Finding Your Sicilian Ancestors

Sicily – Picture from


      There are millions of descendants of Sicilians in the United States, with a wealth of materials available for them to trace their ancestry.

      Many ask: “Sicilian, Italian – aren’t they the same?” A short history is in order. There has been an iconic, boot-shaped peninsula called ‘Italy’ for millennia. But before the current country, the nation ‘Italy’ existed only briefly as a small northern alpine kingdom in medieval times, and later for a few years under Napoleon. He reigned from 1805 to 1814, well before the modern Republic of Italy united northern and southern states and nations (including Sicily) into one, in the 1860 ‘Risorgimento’ led by Garibaldi.

      Sicily, on the other hand, had existed as a country (under numerous crowns) long before its neighbor to the north achieved nationhood. Sadly for the people of Sicily, during much of its history it was ruled by Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Saracens, Normans, Germans, French, Spaniards, and others. This milieu affected much of the southern Italian peninsula: the area south of Naples, including Sicily, which acquired a special name ‘Mezzogiorno’ (noontime), for the blazing hot sun that was its trademark. Sicily developed into a multicultural land, evolving Sicilian, the first ‘Romance Language’, and producing treasures like the Greek temples at Agrigento and the Norman splendor of Monreale. After the World War II at the beginning of the new Italian Republic, Sicily was given a new status of ‘autonomous region of Italy’.

      The northern peninsula, more wealthy in resources and more commercially developed, had the grandeur of Rome, Venice and Florence, as well as the beauty and mystery of Tuscany. North and south together are now ‘Italy’, which has made great contributions to the world and provided millions of immigrants to the United States. As with other nations, those who emigrated were generally folks who suffered economic or political hardship and were looking for a better life. Regarding Italy, most of its émigrés were from the ‘Mezzogiorno’, and most of those were from Sicily: often peasant farmers, day laborers, and sulfur miners, some with skills such as stonemasonry, carpentry, or shoemaking.

      There were differences in culture between north and south. After millennia of subjugation, Sicilians distrusted ‘outsiders’. Though the Sicilian language preceded the Tuscan used in the north, it is not as refined, and some urbane northerners viewed Sicilian-speakers as somehow inferior. These differences often led to chilly relationships, even between the northern and southern immigrants to America.

      Thankfully, those feelings have been largely subsumed in America’s great melting-pot, and those of northern and southern heritage alike celebrate their ‘Italian’ ancestry. The Mormon Church has collected microfilm copies of civil birth, marriage and death records and many church records of all denominations from around the world, including Sicily and Italy. These films are available for rental, and for viewing at local Mormon FamilySearch Centers.

      There are microfilms from Sicily, including those for Aliminusa, Burgio, Caccamo, Caltavuturo (Fort of the Vulture), Campobello (Beautiful Plain), Canicatti, Cerda, Licata, Marianopoli, Melilli, Montallegro, Montalbano (White Mountain), Montedoro (Mountain of Gold), Montemaggiore (Greatest Mountain), Mussomeli (Honeymouth), Palermo, Patti, Racalmuto, Resuttano, Ribera, Sciacca, Serradifalco (Mountain of he Hawk), Siculiana, San Mauro Castelverde (Holy Moor of the Green Castle), Solanto, Sommatino, Sutera, Vallelunga (Long Valley), and Valle d’Olmo (Valley of the Elms).

      In addition to the towns’ colorful, evocative names, the films are filled with the names of your Sicilian ancestors and their contemporaries, with details of their births, baptisms, marriages, and deaths. If your town wasn’t named above, remember I gave only a partial list. There are FamilySearch Centers around the country (and the world). Many have films already rented by other patrons, and free to use by any researchers. There is no membership fee or use charge at the Centers, which are open to anyone. Future columns will describe how to order, view, and interpret these microfilms, and will also identify some of the Sicilian towns for which there are extensive on-line records.


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. I sent this message to The Times of Sicily “I am holidaying in Taormina from Oct 20th to 27th, while there I want to research the tale of an ancestor of mine, one Alfred Edridge Pike, who, with his crew, was shipwrecked off Sicily c 1852 during an eight day storm. He was helped, apparently, by a Sicilian Countess. Earlier in 1846, he and his then Captain had their portrait painted in oils by a Sicilian artist in Palermo. I thought there might be a record of the shipwreck, and or, the portrait, could you help please” They, very kindly, directed me to your article, which – as an historian and genealogist I found very interesting. I am hoping that they are right and that you will be able to direct me to some useful sources in Sicily.

  2. Anne:

    I believe your best chance would be to go directly to the municipal offices in the old Villa Trabia on Via Salinas in Palermo, to inquire about the portrait.

    Similarly, if you know the name of a town near where the shipwreck occurred, try to visit that town’s municipal or maritime offices.

    Written requests for such information do not receive a high priority, but a personal visit may. Of course, be aware that you should call ahead, as many offices are closed at unexpected times. The good news is that in the mid-1800s, remarkably good records were kept in Sicily (the Napoleonic influence), and assuming you can find the right town, records of the shipwreck may exist.

  3. Hi Ang, Haven’t seen you since a Lafayette HS reunion about 1983 with Marlene Hughes Spaconi and of course Mar passed away. I of course am first Italian American generation and my Dad and Mom came from Catolica or Catsnia, the city at base of Mount Etna. My husbands grandfather came from same town as your family Saradeflaco. All of his family that has any knowledge of the family have passed away and I would like to find our roots. Also would like to find my roots.. Any suggestions as to where to start. Know about the Mormon church on Maple Rd in Amherst but haven’t gone yet. Tell your wife Ang (graduated with my sister Lena Bodami) she was always a sweetheart. Awaiting your response. Thanks

  4. Stephen Rugguri (spelling a question)gggrandfather was born in (or near) Palermo, Sicily 7 September 1843. When he left Sicily is not known or where he went when he left Sicily.
    It is possible that he went to the UK. However, on 6 Mar 1874 in Fielding, NZ he married Jane Duncan Belk.
    Jane and Stephen moved to the US lete 1870’s or early 1800’s as they had one daughter born in 1888 in Hope, Hempstead, AR USA. In the US and possibly in NZ the surname used was Rogers.
    Are there ships manifests or other records available that might provide information on my Sicilian ancestor.

    • The surname was probably Ruggieri (ROO-jr-ee), coould have been Ruggiero, Ruggeri or Ruggero. Palermo is a Province as well as a city. He may have been from the City of Palermo, or from any town in the Province. Or he may have departed from the port of Palermo and been from any Sicilian town. To trace any heritage in Sicily, you must know his ancestral town. The LDS church has birth, marriage and death records on microfilm, but they are organized by town.

      If he went from the UK to NZ, records of outgoimg UK passengers exist. See for some search hints.

      Have you found any US censuses with his name? Was he a naturalized US Citizen? If so, contact the county clerk in the place where he was naturalized. A federal district court in the vicinity may have his “Petition for Naturalization” or “Declaration of Intention”. Those records would give his birth date and town, name and date of ship to America, and names, birthplaces and birthdates of family members living with him, as well as a street addresss. (As an aside, my wife’s mother had a family acquaintance named Stefano Ruggiero. His ancestors were from the inland Sicilian town of Mussomeli.)

      • Mr. Coniglio,
        I was wondering if you could help point me in the right direction. I am looking for information about my maternal grandparents.Both are from Mascali in Sicily. They married and immigrated to USA in 1922. In 1928 Mt Etna erupted completely destroying Mascali. When the town was rebuilt, it was relocated farther from the volcano. My grandfather, Angelo Cardillo, was born in 1895. He was one of four boys, and his father’s name was Salvatore. After his mother died, his father remarried and had 4 daughters. They had a rather large farm. My grandfather passed away in 1944, so I never met him. My grandmother, Lucia, was born in 1903 to Luggio [Luigi] and Maria (maiden name Prevatera [Privitera]) Goulyatta (unsure of spelling) [Gagliotta]. I did find some things on my grandfather on when he came to America, served in WWI, death and burial notice from the army. I couldn’t find anything of my Grandmother and nothing for either in Italy. I could use your help.
        Thank you,
        Mary Anne

        • Mary Anne:

          The Mormon church has photocopied civil records of birth, marriage and death for Mascali for 1820 to 1929. See a list of microfilms for those records at The Mormons also filmed local church records of baptism, confirmation, marriage and death for Mascali from 1633 to 1910. A list of those films is at

          These microilms must be rented on-line and viewed at your local Mormon FamilySearch Center. To find a Center near you, go to http://www.LocateFSCs

          A limited number of Mascali civil records are on line at the Mormon website, including births from 1894 to 1910. See them at

          Your grandmother may be listed in the records by her maiden name, so you should try to find the correct spelling (maybe Gagliotta or Gugliotta), and search for that name.

  5. Hi Ang,
    I put in the geneology site u gave but said no such site. Could u give me another site? Thanks
    Also when and where is the Lafayette HS Alumni Reunion this summer. I believe it is Aug 4th but where. Told my sister Lena and she would love to go also.

  6. looking for family members. Im an American my grandmothers dad is from Sicily he moved over here in the 1920’s sometime. I don’t really know much about it, because my grandma don’t really remember much of any of it and her dad never talked much about it. But his name was William Thomas ! last name something like castellano! I think she doesn’t know how its spelled and im not sure myself either. If anyone can help me please email me back. thank you CeCelia

  7. Cecelia: Genealogists are not magicians. William Thomas is an Anglicized name. You must try to find family records that give his Italian name, possibly Guglielmo Tommaso or Guglielmo Gaetano. Castellano IS a valid Italian surname. There are ways to search for passenger manifests that may have information on him, but YOU NEED TO KNOW HIS NAME! You also need to determine his ANCESTRAL TOWN, so that you can research his birth records.

  8. Looking for any information for the Porco family. My great grandmother/grandfather where Joseph and Raffaela Porco, who settled in Tacoma, WA. Not sure if Porco is the full name or shortened when they came over in the 1920’s. Just trying to find out some information or help to where to begin. Thanks! 🙂

  9. You have to begin by getting their correct names. Italian records and passenger manifests would not use the name Joseph. It was probably Giuseppe. Neither would they give a woman’s husband’s name as her surname. Raffaela would have been called by her father’s surname on those documents.

    Porco is a valid Italian/Sicilian surname, but it may be a contraction or variation of Porca, Porcello, Porcheddu, Porciello, etc.

    Porco may have been considered a derogatory name. Such surnames were usually given to abandoned children whose parents were unknown. Descendants of males who were given those names carried on the surname, so while your grandfather himself may not have been a foundling, it’s possible that one of his ancestors was.

    Next, you need to know when they immigrated. Start by searching U. S. Censuses for your grandparents. The 1920 and 1930 censuses state when an immigrant came, or whether they were aliens or naturalized at the time of the census. Censuses are available at public libraries, or on-line at several sites, like

    When you’ve determined when they immigrated, try to find their ships’ passenger manifests. They may have traveled separately. If Rafaella came with her children, search for the children’s manifest, and if found, that manifest will give Rafaella’s birth surname. If lucky, you’ll find that Giuseppe’s and Rafaella’s manifests list their last residence (town) and/or their birthplace (town). Manifest images are available at,, and many other sites.

    Once the town is known, you can try to find images of your grandparents’ birth and/or marriage records, which are kept in a Registry at the town. The Mormon church has made photocopies of thousands of records from hundreds of Italian and Sicilian towns. These are available on microfilm at Mormon FamilySearch Centers, and many are on-line at and on

    See my genealogy tips at

  10. I have my great grandparents marriage certificate. He was Italian but don’t know about her. They were married in Paroisse Saint Croix of Tunis. His name is Anastasio Aguglia but his Ellis island record says Gaetano Aguglia and Her death certificate says Joseph Aguglia. So confusing. He name is Veronica Borgese. He is from Marianopoli Sicily. His [arents names are Joseph Aguglia and Rosalia Baldi. She is from Terranova Sicily and her parents names are Roch Borgese and Dorotea Cirignota. Hoping her parents spellings are correct because its hard to read. They came to America around 1908 if my subtraction on her death certificate is correct. Ive tried finding their surnames in their places of Italian residences and cannot. I want to find family members in Italy but cannot.I would one day love to visit them in Italy once I do find them. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Im in Las Vegas and there are a lot of Mormons here. Is there a research center here?

  11. There are several FSCs in your area. See to find one. Aguglia, Baldi and Borgese are valid Sicilian surnames. But if she was Rosalia Baldi, her father’s surname would be Baldi, not Borgese. The word borgese means small property owner, and may be referring to a person’s occupation or condition, rather than his name. “Cirignota” looks like you may have misread a name or the word “ignota”, which means “unknown”. “Joseph” would be Giuseppe in Sicilian records. “Roch” is not a Sicilian name. Check again and see if it was Rocco. I think what you may have seen is that Rosalia’s father’s name was “Rocco, borgese”, meaning her father’s first name was Rocco and his last was obviously the same as hers, but not given, and he was a town property owner. And her mother’s name was probably given as “Dorotea, ignota”, meaning that her surname was not known by whoever made out the record you’re referring to.

    In the 1800s, many Sicilian families emigrated to Tunisia, which was then an Italian colony, before coming to America.

    Microfilms of civil birth, marriage and death records exist for both Marianopoli (Caltanissetta province) and Terranova di Sicilia (Agrigento province), for the years 1820 through 1910. Your local FSC can help you to rent and view them.

    Records for both towns are also available on-line at for the years 1866-1910, You can access for free at your FSC.

    The documents you refer to must give the ages of the persons mentioned. From the date of the documents and the ages given, determine the approximate birth years for them, then search the town records for their birth registrations. Once those are found, they give enough information so that you can search for their parents records, and so on.

  12. I have hit a brick wall in trying to find out information on my grandfather Joseph Nardi born in Palermo around 1886. HE was supposedly adopted out of the Nardi family but kept his name. He married Maria Vallelunga in Partinico but the church burned down and all the records destroyed. He did serve in the Italian Police sometime in his days in Italy but I do not know when. I do have a photo of him in his police uniform. He immigrated to the US around 1914 or so. I was wondering if you had any ideas where to go from here or can help with any information?

  13. A 23 March 1910 passenger manifest (found on and on for Giuseppe Nardi shows he was about 23, going to his uncle Saverio Aquila in Detroit. If that was your grandfather, the manifest states that his birthplace was Partinico, which is in the PROVINCE of Palermo. Immigrants often told inquirers that they were from a given province. Since each Sicilian province has as its capital a city by the same name, often there is confusion, Thus, Palermo may mean the city or the province, Messina the same, Trapani the same, etc.

    The Mormon church has made microfilms with images of civil birth, marriage and death records for Partinico for the years 1820 through 1901. A list of these films is at

    Church records of baptism, marriage and death are available on microfilm for the Maria Santissima Annunziata parish for the years 1611 – 1911. See the list at The microfilms may be ordered for viewing at local Mormon FamilySearch Centers. To find a Center near you, go to

    These records are also available on-line at and

    Even though the church where your grandfather married may have burned down, his baptism may have been recorded at the church named above.

  14. Hi there, Just read your book- it was great! Thanks.
    I have ordered some films from the LDS microfilm library and am anxiously awaiting their arrival. I was wondering if you know of or can point me to a list of “wheels” that existed in Trapani Province in the 1880’s (specifically 1884-1887). I am not sure where/how to find the list and am interested as my great grandfather was an “orphan” and presumably left at one. Thanks for any advice or suggestions that you might have. Best Regards, Colleen

    • Hello, Colleen: I’m glad you enjoyed the book. I have not seen any lists of foundling wheels or Trapani province, nor elsewhere in Sicily. The wheels were in various places, depending on the town and the era. Large cities often had ‘ospizii’ or foundling homes/hospitals where the wheel was located. In smaller towns, the wheel might be in the wall of a church, monastery, or convent; and in some towns and rural areas, in the living quarters of a midwife. If you obtain the birth records for the town in which your great-grandfather (‘bis-nannu’) was born, his record may give an actual address for the location of the wheel. Of course the wheel would no longer exist, and few modern Sicilians even realize what the wheel was.

      A comment about your great-grandfathers status: “orphan” and “foundling” are not necessarily the same thing. An orphan is a child whose mother or father, or both, have died. Such children would not (necessarily) be left in the wheel, but might be taken to an orphanage or almshouse by surviving family members who could/would not care for them. Their parent/parents are known but deceased.

      A foundling, on the other hand is an ABANDONED child. Both the father and mother might be living, but because the child is a bandoned, they are not known (genitori ignoti). See my page at for examples of the disposition of foundlings.

  15. Hi. I would like to try and find my grandfather. His name is antonio faldetta. My mother was adopted as a baby as she was born out of wed lock. I have been told he was from palermo in sicily. My mothers real mother called olivietta pondrelli. Please can anybody help me out? Would be eternally thankful.

  16. Hello, Jamie:

    For anyone to help you, you must give the approximate birth dates of your mother and grandfather, what year he/they came to the US, where they lived, etc.

  17. Angelo,

    My niece works at the Presbyterian Home and you were kind enough to sign my sister’s copy of your book The Lady of the Wheel for her. My sister, my cousin and I read your book before we went to Sicily last May. We stayed in Palermo and with a private guide we went to the hometown (Racalmuto) of my grandparents and father.
    Our guide found a monastery that is now a children’s daycare run by nuns. They invited us in and showed us where there was a wheel on the door where the babies were put. The nuns were wonderful. This one elderly nun took us into the chapel and said a prayer with us. It was a memorable day and a great experience.

    Our family grew up on the westside, Busti Ave and when I was 5 yrs old, my sisters were teenagers, we moved to West Delavan. My maiden name is Licata.

    Thank so much for your book.

  18. My maternal grandparents were from Enna in Catania. Don’t know if any ancestors still there. His name Gaetano casciano, her name Filipinna scavone. Came to Ellis island approximately 1915. Did see manifest. How do I know of any ancestors alive. He passed away ’46 and her in ’75. Thank you.

    • I think you mean “any relatives still there” and “any relatives alive”. Ancestors are those who came BEFORE you, in a direct line. I doubt any of them are still living in Sicily! The DESCENDANTS of your ancestors are your RELATIVES, some of whom may still be in your ancestral town. Finding them won’t be simple or quick.

      You need to know the full names (including birth surnames of women) and the dates of birth (as close as possible) of your immigrant ancestors. For Enna, you must locate the civil birth records for the year of birth of an individual. Enna 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. Civil birth, marriage, and death records for Enna for the years 1820 – 1910 are available on several microfilms. See for a list of the microfilms. Remember that for a time, Enna was known as Castrgiovanni, so some records may use that town name.

      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. If you’re serious about the search, and you go to Sicily, you should plan on spending more than just a few hours in Enna. The first time you visit the 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 the town, visit the “municipio” (Town Hall) and go 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. Then show possible relatives your tree and see if they recognize any of the entries as their ancestors. If they do, you’ve found relatives!

  19. Hi,
    I wonder if anyone can help me, I am researching my Family. My 3x Gt Grandfather Bennett Tazzar born about 1839, we believe the name could be spelled Tazzari or similar, Bennett came over to England in the 1850’s with a brother Dominic. I have been told by my mother that they originated from Sicily but also lived in Italy, I have just recently been in contact with another branch of the Tazzar’s and it has also been passed down through their family that Bennett’s family originated from Sicily. On Bennett’s Scottish marriage certificate his fathers name is Francis tuzzarre and mother Rosanne Bachigalupe, I know that Bacigalupo is a name from Genoa so maybe Bennett’s family lived in the Genoa area at one time. would anyone be able to tell me if the name Tazzar/Tazzari could have possibly come from Sicily, this would be a big help in my search for Bennett’s Italian/Sicilian Family as I keep on coming to a dead end when searching for them.
    Any help would be most grateful

    • Your ancestor’s given name most likely was Benedetto. The surname could have been Tazzari, Tazzaro or Tazzara, etc. His father’s name in Sicily would not have been Francis, but Francesco, and his brother’s name would have been Domenico.

      Tazzari, Tazzaro and Tazzara and other variations do not seem to be from the island of Sicily, but they do occur in Calabria and Potenza, which at one time were in the Kingdom Of Sicily and later in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, prior to “unification” in 1860-61.

      When your “Bennett Tazzar” was born in 1839, “Sicily” extended north to include provinces up to and including Naples Province and the Campania Region, so it would be reasonable that family lore would give Sicily as the ancestral place.

      You can go to a site like and search for regions where the surname is prevalent. With no other information to guide yo, you’d have to pick a likely place, order Mormon microfilms for the years around 1839, and try to find a birth record for Benedetto Tazzari, With a father named Francesco. If you don’t find him in one town, you’d have to get films for another town, etc.

  20. Thank You Angelo for your reply and this information. I never knew Sicily extended up this far at one time, this gives me a new search area.

    Many Thanks


  21. I am trying to find records on Giovania Giangrosso (18720 who married Luigi DiChiara. Their youngest son was my father, Emanuel DiChiara born in 1913 and came to America when he was 7 months old. I have his baptismal certificate from Bisciquino. His father died when he was 4 in Ensley, Alabama. When Giovania died, it listed a sister in Italy. Giovania and Luigi made at least 2 trips back to Sicily. I would like birth and marriage information on my grandparents but cannot find anything online. Any help would be most welcome! I just ordered your book from Amazon! Can’t wait to read it.

  22. Mary Jo:

    Your grandmother’s given name was not ‘Giovania’ but GIOVANNA. You must have the proper spelling if you search Sicilian records and even passenger manifests. Similarly, there is no town called ‘Bisciquino’. I presume you mean BISACQUINO, which is in the province of Palermo.

    The Mormon church has microfilmed civil records of birth, marriage and death for Bisacquino for the years 1820 – 1864, which is too early to have your grandmother included. A list of those films is at The films must be rented for viewing at a local Mormon FamilySearch Center. To find a Center near you, go to

    Biisacquino’s church records from the church of San Giovanni Battista are also available on microfilm for baptism, confirmation, marriage and death, from 1552 through 1929. A list of these films is at The church records are in Latin and do not contain the detail of civil records, but they do cover the probable years of your grandparents’ births. Baptism records may not give the exact date of birth, but children were often baptized on the same day, or within a day or two of their birth.

    Bisacquino’s church records are also available on-line for free at the Mormon site, at One set of records, listed as ‘Battesimi 1872 1878′, may have the baptism record of your grandmother. To help navigate the records, an index is helpful. The indices for church records usually covered several years, and the index covering 1872 is actually at the start of the set for 1872-1878. The first few images in that set form an index (in this case, but not always, roughly alphabetically by FIRST name) of baptisms, with the names of the infants followed by a page number. I looked through the “J’s” in the index but did’t find any Joanna Giangrosso. She may not have been born in 1872, or I may have missed it. In searching for her name in this or other sets, it would be given as “Joanna” (Latin for Giovanna).

    This is a tedious process, and my advice is to locate the indices, then peruse them for the name you’re researching. If you find your grandparents’ baptism records, note the names of their parents. Then estimate the birth years of the parents, and that may get you back before 1864, where their civil records may be available. You may also search for the marriage record of Luigi and Giovanna (listed as Aloysius Chiari et Joanna Giangrosso), which would give their parents’ names.

  23. Hello, I am looking for court records. My grandfather Gaspare Castellano went to jail in the 1920s. He lived in Canicatti. I don’t know where to find these types of files. Was there a court house in canicatti? Would it be in Agrigento Province? I also cannot find any census records online for Canicatti.

  24. Ann Marie:

    There are no Sicilian court or jail records that I know of on-line for Canicatti or any other town. You would have to write to or visit the Provincial Tribunal (Tribunale) or Court in the city of Agrigento. Such records may or may not be open to the public.

    You mention censuses. but Sicilian censuses are not like US Federal Censuses, which give great detail about individuals. Sicilian censuses usually list only property owners and give no age, family connection, occupation, etc. but simply list how many cows, sheep, etc. the person owned. A census would not give any criminal information.

  25. Angelo,

    Hope all is well. You were nice enough to look at a birth record for my great grandmother in august. her name was Olympia Matrona. She was adopted By the Noto family. The record we found was of a olyimpio Matrona in the care of he church of the holy spirit. Would you know where this church/ orphanage would be located in palermo?

  26. Joseph:

    I’m not familiar with Palermo. I’d have to search as you would; google it (Chiesa Santo Spirito), write to Palermo officials, etc. It’s also called Chiesa del Vespro (Church of the Vespers).

  27. Angelo we share a name , my name is Ben Coniglio and all I know about my Sicilian ancestors is my grandad Saverio Coniglio , I think he was born around 1922/23 in Sicily possibly Palermo. I know he was in the Italian army during WW2 and emigrated to Britain in the 50s. How would I trace him and his parents?

  28. hello Ben,
    I just wondered if there is any info on Antonio Bruno? He was born in Siculiana, Sicily in 1880 and came to the United States in 1908. Any history on the Bruno name? email address is

  29. Salvatore Vassallo from sferracavallo married antonina Genovese from Palermo and both migrated to the usa between 1900 and 1904…how do I contact any vassallos there since I am visiting sicily later this year? I have traced my paternal ancestry back five generations and will supply this information is it is helpful in connecting me with living relatives in sferracavallo
    thank you

  30. Hello – my great-grandmother, Josephine Maura Maisano (maiden name: Giaimo) was born in San Mauro Castelverde in 1901. Her parents were Anthony Giaimo, who was born around 1873, and Angela Giaimo (maiden name: Piscitello), born around 1876. I’m looking to see how far back I can go! Any information would be amazing.

    • Tom Gaudioso: Images of civil records of birth, marriage, marriage banns and death exist for San Mauro Castelverde for the years 1820 – 1910. They are on microfilms that may be rented on-line for viewing at a Mormon FamilySearch Center. A list of the available microfilms is at To find a FamilySearch Center near you, go to

      Civil records for the years 1862 through 1910 are also available free on line at the Mormon site, at

      I have found Giuseppa Maura Giaimo’s ‘Atto di Nascita’ (birth record) there. She was born at 4 PM on 15 January 1901, to Antonino Giaimo, age 27, a blacksmith, at his residence at Via Punto, no number given; and to his wife, living with him, Angela Piscitello, a housewife. Witnesses to the registration of he birth were Antonino Raganese, age 63, a kiln operator, and Mariano Drago, age 60, a peasant sharecropper, both residents of San Mauro Castelverde. The record contains the signature (very rare) of your ancestor Antonino Giaimo, and that of the Official of the Civil Record, Giuseppe Drago, Secretary of the Village.

      Contact me at and I will send you the image of the birth record.

      Because Antonino’s age is given as 27, he was born in about 1874. The birth records fro that year are on line. A search of the records of 1873/74 could reveal his birth record. Also his marriage record from sometime before 1901 should be findable on line. It would give the names and conditions of the parents of both spouses. Their births would likely be before 1862, and those records may be ordered on microfilm.

  31. I am looking for my grandfather, Nicola Lorenti, born in Italy December 8,1872,
    died in Italy April 21 1937 , married with Carmine di Vasta ,had three children ,
    Rasimina,Antonio,Maria Annunziata.
    First wife died ,remarried with my grandmother,Concetta Palmiero April 19,1919,had eight children , Giuseppe,Salvatore,Maria,Liberina,Antonio,Luigi,Carmela, Pasquale.
    We don’t know what he looks like as all the photos have been destroyed during WWII.
    Only three children are alive, and we were wondering, since he has migrated in US for work more than once, that there maybe some photos in the National Archives or his passport and maybe more information of his whereabouts, his work, where he stayed and with whom, I believe he had a cousin in Brooklyn ,Pasquale Lorenti that he stayed with, in one of his trips. I done researches but the only things I found were dates of his US trips ,1902 ,1911.
    Can you please help me find more about him but most of all ,photos, we are dying to know him, to see what he looks like.
    Thank you

  32. Hello, Rita:

    You say your grandfather was ‘from Italy’. Giving his exact town of birth would help researchers to find information about him, including his birth record, the names of his parents, their occupations, and the address at which he was born, as well as opening the door to locating the records of earlier ancestors.

    As for photographs, often our ancestors were without the means to afford any type of photos. Further, passports as late as 1914 did not include photos; rather they contained a detailed written description of the bearer. There may possibly be later passports with his photo. has some passports with photos available on line, depending on the time and place of their issue.

    As for details of his life, even if he was an ordinary citizen, he may be listed in US or State censuses that would give his address and occupation, or in the City Directories (different from phone books) where he lived, or in military draft registrations, etc. If he was involved in any remarkable events or activities, a search of newspaper articles from the region he lived in might provide information. All of these sources may be searched at public libraries, Mormon FamilySearch Centers, or on-line on free venues like the Mormons’,. or subscription sites like See my column at

  33. I was wondering if you can help in finding out if I have any relatives that are related to me that are living in Sicily. When researching I discovered I have at lease over 200 Noia’s in Sicily. I was quite overwhelmed to say the least. My grandfather was Nicola Noia was born 1890 came from Naples Italy. My Grandfather on my dad’s side was Nicola Delgardo born 1863 in Potenza, Basilicata, Italy. I also had an Uncle Joe Noia that was part of the Ginny Mission in 1942 there is also a plaque at Punta Bianca and erected a formal monument at Bocca di Magra. Can someone tell me anything about this also? Thank you for any help you can give me. Regards, Karen

    • Karen:

      To find living relatives in Sicily (or anywhere else) you must develop as complete a pedigree or family tree for yourself as possible, containing not only the direct ancestors with your surname, but collateral lines – the siblings and cousins of your ancestors and the children and descendants of those relatives. Then you must contact living persons, give them the information in your tree, and ask whether they are related to a common ancestor.

      This may lead to living ‘Noias’, but could just as well, due to marriage of your female relatives, result in living relatives with completely different surnames.

      As for the Noia name, while it may be possible that the Noias you have identified in Sicily are you relatives, you must realize that any surname might be widespread, without any close relationship to you, and in many cases, surnames developed independently in various regions.

    • Hi, my great uncle, Rosario Squatrito, was also on the Ginny Mission and executed. Your uncle Joe Noia, was one of 15 solidiers who were executed together. If you want to know more, get the book my great cousin, Joseph Squatrito, wrote about this mission titled, Code Name Ginny – A Hero’s Story.

      • Dear Maryann,
        Thank you so much for getting in touch with me. I am so glad you have gotten in touch with me, it is nice to know someone else whos family memeber that was a part of something that your own family memeber was also. I don’t feel so alone anymore.
        I do have a picture of them all togethter if you would like to see it?

        • Hi Karen, Yes Thanks I would love to see the photo. Can you please post. I am fortunate to have 3 of his sisters, my aunts, that still reside on Staten Island. I will be visiting with them next month and take photos of the scrapbook they have. If there are any photos with your uncle I will definitely post to you. It was a very difficult time for my relatives. My great-grandmother was never the same from it. She also had another son, my uncle Joe, who was POW at the same time. After the bad news of Rosario, Joe returned from the prison camp a few months later. He was around 90 pounds and very ill but thankfully alive. Will be in touch with you. Thanks

          • Maryann, If you can some how get in touch with me I can send it to you. I cannot post it on here for you. I would gladly send it to you!

          • Dear Maryann, I am an Italian journalist/researcher (live in Rome), currently working on the Ginny II Unit members. It would be great if I could get in touch with you about T/5 Rosario Squatrito. I already published an article about one of the Ginny II Unit members. I look forward to hearing from you soon. Yhank you so much. Kind regards. Raffaella

  34. Hi, I am looking to research my Grandparents, both born in 1891, in Palermo, Sicily. They moved to America via Ellis Island manifest for my grandmother in either 1917 or 1918. I cannot find my grandfather’s manifest. My grandma’s maiden name was Mary Bonnano, born October 23, 1891. She married my gpa in New York, his name is Frank DiPietro, born June 20, 1891 in Palermo. I’ve spent so much money trying to find them using, but it was a dead end after the Ellis Island manifests.
    Any help or direction would really help. I don’t know my gpa’s parents names, but my gma’s mother’s name was Crucifixia. (Not sure of the spelling). She has a sister named Rose who was older than her. Her mother moved to New York and was pronounced dead in Brooklyn at my gma’s house. A few minutes later, she came back to life. There are many stories like this in my mother’s family. Please help me. My mother has Alzheimers, she is 91. Her whole family is deceased.

  35. Hello, my grandparents, Calogero Montalbano and Leonarda Montalbano were born in Montevago in 1888 and 1886 respectively. I know the town was virtually destroyed in 1968. Would I be able to find records of their birth, their families, ancestors and possibly their emigration to the USA or would records be forever lost?

  36. I am looking for information about my grandfather who was part owner of a sulfur mine in Sicily. His name was Nino Tinghino (Tignino). This was in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. My grandmother lived in Calscibetta Enna after his death with her children.

  37. Ciao Angelo, I am trying to get in touch with any possible relatives of mine in Santa Cristina Gela in the Palermo Provence.
    My mother’s grandparents, Francesco and Francesca Cusimano, hailed from Santa Cristina Gela.
    Francesco sailed on the Manuel Calvo and landed at Ellis Island on May 12, 1903 at the age of 27. He later returned to Palermo to bring back his wife Francesca and their child. (They later had more children in the U.S., one of whom was my mother’s father – Ciro “Chito or Jimmy” Cusimano.)
    Any help you can offer is greatly appreciated.
    Molto grazie,
    Stephani Cusimano Lopez

  38. I am trying to find out information on my family from when they lived in Sicily. Last names are Coniglio from Castronuovo di Sicilia and Abruzzo from Santa Margherita di Belice. Any advice will help!

  39. Ciao Angelo,

    I am seeking information about Gervasi (a/k/a Gerbasi) from Caltavuturo, PA, Sicily. He was born in Palermo on August 16, 1875 according to his death certificate.

    In records in the USA Mariano Pedro Gervasi is also spelled Gervaso and Gerbasi. Mariano’s Middle name was most likely “Pietro” from the name of the Chiesa Madre “SS. Pietro e Paulo” where he was baptized in Caltavuturo.

    The church in Caltavuturo and the Stato Civile in Caltavuturo states Mariano’s birth date as May 22, 1875. However, Mariano’s birthday was celebrated in August every year. His death certificate states his birth as Aug 16, 1875. His birth date on his military registration card is May 10, 1875. On Feb. 24, 1942, his alien registration ID card states his birth date as April 1, 1874. This would put his date of immigration around April 1902, as it indicates he resided in the USA 39 years, 10 months at that time.

    City of Rochester Marriage records indicate:

    Volume 2, Marriage License Record 8218 lists address as 191 Central Park,
    Mariano Gerbasi, Age 37, Laborer, birthplace Italy, Mother: Rosalia Shoalina, born in Italy, Date of license: October 30, 1911, Profession: Clayman, Mt. Carmel Church – Mariano Gerbasi, son of Rosario and Rosaria Lasciarolina, married Angela Cannizzo (Conezio), daughter of Gaetano Cannizzo and Rosa Bongiorno on December 2, 1911. There is no other information.

    Mariano Gerbasi lived in Caltavuturo on 60 Via Masaniello (formerly Via St. Giuseppe) on the same side and down the street from the Chiesa Madre. On the wrought iron work above the door of his home were the initials “VNQ.” The house probably was owned by his maternal grandmother, Giuseppa Quagliano’s family. Giuseppa was married to Mariano Gerbasi when Mariano was 35 years old, probably about 1835.

    Mariano’s father, Vincenzo Rosario Michael Gerbasi, was born September 14, 1837. His mother was Rosalia Sciaulino or Scravoline or Rosaria Liasciarolina born 27 Jan 1848 in Caltavuturo, PA, Sicily, Italy. They were married about 1878.

    Rosalia/Rosaria’s mother was Maria Panzarella and her father was Mariano Sciaulino. They lived on Quartiere San Pietro, Caltavuturo, Sicily.

    I have visited Caltavuturo in 2002 and 2006. I was told they had no record of the family but the Sicilian guide with us asked for the book and obtained the above information. The clerk was surly and made us wait until all the persons who came in after us were waited on and he had to address us. The certificate we requested listed the midwife as Mariano’s mother and we never noticed until we were in Valguarnera.

    As I have no information on the Grosso, Gerbasi or Scaulino family other than I provided, would you suggest further where I might persue my quest? My husband died in December 2013. I was hoping to present him with a book of his family’s history for his 80th birthday this year but now plan to continue it to give to his grandchildren.

  40. Hi, my name is Bernadette Mollica, My grandmother on my Dads side of the family was born in Lentini, Sicily I think. She said she came from their. My Grandma’s mother, which would have been my Great grandmother got pregnant by a Man whom was a Pharmacist in Lentini Sicily in late 1898 she got pregnant in the back of the Pharmacy by this man the Pharmacist. He was having sex with alot of women I guess. Well he got my Great Grandma pregnant and she had an illegitamate little girl born around April 1899. She was given up and sent to an orphanage. At around age 3 or 4 she was adopted out to the Alessandro Family. I think the adoptive fathers name was John Alessandro. Than when my grandma was around 16 or 18 yrs old they moved to Omaha, Ne. USA. My grandmas adoptive name was Rosa Alessandro. She told us that the courthouse in Lentini Sicily had burnt down. So my question is this who would have the information I need to find out whom my Great Grandmother was? The one who got pregnant and gave my Grandma Rose up for adoption. Also I would love to know who the Pharmacist was that got her pregnant.

    • Lentini’s civil records of birth, marriage and death for the years 1820 through 1929 are on microflms managed by the Mormon church. Some are on line, but not the births for 1899. A list of the films is at

      You would have to rent the film with the 1899 births. However, you would need to know the name that was given to your grandmother at birth. You say she was “given up”. Was her mother’s name known, or was the child anonymously left in the town’s foundling wheel? If the former, the child may have been given the mother’s surname; if the latter, the parents would be listed as unknown, and the child’s name would be concocted. See and contact me at for more details.

  41. Angelo, I have a copy of your book, but just found your site. My grandfather was a foundling left
    in a wheel in Piazza Armerina. I have found his birth record. I will be in Sicily in two weeks and
    wonder if the church would have other information on who might have taken him in.
    Is this information generally given out.
    Many thanks, J.G

    • If he was born after 1820, foundlings were administered by civil authorities. I assume the birth record you found was his civil Atto di Nascita. If there is information of any type (doubtful), it may be in the town’s Anagrafe (Registry Office) usually located in the Municipio (Town Hall).

  42. I have ancestors that are from Sant’ Anna di Caltabellotta and I want to find out if I have relatives still there. I am planning on visiting this town along with Villaba and Valledolmo. What should I do now to find relatives and actual town records as I’m hoping to visit this October.

    • If you’re going in October, you haven’t started too soon. You must build as complete a ‘pedigree’ or ‘family tree’ as possible, not only of your direct ancestors, but of your ‘collateral lines’: the siblings of your ancestors and the descendants of those siblings. For example, your graet-great-great-grandfather amay have had three sisters, all of whom married and had children whose surnames were different than that of your direct ancestor. Those children and their descendants are no less your relatives than those with familiar surnames.

      If you go to each town’s municipio (town hall) and to its parish rectory with your ‘tree’ they may be able to connect you with locals with those surnames. Then if you can show the tree to them, if they recognize any names as their ancestors, you’ve found relatives!

      To build a tree, you must start with the information that you know, then work backwards in time. If you know the name of an ancestor and the town of birth and approximate year, find his (her) birth record. It will give his parents’ names and the age of his father, from which you can approximate the father’s birth year and marriage year (about 24 years after the man’s birth year). Then look for the known ancestor’s parents’ birth and marriage records, which will give information to help find their parents, etc. While you’re looking, you can search for collateral lines as well. Civil records of birth, marriage banns, marriage and death for Villalba (Caltanissetta province) and Valledolmo (Palermo province) are available on microfilm, with some on line, for about 1820 through 1910. Lists of the records are at for Villalba and at for Valledolmo. Villalba (but not Valledolmo) has some microfilms of church sacramental records as well, the list is at

      If you are referring to the village of Caltabellotta in Agrigento Province, civil records are available for the years 1821 – 1929 on microfilm, with most of the years available on line, and some of them indexed searchable by ancestor’s name. A list is at

      On these lists, if a film shows a ‘camera’ icon, you can click on it to see a reproduction of the microfilm. If it shows a ‘magnifying glass’ icon, you can click on it and then enter the name of the ancestor, which may get you directly to a display of the image with his record. If the film has only a ‘reel’ icon, it is available only on microfilm. Click the icon and you’ll be led through a process to pay for its rental on line, with delivery to a Mormon FamilySearch Center of your choice for viewing (after about a month for it to be shipped from Salt Lake City). To find an FSC near you, go to

      The records are in Italian. I suggest you get a book like ‘A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your Italian Ancestors’ by Lynn Nelson, which presents sample records, translations, hints on reading Italian cursive writing, etc. Similar information is also presented on free tutorials on, at

      Any questions?

  43. I’m a writer and granddaughter of Sicilian grandparents with some mystery in their past. Both of my maternal grandparents were from the provincia of Messina (San Filippo del Mela and Santa Lucia del Mela) and born in the 1880s.

    Is this site still active? I don’t see any recent posts. If so, I will continue with my questions.

  44. my name is Robert messina I am the grandson of peter and laurita dicarlo messina they came to the united states from Cerda,sicily they lived in new London, 1902,1903,1905 and in 1913 they lived in watertown,new York.

  45. Angelo,

    I have been researching my ancestors in Castelvetrano, Trapani, Sicily, Italy for quite some time. I have been on the link and exhausted all info for Caselvetrano which spans 1866 thru 1910 (this took quite some time!). It was wonderful and exciting to find so many family members dating way back into the 1800s. My next step is through the films at the Family Resarch Library which only date back to 1810. My “oldest” ancestor which I have found so far was Saverio Bellafiore who was my great, great, great grandfather and who was born (per my estimate) somewhere between 1805-1815. I cannot confirm this until I have the films. I have been working with Ancestry, Ellis Island, etc. and have become quite good at reading old Italian birth/marriage/death records on the Castelvetrano link although I had never read one word of Italian before. It is a painstaking process, but once you get the hang of it, you find that there is pretty much a general “template” for each record. More recently I have been trying to research contacting the churches in Caselvetrano to figure out how/who to contact to get records further back than 1810. My plan was to e-mail them (by translating my request into Italian) but cannot seem to find an “area” on their sites where I could do that. From what I understand it is difficult if you do not go in person… I do NOT fly and will not get to Italy. Additionally, I have heard that they are in Latin! Any ideas?

    On another note, I have read (more than once) that Bellafiore is a derivative of Belfiore. I am unsure if I should be searching that name going further back. So far, ALL records (I have found many, many) have been Bellafiore.

    Thank you in advance for any help you might be able to give me!


  46. Hello, I have been trying to trace my grandfather, Emmanuel Madonia, who I believe was born in Sicily, I don’t know his birthdate, I only know that he lived in Mateur, Tunisia, he married my grandmother Annetta Magro in 1923, they had one son, Saint, in 1924 and they separated prior to the birth of my mother, Carmela Vita, in 1926, she was born in La Goulette, a suburb or Carthage in Tunisia. My grandfather died around 1959, I believe, he was due to emigrate to Australia at that point, to be with family in his elder years. I believe he is buried in the Mateur cemetery.
    I need some assistance on how to find any more information about him, when and where he was born, what was his occupation, whether he had siblings, who his parents were, and if there are living relatives, either in Tunisia or Italy.
    I don’t know who to ask or where I can get assistance.
    I would really appreciate some guidance, I don’t speak Italian.
    Kind regards, Annie

  47. I’m planning a trip to Italy for a few weeks in 2019 and I plan to stop for a few days in Sicily, as I’ve been told my dad’s family came from there. My dad shared with me a document that his uncle put together tracing back to my great-great grandfather as “gen 1” and myself & cousins as gen 5. However, there are a few inaccuracies for the later gens that I caught and when I went to search the town listed for gggf’s birth, two different parts of Sicily pop up depending on how it’s typed. Below is an excerpt from the family tree document:

    BIAGIO BONINA was born about 1863 in San Agata, Province of Messina, Italy. He married ANNA SALVIA. She was born on 13 Jun 1875. She died in San Agata, Province of Messina, Italy.

    When I search [San Agata], I get back “Via Sant’Agata, Messina ME, Italy” but if I search [San Agata, Province of Messina, Italy], Google maps shows me “Sant’Agata di Militello, Province of Messina, Italy”
    Needless to say, I’m quite confused and not sure which is the correct location to continue my search for potential living relatives.

    • Hello Natasha, Sant’Agata is the correct spelling of this area in the Messina province. It is located approx 5 miles from Messina. I hope this info will be of some help.

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