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Research in Italian Records


Once you have located the exact place of origin in Italy and studied the history, language and culture of the area, it's time to search in the actual records. Major Italian records of interest to family historians include:

Civil Registration Records (1804—66)
Stato Civile
When Napoleon annexed large portions of Italy beginning in 1804, he also initiated the process of keeping civil records. These early Italian Napoleanic records of birth marriage and death, covering the years 1804-1815, can be found in each Italian state archive. When Napolean lost power in 1815, most areas under his control stopped keeping civil registers. In some areas of Italy, however, parish priests chose to maintain a separate civil registration. Because there was no central government during the post-Napoleanic years (1809-1865), civil registers are, understandably, inconsistent from town to town and province to province. If you are able to find them for your ancestor's town or village, however, they can be a valuable source for ancestral births, marriages and deaths.

Civil Registration Records (1866 to present)
Stato Civile
When Italy became unified as a country in 1860, the Italian government again instituted registration of civil vital records. In most areas, the records began in 1866 and extend to the present. These Italian birth (atto di nascita), marriage (atto di matrimonio) and death (atto di morto) records can be found in the local registrar’s office (Anagrafe) of the town in which your ancestor lived. Unless the records are over seventy-five years old, they are usually not available for public viewing.

Church Registers
Registri Parrocchiali
The predominate religion in Italy is Roman Catholic, so the majority of genealogical research takes place in Catholic parish and diocese records. In 1563, reforms brought about by the Council of Trent required priests to keep records of baptisms (atti di battesimo), marriages (atti di matrimonio), and burials (atti di sepoltura), meaning that most church records in Italy date back to this time. For some cities, however, church records begin as early as the 1300s. Italian church records usually include baptisms, marriages, deaths, confirmations and first communions, as well as possibly church census records. They are usually written in Latin, though some may be found in Italian.

Most church records are still located in the parish in which they were created, unless the church was destroyed by war, and access is determined by the parish priest. Duplicate copies of church records after 1900 are also available in the diocesan archives.

Certificate of Family Status or Genealogy
Certificato dello Stato di Famiglia
If your ancestors left Italy after about 1880 and you know the name of the town in which they lived, you can write to the local Ufficio Anagrafe (Registry Office) and request a cerificato di stato di famiglia. This certificate, unique to Italy, records information on the entire family, rather than just an individual. It usually contains the name, relationship, and date and place of birth for each family member, often including family members who moved away or died. Some towns began keeping this record as early as 1869, but it wasn't in widespread use until after 1911.

Census Records
The first Italian census was taken in 1871, with new censuses taken each successive decade. The censuses taken from 1871-1901 are inconsistent from region to region, and usually only name the head of household, his/her occupation, and the number of people living in the household. Census records from 1911 on, however, list names, ages, occupations, birthplaces and relationships to the head of household for each resident. Census records from 1911 to 1991 are usually found in each comune's anagrafe (register office), and in the state archive of each province. Availability differs from comune to comune, and all census records may not be yet open to the public.

Military and Conscription Records
Ufficio Matricola e Centro Documentale
Beginning about 1869 and continuing to the present day, all male Italian citizens are required to register at the age of eighteen. These conscription records typically include name, birth date, address at time of registration, parents, next of kin, and physical description of the registrant, as well as an explanation of their military status - whether they ever served, deserted, were exempted, etc. These records are in the custody of the local Military District (Distretto Militare). Records from 1870-1920 can be obtained from the State Archives.

Enjoy researching your Italian ancestors!

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