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by Meredith Halsey

On the evening of November 14, 2013, the North End Historical Society and the Mariners House presented a hands-on lecture on tracing your Italian family roots. Rhonda McClure, a nationally-recognized expert from the New England Historic Genealogical Society, conducted the program.

Ms. McClure began the program with tips on how to start recording your family history, including writing down your family stories and gathering together family records, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, and other legal documents. She reviewed the many ways in which official records in Italy are different from American records, and how events such as births, marriages, and military drafts were recorded in Italian villages and cities. Ms. McClure also reviewed how recordkeeping changed after Italian unification in the 1800s. Ms. McClure explained exactly where to find specific information on family documents (e.g. the name of the deceased person is not very prominent on that person’s own death certificate), and encouraged the audience to pay attention to margin notes and any squiggles on the records; all of this can provide clues to the lives of family members.

Ms. McClure reminded the audience that not everything is on the internet or available on microfilm; although one can find a lot of family information on websites such as familysearch.org and ancestry.com, there will come a point when the family historian will have to travel to Italy to further pursue their research. She concluded the program with a case study and a brief question and answer session. More than 20 people, some of whom brought family records with them, attended the program, which was held in the historic Mariners House in the North End.

This will be the final North End Historical Society program for 2013, but watch for their newly redesigned website, northendboston.org before New Year’s Day.

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