Brick Walls

For more than 60 years, I have been engaged in extensive research putting together my family tree and have published a website listing 14 of these ancestor trees and 6 descendent charts. Along the way, I have encountered numerous "brick walls", which are genealogical research problems that seem impossible to solve. While my website includes a list of these brickwalls, I have decided to supplement it with this blog. Some of the brick walls you will read here have been resolved, while others have not. My hope is that readers will perhaps have answers or possible different solutions to the ones I have presented.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Francesco Parma Research Notes

The Problem  No records (such as birth or immigration) have been found for Francesco prior to his appearance in Cincinnati, Ohio.  None of the U.S. records found provide a name of his hometown.

Francesco Parma's Family Francesco and Catherine Baer were married 1 Jun 1841 in Cincinnati, Ohio (Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Cincinnati, Ohio Parish register for 1841).  For Catherine's information, see Catherine (Baer) Parma Research Notes.  For their children, see Children of Francesco and Catherine (Baer) Parma.

Events for Francisco and Catherine Parma and their children center on three cities:
  • Cincinnati OH
  • Covington KY
  • Memphis TN

Covington is at the northern tip of Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati.  In 1866, the first bridge was built between the two cities.  Until then, people crossed by ferry.

Traveling to Memphis TN was a different matter, since it is in the far southwest corner of Tennesse.  Initially, probably the only feasible way to travel was by river boat, down the Ohio River to the Mississippi and then down the Mississippi to Memphis.  It is likely that their move in the early 1850s to Tennessee was made that way.  An 1843 map shows steam boat trips.  By 1860 there were railroads going through Cincinnati that crossed lines that went to Memphis.

From the time of their marriage until about 1852, Francesco and Catherine resided with their children in Cincinnati, Ohio where Francesco was a confectioner (Cincinnati City Directories 1846/1849-50; 1850 census).

About 1852 the family moved to Tennessee where their daughter Linda was born on 1 Mar 1853.  As there were few railroads at that time, they probably traveled by steamship.  By 1855 they were back in Cincinnati (Cincinnati City Directories 1856/1857/1858/1859/1860).

Late in 1859 or early in 1860, the family moved across the Ohio River to Covington, Kentucky (1860 census).  The bridge between the two cities wasn't built until 1866, so they would have crossed the river by ferry.  Both Francesco and Catherine apparently remained in Covington until their deaths (no information has been found for the Civil War years).

Francesco Parma The name and birthplace of Francesco Parma (Italy) was initially found in the records of his children.  In the 1850 and 1860 censuses, we learn that he was born c.1809 and was a confectioner (candy-maker).  The earliest record that has been found for him is the 1839-40 Cincinnati City Directory.  He does not appear in any passenger lists (  He is not listed in Cincinnati in the 1840 census.  As a single man, he was apparently included in someone's household.

His surname varies between Palma, Palmer, and Parma.  His given name was variously called Francesco, Francis and Frank.
His use of the surname:
Parma:his marriage record; Cincinnati city directories 1839-40, 1842, 1843
Palmer:1850 and 1860 censuses; baptism of daughters Rosena and Philomena; Cincinnati city directories 1846, 1851-52, 1856, 1858, 1859, 1860; Covington city directories
Palma:baptisms of sons Francesco, Daniel and Charles, daughter Cecilia; Cincinnati city directories 1849-50, 1850-51; Covington city directories 1861
Parmer:Cincinnati city directories 1857

His wife and children (except for Daniel) used the surname Parma for themselves and for him on their records after he died.  On his probate record Francesco is Francis Palma, which presumably matches the name he used on his will.  Attempts to read his will were unsuccessful because of the poor quality of the microfilm

Francesco died 3 Dec 1865 at Covington KY, Cincinnati Daily Commercial 6 Dec 1865 - Page 7:4:
PALMA - Suddenly, on Sunday evening, December 3, in Covington, Ky of disease of the heart, Mr Francis Palma, aged 58 years.

Italians in Cincinnati Immigrants from the same home town often settled in groups.  This may be the situation in Cincinnati.  The (1839-40 Cincinnati City Directory includes the place of origin and lists 19 people from Italy.  Other sources have provided the birthplaces of four of them, but none of those birthplaces match the records that have been found in Italy.  All four were different.  Two family members were sponsors of Francesco and Catharine's first child.

Italy The search for Francesco in Italy is complicated by the lack of information in the U.S.  No immigration or death record has been found for him.  His age is consistently reported in the 1850 and 1860 censuses, but census ages are often not correct.  The ages of his children in the census vary dramatically.  A range of five years either way from 1809 was used for searching records.

Other than the nobility from Parma, Italy, only one Francesco Parma was found in Italy in the IGI, but that Francesco was born too late and died age 10 (Francesco Parma, Birth: 7 Jun 1830 Caminata, Genova, Italy, Death: 1840 Caminata, Genova, Italy, Father: Pietro Parma, Mother: Julia Maria Parma)

Some possible births have been found for him.  They are all variations of Palma/Palmer.  A search for "Parma" did not provide any hits.  The sources searched (on Family Search) included Family Search Collections: Italy Births and Baptisms, 1806-1900, Italy Marriages, 1809-1900, and Italy Deaths and Burials, 1809-1900.  None of these collections are complete.

Summary  It is difficult to draw conclusions based on incomplete databases.
Possible sources at FHL (need translation assistance):

Estratti dei registri dello stato civile di Toscana (Regione), 1745-1865, starts with film 1137508

Registri dello stato civile di Lonigo (Vicenza_), 1806-1909, starts with film 1687535 (Vault)

Registri ecclesiastici di Arco (Trento), 1531-1923, starts with film 1448124 (films I need are in Vault)

FHL does not have records for:

Milano at the province level and Balbiano is not listed

Vicenza at the province level, church records for Lonigo are only for 1859

Brescia at the province level at the town level for Brescia

Go to Francesco Parma in the Shahan-Coward Tree

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