I am from the USA
and have words for all those people who have written to Italy without receiving a response. There IS hope for you and my story will prove
In early December, 2008, I sent a letter to Ottaviano, NA (in Italian) requesting the birth extract (Estratto per riassunto degli Atti di Nascita
) of my great-grandmother who had passed away at the age of 94 when I was a teenager back in the early 1980's. Her birthplace and birthday were well known. She was born in Ottaviano and my family would celebrate her birthday on the 14th of February every year. Out of all the requests I had been sending out, this was sure to be the easiest or so I thought.
By March of 2009, I still had not received a reply from Ottaviano. I thought that was odd because all other communes that I had mailed requests to, had sent back their responses (w/ requests granted!) by late January, 2009. So, I composed a second letter to Ottaviano (via registered mail) adding the surname of my great-grandmother's mother (that I had recently learned) and requesting a photocopy of my great-grandmother’s act of birth in addition to her birth extract, 14 Feb 1888.
In April (2009), I received a postal card from Ottaviano stating that my second letter had been received (there was a signature on the card). So a response to my request could not be far behind, right?
Well, as it turned out, by mid-June, I still had not been sent a reply. Something was wrong. Had I sent the letters to the wrong commune? Was my great-grandmother’s birth date incorrect? No, it couldn't be. I knew my great-grandmother and had asked her questions about her origins many times in my youth. So, taking the textbook advice from many websites, I sent a third letter to the mayor of Ottaviano along with an email to the 'Ufficio dello Stato Civile'
in the same commune.
By mid-August I still had not been given a proper reply (or any reply for that matter) by Ottaviano. All of my letters and four e-mails (including one authored by a kind Italian gentleman) had gone unanswered, as if they had never been sent. (In contrast, I was averaging a response time of 5 weeks per postal request from other communes around Italy. Some communes would e-mail back in as little as 2 days! I even made contact with a cousin who was in charge of a demographic office in Taranto.). Feeling angry and quite discouraged, I hit cyberspace with renewed determination. I had to know what was going on! Did they even have
an 'Officio dello Stato Civile'
Enter Carole and the assistance of ‘Gente di Mare’
. I was already using her wonderful and ‘easy to use’ stamp service that ‘Gente’
so kindly offers. (The Italian communes did not want to use my enclosed IRCs -- International Reply Coupons, as payment for postage. They demanded that I enclose stamps for all future requests.) I informed Carole of my situation and she recommended 'Gente's'
telephone assistance. She also stressed patience and persistence due to the fact that some of these ‘Ufficio dello Stato Civiles’
were poorly run. At cost, and with the aid of ‘Gente’
, she was able to contact Ottaviano several times to ascertain why I had not
been sent a reply to my request. Their excuses were numerous and poor to say the least. However, Carole was eventually able to speak with the head of the department (Dott.ssa ….) in Ottaviano and kept in close contact with her as the search for my great-grandmother’s birth record began.
Finally, in early March 2010, I received the birth extract of my great-grandmother from Ottaviano!! It turns out that her birthday was the 2 Jan 1888 (not 14 Feb!!). All those years her birthday was celebrated on the wrong day. I can’t help but to wonder if my great-grandmother actually new this and chose Valentine’s Day as her birthday instead.
I simply cannot thank Carole and ‘Gente’
enough for their efforts on my behalf. Through the telephone assistance and stamp service of ‘Gente’
, Carole is making it possible for us to obtain documentation concerning our ancestors and in doing so, learn more about our ancestry. Thank you Carole!!
So you see, there IS hope! Do NOT give up!!!