Dr. Thomas E. Militello passed away on June 8th, 2019 at the age of 81. Unfortunately I didn’t learn of his passing until recent months, so I have been thinking how we might pay a proper tribute to this wonderful person: a giant in Italian-American genealogy.
“Dr. Tom” was the founder of POINT, (Pursuing Our Italian Names Together). From 1987 to 2013 POINT produced POINTers, a quarterly journal, held conferences, and, I think he would say most importantly, connected hundreds of researchers to the information they sought, no small achievement during a pre-internet time when records were hard to come by. Via its surname database, it’s helpful how-to articles, and its dozens of local chapters, conducting family history research was made possible for Italian-Americans.
In 2017, I spoke to Tom inquiring about the status of the “POINT Archives”. I mentioned that I had joined the Board of the IGG, and wondered if there were any materials for which he’d like to find a home. Excited by the prospect of posterity for his life’s work, discussed possibilities. Shortly after, with the support of Past-President Marcelle Manteria and the IGG Board), I found myself in Las Vegas acquiring the POINT Archives. Within many dusty boxes were family stories, photographs, correspondence, and other invaluable artifacts. Tom’s health was declining but he was so energized to know that we were interested in his work.
He recounted how POINT was started out of necessity: before POINT, his visits to local genealogical societies had yielded little information that was of use to him since their collections were not focused on Italian-American genealogy. So, he dedicated the next three decades of his life to creating an international organization that would change things for the better.
The POINT legacy is a mighty one, and the IGG is committed to bringing it further into the digital age. In coming months you will continue to see back issues of POINTers go up on our Members Only website, now featuring an improved search capacity that will allow you to search for keywords and topics across all our digital assets (including back issues of this Newsletter).
We send our love to his wife Phyllis (a crucial part of POINT operations herself), his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and his many friends. And we send our thanks to Dr. Tom: his tireless efforts made a lasting impact and connected thousands of people to their roots.
Michael Cassara, President
Italian Genealogical Group, Inc.