Italian Roots - lost family

+3 votes
My mom's family came here from Italy though Ellis Island.  I am asking were to start - my great grandpa Giovanna Baptist Dal Santo born 7/13/1895 died 1/4/1959.  Born in Caltrano, Vicenza Italy.  Died in British Columbia Canada.
in Genealogy Help by Debbie Coffman G2G2 (2.4k points)
Thank you for the information.  But I am sure of the birthdate.  My mom is still alive and has verified the information.  This is what I know.  My great grandpa Giovanna was born 7-13-1895 I had the date that he came though Ellis Island and had entered it in my site.  checking and there are no notes.  But I will find the information, I had printed out the ship he came over on and the registery when he went thru ellis island.  He was what they called a powder monkey- he worked with dynamite building bridges mostly.  He worked in the Butte MT mines until he had enough money and then sent for my great grandma Agnese born 1888 - 1/25/1958 in Palermo Italy and died in Canada in 1958.  I was 2 years old.  He had saved enough money to buy a hotel in Roseland B.C. were they lived until moving to Surrey B.C.  My grandma was born in Roseland B.C.  They would later send for Giovanna's brother Gino (from Italy) But no other family members came over from Italy.  I dont know my great grandma Agnese maiden name.  So I dont know how to research in Italy for their roots.  My Grandma was full blood Italian.  She has passed now, but when asking her who was other family (like her grandparents etc.) she had no idea - she had not meet them.  I have the Ellis Island information I pulled off of site some years back.

There are many reasons you might not be finding the Ellis Island record.  It's possible the record is transcribed incorrectly, or your arrival date could be off by a day or 2.  There are other free search engines that can search those records too besides Ancestry.  Run the same searches through and also use Steve Morse's search engine,  If you still get nothing, then you can search for all ships arriving in NYC around the date when your ancestor supposedly arrived, and then slug through the pages one at a time.   If your great grandfather naturalized, his naturalization papers might contain the name of his ship, so if you haven't looked into ordering those, you should do that before slugging through manifests.    

Regarding your great grandmother... Italian women usually traveled under their maiden names, so if you're searching for her under the surname, Dal Santo, you probably won't find her.   If Giovanna and Agnese had children born in the US or Canada, you should track down one of their birth or baptism records.  There's a good chance Agnese's maiden name will appear on one of them.   If not there, then it might be on the marriage record for one of their children who married in the US or Canada.   If you know where she died, you could see if there was an obit published in the paper.  That also might contain her maiden name.  There is a lot of information you can find on US records that will help you when it's time to look for the Italian records.   

And regarding searching for Italian records...  My experience with Ancestry is that it's lousy for searching for Italian records.  What you typically find is just an index record showing only the name, and the way Italian's named their children, it's highly likely there are multiple people with the same first and last name as your ancestors.  The best sources are or the Anteniti website,    Looks like FamilySearch has some records, but they must be viewed at a Family History Site.   Those same records might be viewable on the Antenati website.  You'd have to poke around it and see.   Most of the records on the antenati site are not searchable, but some are indexed.  The site is in Italian, but your web browser can translate it into English.   Not the record, but the text which contain instructions on how to use the site.

If it were me, I'd be looking at other US or Canadian records for this family first, so I had the most information possible to assist in finding Italian records.   If there are no online, digitized records from Caltrano for your great grandparents, then you will have to write to or email the commune and request them.   There is usually a small fee.  You'll want to write that letter or email in Italian, if possible.  FamilySearch's wiki has fill-in-the-blank templates to help you.  Often the commune's website has information on ordering records.

Researching Italian ancestors can be tricky, but it's doable.   Good luck!

2 Answers

+5 votes

Ellis Island's website has passenger lists you can search.  Are you positive about the birthdate?  There is a lot of information on Ancestry of a Giovanni dal Santo, who was a bricklayer and lived in Detroit and then was naturalized in Illinois.  There is also one in Rhode Island.  Do you know about when he emigrated?  Family members?

  1. Rhode Island, State Censuses, 1865-1935

  2. Record information.

  3. Illinois, Federal Naturalization Records, 1856-1991
  4. Record information.

    Giovanni Dal Santo


    24 Sep 1895 Caltrauo, Italy


    25 Nov 1920 Detroit, Michigan

    1. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957
    Record information.
    1. Giovanni De Santo

    1. abt 1895 Italy

    1. Naples, Italy

    1. 12 Aug 1912 New York, New York

    1. Italy

by Lucy Selvaggio-Diaz G2G6 Pilot (516k points)
0 votes

I'm 99% sure your ancestor original name was Giovanni Battista (John the Baptist in English, which is and was a very traditional name in Italy). Giovanna is the female version of the name Giovanni. Custom officers sometimes misspelled or misunderstood foreign names. 

As for Gino, it's not a proper name, but a nickname that can originate in several names ending in -gi, like Luigi (Louis)--> Luigino (little Louis)--> Gino. It won't figure in formal certificates or church records as such.

Unfortunately, the Vinceza archives are not yet indexed according to (although I looked for Vicenza and they are scanned at least, so you can look into them).

I hope I have been of some help, contact me if you need records translated from Italian. Good luck!

by Cristina Corbellani G2G6 Mach 1 (12.3k points)

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