Family History Research

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.

Leave a comment »