Italian-American searching for information

tangelo09 Image
09/01/2009 - 15:00

Hello,I am an Italian American who is trying to learn about his family history; unfortunately, most of my extended, Italian-American  family is deceased. I have learned bits and pieces from my sister, who was in Italy recently. At this point, about all I really know about my Italian roots is that my father's parents came to the United States from Abruzzo in the late 19th-early 20th centuries (which is why I chose the location, "Abruzzo.") Our last name is Angelo. If this is not the appropriate forum on which to look for family history/genealogy, my apologies; could anyone pinpoint where - either online or by mail - one might go to learn about his family? Or if anyone reading this happens to know, or have the last name of, "Angelo," would they be willing to reply? I do have a private email address,, in case anyone replying wishes to reply in private.My sincere thanks to anyone who can be of assistance,Tom Angelo,Brooklyn, NY



Hi Tom and welcome.This is as good as place as any to start your search.You might find this web site to be of some help and it looks as though your name Angelo is less common than D'Angelo, which will help narrow things down. It certainly appears that there are very few "Angelo's" in Abruzzo, so you might just be lucky.Looking at the map, there is an "Angelo" family just south of L'Aquila. White Pages might also help you have any idea from what region of Abruzzo your grandparents came from. If not, the records office in the US should have this information available publicly. You might also want to try something like Facebook.Good luck with your search and let us know how you get on.

In reply to by Russ

Thank you for your rely, Russ. To show you how ignorant I am of Italy, a country I have yet to visit, I didn't know that Abruzzo had regions! But I will try the sources you recommend.Tom

In reply to by tangelo09

I have an even better idea!Take yourself on an adventure of a lifetime and book a flight from NYC to Pescara. You can then go "hunting" whereupon I'm sure the people of Abruzzo will offer you a very warm welcome and as much help as they can give you, especilly if you manage to make contact with the Angelo's south of L'Aquila!Coincidentaly, at dinner tonight in a local restaurant, my ears pricked up to the sound of American accents. On the table near us was a party of 15 or so. It turned out to be a local Italian family and their long lost American cousins! An omen perhaps...All th best.

Hello Tom,You can also find some message boards which are specific to family history.  The obvious ones arehttp://genforum.genealogy.comhttp://www.rootsweb.comBoth sites have many messages from people searching for the Angelo surname - enough to make you realise that you have a lot of work ahead of you if you are ever to track your family down.My suggestion would be that you will need to find a lot more about your family from American sources before you try looking in Italy.  Hopefully there will be some immigration records somewhere for your grandparents which give some precise information as to where they came from.  The best collection is at Another angle from which to start is to try and find your grandparents in one of the earlier US censuses.  These are all available online at, but unfortunately they charge for access to their data.Best of luck with your search.

Hello, Emanuele,I actually went to the Ellis Island site, and they did have Angelos. Unfortunately, I don't have either of my grandparents' first names or dates of birth, which you really need. Apparently a lot of valuable info was thrown out by some person who didn't know any better. But my mother, or one of Dad's few remaining living relatives, may know my grandparent's first names.Thanks for your suggestions,Tom Angelo,Brooklyn NY

Russ, Although I've never been out of the USA (except Canada), Italy will be my first destination as soon as I get time to take a real vacation from my job. Thanks for giving me a specific starting point (Perscara), as I'm really travelling totally blind here.

Hi Tom,If you're new to research of this kind, and it seems that you are then, as others have suggested, joining sites like  is one way to start. But these are costly - they're not free.  You could try one of the free genealogy sites like mine, where there are researchers who love to help and will guide you. They will often do 'look-ups' for you on sites like Ancestry, or check out films from the FHC, as they may have them on permanent loan at their Centre. We have members from north and south America, Europe and the Pacific rim. Pop in and have a browse if you've got a minute...But in any event, there are a number of free genealogy sites you could try...

Hi Try and look for the ship crossings..  This may help give you more info on who went to usa.  Most the people from abruzzo sailed from Naples. has a search for immigration.. they also have photos of the immgration papers giving some extra info..  I have found a few names belonging to our family this way.. Good luck  Ali

Bear in mind that, during the period when your grandparents entered the USA, it wasn't unusal for the names people used in the USA to be different to the names the immigrants had used in their countries of birth.Apparently it's an urban myth that names were frequently changed by Ellis Island immigration officials, but mistakes were made by shipping company officials before the immigrants boarded ship and it wasn't uncommon for immigrants to choose to change their names to something less obviously "foreign".This was probably more often the case with immigrants from Eastern European countries than for Italians but, given what Russ says above, are you certain beyond all doubt that the surname your grandparents used when they lived in Abruzzo was "Angelo" and not "D'Angelo"?Al

Alan is right about names being mispelt (or is that mispelled?). If you take a look at the Ellis Island website and copies of the original ships register, it's no wonder that this has happened. The computerised records are full of mistyped names, towns, villages and cities, so you need an awful lot of patience to wade through them all, along with all the "sounds like" options.For example, we are doing some research for some 2nd generation Italian-Americans who are visiting in December and they have sent us a copy of the passport used in 1913. As the person concerned was very young (only 16 when he left Italy without his parents) he had a chaperone who was named on the passport and the family had believed his name to be Flario, whereas his name was Ilario. Also the Ellis Island site is not a complete record of all Italians that entered the USA, as we are unable to trace either people on the register for the year they entered the US.We are in contact with the local comune and also churches and cemeteries, but only because we had the town of birth of the person we are looking for. Even with this, it's not an easy task looking for someone born in 1893!They'll be plenty of dead ends, but we keep looking for leads. Looking on the back of any photographs for clues of location and names has also proven useful.We hope that by the time our guests arrive, we'll have located the house where this person was born. It will be fantastic to be able to take them there.Fingers crossed. 

Good Luck Tom, and use this site for any questions, however dumb they may seem - the stupid question often gets the best information.  I would certainly second Russ's suggestion that you come over to Italy.  Getting a feel for the country really helps. And sounds like Russ's would be a good place to stay!

Hi I used to work on Italian emigration when I was a university teacher of Italian. I'm now starting work on a history of emigration from the village I've bought a house in. I've come across a number of sites but they're in Italian. However try: which has a genealogy section. Good luck, I'm sure you'll find it fascinating. Best wishes

Hello TomThe best site I have ever found for my Italian genealogy  is: people on there are either from the US or Italy in the main and very, very knowledgeable.  Give some details and often within hours they are able to give you information that would take ages for you to find.  It is a very friendly site also.Take a look and ask for help.Good luckJoy