Featured Italian heritage 9

This is the second part of our interview with John and Angela Cahill. This time we talk a bit about our other day trips south to Gallipoli and Lecce, and then we get into what you can do if you are looking to research your Italian heritage while visiting Italy.

You’ll learn:

  • About our trip to Porto Selvaggio, which Angela calls the Blue Grotto without all the people.
  • About our drive to Gallipoli and Lecce
  • About a day trip to Bovino, named the #5 top town in all of Italy to visit
  • Why Angela calls Puglia the “quintessential Italy”
  • About Angela and John’s first visit with us and our heritage services
  • Where you can start with your research into your Italian heritage
  • What is important to have when you come here looking for records
  • What vital information you should know if you are looking to get photocopies of your family’s records (hint: it has to do with the age of the document)
  • How knowing just a few family names can help you in these small town and might even find you some cousins
  • Where all the old records are stored in Italy
  • What kind of specific information it is good to have when trying to find records or relatives
Looking to research you own heritage? Here are some suggestions:
Use your family as your first and foremost resource.

Sit down with your grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, and anybody else who might know your family history. You’re looking to get names, birth dates, dates of death, marriage dates and other specific information they might have. Many family members may have already done their own research, so definitely use their knowledge and their previous work to your advantage.

Get the stories.

Names and dates are great but having stories associated with the information is priceless. So get that video cam working (your phone will do) and at the next family reunion or get together have your relatives tell stories about your family. Use photo albums to jog their memories and bring up stories you’ve never even heard. This is the part of genealogy research that is truly exciting and rewarding. Having your history told through experiences and memories is what it’s all about.

Get the documents.

Once you have the names dates and stories you want to start verifying information by getting copies of birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, immigration and naturalization papers, Census records, gravestones and more. If family numbers have copies of these be sure to photocopy them and be prepared to do a lot of research to find your own copy.

Put it down on paper.

Now that you have all the info, start building your family tree, adding in photos documents, and stories/notes whenever possible. There are so software programs out there to help you with this, but call us old school, nothing beats putting it an in a nice notebook or photo album to share with family and friends.


Researching online

Below are some specific genealogy sites relating to Italian heritage. Honestly, we haven’t use any of these, so we can’t speak of how good or bad they may be. It does look like “MyItalianFamily.com” has extra services like the ability to hire experts to help in your research, which could be helpful if you get stuck somewhere.




These sites below are general genealogical sites. We have used Ancestry.com in the past. The biggest issue, at least at the time, was that no records went past your family’s arrival in America. So eventually you’ll be stuck if you need to research history in the old country.

www.familysearch.org (this is the extensive Mormon database)



libertyellisfoundation.org (Note that the Ellis Island site only covers those who would have gone through Ellis Island. Many Italian immigrants arrived in Boston, Philadelphia and New Orleans.)

Terlizzi, USA Facebook Group

Before coming to Italy to do any research:
  • Have as many dates and names as possible
  • Have any “alternative” family names, say if someone went by a nickname, you’ll need their name on their birth certificate
  • If possible, contact the local offices before your arrival as this might save yourself a lot of time and frustration if any leg work can be done ahead of time
  • When here, try to have someone who can really speak the language for you. It’s not always just about making yourself understood, but about being able to smooth talk employees into really helping you out.

If you have other resources you’ve had success with, please let us all know in the comments section. We’d all love to hear what’s worked for you!

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You might think growing up in a small town in Texas wouldn’t prepare you to live the Italian lifestyle. But in many ways — the family values, the small town culture, the love of food — is very similar to what you’ll find in Italian culture. In fact, I expect it’s pretty universal. Having been married to an Italian for 20 years, it’s been fun to learn and explore the rich Italian culture and share it with you.


  1. Another great episode. Not only has Paul made me think more about where my Sicilian family is originally from, but in this episode, John said his family is from Bonito in Avellino and my grandmother’s family is from Bonito (Belmonte and Beatrice family)!

    p.s. My last name is Barresi and has often been spelled Barrese which is what someone from Bari is called. The plural of Barese would be Baresi. Though my family had been in Sicily as far back as I can find in records (1700s,) I have a feeling they were originally from Bari.

    All the best,
    Mike Barresi (Peabody, MA)