One of the most difficult things in researching immigrant ancestors is tracing the family back across the ocean to their native community. I had an interesting experience this afternoon with my mother. She is in contact with cousins who believe our family is from different town in Italy. In fact, they had even gone back to Italy to visit this other town and had brought back a copy of a birth record. The record shows the birth of a child with the same name as my great-great grandfather, but born more than 10 years later. Unfortunately, there is very little other information on the record.
The first suggestion the birth record is for the wrong person is that it is different than the birth year my great-great grandfather used on census records here in the United States. Also, if that Italian birth record is true, he would have been too young to have fathered his first children. So I am already fairly confident this birth record does not actually belong to my great-great-grandfather.
I, too have a copy of a birth record, from Canischio of course, that shows a person born with the same name as my great-great grandfather. This birth record was acquired through a professional researcher and was not part of the primary documents that belonged to my family. So other than the birth year not being very likely, what makes me think that my birth record is more valid than this cousin’s birth record? What evidence do I have that shows my family was from really from Canischio? Quite honestly, when I first saw that other record, I really wasn’t sure how firm my own evidence was for Canischio.
The answer to this question is crucial in helping establish family lines both in the United States and in Italy. Sadly, many records created in the United States only list the country of origin for immigrants. This complicates finding direct evidence for a particular town.
Fortunately, we do have evidence from the time period that my great-great grandfather was alive indicating that he was from Canishcio. We are lucky that his oldest son listed both the town and the country for his father’s and mother’s birthplace on his marriage license. Very clearly, that marriage license tells us this son’s parents (my great-great grandparents) were both from Canischio, Italy.
Another thing that helps corroborate this evidence, is that my great-great grandfather’s full birthdate is listed on his death record. Now, I generally believe death records are among the least accurate primary sources for a person’s birthdate, but it is always a starting place. In this case however, the death record agrees perfectly with the birth record from Canischio, lending further evidence that the birth and death record belong to the same person. Additionally, the parents’ names on the death certificate agree with the parents’ names on the birth certificate. Similarly corroborating evidence can my found for his wife, my great-great grandmother.
So all together, there is good primary evidence connecting my family back to our little town of Canischio. But for a little moment this morning, I had to stop and wonder and then make sure!