Monday, February 23, 2015

Italian Research: One Mystery Solved

Maria D'Amore 1887 Birth in Polizzi Generosa,
mentioning her unmarried parents
I had been stuck at a brick wall for a while on my Italian branch, mostly because so few Italian records are available online, at least for the regions most of my research is in. One of these brick walls was my 2nd great grandfather, Agostino D'Amore. According to family members, he was born in Sulmona, Italy on Aug 13, 1846 and as a solider, was stationed in Pachino, Sicily where he met his wife, Rosaria, and had children with her. However, his passenger list into the United States said he was born in Pachino. I decided to have a look for his birth record in Sulmona anyway, since those records are actually available online from the Italian National Archives.

I searched Sulmona's births from 1844-1848 without finding him so then I began thinking he was actually born in Sicily. First of all, it turns out that he did not meet his wife in Pachino. His wife was born in Polizzi Generosa, where their first child, Maria, was also born so I checked Polizzi's birth records (found online at for Agostino thinking maybe he was born there too, but with no luck. I also searched for his marriage to Rosaria in Polizzi in the few years before the birth of their first child with no results. Puzzled, I finally got a translation of Maria's birth record (I know enough about Italian records to extract names and dates but that's about it) and what it told me was very surprising but totally explained the problems I was having. Maria had been born out of wedlock. That explained why I couldn't find a marriage record for Agostino and Rosaria before Maria's birth!

Agostino D'Amore and Rosaria Potestio
marriage in Pachino, 1891
It also named Agostino's occupation as Carabinieri, Italian National Police. So there was some truth to the family stories. I also knew that the rest of their children had indeed been born in Pachino so sometime after Maria was born and before their next child was born, they had moved from Polizzi to Pachino. I began to become concerned that Agostino and Rosaria had never actually married but just lived in a common law marriage. After all, if they left Polizzi for Pachino to escape the scandal of having a child out of wedlock, it would have been easy for them to show up in Pachino claiming they were already married and no one would be the wiser. I had looked for the marriage in Polizzi after Maria's birth but still not found it. But I really needed a marriage record because it would tell me where Agostino was born. On his children's birth records, it only listed where he was residing at the time, not his birth location. And his death certificate from Pennsylvania didn't specify anything more than Italy.

So I crossed my fingers and ordered the microfilm for Pachino marriages during this time period because they aren't available online anywhere. I had little hope of finding it - I'd convinced myself they never married and I would never find out where Agostino was born. I also ordered the film which included Pachino births for the period he was born in hopes that his passenger list had been correct and I would find him here, even if I didn't find his marriage record. And when the films came in, I checked the births first because I had more hope of finding that than the marriage.

How wrong I was! I didn't find his birth in Pachino but I did find their marriage! Turns out they married Jan 1, 1891, about six months prior to the birth of their second child. To me, this seems to suggest that their society might have accepted one "mistake" by having a child out of wedlock but two? No, it was time to get married, and quickly because Rosaria would be starting to show soon!

Agostino D'Amore's 1849 Birth in Sulmona
Finally, the marriage record told me that Agostino had indeed been born in Sulmona, just as I originally thought! So why hadn't I found his birth record in Sulmona? Because he was born in 1849, and I'd stopped looking at 1848. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I could have avoided this whole fiasco by just searching a wider year range. However, that might have meant that I wouldn't have gotten the translation that told me their first child was born out of wedlock, an interesting little tidbit. So sometimes my stupidity has a silver lining!

My other reason for wanting to find a marriage or birth record for Agostino was to figure out his parent's names. On his death certificate, his father is listed as something that looked like Dibero or Libero and his mother was listed as "Nana", which was clearly not her name but just what her grandchildren called her. With Agostino's birth and marriage records finally found, it told his father was Liberio D'Amore and Maria Majorano. From there, I managed to search the Sulmona records to find Libero and Maria's parents and even some of their grandparents. Finally, I got past that brick wall!

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