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From the Ancestry Daily News  
  Michael John Neill – 7/26/2000

An Italian in Chicago: Egisto Lencioni

A recent conversation with my former second grade art teacher alerted me to her interest in genealogy and her search for an Italian great-grandfather. A quick e-mail to her resulted in a summary of what she had discovered:

"Egisto Lencioni was born in 1870 (possibly) in Lucca (another possibility), Italy, the son of Antonio and Maria Lencioni. He is thought to have immigrated to America in 1884 on a ship originally headed for South America. He worked at the Hammond Glass Factory and eventually settled in Geneva, Illinois. I have found that his marriage license to Guissippina Pieruccini is filed in Cook County, Illinois, but I have not yet sent for it. It is license #00205577 and shows their date of marriage as Sept. 19,1893. It is listed as Josefina Pernicini in the Illinois online marriage index, but everything we have on her is spelled Guissippina Pieruccini. I know very little about her except that they were supposedly childhood sweethearts and that she came to this country with her brother some time after Egisto, so she may be from the Lucca area also. Her parents were Ruggerio and Geconda. One article I have found on Egisto said he was born in Florence, but I have always been told Lucca."

Parts of Egisto's story sound very familiar; change the name and a few places and it fits many immigrant ancestors' stories. The search for Egisto is similar to many other searches for ethnic ancestors, and it begins in the United States, not Italy. I thought it might be helpful to share some possible routes that her research could take for those with similar research scenarios.

Illinois State Marriage Index
A search of the Illinois State Marriage Index revealed the following Lencioni marriages:

  • LENCIONI, AGOSTINO and GIOVANNETTO, ROSA COOK 02/05/1893/ 00196308
  • LENCIONI, CAMILLO and LINCIONI, ANGELA COOK 02/27/1892 / 00180142
  • LENCIONI, EGISTO and PERNICINI, JOSEFINA COOK 09/19/1893 / 00205577

There were no Lencioni females in the index.

The name Pernicni was searched both for females and for males with no other references located. However, not all possible variants were searched for in this initial search. It is extremely important to keep track of what variant spellings were searched and to search all possible alternate spellings. The list of spelling variants may increase with time and may necessitate revisiting and re-searching the index.

City Directories?
Searching for Egisto in appropriate city directories may allow us to track Egisto's movement in the city and further estimate a date of arrival. An address may facilitate searching census records, should the Soundex not prove effective.


Locating the family in census records after their 1893 marriage may also yield valuable information. The best initial approach for this family would be to obtain the Soundex for the 1900, 1910, and 1920 Illinois censuses in an attempt to locate the Lencioni family. Locating the family in the Soundex is only half of the process, though; the actual census citation itself should be referenced, as it contains more information than the Soundex. Egisto's census entries for these years should provide his year of immigration and his citizenship status. While the year of immigration could easily be incorrect, it would at least serve as an estimate. The census should be read for a few pages before and after the located entry in an attempt to locate families with the Lencioni or Pernicini surname.

Church Records?

Determination of the church this family attended may provide additional information. The descendant indicated that the family was Catholic, and records from this denomination are frequently detailed. The marriage record of Egisto may provide the name of the priest who officiated at the ceremony, aiding in determining the actual church. The death certificate and death notice should list the name of the cemetery where Egisto is buried, perhaps one affiliated with a specific church. If the funeral was held at a church, the death notice should indicate where services took place. Your relatives might also know what church the family attended.

Language Difficulties?

I don't speak Italian and have done no Italian research. This is a significant hindrance, especially when research eventually progresses overseas, but not one that is impossible to surmount. If I'm going to begin researching these families extensively, it would be in my best interest to obtain a book on Italian genealogical research and visit genealogy Web sites specializing in Italian genealogy. Subscribing to an Italian genealogy mailing list might also help. It would also be wise to learn how the names most likely were pronounced in an effort to search for all appropriate spelling variants. It would also be advantageous to determine the relative frequency (if possible) of the first name Egisto, to learn if Egisto is a nickname for another first name, and to study Italian naming patterns.

Are the Towns Actually Close?

Immigrants (and others who had moved a distance from their place of birth) might have found it easier to name a large town near the birthplace as their birthplace on a record in their new location. After all, no one three thousand miles away knows where the small village is located; so giving a large town nearby makes more sense (or so goes the theory). A map or an online atlas may reveal that Florence and Lucca are relatively close. In some cases, the ancestor lists not a village but a province or other geographic region. This is also worth keeping in mind.

In this case, we are in luck. There is a Soundex index to naturalizations for some counties of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin (National Archives microfilm publication M1285. Soundex Index to Naturalization Petitions for the United States District and Circuit Courts, Northern District of Illinois, and Immigration and Naturalization Service District 9, 1840-1950. Get more details.). Locating Egisto in this index should send us to the actual record to potentially obtain more information.

Search at

A search on located an obituary for a son of the immigrant! Note: While this is "cool," it does not always happen. However, you don't know unless you LOOK.

Italians to America
It turns out that there is a potential match in the Italians to America series. There is a Guiseppe Lencioni, "aged 17, male, laborer, headed to New York" listed right next to an Egisto Lencioni, "aged 16, male, laborer, headed to New York." These two were aboard the ship Chateau Yquem, which sailed from Bordeaux to New York and landed on 11 May 1887. This information was located in volume 2 of Italians to America on pages 380 and 381.

Is this our guy? Maybe. Further work needs to be done. The actual passenger lists should be obtained on microfilm to see if they contain any further information. In this case, research in naturalization and census records may provide additional information that may (or may not) be consistent with the immigration information contained in Italians to America and the passenger lists. However, this was the only Egisto Lencioni listed, which is good (I searched the entire series of books, though, even after I found this potential "match"). Reading the preface of this book would also have provided information that might have explained why a specific Italian might have not been included in the book.


Italians to America: Lists of Passengers Arriving at U.S. Ports, 1880-1899 , edited by Ira A. Glazier and P. William Filby (Scholarly Resources, 1992-___).

Michael John Neill, is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry Magazine and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at or visit his Web site.

© Copyright 2000,, used with permission.

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