POINT Chapter 15 Meeting - August 2011

POINTers In Person
Lou Costello Chapter 15

Northern New Jersey

Pursuing Our Italian Names Together
August 6, 2011


 The Northern New Jersey chapter of POINTers In Person met on
August 6, 2011 at the Elmwood Park Municipal Building.  Twenty-one people attended.

The May 2011 Report was amended to reflect a correction concerning the origin of the presenter’s father’s family.  It was Castellammare di Stabia (Province of Naples), not Alcamo, where Mr. Lauriano’s wife’s family originated.

Maria Carparelli (#2100) opened the meeting by informing the chapter that Congressman William Pascrell (D-NJ) co-sponsored a bill, House Resolution 367 to permanently make October “Italian and Italian-American Heritage Month”.  She also alerted members about a seminar offered by the Bergen County Genealogical Society, “Technologies for Genealogists”, featuring Dick Eastman (author of Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter) on October 22, 2011 at the Bergen County Community College in Paramus.

Also mentioned were the upcoming 85th annual Feast of St. Sebastian at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Montclair (August), whose parishioners came from Cerami, Sicily and the 97th annual Feast of St. Joseph at the Church of St. Joseph  in Lodi during the Labor Day weekend.  The 12th annual Mercer County Italian-American Festival takes place September 23rd.

The Passaic County Historical Society has an exhibit, “Honoring Passaic County’s Civil War Veterans” at the Lambert Castle Museum in Paterson from August 7-October 2, 2011.  See www.lambertcastle.org for details.

 An e-mail from Steve Gabai, a volunteer with the Italian Genealogical Group (www.italiangen.org ), stated that this group, which has been creating searchable databases mostly for New York City, will begin a new project: creating a database of NJ naturalizations that are stored at the National Archives in Manhattan.  Volunteers are being recruited for this project, which can be done from home, and those interested can contact John Martino at johnm16881@aol.com .

Maryanne Graham (#3654) presented the treasurer’s report.  The chapter has 41 active members.   However, 12 people have yet to renew.

Tony Lauriano presented “Overcoming Brick Walls” with the help of his son, Steven.   He approached this topic by presenting cases to show some methods he used in his own research when he encountered “brick walls”.  Members were reminded that family stories may not be completely accurate.  One must always begin with the verified known facts and then cautiously try to expand what is learned.  Also, researchers should keep in mind that census records are not perfect.

The first case he presented involved finding the cemetery where the ancestor is buried when the birth and death dates are unknown.  Among the steps he tried were using the Internet websites, findagrave.com and interment.net ; researching the U.S. Census (to narrow the time frame) and church records and obtaining the death certificate.  Some graves are unmarked since, at a period when many children were dying, people couldn’t afford graves for everyone.

The second case involved trying to locate an orphanage where a relative resided after the parents’ death.  Censuses enumerate the inmates of orphanages.  However, a search through two decades of the U.S. Census revealed that during those time frames, the person was still living at home.  Once Mr. Lauriano found this, he called the diocese to request records of their orphanages and to learn where the records might have been transferred if the orphanage had been closed.  Finding a child when the name, death date and burial place are unknown, was another case.  Mr. Lauriano searched the Federal Census by address in order to find the names of possible relations.  Then followed research through parish records and a search for the death certificate, which often contains burial information.

His next case concerned finding the troop movements of an individual’s World  War II outfit and any medals which were earned.  Mr. Lauriano noted that armed services discharge papers represent the best place to start, but only if the individual is fortunate to possess a copy of these himself. Unfortunately, World War II army personnel records were destroyed in a fire in 1973.  Mr. Lauriano next checked to see if there was a website which might have the history of the battalion.  He warned us to beware of possible name changes and suggested we look through the National Archives website.  Through his research he discovered that there are organizations which specialize in medal replacement and will include a story about what that particular medal means.

Another case was to verify a family story concerning an unusual death.  A relative was said to have fallen off a roof while putting up a sign on the opening day of his business, causing his death that day.  The family showed up in the 1910 Census, but the individual could not be found, since he died before the census was taken.  Possible variations of the name were looked into.  Sometimes cemetery records reveal the cause of death.

Mr. Lauriano even found information on a female (whose first name alone was known) and the time of her death.  This complex case involved a search through the Social Security Death Index, the marriage record found under her husband’s surname, the Waldensian religion with French/Swiss connections, and the use of census, ship manifest and naturalization records.  A similar case involved finding Holocaust records for a family from Poland who arrived in the U.S. in 1954.  The 92nd Street Y, the Holocaust Center in Jerusalem and yadvashem.org were helpful.  Mr. Lauriano learned that the family went to Italy after the war, taking advantage of the Refugee Act which would send Jewish refugees anywhere they wanted to go.  He provided the family with a photo of the ship they took to America, after he asked if they remembered the ship’s name.  Mr. Lauriano was told, “You never forget the ship that brings you to America”.

 Future meetings will be held on:
     November 5, 2011
     February 4, 2012
     May 5, 2012
     August 4, 2012,


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