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Community Forums › How Can I locate my Family in Italy › Southern Italy › What can i do when i get there?

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What can i do when i get there?

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Joined: Oct 01, 2007
Posts: 31
Location: Liverpool UK

PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2007 6:51 pm    Post subject: What can i do when i get there? Reply with quote

Going to Molfetta, Puglia where my family originated from, for the first time in January 08. I speak and read and write a little Italian enough to feed myself and travel and read the sport in the newspapers. However, that is in places like Rome, Florence, Pisa, Venice and Garda, places I visit on a regular basis but from what I've been told the dialectlanguage in that part of Italy is alien to common Italian. This being the case what can do to enhance my my research whilst I'm their? I know the street names where they lived and that the majority where christened in the Cathedral but that is it really it (or at least this stage of my research it is). Should I go to the cemetery, and if so where do I get assistance for that type of physical search, is it at the cemetery or at a government office?
What else can I, should I do when I'm their? Apologies for going on but it as suddenly dawned me that I need to develop a strategy, not necessarily just for this trip but for further future trips

Yours straining in thought Mark

Researching Palombella family in Molfetta
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Joined: Jul 11, 2007
Posts: 984
Location: Connecticut

PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2007 7:15 pm    Post subject: Re: What can i do when i get their? Reply with quote

Mark, I visited Puglia in 2006 to a tiny Village (Celenza). Don't worry! You know a lot more Italian than we knew at the time. My husband sort of understood dialect, but could not speak it. I could speak only marginal, very marginal, Italian. Everyone was so happy and friendly to see us, they really went the extra mile to understand us. We brought a lot of visual aides because of the language barrier: ship manifests, those little funeral cards that have date of birth and date of death, very old family pictures. Now keep in mind, we did not do any heavy duty research. We sort of asked around and told people our names, and before we knew it, the entire village was giving us their two cents of where to find our relatives. It was a pretty amazing journey. We did not have time to visit a cemetery. Some people on this board have mentioned that many plots are simply rented for a term of years and your ancestors remains are eventually dug up and put into a common grave, so there is no marker. This may not hold true in all towns. Hmmm....I would bring a family tree with you and try to do research here on all the distant relatives you can think of. I met a bunch of people with my gm's surname and it was not until I returned to the US and did the research that I figured out that they were related to me.

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Joined: Aug 05, 2007
Posts: 549
Location: Philadelphia

PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2007 12:59 am    Post subject: Re: What can i do when i get their? Reply with quote

Hi Mark,

My family is from Corato which is pretty close to Molfetta ---- don't sweat it as you will do fine. On my first trip there in 2000 we went to the Town Hall to try to locate my Grandfather's house. I had a photocopy of my Dad's emigration docs. When we got there, I showed this to them (actually we went to the wrong office and were escorted by the man in the first office to the right place). The gentleman behind the counter went to look for the information about my GF. While he was doing this a third gentleman came out and he spoke English. He knew it would be difficult for me to find the house as it was in the center of the old town which had a lot of little streets and alleys. He escorted us to the house and then gave us a short history and explained how difficult life had been for the old folks back then.

The people in the south are extremely friendly and helpful --- they will go out of their way to help you. I have been back there 5 times and I have been able to locate a 1st cousin and his family (I only knew an Uncle's name and he has been dead since 1931). Your ancestor's name is like the "secret code" and you will be warmly received. While you are there make sure that you visit Trani (Cathedral and Fortress), the Castel del Monte, perhaps Bari Vecchio (but be cautious in Bari as it is a large city and there is crime) and if you have the time a trip to Alberobello (Trulli) would be interesting.

I feel like I really belong when visiting Corato, so maybe my ancestors are with me when I am there. Buon Viaggio.

PS Back then I spoke no Italian (although I knew a lot of words from listening to my Dad growing up); I have since learned some Italian via night scholl so I can now communicate with my family (but still not as much as I would like to)


Researching: Corato, Provincia di Bari in Puglia e San Giorgio Albanese, Provincia di Cosenza in Calabria.
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Joined: Jul 11, 2007
Posts: 984
Location: Connecticut

PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2007 3:38 am    Post subject: Re: What can i do when i get their? Reply with quote

Charlie, I had the same exact feeling! They really made me feel like one of them. It did not matter that my gm was born there "cent'anni fa." I was just thinking that in my gm's town (in Benevento), we were able to get in touch with an Italian club with American connections. They set up a little informal escort and tour for us. I don't know if Mark has a local Italian club, but it may be worth trying. My gm's town was only 4000 people, but I managed to find an American club for that town.

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Joined: Jul 15, 2007
Posts: 259
Location: New Jersey

PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2007 4:49 am    Post subject: Re: What can i do when i get their? Reply with quote

Hi Mark.

I've been to Molfetta and its an amazing place

As far as the language spoken there, everyone speaks standard italian. Last time i was there 1999, I was an anomaly since i was under 40 years old and spoke and understood the dialect (since most of my family came to the states pre-1960 they brought the dialect with them to America before it became uncivilized to speak it in italy

The cemetery in Molfetta is also amazing, but an immense place. Additionally, they have a system there (which i believe is standard in Italy) that removes the contents of graves after a long period of time and replaces the bones into a smaller ossuary. Unless you have relatives who died post 1920ish, you probably won't be able to find much. Although there is an older section of the "campasande" that has some older graves. Regardless if you find your relatves or not, walk around the place just to view the sculptures.

As far as records go check out this place


It is the diocese archive. I'm not sure how helpful or what you'll find there, but according to the website they have the older records that you may seek. I've sent letters to the churches themselves and have always received responses that they cannot fulfill my inquiry, although they do deny my request in a very friendly manner.

make sure you go inside la chiesa vechhia by the water (as well as melfette a'vecchie - the old walled part of the city" and also visit the cathedral to see the paintings done by rococo artist Corrado Giaquinto. A visit to Il Pulo (a neolithic site) is also essential, but make sure its open before you go.

sorry i couldn't be of more specific help, i no longer have family there and my contacts are limited

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