Throwback Thursday: Family History Research

I’ve been doing some research lately in Ancestry.com and on various other websites, and tonight I think I struck gold. I was poking around in the family of my maternal grandmother, and suddenly there were lists of names and dates. Most of this still needs to be confirmed with other sources, but I just tentatively identified ancestors extending that branch of my family tree back three more generations!

Until tonight, I could only get back to my great grandparents in that line. I am talking about my grandmother’s parents, Fortunato and Francesca Piccioli, who emigrated from Italy to Pennsylvania in the early 1900s. Tonight, I discovered the name of Fortunato’s father — Nicola, my great-great grandfather. I also have learned the names of his parents, Antonio and Maria, and of Antonio’s parents, Domenico and Maria. (Yes, many of my female ancestors were named Maria.) I even have exact birthdates and lists of children for some of these people.

The earliest ancestor I identified tonight is my great-great-great-great grandfather, Domenico Piccioli, born in 1748 in Marche, Italy. His wife was the former Maria Agostinelli, born in 1751.

Domenico and Maria had eleven children, eight girls and three boys. Four of those children were named Camilla or Camillo! That sounds funny, but the reason was tragic. Their oldest child, Camilla, was born in 1774 and died in 1789, a few days after her fifteenth birthday. A year later, they had a son and named him Camillo, presumably after his sister. He lived only a few weeks. Three years later, in 1793, another Camilla was born. She lived for four days. Finally, in 1796, Maria gave birth to another Camilla. Unlike her older brother and sisters she was named for, my great-great-great Aunt Camilla grew up. She lived until 1855, when she passed away in the same town where she was born, at the age of 58.

Altogether, at least four of Domenico and Maria’s eleven sons and daughters died in childhood. But I don’t have dates of death for two of the other daughters, so it could be as many as six who never reached adulthood.

My great-great-great grandfather, Antonio, was their fifth child. He grew up and at age 25 married a woman one of the aforementioned Marias. The couple had five children — four boys and a girl. Antonio died at age 38, when his youngest, my great-great grandfather Nicola, was not quite a year old.

Nicola, by the way, was named after his own older brother, who lived only two days.

I am so excited by these finds. I’ve been trying for years to get farther back than the late 19th century. I got chills when I realized I was staring at a list of names that reached more than a hundred years earlier.

I still have many gaps to fill in, and I need to verify what I’ve found with other sources. But it should be so much easier to do that with actual names to look up.

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