The prompt for this week, Surprise, was leaving me feeling a little stumped. I’ve had some minor surprises in my research (what do you mean s/he was born in Illinois/Canada/etc?!?!) and thankfully no major surprises when it came to DNA testing. So I wasn’t sure what to write about. And then this weekend happened.
I’ve long been stalled on further researching my Italian ancestors who came from Pisticci, Basilicata, Italy. Italy has this nice “Antenati” website with birth, death, and marriage archives, if you know the town from which your people came. And I did. My great grandfather, Francesco DeCarlo, was born in Rosali, in the Calabria (toe of the boot) region. I’ve used those records to trace his family back about 4 more generations.
But his wife, Maria Teresa Bianculli was a different story. She was born in Pisticci, in the Basilicata (instep of the boot) region. However, those records were not on the Antenati website. Every time I went to the website and looked in the Matera province, Pisticci was not one of the towns available. I looked on Family Search and found out they had some Pisticci records available, but only if viewed at one of their libraries. So a few weeks ago, I gathered my notes and visited the local family history center. Going in, I knew Maria Teresa’s date of birth, as well as the names of her parents: Nicola Bianculli and Grazia DiTursi. I pulled up the Pisticci records but they were out of order, with no real rhyme or reason to them that I could figure out. I tried to find the birth record for Maria Teresa or one of her two brothers, Donato and Domenico. No luck. I basically skimmed the records looking for surnames I recognized and I did stumble upon one useful record….their mother’s death record.
I learned that Grazia Maria DiTursi died June 26 1908 at the age of 53. She was born in Montalbano Jonico and her parents were Donato, a farmer, and Maria Borraccia. She was the wife of Nicola Bianculli. Her current residence was #18 Via Cavour in Pisticci.
So I didn’t walk away with the birth records I’d gone in search of, but I did find something I hadn’t been looking for. And it added a generation to my family tree. Fast forward to this weekend. Since I knew Grazia was born in Montalbano Jonico, I thought I’d check the Antenati website for those records. I was able to find her birth, as well as the birth of two of her siblings. At some point I backed out of the records for Montalbano Jonico and then I saw it:
To my great SURPRISE, Pisticci was listed among the towns in the Matera region. This was never there before. I swear. I’ve check multiple times. I don’t know if there was some recent update, but there it was, like magic. I almost didn’t believe it, but I clicked on Pisticci, expecting there to be nothing of use. Instead, I saw this:
So there were many types of records available. But I was most interested in the births, or nati. Again, I clicked on it, fully expecting they wouldn’t have the year I wanted available, 1889. I’m pretty sure I held my breath until the page loaded. But there it was, 1889, plus births from 1816 to 1900. So I clicked through until I found her birth record:
Again, I knew her birth date and her parent’s names already, but I still wanted this record in my files. I also learned that her grandmother, Maria Teresa Borraccia, is the one who reported her birth, and that her parents lived at #1 Via Ruggiero Settimo. After finding this, I browsed the preceding years and found births for her known siblings, Donato and Domenico, and also found 4 additional siblings. Yay! I then searched for her parent’s marriage record, starting at the year of birth for her eldest sibling and working backward.
Nicola Bianculli and Grazia Maria DiTursi were married on 6 February, 1873. Nicola was 21 years old, a farmer, and single. His parent’s were Domenico and Rosantonia Di’—. Grazia was 17 years old, a weaver, and single. The marriage record confirmed her parents’ names which I’d previously learned from her death record.
Since I now knew Nicola was 21 when he married in 1872, that led me to his birth record. He was born 28 August, 1851. Parents’ names were again confirmed, along with the new information of their ages. You can see the new rabbit hole I’ve fallen down.
If you also have Italian ancestors, here are a few tips I’ve learned in my many perusals of the Antenati records:
- You need to know which town they came from. The records are not indexed and require you to browse. You should also have lots of time on your hands. And patience.
- Most record sets have an index. When you open the births/deaths/marriages for a given year, the index is either at the very beginning, or the very end. I usually check the index for the surnames of interest, take note of the date and the Numero di Registro. Depending on my goal, I will look at every entry for a given surname to find unknown-to-me siblings. (some years are missing an index. Ask me about that time I paged through 200+ pages until I found the birth record I was looking for).
- Women are listed by their maiden names. I thought this was just because the Italians were superb record keepers, but someone else has told me it is because Italian women didn’t take their husband’s surnames. Either way, it works for me!
- Most entries follow a certain format. This website has a helpful template for births and deaths. Not all years have the same template, and I’ve found that earlier years may just be a handwritten paragraph. Handwriting is the most difficult part of this.
- Birth records often have additional people listed. There is often someone who is reporting the event. This could be the father, the midwife, or another family member. There are also often 2 additional people who are serving as witnesses.
- The records often list profession. This website has list of useful translations.
- Keep Google Translate open. It’s useful for months, dates, etc.
- Check Google Streets for those addresses!