D’Ignati….the most heart wrenching word I have ever heard…at least in Italian Genealogy…and I first heard it when my Paternal Grandmothers Birth Record was being translated for me in Salt Lake City.  I’ll never forget the words being read to me.  Mother, Maria Somma; Father, Ferdinando d’Ignati…that means unknown.  The translator stopped….immediately.  My brain was screaming…WHAT DO YOU MEAN…UNKNOWN!  My eyes just blinked.  And my heart sank.


I looked at the translator….a very kind, sweet, elderly gentleman that had helped translate all my Italian documents the week I was in Salt Lake City…the last week of September 2011.  He also taught me so much about Italian naming techniques, their culture, how my relatives must have lived, and even gave me several possible reasons why they immigrated to the US.  But this information I wasn’t prepared for…and I didn’t know how to process it.

Francescadina Minelli Birth Record April 10, 1901 Cosenza, Calabria, Italy

Francescadina Minelli
Birth Record
April 10, 1901
Cosenza, Calabria, Italy

I was so happy to have found my grandmother’s birth certificate…and was a little surprised to know her birthday, as we knew it, was wrong.  But this information I couldn’t process.  He was telling me that her father didn’t know who his parents were….how could that be?!?!?!?

He finished reading and translating the document for me, but I only watched as he wrote the information in red pencil on the copy of it.  I don’t think I heard anything he said.  Then he looked at me…made eye contact…and made sure I was listening to him.  “We need to find HIS birth record.”…that was all he said.  “Come on…I’ll help you find it.”…and he did!  We looked up the microfilm roll that we needed…loaded it into my machine…and found Ferdinando Minelli’s birth record within 5 minutes.  I was running out of time…My time in Salt Lake City was almost over.  We printed off the record of my Great Grandfather and he began to translate for me.

Ferdinando MInelli Birth Record 1866.....Parents unknown

Ferdinando Minelli
Birth Record
1866…..Parents unknown

Basically this document says that a women “called” Maria Bambini brought a male child to the municipality to have his birth recorded and to hand him over to them.  The child was born to a woman who wished to remain unknown; to parents who wished to remain unnamed. He was “presented” with the name of Ferdinando Minelli. Even this woman’s name is probably made up.  Maria Bambini translates to “Mary’s Child”, which was often a term used to describe a kind of midwife…like a nurse in the US was often referred to as a “Florence Nightengale”. This woman refused to sign the document stating she was illiterate…so a fake name fits with it. If she would’ve signed a fake name on this document she could have been prosecuted under local laws for falsifying a birth record.  But…how is any of this helping me…I wanted answers.

I was devastated….I was only about an hour away from shutting everything down in Salt Lake City and getting ready to go to our travel groups closing dinner…and then packing to go back home to Michigan.  This wasn’t how I wanted to end my trip….I was supposed to be going home with good news.  Not this!!!!

So many questions still remained.  Who was Ferdinando Minelli…who raised him?  Was he raised by Foster Parents?  In an orphanage? An Institution?  I  don’t believe he was ever adopted as he immigrated to the US with the same name as he was “presented” with at birth.  What was his life like?  Who were his parents and why didn’t they want him?  Unfortunately I will never be able to answer most of these questions.  I might be able to find out what happened to infants abandoned at birth in Cosenza, Italy…someday.  For now his history will remain a secret.  One that I someday will dig into again.