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Bob Sorrentino of Italian Roots and Genealogy Talks with Robin R. Foster

Above you will find Bob Sorrentino of Italian Roots and Genealogy and I having an enjoyable conversation about beginning your research. You may also visit his blog: Italian Genealogy - Genealogy Just Ask.


If you are interested in researching your Italian American ancestors, you might be eager to dive into the records and discover your roots. However, there are some common mistakes that beginners often make that can lead to frustration and confusion. Here are some of them and how to avoid them:

  • Assuming that your ancestor's name was always spelled the same way. Many Italian names were anglicized, misspelled, or changed over time. You might find variations of your ancestor's name in different documents, such as census records, passenger lists, naturalization papers, etc. To overcome this challenge, you need to be flexible and creative when searching for your ancestor's name. Try different spellings, use wildcards, look for nicknames, and check for alternate surnames. Find your county/parish and state on the Research Wiki: United States Genealogy.

  • Relying on secondary sources without verifying them. Secondary sources are records that were created after the fact, such as family trees, books, websites, etc. They can be helpful to give you clues and hints, but they are not always accurate or reliable. You should always check the original sources, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, death certificates, etc., to confirm the information and find more details. You can also use primary sources to correct or add information to your secondary sources.

  • Not tracing your ancestor's migration pattern. Many Italian immigrants moved around a lot after they arrived in America. They might have lived in different states or cities, depending on where they found work or relatives. If you only focus on one location, you might miss important records or events in your ancestor's life. You should try to trace your ancestor's migration pattern by looking for clues in census records, city directories, newspapers, etc. You should also learn about the history and geography of the places where your ancestor lived.

  • Not learning about Italian culture and history. Researching your Italian American ancestors is not only about finding names and dates. It is also about understanding their lives and experiences in the context of their culture and history. You should learn about the customs, traditions, religion, language, and history of Italy and the regions where your ancestors came from. You should also learn about the immigration process, the challenges and opportunities they faced in America, and how they adapted and contributed to their new society.

These are some of the mistakes that beginners often make when researching their Italian American ancestors. By avoiding them, you can have a more successful and enjoyable genealogical journey. Don't forget to use the Research Wiki: Italy Genealogy

by Robert Sorrentino


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Robin R. Foster
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