When was the last time you sent a letter or email to someone you didn’t know? Gail did, and you will be touched and inspired by her sweet story of finding a long lost cousin in Italy. Sometimes, all it takes is sending a letter to make a monumental cousin connection.
I often encourage our readers and Genealogy Gems Podcast listeners to reach out of their comfort zone. Writing letters is just one way we can expand your search for records and cousin connections.
I wanted to share with you this story of how reader Gail was rewarded by simply writing a letter. Gail shared:
The only known photo of Antonio Capetti – the ancestor who links Gail with her Italian cousins.
“It is because of listening to your podcast, that we just returned from the most amazing trip of a lifetime! My husband & I had scheduled a fabulous trip to Italy, where I’d always wanted to go. It is the home of my father’s ancestors, and I have been researching this side of the family since the early 1980s.
A couple weeks before we left, I was determined to find a living relative still in Italy. I remembered your suggestion to write to the priest in the old family village. I wrote to the priest and included a letter to any “found” family member briefly outlining the family tree and including a return envelope.
Imagine my excitement when, the week before we left, I received a letter from a long lost relative! 81-year old Mario was amazed that after over a century, the two branches of our family would get together again. We began texting and set up a meeting place. We met Mario in Venice and all cried when we met – feeling that family connection immediately.
Then, at his suggestion, we hired a car to take us to our old family hometown, where he walked us through town and showed us a concrete medallion on the building where our ancestors lived, inscribed with the family name. We went to the church and saw our name also inscribed on the baptismal font, as it had been a gift from our family. We walked to the cemetery and then had lunch together. During lunch, we face-timed with my father back in the U.S. and everyone cried as we stated that “our relatives in heaven are smiling today!” Our trip was the trip of a lifetime and the highlight was meeting family we didn’t even know we had, walking together down the roads that our ancestors walked! Thank you, Lisa, for your suggestion. It made a wonderful trip so much more special and personal – one we will never forget.”
How absolutely fabulous! I am so happy to hear when readers and podcast listeners take a little Gem and turn it into such a once in a lifetime experience. Thank you to Gail for taking the time to write and share this with me, and all of us who seek to know our ancestors!
More Gems on Making Cousin Connections
Follow Gail’s example and put into action new ideas for cousin connections. If you’ve had your DNA tested, don’t miss Diahan Southard’s newest quick reference guides that will help you get much more value out of your results. And keep reading below for more ideas:
Italian civil records at FamilySearch have been updated for five specific localities. Births, marriages, and deaths are just a few of things you will find in these collections. Also this week, Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, and Alaska.
Italy – Italian Civil Records
FamilySearch has added to their Italian genealogy records this week. Five specific locales in Italy have Civil Registration records online. Civil registrations include such things as births, marriages, and deaths. They can also include marriage banns and ten-year indexes. Of course, availability of records will depend on the time period and the location.
This collection may include the following records:
Marriage banns (pubblicazioni o notificazioni)
Residency records (cittadinanze)
Ten-year indexes (indici decennali)
Supplemental documents (allegati)
The second collection titled Italy, Mantova, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1496-1906 covers several centuries. Images for this collection had been mistakenly made available to the general public who registered at FamilySearch. However, because of the agreement signed 30 June 2011, the publication rights of images belongs to the Italian National Archives (DGA) who publishes them freely to all on their Portale degli antenati: http://www.antenati.san.beniculturali.it/. Though you can see a transcript of the civil record at FamilySearch, you will have to visit the Il Portale Antenati to see the digital images. Some fees may apply.
Again, these civil records for Mantova will include such things as birth, marriage, and death records and in some cases, marriage banns and 10-year indexes.
Italian birth record online at FamilySearch.
The third collection is titled Italy, Grosseto, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1851-1907. These records will again cover birth, marriages, and deaths in the Grosseto locale. These records, like the others, are written in Italian. In this case, you are able to view many of the digital images online at FamilySearch without having to use the Portale Antenati.
The fourth collection titled Italy, Rieti, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1840-1945 covers the years between 1840 and 1945 of this specific locale. The records held in this collection will largely be the same as the others, but there is something special that these Rieti records hold. They include Catholic parish registers of Poggio Fidoni (Frazione of Rieti) for the years 1768-1860.
Also at FamilySearch, records have been added to the Netherlands, Archival Indexes, Miscellaneous Records. These miscellaneous records include indexes that cover many record sources, such as civil registration, church records, emigration lists, military registers, and land and tax records. These records cover events like birth, marriage, death, burial, emigration and immigration, military enrollment, and more.
Sweden – Norrbotten Church Records
Sweden, Norrbotten Church Records, 1612-1923; index 1658-1860 is a recently updated collection at FamilySearch as well. Church records from the county of Norrbotten contains indexes to births, marriages, deaths and images to clerical surveys, registers of birth, marriage, death, move-in and move-out lists, confirmations, and church accounts. Notice that this collection has some index-only items and there are some other items that offer a digital image of the record. Covering such a lengthy period of time, records will vary given the time frame.
The records are handwritten in narrative style and may be difficult to research for beginners.
Australia – Marriages
This week at Findmypast, we bring your attention to Australian Capital Territory Marriages. Each record result contains a transcript of the original record. The information available will vary, but information typically includes:
First and last name
Spouse’s first and last name
Further details can be found on the marriage certificate itself, which can be obtained online from the Office of Regulatory Services. Due to the sensitivity of the information found on marriage certificates, the marriage must have occurred more than 75 years ago to obtain a certificate.
Australia – Victoria – Wills & Probate
Wills and other probate records are a fantastic resource for genealogists. They often contain names of heirs and prove relationships. Findmypast has updated the collection titled Victoria Wills & Probate. In this collection of mostly indexed records, some search results will also include an image of the original probate documents. Records cover the years 1841 to 1989 and may include the following information:
First and last name
Australia – Victoria – Divorce Records
The Victoria Divorce Cause Books 1861-1938 collection at Findmypast may offer you answers to the reason your ancestors parted ways. In Victoria, the Public Records Office Victoria (PROV) holds divorce case records up to 1940. If you are interested in more recent divorce cases, you will need to contact the Supreme Court of Victoria. It’s important to also know that up until 1975, divorce cases in Victoria were heard by the Supreme Court.
These records will likely provide you with the first and last names of couples, petition date, who filed for divorce, and a case file number.
United States – Alaska – Vital Records
Did you know that this year is the 150th anniversary of the Alaskan Purchase? We have some great tips for Alaskan genealogy research coming up here on the blog in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, get started on researching your Alaska ancestors with the FamilySearch collection titled Alaska, Vital Records, 1816-1959.
In these records, images of birth, marriage, death, and divorce records are available for searching. Though the collection is a bit on the small side, new records will be added as they become available. Digital images of births cover the years of 1816 to 1912, marriages for the years of 1816 to 1959, and deaths between 1816 and 1959.
More on Italian Civil Records and Research
Mary Tedesco of Genealogy Roadshow (on PBS in the US) talks about doing the show and her tips for doing Italian genealogy research on our Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel. Watch the clip below and be sure to subscribe to our channel so you don’t miss any of our helpful tips and tricks. Thanks for watching, friends.
Findmypast announces the new catholic church records in their Catholic Heritage Archive this week. This new partnership with British and American Archdioceses will be a monumental help to those searching their early Catholic roots. Also this week, records from Italy and the Netherlands at FamilySearch.
By JakobLazarus (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Catholic Church Records in the Catholic Heritage Archive
Findmypast announced their new Catholic Heritage Archive this past week. They are releasing over 3 million exclusive records including sacramental registers for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1757 to 1916 as well as for the British Archdioceses of Westminster and Birmingham from 1657 forward. This builds on last year’s publication of more than 10 million Irish Catholic parish registers.
The Catholic Church holds some of the oldest and best preserved genealogical records and in the past, have been difficult to access.
In collaboration with various Archdioceses of the Catholic Church, Findmypast is helping to bring these records online in one unified collection for the first time ever. Exclusively available on Findmypast, images of original documents will be completely free to view in many cases. Fully searchable transcripts will also be included, providing family historians from the around the world with easy access to these once closely guarded records.
Click “Play Now” below to listen to Sunny Morton’s brief interview with Findmypast about the announcement: [display_podcast]
The next phase of the Catholic Heritage Archive will include records from the archdioceses of New York and Baltimore as well as additional records from Philadelphia. There are over 30 million records in just these three dioceses. The digitization of the whole archive is a monumental undertaking and, when complete, will contain hundreds of millions of records for the USA alone.
Catholic Heritage Archive Holdings for This Week:
United States – Pennsylvania – Philadelphia – Baptisms
The Philadelphia Roman Catholic Parish Baptisms at Findmypast are the first of these record releases from an agreement made with the Roman Catholic Church to digitize their records. These baptismal records will include a name, their parent’s names, and residence at the time of the event.
Additional information may include place of birth, sponsors, minister who performed the ceremony, and notice of marriage. Catholic priests were charged with noting all vital events of their parishioners. If, for instance, a parishioner married outside her home parish, the priest who performed the marriage would contact her priest to confirm she was baptized and to share the details of her marriage, hence the marriage notice in the baptism register.
United States – Pennsylvania – Philadelphia – Marriages
Information contained in these records include the couple’s names, marriage date and location, and you may find dates and locations of the couples’ baptisms.
All Philadelphia Roman Catholic Parish records are from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, covering Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia County.
England – Westminster – Roman Catholic Census
Another Catholic records resource from Findmypast includes the Westminster Roman Catholic Census 1893. As well as the typical information you would expect from a census (occupation, address, birth year, etc.), notes detailing the local priest’s opinion on your ancestor’s faith and dedication to the church let you find out if your ancestor was a good or bad Catholic. Scandalous!
England – Birmingham & Westminster – Roman Catholic Church & Parish Records
Four separate collections, also in the Catholic Heritage Archive at Findmypast, include Roman Catholic baptismal, burial, marriage, and congregational records for locales in England. The records released this week are for the areas covering the Birmingham and Westminster archdioceses. The amount of information in each of these record sets will vary on the age of the record, legibility, and the amount of information recorded by the parish priest. You will find both a transcription and a digital image of the record.
Provided by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Findmypast brings you a large collection of vital records. The first is titled Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Births & Baptisms. These records include images from a variety of sources spanning years from the late 1600s to the mid 1900s.
It is important to note this may not be the only place to find births or baptisms—and there may be records included that are not births or baptisms in this material from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Deaths & Burials collection will include records that may contain the following information: decedent’s name, date of death and burial, parish and diocese, and could include additional information such as military service, age, and birth date.
United States – Pennsylvania – Congregational Records
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Congregational Records is a unique collection that may give you insight into your ancestor and the church they attended. Not only will images include lists of past ministers, but you may find additional lists of those persons baptized and confirmed. Some of these records may also be used as a source to discover the names of your ancestor’s parents and spouses.
United States – Pennsylvania – WWII Records
Screenshot from Findmypast of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, WWII Casualty Cards.
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Word War II Casualty Cards collection is a group of records created by the Army so if something happened to a local soldier, the newspaper wouldn’t have to scramble for information. These records are particularly relevant in light of the fire at the National Archives and Records Administration in the 1970s when most World War II personnel files were destroyed.
Netherlands – Miscellaneous Records
We have brought you many collections from Findmypast, which require a subscription. However, these next few collections are brought to you by FamilySearch and are free to access.
Netherlands, Archival Indexes, Miscellaneous Records collection has been updated this week at FamilySearch. These records include many record sources, such as civil registration, church records, emigration lists, military registers, and land and tax records. These records cover events like birth, marriage, death, burial, emigration and immigration, military enrollment, and more. These indexes were originally collected, combined and published by OpenArchives. For the entire index collection and more information visit www.openarch.nl.
Italy – Trapani, Civil Registration
FamilySearch brings you updates to the Italy, Trapani, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1906-1928 collection. This collection consists of civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths within the custody of the State Archive of Trapani. Availability of records is largely dependent on time period and locality. This collection of civil registrations records covers the years 1906-1928 and may also include:
Learn More about Institutional Records Research
From schools and orphanages to prisons, hospitals, asylums, workhouses, and more, there’s a good chance one or more of your ancestors might be found on record in one of the many types of institutions. In this Premium eLearning video, Institutional Records Research Methods, Lisa Louise Cooke presents methods for finding your ancestors in institutional records, from establishing a workflow and investigating clues found in the census and other records to resources and strategies for digging up the records. This 40-minute video includes a downloadable handout and is available right now to all Premium eLearning members. Click here to sign up!
Special thanks to the New England Historic Genealogical Society and the Archdiocese of Boston for their effort to make Sacramental records for genealogy available online. These and other new and updated genealogical collections are mentioned in this weeks list from the United States, Ireland, United Kingdom, Italy, and free record searches at Findmypast!
United States (New England area) & Canada – Sacramental Records for Genealogy
NEHGS has announced the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) and Archdiocese of Boston have made millions of 18th and 19th century sacramental records searchable online.
The records, which document baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and other sacraments, cover more than 150 parishes from throughout eastern Massachusetts. They also hold records that were carried out in other locations in New England and parts of Canada.
These detailed documents are a critical resource for researchers, historians, and genealogists, especially when secular records are unavailable. They record important moments in the lives of the individuals, families, and communities.
Though the fully searchable data will not be available immediately, anyone can browse images of parish records as they are completed. Click here to learn how to browse records.
United States – Oklahoma- Vital Records
Ok2Explore is a free searchable index of births and deaths that occurred in the state of Oklahoma. Only limited information is available for births occurring more than 20 years ago and deaths occurring more than 5 years ago.
Visitors to the site may search the index using any combination of the subject’s name, date of event (birth or death,) county of event, and sex of the subject.
Remember this is only an index version of the record, but you can order certified copies for a fee.
With over 227,700 new records, the petty sessions handled the bulk of lesser criminal and civil legal proceedings in Ireland. Ireland, Petty Sessions Court Registers now contains over 22.8 million records and is the largest collection of Irish court & prison records available anywhere online. Each record includes a transcript and a scanned image of the original document. These documents will include details of victims, witnesses and the accused, such as an address, date in court, details of the offence, details of the verdict, and the sentence.
Cases range from merchants who had not paid duty on their goods, to workers suing for unpaid wages. Farmers were sometimes fined for letting their cattle wander or for allowing their cart to be driven without their name painted on the side. Public drunkenness was a common offence, as was assault and general rowdiness. Though these records are not considered typical for finding vital information, they can work as great clues to lead you to the information you need.
United Kingdom – Dorset – Memorial Inscriptions
The Dorset Memorial Inscriptions collection at Findmypast contains over 40,000 new records. The collection contains details of inscriptions found on gravestones, tombs, monuments and even stained glass windows throughout 266 parishes within English county.
Each record includes a transcript. The information contained varies, however, most will include a combination of birth year, death year, burial date and location, relative’s names, memorial type and notes on the inscription.
United Kingdom – Warwickshire – Burials
Also at Findmypast, over 175,000 new records have been added to the Warwickshire Burials. The entire collection now contains more 1 million records and includes monumental inscriptions from Clifton Road Cemetery in Rugby.
Each record includes a transcript of the original burial registry or details from the monumental inscription. While the information listed will vary depending on the records original source, most will include your ancestor’s name, age, birth year, death date, burial year, burial location and the name of the officiating minister. A number of records will also include parent’s names and residence. Inscriptions will include information recorded on the individual’s grave stone and will usually include the name of the individual’s spouse, children and/or parents. Also, some grave sites may have more than one person buried in the same plot.
United Kingdom – Northumberland & Durham – Monumental Inscriptions
Over 16,000 records for the Northumberland & Durham Monumental Inscriptions at Findmypast are now available. These include the full description found on a grave stone or monument which will often include additional family names and dates.
Each record includes a transcript of the original source material. The amount of information may vary due to the age and legibility of individual monuments, but most records will include birth date, burial year, burial place, death date, denomination, inscription, and even the type of stone their monument was made from.
Ireland – Quaker Congregational Records
Also at Findmypast, Ireland, Society Of Friends (Quaker) Congregational Records has been updated with an additional 5,000 congregational records. Congregational records include details of the meetings your ancestor’s attended and the activities they engaged in. This is a nice way to enrich your family story.
These records, dating back to the mid-1600s, include minutes from half-yearly Quaker meetings. Each entry includes an image of the original handwritten record. The information included will vary, but most will include the congregation date, address, meeting, archive and reference.
MyHeritage Year End Review
MyHeritage had some pretty exciting things going on in 2016. In their recent blog post, “A Look Back at 2016,” you will see the list including the MyHeritage mobile app, the introduction of Tribal Quest, the debut of the beautiful Sun Chart, and their recent announcement of MyHeritage DNA, just to name a few. Visit the blog post to see the MyHeritage year-in-review for yourself!
Venezuela – Australia – El Salvador – Philippines – Netherlands – Canada – Spain – Slovenia – U. S. – Italy
FamilySearch.org took a short break over the holidays from updating their collections, but with the start of the new year, they have added and updated over 20 collections from all over the world! Check out these great records:
Here’s our weekly list of new genealogy records online. Do any collections below relate to your family history? Please share with your genealogy buddies or with societies that might be interested!
ITALY CIVIL REGISTRATION. Over a million total indexed Italian civil registrations have been added to FamilySearch for Bario, Caltanissetta, Genova, Mantova, Pesaro e Urbino and Pescara. See and search (for free) all available records here.
MEXICO CHURCH RECORDS. FamilySearch also just updated their Mexican church records by the millions, from Aguascalientes to Zacatecas. The biggest updates are for the Distrito Federal (Mexico City) and Pueblas. Search these here for free.
SOUTH DAKOTA SCHOOL RECORDS. Nearly 3 million indexed names have been added to this free collection at FamilySearch. According to the database description, “School records, including teacher’s term reports, school census and attendance records located at the South Dakota State Historical Society in Pierre. Records are generally arranged by county, year and school district number.” It looks like this is a work-in-progress and more indexed records will be added.
US ALIEN CASE FILES. Nearly half a million In 1940, immigrants in the U.S. who had not naturalized had to register and be finger printed. Case files resulted! Nearly a half million indexed records from all over the U.S. are part of this new FamilySearch collection. (Residents of Guam; Honolulu, Hawaii; Reno, Nevada; and San Francisco, California are not part of this collection.)
US CENSUS RECORDS. Updates, corrections and additions to their U.S. federal census collections have been posted recently by both FamilySearch (1790 and 1800) and Ancestry (1880 and 1920 as well as the 1850-1885 mortality schedules). No additional detail was provided about specific changes to the collections. We blogged a few months ago about why FamilySearch was re-indexing part of the 1910 census; read it here.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter, and this weekly round-up of major new record collections will be among the “gems” you find in it! With your sign-up, you’ll receive a free e-book on Google search strategies for genealogy. Simply enter your email address in the box in the upper right-hand corner of this page. Thank you for sharing this post with anyone else who will want to know about these records (and this weekly blog post.)