The Families of Acri, Italy

By Edward Bronejko

Research Tips

Research Tips

The best practice when starting your research is first to work American records before jumping the Atlantic to search Italian records. U.S. Census records, draft registration records, and naturalization records can be invaluable in determining the dates of birth and immigration of your ancestors. Without dates, it is hard to tell one Giuseppe Ferraro from another in the Acri records. Paid sites such as Ancestry.com are usually great for U.S. records, but rather weak in Italian records. Luckily, there are alternatives for Italian research.

Immigration

ImmigrantsNew York, Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, and New Orleans were popular arrival ports for Italian immigrants. The port of New York is usually the easiest to check online.

Everyone has heard of Ellis Island but few remember Castle Garden. Castle Garden, operated by the state of New York, was the point of arrival for immigration into the Port of New York beginning . The facility closed on when the federal government took responsibility for processing immigrants.

The new federal facility at Ellis Island was still being constructed when Castle Garden closed so immigrants arriving at New York were temporarily processed at the Barge Office at the Battery from to . Ellis Island opened on . Unfortunately, there was a fire at Ellis Island on . The main building was completely destroyed along with many years of immigration records dating back to . The fire forced a temporary closure at Ellis Island and the Barge Office was once again used from until . Ellis Island reopened on . Ellis Island closed permanently on as airplane travel became the more popular choice for immigration.

Note: On passenger arrival lists, a married Italian woman will usually be listed by her maiden name, but not always. It depends on how versed the ship's purser was to Italian customs.

So where do you look for New York passenger lists?

Castle Garden Passenger Lists -

The Castle Garden Website has Port of New York passenger lists for the period to . (It does contain some post- manifests.) Unfortunately, you can't view actual passenger lists on this Website. It only shows extracted information. This Website is free and does not require a login account.

As of 14 Jun 2023, it appears the Castle Garden Website has been discontinued.

Ellis Island Ship Passenger Lists - :

These New York passenger lists are available free online at: The Statue of Liberty - Ellis Island Foundation. This Website does require you to create a free login account. (It does contain some pre- manifests.)

Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild

The Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild Website (also free) contains an eclectic range of ship passenger manifests. It does not focus on one port or shipping line. Its database currently contains about 24,000 passenger manifests. Here you might find the record of a sailing barque carrying five passengers arriving at a South Carolina port in the 1840s as well as a White Star steam ship discharging hundreds of passengers at New York in 1910.

Acri Civil Records - :

Acri began keeping civil records (birth, marriage, death) in . The records between and have been microfilmed on thirty-one rolls of 16mm film (now digitized) by the LDS Church and are available for research.

These microfilmed records can be accessed in two manners:

1. FamilySearch – This is the genealogical Website for the LDS Church. On FamilySearch, these records are restricted and are not available online to non-Church members. They can be accessed free by non-members from computers at your nearest Family History Center. A list of available rolls can be found at the Family History Library Catalog.

2. Portale Antenati (Ancestors Portal) – This Italian Archive Website provides free access to millions of Italian civil records by anyone. The microfilmed Acri records have recently been added to this site. They are listed by registry book number. For detailed information about the contents of each Acri registry see: Births, Marriages (including Processetti), and Deaths. Connecting to Portale Antenati can sometimes be problematic.

Acri indexes prior to are compiled by given name. Indexes after are compiled by surname. Italian women are listed using their maiden names in all Italian records.

Documenti Militari di Cosenza (Provincia), - :

The Registro di Leva (Military Draft Records) have been microfilmed by the LDS Church. The list of available microfilm (now digitized) can be found at: The Family History Library

Province of Cosenza Archives (Archivio di Stato di Cosenza):

The province of Cosenza maintains an archive of records from all towns within the province. Abstracts of many of these records are now available online at: Archivio di Stato di Cosenza. Abstracts of Acri birth, marriage, and death records between 1809 and 1865 are available. Some Documenti Militari di Cosenza are available up to 1910. Connecting to the Cosenza Archives Website can sometimes be problematic.

Use caution with the Cosenza Website as some birth dates are actually baptismal dates. The Website does not distinguish between the two. Acri birth records between 1822 and 1844 do not contain the date of birth, only the baptismal date. The Website makes birth records from this period appear to show birth dates. Due to the high infant mortality rate during this period, most baptismals were done within three days of the child's birth, so the error is small.

As of , the Cosenza Archives Website appears to be functional only during business hours (roughly a.m. and p.m.) Italian time.

Research by Combining Two Websites

The Archivio di Stato di Cosenza Website has a computerized searchable index (albeit, somewhat difficult to use). It did contain downloadable images of vital records for a short while but those images are no longer available. The Portale Antenati Website contains vital record images but no computerized index (the original indexes at the end of each registry have been microfilmed). Using these two sites together is often the best solution. Check the index on the Archivio di Stato di Cosenza Website first, and then view the image of the record on the Portale Antenati Website.

Genealogical Books:

A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Italian AncestorsLynn Nelson, A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Italian Ancestors, F+W Media, 1997, ISBN-13: 978-1558706934.

Italian Genealogical RecordsTrafford R Cole, Italian Genealogical Records: How to Use Italian Civil, Ecclesiastical & Other Records in Family History Research, Ancestry, 1995, ISBN-13: 978-0916489588.

The Family Tree Italian Genealogy GuideMelanie Holtz, The Family Tree Italian Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Family Tree in Italy, Family Tree Books, 2017, ISBN-13: 978-1440349058.

Finding Your Italian AncestorsSuzanne Russo Adams, Finding Your Italian Ancestors: A Beginner's Guide, 2009, Ancestry.com, ISBN-13: 978-1593313241

Our Italian SurnamesJoesph G. Fucilla, Our Italian Surnames, 1949 Reprinted 1996, Genealogical Publishing Co., ISBN: 0-8063-1187-8

Between Salt Water and Holy WaterTommaso Astarita, Between Salt Water and Holy Water: A History of Southern Italy, 2006, W. W. Norton & Company, ISBN-13: 978-0393328677

If just starting out, I recommend the Lynn Nelson book. It is extremely comprehensive regarding Italian civil records. It includes samples of records from various time periods (written in longhand), plus typed copies of those same records so you can read them, plus translations in English. The book touches on other types of Italian records but does not cover them thoroughly.

The Trafford Cole book covers Italian civil records, but not as thoroughly as the Nelson book. It does go much more in depth regarding other Italian records, such as census, church, and military records.

I don't have enough familiarity with the Holtz and Russo-Adams books to provide a useful comment on either.

Want to know what your Italian surname means? Our Italian Surnames gives the meanings of Italian surnames. I locate about twenty percent of the surnames I look for in this book. While that may not seem like a high number, there are many thousands of surnames in Italy. Most towns have their own surnames and there are a lot of towns in Italy. Defining all those surnames is a near impossible task but Fucilla does a good job at it.

Most English language histories of Italy focus on northern Italy. The few southern Italy books usually focus on Sicily. The Tommaso Astarita book, Between Salt Water and Holy Water, focuses more on Naples so is more applicable to the area around Acri.