Italian Genealogical Institute


I am Trafford Cole and my aspiration in life had nothing to do with genealogy much less Italian genealogy but sometimes things happen… I was called on a mission for the LDS church in Italy way back in 1971. During my mission I fell in love with my wife Fernanda and since she was unable to come live in the US, after my mission I returned to Padova, Italy. The idea was to continue my studies in clinical psychology at the University of Padova, but I also needed a job to pay my bills. We married, I was working but when Fernanda was pregnant with our first child Joel I was left without a job, and I didn’t know what to do. My former mission president Dan Jorgensen came through Italy giving a series of conferences and when I explained my plight he said why not become a genealogical researcher? He said he had a cousin who did research for clients in Switzerland and gave me his name.
I had never imagined that genealogy could be a profession, and I knew very little about it. Something however clicked, and I thought: “why not.” My wife who was a history major was enthusiastic, and so I threw myself into the idea of doing research. I contacted his cousin, Paul Nielson in Switzerland, to ascertain what possibilities there were in the field and he was of great help. I contacted genealogical societies in Utah offering my assistance and I contacted all the missionaries from my mission who had Italian ancestors. I began with my wife’s genealogy, I took lessons in Latin and paleography (reading ancient handwriting) and I took every occasion to learn about the history of Italy and the records with my wife as my tutor. After considerable preparation I came back to the US to take an accreditation exam in Salt Lake City and then I was on my own. My first project came from my mission companion, Dennis Packard whose family came from a town called Agnone, in the province of Isernia, in central Italy, where I spent several trips researching and learning.
What started as a project to put myself through school expanded to a lifetime endeavor that has involved my whole family. Even though I graduated from school as a clinical psychologist and have taught for over 25 years for the University of Maryland at U.S. military bases in Northern Italy, I have always followed my passion for genealogy. In 1995 I published my book Italian Genealogical Records which has remained a classic in the field of Italian family history.
My oldest son Joel started helping me when he was just 17 and has continued research as his profession too, with the advantage of having 6 years of formal training in Latin, and much coaching on research methods. After working for four years for Ancestry in Italy, he now runs the Italian Genealogical Institute and works full-time as a professional genealogist in Italy. He is an expert in researching parish records and civil archives and he also enjoys taking people on genealogical tours of their towns of origin here in Italy. My second son Jeffrey, after having worked four years in Italy digitizing civil records, now works in the Washington D.C. area digitizing records of the U.S. National Archive for My youngest son Jason has also worked in the field, extracting names from parish records.
My wife, Fernanda, retired three years ago and now dedicates most of her time in researching her own family and in just the last year has entered over 2,000 names in her family database. You can say that we are a family dedicated to genealogy!