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Italian Resources? You Bet Your Boot

More than 5 million Italians have settled in the United States since our immigration records began to be compiled. The majority came between 1880 and 1920 and most of them came from southern Italy--the provinces of Abruzzi, Campania, Apulia, Basilicata (Lucania) and Calabria, or from the island of Sicily.

If you are researching an Italian line, usually within two or three generations you are faced with “old country” research, and it can be frustrating. However, genealogists are resourceful souls, and when Thomas E. Militello of Rancho Palos Verdes discovered there was a lack of contact among those researching Italian names, he did something about it.

“I assumed that somewhere there were people working on Italian surnames, and that it would be helpful for them to be able to contact one another,” Militello said.

He formed Pursuing Our Italian Names Together (POINT). This is a computerized data base of Italian surnames and a list of those who contribute their names. From the initial launching of the organization in 1987 to the present his database has grown to more than 3,000 surnames and 300 subscribers to his quarterly publication, POINTers.

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Militello has spread the word about POINTers. He attended the Genealogy Jamboree in Southern California, set up a booth, decorated it in an Italian cafe motif and made contact with many researchers who have Italian roots and were delighted to find this source.

He also has up-loaded information about POINTers on computerized genealogy bulletin boards.

POINTers contains research tips, genealogy sources, and historical and genealogical books and articles for Italian-Americans, plus tips on surname meanings and origins. Its greatest value lies in the data submitted by subscribers. Arranged both by name of submitter and their address and by alphabetical listing of Italian surnames being researched, it is a marvelous source.

Like many of the ethnic groups that have immigrated to the United States, the children of the immigrants often regarded the old neighborhoods and customs with contempt, but the generation that has come of age since the 1960s is reviving interest in their ethnic origins and pursuing their genealogy.

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During the periods of large-scale immigration of Italians, about 97% of them landed in New York, but gradually their descendants have spread into cities and towns throughout the United States.

The largest Italian organization in the country, the Order of the Sons of Italy in America, began in New York City in 1905. By 1921 it boasted of 125,000 members in 887 lodges all over the country. Today these lodges still flourish in many areas. They can be an excellent source of genealogical information about one’s pioneer Italian families if the records are extant.

So many genealogical sources available apply primarily to those of Northern European ancestry, which makes a publication such as POINTers invaluable to those trying to trace their lines in Italy. It offers a quick source to finding others working on the same lines. You probably have many cousins out there, but until now there has been no vehicle to find them.

Subscription to POINTers, 6932 Crest Road, Rancho Palos Verdes 90274, which is published quarterly, is $20 per year. With your subscription you also are asked to include the surnames you are researching and the town and province from which they came, if known.

There is also a handy beginner’s guidebook called Italian Family Research, which is available for $5 postpaid from Summit Publications, Box 222, Munroe Falls, Ohio 44282.


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