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Italian Americans are one of the United States’ largest ethnic groups, and they celebrate their heritage during Italian-American Heritage Month in October.
The largest wave of Italian immigrants, from 1880 to 1920, brought more than 4 million arrivals, most from Southern Italy.
Italians who’ve helped shape American history include Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci (whose lent his name to the American continents), Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot), Giovanni da Verrazzano, Francesco Vigo (spy and financier of the American Revolution), Francis Spinola (the first Italian-American to serve in Congress), Francesca Cabrini (founder of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, and the first American saint) and Fiorello LaGuardia.
Following are just a few of the Italian genealogy resources worth exploring:
- Comuni-Italiani.it: Clicking on one of the regions in Italy on this site, you’ll learn the names of all the provinces; click on a province for a list of all its towns and cities. Then click on the town for helpful genealogy links, contact info for the town hall, and an e-mail link.
- Newspapers: The country’s largest collection of Italian-language and Italian-American newspapers is at the Immigration History Research Center (IHRC) at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. You can purchase copies of most IHRC microfilm or borrow it through interlibrary loan (ask your local librarian to make the request for you).
- Order Sons of Italy in America: Originally called Figli d’Italia, this organization was formed June 22, 1905, by Italian immigrants in New York City. The goal of this still-active group was to help Italian immigrants become US citizens, assimilate to American life, find educational opportunities, and obtain health and death benefits. The aforementioned IHRC is the depository for the organization’s historical membership and other records. Search the IHRC’s online manuscript finding aids for Order Sons of Italy to see what’s available.
- Italian Genealogy Group : This New York City-based group has members worldwide. Its website has how-to articles and several searchable databases (most including non-Italians as well) covering NYC births, marriages and deaths; New York and New Jersey naturalizations, Italian commune names, and more.
- Ancestry.com and FamilySearch: Ancestry.com has a bunch of Italian civil registration and other records. You’ll find many of the same collections on FamilySearch.org, which provided its databases to Ancestry.com as part of a strategic partnership.FamilySearch also has many unindexed Italian collections, which you can’t yet search by name, but you can browse by place, record type and year.