Program Notes: February 2003Grace Horner
"Italian Research in Chicago"
Our speaker in February was Daniel E. Niemiec. He is a co-founder of the Chicago-North Chapter of Pursuing Our Italian Names Together ("POINT").
It was after 1880 that Italians came to this country in great numbers. Chicago was one of the possible destinations. Generally men came over without wives or family to work. They would tend to move where other relatives or others from the same rural area settled. They often saved their money to return to Italy. Italian immigrants traveled back and forth between Italy and America more frequently than other immigrant groups. Most of those who came to Chicago would have initially arrived in New York City, Boston, or Philadelphia. Galveston and New Orleans were also major ports through which many Italians arrived.
There were several "Little Italy" neighborhoods within Chicago. Discovering the possible address of an immigrant can be difficult. Most Italian immigrants were quite poor. It was common for a family to move frequently, sometimes to avoid paying the rent. Sources for identifying an immigrant's address include city directories, church records, censuses, and World War I draft records. Because the families are tightly knit, generally the second generation (native born) is the generation that moves out of the original neighborhood.
Due to distrust of the civil authorities by Italian immigrants it may be difficult to find any civil records. Ninety-eight percent of Italian immigrants were Roman Catholic. So, if you know your Italian immigrant's Chicago address, it is important to identify the nearest Italian or non-national (ethnic) Roman Catholic parish.
Once you have identified the likely neighborhood, to help in locating the parish, there are books on the history of the churches of the archdiocese of Chicago and on the history of the parishes. This latter book contains maps that show the changes in the location of Roman Catholic churches at five-year intervals.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints microfilmed Chicago archdiocese parish records and Roman Catholic cemetery indexes. These rental films can be ordered through your local Family History Centers, including the Newberry Library.
How do you find the town of origin in Italy? You may think you have the location when you find a reference to a city. In all likelihood they are from a rural area, but they would name a nearby large city. Much as those of us from the suburbs will say we are from Chicago.
Passenger lists can be quite helpful. You need to keep in mind that a married woman on such a list will typically be listed under her maiden name. Thus if she were traveling without her husband, but with her children, you may need to identify them under her maiden name.
The Chicago-North Chapter of POINT meets the first Saturday of the odd numbered months from March through November. Meetings are held at the Schaumburg District Library at 130 South Roselle Road in Schaumburg, Illinois from 10 AM to noon. Come with your problems regarding Italian research. The web site for POINT is: http://www.point-pointers.net.
For information on doing Italian genealogy try: http://www.arduini.net/tools/tools01.htm.For information on Chicago Italian history try: http://www.ecnet.net/users/gcandel/home.html or http://www.angelfire.com/il/ChicagoItalians/index/html.