Finding Achille

Alistair Goold came to me with a desperate plea for help.

With the help of an Italian lawyer he had exhausted all known avenues to locate the birth record of his GGFather without which he could not get his Italian citizenship.

He sent me a list of the archives they had searched without success.

Filomena Maria Capaldi (my GGM) and Achille DeMarco(my GGF)

  1. The Registry Office in Picinisco do not hold any records for Filomena (also known as Filomena Maria), born in Picinisco around 1870 to Michele Capaldi and Rosa Piccolo. This is my GGM.  Or for Achille, my GGF.
  2. Note that I was wrongly given a birth certificate for Filomena Columba Capaldi (This was not my Great Grandmother
  3. My lawyer requested a record search to the State Archives in Frosinone, competent for the area, but the State Archives do not keep records for the Municipality of Picinisco.
  4. The registry Office in Picinisco located my great-great-grandparents’ Gerardo DeMarco and Palamina Corio’s birth Certificates but unfortunately could not find Achille’s record of birth in their Registries.
  5. My lawyer contacted all the neighbouring municipalities, but none of them were able to find Achille (and possible name variants) in their Registries.
  6. We also sent a formal request to the State Archives in Frosinone that usually keep records of births, marriage and death occurred in all area of Frosinone (which includes Picinisco). However, we were informed that they do not hold any records for Picinisco.
  7. We ordered a record search of Achille to the competent Parish and Diocesan Archives in order to obtain, at least, his Baptism Certificate but no baptism records could be located either.
  8. Upon suspecting that Achille could have been born in another Italian Municipality, San Donato di Ninea, we liaised with its Registry Office and with the competent State Archives in Cosenza but, unfortunately, with no positive results.

Without leaving home and within an hour I had solved the problem!  I had located Achille, with his parents and Grandparents in the Parish census with the correct birthdate and with THREE forenames, the third of which was ACHILLE.  Biagio Maria Achille.  Why would this have made locating his birth record so difficult?

Let’s take a closer look at the list.

  1. Although Filomena’s surname was very common in Picinisco it is also diffuse throughout the Cassino area and her mother’s surname (Piccolo) confirms this since it is not found in Picinisco. Since Cassino civil records were destroyed in WW2 it is unlikely her record will be found.
  2. They tried!
  3. The State Archives in Frosinone have all the recovered records from the bombed out Tribunal of Cassino. An on line search at would show nothing for Picinisco, meaning that ALL the second copies were destroyed.
  4. The office in Picinisco located Achille’s parents birth record’s but not his. Why?  A couple of years ago the town office hired a student to do some data entry of the civil record indexes.  Creating a searchable database of names and birth dates.  They used only two fields for forenames.  Since Achille’s legal name was Biagio Maria Achille, it just didn’t show up in the search. Since they had a birthdate, they could have got the book out and looked at who was born on that date, but they didn’t.  They could have looked at the Register of the Population to see who was born on that date to that family, but they didn’t.  They relied only on their searchable database and it didn’t show an Achille DeMarco.
  5. Neighboring towns would have just looked at the index for 1874 and not found Achille.
  6. The Province of Frosinone was created in 1925 from the Province of Caserta, who are the ones holding records prior to 1865. After 1865 the records were sent to the Tribunal of Cassino who lost almost everything in WW2.
  7. There is only one copy of parish records and in this area they are usually held by the local parish. The Diocese in Sora hold no parish records.  The priest in Picinisco has three parishes to look after so he probably left this search request to his sacristan.  There is a master index of baptism records in alphabetical order by year but it would be easy to miss Achille’s 3rd name at the end of the line where the baptismal name was Biagio Maria Achille.
  8. San Donato di Ninea was a long shot at best.

So why was Achille given three forenames when his siblings only received one?  (The following is just my opinion, not a certainty!)

Well, check out his birthdate, 3rd February.  The festa of San Biagio.  The town of San Biagio was just up the road and maybe they normally went to the festivities but this year their first baby was born.  Perhaps the birth was difficult or the baby was born with his throat blocked.  San Biagio is the protector of the throat and since Achille was their first born child naming him after the Saint would have been prudent in this case.  Maria was often added after the Saint name but Achille would be his everyday name. Biagio Maria Achille being used only for official and legal purposes.

Emigrants to other countries were often surprised at the lack of control over names and birthdates. I doubt if anyone ever knew he had other names.

At the end of the day all ended well. Alistair will get his Italian citizenship and one day will visit his town of origin again but this time as an Italian citizen.





  1. You Are Amazing Ann. I had the same problem with my husband’s nonno. He was called Alberto in the US, but his birth record, found on Antenat,i is AM-berto. This could be confusing my husband to get dual Citizenchip, but may not, because his birth date, parent’s names, & birth place – are the same as on his US Marriage liscence! Lucky us for that. Now all I have to do is convince my husband to start the process!
    By the way, a question, someone said that IF you do get dual Citizenship, you have to pay taxes to Italy & the US? True or not? & does it matter if we’re retired?


  2. Hi Kathleen,
    There is a letter you can get from the Comune to cover these minor discrepancies.
    As I understand it income from other countries, on which you have already paid tax is not taxable in Italy not even if you live here.


  3. I am still amazed that you managed to solve this case! I hope you are staying safe during this globally challenging time.


    • Thank you Alistair, we are all under lockdown and obeying the rules. I just wish the UK and USA had taken this thing seriously at the beginning. Stay safe.


  4. Love you site and your common sense explanations for things that don’t necessarily fit together perfectly (i.e. your age isn’t that important when you’re illiterate)! I had an “issue” with my grandmother’s records. I found her parents marriage record on Antenati and my grandmother’s birth the next year, except my grandmother’s name is NOT the name she went by in the US. And her birth record has her father’s age as 12 years older. Someone said that I have the wrong person but I think it’s a clerical error (on the age) because I don’t think there’s any good probability that 2 couples with the exact same name would get married in the same town 10 years apart!


    • Birth registration is important BUT the father’s age was often estimated if he didn’t know (or wasn’t present). Witnesses were often just people hanging around the town office who could sign the form. They were only relatives or neighbours if the baby wasn’t present. Often, in America a person went by the name that they were known by and it often wasn’t the name registered at birth. The marriage record required a birth certificate so that record is more accurate. Also the age on the ship manifest since it was copied from official travel documents. Hoe this helps.


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