POINT Chapter 15 Meeting - November 7, 2009

POINTers In Person
Lou Costello Chapter 15

Northern New Jersey

Pursuing Our Italian Names Together
November 7, 2009

The Northern New Jersey chapter of POINTers In Person met on November 7, 2009 at the Elmwood Park Municipal Building.  Twenty-six people attended.

Maria Carparelli (#2100) opened the meeting by making the sad announcement concerning the recent death of Robert R. Scussel, one of the original founding members of our chapter.  Bob provided the chapter with its first meeting place, a spacious well-appointed room in Garfield.  Also, he was a member of the Mussomeli society and was very active with UNICO.  His generous spirit will be greatly missed.

Maria also urged members to contribute recipes to the chapter’s website.  Members suggested compiling a PIP Directory for our chapter, updating the one the chapter had when it first began.  Other members thought it might be more useful to invite the submission of names, etc. from other PIP chapters whose own members’ families might have had a connection to NJ.  New York, Pennsylvania and Florida were mentioned as the first possibilities.  This new network would be the basis for a mini directory.

Maryanne Graham (#3654) presented the treasurer’s report.  The chapter has 43 active members.  She also told the chapter that she recently visited her ancestor’s towns in Sicily for the first time and will give members details at another meeting.

Daniel Donatacci gave the presentation, “Beyond Basic Civil and Parish Records: An Overview of Sources Additional to Vital Records”.  (See May 2, 2009 Report for his background.)  The focus of this introduction was to highlight little known available Italian records to be obtained solely for genealogical research (not for legal purposes).  Although he insisted that his presentation was not comprehensive, it seemed to be close.

He first reminded the chapter what is considered basic vital records by describing two large categories, secular and ecclesiastical.  The secular/State records include atto di nascita, atto di matrimonio (and its associated documents), atto di morte, Stato di famiglia, and Stato di famiglia originario.  These are usually kept in the municipality where the event took place.
The basic “vital” ecclesiastical records include atto di battesimo, atto di matrimonio, and atto di morte or atto di sepoltura, all usually found at the local parish.  Many church records date back to the 1500s and are in Latin.  Mr. Donatacci focused on available records beyond these basic civil and parish records.

Among the ecclesiastical records of interest is the parish census collected by the Papal States (Status animarum) and ordinary parish census records (anagrafe).  Records found in diocesan archives include biographies of local bishops and other local notable Catholic priests and religious, ordination records, records of the religious orders serving the diocese (which can also be found in a particular religious order’s headquarter’s archives), records of religious societies and charities, church property records (sometimes complete with wills), records of those who converted to or were excommunicated from  the faith, Confirmation records (good for obtaining a range of birth years, especially prior to 1809), records of marriages between relatives of a close degree (dispensations), and sometimes copies of parish records.  A diocese has jurisdiction over all church property within a particular geographical area.

These records are often found in the archives of the diocese.  The Papal States (754-1870) also kept records of parishes within its jurisdiction and included parishes and dioceses from its core four Italian regions, composed of the provinces of Bologna, Ferrara, Forli, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Ravenna, Reggio Emilia, Rimini, Ancora, Ascoli Piceno, Macerata, Pesaro, Perugia, Terni, Frosinone, Latina, Rieti, Roma, and Viterbo.  Since the Papal States comprised many more dioceses than provinces, it is best to start with the diocesan archives if one is researching any records in the area before 1850.  After the creation of a unified Italian State, the Papal States ceased to be and many parishes began to create their own census records.  Usually done  every twenty years, these censuses were discontinued by 1900.  Frequent invasions and restorations, especially in the 1790s, kept the borders of the Papal States fluid.    Keep in mind that boundaries of a diocese might have changed and that recently many Italian dioceses have merged with a bordering one.

Other major faiths in Italy which keep their own religious records are the Waldensians, Greek Orthodox and Jewish communities.  The Waldensian sect, which later became the largest Protestant Church in Italy, first arrived in the 1200s in the Lombardy area and spread into the Puglia and Calabria regions.  Although many were exiled and persecuted, by 1690 they were granted some acceptance.  Their records are similar to Catholic parish records, except that they are written in French.  Jewish archives often have Books of Circumcisions and marriage registers.  Gravestones from Jewish cemeteries are also of interest.  Records may be in Hebrew.

Civil records beyond basic vital records include conscription and military records, usually found in the archives of the province where the deed took place.  Notary records are most valuable because they contain wills, dowries, records of real estate, registered and extinguished debts and documents pertaining to marriage contracts and betrothals (especially in the South).  Tax and census records are also available.  State Archives also may hold antique maps of municipalities, town council minutes, local history and histories of local noble families, legal and court records (statements of arrest, condemnations and felony certificates).  The latter is often found at the tribunal or court of the province.  Other records of value are passport and emigration records, including passport authentication records and  Certificato di residenza  (Residence certificate which shows any change in residency, including emigration), found at the local anagrafe office.  Another source is passenger lists which were retained by shipping companies, although many have been destroyed.  The existence of university records and records of nobility and heraldry rounded out his presentation.  As an aid to decipher the codes on these documents, Mr. Donatacci recommended, “Cappelli’s Dictionary of Latin Abbreviations” (“Dizionario di Abbreviature Latine ed Italiane usata nolle carte e codici specialmente nel MedioEvo, per cura di Adriano Cappelli”).  This 1899 publication is also known as Lexicon Abbreviaturarum (Manuali Hoepli).

If one researches in Italy, always ask those who care for the records whether there are any other unique records in their archives.  Members are reminded that any record beyond vital records is not necessarily accurate and should be supported by primary vital records.

  Future meetings will be held on:
     February 6, 2010
     May 1, 2010
     August 7, 2010
     November 6, 2010

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


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