Finding Your Sicilian Ancestors: I Know My Ancestral Town – Now, What?

       postcardNaturalization papers and passenger manifests can identify the towns where our Sicilian ancestors were born. Such information is also sometimes available in newspaper articles, family documents, passports, draft registrations, and the like. Once ancestors’ names (as used and spelled in Sicily) and ancestral towns are known, the search can begin in earnest for the civil and church records that can shed light on details of their lives. Further, such records contain information about our ancestors’ forebears, so that even earlier generations may be illuminated.

Before trying to find and understand such records, consider the origins, nature, and repositories of the records themselves. The earliest personal records in Sicily were documented by the Roman Catholic church, of which virtually every Sicilian was a member. For some towns, church records are still extant from the late 1500s and early 1600s. At that time, and through 1860, with brief interludes of subservience to Savoy and to Germany, Sicily was ruled by Spain. Before 1800, it was a feudal state, and ‘civil authority’ as we know it did not exist with regard to record keeping for common citizens. Nobility and the wealthy kept private records of their families, but ordinary folk were generally not a concern to them. The church, in its desire to cultivate and save souls, became responsible for recording baptisms, confirmations, marriages and deaths, not only of the high and mighty, but of the families of the peasants, laborers and miners who formed the core of the Sicilian people.

In the early 1800s, a new force burst upon the European scene: Napoleone Buonaparte, known to history as Napoleon I. He was born in 1869, to Genoese nobility in Corsica, and by 1804, he was the Emperor of France. He reigned until 1815, and during that time, he ruled, or had his relatives or minions rule Spain and parts of Prussia, Germany and Poland. In addition to being Emporer of France, he took the title King of “Italy”. However, that nation was comprised only of the former states of Milan, Mantua, Modena, Novara and Venice, and part of Romagna. Napoleon’s “Italy” comprised only about one quarter of the land mass of the present-day Republic of Italy. It did not include Florence or Rome, nor any part of the southern Italian peninsula. The territory known as the “Mezzogiorno”, to the south of Naples plus the island of Sicily, formed The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, which was subject to Spain. But although Napoleon controlled Spain, British influence and military power kept him out of Sicily. Sicily did, however, adopt the Napoleonic format, and has some of the best civil records to be found.

In his subject territories, to keep track of the populace for tax and military draft purposes, Napoleon instituted rules for civil authorities to record the births, marriages and deaths of all his subjects. These are called Napoleonic civil records, and except for the language, they had the same format throughout his domain. The uniform format of the records was so widespread and popular that even after Napoleon’s abdication the system was retained by the civil governments of the evolving European nations.

The original records for Sicilian towns (comuni) can be found in various locales. Catholic church records (Registri Ecclesiastici) may exist at the parish church where they were recorded, or in the main church (Chiesa Matrice) of the town, or at diocesan offices. Civil records are kept in the Anagrafe (Registry Office) of each comune. On my visits to Sicily, it’s a thrill to have a clerk produce the original thick, dusty civil registers containing the records of my ancestors from the 1800s. The civil records are referred to as the Registri Stato Civile (Records of Civil Status). At the time the civil records were made, a clerk wrote out two virtually identical copies. One was kept at the comune, and one was sent to the Tribunale (District Court). After 75 years, the Tribunale sends the records to the Archivio di Stato, the “State Archives” at the comune’s provincial capital city.

Angelo Coniglio

…….. The Lady of the Wheel


Angelo Coniglio
Angelo Coniglio
Angelo F. Coniglio is a retired civil engineer and university adjunct professor. Today Angelo is a genealogy researcher and author of the historical novella The Lady of the Wheel, set in 1860s Sicily. Details on the book and information on ordering can be found at For genealogy questions, Coniglio may be contacted at Coniglio is a proud son of parents who emigrated to America from Serradifalco one hundred years ago. He has traced his family, as well as his wife's, back seven generations to the early 1700's, and each and every one was Sicilian. See his history of Sicily at Order the paperback or the Kindle version at

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  1. My father is Salvatory Previti His Mother was Angelina Previti. My father was in the 318 Italian Quarter master Battalian in ww2 he was a POW in camp Ono in san bernardino ca United States when he met my mother after he was sent back to Italy He wrote my mother several letters that her mother kept without telling her she never knew he wrote her until my grandmother passed and my aunt gave her the letters my Mother Hope passed away in April but I would love to know my Previti Family only know address is Messina Sicily anyone with any information please contact me Linda 1909-883-9348 or 19094986021 Thank You LINDA PREVITI

  2. My grandfather was Damiano Ferrara. He had a brother who was ordained and became Father John Ferrara. Both are buried in Villalba,Sicily in the province of Caltanissetta, altho both had lived for a time in the USA. Would like to know how to contact the church there to find any remaining family.Thank You, Laura

    • Laura: There are a number of difficulties here. First, you need to research your grandfather’s family to determine the names of his parents, his siblings, his cousins, etc. and whether any offspring of his siblings or cousins remained in Villalba. Records are kept not only by the church (baptism, confirmation, marriage, and death) but by civil authorities (birth, marriage and death) in Villaba. I have never had any luck writing or calling church or civil officials in small Sicilian towns. Even though Villalba’s historical civil registers of records still exist, and the town Anagrafe (Registry Office) has all their historical records digitized and in a computerized data base, they are delinquent in responding to mail or e-mail. But Villalba church records for the years 1845 – 1913 are available on microfilms made by the Mormon church and can be rented for viewing at a Mormon Family History Center or FamilySearch Center. A list of microfilms of Villalba church records is at Films of civil records are available for 1821-1910 (list of films at and images of records are also on-line for 1866-1910 at and on To find a Mormon FamilySearch Center near you, go to Once you have developed a detailed family database, you can search many on-line sites for “Ferraras” in Villalba and then contact them to see whether they’re related to the folks in your database. My great-great-grandmother was Emmanuela Ferrara. She was from Marianopoli, but that is only about ten miles from Villalba, and there are indications that her parents were from Villalba.

    • Chances are Laura we are cousins. My great great grandfather was Salvatore Farrara and I believe he was from San Cataldo. We have been looking for his records but have had no luck. Angelo got me off on the right step with the church records. I did find a tree on Ancestry that goes way back with the Ferrara’s.

    • Hi, Ange. I just happen to see this post and realize that Laura’s family is connected to my side of the family. Is there any way to contact her and let her know about my Ferrara tree? Thank you.

  3. We visited the comune where my husband’s grandfather (who migrated in 1885) was born. Leni, on the Aeolian isalnd of Salina, Province of Messina. Although I had emailed (in Italian) before we left Australia, about a month before we arrived; they were not expecting us, so we were very grateful for the time she spent with us. The clerk was very helpful in looking up records, but we were not allowed to read them and she would not copy them or write out an extract. She would only write down the date of baptism, death or marriage. I had a list I wanted to confirm, she ocasionally confused my M for “marriage” with “morte”, but we sorted that out. My husband speaks no Italian and I have little beyond tourist basics (with a terrible accent).

    The great-grandfather Angelo Picone married a Rosa Virgona, but we could not find their marriage, for which I have a date, or her birth record. Both of these surnames were very common on the island at that time, so it was hard to work out who was who. The Diocesan office is on Lipari, which I didnt realise and as they hadn’t responded to my email, I didn’t know how to contact them. My Italian is definitely not good enough for a phone conversation.

    We also visited all the local cemeteries, we cleaned some ancient graves, but were unable to identify the people we were looking for. Interestingly, in the more modern era with photos on headstones, I saw faces that looked like my sisters- and brothers-in-law.

    So I hope we get the chance to travel again and I am determined to learn proper Italian before we go; I will write to the Diocese, although I may have to invest in a local genealogist to assist

  4. Carmel:

    The lack of response, unfortunately, is typical. In many cases, we must physically go to the comune/province/diocese, or have a representative go for us. In defense of the record-keepers, it does take resources to answer our questions.

    It’s possible that Rosa Virgona was from a nearby island like Lipari, or from Gioiosa Marea on the mainland. If so, it was not uncommon for the groom to travel to the bride’s parish to be married. If Rosa was born or married before 1865, check for her birth or marriage records at or at

  5. In my searching, I have had some luck, but of course, with the earlier church records, it will be a matter of traveling there and hoping for some help, or hire someone to do it for me.

    My sons paternal lineage is based in Santa Flavia – CRISCI – married a SANFILLIPO and again, had some luck in procuring records to get us back a few generations for each side, including siblings and their spouses. We have expanded to DNA for him as well, and he has some matches on the Sanfillipo side via autosomal testing.
    Other names (these go into Porticello) : CEFALU; TARRANTINO; CRIVELLO; BALISTRERI; BILLANTI (BILLANTE); CARINI: FRITTITTA; LaMONICA – and these names continue to repeat, so pretty sure they are all related – sisters marrying brothers of another family, etc

    Do you know if any more churches within this area are digitally available online?

  6. Ciao, just looking for advice to get started. My four grandparents (all deceased) each came to America in the early 1900’s from pretty much the same area in Catania. Their surnames are on my maternal side: Cristaldi and Caltabiano; on my paternal side: Sambataro and Giglio (Mondalto) Besides their names and the actual towns, (Aci Bonaccorsi, Tre Castagni, mascaluccia, Via Grande, and I believe Castel Vitrano) what other information do I need to find “relatives”‘, when I visit Sicilia next summer? Milli grazie……

    • You need to know the full names (including birth surnames of women) and the dates of birth (as close as possible). For a particular town (take Castelvetrano, which is in Trapani province, not Catania province, as an example), you must locate the civil birth records for the year of birth of an individual. Castelvetrano records are not available on-line. You must order them on microfilm from the Mormon church, from their site and view them at a Mormon FamilySearch Center near you. Go to to find a local Center. The films may take as long as a month or more to arrive, so order them soon. Civil birth, marriage, and death records for Castelvetrano for the years 1820 – 1910 are available on several microfilms. See for a list of the microfilms.

      For towns in Catania province, go to the Mormon site at There are civil records there for 1866 – 1910 for Aci Bonaccorsi, Trecastagni (one word), Mascalucia (spelling), and Viagrande (one word). For years earlier than 1866, the microfilms must be ordered as previously noted. The records. of course, will be in Italian, and in archaic handwriting. If you don’t speak Italian, get a book like “Discovering Your Italian Ancestors”, etc. To see examples of original records with transcriptions and translations, go to and follow the links. Records from all towns for the same time periods are essentially the same, you just need to note the names and dates for your particular records.

      To find living relatives, you should first build as complete a family tree as possible: not just direct ancestors, but their siblings, cousins, etc. as well as the offspring of such “collateral lines”, so that when you meet potential relatives, you can give them those names to see whether there is any connection. Knowing the surnames of the spouses of female relatives is important. When you go to Sicily, if you’re serious about the search, you should plan on spending more than just a few hours in each ancestral town. The first time you visit a town hall un-announced, you may find it’s a holiday, or the clerk’s on vacation, or it’s siesta time, and you may have to make an appointment for a later visit.

      When you do go to a town, visit the “municipio” (Town Hall) and got to the “Anagrafe” (Registry Office) and review as much of your tree as possible, and tell them you’re looking for descendants/relatives of the people in your tree.

    • Joanne and Angelo
      Just found this web site …
      I see you have Cristaldi grandparent , I also have Cristaldi , grandfather, from Mascali
      I’m just starting my search
      My grandfather
      Luciano Cristaldi
      Born January 7, 1882 in Mascali , Nunziata , Catania Region
      Came to America 1906 on ship Indiana
      I believe his parents were Carmelo and Carmela Cristaldi
      I’m trying to find info about his parents and Brothers and Sisters
      He did have a brother Salvatore and Nunzio and believe he had at least 4 maybe 6 more
      If you come across any info would appreciate, Thank You
      Lucian Cristaldi his Grandson , live in Rehoboth Beach De

  7. how do I find out about my Grandparents if I don’t know the town or village from were they came?

  8. Using (free at libraries and Mormon FamilySearch Centers), find your grandparents on U.S. Censuses of the 1920s and 1930s and note when they immigrated, and whether they were naturalized citizens of the U.S. or still aliens at the time of the census.

    From that information, search for the passenger manifests of their immigration. Those generally gave a town of origin. After mid-1907, they gave town of last residence AND town of birth. If you can’t find passenger manifests, but one or both were naturalized, go to the County Clerk in the place where they settled, and search for their naturalization papers: the “Petition for Naturalization” and “Declaration of Intent”. Those records, when complete, show the immigrant’s name, date and town of birth, ship and date of immigration, address in the U.S. and the names and dates and places of birth of any family living with him.

    Read my earlier columns for more details on searches for census and naturalization records.

    Bagheria, Collesano and Corleone, all in the Province of Palermo in Sicily, as well as the city of Palermo itself had a great many Provenzano families; also Naro, in Agrigento (Girgenti) province and Belmonte in mainland Italy (Cosenza).

  9. Hi, I am looking for an old newspaper article from Sicily, from about 1960, I think it was January 1960. which is in regard to my aunt who died at the railway station in Riposto/Giarre. I now that there were articles in a few of the Sicilian newspapers. Can you tell my where I could get a copy of the article/articles.

  10. Pia:

    Riposto/Giarre are probably covered by newspapers from nearby Catania. An internet search shows three major newspapers there: Catania Oggi; Catania Omnia; and La Sicilia. I suggest you contact those newspapers and ask them about back issues.

  11. I am looking to find my ancestors before our trip to Sicily in June 2014. I have completed our family tree on as far as I can go. I do have the manifest for the ship that my great grandfather and grandmother came in on. I also have my great grandfathers birth certificate (in my possession) so I know that they came in through Louisiana and were coming from Castelvetrano, Sicily. Their destination was Russelville, Alabama. I know that my great great grandfather and great great grandmother names were Calogero DiStefano and Teresa Calia. I believe that they did not come to the USA. His Children, my great grandfather Giovanni DiStefano and Great Grandmother Rosa S. Urso came in in 1907 and my uncle Melchiorre DiStefano came in 1905. Anyway, I thought maybe you could help us figure out what we should do next to find our ancestors and information once we get to Sicily. Where to go and what to ask.
    Thank you in advance for your help!

  12. Antionette:

    Firstly, if you’re going to Sicily in June, you’d better “get crackin’!” That’s not much time to build a family tree, especially if you plan on using Mormon microfilms, which take time to order and review.

    You say you have your great-grandfather’s ‘birth certificate’, but I suspect it’s actually an ‘estratto’, a derivative extract copied from the original ‘Atto di Nascita’ (Record of Birth) which remains in a bound register in the town of origin. Extracts generally give minimal information.

    You need to obtain the original record, because it not only gives the child’s date of birth, but the name, age, occupation and address of his father and the name, occupation and sometimes the age of the mother. The record also gives the names of two witnesses, often relatives, at the registration of the birth. In some cases, the names of the paternal and maternal grandfathers of the newborn are given.

    How do you find the original records? Castelvetrano’s civil records of birth, marriage and death for the years 1820 through 1910 are available on Mormon microfilms that must be rented for delivery to your local Mormon FamilySearch Center (and sometimes to public libraries) where you can view them. A list of the available Castelvetrano films is at

    You can find a local FamilySearch Center (or Family History Center) by going to

    Get the film for the years your great-grandparents were born and find their records of birth. Once you find the age of the fathers and mothers of your great-grandparents, you can estimate their marriage year and try to find their marriage records, which will also give their ages and their parents’ names. Then estimate their years of birth and get the films for those earlier years, find their birth records, then move on to the next generation, etc. etc.

    You should try to find “collateral lines” – siblings of your great-grandparents and earlier ancestors, and the children of those ancestors. These are your relatives who may have remained in Sicily. Build as complete a tree as you can, and take it with you, so you can show people you meet in Sicily the names and relationships of not only your direct ancestors but of your great-aunts and uncles and your cousins.

    To see examples of original records, go to and follow the links.

  13. Antionette, P.S.

    If you find as much information as possible before you go, you may be able to build upon it once you get there. I have found MUCH more information on microfilm than I have by actually visiting my ancestral towns.

    If you look for information in Castelvetrano, plan on spending more than a couple of hours doing so. Just finding the offices open or available on your schedule may be difficult, and while the records are available on microfilm, some towns will not permit you to get photocopies of the original records, or take photographs.

  14. I am an American with Sicilian grandparents. My experience shows that this exercise of looking for relatives can have very positive results. Last year I began a search for my grandparent’s documents in Prizzi. I hired a professional that specialized in the process. Shortly after, I received an unexpected email in Italian about a woman at the Anagrafe who thought she might be related to me. I replied and it has enriched my life and many other members of our extended Sicilian family. The fact is that the woman at the Anagrafe, who processed my request for the documentation, was in fact my cousin. I adjusted my itinerary and when I went to Sicily, we stayed with my cousins. That experience is another story. Most of the American siblings and cousins have become very enthused and we now are planning a family reunion in Prizzi with cousins we have never met, from both sides of the Atlantic.

    But the remarkable aspect of this story is the emotion of the relatives left by the immigrants. My cousin told me, with tears in her eyes, that people had come to her office for years looking for relatives. She said it made her and her sister lament that “no one ever looked for us”. After my grandfather and his brother left for good, all communication stopped and the Sicilian family members were at a loss and left to wonder what had happened to their brothers and their progeny. Tracing your ancestors can have greater results than just satisfying your own curiosity.

  15. My great grandfather was born in Messina, Sicily – I estimate birth date in early 1860s. I was told that he went to Argentina to work on the railroad and also died there. Do you have any suggestions for researching him? I have been on with no success finding anything on him.

  16. I am in search of my grandmothers birth records so I can locate the family burial area. They lived in Collasano. Can anyone help. What is the main church in Collasano and would the graves still exist?

    Thank you.

  17. Ciao! Our family has gotten into a big discussion (!) in regards to the name on my grandmother’s tomb. My father is from Racalmuto and our family surname is Infurnari. My grandparents were Michelangelo and Giuseppina Infurnari but the surname on my grandmother’s tomb reads Giuseppa Falletta-Caravasso; we don’t know where the name Falletta came from (it was not her’s or her mother’s maiden nor married name to our knowledge.) My father is stumped. How do names usually appear in records? Thank you for your help. Also, I enjoyed reading The Lady of the Wheel; my father was so excited by the memory of the church he went to kindergarten in and of course playing with the wheel during recess!

    • Pina:

      Forgive me if I’ve answered you already, or if I have not. My son passed away in January, and I have been remiss in following comments on my posts in Times of Sicily. See my comments below, in red.

      Compound surnames often arose in Racalmuto. This is due to families following the Sicilian Naming Convention, because of which, for example, a man night have five sons, each of whom named their first son for the child’s paternal grandmother. So he could have five grandsons, all his namesakes. who had identical names. So to avoid confusion, “ngiurii” or nicknames were applied to cousins who had identical names. The name may have originally been Faletta, but one cousin had the nickname “Caravasso” (which may have some local meaning, or may be simply a nonsense phrase). The nickname Caravasso would then be applied to every descendant of the first one, and eventually the family might go simply by Caravasso, or by Falletta, or by Faletta Caravasso.

      How do names usually appear in records? The ‘Atto di Nascita’ or Record of Birth gives the full name of the infant’s father, and only the ‘given’ name of the infant, because it is understood that it’s surname is the same as its father’s.

      Images of civil records of birth, marriage, marriage banns and death for Racalmuto for the years 1821 through 1910 exist on microfilms that can be ordered on line at for viewing at a Mormon FamilySearch Center. A list of the microfilms is at To find a FamilySearch Center near you, go to Records for 1867 through 1902 are available free on line on at

      There was only one Maria Falletta Caravasso listed in the years for Racalmuto births from 1876 – 1885. She was born to Giovanni Falletta Caravasso and Maria Grazia Arena, in 1881.

      There was a Maria Falletta (no compound surname) born to Giovanni Falletta and Isabella Rocca in 1879, and one born to the same couple in 1881.

      If one of these is your ancestor, I can look for and send you the image of the birth record.

      I’m happy that you liked my novella, and I’M VERY EXCITED about what your father said. Can he tell me where in the church the foundling wheel was located, and on what street the wheel was accessed from on the outside??

  18. Ciao, Angelo!
    You seem to be familiar with the town of Caccamo ………
    My great grandmother (Anna Maria) was born in Ciminna in 1865. Her father, Vito, was a farmer but the family lived in Ciminna on Via Salita San Sebastiano ~ so it seems like the family was established in that town.
    Their last name is Sampognaro………
    There are no Sampognaros in Ciminna today but there are MANY in Caccamo.
    My question is ~ would there have been much inter-relations between these two towns in the 19th century?
    I have been focusing my research (without success) on finding records in Ciminna …….
    I’ve been thinking ~ maybe I should do some searching in Caccamo…….
    Would you agree?
    Anna Maria Sampognaro was married to Pietro Cuti (1880s) but a marriage document can’t be found so the clerk feels they might have been married in Pietro’s village (wherever THAT was)……
    They had an “Import-Export” business ~ don’t know where…..
    He was killed ((shot in a “case of mistaken identity”??)) in August 1892 ….. Anna Maria was 4 months pregnant….
    She emigrated with 3 children in August 1897 ~ all traveled under her maiden name.
    I haven’t been successful in discovering anything about Pietro ……
    Were there obituaries in 1892?
    Could there be any records pertaining to their business?
    Thanks for reading!

    • My knowledge of Caccamo is vicarious, I’ve never been there.

      Ciminna is less than 20 miles from Caccamo, but even today, it’s a 40 minute drive. But anything’s possible.

      Are you sure they were married? Is the export business and the shooting a family story, or is there documentation?

      You say “She emigrated with 3 children in August 1897 ~ all traveled under her maiden name.” Sicilian women don’t call it a ‘maiden name’. The surname they were born with was their name for life. Do you have a copy of her 1897 manifest? If the children had her surname, it could mean that they were born out of wedlock, and had their mother’s surname. I couldn’t find an 1897 manifest for her, but found a 1913 manifest for Matia Stompagnaro, age 30, traveling from Caccamo with her sister Teotista Sompagnaro, leaving their father Giovanni Sompagnaro in Caccamo and going to their cousin Vincenzo Concialdi in Buffalo. Is this your Maria Sampognaro?

      If Pietro existed, and died in Sicily, there would be an ‘Atto di Morte’ (Record of Death) in his town of birth. It would give his age at death, birthplace, parent’s names, and wife’s name. Images of civil records of birth, marriage, marriage banns and death for Ciminna for the years 1821 through 1902 exist on microfilms that can be ordered on line at for viewing at a Mormon FamilySearch Center. A list of the microfilms is at To find a FamilySearch Center near you, go to Records for 1867 through 1902 are available free on line at

      Could there be any records pertaining to their business? I don’t know of any, but a death record would give the decedent’s occupation.

      If you have further questions, email me at genealogytips

  19. We are searching for birth, death and burial records for my husband’s grandfather. His name was Alfonso De Leo, born October 10, 1900 in Naro, Agrigento. His mother’s name was Concetta Sciabica(spelling may be incorrect). We believe his father’s first name may have been Calogero, as this was the name Alfonso gave to his son. Alfonso came to the US in October 1923 and returned to Sicily in 1932, dying shortly after his return(probably Aug-Sept of 1932). His mother was still living in Agrigento at that time, so we believe that is the area he returned to. Any information or advice would be much appreciated.

    • Randi:

      Inspection of civil birth records for Naro shows that there were no births of anyone surnamed De Leo, Di Leo or Leo in 1899, 1900, or 1901.

      His surname is spelled Di Leo on his 1923 passenger manifest, and although that gives his birth as 1900 in Naro, he either was born there before 1899 or after 1901, or he was born in another town.

      In fact, the city of Agrigento Atti di Nascite (Records of Births) show that Alfonso Deleo was born in Agrigento, at the house at Via Garibaldi, to Calogero Deleo, age 48, a carrettiere (carter, or cart driver), and to Concetta Sciabica, age 28, a housewife, Calogero’s wife.

      Contact me and I’ll email you an image of the record.

  20. My great grandfather Michele Grifasi(1873-1951) came from Sicily about 1906. He had a wife there Michela Ferrara(1882-1945). They got married about 1899. But that is just a guess. It shows in the records on website that they had 3 children who all died within a year. When Michela Ferrara leaves San Catldo, in 1910 for the Us, she has two children Rosario and Michela that lived. I find Michela(Mother) her birth certificate but can not find the children’s that lived birth certificates. Nor can I find Michele Grifasi birth or baptism record in Sicily. It’s almost like they went to some other town in Sicily where they did not keep records. I shared this with my Uncle Anthony he told me that his father(Rosario), the one that came from Sicily when he was about 6, that his dad told him that he was dropped off from a ship on to Sicily when he was about 12. But did not know where he came from. My question is, how can I find where he came from?

  21. Where did you look for the records?

    San Cataldo civil records of birth, marriage, and death are available free online at the Italian “Antenati” site, at Michele Grifasi and Michela Grifasi were married in San Cataldo on 8 January 1898. The marriage record states they were both born in San Cataldo, and gives their birth dates.

    The birth records for the early 1900s are not on the Antenati site, but are on through 1909. Their daughter Michela Grifasi’s birth record shows she was born on 18 October 1907 at Via Orologio (Street of the Clock) in San Cataldo. Rosario’s birth record shows he was born on 23 January 1904 at Via Orologio.

    Contact me at and I’ll send you images of the records.

  22. Ciao Angelo, may I offer you and your family my sincere condolences upon the death of your son in January. I hope time is healing your pain a little.
    I am of RIESI in the provence of Caltanissetta, though I did not know this until I was in my 50’s. My birth parents gave me up for adoption in the UK and I was always aware of having Italian origin. In fact I had been living in Umbria for many years when I found my birth family. Do you know if the surname GIAMBARRESI means anything? Thank you

  23. I can’t say definitively, surnames evolve over the years and may lose any similarity to their original form or meaning.

    ‘Giam’ is a modification of ‘Gian’, which is a short form of the given name Giovanni (as in Giovanni Battista => Gianbattista => Giambattista).

    The ending ‘esi’, ‘isi’, or ‘ese’ generally implies ‘from’ or ‘pertaining to’, as in ‘from Calabria => Calabrese’, so in this instance it could mean ‘from a place called Barre’ or something similar to ‘Barre’.

    Since we’re discussing Sicily and there is a city and province of Bari that until 1860 was part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, it may be Bari that is reflected in this surname.

    So Giambarresi MAY mean ‘Giovanni from Bari’. This may have been applied because a person was actually from Bari, or simply that Bari was distant from the place where the person was given the name, so the surname was meant to imply ‘Giovanni from elsewhere’.

    Another interesting possibility revolves around the dialect of the Sicilian language that is spoken in the old quarter of the city of Bari. Parts of this lingo originated from a pidgin between Sicilian and Greek fishermen in the past, and which fishermen in Greece can still understand today. The person called by the nickname ‘Giambarresi’ may have had nothing to do with Bari, but he may have had a unique accent or speech pattern that led him to be called “Giovanni from Bari’. Then the nickname may have been transformed into a surname that was passed down to the original Giovanni’s descendants.

  24. Angelo, to my knowledge the
    last letters in a family’s surname often give a clue, as you have stated, to that family’s city, provence or region of origin, at least as far as Italy is concerned. A search on line for the word demonym ( Italian ) gives a set of rules that explain the matter in detail. A study of the origin of Italian surnames is an interesting topic and one that I have been interested in for quite some time.

  25. Ciao Angelo, thank you very much for taking the time to reply with such a fascinating explanation of the possibilities. Like Anthony DiLaura, I believe the subject of Italian surnames is incredibly interesting. In particular, names like Mal-umore, Bella-gamba, Naso, Brutti, Polveroni, Mal-tempi, Mal-a-testa, Mal-a-spina, Terribile, Casini…the list is endless. I guess some surnames relate to the original occupation of the head of family, like Martelli, Campanelli, Pozzi, Carboni, Carozzi, Cuccia…? On the other hand, many years ago, my cousin moved from Sicily to Rome and, having no surname, he was simply called Siciliano.

  26. Looking for family of Salvadore Monte family also FrancesForresteri, came to USA in1891 from Cefalu Sicily,
    Any knowledge of other family members I would love to know about.
    Thanks you
    Mary Jo Anna Monte

  27. I was wondering 2 things. First, I have a draft registration card from my grandfather who was from Italy and came to the U.S. in 1908. For the town of origin in Italy I think it says Gerall. I can’t find a Gerall, Italy anywhere. I am thinking it is Geraci Siculo, because this is where our cousins are from, and everyone was told growing up that we were Sicilian. Secondly, is Geraci Siculo referred to as just Geraci by a lot of people?

    • Most towns with compound names are shortened in the vernacular. Montemaggiore Belsito becomes Montemaggiore; Vallelunga Pratameno becomes Vallelunga; Montalbano di Elicona is called simply Montalbano, and so on.

      You may be interpreting the “ci” in Geraci as “ll”. Yes, it is locally and commonly called just Geraci. It’s in the province of Palermo, and its civil records of birth, narriage and death for the years 1820 through 1910 are available on microfilms that may be rented fro the LDS church and viewed at one of their FamilySearch Centers. Geraci’s civil records from 1862 through 1910 are also available for free on-line on the LDS genealogy site, at

  28. Hi – 3 years ago I left the below message, but do not see if you responded, and did read of your sons passing away a year ago 🙁 I am very sorry for this loss.
    TC October 5, 2013 at 3:41 am

    In my searching, I have had some luck, but of course, with the earlier church records, it will be a matter of traveling there and hoping for some help, or hire someone to do it for me.

    My sons paternal lineage is based in Santa Flavia – CRISCI – married a SANFILLIPO and again, had some luck in procuring records to get us back a few generations for each side, including siblings and their spouses. We have expanded to DNA for him as well, and he has some matches on the Sanfillipo side via autosomal testing. ** update! and now CRISCI and BALISTRERI confirmed DNA family as well!
    Other names (these go into Porticello) : CEFALU; TARRANTINO; CRIVELLO; BALISTRERI; BILLANTI (BILLANTE); CARINI: FRITTITTA; LaMONICA – and these names continue to repeat, so pretty sure they are all related – sisters marrying brothers of another family, etc

    Do you know if any more churches within this area are digitally available online?


    I have been in contact with several new members found and been able to expand the trees out a few more generations on some people, but again, those elusive church records to do the searching online would be ever so helpful! doing new searches, I do not find any churches that may be online, but perhaps you know of some?

  29. Hello, TC:

    I’m afraid I couldn’t possibly know every town whose church records are on line. The way to find out is to go to and register for free. Then go to the main page, click on ‘Search’, and then select ‘Catalog’. You’ll be presented with a search box labelled ‘Place’, in which you can type the name of the town of interest. A list of towns will come up (maybe only one). Select the one you want and click the blue ‘Search’ button, and a list of available records will appear.

    If no church records (Registri Ecclesiastici) are listed, that means they have not as yet been microfilmed by the LDS, or they don’t exist. The only way to know for sure is for you or a representative to write to or visit the parish in question.

    Good luck!

    Angelo F. Coniglio

  30. Hi Angelo,

    Just saw that your family is from Serradifalco, so is mine. Their last names are Immordino and Riggi, my maternal grandparents. They came to America over 100 years ago. My paternal grandparents are from Villalba. Their names are Gervasi and Di Raimondo (Raymond). Do you know the name of the church in Villalba and Serradifalco? I would like to try and trace my family back as far as I could. They were poor people so this may not be possible. Any help you could give me would be appreciated. Thank you

    • Karen:

      Sicilian records are among the best in the world. Civil records of birth, marriage and death were kept for everyone, even ‘poor people’. If you give me more details (birth dates), I can probably set you on a path to identify your ancestors back to the late 1700’s. E-mail me at

  31. I am looking for more information about my great grandmother whose maiden name was Chiara A. Bratta who married Matteo DiGaetano. They lived in Piazza Armerina, Enna, Sicilia. I do not believe they were born in Sicily but my mother told me Matteo was an Italian Architect and went to Piazza Armerina to work on the Catholic Church there. He died and Ciara remarried. My grandmother, Maria Concetta DiGaetano was their daughter. She was born in Foggia, Italy. She had a brother and sister when they lived in Piazza Armerina but I don’t know if they had another father. Where do you suggest I start looking. There is a Latter Day Saints Library in a nearby town here in New Jersey. I plan a visit there. Any help would be most appreciated. Thank you.

    • Hello, Constance:

      You did not give any birth dates, which are essential for proper research. The Mormon church has microfilmed civil records of birth, marriage and death for Piazza Armerina for the years 1820 through 1910, and similar films of Foggia records also exist, as well as earlier church records for both towns. The Piazza Armerina records are available only on microfilms that must be rented for viewing at a Mormon FamilySearch Center. (see for a list). In addition to microfilm, some the Foggia records are viewable on line. Some are ‘indexed’, that is they are also searchable by name on line (see ). The Sicilian records are generally more uniform and readable than northern records.

      The volunteers at your local FSC will be able to help you in ordering and using the appropriate microfilms and/or on-line records. Be aware that it generally takes several weeks for films to arrive at your center after you order them.

  32. Hello Angelo,

    My search is a bit more sensational than most. My husband’s grandfather was the product of his parents’ affair in 1883 Sicily. His mother was still married to a man she had deserted. The surname for the child was listed as the husband’s even though he was not the father. According to lore, the boy’s father went to Enna to change the information and was successful, but the baptismal information was not changed. I know that there were two books kept- one in the town and one at the state level. I am familiar with the site and have found the birth civil record, listed with the husband’s name. Is that considered to be the state’s copy? Additionally, do you know what kind of documentation was needed to travel to America just before the 20th century? Father and son emigrated in 1896. I’m wondering how the child could produce a passport with his “correct” name if the birth information was never amended. Thanks! Sue

    • The records on the Antenati site are provincial archival records. It is possible the the record in the village has a margin note rectifying the birth, or the town register may have a separately entered rectification of the birth, and these corrections may not have been transmitted to the Tribunale (Magistrate) whose records were then sent to the provincial archives. You would have to write or visit the town (or have a representative do so) to see the town’s registers.

      He may have obtained an ‘estratto’ or extract of his records directly from the town ‘Anagrafe’ (Registry Office) to prove his identity. Does his passport give his birth parents’ names?

      Angelo F. Coniglio

  33. Hi, Angelo.
    My paternal grandparents were: Giuseppe Pietro Anzalone, born June 29, 1887 in San Cataldo, Caltanissetta; and Anna Mistretta, born January 25, 1891, also in San Cataldo. I am trying to trace my father’s family back as far as possible, but I get different ancestors’ names on different genealogical websites. I am unclear as to what info. is right and what is wrong. How can I be sure that I am not barking up the wrong tree? I want to know who my correct ancestors were, but I can’t afford to hire a genealogist.
    Please help!

    • Connie:Do not use information from undocumented ‘trees’ on ‘genealogical websites’. San Cataldo civil records of birth, marriage and death are available for the years 1866 – 1910 on, and on

      Records from 1820 – 1865 are available on microfilm that may be rented for viewing at a Mormon FamilySEarch Center.

      The ‘right’ information is the information that you find on the images of their original birth records, which will give their true birth dates, and the names and other information about their parents, which in turn may be used to find their parents’ birth records, etc. Contact me at for more information.

  34. Hello,
    I have a family line that ends with Crist Provenzo 1855-1945. I know he lived in or near Montemaggiore Belsito Province of Palermo, Sicily and he changed his last name from Provenzano to Provenzo. I have been searching Ancestry and Family Search. I am looking for his father or mother. Does anyone have any leads?
    Kind regards,
    Paul Wallace

    • The 1930 US Census for Buffalo shows Christ Provenzo, age 65 married at age 27 and immigrated to the U. S. in 1884, so he would have been married to his wife Angela before he left Sicily, in about 1882. Montemaggiore marriage records for 1882 are on line at

      Marriage banns written on 14 December 1882 and posted on 17, 24, and 28 December 1882 state that the betrothed were 1) Castrenze Provenzano, a bachelor, age 26, a peasant sharecropper, son of the late Ignazio Provenzano and of the living Giovanna Nasca, a peasant sharecropper; and 2) Angela Catalano, a maiden, age 16, daughter of the late Cruciano Catalano and of the living Marianna Frisicaro.

      You need to find the birth record of Castrenze, which is not available on line. Records from 1820 – 1861 are available on microfilm that can be rented for viewing at a Mormon FamilySearch Center. That record will give his father’s age, enabling you to search for his marriage record and birth record, and you can continue working backward from there. Contact me at for more help.

  35. Hello, my Great Grandfather was Salvatore Strano born in Giuliana, Palermo, Sicily, my Grandmother was Giussepa Josephine Bivona or Bevona born in Santa Margherita Di Belice Sicily. I would like to obtain their birth records can you tell me how I would go about doing so. I would like to see if there is anything I can do to claim my Italian citizenship. They both came to the US and married, my grand father and father were born in the US.

  36. Sorry got that wrong, my Great Grandfather was Salvatore Strano born 6 Oct 1891 in Mascali Cantania Sicily, I have all the information about his wife but have zero records of him or his parents, How can I get his birth records.

    • Tammy:

      Civil records of birth, marriage and death are available for Giuliana on microfilm for the years 1820 – 1884. Only the births for 1874 – 1882 are available on line. For other years, you’ll have to rent the microfilms. A list of civil records that are available on film or on line is at

      You must search the birth (Nati) records around the year your great-grandfather was born.

      Santa Margerita di Belice’s civil records for 1821 – 1929, most of them on line, are listed at

      In order to qualify for Italian citizenship, you not only have to have the birth records of your ancestor, you must have documentation to show your own identity, your familial connection to the ancestor, and most importantly, documentation that shows that you were born BEFORE your father was naturalized as an American citizen (that is, before he renounced his Italian citizenship), or if he was born in the U. S.,proof that HE was born before HIS father was naturalized.

      Also, even if you meet those qualifications, for proof of your ancestors’s birth, you must have an OFFICIAL, stamped copy of a birth record or a cetified extract of the bith document. Finding the birth records on line or microfilm will be informative, but once you know the exact date of birth and the number of the birth record, you must contact the town of birth and request (and pay for) an official copy.

      Contact me for more information.

  37. Hello Sir,

    I am desperately seeking information on my ancestors from Sicily. My great-great grandfather’s name was Giuseppe Leone. He was born in the town of Castelvetrano about September 1864. His wife was Leonarda Milazzo, born about 1869. They came to USA on same ship. Not sure of exact date. They are listed in US census in 1900 and 1910. They had son named Stephano.
    I would love any information, records or any ideas to further my search. (Church records of their Baptism and/or marriage would be amazing! I just do not know where to begin.
    Thank you so much for your time.

    Peace be with you,

    Rodney Swann

  38. Angelo Coniglio,

    Hi, I recently stumbled by your page & I am very interested in knowing if you could be of some help.

    I am a last surviving male in my bloodline, my family is from Castelvetrano, trapani, Sicily & also from naples, Italy. I lost my great grandmother a few years ago & since then I have lost all trails to my family history. I have dozens of pictures from sicily of our relatives but I can’t read the language.

    Growing up I was not allowed to speak sicilian since in America we speak english so all the kids had to speak english only, I picked up the ability to understand the spoken language but not to read or speak it. My family’s sicilian is old ( yr 1900 & earlier ) & no new age italian or sicilian I have met can translate the pictures or post cards or letters. I used several site to search my family on both sides & I got some leads but it was based on my childhood memories. I am just me & my little boy now & would really like to finish my trail to my sicilian & Neapolitan roots.
    If you can, would you email me @ carrara at email dot com I would greatly appreciate any advice you could give me.

  39. Ciao Mr Coniglio,

    I’ve been researching my grandparents as well. I am hoping to write a historical fiction type novel based on what I find. In fact, I’ve already begun.

    I have documentation that my grandparents are from Camporeale, PA: Maria Liotta born Nov 9 1888, died 1944 and Baldassare Licata, born June 5 1877, died 1955

    Baldassare’s father Calogero Licata was born I believe March 14, 1844 to Angelo Licata and Angela Mangione in Licata, Girgenti, Italy.

    His mother was Vitina Mustacchia born 1856 in Camporeale. Her parents are Vicenza Rizzuto and Domenico Mustacchia.

    What would be the next step for me? I’m not sure if their parents were born in Camporeale or somewhere else.

    Thanks for any help you may offer me.

  40. Hello Angelo,

    You seem to be very knowledgeable on Sicily, so I hope you can give me some advice. My father’s cousin Charles Zuffante developed an excellent geological listing for the Zuffate/Zuffanti family back to the 1770’s in Riesi Sicily, and periodically issued this with updates in book format to many Zuffante families in USA. He collected the Sicilian information during his visits to Sicily. It has the documentation references and copies for births and marriages, etc. He was unable to go any further back in time since the earlier church and municipal records in Riesi were destroyed in some sort of calamity. When he died in 1999, the updates stopped, so I have volunteered this year to take this over for the family and update with information since 1999. I will be in Sicily the first time for business meetings in Catania in a couple of weeks and I plan to drive to Riesi to see the town and wanted to stop by the local cemetery to see if there are any Zuffanti (and DiTavi and Butera) family individuals buried there and put a photo of their tombstone in our listing, but I can find no listing of cemeteries in Riesi and there is no information on the Riesi municipal site and I see no cemeteries on Google Earth. I do not speak Italian unfortunately but can usually understand what is written. So my question to you is if you would have any suggestion on how I can find cemetery(s) in Rieis short of driving around in circles looking for one? By the way, your Times of Sicily is an excellent website … I am glad I found it.

    • Vincent:

      I’m not specifically familiar with Riesi, but most Sicilian towns have at least one public cemetery outside the town limits. No need to ‘drive around’ – as long as you’re going to the town, go first to the municipio (town hall), and ask them ‘Dove si trova il cimitero?’ You may have to hire a translator.

      Please don’t assume that you can simply go to the cemetery at any time. It may have limited hours that don’t match the time of your visit. Go to the town hall early on, and ask about the cemetery’s hours of operation.

      Also, you should recognize that cemetery plots generally were not purchased, they were rented. When surviving members of the family died, moved away or otherwise stopped paying the rent, the remains were exhumed and re-interred in a sanctified common ossuary chapel. If you’re looking for early graves, you may find that they may no longer exist.

      My ancestral village is Serradifalco, also in Caltanissetta province, and I too had Butera ancestors.

  41. Hello! Hope this message finds you well!

    For some years now, I have been trying to track my ancestors that are from the Geraci Siculo and Bivona Agrigento areas. There is very little information that I can find here in the United States and I am unsure as to where to begin or who I should speak to in Sicily, regarding this. I am hoping that you can assist me with locating some information about my family’s history!!!

    My great grandfather (Bartolo “William” Parrivecchio – DOB est. Jan. 1, 1876) and his family are from Geraci, Siculo. I believe his father (my great great grandfather’s) name was also Bartolo Parrivecchio and his mother (my great great grandmother’s) name was POSSIBLY Maria A. Lumia (or Limicaro)???

    My great grandmother was (Guiseppa “Josephine” Ferrante – DOB est. Dec. 1, 1888) and her family are from Bivona, Agrigento. I believe her father (my great great grandfather’s name was POSSIBLY Carmelo Ferrante) and her mother (my great great grandmother’s name was POSSIBLY Grazia Sambucaro??? .

    I have attached a little of what I know about my family. It is possible that the spellings I have are slightly incorrect (ex: Ferrante or Ferranti ?). And my great-grandmother went by Josephine but I think her name might have originally be Guiseppa. Anything you know or can find would be amazing!

    My daughter and I will be on a cruise and arriving at the port in Messina on Friday, June 16th and would like to visit Geraci Siculo (& Bivona if at all possible). Most of all, I would love some help finding some information on my family and perhaps meeting some of my family members that still live in the area!
    Anything you can do to assist me would be greatly appreciated!!!!

    Thank You so much!

  42. Ok iv e been building my family tree for over two years and I need a little help if possible u see bith sides of my family came from sicily from alia Palermo. My great great grandparents names were sonto and Antonia spinuzzi. My great grand father was born in the United States and my other side my great grandmother came over july2 1914 her last name I was always told was bavuso.but I have found volpe.and barbon with her info as well her first name was rose Marie but I have found Rosie or Rosa I am lost on her side I can’t find much of anything because they have all passed away . I also no that her mother’s maiden name was there anyone who can help me with this

  43. My family are Ciranna ‘s from Biancavilla Sicily. I can’t find anything beyond the American ancestor that traveled there and then changed the spelling of the name to Ceranna.

  44. I am trying to find more information on my great-grandparents from Bagheria, Sicily. Giovanni Giammanco & Maria Lopresti and Domenico Giammanco & Rosa Calafiore.

  45. I am in need of help.

    I have grandparents that were from Italy but having a hard time
    in finding their exact city.

    Can you help?

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