Maria & Antonino

It All Started in Campagna

Although it wasn’t easy, the result was a complete success.
After arriving at the Town Hall in Campagna at 9:00, I immediately went to the mayor for authorization. This went relatively quickly, and by 9:20 I was already down at the clerk’s office... Who asked me what I needed to start.
That was a clue that it could be a problem, as the records weren’t in the office but in the ‘archive’(if you can call it that!). So, hoping for the best and not to ruffle any feathers, I asked for the births for 1873 and 1877.
After bringing them out I first opened 1877 and easily found grandma Maria’s birth certificate — born Maria Luitgarde, three days later than expected, but it was her! Best part – there was an annotation for a marriage in 1896! At that point, I thought I was going to get out easy.
But, as luck would have it, 1873 proved not only to be a negative, but there was no index... So the research was page-by-page of hand-written records... Even with the size of Campagna (of the area, it was the largest and most important city of the time.)
So, with Antonio Capaccio’s birth certificate not found, research called for moving to the marriage and utilizing that info to get more exact info for the birth.
The (rather incompetent) clerk went into the archive and, after about 15 minutes, came back and said “there aren’t any marriage records!” (Something I’ve heard plenty of times before from these Italian clerks who simply don’t want to work and/or don’t know their job!)
I attempted to explain that with me in there it wouldn’t be a problem and that I’ll find it and be in-and-out. He insisted there were no marriage records and that it was useless, so I had to get the mayor involved and the clerk then ‘accompanied me’ into the archive and said, ‘see, I told you it would be impossible to find. They don’t exist!’
In about 30 seconds, I found the marriage registries... I then opened the 1896 marriage book to the correct page and learned Antonino’s true birth name... “ANTONIO CAPACCINO” ...26 years old, shoemaker. Unknown Father. Unknown mother.
That put him at 1870 for his birth (you can see on his manifest that it’s a 26 — 1870 — and Antonio Capaccino) A nice cross-validation since the info came from his birth {which provided the info for his passport} and he immigrated with his wife... And confirmed that voyage in his naturalization. I pulled the 1870 register and... NOTHING!
This is when I knew it wouldn’t be a quick day. Again, given the size of Campagna (enormous... 400 births a year! Most little towns are between 30 and 70) and the fact we were in the ‘hand-written years” (1866-1875) and the lack of indexes.
The ‘delightful’ clerk stayed to ‘keep an eye on me,’ (lets say) and after seeing this 1870 negative record began lamenting “It’s impossible!” “I don’t know why you are doing this!” “It’s useless!” “There is no way you will find him!” “It’s not there!” ...and so on and so on and so on....So, to buffer that presence, I tried to make small talk as I methodically walked through each step of the research process that we teach town clerks and apprentices when you come up against this situation:
Index Search (That name for multiple years)Here, page-by-page, from 1868 to 1875 (two years before 1870, two years after your proposed birth date) we searched for any Antonio/Antonino – Capaccio/Capaccino...about 2,400 records. Nothing
Date Search (Exact Period, Any name) we moved to the month of May and Analyzed each name (parents, annotations, dates etc) to see each being born. Here you can catch if someone was born one name and then adopted.... In which a sidebar annotation will list the court decree etc etc. But, negative.
Atypical birth certificates With his marriage certificate saying; he was born in Campagna... He was born in Campagna. You had to present your Birth Certificate to get married, or else you couldn’t get married at the time! So, this means searching the ‘atypical’ birth. Starting with the marriage year and going back. This is because when a person is ready to be married — and then realized that he never had a birth certificate — they had to do a delayed birth with the courthouse.
At that this point the clerk was even more adamant. “It’s impossible!” “He’s not there” I came to it.... ANTONIO CAPACCINO! (Complete with the marriage annotation, confirming his identity through his marriage to Maria Palladino.) It took almost four hours of methodical research in this dusty, little archive– but it proved successful.
So, I then requested “Copie Conforme” (e.g. Certified photocopies) of the records and finished up the day, quite satisfied, as it was a pretty tricky case – rarely do I ever have to exhaust all the tricks I have.