Brick Wall Ancestor Series #3: Finding the birth place and parents of an Italian immigrant to the United States

Leonard spelled his name several different ways and put his age and immigration differently on each census. Could he be found in his home country of Italy?


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What We Knew

  • Leonard Riccardo was in the 1940 census in McAlmont Township, Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, with his wife and children. He was listed as born in Italy and age 59, making his birth year about 1881.
  • Leonard Riccardi was in the 1930 census in McAlmont Township, Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, with his wife and children. He was listed as age 46 and born in Italy with parents born in Italy, making his birth year about 1884. His immigration year was listed as 1909.
  • Leonard Riccardo was in the 1920 census in Young, Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, with his wife and children. He was listed as age 37 and born in Italy with parents born in Italy, making his birth year about 1883. His immigration year was listed as 1903.
  • Leonardo Rigardi married his wife Carmella Riggi in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, in 1911. He was listed as age 37, making his birth year 1874. The marriage document lists his parents as John and Jessi.
  • Leonardo and Carmella had several children. They named their oldest son John.


Records We Located

  • In combining the information on the census records, Leonardo went by the name Leonardo or Leonard. He surname was variously spelled Riccardo, Riccardi, and Rigardi. He was born between 1874 and 1881 in Italy. He probably immigrated between 1903 and 1909 to America.
  • We searched for a passenger list for Leonardo Riccardo in the New York passenger lists. We located a Leonardo Riccardi that arrived in 1903 in New York, age 25, making his birth year about 1878. The passenger list indicated his birth place as Terranova. The 2 passengers on the list directly above him on the list had a more complete birth place name of Terranova di Pollino. Leonardo's relative in the United States was listed as his cousin Leonardo Riccardo in New York City. The 2 passengers on the list directly above him have relatives living at close addresses to Leonardo's relative. So the 3 of them appear to have been from the same town and travelled together. Another passenger list for the same date shows Leonardo on a record of detained passengers, indicating that he arrived in the United States but was not allowed to stay and returned to Italy.
  • We located another passenger list for Leonardo Riccardi in 1910. He was listed as age 32, making his birth year about 1878. His closest relatives was listed as living in Terranova.
  • Both of these passenger lists combined show Leonardo as born in about 1878 in Terranova, possibly Terranova di Pollino. He arrived in America in both 1903 and 1910, roughly matching the immigration years of 1903 and 1909 on the census records.
  • We researched the Italian town name of Terranova. There are multiple places named Terranova; there is also a place called Terranova di Pollino in the province of Potenza.
  • We examined the vital records of Terranova di Pollino, Potenza, Italy, which are digitized on FamilySearch. We located a birth record for Leonardo Riccardi who was born on 25 September 1877 with parents Giovanni Riccardi and Maria Guiseppe Cristiano. Note that the marriage document for Leonardo named his parents as John and Jessi. Giovanni is the Italian form of the name John, and Jessi is rather similar to the name Guiseppe. In addition, Leonardo named his first son John, probably after his father. So this birth record appears to be the correct person.


Conclusion


We used census records, marriage records, passenger lists, and birth records to determine that Leonardo Riccardi was born in Terranova, Potenza, Italy. His parents were Giovanni (John) Riccardi and Maria Guiseppe Cristiano. The documents and sources we gathered are found on the person page of Leonardo Riccardo in the FamilySearch Family Tree, ID L28K-MQ3.


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