POINTers In Person Chapter 15 - May 1, 1999

POINTers In Person
Chapter 15
Northern New Jersey

P.O. Box 636
Totowa, New Jersey

Pursuing Our Italian Names Together

May 1, 1999

Albert Marotta (#1018)
A beautiful sunny spring day greeted us as our POINTers In Person Chapter gathered at the Housing Authority Community Room in Room in Garfield, NJ on May 1, 1999.

Annita Zalenski (#39) opened the meeting by alerting us to a future mandolin concert and various local festivals. Also we were informed about the existence of a publication entitled, Comunes of Italy. An article on Ellis Island by Gay Raab (#2208) was featured in that periodical. Comunes of Italy is in its second year of publication and comes out of Royersford, PA six times a year. Annita invited us to her open house on July 5th to meet a friend from Italy who has helped many people in their genealogical research in Italy.

Lillian Pappas (#2717) presented the treasurer's report and told us that we now have 40 paid members.

Maryjane Proctor showed us an article entitled, N.J. May Soon Have Best Italian Library in U.S., from the North Jersey Herald News. Salvatore Valente established an Italian reading room in the Walsh Library at Seton Hall University, South Orange. The Valente collection presently contains over 10,000 volumes, covering the fall of the Roman Empire to the present. It also holds most of the books published on Italy in the last five years. Among the items available: a multi-volume registry of passengers from Italy to America in the 19th and 20th centuries, a 50-volume collection of authoritative biograpical articles on Italians, a comprehensive dictionary of the Italian language and a collection of valuable histories and chronicles covering the Italian peninsula. The Valente Library also contains 350 volumes of fundamental historical documents published by the Istituo Storico Italiano in Rome and Iter Italicum, an authoritative CD ROM source for manuscripts of Italian humanists.

Annita Zalenski(#39), gave a very informative presentation (which was complemented by valuable handouts) on the topic of Passenger Ship Lists: How to. She began by giving us a fair warning: Don't think you know everything about your ancestors. You will probably be surprised by the details revealed aboutyour relatives found on the passenger lists. Biographical information and the migration story are the chief treasures of a ship's manifest. It is important to be aware of the reasons our ancestors had for leaving Italy. Then Annita presented the immigration laws of the U.S. from 1875 to 1924. This gave us clues as to what malady could lead to the rejection of an immigrant for a given year. A quota system was estalished in 1921 and the law was amended in 1924 to accept immigrants from northern and western Europe, but to exclude everyone else, including Italians. Our ancestors would have had to devise ways to enter the U.S. Strategies might have included entry via a Canadian port.

Annita reminded us that if our ancestors entered the U.S. throuogh the NY port, they might have come through Castle Garden (1855-1890), the Barge Office (1890-1891), Ellis Island (1892-1987), the Barge Office (1897-1900) or Ellis Island (1900-1924). It was at these places of entry, that our ancestors would be tested. This might lead to detainment, hospitalization, deportation or acceptance.

It was interesting to learn that there were two types of passenger lists; Customs Passenger Lists (1820-1891), which the ship captains submitted to the Collectors of Customs at various ports. This had four or five colums of information. The Immigration Passenger Lists (1891-1954) were standardized manifests which began with 21 and expanded to 29 columns of information. Soimetimes births and deaths at sea were recorded, as well as stowaways, usually at the end of the passenger list. A valuable source, Records of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry, lists the detained passengers.

If you know the passenger's full original name, approximate age and approximate year of arrival, it should be possible to locate him/her on the index created by the WPA for the National Archives (SOUNDEX) or in Book Indexes created by steamship lines. There are also books which can help you search the unindexed years. We were given a brief lesson on deciphering the Soundex Code.

Annita told us that if all else fails, other sources which might be helpful include searching the Crew List, and Newspapers and checking to see if a relative immigrated through Canada.

Oour next meeting is scheduled for 10 AM on August 7, 1999. It will include a presentation by Sal Lagatutta(#3352) on researching orphaned and abandoned children in Italy.

The schedule for our future meetings is:

Saturday, August 7, 1999 at 10 AM
Saturday, November 6, 1999 at 10 AM
Saturday, February 5, 2000 at 10 AM
 All are welcome to join us for coffee and - about 9:30 AM before every meeting.

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