Friday, 22 August 2008

Searching for family in Italy

I must admit that I didn’t have a clue how to start looking for living family members in Italy. My first choice was to look at the telephone directories in Italy and entered the surname Desio into the Italian white pages; I came up with only 160 telephone numbers all over Italy. Surprisingly there was only one from the Como area and a few around Lombardy and several De Sio from the south. I felt sure I was onto an easy search and sat down and wrote a letter in Italian, thank goodness that the local dialect here is very similar to Italian and with the help of an online translator I managed to put something legible together.

So I wrote nearly 150 letters and sent them off and waited …………. What a disappointment I was in for, the response to my letters was far from what I had hoped for. I received 6 letters back and not one originated from the Como area and none were related to me. So my easy search came to nothing, where did I go from here?

It is a good idea to use the telephone directories to at least find out which areas your surname is mainly situated through out Italy. As you can see above my surname is spelt 2 different ways depending if they come from the North or South of Italy. So if you see a surname that sounds like yours but spelt slightly different it doesn’t mean that it is not correct. The way the surname is spelt can also give you a hint as to what part of Italy your ancestor came from. There are many white page searches available online but I find that the two I have added to “Helpful links” are fairly easy to use. Write the surname you want to find in the Cognome square, if there are a lot of people with the same surname then you can whittle down your search by adding a place ie, Milan or Province, Lombardia in the square that says “Dove”.

I felt sure that there must be other family members around somewhere; surely the brother that had gone to America must have had descendants? So my next search was telephone directories in the USA.

There turned out to be far more people with the surname Desio in the USA than there are in Italy so at least one of them must be mine. Again I did a search and pulled out a long list of Desio’s but before sending so many letters, this time I started to look at the first names to see if I could find a typical first name pattern, I crossed off the De Sio spelt surname and I even did searches with Google to see if I could pick up emails to write to.
I searched in the Ellis island records ( I will go back to Ellis Island in a future blog) and sorted out which Desio’s had come from Genova and with the help of the Social Security death records available on Rootsweb I picked out 60 possibilities. All I am sad to say to no avail.

From here I spread my search further a field and tried near the Italian/Swiss border, I pulled Desio's living in South America and even France. As you can imagine this all took several months. In the meantime I started to find out more about what civil records were available for Como and where.

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