How to Use U.S. Research Sources

In order to start a research project onsite in Italy or to order Italian vital records, you need to have some essential information of your ancestor/s who left Italy, specifically:

  • Full Name
  • Date of Birth
  • EXACT Town of Birth (all family documents in Italy are only maintained in the EXACT town where the person was born)
  • Parents' Names (if available)

If you don’t have this information, you need to research the following sources:

Immigration Records

The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc has made available online FREE all the Ships Manifests for those who arrived in the U.S. through the port of Ellis Island from 1892 to 1957. You need to have the full name of your Ancestor who migrated from Italy, his/her approximate date of arrival and his/her approximate age at arrival in case there are several passengers with the same last name. The Manifest will list the ancestor's full name, age, sex, profession, last residence in Italy, birthplace (listed after 1907), names and addresses of the relatives in the US, etc. Ellis Island Records are also available at, and many other websites. 

SSDI (Social Security Death Index)

The U.S. Social Security Index is an index of several million deceased people who had social security numbers and whose deaths were reported to the Social Security Administration. The index lists deaths since 1962. However, the records include the original Social Security Application that your Ancestor would have completed in order to acquire a Social Security Number.  This procedure began in 1936.  To research your ancestor’s listing in the SSDI free of charge, CLICK HERE.

Once you find your Ancestor’s listing, you can order the original Application (SS-5).

By mail:

You should address your request to: Social Security Administration, OEIO FOIA Workshop, 6100 Wabash Ave., P.O. Box 33022, Baltimore, Maryland 21290-3022. The fees range from $28 to $30. Learn more here. 


You can order the SS-5 Form online from the Social Security Administration here. 

 The usual timeline to get a response is about two weeks.

The SS-5 Form will include your Ancestor's Full Name, date of birth, place of birth, parents' names, SS# and more. 

Census Records

Only Federal Census Records starting from 1900 list more information such as date of immigration, profession, sex, color, birthplace (it's not uncommon to find "Italy" listed instead of the exact town of birth), naturalization information (A=Alien, PA=First Papers, NA=Naturalized), etc. U.S. Census Records are available online at (free site), National Archives (NARA), and many others websites.


Naturalization Records

Naturalization is the process by means of which an alien becomes an American citizen. Before 1952, it used to be a two-step process that took a minimum of 5 years: 

  1. First your ancestor had to fill a Declaration of Intention (so-called "first papers") to become citizen, after residing in the United States for 2 years 
  2. After 3 additional years, if the petition for naturalization was granted, a certificate of citizenship was issued. A copy of the Petition was kept at the court, and a copy of the Petition and Certificate was sent to the Department of Immigration and Naturalization Services, which is now USCIS.  After 1952, the Declaration of Intention was no longer filed.

The "Petition" lists more useful information than the "Declaration of Intention." It includes (if issued after 1906): Full Name, date of birth, birthplace, port of entry, occupation, place of residence in the US, spouse’s name and place of birth, their marriage and the children's names if still living at home.  NOTE: Wives and minor children were automatically naturalized with their husbands and fathers in the early 1900's, so you may not be able to find naturalization papers for them. 


Military Records

Military draft records can include those who served, as well many who were drafted but never called to service. These records may list the name, residence, occupation, birth information (date and place), if married the spouse's name. Military records are available online (free site), National Archives (NARA), and many others websites.


Vital Records

If your ancestor who was born in Italy, married and/or died in the U.S., researching his marriage and death records can be helpful in determining the EXACT place of birth. Please visit the Division of Vital Records Office of the U.S. State where the event (birth/marriage/death) took place for more information.

Questions? You can book your FREE Consultation at your convenience, HERE 

If you already know you qualify for Italian dual citizenship, you can purchase our Start-to-Finish Program. At My Italian Family, we don’t just give advice, we handle all the purchasing and preparation of your entire portfolio of documents, whether you apply at an Italian Consulate here in the U.S. or you apply in Italy (including 1948 Challenge Courts Cases). Our experience spans the past 20 years, and we have expert knowledge of what each Italian Consulate requires, as well as what the Italian Courts require.TO GET STARTED AND FOR MORE INFORMATION, CLICK HERE