- You’re going to spend a lot of money to come to Italy to see the town of origin of your family, the church where they were baptized and married, the cemetery where they were buried, where they lived. You even hope to do some research in the parish records while you are here. Problem is you don’t speak Italian, and while you can probably wing most of the trip the research part might be tricky to handle alone.
If you are going to the town of origin and plan to spend several days there, it will probably work out for you. You’ll go to mass, speak to the priest, and he’ll even help you do the search. Some one in town will show you the cemetery and finding the street won’t be that difficult. These towns are usually small compared to what you are used to.
If your plan is to leave a group for a one day side trip to the town of origin you might want to consider hiring a guide. It won’t be cheap, but it will be worth every cent if you accomplish all your goals in just one day. A good guide can do just that for you. How to find one?
There are a lot of genealogists who offer this service in addition to their regular research services.
HERE’S WHAT TO LOOK FOR.
• Someone who is based within 250 kilometres of the town you want to visit.
• Someone who speaks excellent English. Who can explain the history and the records you want to research. Who also reads and interprets Latin. Ask for their phone number and call them. Sure, it’s long distance but it will tell you how good their English really is.
• Someone who gives you a set price for your trip and tells you what is included. (Setting up appointments, organizing the day’s activities etc)
• Someone who has a website or blog in English.
WHAT TO BEWARE OF
• Anyone who says they will ‘adjust’ their price for your budget.
• Anyone who wants to do the research before you get there. (You can always hire them to complete it, if it doesn’t get finished, but this is your dream, be sure to live it)
• Remember that in Italy if you have a degree (any kind) you are entitled to call yourself Dottore or Dottoressa. ( A medical Doctor is a Medico, also called Dottore) If you have a Masters degree you can call yourself Professore or Professoressa. It doesn’t make you, or them a genealogist. Don’t be awed by titles.
WHAT INFORMATION TO PROVIDE TO A PROSPECTIVE GUIDE
• Your name and nationality. Don’t include any professional titles YOU may have as this may increase the price. Do not include your place of work, or the fact that you are, or are not retired. However, if you have physical limitations do let them know.
• The town(s) you want to search.
• How far back your research has already reached and where you obtained the information (LDS Microfilms, on line records)
• A detailed list of your goals.
Tell them exactly what you need them to do.
• Locate the whereabouts of the parish records, (at the church or Diocese) and obtain appointments to research.
• Locate the opening times of the cemetery and where the office is. (Sometimes there is no office and the information is at the Comune who are only open limited hours). Graves of people who died more than 30 years ago are rare, finding one for an ancestor who died more than 100 years ago calls for a celebration.
• If you won’t be searching parish records at the church then your guide may be able to arrange for the church to be opened by the sacristan.
Your guide will probably ask for a deposit up front, and that is fair. It should not be more than half the total. They will have costs to set everything up and to travel to the meeting place. If you don’t show up…….they should be compensated for their time. Half the agreed rate is about right. The balance should be paid in cash at the meeting. If they don’t offer a receipt, don’t insist. They just don’t want to pay tax on what they earned. It’s not your problem.
You may have high expectations but remember that you are not dealing with a rational society here. If someone in town dies the day you are to do your research the priest may simply not be available and nothing you or your guide can say will change that.
If you plan to search at the State Archives you may be restricted to only FOUR books. Choose wisely and take a friend. Allow time to register and be sure to have your passport with you. In fact, save time by taking several photocopies with you. Be prepared to wait, and wait. Records are often only brought in at certain times. Your guide should be familiar with the procedure.
You may plan for a light lunch but if the town only has full service restaurants, that is what you will be eating. If the town is really small, it may not even have a restaurant that opens during the week or at lunchtime. Be sure to have some nuts and a granola bar in your pocket for emergencies. The siesta still functions in most towns in the south. Plan a long lunch for those hours and start early in the morning so you get the bulk of your agenda done before the siesta. Then you’ll have something to review while you wait for life to begin stirring again.