Are You Really from Canischio?

One of the most difficult things in researching immigrant ancestors is tracing the family back across the ocean to their native community. I had an interesting experience this afternoon with my mother. She is in contact with cousins who believe our family is from different town in Italy. In fact, they had even gone back to Italy to visit this other town and had brought back a copy of a birth record. The record shows the birth of a child with the same name as my great-great grandfather, but born more than 10 years later. Unfortunately, there is very little other information on the record.

The first suggestion the birth record is for the wrong person is that it is different than the birth year my great-great grandfather used on census records here in the United States. Also, if that Italian birth record is true, he would have been too young to have fathered his first children. So I am already fairly confident this birth record does not actually belong to my great-great-grandfather.

I, too have a copy of a birth record, from Canischio of course, that shows a person born with the same name as my great-great grandfather. This birth record was acquired through a professional researcher and was not part of the primary documents that belonged to my family. So other than the birth year not being very likely, what makes me think that my birth record is more valid than this cousin’s birth record? What evidence do I have that shows my family was from really from Canischio? Quite honestly, when I first saw that other record, I really wasn’t sure how firm my own evidence was for Canischio.

The answer to this question is crucial in helping establish family lines both in the United States and in Italy. Sadly, many records created in the United States only list the country of origin for immigrants. This complicates finding direct evidence for a particular town.

Fortunately, we do have evidence from the time period that my great-great grandfather was alive indicating that he was from Canishcio. We are lucky that his oldest son listed both the town and the country for his father’s and mother’s birthplace on his marriage license. Very clearly, that marriage license tells us this son’s parents (my great-great grandparents) were both from Canischio, Italy.

From Canischio

Another thing that helps corroborate this evidence, is that my great-great grandfather’s full birthdate is listed on his death record. Now, I generally believe death records are among the least accurate primary sources for a person’s birthdate, but it is always a starting place. In this case however, the death record agrees perfectly with the birth record from Canischio, lending further evidence that the birth and death record belong to the same person. Additionally, the parents’ names on the death certificate agree with the parents’ names on the birth certificate. Similarly corroborating evidence can my found for his wife, my great-great grandmother.

So all together, there is good primary evidence connecting my family back to our little town of Canischio. But for a little moment this morning, I had to stop and wonder and then make sure!

Going Social in Canischio, Italy

I’m excited to finally launch a Facebook group dedicated to sharing the heritage of our Canischio families. You can find us at CanischioConnections. Take a moment to join our family there to find living cousins and friends and share in our discoveries.

On Facebook I shared about my third great grandparents who immigrated to the United States and settled in Indiana. Here I’ll share my about my fourth great-grandparents who spent their entire lives in Canischio. Their names were Domenico Maria Vincenzo Gioannini & Angela Ferrero. I currently have no pictures of them, but thanks to the Civil Records I’ve indexed here on this site, I do have a copy of my grandfather’s signature.

Domenico Giovanini's Signature

My fourth great grandfather’s signature on the death record of his grandfather

(If anyone has actual pictures of them I would really love it if you were willing to share.)

We’re working hard to grow our community. I’m a firm believer that collaborative research helps us all. Research gets increasingly accurate as we work together to uncover our past. The larger our group gets the better we all do in finding our families and celebrating our heritage. Please join and share and pass the word along to others in your family and research circles.

On on the Facebook page you’ll also be able to get help from the group translating Italian documents and deciphering handwriting.

You may also notice that we’ve added social network sharing buttons to our posts. I have a grandma who always announced, “We share in our family!” just as she took a huge gulp of your drink or bite of your dessert. Her grandkids remember that a lot more fondly now that she’s passed on. But we love that sentiment with regard to our family history discoveries. We definitely want you sharing on your networks the information and discoveries you find here. So don’t forget, “We share in our family!”

Individuals with Unknown Parents

As you research your families you will almost inevitably come to a person whose parents are not known. In this record collection for Canischio, the main reason for this is that the person was abandoned as a baby and raised by a foster family. For more detail on that practice see my post on abandoned infants.  However, in Canischio it is more common that the person’s mother will be known, but the father is not. In one instance in the current set of records, a father claims a child born out of wedlock, but the mother is unknown. For the Canischio birth records indexed on this site, having one unknown parent is always due to an out-of-wedlock birth.

So how do we account for these children and fit them into our family trees? There are basically three situations for these individuals: illegitimate children with a known parent, abandoned children who marry, and abandoned children who die as children or remain unmarried as adults. Each situation is addressed slightly differently.

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Finding a Foster Family

In Canischio, there are many people who died as children and whose parents were unknown. They had been abandoned as infants and were living with foster families in Canischio. However, the practices surrounding infant abandonment meant that the children didn’t share a name with either their biological family or their foster family. Further complicating matters, death records do not identify foster families after 1875. This makes placing these children into their foster families a little bit tricky.

Let’s look at the death record for Maria Bongi. Her parents are unknown. She was born in Torino, and died when she was 26 days old on July 30, 1882.

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A Guide to Pubblicazioni and Allegati in Canischio

In addition to the birth, marriage and death records contained in the Canischio Civil Registration Records, there are also collections of Pubblicazioni and Allegati. These collections contain birth, marriage, and death records, but often their associations help further define family relationships in ways the other records do not.

It’s probably important to realize that divisions in all the sets of images were created for convenience after the records were imaged. These breaks do not particularly correspond to the original records. It’s likely that the supporting documents found in the Pubblicazioni and Allegati were much more combined together than it may seem. But these are the organizational structures that we use to navigate the records, so it is helpful to understand in general what they contain.

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Abandoned Infants in Canischio, Italy

While working in Canischio records, you quickly begin to recognize the typical surnames for the comune. Gioannini’s and Donna’s abound. Ferrero, Pecchenino, and Cinotto, quickly become familiar names. And of course, the given names follow similar trends. Fairly soon, you recognize names as either native to the little town or “probably from somewhere else.” A good example of those might be Ghiglietto-Gallo or Cima. Sometimes moving just a few miles away changes the mix of names pretty drastically.

When I first began working with the records, the names that stuck out the most to me contained the name Naturale. There were a number of people with the last name, and their given names were often unfamiliar or extremely generic. I wondered where the names came from. Well, it turns out there was something that all these people with unusual names had in common.

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Name Spelling Standards

Since these indexes are essentially manual, the search function does not have the flexibility that many of us are familiar with using FamilySearchAncestry, or FindMyPast. For instance, there is no way to specify a search that finds “similar” or “sounds like” results. Since spelling was still not fully standardized during the 1800’s, I had to find a way to overcome that limitation and find results that were similarly spelled or pronounced. The current solution is certainly not elegant, but it gets the job done. Regardless of how some names were spelled in the original record, I have standardized spellings to allow for the basic search function in your browser to be most helpful. This post lists the standardized name spellings for most common names in Canischio.

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