When my last living grandparent, my mother’s father José Palmieri, died in 2011, about the only thing he left us was an old black and white photograph of his grandparents Giuseppe Palmieri and Juana Mendoza. I was named after José Palmieri, who was named after his grandfather Giuseppe or José Palmieri as was known when he migrated to Mexico in the early 1900s. I met José Palmieri for the first time when I was a teenager. My mother never lived with him. Her parents split when she was little, and she was raised by her grandmother.
Many years later while attending college in the U.S., I began researching the Palmieri side of the family. Little was known about this branch of the family tree. Knowing just some basic facts and not having contact with other Palmieri relatives, things went slowly. Eventually I found records that led from Mexico to Italy. As I traced the family history, many fascinating stories emerged about this branch of the family and the community of Italo-Mexicans. Over the years, my sister and I have discovered clues about how Giuseppe Palmieri arrived at the port of Veracruz, Mexico and moved to the state of Coahuila in northern Mexico where he met his wife Juana Mendoza and eventually moved with her to Mexico City. However, we could not find a marriage certificate, the official link in our family tree between Mexico and Italy and a way to confirm the stories we had pieced together.
For over a decade, we searched intermittently for this record in Coahuila and Mexico City. We even paid for special searches in the Coahuila archives, but to no avail. We had doubts about their marriage, as we could not find any record. Every time my sister and I talked about this, what we agreed on was that we needed a copy of the official record to settle the mystery.
A few weeks ago during conversation after dinner, my sister and I started to discuss again whether or not my great great great grandparents ever got married. However, this time the results were different. Recently I learned that Ancestry.com in partnership with FamilySearch International had released more than 200 million newly-indexed Mexican records. While at the dining table, I opened my computer and went to Giuseppe Palmieri’s record in FamilySearch.org. I clicked on the link to search in Ancestry.com and was directed to a page with dozens of search results. After reviewing the first few, I noticed a civil registration marriage record from Mexico City. Intrigued, I clicked on it and was taken to a two-page black and white image of a marriage certificate. As I read the neat handwritten certificate, I found the names of Jose Palmieri and Juana Mendoza. In disbelief, my sister asked me to print a copy. We carefully read all the details and confirmed this record was of our family. After years of searching, we suddenly discovered right in front of us the elusive marriage certificate we had been looking for. The civil marriage had taken place when my great-great grandparents were in their 50s, living in a suburb of Mexico City, hundreds of miles away from where they first met and 30 years after the dates we had been researching. Without indexed records, we probably would have never found this.
After that experience, we have continued to search and find more birth, marriage and death certificates belonging to people in several branches of our now quickly expanding family tree. The new set of FamilySearch indexed Mexican records in Ancestry.com is truly a hidden gem and a powerful tool for anybody with Mexican roots. We put this to the test with one of our family’s hardest-to-find records. We plan to continue using it to solve more family mysteries.
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