Family History Research

Sentimental Sunday – A Saturday Morning with my Son

In an effort to spend more one on one time with my son and expose him more to the family history and the thrill of the discovery, we went cemetery hopping again yesterday morning. The day began with the usual nine year old, “I don’t want to go…….” routine. I insisted he go anyway and that it would be fun. Once on the road for our roughly 20 minute drive to Mt. Carmel and Queen of Heaven in Hillside, the conversation turned to music then to what we would do on our outing. My son quickly forgot he didn’t want to go.

We arrived at Queen of Heaven and used the kiosk to look up some names. My son loves using the kiosk. Then we spoke to a man working in the office and were given section maps! I wish all the Catholic cemeteries in Chicago gave you section maps. He marked the map with a nice red X where our grave should be for the sections with which we needed assistance. This made looking for the graves so much easier. Next time we go to St. Adalbert’s, I will make the suggestion they give out section maps.

In addition to the new graves I wanted to visit, I took him by a few family graves he had only seen in photos. His interest intensified as he learned more about the people in our family.

My son was in charge of the camera again because I want him to learn to take good photos of the graves. Complete photos of the graves, not cutting parts off. Overall he did fairly well yesterday with the stones in the ground. The directions, “I want to see grass on all sides so I can crop the photo later,” seemed to help. He still needs to work on his monument photos because his skill at fitting the entire monument in needs additional practice.

After our visit to both cemeteries we stopped at Panera for a snack and to talk about who we found, what he thought was interesting, and what we could do for the next trip up there.  It was a great morning spent together and I think we are both learning a lot. He is learning more about research and photography and I’m learning to be a better teacher. I treasure these moments we have together because it seems like just “yesterday” he was born and “tomorrow” he will be going off to college.

These photos are of a Mary Fratto who died as a child. I am not sure if she belongs in my family but I wrote her information down and we photographed her grave just in case. I cropped her photo from a larger grave photo but my son took the other photos. He is getting better!

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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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Book Review – Women Adrift

I was looking through my bookcase this morning and came across a book I read in a Chicago Women’s History grad school called Women Adrift, Independent Wage Earners in Chicago, 1880-1930 by Joanne J. Meyerowitz. I thought this would be a great book to mention this week since I wrote an article about women and naturalization.

I do not have any women in my family who went off on their own to become “women adrift” but this book was very interesting to read. The chapters walk the reader through what some of the women experienced. Chapter 1 discusses being apart from the family. Chapter 2 is about exercising caution in the big city. Chapter 3 mentions orphans and innocents while Chapter 4 discusses Surrogate Families. Chapter 5 goes in depth about the people who helped these women and Chapter 6 talks about the women being Urban Pioneers.

Meyerowitz addresses issues such as sexuality of this “new breed” of women coming to the cities; what social circles formed and why; the vices that existed in the cities and how the women handled them or fell prey to them; and contains many tables with statistics, several illustrations, and lengthy note and bibliography sections.

Whether you had a Woman Adrift in your family or not, this book is well worth your time to read. You might just see some similarities between these women and second or third generation women of immigrants in your families who branched out on their own after the 1930’s.

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