Thursday, March 10, 2016

O Little Town of Omignano....

My last name, Jordan, is an Americanization of the original surname of my great grandfather: Giordano.  Francesco Giordano came to America in 1889 from the little town of Omignano, Salerno, Campania, Italy.  My father's family knew him as Frank Jordan.

In October 2013 I discovered that Family Search posted unindexed digital images of the collection "Italia, Salerno, Vallo della Lucania, Stato Civile (Tribunale), 1866-1929" on their web site, including Frank's birth record.  Using this image set, I traced back a few more generations, which led me to my first set of direct line kissing cousins.  A pair of first cousins once removed married, so one set of 4th great grandparents double as a set of 5th great grandparents. (Does that count as killing 4 birds with 2 stones?)

Given the small size of the town and the high likelihood of intermarrying, it occurred to me that I might be related to quite a lot of people in the town.  And so, an idea was born, The Great Omignano (OMG, no!) Indexing Project!!!  But it was just an idea, and like many ideas, it sat on the shelf for awhile.  There are gold mines of information in all that Italian text, but to get to them, you have to filter though all that Italian text, an endeavor both time consuming and fraught with bad handwriting.  I worked back a few generations, concentrating on the Giordano surname and not much else, but did not roll forward to closer generations that lead to living cousins.  And after that flurry of excitement on the Italian hometown breakthrough, I moved on to other things.

Fast forward two and a half years. I'm starting to see Italian line DNA matches on the various testing sites.  Trying to figure out where these 4th cousin and further out matches fit in is tricky when my tree is not fleshed out both forward and back.  I found myself creating private individual family trees on Ancestry for each DNA match so I could try to build out their trees to figure out how we connect.  After spending two weekends building trees for OTHER people, I finally remembered my epiphany from 2013 and decided to take action on that idea.  The Vallo della Lucania images include births, marriage banns, marriages and deaths starting in 1866.  In 1875, the Omignano record books were converted to fill-in-the-blank forms, but prior to that, the entire record is one big handwritten paragraph.

So the past few weekends, instead of building out yet another DNA match tree (no doubt more of those will happen later), I turned to building spreadsheets.  I started with death records, capturing a number of data elements for each record, including the URL to the image.  For the totally handwritten 1866-1874 records, I've only captured the year, order number, name and URL information for about 200 people - those will take more work to decipher than the form-based ones to complete the index.  I have recorded all the information from the 1875-1887 deaths, about 320 people.  Since I was not focusing solely on the name Giordano, I actually added several more dates and people to my tree just from those records!  I'll take that as a sign that I'm on the right track.  Already I recognize the common surnames of the town, and they are an immediate clue of a potential shared line in the trees of my DNA matches.

So we'll see how long this project stays at the top of the to do list - hopefully I'll be able to finish some record sets before something else jumps the line.  And then I'll be able to use this spreadsheet index as a tool for looking up potential ancestors of DNA matches! 

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