How do I know where my Italian grandfather was born?

Birthplace of the Italian ancestor

The place of birth of the Italian great-grandfather is often unknown, i.e. the town or city of birth of origin. In a previous note I explained how to get the birth certificate of the Italian. I also explained that sometimes, the commune (town, municipality) could change its name, or no longer exist, complicating the search.

Now we will see how to find out in which Italian town or commune that great-grandfather was born. I will list a few tricks and resources that will surely help you find the answer.

Who was that?

The first question: who was your Italian ancestor? is fundamental either for Italian citizenship procedures or genealogy. It seems very obvious, but many people go looking for a birth certificate without being clear about the degree of kinship with the Italian. Knowing if it was our grandfather, great-grandfather, etc. will allow us to determine what are the documents that we need to obtain in the country of reception of the immigrant (Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, etc. etc.) and what documents we will need to look for in Italy.

Memories that the family keeps

It is the first step that we have to take and that is usually not done. There is very valuable information within each family; ask your relatives if they know where your ancestor was born or if they keep any documents, any memories where this data may appear.

Investigate collateral branches

It is also possible that your immigrant ancestor has emigrated with siblings, or their children, so by searching for data and documents of their siblings and/or their children, you can find the birthplace of your direct ancestor. That is, treat the brother of the person we are looking for as if he were our ancestor.

Documents that can inform the place of birth of the Italian grandfather

We will mention below some documents that can provide the information of the place of birth of the Italian ancestor; which we will have to manage in the respective files.

Marriage and/or death certificates

Where and when did your immigrant ancestor marry?
The civil marriage certificate states the place where the person was born (or where he came from), his age and who the parents of the ancestor were. If the ancestor married in Argentina on a date when the civil registries were not yet functioning, it can be searched in the parish records. Generally, these acts did not detail the place of birth, only the nationality, but there are exceptions, therefore it is also convenient to find the parish certificate.

Within the documents of ecclesiastical origin, marriage records are important. These are a kind of "folder" that contains documentation that the bride and groom had to present to get married, for example: the baptismal acts. There you can find the precious data.

Where and when did your immigrant ancestor pass away?
Sometimes death certificates in the civil registry detailed the place of birth of the deceased. This is not a one hundred percent reliable source since generally those who attended to declare a death were close to the family, distant relatives or employees of the burial company, however we can succeed looking for this type of game.  

Cemeteries

You can also turn to cemeteries.

Probate and wills

When initiating a succession process it is necessary to attach the documentation that proves the ties of kinship with the deceased, usually marriage and birth certificates of the heirs. A succession procedure could be initiated by a movable or immovable property. That is why succession files and wills become a very important documentary source.

Election documents

If our Italian ancestor was naturalized Argentine, we can trace the file that originated when carrying out this procedure and find the place of his birth, in addition to other valuable data. On the other hand, when he became a national voter and after consulting his electoral file you can also know his place of birth.

Police files

The identity cards that were managed in the provincial police, were a document of common use, before the single identity document. Both an Argentine citizen and an Italian could manage these cards, which were required for various procedures. To do so, they had to present a birth or baptism certificate (depending on their date of birth) or their passport.

Censuses

The censuses will allow us to: – locate our ancestors in one place – compare data and observe the transformation of the family group over time – approximate a date and place of birth and marriage – estimate a date of entry of the immigrant ancestor to the country in the event that some of their children are foreigners and other Argentines

Associations of Italians in the country of residence

If your ancestor was a member of an Italian society, those associations keep the books where their "associates" were registered, detailing their place of origin, date of birth, etc.

Records of Italian military service

Italian military documents: they consist of lists of young people of military service age that were generated at the provincial level that, if found, will inform us of the birthplace of our Italian ancestor. Therefore, if we only know the province where the immigrant came from, we can request the cam and there find the data.

Surname search engines

There are Italian surnames that are very commonand are widespread throughout the country, and there are other surnames that are limited to a couple of provinces or groups of communes; this helps us to delimit a search area. Taking some precautions, surname search engines are an interesting tool for this purpose.

The place of birth of the Italian ancestor in migratory records

In Argentina, only the lists of records of immigrant entry into the port of Buenos Aires are preserved and only report the origin of the immigrant from 1920. But, looking at lists of departures from Italy or entry to the countries of origin, some clue can be found. Although we remember that the records of emigration (from Europe) or immigration (to America) are kept for isolated periods. When it comes to typical surnames of an area, or if we know the province of origin (but not the commune), we can look for clues about the origin of the surname in immigration records to other countries. The idea is to use lists of immigrants to other countries, such as the United States and France, as a kind of surname locator. It is a suggestion that has yielded results on a few occasions.

At Ancestros Italianos we also work on a register of Italian immigrants that indicates their place of origin in Italy.

Parish and civil registry acts online

Maybe you have some reference like your ancestor was originally from a certain region of Italy. Currently, an agreement between FamilySearch and the DGA (Italian Directorate General of Archives), provides for the digitization (taking of photos and online) and indexing (extraction of data from the items) of the civil status registers of all Italian provinces. Within this framework, the Antenati site was created, where the images and databases are placed.

Soon it will be possible to search for the ancestor by directly typing his name in the search engine This work began in 2009 and is estimated to take about ten more years. Extracting data from games is a slower process. The digital copies -sometimes incomplete- of the minutes can be online in both sites ( FamilySearch and Antenati), being able to search by passing images or consult what has been indexed. It is also possible that data from the civil registry or parish registers have been put online by other initiatives (people, associations, archives, etc.), so I recommend you look in the online Documents section.