Locating where your immigrant ancestor came from is always a challenge. Here is one way I solved the problem.

In From Tursi to Niles – The Fusco Family – I had a death certificate that said Leonardo Fusco was born on 22 September 1884 in Messina, Italy the son of Frank Fusco and Rosaline Anzollati.

The first step was to look for a birth record in Messina, Italy dated 22 September 1884. It wasn’t there. I checked the index to see if it was a different day that year. Nope. I checked the year before and the year after. No and no.

I checked Ancestry for the death of Fusco child of Francesco Fusco and Rosaline Anzollati. Nope. Fusco child of Fusco and Rosalina. Nope. I tried a few other searches but continued to have no luck.

Then I searched the records at FamilySearch and got the same results — only the death record for Leonard. So I looked for any Fusco who died in Niles, Ohio. With cluster immigration, I expected other Fuscos in the area would be family. Bingo.

I found a death record for Mrs. Mary A. Fusco, born 1872, in Tursi, Italy the daughter of Frank A. Fusco and Rose Auzoloti (looks like Anzolott to me). So while the information did not come up in a search, probably because the mother’s name was transcribed as Rose Auzoloti, I expected this record would show up with the search Fusco child of Fusco and Rosa, but the secret was the location was needed. The results of the search adding Niles, Ohio as the death place on FamilySearch were better than with Ancestry. Not that I don’t love Ancestry. I find Ancestry’s search engine has better results with immigration records.

Why was Mrs. Mary A. Fusco listed with her maiden name on her death record when she was obviously married? Because she had married Nicholas A. Fusco and her maiden name and married surname were the same. Then I went to the Tursi records.

Mariantonia Fusco the daughter of Francescantonio Fusco and Rosalia Anzilotta was born in 1872 in Tursi. So then I had to check if Leonardo was born in 1884. And there he was. Leonardo Fusco was born on 21 October 1884, the son of Francesantonio Fusco and Rosalia Anzillotte.

Leonard’s son had his father’s birth date and place wrong. The family had come from Tursi, Matera, Basilicata, Italy.

Another way to find your immigrant ancestor is to look at the immigration and naturalization records.

Angelo Fonzo’s death record, as reported by his wife, says he was born on 18 December 1853 in Benevento, Italy. And of course, his birth record was not found in Benevento, but I often see that our immigrant ancestors did not know their exact birth dates and they often named the largest city (which is usually the name of the province so I’m not sure which they intended) as their birthplace. For example, Vincenzo Chiariello’s Declaration of Intention says he was born in Naples, Italy and that was repeated on his World War II Draft Registration Card. On the death record, his son reported Vincenzo was born in Acerra, Italy (in the province of Naples) and that is where the birth record was found.

Back to Angelo. He was married to Anna Bosco, and since Italian women did not change their surnames, I was able to find an Anna Bosco, traveling with daughter Concetta Fonzo and son Domenico Fonzo, from San Giorgio, traveling to Niles, Ohio to join her husband, Angelo Fonzo. This matched my Angelo Fonzo so I looked for a San Giorgio in Benevento and found his birth record there.

Notice I once again had to look at other family members to solve the problem. This technique is used often and Elizabeth Shown Mills (a famous contemporary genealogist) calls it the FAN Club (Family, Associates, and Neighbors).

If you haven’t found your immigrant ancestor’s hometown after studying other family members in the area or by searching for immigration and naturalization records, try contacting other researchers. My father knew his grandfather, Charles Murphy (aka Vincenzo Maffeo), was from Italy. Family legend had it that he’d changed his name to sound Irish to get a job working on the railroad.

Dad had developed a large network of family members who were also working on genealogy and one of his cousins suggested he talk to another researcher she had found. That researcher did not know about Charles, but he was related to Pietro Augustino Maffeo who was from Candida, Avellino, Campania, Italy whose parents were Feliciano Maffeo and Clementina Romano. Charles’ death record stated his parents were Philigiano Maffeo and Clementina Romano and he was born about 1860 (the U.S. census records put his birth around 1861). A birth record was found in Candida for a Vincenzo Maffeo the son of Feliciano Maffeo and Clementina Romano born on 12 November 1861. Other information supported the conclusion that Charles and Pietro were brothers.

Again, FAN (Family, Associates, and Neighbors) led to the hometown.

The final technique I call the Sledge Hammer. I don’t recommend it. It is a long shot, but I’ve had success with it. You search in communities where your ancestors might have come from and hope you get lucky and find them.

For example, I had a client who needed to find her ancestor’s birth record for Dual Citizenship. She knew the parents were married in Town A, the second son was born in Town B, and the rest of the children were born in Town C, but where was the first son born? He wasn’t found in A, B or C. So I looked at the towns between A and B and eventually found him in the third or fourth town I tried. This was possible because I knew about what year he was born and who his parents were. Otherwise, with the Italians using the same names over and over, I wouldn’t be sure I’d found the right person.

On my current project, Orson Bellamy was born in Connecticut but then the family was in New York. There are lots of Bellamys in New York so I expected Orson’s father was also from New York. But when I checked to see if there were any Bellamys in Connecticut, I found a whole bunch in Litchfield County including an Orson Bellamy who could possibly be my Orson’s father giving me a good place to start the hunt.

Finally, I’ve also used Surname Maps to narrow down the location of where my ancestor might have come from. Dattero is a fairly rare name and with the majority in Campania, specifically in Naples with almost the same number in Salerno, I’ve narrowed my search from the whole country to two towns.