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Any guide that explains how to identify your ancestor’s place of origin on the basis of local food and city neighborhoods is to be savored, and a guide that demonstrates the importance of naming patterns and marriage customs is also to be valued. These are clues that can be put together quickly and will support what you later learn from records of immigration, naturalization, and the census, enabling you to bring the American side of your research to a quick boil before plunging into Italian research, where it is necessary to know the town of origin.
You can add a few other tricks to get you back to the town of origin: matching up patron saints, for example, identifying cluster settlements with Old Country names, and even checking Italian-American funeral homes and cemeteries for a reference to the town of origin. But in the end you must know the town of origin before you can begin searching Italian records, because it is in the town archives where the most important records of birth, marriage, and death are kept. From these records alone, you might be able to reconstruct whole families in one fell swoop, as they generally list two or three generations or more.
While some of these civil records (registri dello stato civile) are being digitized and put online by the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, many are still accessible on microfilm, which can be ordered from a FamilySearch Center--a branch facility of the Family History Library. Facts of equal importance are found throughout this guide, where there are citations to the best books in the field as well as a detailed list of online sources offering everything from letter-writing guides to the most useful websites for locating Italian towns and surname databases.
This is Genealogy at a Glance, which gives you all the tools you need to conduct Italian research.