POINT Chapter 15 Meeting - May 18, 2002

POINTers In Person
Chapter 15
Northern New Jersey

P.O. Box 636
Totowa, New Jersey

Pursuing Our Italian Names Together

 May 18, 2002

Albert Marotta (#1018)
The Northern New Jersey chapter of POINTers In Person met on May 18, 2002 at the Elmwood Park Municipal Building.  Twenty-five people attended.

Annita Zalenski (#39) opened the meeting by asking whether members who attended the Sixth Annual Italian Genealogical Group Seminar in Long Island on May 4, would like to comment on the event.
Tony Desiderioscioli, Sue Laurita (#4405), Sal Lagattuta (#3352) and Al Marotta (#1018) were present at the seminar.

Al gave a short synopsis of the five presentations he attended (out of ten).  Many of them seemed geared to beginners.  However, there were some interesting updates.  Trafford Cole (#1176) mentioned that the LDS has ceased microfilming Italian civil records in all areas of Italy due to government misunderstandings and that this will remain in effect for the forseeable future.  Another speaker, Leslie Corn, alerted listeners that due to privacy concerns since September 11th, as well as for other reasons, it is now difficult to research New York City birth records in the Municipal Archives.  This is especially true for records after 1909.  Previously, only vital records from the most recent 75 years were closed.  Also, she noted that the New York Times now has a completely indexed database which is locally available only to members of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.  The index includes all advertisements and every word and name that ever appeared in the
New York Times.  Previously, only articles were indexed.

Annita reminded members about the POINT National Conference in October.  Our second annual picnic and a possible field trip to the NJ State Archives in Trenton (led by Geri Mola) were brought to the attention of members.  The Passaic County Historical Society Library has reopened and Federal and State census records for Passaic County will be available.

Annita also presented the treasurer's report.  The chapter presently has 70 members; 61 of them have kept their dues current.  The possibility of offering outside speakers an honorarium was also discussed, as well as other ways to raise money, and will be reviewed in more detail at a later date.

Loretta Tito and her husband, Michele, gave an enjoyable and informative presentation, "The Origin and Meaning of Italian Surnames".  Each member began by highlighting a surname whose origin sparked his curiousity.  Italian surname charts were set up to help illustrate the talk.  Originally, only first names were used.  Common names were differentiated by adding the father's name or a physical attribute, occupation or location of dwelling.  Nobility began to use surnames by the 1400s in order to establish family lines.  Surnames were created using personal characteristics, nicknames, locality, vocation of the family or a combination of all four.  Peasants working on large estates often took the local noble's name as their own.  Many immigrant surnames include  the country of the family's origin.  Some surnames have numerous variations.

Surnames for foundlings present many problems since there were so many of them due to poverty and to a lack of land to inherit.  Foundlings were often named "Esposito", "Bonaventura", "Trovato", etc.  A 1928 Italian law forbade giving names to foundlings which suggested their origins.

Other intriguing, miscellaneous facts were brought up in the presentation.  Christianized Jews, for example, often took the names of the places where they lived in order to avoid discovery.  Loretta Tito noted that "Rossi" is the most common surname in Italy.  Members were also alerted to exceptions to the Italian naming tradition.  If there was an argument with an older family member who might have provided his name to the child, if a child was orphaned, if an earlier child died, or if the name of a famous person or a beloved family member was preferred, the naming tradition could be suspended.

Since Italian names have many possible roots, it is difficult to be certain about the meaning behind each name.  Researching Italian vital records can be frustrating because Italians often stayed in the same town for generations and thus there are numerous common surnames in  the same town.  Useful websites include: sites.rootsweb.com/~njgsbc and http://gens.labo.net.it/cognomi/genera.html.

     Future meetings will be held on:
                                 August 3, 2002
                                 November 2, 2002
                                 February 1, 2003
                                 May 3, 2003

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


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