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NOTE TO USERS:  The Mormon Church is continually updating its FamilySearch pages, as are and other paid and free on-line sources.  I have tried to explain the latest versions below.  If the links are no longer good, try searching Google or Yahoo! for related items.


       This page and any help it may provide in finding your ancestry is free.  If you'd like to show your appreciation, I invite you to purchase my historical novella, The Lady of the Wheel, inspired by my research of Sicilian documents.  Click on the book cover. >>>>>>



      Ange Coniglio's Genealogy Tips© are intended to pass on information and techniques that I have have found helpful in the amateur research of my own families, the Coniglio, Alessi, Calabrese, Abate, and lo Guasto families, from Serradifalco, Caltanissetta, Sicily.

         You are invited to use any of the links, references or "tricks" that I have found.  I can't guarantee success, but diligence usually pays off. If you know of any relatives of the following, please contact me:

(Click on their names for information on their descendants, etc., and
to see examples of original Sicilian birth, baptism, marriage and death records, with translations)

Gaetano Coniglio b 27 Feb 1836
and his wife Maria Carmela Calabrese b 11 Apr 1843

Leonardo Alessi b 4 Nov 1855
and his wife Concetta Abate b 13 May 1865

      Obviously, my background is Sicilian (Italian), but the hints will generally work for any European nationality, as well as for others.  When you read "Italian" in the following items, simply substitute "Irish", "Polish", or whatever your background may be.

         I'll start with some simple advice and techniques, and periodically add more.  Please visit occasionally to see additions.  Please note that I may mention books, websites, etc. that give information on genealogy.  Generally these may be reached by the links provided.   These mentions do not constitute promotion of the book or product involved, but are simply suggestions.

          Click HERE for a brief list of possible sources for genealogical information.


Page launched March 15, 2004


     Finding Your Immigrant Ancestors:


     I'm a first-generation Sicilian-American, youngest of nine children born to parents from Serradifalco, Provincia Caltanissetta, Sicilia.  After retiring from practicing and teaching civil engineering, I began researching my ancestry.  That interest led me to volunteer as a librarian at a local Mormon FamilySearch Center, where I'm responsible for managing over five hundred Mormon microfilms of Italian/Sicilian records.  I've visited Sicily twice and have written a book inspired by my research; a fictional account of the life of a foundling girl in 1800s Sicily, her 'carusu' (mine-boy) brother, and their struggling parents. 

       Because my parents were the only members of either of their families to come to and remain in the U.S.A., I have no aunts, uncles or first cousins in America.  My close relatives here are my siblings and their descendants, and I know every one of them.  Accordingly, most of my genealogy experience is in researching records from Sicily and Italy.  No DARs or Civil War veterans in my background; however, since my parents immigrated a hundred years ago, I did need to learn about certain US records research.  Here is a quick summary of how one should proceed to unfold the heritage of immigrant ancestors.  It describes WHAT you must search for, with short references to possible means for conducting the search.  Much more detail about those means, and on HOW and WHERE to search, follows in the subsequent descriptions.

  •         Start by listing everything you know about the ancestor or ancestors you are researching: name (in original language, maiden name if appropriate); dates (even if approximate, or if you know only the year) of birth, marriage, immigration or death; names of siblings (in order of age); names of children (in order of age); where your ancestors settled in America, and where they may have moved to. 
    (Family memories, family held birth and marriage certificates, bibles, wills, society memberships, newspaper articles, tombstones, etc.)
  •         Find your ancestors on decennial U.S. Censuses of 1880 through 1940, noting the names of family members and birth countries, if given.  US Censuses of the 1920s and 1930s may indicate when they immigrated, and whether they were naturalized citizens of the U.S. or still aliens at the time of the Census. 
    (Local libraries and Mormon Family History Centers, on-line venues like and
  •        From that information, search for the passenger manifests of their immigration. Those generally gave a town of origin. After mid-1907, they gave town of last residence AND town of birth.
    (On-line venues like,, and
  •        If you can’t find passenger manifests, search for their naturalization papers: the “Petition for Naturalization” and “Declaration of Intent”. Those records, when complete, show the immigrant’s name, date and town of birth, ship and date of immigration, address in the U.S. and the names and dates and places of birth of any family living with him.
    (County clerk or Federal Court offices in the locality where they were naturalized; on-line venues like,, U.S. National Archives at, etc.)
  •       Once the ancestral town is known, start searching for the birth record of the immigrant.  Once that is found, they generally include information on his/her parents.  Now search for birth, marriage and death records of the parents, and continue searching generation by generation, back in time.  Look not only for records of direct ancestors, but of their siblings and siblings' children, etc.  This can help build a family tree of your ancestors as well as previously unknown living relatives.
    (Images of original civil and church records from all over the world held by the Mormon church are available on microfilm.  Many such records are also available on-line at and, as well as some national archive sites of foreign countries.)

To see examples of original Sicilian records, in Italian and Latin, transcribed and translated,
that I have found after using the above approach, click HERE and follow the links



      There are four "keys" to success for finding information about your immigrant ancestors, and then their ancestors in "the old country".  They are:
  • The person's NAME (as it was in his/her homeland);
  • the person's DATE of birth (as close as you may know it);
  • the immigrant's DATE OF IMMIGRATION; and
  • his/her PLACE of birth (not just the country, but the village or city).

      You may already know, or think you know, one or more of these keys. The tips on this site will help you to confirm them.  Some resources may provide information for just one; others may provide all four.  You should search for as many corroborating documents as possible, to be sure your results are reliable.
      Start with family records and memories.  Interview the eldest relatives you know, specifically about the lives and activities of ancestors.  Check family files for passports, birth, baptism, marriage or other civil or church records, from the U. S., or from their ancestral towns.  Look for documents indicating application for or granting of naturalization as U. S. citizens.

        Visit local libraries, churches, and municipal offices to see what records may exist concerning your ancestors.


You don't have to be an accomplished linguist.   At least learn enough to recognize what your relatives' names were in their own tongues.  If you think your great-grandfather's name was Joseph, and know he was born in 1821, and you search all the records in the world for 1821: if his name was really Giuseppe, you'll never find him!   Talk to your parents or older relatives, buy an Italian-American dictionary, etc. to get a rudimentary knowledge of Italian names and words.
For a list of given names with their Italian/Sicilian equivalents, click here.

      A terrific reference for Italians is
(i) "A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Italian Ancestors" by Lynn Nelson, Betterway Books, Cincinnati, OH.  This book not only gives advice on how to do research, but contains an English-Italian glossary of numbers, names, occupations, and common phrases.  Similar books are available for other nationalities.



      For a particular ancestor that you are searching for, make a note of name, birth date, birthplace, date of arrival in the US, parents' names, siblings' names, spouse's name, children's names, etc.  You may not know many of these data, but note the ones that you DO know.  Many people had names IDENTICAL to others, and if you don't know SOMETHING else about your ancestor, you may do a lot of research on someone else with the same name, before you realize you've been barking up the wrong (family) tree!


       Genealogical research, after all, revolves about names.  The names of ancestors and relatives are one of the four keys I mentioned, that connect us and help to put flesh and bones on dry statistics.  To identify individuals, most western cultures use at least two names, a given, or birth name, and a surname (cognome, in Sicilian)– a family name which we call the ‘last name’.  Determining the correct name is of utmost importance when trying to identify an ancestor.  A country’s naming conventions, its customs for naming children, can provide invaluable help.

       The convention used in Italy, primarily in the ‘Mezzogiorno’ of Southern Italy and Sicily, is generally known as the ‘Sicilian naming convention’.   Variations have been used in other nations, such as Ireland and Greece.  

        The Sicilian naming convention was to name a couple’s first son after the husband’s father and the second son after the wife’s father.  The first daughter was named for the husband’s mother, the second daughter after the wife’s mother.  Later children might be named after great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, or favorite saints.  This tradition was so strong that in many cases it was thought to be required.  Naming a first son after anyone but the child’s paternal grandfather could lead to family disharmony, or even shunning of the offending couple.

          Below is an example of the Sicilian naming convention.



         In Sicily and Italy, there was no concept of “maiden names” for women.  A woman had the same name for life, married or not.  The woman above, born of Angelo Cumbo and married to Paolo Rossi would be called, for example, “Rosa Cumbo in Rossi”.   Her Sicilian death record would  say “Rosa Cumbo, daughter of Angelo and of Anna Pieri, wife of Paolo Rossi”.  If you’re searching for a Sicilian or Italian woman on old records (including ship manifests) search for her by her birth name.


           Once the name of the immigrant you're researching has been established, you may find local (U. S.) records that give some or all of the other four "keys". 

           If the person was born in Sicily or Italy, these American records designating their births or marriages which occurred in the old country are SECONDARY records.  That is, they are indications of dates that were recorded sometime after the events that were being recorded.  Examples are birth dates given on marriage or death records; birth dates on headstones, etc.  Such information is valuable, but remember that exact dates can be attributed only to records that were made at the time of the event, or PRIMARY records such as the record of a Sicilian birth, death or marriage recorded in an original civil or ecclesiastic register in the ancestral town.  Before those primary records may be accessed, of course, one must know the NAME of that ancestral town.

          Types of records that may be found locally are:

  • Italian passports.  Family records may include immigrants' original passports to the U. S.  If available, a passport will give the person's name, occupation birth date and place, as well as the names of his/her parents, including his/her mother's maiden name.  Remember that if the traveller was a woman, whether married or not, her passport would be issued under her maiden name

  • Naturalization papers.  Many immigrants kept a Naturalization Certificate, which was a diploma-like document, sometimes including a photograph of the new citizen.  However, though it legally confirmed that the holder was a U. S. Citizen as of a certain date, it did not have detailed information about his origins.  More valuable for genealogy purposes is the Petition for Naturalization which gives the person's name; date and TOWN of birth, date and ship of immigration, address at the time of application, along with the names, birth dates, and places of birth of every member of his family living with him at the time.

    Petitions for Naturalization were filed with U. S. Federal Courts, and may be found locally at county clerks archives or at federal court offices.

  • U. S. Federal Censuses,  and where they were compiled, individual State Censuses.  If you still reside in the locale where the immigrants lived, your local public library should have hard copies of the U. S. and State Censuses for that area.

  • Marriage records from local churches.   Many immigrants lived in enclaves with other Sicilian or Italian expatriates.  Often the churches had masses in Italian, and Italian-American pastors who recorded wedding information similar to the way it was recorded in Europe.  That is, they often listed the names of the spouse's parents, including the mothers' maiden names, as well as the ancestral towns of the individuals involved.
  • Newspaper reports.   Obituaries, death notices, accident reports, reports of club meetings or social events aroud the time the immigrants lived in a region can hold clues to some or all of the four "keys".  Most major newspapers have microfilm archives that can be viewed at local public libraries.




          Having identified the name of a Sicilian immigrant ancestor, you’re prepared to search for records that may give his date of immigration and/or his date and place of birth.  These may be contained in family records noted above, such as passports, marriage records, naturalization papers or membership documents of the mutual aid societies, or Società di Mutuo Soccorso that were so common in America for Sicilian immigrants.  If these records aren’t available in your family, and if you know the approximate date of the ancestor’s death, check municipal and county libraries for archives of local newspapers that can be searched for obituaries, death notices or articles of the period, which may give information about your ancestor.

            If you know where the family settled when first in America, visit the County Clerk’s office in that jurisdiction, and ask to see any naturalization records they may have on file for members of your family.  Naturalization papers, especially the Petition for Naturalization, can have a wealth of information, including the immigrant’s name, birth date and place, date and ship of immigration, the address of the applicant and the names and dates of birth of each member of his family.

          Still no luck?   Then it’s time to turn to US and/or state Census records.  
The first U. S. Federal Census was in 1790, under Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. There have been 22 since then, taken at ten-year intervals.  The last was in 2010.  Censuses from 1790 through 1940 are available in hard copy at many sources, including local libraries and genealogical societies, except for the 1890 census, most of which was destroyed by fire.  For privacy reasons, U. S. federal censuses are not released to the public until 72 years after they are made, making 1940 the most recent census available.  

           You must know the community your family lived in during a given period, then search for the census or censuses that fall into that period. 
The census questions varied over the years, from simple identification and place of residence in 1790, to much more detailed information in later versions.  Below is a list of questions from a typical US census, that of 1920, near the peak of Sicilian immigration to America:

  • Address

  • Name

  • Relationship to head of family

  • Sex

  • Race

  • Age at last birthday

  • Marital status

  • If foreign born, year of immigration to the U.S., if naturalized and year of such

  • School attendance

  • Literacy

  • Birthplace of person and parents [usually the country only]

  • If foreign-born, the native tongue

  • Ability to speak English

  • Occupation, industry, and class of worker

  • Was home owned or rented: if owned, was it mortgaged

           If you find your ancestor listed in such a census, you’ll find his/her immigration date and nationality, and be able to estimate his/her birth year by subtracting his age from the year of the census.  Consider all dates approximate.  They were not backed by documentation, but simply by the statement of the interviewee: that is, they were secondary records of age.   Most libraries with hard copies of censuses cover only the city or county where the library is located. 

            If your ancestor settled elsewhere, before the advent of the internet, you would have had to go to that place to search the census, or pay a local researcher to do it for you.  Luckily, all U. S. Federal Censuses through 1940 are now searchable and viewable on-line.  Probably the most popular of these is the paid site   Although a subscription site, offers free trials, and many public libraries and Mormon church FamilySearch Centers permit patrons to access and other paid sites for free.

          I find that even for local information, using on-line searches is easier than using hard copies, which must be searched by town, enumeration district, ward, etc.  On-line venues permit searching by name of the individual, so knowing the street address, or even the city, is not required, to do a broad search over many years of censuses. and other venues usually provide, at some point in the search, a text version of the information in the census.  However, you should always view the image of the original record, so that you can interpret it for yourself, not through the eyes of the indexer who digitized the data.

            Depending on the year, more or less information may be shown.  The Census records through 1940 are digitally indexed, that is, they may be searched on-line at various sites by a person's name.   The 1940 US Census was just released (April 2012) and may also be browsed page by page. If the Census Enumeration District (ED) is known, then thirty or so images can be viewed in the neighborhood of interest.  This is helpful if the names in the databases were so badly transcribed that searching by name gives no results.  Public librarians or Mormon church FSC staff can help you determine an ED if you know the street number.  An on-line site by Stephen Morse that makes it easy to determine EDs is at   Now the 1940 US Census is also searchable by a person's name, as in the other census years.

            Once you locate your ancestor's census record(s), make a note of pertinent information: age, from which you can determine an approximate birth year; where born (usually only a country is given); and occupation; and especially any information on year of immigration or naturalization.  If you have not searched for his/her naturalization papers, these latter may help you to pinpoint their occurrence.

            Remember to consider all dates that are recorded in census responses to be approximate, but now that you have such a date for immigration, you can search for the immigrant's ship passenger manifest.




      Not every immigrant came to America through Ellis Island.   Firstly, Ellis Island did not start operation until 1892.  Prior to that, New York City arrivals disembarked at a site known as Castle Garden.  Secondly, numerous other ports besides New York were the landing places of Sicilian immigrants.  The foremost of these others were Boston and New Orleans, but Sicilians also found their way to the U. S. through Baltimore, Galveston, Philadelphia, and even San Francisco, as well as via some ports in Canada.  Similarly, passengers whose final destination was Canada may have first landed at a U. S. port.  Lists of Canadian – U. S. border crossings also exist.   Below, I begin with Ellis Island, as it is the most familiar, and did welcome great masses of immigrants of the "Great Migration" from Italy and Sicily.

3A) ELLIS ISLAND (1892-1924)

3A.1)  You can get free information from the Ellis Island site. You will be asked to register, and you can do so at no charge.  If you wish, you can join and contribute, but it's not required.
Go to
(ii)  You'll see a form in which you can enter your ancestor's first and last name.  Enter the names EXACTLY as you want them searched for. 
(More below on name variationsClick the search button and wait.  (At some time in the process you'll be asked to register, or if you're already registered, to give an ID and password.  Do so, and you'll be returned to the search results.)


3A.2)  You should see a list of everyone in the data base who has the identical name that you entered.  There may be 150, or two, or NO persons on the list.  If there are people on the list, examine it for other information.  The list will give the home town, year of travel, and age of the person.  This is where the information you already have can help.   Find a person who matches your other data, and click on that name.  Be careful of misspellings of town names.  If you see one that looks close, check it out.

3A.3)  The above will take you to a "Passenger Record" which will give, for example, the information below (the page appearance has been modified recently, but the basic information is the same):


          You can click on "SHIP" to see a photo of the ship that your ancestor came on, but the most important link on this display is "ORIGINAL SHIP MANIFEST".  Be sure to click on that link, and study the original manifest.  It will be a pre-printed form, with columns filled in by handwritten, or later, typewritten entries.  If handwritten, the names you see are NOT the signatures of your ancestors, but were filled in by a ticket agent or ship's oficer at the embarkation point.  The immigrant's names, in the great majority of cases, may have been misspelled by European officials, but they were NOT "changed  at Ellis Island".  Changes in names occurred after the immigrant had settled, either  willingly by the immigrant, to Anglicize the name, to "fit in". or accidentally or intentionally by a teacher, employer or official who could not or would not pronounce or spell the name correctly.

3A.4)   You'll see a page that has the original ship's manifest (or a part of it)  containing your relative's name.  It will include "Associated Passenger",  "Date of Arrival", "Port of Departure" and "Line #".  Note the line number.  Click on the link to "Enlarge Manifest", and scroll down to the proper line number.  You may or may not see the person's name.  Some manifests are two pages, and the first page displayed may actually be the second page of the manifest.  If so, close the page and select "previous page" or "next page" to see another page of the manifest.  Below are portions of the two pages of my mother Rosa Alessi's manifest. 

        On the pages of the manifest depending on the year of travel, you may find listed: the person's name; occupation; town of last residence (Country and CITY); name and relationship of closest relative left behind; amount of money in possession; name, relationship and address of person to whom they are going (sponsor); height; color of complexion, hair, and eyes; identifying marks; and place of birth (Country and CITY).  The Ellis Island site has the option of viewing a "text version" of the manifest.  You may do so, but as with all on-line records, you should also view the image of the original manifest, so that you can interpret it for yourself, not through the eyes of the indexer who digitized the data.  Hopefully, the record has the town of last rsidence or birth, so you now know your immigrant forebear's ANCESTRAL TOWN.

3A.4.1)  In some cases, the "original manifest" doesn't match the passenger you are looking for, or the manifest may simply not be found on the Ellis Island site.  Every so often, some ships' manifests were mis-recorded by the people at Ellis Island when they set up the data base in the late 1990's.  

Stephen Morse, a Jewish genealogist, has a site that allows you to search for a particular ship and voyage, and then see the manifest.  If you know the name of the ship and the date of the voyage, you (sometimes) can gain access to the records on-line.  Go to professor Morse's page at

(iii) is a link to a
Ship-Lists page that allows you to search for the ship and date of your relative's arrival.   You may have to look through several pages, but I have had luck using that site.  

       Assuming you know the ship's name and the date of arrival, proceed as follows (Rosa Coniglio's manifest is used as an example.  She was on the Patria on December 14, 1914):

       a)  Click on
       b)  Enter the name of the ship
Patria in the appropriate box, click "Search".
       c)  Click on the name of the ship for the desired voyage
December 14, 1914. The following will appear, under the first page of the manifest:

       d)  In this example,
Frame 350 is the first page of the manifest.  To see other pages, under "Frame", click on +1, +2, etc. to advance by one page, two pages, and so on.  If you go too far and want to go back, click -1, -2, etc.

       e)  Once you find the record you're looking for, make a note of the line the name appears on in the list, and the Series, Roll, and Frame number.  In the example, Rosa Alessi's name appears on row 8 of
Series T715, Roll  2389, Frame 456, as shown below.

        f)  After you've found the record, you can return to it quickly in the future by following the steps through (c) above, then type in the known frame number and click on "Display".

3A.4.2)  Steven Morse has added another page called the "Gold Page", which allows searches of Ellis Island records with a variety of keywords.  Below is a partial image of the page.  Click to use the actual page.

Entries are not required for all fields.  Say you have firm evidence that your grandfather arrived in 1912, and his name was Giuseppe Rizzo, but you can’t find him using that spelling.  You could enter “Giu” in the First Name field, “Riz” in the Last Name field, and 1912 for the Year of Arrival.   The program will return names of everyone (in the Ellis Island database) who matches those terms.  For this example, 51 people matched the terms.  You can then view the list and if you find the person you seek, click on the "view Scanned Manifest" link to see the manifest.  You'll be linked to the page, and if you're not registered there you must do so (for free) to get to the actual manifest.  Remember that the database used by the Gold Page is the Ellis Island database, so mis-spellings in that database will be reflected in the Gold Page results.

3A.5)  There are things you can try if you are reasonably sure that your relative came to Ellis Island, but a search of the exact name is not successful. 

       Go back to the Ellis Island or Steven Morse Gold search page, and try other spellings of the first or last name that
sound similar.  Change only one name at a time, and try it several times with different spellings.  The Ellis Island search also permits use of an initial for the first name.  Try that.  If you're searching for a female and her married name didn't work, try her maiden name.  Even though she was married when she arrived, often women were referred to by maiden names in official records.  The Gold Page permits partial entries for several items.

      If you have no luck with names that sound alike, consider names that
look alike when handwritten.   For example Lanza  may have been mis-read as Tanza, or Lauza, etc.

        Sometimes the person's name that they commonly used was a variation of the true name : examples are Giuseppina instead of Giuseppa (Josephine), Rosina instead of Rosa, Antonino instead of Antonio, etc.   Last names often had prefixes that were irregularly used; for example, a person might be listed as Giugno in one place and as Di Giugno in another.

        Try entering the first name as the last name and the last name as the first name.  Many Europeans say their family name (surname or cognomen) first when giving their names, and their "given" names last.   The "American" record keepers, when hearing a name like "Alessi Rosa" often switched first and last names.

         Sometimes, no variations seem to work.  My mother's name was
Rosa Alessi When I finally found her record, she was in the Ellis Island data base as Rosa Coletti!  My brother Gaetano Coniglio, on the same ship, and whose record was on the line below hers, was listed as Gaetano Gorugio!  No amount of trial name variations  would ever have found them. 

3A.6)  When you finally find the name on the ship's passenger manifest, look closely at the rest of the manifest.  You can click on the button that says "View Text Version" of the manifest to see a printed passenger list.  You may find the name of your relative's spouse, brother, sister, child, etc. who may have been a passenger on the same ship.


3B) CASTLE GARDEN (1820-1892)

Castle Garden was a debarkation station run by the state of New York at the Battery, at the foot of Manhattan Island, prior to the 1892 opening of the Federal immigration center at Ellis Island.  Go to, a free site.  You can search by first and last names and a variety of other details.  The results of a search are given in transcribed text form, not images of the original manifests, and usually in not as much detail as Ellis Island, but the site can still be a valuable source..



There are numerous paid sites which provide searches for passenger manifests.   Of these, the best known is probably   Like the Ellis Island site, it provides images of original manifests.  A free 14-day trial is offered. also will search for passenger information for ports other than Ellis Island, such as Boston and New Orleans.  It is also a source for much more information than passenger manifests, including US Censuses, death records, military records, and so on.  LDS FamilySearch Centers have patron-usable computers that give free access to records, as do many public libraries. has the advantage that while on, hard-copy images of the manifests must be purchased and are sent to you via regular mail,'s images can be printed directly from a computer.



       I found passenger manifests for my father, my uncle and my aunt using the above techniques, but my mother's and brother's names were so badly misspelled by indexers that I couldn't find them.  This is where knowing something else about the person helps.  This was before I knew about Steve Morse's site, but from information in my mother's naturalization papers, I knew that she had arrived at Ellis Island in December, 1914 on the ship SS Patria, and that she was 21 years old, and my brother was with her, and 1 year old when they arrived.

       Here's where some luck was involved.  I picked a name at random, "Rizzo", and using the above techniques, found one who was on the Patria in December 1914.  Then I looked at every page of the printed manifest and spotted a 21-year old "Rosa" next to an 11-month old "Gaetano"
(even though the last names were recorded in the database incorrectly), and when I looked at their handwritten manifests, I saw that they were the ones!    If I had known then about Stephen Morse's site, they would have been much easier to find!



       Once the name of the town where your immigrant ancestors were born is known, a whole world of information is available.  Until the early 1800s, in Italy and Sicily, the Catholic church was the repository of records of individuals baptisms, confirmations, marriages and deaths.  THe Church was effectively also the governing body, and records that we today know as "civil records" were not kept by any separate civil authority.  Sicilian ecclesiastic records are availbale for many comuni or towns as early as the 1600s or before, generally written in the language of the church, Latin.  In the early 1800s, Napoleon imposed a system of civil record-keeping throughout the realms he controlled, and even though Sicily was not one of them, his methods were adopted there as well.  Civil records of births, marriage banns, marriages and attachments to marriage records, and death records began being kept on mainland Italy for about 1809, and in Sicily from about 1820.



The LDS Church is in the process of converting their popular site to a new format.  For at least some time, both the old and new sites are available.  Below is a description of records research on each.

OLD SITE  Click HERE for write-up on new site)

       The Mormon Church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) has microfilmed MILLIONS of civil birth, marriage and death (BMD) records and church baptism, confirmation, marriage and death records of persons of nationalities and religions from all over the world.  In this section, I'll describe how to find out:

       * if records exist for your relative's home town; and
       * where and how to obtain them.

       In Section 6) below, I'll discuss
       * how to view and understand the records.

       You need not be a Mormon (or of any faith) to avail yourself of this wealth of information.  Selected links are given below, assuming that you know your ancestor's place of origin.  Once you use the Latter Day Saints (LDS) sites, you'll see there are many other searches that can be run.  The  page which shows the "Family History Library Catalog" gives several search options.  The page looks like this:

5A OLD SITE) To see if there are LDS records for a given town or area:

         The LDS "Place Search" page (see below) provides a simple form with instructions on how to fill it out to find records from a given place.   Once you fill it out and submit it, a list of possible matches is returned.   Select one, and a list of available records for that place is listed.  For example, I entered Serradifalco and Italy, and the search returned "Italy, Caltanissetta, Serradifalco".  When I selected that place, the search returned the following list of topics:

          Clicking on one of the topics will take you to a page with more details of the records, with titles; clicking on a title will bring up a description of the material (in the original language, with a little English translation) and a "button" to click to "View Film Notes".  Clicking the button will give a brief description of the material on a spool of film, with the film number.  For example, following this process, after clicking on: Italy, Caltanissetta, Serradifalco - Civil registration you'll get to a page with the link Registri dello stato civile, 1820-1910 and a button saying [View Film Notes] at the top.  Click that button and you'll see a list including entries like:

Nati 1860-1865 Morti 1820-1830 FHL INTL Film

          The above means "Births 1860 through 1865   Deaths 1820 through 1830".  Print the lists.  These are the records available for the town you are researching.

          To go to the LDS "Place Search" page and search for a town or area, CLICK HERE


       The Mormon Church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) has microfilmed MILLIONS of birth, baptismal, marriage and death records of persons of nationalities and religions from all over the world.  In this section, I'll describe how to find out:
       * if records exist for your relative's home town; and
       * where and how to obtain them.

       In Section 6) below, I'll discuss
       * how to view and understand the records.

       You need not be a Mormon (or of any faith) to avail yourself of this wealth of information.  Selected links are given below, assuming that you know your ancestor's place of origin.  Once you use the Latter Day Saints (LDS) sites, you'll see there are many other searches that can be run.  The  page which shows the "Family History Library Catalog" gives several search options.  The page looks like this:

5A NEW SITE) To see if there are LDS records for a given town or area:

         Go to the above page and select 'Place-names' in the drop-down menu, then enter the name of the town you want to search for.  SPELLING IS IMPORTANT!  For example, I entered Serradifalco and Italy, and the search returned "Italy, Caltanissetta, Serradifalco".  Then when I clicked on 'Search', the search returned the following list of topics:

          Clicking on one of the topics, for example, "Italy, Caltanissetta, Serradifalco - Civil Registration" will bring up another link, as below::

           Clicking on the line that says "Registri dello stato civile etc." will bring up a list and a brief description of the material on each spool of film, with the film number.  For example,

          In the above list,  "Nati" means Births, "Matrimoni" means Marriages, and "Morti" means Deaths.  "Notificazioni" means Marriage Banns.    Print the list of films.  These are the records available for the town you are researching.

5B)  Now you have lists of available data: how do you get the data?

          Most FSCs have been converted so that all microfilm orders must be made on-line.  The rates are $7.50 to order or renew for short terms, and $18.75 to order initially for an extended loan or to extend a film already on-hand for an extended loan.  To order films, the new Family search site must be used.  To find an FSC near you, CLICK HERE.  You'll see a map, on which you can click for a specific location.  Make a note of the FSC that you want your films sent to.

       Once you've found a FamilySearch Center, make a note of the address, phone number, and hours of operation.  Then go to the film ordering page at and click on "Sign in" in the upper right corner.  If you don't yet have an account, select "Create New Account", and select the appropriate item: "  You'll then be prompted to enter identifying information.  Do so and select "Register".  You'll get a message that tells you to go your e-mail account to complete the registration. 

           After you do so, go back to  Sign in.  In the upper right hand corner of the page, you'll see a little building symbol. Click on the words "not set", and enter the country and state of your
FSC, then click "Search".  Find your FSC in the list, select it, and then click "Save".  On the right of the page, click "Place an Order".   The page that appears has a drop-down menu for loan type: Extended Microfiche Loan; Short-term Microfilm Loan; Extended Microfilm Loan; Short-term Microfilm Loan Renewal; and Extended Microfilm Loan Renewal.  Select a loan type, then enter the number of the microfilm you want and click "Search".  If the film is already on loan at your default FSC, you will see a message to that effect.  If not, you will see the cost of your order.  Follow the instructions to place the order in your on-line "shipping cart" and enter the credit card or paypal information for billing, then complete the order.  You will see a confirmation and an order number and a message saying you'll receive an e-mail confirmation as well.  If you change you mind within 24 hours, you may cancel the order.

          I usually order microfilms for extended loan.  The film for years that contain the records of your ancestor may also contain his/her siblings, cousins, etc.  You may not be interested in those at first, but eventually you may, so why have the film be sent back, only to be re-ordered in the future? Also, since anyone who visits my FSC can also view the microfilms I ordered, for free, I look at it as a small public service to keep them on extended loan.

          NOTE:  Once you have registered and signed in, future orders of film may be done by following the procedures outlined in (5A) above.  When you see the list of films, simply click on the film number that you want to order, and the ordering page will appear.

5C) To view the data:

          Once the film is in, you may go to the FamilySearch Center that received it, and ask a volunteer for the film by number.   He or she will give you the film, assign you to a microfilm reader, and (for the first few times) show you how to load and read the film.  Many FSCs have several microfilm readers, with at least one that will make copies (for a nominal charge) of any records you want to reproduce.

5D) On-line records:

          Many civil birth, marriage and death (BMD) records are now available directly on-line for certain locations and selected time periods.  For example, the paid site has BMD records from 1866 - 1939 for most towns in the Sicilian provinces of Caltanissetta and Agrigento.  The LDS site also has some on-line BMD records.  Search these and other sites by location for specific records.  Data is being added continually, so even if you don't find what you're looking for, check back periodically, and it may be there.
5E) Search procedures:

          You may find that records are available from your ancestor's town for three hundred or more years in the past, but it is best to start with the most recent relative born before about 1910 (to protect against "identity theft" records are generally not available after that date, at least not from the LDS).  Search for the relative you know the most about.  The records may tell you his/her parents or spouse's names that you weren't aware of.  Then search for those relatives, etc.  Many records have indexes before or after (and sometimes in the middle of) the actual records.  These indexes give a list of names that are in the actual records, for example a list of everyone born in a given town in a given year, with the number of the record (Numero d'ordine) indicated.  Then, you can search the document images for that record number, to find the desired document.  Unfortunately, the use of indices was not consistent.  Some indices are very complete; for example birth indices may give an alphabetical list of newborns, and include not only the record number, but the name of the parents, and even the birth date of the child.  In this case, the actual record should still be pursued, because it usually gives much more information than the index.

          Some indices are fully alphabetized, that is each name is listed in correct alphabetical order.  Some are partially alphabetized, where all the surnames starting with "A" are together, the "B's" are together, etc., but they are not alphabetized within each heading.  Sometimes the indexes are alphabetized by first or given names, rather than surnames!    That's OK, if you know an ancestor's first name, otherwise you must search through all the names in the index.  That's also the case when the index is simply a chronological list of the births (or marriages, or deaths) as they occurred in a given year, and the index must be inspected name by name.

          Record numbers shown in indices are usually in Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3, etc.), but on the records themselves, they may be written out (uno, due, tre, etc.) so a knowledge of numbers in the particular language of the records is needed.




         The site has instructional videos on genealogy research for many nations.  An excellent one explaining and giving examples of Italian records is at
  The video can be watched on-line.  It may take a little time to download, but it is well worth the wait.

Types of records:

        There are several types of records.  Within each type, the information contained can range from clear, detailed and complete, to poor and spotty.  The book cited above, (i) "A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Italian Ancestors" gives examples of Civil Records in Italian, with translations to English.

CENSUS RECORDS were recorded in Italian, and may give information on land ownership, other property, etc.  Generally they don't give genealogic information, but may help to confirm the identity of an individual found in other records.

(Registri Stato Civile) were recorded in Italian, and can include Birth Records (Atti di Nascita) , Marriage Banns (Pubblicazioni or Notificazioni), Marriage Records (Atti di Matrimoni), Attachments to Marriage Records (Allegati), or Death Records (Atti di Morte). Records from 1820 through about 1864 were on pre-printed forms which were filled in by hand, with the names, dates, and other pertinent information written in the appropriate space.  These early forms also sometimes acknowledged that a church sacrament had been given, but from about 1865 through 1875, church and state were at odds: the combined records ceased and the Civil records were completely handwritten and showed only secular information.  From 1876 through 1920, the records were again preprinted, showing only birth information. 

        All these records follow more or less the same format th
at was established by Napoleon, even though he never ruled in southern Italy or Sicily, and are called Napoleonic Records

CHURCH RECORDS (Registri Ecclesiastici) were recorded (generally handwritten) in Italian or Latin.  These include Baptism (Battesimi) Marriage (Matrimoni) Confirmation (Cresime) and Death (Morti) records.  Later records may be handwritten in Latin on forms pre-printed in Latin.

INDICES can be invaluable time-savers when looking for an individual whose birth date (or other important date)  is uncertain. .In many cases, each of the above types of records have a separate Index of the names in the actual record.  The names can be quickly found in the Index, which will indicate the page or record number to see, for the full record.

It should be noted that these records were not in the familiar form of the Birth Certificates or Marriage Certificates that are issued today in America.  The records were original documentation of events (called 'primary records'), kept in a ledger in the town hall or the church rectory appropriate to the event.  The participants were not given a "certificate".  If a person needed proof of his birth (or his marriage, etc.) for some later activity, he was issued an extract (estratto) of the record.  These extracts gave only the important details: for example, for a birth, they give the birth date and the name of the child and its parents'  names, without giving occupations, ages, or an address, as are often given in the original record.  Many American children of immigrants have what they believe are "Birth Certificates" or "Marriage Certificates" for their  parents, but are actually extracts.  Therefore, much more information may be available in the original records.


Civil Birth Records (Atti di Nascita), in their most complete form, give the following information: 
To the right or left of the record, below a sequential record number, the newborn's name is written, usually surname first, then the given name.  At the top of the record is the date on which the newborn was presented to the town's Official of Civil Records or registrar, followed by: the official's name and title; the name of the person presenting the child (the 'declarant', usually the child's father); the declarant's age and occupation; the gender of the child and the date and street address of birth; the name of the child's mother and a statement that she was the wife of the declarant, living with him; and the given name of the child (the surname was not given, as it was the same as the father's.  Then were listed the names, ages and occupations of two residents of the town who witnessed the presentation of the child and the father's declarations.

         Many records give more information, such as the name of the fathers of the declarant and his wife, and of the witnesses, and whether they were living at the time of the recorded birth; or the age and occupation of the newborn's mother.  Actually, older records are more likely to give these details.

         If the declarant was not the father, the names of both the declarant (sometimes an aunt or a midwife) and the father are given.

 Finally there was a statement saying that the above record was read to all those assembled.  The  record is undersigned by the registrar (the town mayor, councilman or other official), and by those present who know how to write.  Commonly, there was a statement included at the end of the record saying it was signed only by the registrar, the others not knowing how to sign.

        A complete birth record can be invaluable, because it not only gives information about the child, but from the ages of the parents and grandparents, their birth years can be estimated.  Below is an example of a typical birth record, in its original form
(click it to enlarge it), then transcribed in Italian and then translated into English.  The birth information is on the right.  On the left is the record number, the child's name, and (sometimes) Margin Notes, which were added to the record at some time later than the birth.  There will be more about Margin Notes later.  On the transcription and translation, information in black is "boilerplate", while blue shows the hand-written entries.  Note that in the example, the record date is April 27, but the actual birth date was given as April 26.



Numero 158
Coniglio Gaetano

A 1o Dicembre 1912 sposó  

Alessi Rosa


.S'indiche la professione o la condizione.

    L’anno milleottocento ottantanove, addi ventisette di Aprile,
 a ore
anti meridiane diece e minuti ___, nella Casa comunale.
    Avanti di me
Vaccari Pasquale Segretario delegato con atto del Sindaco del ventiquattro aprile milleottocentoottandotto, debitamante approvato, Uffiziale dello Stato Civile del Comune di Serradifalco ______________
comparso Gaetano Coniglio, di anni cinquantatre,h solfaio domiciliatio 
Serradifalco, il quale mi ha dichiarato che alle ore po meridiane cinque e minuti __________, del di ventisei del corrente mese, nella casa posta in
via Migliore al numero diece, da Carmela Calabrese sua
moglie, casalinga, seco lui convivente
e nato un bambino di sesso
mascolino che igli mi presenta e a cui da il nome di Gaetano ______________________________________________
   A quanto sopra e a questo atto sono presenti quali testimoni
Barile Vin
____ di anni, trenta,h solfaio, e Barile Salvatore, di anni
trentasei,h solfaio, entrambi reidente in questo Comune. ______________
Letto il presente atto agli intervenuti si e da me sottoscritte
solamente, avendo li stessi detto di non sapere sottoscrivere

    P Vaccari


Number 158
Gaetano Coniglio
On 1
st December 1912 married
Rosa Alessi





hIndicates occupation or status.

    In the year one thousand eight hundred eighty-nine, on day twenty-seven  of  April, at ten o'clock AM, in the Town Hall.
   Before me,
Pasquale Vaccari, Secretary delegated by act of the Mayor on twenty-four April one thousand eight hundred eighty-eight, duly approved, 
Official of Public Records of the Town of Serradifalco ___________ appeared Gaetano Coniglio, age fifty-three,ha sulfur miner living
Serradifalco, who has declared to me that at five o'clock PM,
minutes ____ on day
twenty-six of the current month, in the house located at via Migliore number ten, by Carmela Calabrese, his wife, a homemaker, according to him living with him, ______________________________
is born a baby
boy who was presented for me to see, and who was given the name Gaetano ______________________________________________
To the above, and to this record, are present the witnesses Barile Vin
age thirty,ha sulfur miner, and Salvatore Barile, age
thirty-six,ha sulfur miner, both residents of this community. ____________
The present act was read to those in attendance but is signed by me alone, the informant and witnesses having said that they don't know how to sign

    P Vaccari

Civil Marriage Records (Atti di Matrimoni) can be confusing. Often there are records of the "solemn promise to marry", and/or actual records of the wedding.  Also, many couples were first married at the local church, and later (sometimes days later) they were married in the town hall in a civil ceremony, which legitimized their future children.  For this reason, civil marriage records often had a different date for a marriage than the church marriage records (see below).

Civil marriage records give the date of the event (in the civil setting), and the spouses' names, age, and occupation, as well as their "condition": celibe (previously unmarried male), nubile (previously unmarried female), vedovo (widower) or vedova (widow).  If the person was previously married, the name of the deceased spouse is given.  Also given are the names of the newlyweds' parents and whether they were living or deceased at the time of their children's marriage. Occasionally the ages and occupations of the parents might be given, and in some cases even the names of the parents' fathers. The records also often give the names of witnesses to the marriage.  These witness could be relatives, providing further information about the family.  Sometimes an enumeration of supporting documents is given: birth records, death records of previous spouses, etc.

Copies or extracts of these supporting ancillary records, called Allegati, (Attachments) may be available.  They vary in their completeness and usefulness from town to town.  In their best form, they may have handwritten copies of original birth or death records, or at least extracts. 

Civil Death Records (Atti di Morte), at best, give the name, age and occupation of the deceased; the name of the deceased's spouse or father; the place of death (but I've rarely seen a cause of death given!); the name(s), age and address of those reporting the death; of witness(es) to the death record and of the clerk or registrar.  If the decedent was married, the name of the spouse is given, and if the decedent was a widow or widower, the name of the deceased spouse is given.

6C) CHURCH RECORDS  Church records generally are less detailed than civil records.  Often only the ages of the principles (baptized, confrmed, married or deceased) are given; those of their relatives or sponsors are not.

Church Baptismal Records (Battesime) were often in Latin.  They are generally handwritten, but follow a relatively standard form that gives: the year, date, and hour of the record; the priest's name and title; the time and day of the baptism; the father and his father's name; the mother and her father's name; the child's sex and name; and the names of the child's godparents and their relationship to each other.
       Below is an example of a typical baptismal record, a trancription and a translation.  The names are Latin versions and may not be spelled exactly as the actual Italian name.  Rather than giving an actual date of the baptism, often the record says "hodie" (today) or "heri" (yesterday), and the baptism date must be calculated from the record date.  Again, the record contains Margin Notes.  Notice that the church record's margin note gives November 30, 1912 for the marriage date of Gaetano and Rosa, while the civil record's margin note gives their marriage date as December 1, 1912.  This record gives no birth date, however, some baptism records state "today I baptized an infant born yesterday", etc., from which the birth date may be deduced.




Sp. il 30
Nov. 1912
fu Gaet.

Die 10 Settembre 1893

Ego  Sac.  Michael  Montante  Terranova,  c.s.  bap
tizavi   infantam   hodie   hora  9  natam   ab  Leo
nardo   Alessi   et   Concepta  Abate  jug,  cui  imposi
tum   fuit  nomen
 Rosa.   PP  fuere  Modestus  A
lessi et Rosaria Tabbone Conjuges.




30 November 1912
Gaetano Coniglio
son of the late Gaetano Coniglio

September 10,1893

I, Priest Michele Montante Terranova, High Chaplain, today at 9 :00 hours baptized an infant, daughter of Leonardo Alessi and Concetta Abate, and to whom the name given was Rosa. Godparents were Modesto Alessi and Rosaria Tabbone, husband and wife.

Church Marriage Records (Matrimoni) Church marriage records give the date of the ceremony, the names and sometimes the ages of the spouses, their parents' names and whether the parents were living or deceased at the time of their children's marriage.  Ancillary records may include pubblicazione (banns) which the church posted in advance of the marriage to assure that the betrothed were not otherwise encumbered.  Care must be taken to recognize that the dates of the banns are not wedding dates, but banns usually give the same information  as actual marriage records.  Church records from some towns have the added information of a family tree, to show the proper degree of separation between prospective spouses.  Second cousins were allowed to marry, but first cousins required special dispensation.  These charts were rudimentary, and did not give birth dates for the ancestors, but did show names and relationships.  In any event, an ancestral tree, even a simple one, certainly extends one's knowledge of the family.

Church Confirmation Records (Cresime) Confirmation records usually give the name of the confirmed party, his/her parents, the name of the sponsor of the confirmation, and the priest involved.  Often no ages are given, and the only date is the date of the ceremony.  But confirmations were usually performed when the child was an early teen-ager, so an approximate birth date can be determined, as well as secondary proof of the parents' names.

Church Death Records (Morti) Church death records also give limited information, but can be helpful.  At their most complete, they give the name and age of the deceased;  the names and status (whether living or dead) of the parents of the deceased; and the name of the spouse, if any.  Cause of death is given only in rare cases.
       Below is the church record of death of my grandfather, Gaetano Coniglio.  The entire page from the ledger is shown.  The title of the page is LIBER MORTUORUM 'Book of the Dead'.  At the upper left is the page number, 79.  In the left margin are record numbers for each decedent, along with the name of the deceased and the first name of his/her father.  Only the first name of the father is given in the margin, since since both men and women kept their birth surname throughout their lives, so including the father's last name in the margin would have been redundant.
       My grandfather's death record is the last on the page, N. 169.
   Click the document to enlarge it.     


N. 169.

               Anno Domini Millesimo Nongentesimo 10 
    Die                      11                             Mensis      Oct.              
  Coniglio Cajetanus f. def. Raimondi et
Messina. Viduus M. Carmelae Calabrese
aetatis suae   74.                           In communione
    S. Matris Ecclesiae animam Deo reddidit, cuius corpus sepultum est
    in Coemetario communi.  Confessario probato confess
us die    
                santissimoque Viatico refect
us  sacri Olei unctione ro-
us  per                                          die                                         
             In quorum fidem --- Ego                    
The abbreviations above are:  f. ~ filius (son)
 def. ~ defuncti
(the late)
 M. ~ Maria
 S. ~ Sanctis (Holy)



N. 169.
of Raimondo

               Year of Our Lord One Thousand Nine Hundred 10
    Day                      11                             Month      October   
  Gaetano Coniglio son of the late Raimondo and
  Maria Messina. Widower of Maria Carmela Calabrese
his age   74.                                   whose soul returned
 to God in communion with Holy Mother Church , and whose body is entombed
    in the communal Cemetery.  
He  was confessed by a qualified confessor on day     
was sent on his sacred Journey refreshed and strengthened by holy anointing Oils 
    by                                          on day                 
             According to which faith --- I             

       Although the last lines were left blank, it can be assumed that the sacrament of Extreme Unction was given, since the words refectus and roboratus were completed by hand.  The priest did not bother to sign his own name.  My great-grandfather's name was Raimondo.  The form Raimondi is Latin for 'of Raimondo'.  Similarly, Mariae and Carmelae are the possesive forms of Maria and Carmela.

        The record not only gives the date of death, but names my grandfather's parents and wife, and indicates that they had died before he did.  Searches for their death records can therefore be limited to dates before October 11, 1910.

       Civil or church records of every form may have Indices.  These are tabulations of the acts that were recorded over some period of time, generally a calendar year.  There is much variation in the indices, depending on the type of basic record, the historical period, the dedication and neatness of the clerk, etc.  
        Indices are generally at the beginning or end of the year's records, but may be reproduced in the middle of a year.  A typical index in a birth record will have all the names of children born in a given year arranged alphabetically by last name, with an associated record number and/or page number.   Find the person's name, read the associated page and record number (in Italian, "Pagina" and "Numero d'ordine"), and go to that page and number to read the actual record. 
         Sometimes the index will have only the name of the infant; sometimes it has both parents' names and the child's birth date.    Sometimes, unfortunately, it will be alphabetized by first name, not helpful if you don't know it and must look at every name in the index!  You may have to do that also if the index is not alphabetized, but just a sequential chronological list of the entries in the actual record.
         Indices often use shorthand espressions.  Giuseppe may be shortened to "Gpe", Vincenzo to "Vo", Maria to "Ma", etc.  If the surname ("cognomen" in Italian) is a compound name like Lo Guasto, Di Giugno, or D'Amico, it may be listed in the index as Guasto, Giugno, or Amico.  Or, the full name may be spelled out, but Di Giugno and Lo Guasto may be listed with names starting with "G" and D'Amico with names starting with "A".

       Civil or church records of every form may have Margin Notes.  These are generally notes that a clerk has added to a record, some time after the record was originally written.   These may include information about marriage, death, or other events involving the individual for whom the record was originally made.


6F i) Parents' status:       Some information can be extracted from simple sources if key words are noted. 
       For example, if a record says the mother of a child is
"Angela Digiugno di Leonardo" that means she is the daughter of Leonardo Digiugno, who was living at the time the birth was recorded.  If it says "Maria Digiugno fu Leonardo" it signifies she is the daughter of Leonardo Digiugno, who was deceased at the time of the record. 
6F ii) Relationships:       If the declarant at a birth registration is not the father, the record may say something like "Rosa Digiugno, zia del neonato", that is, "Rosa Digiugno, aunt of the newborn".   This tells you that "Rosa" is the father or mother's sister, and you can add another name to the family tree.
       Since godparents are often relatives of the baptized child, information about godparents in baptismal records can help trace lineage and relationships beyond those of the child.  The same is true of witnesses to birth or death records.

6F iii) Naming conventions:     Knowing the country of origin's conventions or rules for naming children can help find or associate people.  In Italy and much of Europe, a couple's first male child was named after the father's father.   The first girl was named after the father's mother; the second son was named after the mother's father; the second daughter was named after the mother's mother.
       Later children were often named after more distant ancestors, or after aunts and uncles.  Sons were infrequently named for their own father, and when they were, it was usually after the "conventional" names were "used up", or when the husband died before his wife gave birth.  Then the child was often named for his late father.
       A similar and intriguing custom appears to have been for widowers to name their first daughter with their second wife after their deceased first wife!
       Knowing these customs can help you to confirm that a certain individual is indeed the grandson of another, since his first name is the same, etc.  The naming convention sometimes produced maddening numbers of cousins with exactly the same first and last names.   But it also kept names "in the family", so that you can become familiarized with a set of names that are common within your family, and recognize the names of relatives more easily.  


       Thousands of amateur and professional genealogists and researchers have websites.  A new researcher should use the resources of the World Wide Web as much as possible.  Learn how to do "Yahoo!" or "Google" searches.  Search for a name, a town or a genealogical phrase and often dozens (sometimes hundreds) of potentially helpful sites come up.  Some of these are what I call "index" or "summary" sites: they may not have information themselves, but can point you to other sites that do
        Many of the sites you find will be commercial, that is, they will sell you information for a price.   The Mormon Family History Centers commonly have computer rooms where users can access the most popular of these sites for free, allowing you to search for and obtain information on the census, death records, newspaper obituaries, etc.  Try them at the FHC, and then decide if the price the sites ask is worth it, before you register and pay for access.
        A good example of an "index site" for Italy is
"Mimi's", which lists Italian and Sicilian towns, and sites that have information on the vital records of those towns.
        Many researchers have uploaded their family trees to various paid and free sites.  Often, a
"Yahoo!" or "Google" search of an ancestor's name will return a "hit" to one of these sites, where the creator of the tree may be contacted to see if they are willing to exchange information with you.  One of these is (vi)   This site is associated with, but is free to access and to register.  For free searches, enter the surname or the full name you're researching in the blocks under "Search".  A list of people with that name will appear, and you can browse the entire family tree in which a name appears, and contact the creator of the tree.  If you have a database  from your own genealogy program, you can upload it for free, for possible relatives to see, and contact you in turn.

(Last revision: 24 September 2014 ~ if you have questions, contact: Angelo F. Coniglio,



        Since May 2008, I have written genealogy columns for several print venues and many on-line newsletters.

        Many of the columns are written for Buffalo and Western New York readers, or for descendants of Sicilian or Italian immigrants, but the types of American libraries, offices, and other venues mentioned are usually present in some form  in all U.S. localities, and the techniques used in Sicilian research generally work or most nationalities and ethnicities.
        The columns are copyrighted by me, Angelo F. Coniglio.  They are my property and may not be used for profit, nor may they be published elsewhere without my specific permission.  To see the columns, CLICK HERE.


       Read my book of historical fiction, The Lady of the Wheel, inspired by my experiences in Sicilian genealogical research.  It tells the story of foundlings and sulfur mine workers and life in their community of Racalmuto during the late 1800s in Sicily.  Interspersed in the tale are episodes derived from the real-life experiences of my family, which originated in the small Sicilian town of Serradifalco.




Robertsdale, Pennsylvania







La Bedda Sicilia

.My parents' home town: Serradifalco, Sicily

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The First Visit

The Second Visit

The Third Visit

The Fourth Visit

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The Church

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La Società

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The Book

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American/SICILian Given Names

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