Family History Research

Naturalization Records

Saturday I attended the DuPage County Genealogical Society Conference in St. Charles, IL. I heard John Philip Colletta talk about Naturalization Records and Advanced Problem Solving. It was fantastic.

One thing he mentioned was that those declaring their intentions to become citizens were not given a copy of their declaration. It was only in some cases where a person was maybe moving to a new area before final naturalization or wanted the record for a reason that a certified copy was provided.

After Colletta said this, I thought wow, really? This was strange because I have an original certified copy of my husband’s great grandfather’s Declaration of Intention. So now I’m making notes in my conference syllabus to investigate this. The great grandfather died before he was naturalized. Why he would want a copy of his Declaration? Was he planning on leaving Chicago? Did he need it for a specific reason?

Then I did a little research on the topic. I wonder if I mis-heard Colletta when he stated the people did not receive a copy. Maybe he meant before 1906? After 1906, those declaring were given a copy as the paperwork changed. It also raises the question, if the courts were not giving out copies of the Declaration, how could you just walk into another court and apply for final papers? Colletta made it clear several times you could declare and apply for final papers in any court and it did not have to be the same court. What was the process by which they verified you declared your intention?

I will have to look more into that. I did not find that answer in my brief research yesterday. If you have experience with this, please comment.


Sorting Saturday – The Immigrant and the Manifest

I was going through a notebook on the train Thursday jotting down blog ideas so I would have a slightly easier time writing posts this next week when I came across a page of “To Explore” notes. This page has ideas on topics to look at when writing my family history like gathering more information on the ships on which my ancestors traveled; pulling as many Sanborn Maps as I can; looking at Census records to see if they owned or rented their homes; and investigating places they worked.

Another topic that I plan to start work on now is on the immigrant and their passenger manifest. I want to create an Excel Sheet listing all of my immigrants and all the personal information about them I can find on a manifest. I want to document date of arrival; ship; height; eye color; how much money they were carrying; did they have luggage; were they steerage or cabin passengers; where they were headed; and who was their contact in the old country and the United States.

I think exploring this topic in spreadsheet form will give me a wonderful picture of exactly who came, when they came, what they looked like, and more. Once finished I can sort by year, by name, by ship name, anything to change the picture at which I am looking.

Looking at my data in a new way will also allow me to add more depth to each of my ancestors’ stories.

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Website to Follow – LookUpTheName

I am almost prepared to visit the Newberry Library again soon. I have my immigration file ready so my son can look up Italians to American and burial file ready so we can cemetery hop on the way home.

As I did a little more Googling online I came across a website called This website has free lists of Irish and Italian immigrant lists. The Irish cover the years 1846-1851 and the Italians 1855-1900. The Italian database looks like similar data as can be found in the Italians to America series of books. This will save me time at the Newberry Library searching those books if I can do most of the research online. If you have Irish or Italian ancestors, this free website is worth checking out. 

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University of Illinois-Chicago Special Manuscript Collections

If you have read my blog posts on my Chicago Family History blog about Fortunato Fratto (there are two posts), you will understand my serious research on his family for the last week.  Fortunato is basically not the person I thought he was in my family tree. He is related though.  Instead of being my husband’s great great grandfather, he is his great great uncle. Check out the posts for the whole story – it is interesting.

In my quest for answers to the first questions on Fortunato’s family and who is buried in his grave site, I came across a project at the University of Illinois-Chicago called the “Italian Project” from the 1980’s. Included in this oral history project is an oral interview by Rose Tellerino, Fortunato’s daughter. Yesterday I received a copy of the interview transcript.

The transcript is roughly 46 pages long with the actual interview being 34 pages. The interviewer attached to the tape for transcription, a summary of the interview with questions raised, important points to note, and some statements about Fortunato made by Rose which made him appear “cruel” compared to how we see most father’s today. A note is included with that stating when analyzing the transcript you must keep in mind the time period which was 70 – 80 years prior.

Rose gave amazing information about her life growing up around Clark/Polk in Chicago, then moving to 25th Street; her strict disciplinarian father; her arranged marriage at 14 and the children she had in rapid succession thereafter. She discusses the food they ate; the housing; the class structure; her father and mother’s background in Taverna, Italy and what her father’s feelings were after immigrating. She also lists several addresses where the family lived, without exact dates, but based on the context in which the interview is held, I can approximate the years and have more of a starting point to search the 1910 Census. To this point the regular searching techniques on Ancestry have failed. It appears all my Fratto folks did not “exist” on the 1910 Census. I suspect they are there and their name was mangled or transcribed so incorrectly I have not had success searching other variations. Now I can narrow it down to Enumeration Districts within a Ward or two.

If you have Chicago family, Italian or not, check out the UIC Special Manuscript Collection online. They have a listing of what each collection contains and you can send them an email requesting information on a specific file by giving them the Collection Name; Box Number and Folder Number.

This interview is an invaluable piece of my husband’s family’s history. I will be sharing pieces of it on my Chicago Family History blog over the next week or two.

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