There are 2 basic types of records available for Italian research. Civil records (Stato Civile) and church records. Although access to church records in rare (with exceptions) they are not impossible to find. Church records were recorded in Latin. As a general rule church records of birth, marriage and death are less informative than civil records. On this page we will discuss the different record sets and the information you can hope to find in them.
These records are documentation on the state civil level whose purpose are to document an event that has already occurred at the time they were written. They began in most areas of Italy in 1809 and are often called "Napoleonic" records because they were created by the order of Napoleon Bonaparte. Because various regions of Italy were not unified until the 1860s, some areas did not begin recording state civil records until after the unification in the 1860s. The basic records that are available on microfilm or online for all towns are records of birth, death, marriage and marriage banns.
Other records available for some towns and cities (but not all) include "Atti Diversi" and "Atti Vari" which are miscellaneous documents which may include deeds, adoptions, and various documents that do not fit any other category. Cittadinaze records are a record of citizenship and documents when a person born in one town becomes a citizen of another town. Additional records such as notary records, land records and other miscellaneous records may be obtained locally or through the province archive.
Records of birth called Atti or Atto di Nati or Nascita record a birth that has taken place. The Atti di Nascita will always record the name and date of birth of the baby, the name and profession of his father and the name and profession of his mother. Some of these records may also record the ages of the mother and father and the names of their parents. They may also provide an address or location within the town where the birth took place. Records recorded before 1860 may also have a notation in the margin regarding the baptism of the baby. The notation usually includes the name of the church and the date of baptism. Some birth acts (usually after 1870) also may contain notations regarding the death or marriage of the baby. These notes were made at the time those events took place. These notations always include a date and location of the event.
Marriage records record a marriage that has occurred. Marriage records are called Atti or Atto di Matrimonio. These records provide the names, ages and professions of the bride, groom and their parents (if living). An indication such as "morto", "fu" or "furamo" indicates that the parent(s) were deceased at the time of the marriage. These documents also provide the date of marriage. Marriage banns were also required. During different time periods, these documents had different names. During different time periods they were called pubblicazioni, atto di solenne promessa and notificazioni. These documents contain the same information as the marriage record with 2 exceptions. They do not provide the date of marriage, however, they do include a list of documents provided by the couple as a part of their allegati or processetti. The allegati or processetti contain the couple's birth act (or baptism record) and death records for their parents and grandparents if applicable.
Death records called atti or atto di morte record a death that has occurred. Cause of death is almost never recorded on these records. Information you can expect to see in these records includes date of death, age, profession, names of mother, father and spouse and location of birth. Typically there is an indication regarding the status (living or deceased) of the parents and spouse.
Although church records provide less information, they can prove extremely useful particularly during periods of time when civil records are not available. The information contained in them can vary from parish to parish and priest to priest. Many church records before 1800 have not survived time, however, there are church records available for some towns as far back as the 1500s.
Baptism records always provide the name of the baby, the date of baptism, the name of the father and the Godparent(s). Most baptisms contain the name of the mother, however, many baptisms from the 1500s and 1600s did not record the name of the mother. Some baptism records also provide the date birth for the baby, however, not all provide that. Some baptism records also provide the names of the father of the parents and/or the Godparents.
Dates provided on a church death record may be the date the deceased received last rites or the burial date. Because of this, caution should be used in recording a date of death. Although parents names are not always recorded in church death records, typically, the name of the spouse is.
Similar to other church records, the information contained on a church marriage record can vary. Always recorded was the date of the marriage and the names of the bride, groom and priest that officiated over the ceremony. Often (but not always) the names of the parents of the bride and groom are recorded.
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