2007 and 2008 meeting notes are below
See Dan Niemiec’s Schedule of Presentations
Pictures from POINT 2006 Conference
Pictures from Roots in the Boot Conference
MARCH 8, 2008
Our first meeting of 2008 took place on Saturday March 8th, 2008 in the Schaumburg District Library in Schaumburg Illinois. Fourteen Italian genealogists found our new meeting room (they tossed us in the conference room!) and one more ended up in another genealogy group down the hall for 90 minutes before finding out it was the wrong group!
We made a note to get a large colorful sign or banner to post so anyone can find us regardless of what room we are in.
There was very little on the formal agenda. We handed out a flier on the POINT Meeting in Salt Lake City in August and asked our members to try to make it if they plan to go to Salt Lake City anyway for research. We also discussed the impending launch of the Cook County Vital Records web site. It was promised to be on-line in January 2008, but a recent e-mail from the County Clerk’s office says it will be up in June or July. This will give Chicagoans and others a means to search for birth certificates over 75 years old, marriages over 50, and deaths over 20 years ago.
We talked informally about Family Tree Maker 2008. A number of us have purchased the program but are no longer using it due to several bugs and other problems. It is also very different looking than the 2006 release and some folks are intimidated by this.
Paul Coppola, who is distantly related to Dan Niemiec (#2304) on one side of his family, discovered that he was related to Len LaPasso, who RSVP’d on the group mail list that he was attending and it turns out they are cousins. He brought a photo of their common great-great-grandmother, which Len had never seen before.
Sam Collura brought with him a series of original estratto documents that were written in Italy to document a marriage back in 1909, including birth extracts, permission from the bride’s father etc. These were extracted and were dated back in 1909. Dan Niemiec helped translate what was in these records including that the father of the groom had been married twice, which Sam did not know. Sam’s ancestor came from the second marriage.
We had about a half-hour of informal discussion and then adjourned to lunch at Dominick’s Deli.
Our next meeting will be Saturday May 10th, 10:30am-12:30pm, in the same library in the same conference room!
NOVEMBER 10, 2007
Looking for the notes…..
Thirteen Italian genealogists gathered at our Schaumburg IL location for our 4th meeting of the year.
New to our group, but familiar to POINT, is Jo LoVecchio, former chair at PIP San Diego.
The highlight of the meeting was a presentation by our very own Terry Jackson entitled "Italian Immigration To Arkansas and the Mississippi Delta". The US South had a mjor labor shortage caused by the deaths of so many young men in the Civil War and the migration of former slaves away from the South. An effort was put forth to find Italian laborers who were willing to move to a large plantation in Arkansas called "Sunnyside", across the river from Greeneville, Mississippi. Two grandsons of John C. Calhoun (US Vice President under Andrew Jackson) owned the plantation and defaulted on their loans. They sold to Austin Corbin, a wealthy industrialist from New York, who formed a partnership with Don Emanuele Ruspoli, the Mayor of Rome, in the 1890s. Don Ruspoli owned a large share of the Sunnyside plantation and he contracted with agents to find Italian farm laborers who were willing to relocate to Sunnyside. Sunnyside paid for the trip to America, and the workers would retire the debt by working the plantation. They would then be eligible to buy land on the plantation with a house for a 21 year mortgage at 5% interest. Nice deal!
These northern Italians were used to growing vegetables, not cotton, and did not know how to grow cotton very well. They were also not healthy enough to fight off malaria they picked up from the mosquitoes in the swamplands nearby and many died. Mr. Corbin was busy making deals in New York and did little to improve conditions on his plantation. Many of the plantation workers petitioned Corbin to do something about conditions, and just as he began in earnest, he was killed in a carriage accident in New York. Corbin's heirs did less to help and the workers turned to Fr. Pietro Bandini. This Scalabrini priest realized that if the workers could be moved to lands more suitable for growing crops they were used to, they would do better and live longer. So he took some of the families to the northwest corner of Arkansas and founded Tontitown, named for one of the early Italian settlers in the New World. Tontitown became famous for its grapes and to this day it hosts a grape festival. A second group of Sunnyside workers left for the middle of Arkansas and founded a town later called Rosati, after the Bishop of St. Louis. This town became well know for its vineyards and wines.
The few that remained in Sunnyside had to make up for the work lost when the others left. This made conditions even more unbearable, and eventually the federal Government stepped in. The Corbin family sold out to three developers who fought the US Dept. of Justice investigation. One of them was a personal friend of President Theodore Roosevelt and used his contacts to get the investigation thwarted. Eventually he was elected to the Senate and became chairman of the committee that wrote the report on the investigation. Needless to say, he found nothing wrong with conditions on the plantation! However, the Italian government tried to stop the practice of peonage and did not ask its citizens to leave Italy for southern plantations anymore. In 1912 a flood destroyed the Sunnyside plantation, and the "experiment" was officially deemed a failure.
Several members donated photos for the photo exhibit and these were scanned at the library after the meeting. Thanks to everyone who has contributed.
Our next meeting will be Saturday November 10th, 9am-4pm at the Italian Cultural Center in Stone Park, IL. Mike Karsen will be speaking on "Writing Your Family History....NOW" and Dan Niemiec will talk about "The Ellis Island Experience". Then we will adjourn for lunch. After lunch, there will be a photo exhibit at the center, curated by our chapter. Also, anyone who wants one-on-one genealogy help can talk to some volunteers who will be set up with laptops from 1pm until 4pm. This is going to be a very different PIP chapter meeting and we will see if it will be a blueprint toward a new type of meeting.
JULY 14TH 2007
Looking for the notes….
Twenty enthusiastic Italian genealogists (and two genealogists of the future) gathered at the Italian Cultural Center in Stone Park, IL for the second meeting of the year for the Chicago-North chapter.
The meeting opened with chapter chair Dan Niemiec (#2304) introducing Dr. Dominic Candeloro, retired professor at Governors State University and curator of the Italian Cultural Center library. He introduced us to the Center and his desire to get more people involved in it and get more people to view the collections. He talked about the library collection of thousands of books about Italians and Italian-Americans. The ICC now has a computer, wireless internet, and a subscription to the US collection of Ancestry.com.
He took us to the John Cadel art gallery, a beautiful white marble room with statues and paintings, including a 400 year old Madonna, all created by Italian and Italian-American artists. Some of the art is decidedly classical, and some decidedly modern or abstract.
He took us to the “Italians in Chicago” exhibit room which contains a series of glass cases containing artifacts and documents from Chicago-Italian-Americans in various phases of their world: Emigration, Family Life, Marriage, Catholicism, Death, Work, Fraternal Organizations and Assimilation.
The most amazing item was “The Savioia”. Chicago has a strange statue known as “The Picasso” because Picasso never gave it a title. Well the Italian Cultural Center has “The Savioia” which is a 1:100 scale replica of St. Peter’s Basilica and Square. Every detail is precise, even the light inside the doors where the Holy Father appears on the balcony of St. Peter’s, and the statues of the Saints located on the columns that go in a semi-circle on each side of the Square all match exactly their Roman counterparts.
He also showed us the Sicilian Heritage Museum, which was just opened, and contains photos and artifacts from Sicily. Lastly, he showed us the Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini Museum, containing many items he used at his Mass (chalices, vestments) and letters in his handwriting. Blessed Scalabrini was the bishop of Piacenza, and he founded the Order of St. Charles Borromeo and sent Italian priests to Chicago Catholic parishes to minister to the faithful in their own language. There is a large bust in the middle of the museum room.
After a short break, the group reconvened at the Florentine Room for a presentation by Dan Niemiec on various genealogy web sites. It was meant as an overview of the sites available, and short demonstrations on how to make the best use of them. Among the sites covered were:
www.chicagoitalian.org The portal page for the two Chicago PIP Chapters
www.rootsweb.com/~itappcnc PIP Chicago-North’s Home Page
Pages within our site allow us to find Chicago street name changes, address change guide for 1909, Italian town lost (47,000 place names), Chicago Catholic parish locator, Italian microfilm indefinite loan lists for some local centers, and more
www.parrocchie.it Find your Italian parish address and phone number
www.paginebianche.it Italian white pages – find your living relatives
www.circolocalabrese.org Italian form letters to write to Ufficio dello Stato
www.alookatcook.com Census enueration district maps for Chicago
www.cyberdriveillinois.com Illinois marriage and death indexes
www.familysearch.org Microfilm catalog and research guides
Another entire presentation must be done to show Ancestry.com and Steve Morse’s web pages including the passenger manifests they find.
The meeting concluded with pizza and more conversation. Our next meeting will be back at the Schaumburg District Library on Saturday, July 14th, 2007 from 10am-12:30pm. As always, write to Dan at email@example.com for information or see our web site at www.chicagoitalian.org.
Our first meeting of 2007 began with 19 enthusiastic Italian genealogists in attendance. Dan Niemiec (#2304), our co-chair, announced that our next meeting will be held at the Italian Cultural Center in Stone Park, Illinois from 9am until noon, on Saturday May 5, 2007. This was specially announced because it will be the first meeting of our chapter not to be held in Schaumburg, and we will be hosting at least 2 meetings per year at the new location. This meeting will consist of Dan giving a demonstration of genealogy web sites that can be useful to Chicago Italians, followed by a tour of the Italian Cultural Center exhibits and museums led by Dr. Dominic Candeloro, professor at Governors State University and curator of the Italian Cultural Center.
Our chapter would like to announce a bold new program for this year called GIV (Genealogical Italian Volunteers). Dr. Candeloro is working with our chapter to promote Italian genealogy through the Cultural Center and we decided to expand on his idea. We would like to set up a volunteer schedule for the local Family History Centers and the Italian Cultural Center (ICC), where experienced Italian genealogists sign up and promise to spend one or two evenings per month at their local Family History Center or the ICC, specifically to help Italian genealogists who come in looking for assistance. We know that the local centers have volunteers on staff, but frequently those volunteers do not know Italian research and cannot help reading Italian records. So if we set up a schedule for each center with volunteers supplied by our chapter, and then publicize that schedule on our web site and at each of the centers, we can accomplish a number of goals. First, we can help people one-on-one with expert advice on how to proceed. Second, we then encourage people who do not know about PIP meetings to join us. If no one shows up looking for help, the volunteer can work on his own research, so the time is not wasted. We can also supply volunteers for the ICC even though they cannot work on microfilm there. I have done this system on my own at the Buffalo Grove Family History Center, and Rose Ducato has worked with people by appointment at Rockford, so those Italian genealogists who need help will schedule themselves to be at the center on the night the PIP volunteer is supposed to be there.
Bill Kohnke is a first-timer to our meetings. He is starting to do his Italian wife’s ancestry. She is the youngest of six children. Her grandfather murdered his wife in Chicago in 1912. He had found all the pertinent information surrounding the story. He is now looking for the death record. He was found in the 1920 census but not in the 1930 census.
John Casalino, first timer is not only Italian-born but a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He was one of the people who microfilmed records for the LDS Church in Italy. Only last year he became a US citizen. His parents are still in Triggiano, Bari, Italy and he visits them as often as possible. He advised our group that there are many LDS Family History Centers throughout Italy. John also talked about the poor storage condition many church records are in. Some of these records are kept in caverns at the archives. Land records dating back to the 1400s may be a way for those of us from Bari and elsewhere to trace our ancestry back far before the Sacramental records. We were thrilled and excited to have John join us at our meeting.
David Viglielmo, first timer. He has his grandparents’ death records. They came through Ellis Island and settled in Cuba, Illinois and worked as miners. He has an Aunt who is 94 years of age. She has been writing her memoirs and family history for years. David is painstakingly taking those notes and hopes someday to write a family history. He is from Tavagnosco, Torino, Italy. His grandfather Bartholomeo Viglielmo came to America in 1903.
Joe Nugara is a first timer. His mother is from Cellamare, Bari, Italy. His father is from Milena (formerly Milocca), Caltanissetta, Sicily. He is affiliated with Amici D’Italia and the Amici Journal magazine. His parents are both living and in their 80s and Joe is working on compiling their individual stories of their early lives. He heard about our meeting on WJJG AM 1530, a local independent radio station specializing in talk shows and Italian items of interest!