When I initially began searching my family's Sicilian commune index online for my great-grandfather, I kept overlooking the right person. Why? Well, despite the fact that the birth dates lined up, in 1901 it listed him as getting married -- but, it sure wasn't to my great-grandmother.
I checked with my dad and other relatives and nobody recalled ever hearing about a first wife. So, I kept checking and checking, but could not find another similar record. I decided to give the Italian records search a rest and focus on the U.S. documents. My first stop was to request my great-grandparents marriage certificate from the city of Philadelphia.
The record showed up in a few weeks. My eyes scanned the document...my great-grandmother's name was spelled three different ways (no worries, nothing an affidavit can't fix), but no other surprises. Wait, wait...does it say he was married before?!
The beauty of old records is that they are often very detailed and my great-grandparents' marriage certificate is no exception. It clearly lists that his first wife had died two years previous in Philadelphia.
Turns out, I had the right guy in Sicily all along. Something in my gut told me I was right all along, but sometimes it's hard to go against what the family tells you. The official documents from Sicily would corroborate the information on the marriage certificate.
- Question family oral history
- Review all received records very carefully, particularly the really old ones. Quite often they will provide additional information that you don't already have.
- Requesting uncertified documents speeds up processing times. I requested a simple photocopy of the Philadelphia marriage certificate to make sure it was the right one. I immediately put in a request for an apostilled version, which took about 6 weeks to arrive, once I confirmed that is was indeed my grandparents' certificate.