Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pasquale Ursino -- Pedigree and Family Members

Pasquale Ursino from Catania, Sicily
During the Thanksgiving break, I was able to research my Sicilian family history and fill in more dates, and add more people to my great-grandfather's family group.

So far I have found that my great-grandfather had nine brothers and sisters.  He was also married twice and had at least two children with his first wife and at least five with his second wife.  He ended his years with my great-grandmother who he was unable to marry because she was not allowed to obtain a divorce from her husband.  My great-grandparents had four children together, and one can see they gave their children the surname belonging to my great-grandmother's husband in order to make them "legitimate" (see picture of immediate family below).  This was a secret my grandmother guarded very carefully for many years -- Sicilian society was very strict in her day.  My great-grandmother had also had four children (one died young) with her husband before living with my great-grandfather.

Overall, my great-grandfather had several children that died young.  In fact, I was quite sad to see he lost three children with his second wife and that they had died 1-3 years after birth.  He had also lost one child with his first wife.  Also sad was the loss of his first wife -- she was only 27 years old.  I was not able to learn the cause of her death.

I also learned that before marrying his first wife, my great-grandfather was in the navy or merchant marine.  His father had been a career sailor as had his grandfather, so this must have seemed a logical career for him as well. However, my great-grandfather was no longer a sailor when he married his first wife and is listed in many records as "industrioso," "magazziniere," and other similar descriptions. 

Finally, I was also able to add a generation to my tree by finding two sets of his great-grandparents (fourth great-grandparents to me), and I found several death dates to add to the profiles of his family members as well.

My great-grandfather's pedigree
Pasquale's immediate family
Street Addresses for Pasquale Ursino
Strada Cutelli (1863)
Strada della Statua (Largo Statua, 36) (1865-1877)
Via Sorrentino (1881)
Via Cutelli (1883)
Via DiGiuliano (1889)
Via DiStefano, 70 (1891)
Via DiStefano, 37 (1892)
Via Misterbianco, 43 (1897)
Via Fischetti, 57 (1899)
Via Ventimiglia, 157 (1902)
Via Opificio, 25 (1907)
Via Celeste, 110 (1909)
Via Consolazione, 81 (1914)

Some of the addresses above still exist today, but some streets seem to have been renamed.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Jumping the Pond -- Lesson 3

Before searching records overseas, you will probably have to first research records in the U.S. A good place to begin is with census and naturalization records. Such records are offered for free on or with a subscription on You can also search Familysearch for information on where to locate naturalization records for your particular state or region of the U.S.  You can learn about regional National Archives or State Archives that house the records you need, or you might be able to order a microfilm from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Start with census records before researching naturalization records. You can locate your immigrant ancestor in the 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 censuses, which recorded information regarding year of immigration and citizenship status.

Tip: Learn what the abbreviations on the census stand for. For example, AL= alien, PA= papers were filed/pending, and NA= naturalized citizenship. Also, start with the latest census and work your way back.  Information might vary from census to census.

Once you have a good idea on when your ancestor was naturalized, use the year or range of years to search for naturalization papers.

The naturalization papers will more than likely tell you the exact town/location your ancestor emigrated from to the U.S. If your ancestor's naturalization record does not divulge the information you are looking for, then check the records of other family members.

Once you have an idea of the year of immigration, check the passenger lists or ships' manifests for more information. Don't focus only on the immigration year, though. Some people I have researched returned to the home country for a visit, so you might find more than one passenger record. The more recent records will have more information about where your ancestor was headed. They will usually have a town of birth listed and the name of a relative in the country of origin. Don't forget to see if your ancestor traveled with a relative because there may be information associated with the relative that provides more information. By the way, passenger records are being indexed by Familysearch, but you can also find records with a subscription to or for free at

That's it for now! Stay tuned for more ways to search the town and country of origin so you can jump the pond.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Veteran's Day

This is in honor of all the men and women who have served their countries in times of peace and war.  Here are some who are related to me:

Brother, Kevin. He also served in the first Gulf War.

Several of my grandmother's brothers and cousins were known as "the boys in the woods" in Norway and can be found among the men above.  They resisted the German occupation (WWII) in Norway mostly by planning and carrying out sabotage missions.

My grandfather having a lazy moment during his military service in Norway.  This picture was probably taken around 1922.

My grandmother's brother Giuseppe Napoli from Catania, Sicily, was lost at sea when his ship sank on 18 March 1918 during WWI.    

My fourth great-grandfather, Andreas Petterson Rörberg, from Tanum, Vastra Gotalands, Bohuslän, Sweden served in the Swedish military for 31 years.

And there are more...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Jumping the Pond -- Lesson 2

In most cases, finding the exact location your ancestor came from is essential to finding records overseas.  If you don't know the town your great-grandparents came from, you will have to look in North American records first.  But what if you have done it all and you still don't know the exact town your ancestor lived in before emigrating to the U.S.?

Finding the exact town your ancestors came from may require expanding your research a bit.  First of all, many people emigrated together and moved to the same towns/neighborhoods in the U.S.  So keep in mind that the answer may not come from a record but from learning the history of great-grandma's neighborhood.  Sometimes, even the streets were named after familiar places in the country of origin.  Visit a local museum or contact a local historical society.  You should also visit or research the town's cemetery because there may be headstones with information regarding home-country origins, and there might be a trend.  Overall, chances are that if the community was a clustered settlement of people from the same town in Italy or Ireland, that you will find a useful trail to follow. 

Tip: if you don't find the town of origin in your ancestor's records, or the history of the U.S. community he moved into, try the neighbors' records!

So let's assume you have exhausted your ancestors' records and you still have no clue of the exact location they once called home. How can you research the neighbors' history?

1) U.S. census records -- find out who lived next door to great-grandpa.
2) Naturalization records might have a friend who vouched for your ancestor when he sought citizenship.
3) Probate records -- who witnessed the will? Who made the estate inventory?
4) Cemeteries -- who was buried next to your ancestor?
5) Church records -- who were the godparents or marriage witnesses?
6) City directories -- look for common surnames or occupational trades.

Pick a few friends and neighbors of your ancestor and research their naturalization records!  If you are lucky, there will be a town in common and the trail will be hot once more.

Stay tuned for the next post on how to specifically research U.S. records to help find the town of origin for your ancestor.