Where to begin?
Research about a person through civil records must begin with information regarding place, time and family relationship (parent, spouse, child), proceeding back in time. The initial information constitutes the key to research through the collection of documentary sources to find useful information to develop a precise personal profile.
When doing research, one must distinguish between civil registration and community records. The civil registration records list the births, deaths, and marriages, while the community records “anagrafe” (from the Greek verb to sign up or register) includes movement of the population, residency, census data, and immigration and emigration.
Where are the collections resources?
Civil registration and community records
The Italian civil registration has a brief but important precedence during the Napoleonic Era in France. This process was introduced in Italy by Napoleon beginning in 1806, and lasted in a few regions even after the break-up of French rule in 1815. Soon after the unification of Italy, with the first national census in 1861, the book keeping of civil registration became a requirement. It was important to know the gender, the social condition, and the education level of Italians to create electoral lists, community councils, to take care of the military draft, to levy taxes, etc. Therefore, a decree issued in 1864 gave all communities the assignment to record demographic movements. Because it was not compulsory and without penalty, not all communities were in compliance with it. A second law in 1871 made civil registration mandatory for all communities, and from this date forward they have kept records of birth, marriage, and death for their resident populations. Civil records provide births, marriages, marriage banns, death, and occasionally include citizenship or residency records. These records constitute the primary source to use as one begins their genealogical research. Such records may also contain significant information about social issues, such as the professions of parents, or the level of reading and writing skills (through a signature or lack thereof).
Therefore, it is always good advice to begin research with the archives of the community of origin. Submit requests for official certificates to municipalities using the site http://www.comuni-italiani.it. It provides phone and fax numbers, along with email and internet contact information.
For the periods before 1 September 1871, the functions of the civil registration officials in some areas were carried out by the parish priests who were responsible for the writing and for the conservation of the baptismal, marriage, death, and other personal records, in a systematic and uninterrupted way since the second half of the 1500s (just after the conclusion of the Council of Trent). Even before that time, some church records were being kept. Therefore, for the period before 1871, many must go to the parish of birth and residency -if these two are not the same, to obtain the local official record. A useful site for church addresses and contact information is www.parrocchie.it. Among the projects for the conservation and for the utilization of the historical sacramental records of baptism, marriage, burial, and state of the souls prior to 1901, there is the databank La Memoria dei Sacramenti (http://registriparrocchiali.weebly.com) created by the Opera del Duomo in Florence, to which many parishes have subscribed
For Descendants of Italians who have Emigrated:
From the last decades of the 19th century the desire to discover one’s origins has become a driving force, especially for those who are descended from Italian immigrants and who reside overseas. This is coupled with the ever increasing necessity to find original documentation. In order to have administrative proof of Italian citizenship “through blood lines” one must find a birth or marriage certificate of their ancestors. The state archives do not have the scope or authority to provide these certified records, but they do store the collections that identify the individual birth communities of the progenitors, to which one must go to find the necessary documentation, while church records must be consulted by many for the period before 1871.
Prefecture records, police records and tribunal records, which were transferred after 40 years from completion date to the state archives in whose jurisdiction they reside, it is also possible to find sporadic documentation regarding passports or permission for emigration.