George Tonioli is my great-great-grandfather, and I don’t know much about him. What I do know is that he emigrated from Italy during the 1880s, became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America on December 26, 1889, married, had a son, and died at the young age of 45 in a blasting accident in Northern Utah.
My family has looked for years to find more information on George. We haven’t found a marriage certificate. We don’t know when George arrived in the U.S., and we can’t find a declaration of intent for naturalization. Family oral tradition says that he traveled from Northern Italy to America with a brother. At some point after their arrival, the brothers went their separate ways. We don’t know the name of his brother or his parents.
This situation probably sounds familiar to many of you looking for immigrant ancestors. Some of you are reading this, nodding your head, and remembering your own fruitless searches. I’m here to offer hope!
In August, FamilySearch and the indexing community announced a new emphasis for English-speaking indexers: The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Community Project. Why does this offer hope? Immigration and naturalization records include passenger lists, naturalization cards, and other important information about the millions of immigrants who entered the United States through ports and border crossings. Passenger lists from every major port of entry are being indexed or prepared for indexing right now. This new community project will open doors for thousands of people looking for their ancestors, and you can help.
Even researchers from outside the United States and Canada can benefit, because many passenger lists contain names of individuals who traveled from Europe or Asia to work for a time. Some of these passengers may be your ancestors as well. Also, several immigration and naturalization projects are available for other countries, including New Zealand, Canada, and Japan.
As with all indexing projects, even small contributions can make a big difference. Look for projects labeled “ US (Community Project) ” in the batch download list, and help unlock the records of our past!