Five Steps to Genealogical Success

Complete genealogical foundations help answer family questions 

A Case Study: D’Amico

By Don Taylor

A friend was telling me that his wife knew her ancestors, the D’Amico side, were Italian, but didn’t know where in Italy they were from. He also told me he didn’t have any idea where to start. He said they had poked around Ellis Island records but found nothing. He provided me very little information, just the parents names, grandmother’s name.  He mentioned they settled in New England (Mass. & Maine) and one key bit of information, her father died in 1959 at the age of 43.
As a former Project Manager, I really believe in the process. My process is to always enter what I think I know into a family tree program.  I currently use Heredis 2015 World (Mac) [By the way, Heredis is running a 50% off sale which ends today.]  as my preferred genealogy organization software, but I could as easily other software or even paper. The process is the same either way.
1.  Enter what you think you know.
a.     Enter the known relationships and any known vital facts. In this case, there wasn’t much to begin with, but entered it and started.
Starting point for D’Amico Project.
2.  My next goal is to find the family unit in at least two censuses and make sure that I have a family unit understood.  I typically use Family Search for my initial start.  I like Family Search particularly because I like their “copy” feature. It provides an easy way to copy all of the data of the record plus the source citation in a single click so I can easily paste it into a source record in my software. I also like to confirm any of the seed facts from step 1.

a.     I then created a source entry and pasted the information into it. I saved that and then created the facts I wish, and drag and drop my source to the fact I’ve entered. In this case the month and place of death as well as the birthdate. 

b.     1940 Census, 23 year-old Michael with wife and daughter living in Maine.[i] 

c.     (1935 Living at Same Place)[ii] 

d.     1930 Census, 13 year-old Michael living with his widowed mother, Margaret, and four siblings in Franklin, Norfolk Co., MA. It also indicated her grandmother was born in Italy immigrated in 1900, and was naturalized.[iii]

I was fairly certain that this 1930 Census record was the correct family but wanted to be absolutely certain. I contacted my friend to have him ask his wife if her father grew up in Franklin, MA, and did she have an aunt Elinora and uncles, Frank, Joseph, and Victor. She responded that she did, so I knew I was with the right family.

3.  My next process is to follow the individual through all the censuses of his or her life. I found him in the 1920 Census with his father, Michael (new name) his mother, and his four siblings. The census reported that the father, Michael, was born in Italy, immigrated in 1890, and was naturalized in 1900.[iv] That finished all of the census records for the Michael the son. 
Next, a quick check found Michael’s birth registration which yielded the maiden name for his mother, Marguerita Melano.[v]
Now on to follow Michael the father through more census records; he should be listed in 1910 and 1900. 
The 1910 Census finds Michael in Franklin, MA with his wife and three children. His oldest child, Donato is 4 years old doesn’t show up in the 1920 census, so I suspect something happened to him. It also indicated that he immigrated in 1886 and is naturalized. This broadens his immigration date to between 1886 and 1890 for future searches. It also indicates that Marguerita immigrated in 1904.[vi]

1920 Census
1910 Census
Michael Immigration
Michael Naturalization
Marguerita Immigration
Marguerita Naturalization
* Note: Before the 19th Amendment women took the citizenship of their husbands upon marriage.
I wasn’t successful in quickly finding Michael D’Amico nor Marguerita Melano in the 1900 Census but I decided to continue on anyway and see if I could answer the questions.
Switching to I searched Immigration & Travel for Margherita Melano arriving in 1904.
Searched Immigration & Travel for Margherita Melano.
There she was in the New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 arriving on 23 Jul 1904 aboard the Citta Di Torino sailing from Napoli (Naples). Her “race or peoples” is listed at So Italian and her last Residence was Caserta.  We don’t know for certain if that is Caserta the city or Caserta the province. Caserta (the city) is only about 15 miles north of Naples, so it makes sense that she would take a ship out of Naples to America.[vii] 
Using the information, I had regarding Michael, I didn’t find anything in Immigration & Travel that seemed to fit him. Then I searched the Birth, Marriage & Death records for Michael D’Amico born in Italy 1864. Up came an index record for Michele D’Amico, Baptized 1 May 1864 in Civile, Casalvecchio Di Puglia, Foggia, Italy.  Father Donato D’ Amico and Mother Eleonora Rossacci.[viii]  That must be him. Michael’s first son was named Donato and his first daughter was named Elenora clearly after his parents. The age was right. Casalvecchio Di Puglia is about 100 miles northeast of Naples.
I know that it is a leap to ascribe the Baptism record of Michele D’Amico of Casalvecchio Di Puglia to Michael D’Amico, the grandfather of my subject individual, but because of the expected birth date and the parents’ names (as they relate to the grandfather’s children’s names) I believe it is a good fit. So tentatively, I have him with that baptism and birth location.
According to The Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. website, there was a Michele D’Amico who arrived in 1899 aboard the SS EMS whose last address was Cercemaggiore, which is about 35 miles from Casalvecchio Di Puglia. That is his likely immigration, however, I can’t prove it and it will take a bunch more research to prove it.
But going back to the process:
1.     Start a tree. Fill in what you think you know.
2.     Confirm what you think you know with evidence.
3.     Find the individual in every census.
4.     Find the individual’s vital (birth, marriage, death) information.
5.     Seek answers to specific questions in appropriate locations.
Move on to another ancestor.
In this case, I believe that Michael D’Amico was born in Casalvecchio De Puglia and possibly lived in Cercemaggiore.  I also believe that Marguerita Melano was from Caserta. Both were from southern Italy within 100 miles of Naples.


[i] 1940 Census; Michael A D’Amico – Ward 9, Portland, Portland City, Cumberland, Maine, United States; Family Search.
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] 1930 Census; Margaret Damico – Franklin, Norfolk, Massachusetts, District ED 52, Sheet 15A, Household 351, Line 27; Family Search
[iv] 1920 Census; Michael D’Amico – Franklin, Norfolk, Massachusetts; Sheet 5A, Household 82, Line 44; Family Search
[v] Massachusetts State Vital Records, 1841-1920; Michele Archangelo D’Amico – 1916 – Record #115; Family Search
[vi] 1910 Census; Michael D’Amico – Franklin, Norfolk, Massachusetts; Sheet 26A, Household 525; Family Search.
[vii] New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957; Margherita Melano – 1904 Arrival, New York, New York;
[viii] Italy, Select Births and Baptisms, 1806-1900; Michele D’Amico – Baptism Index;

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