned to the family.

Carolyn McNamara (#4772) said that she attended the POINT National Conference in Los Angeles.  The only other person from NJ who attended was Mary Faith Radcliffe of Manalapan.  Carolyn told members that it was an excellent conference, but that only about 85 people participated, mostly from California.  It was being considered whether POINT should continue to have national conferences or attempt regional ones instead.

Maryanne Graham (#3654) presented the treasurer’s report.  The chapter has 89 members;
64 of them have kept their dues current.

Al Marotta (#1018) updated members on a possible “10th anniversary event” for the chapter.
Coro d’Italia, an Italian inter-generational ensemble from northern NJ, might perform if the chapter can find a venue and the cost can be decided.  The group performs traditional songs and dances of Italy in authentic costumes.

Sal Lagattuta (#3352) requested that the chapter acquire a list of local Italian organizations to whom it might publicize its offerings.

Dolores Cobianchi exhibited her beautifully finished family history scrapbook.

Maria Hopper, a local certified genealogist, gave a most informative presentation on
Court House Records.  She revealed to members the unique, and often overlooked, genealogical treasures to be found in these records.  Maria described her own ancestry as part American pilgrim and part Italian.

Both her son’s boy scout requirement and later, a dying relative’s wish are what sparked her interest in pursuing her family history.  She published her Hopper genealogy after 31 years of research.  Maria found that among the best ways to flesh out the life of an ancestor is by researching deeds and wills.

Maria gave a detailed analysis about why we should research probate records.  At the very least, wills list children and next of kin with hometowns.  A will may be added to or amended with a codicil, or revoked.  One addition Maria came across in her research stated, “to my wife, who I accidentally forgot”.  Thus, a will might even give the researcher insight into the personality of or the circumstances in the life of the one making the will (testator).  Another revelation Maria found while researching the Italian branch of her family was from a will which listed the ancestor’s children left behind in Italy, whom no one knew existed, as well as noting that one of his parents was still alive in Italy.  Probate is the legal way the state proves that the will is the true will of the testator.  It is important to know the differences between when a will was written and when it went through probate and was proved, since names and addresses may change due to more recent marriages or deaths.

The legal process begins when a testator makes out his will and later codicils, stating that he is doing so with a sound mind.  He also names an executor of the will.  If the person dies without a will, the courts administer the estate of the deceased.  After the testator dies, the named executor makes an application for the will to be probated.  Some applications list the names, relationships, and addresses of the next of kin.  Then the will and any codicils are recorded by the probate court.  Persons who witnessed the testator signing his will are called upon to testify that it contains the authentic signature, thus “proving” the will.  A probate packet is then created for the court which contains all documents pertaining to the settlement of the estate.  The executor is issued Letters Testamentary, a document which authorizes the named person to act on behalf of the estate, concerning settling all debts and distribution of assets.  Named beneficiaries are contacted.  If deceased, evidence is provided.  Legal notices are published alerting people who might have a claim or owe obligations to the estate.  The executor conducts an inventory of the estate and prepares a written list of all assets.  During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the listing was very specific, room by room.  The executor pays all outstanding claims of the estate, usually from proceeds of a public auction, and prepares an Adjusted Inventory of the deceased’s assets and adds it to the probate package.  When the probate judge decides that all the documents are complete, the estate is divided and distributed and beneficiaries may sign a Release due to the receipt of their legacies.  After a final account is prepared and the probate court rules that all was done properly, the estate is closed and the probate packet is filed with the probate court.

Some jurisdictions keep daily minutes of the process.   Others keep a docket of each case.  Copies of the original documents are often made and recorded in bound books.  It is best to ask for the will, inventory and any information found in the probate packet, instead of depending on the information from the bound books.  Wills are filed in the county where the person died or lived and are usually found in Probate Courts.  However, in New York, New Jersey and Louisiana, wills are located in the Surrogate Courts.  There are also orphan court records for orphans or anyone with a guardian, such as people declared mentally unfit.  Although most probate records in NJ were filed in the county of the event, the New Jersey Archives in Trenton maintains original copies of all NJ wills and inventories filed prior to 1901.  Wills and inventories from 1901 to present are filed with the Clerk of the Superior Court in Trenton.

     Future meetings will be held on:
     February 3, 2007
     May 5, 2007
     August 4, 2007
     November 3, 2007

For details, see our website:     https://sites.rootsweb.com/~njpoint/


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