Italy Civil Registration- Vital RecordsEdit This Page

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Civil registration records are the vital records made by the government. Records of births, marriages, and deaths are commonly referred to as vital records because they refer to vital events in a person’s life.

Civil registration records [registri dello stato civile] are an excellent source for accurate information on names as well as dates and places of births, marriages, and deaths. In addition, civil registration may include documents required for marriage, miscellaneous records (such as stillbirths), deaths occurring in other cities or countries, and legitimations or parental acknowledgments [ricognizioni].

Civil authorities began registering births, marriages, and deaths in 1809 in many areas (1820 in Sicilia). By 1866 civil registration became law. After this date, virtually all individuals who lived in Italy were recorded.

Because they cover most of the population and because they are usually indexed and mostly accessible, civil registration records are one of the most important sources for genealogical research in Italy.

For birth, death, and marriage records before 1809 or 1820, see "Church Records".
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Contents

General Historical Background

Napoleonic Records (1806–1815) 

The earliest vital records in Italy were kept by the churches. In 1806 Napoleon, Emperor of France, annexed large parts of Italy, including Roma, Venezia, and the Piemonte region. He also initiated civil record keeping at that time. As he gained control of most of Italy, he enforced new laws that required local civil registration.

Papal States. In the area formerly known as the Papal States—which included from what is now Molise, Lazio, Umbria, and Marche to Emilia-Romagna—Napoleonic records cover the period of 1810 to 1814.

Veneto and Lombardia. Napoleonic records began about 1806 and ended in 1814 or 1815.

Piemonte. Napoleonic records cover 1804 to 1814.

These records do not exist for areas that Napoleon never ruled such as Sardegna, Sud Tirol, and Sicilia.

Later Records (1815–Present)

After Napoleon’s defeat in 1815, many areas discontinued civil registration.

Regno di Napoli (comprising most of southern Italy from Napoli and Campania down to Calabria and Puglia), Toscana, and the Abruzzo region. These areas continued to keep civil registration records after Napoleon’s defeat.

Ducato di Savoia. This area in Piemonte began keeping records again in 1839.

In Trento- Alto-Adige parish priests took over the civil registration.

Sicilia. The island of Sicilia began civil registration in 1820 using a format nearly identical to the Napoleonic records.

Italian civil registration began officially as Italy became a unified country between 1860 and 1870. In most areas, the civil records began in 1866 and continue to the present.

Civil authorities did not record many of the births, marriages, and deaths that happened between the end of the Napoleonic era and the time when the Italian government began keeping civil registration records. You must rely on church records as your main source for these years.

Information Recorded in Civil Registers

Birth, marriage, and death records are the most important civil registration records for Italian research. Most of these records retained the basic format introduced by Napoleon in the early 1800s. The registers are divided into separate volumes for each year. Records kept in the south used standardized forms. Many records in the north are handwritten, although they contain basically the same information.

The records were almost always kept in Italian, except for records kept during the rule of foreign powers such as France and Austria.

In the northern regions, many records are in French and German, and given names were often written in the "ruling" language even though the person’s name was Italian. For example, Giuseppina Bertaldo may have been recorded as Josephine Bertaldo.

Some church records were transcribed into civil registration records. This transcription usually happened to meet documentation requirements for marriages [processetti or allegati]. Transcribed church records are in Latin, and each volume is usually indexed.

Births [nati/nascite]

Birth records generally give the child’s name, sex, birth date, and birthplace, and the parents’ names. Many of the early records and all of the later records provide additional details, including the parents’ birthplaces, ages, and occupations and the mother’s maiden name. The baptism date is usually included with the civil birth record.

Births were generally registered within a day or two of the child’s birth, usually by the father of the family or by the attending midwife. Corrections to a birth record may have been added as a marginal note. In later records, marginal notes are frequently found, providing marriage and death information. See a translation one of the printed forms.

Marriages [matrimoni]

After 1809 Napoleonic law required that the marriage ceremony be performed first by a civil authority and then, if desired, by a church authority. It was then recorded in the civil records. At first, some people resisted this law and had their marriages performed by church authority only. Later when it became legally necessary for their children to be recognized as legitimate, a civil ceremony was performed. In rare cases, you may find a marriage record for a couple in their 50s who were actually married 30 years earlier. In most cases you may find marriages recorded in both civil and church records.

Marriages were usually performed and recorded where the bride lived. In some provinces, these records date from 1809 or from 1820. The early civil marriage records may include more information than the church records. When available, search both the civil and church records of marriage.

If you believe a marriage took place but cannot find a record of the marriage, search records of intent to marry.

Marriage Banns [pubblicazioni, notificazioni, memorandum]. You may find records that show a couple’s intent to marry in addition to or instead of actual marriage records. The following are various records that may have been created to show a couple’s intent to marry.

Proclamation, allegations, or banns [notificazioni, pubblicazioni, memorandum].These notifications were made a few weeks before a couple planned to marry. The couple may have been required to announce their intended marriage to give other community members the opportunity to raise any objections to the marriage. If one member of the bridal party lived elsewhere, banns were posted in that community also. If you know that a marriage took place but cannot find it in the marriage records of the community, search the marriage banns. It may be posted there and lead you to the community where the marriage actually took place.

Supporting documents [processetti or allegati]. These documents were often filed by the bride and groom in support of their intent or "solemn promise" to marry. Records proving their births and their parents’ births and deaths and sometimes documentation on earlier generations may be included. The names of former spouses and their death dates are also provided.

Marriage Records

You may find the following records that document the legal completion of the marriage.

Certificates [certificati]. The individual who performed the ceremony or the civil office where the ceremony was recorded may have given the couple a certificate of marriage. This may be in the possession of the family, and the civil registrar may have copies. Usually, however, when writing for information and requesting a certificate, you will receive only a transcription of the most pertinent information. Extracts [estratti] will give you the complete information.

Marriage registers [registri dei matrimoni]. Civil officials recorded the marriages they performed in registers, usually preprinted forms bound in a book and kept in the civil office.

Marriage registers give the date of the marriage and the names of the bride and groom. They also indicate whether the bride and groom were single or widowed and give the names of witnesses. They often include other information about the bride and groom, such as age, birthplace, residence, occupation, name of person giving consent, and names of parents. In cases of second and later marriages, the marriage registers may include the names of previous spouses and their death dates. The registers usually include the date of the church ceremony.

There are two types of printed forms found when researching Italian civiil marriages.  The first is a "solemn promise" to marry - a document created when a couple appeared at the city offices and promised they would marry one another (the banns had already been posted by this time). This document is usually found in pre-unification records (1866-1871). The second is a post-unification record and is the actual marriage document. See translations of these pre-printed forms.

Divorce Records

Before 1970 divorces were illegal in Italy. Divorce records are not open to the public. The Family History Library does not have any Italian divorce records.

Deaths [morte/morti]

Death records are especially helpful because they may provide important information about a person’s birth, spouse, and parents. Civil death records often exist for individuals for whom there are no birth or marriage records.

Deaths were usually registered within a day of the death in the town or city where the person died. Early death records generally give the person’s name and death date and place. After about 1815, death registers usually include the age, place of birth, residence or street address, occupation, burial information, and the informant’s name (often a relative). They usually provide the names of spouses and parents and whether or not they were still living. Information about the deceased’s parents, birth date, and birthplace may be inaccurate since the informant may not have had the correct information.

Stillbirths are recorded in separate registers entitled nato morto. In later records they are included in the allegati. They were not recorded in either the birth or death records. If an infant died within hours after birth, the birth and death records should both be found.

State of the Family [Stato di famiglia]

A civil record unique to Italy is the stato di famiglia, or state of the family certificate. The comune keeps a record of each family and updates each change, including births, marriages, deaths, and emigration. All individuals in a household are included. Some households include more than one family.

Historical states of the family [stato di famiglia storico] are kept at the provincial archive [ufficio dello stato civile]. These records document past generations of families. Not all areas have kept this record, but where they exist, they are a valuable research tool.

Finding Civil Registration Records

Civil registration records were and are kept at the local registrar’s office [anagrafe] in each town or city. Therefore, you must determine the town where your ancestor lived before you can find the records. Your ancestor may have lived in a village that belonged to a nearby, larger town. Large cities may have many civil registration districts.

A copy of each record is sent to the procura della repubblica—which is similar to a district court in the United States—in the provincial capital. Because the civil records are legal documents and needed for government purposes, such as military draft, the duplicate is held by the tribunale (district court).

You may need to use maps, gazetteers, and other geographic references to identify the place where your ancestor lived and the civil registration office that served that place. See Italy Maps and Italy Gazetteers for information on how to find civil registration offices.

In addition to the town, you need to know at least an approximate year in which the birth, marriage, or death occurred. Annual indexes are usually found in each town’s civil registration.

Indexes to Civil Registration Records

Births, marriages, and deaths were written in the civil registration records as they occurred and thus are arranged chronologically. Where available, indexes can help you find your ancestor more easily.

Annual Indexes. Some years have an annual index. These indexes usually include dates, names of parents (including the mother’s maiden name), and the page number or record number of the entry. Many times the record was an entire page and the page number corresponded with the record number. In some indexes no number appears at all and you must use the date that is provided to find the record.

In many areas during the earliest years of civil registration, records were indexed by the given names. Therefore, you must search every entry in the index to make sure you find every individual who had a certain surname.

Eventually, however, indexes were alphabetized by surname. Women are always found in the indexes under their maiden names.

Ten-year Indexes. Ten-year indexes [indici decennali] are common. They usually began the year when civil registration became the law and cover ten-year periods. Ten year indexes typically exist from 1866 to 1875, 1876 to 1885, 1886 to 1895, and 1896 to 1905. They include the date and register number but do not contain names of parents.

Ten-year indexes are kept at the town level and are not separate records in the Family History Library Catalog. They will be included with the records of the town they index and a note will be in the catalog entry reflecting that fact.

Wiki articles describing online collections are found at:


Records at the Family History Library

The Family History Library has microfilmed the civil registration records of hundreds of towns and provinces up to 1866 and many towns up to 1910. Most of these records are from the central and southern area of Italy, but many records are also available from the northern regions.

To find out what records the library has, look in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog


ITALY, [PROVINCE], [TOWN] - CIVIL REGISTRATION

The library’s collection continues to grow as new records are microfilmed and added to the collection. Do not give up if records are not yet available. The Family History Library Catalog is updated regularly, so check it yearly for the records you need.

The Family History Library has records from many towns and provinces. However, the library does not have records that have been destroyed, were never kept, were not available in the registrar’s office at the time of microfilming, were not microfilmed, or are restricted from public access by Italian law. The library does not issue certificates for living or deceased individuals.

The Family History Library has few provincial and statewide collections. The library does have one large regional record for Toscana. This collection includes approximately 250 communities and their frazioni (hamlets). The records are arranged by year and are, for the most part, in alphabetical order by the name of each town. Most records include the years from 1809 to 1865. To find this collection, look in the Author Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:

TOSCANA (REGIONE). UFFICIO DELLO STATO CIVILE

Or, look in the Place Search under:

ITALY, TOSCANA - CIVIL REGISTRATION  (Fill in the search boxes, "Toscana", part of "Italy")

Finding Records Not at the Family History Library

You may be able to find birth, marriage, and death records by contacting or visiting local civil registration offices or archives in Italy. To protect the rights of privacy of living persons, most modern records have restrictions on their use and access.

Italy has no single repository of civil registration records. The present location of records depends on several factors, which are listed below. Records may be available from several locations by correspondence. Write your request in Italian whenever possible.

Local towns. Most civil registration registers are still maintained by the comune.

To obtain civil registration records, you can write to the town. Civil officials will generally answer your correspondence in Italian. Your request may be forwarded if the records have been sent to the tribunale or the provincia.

Provincial archives. Copies of the pre-1866 records are in the provincial archives.

Many of these records have been microfilmed and are available at the Family History Library. For records not microfilmed, write to the provincial archives if your request to the comune was not successful.

Addresses for obtaining civil registration records from the provincial archives are in:

  • Cole, Trafford R. Italian Genealogical Records: How to Use Italian Civil, Ecclesiastical, and Other Records in Family History Research. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry, 1997. (FHL book EUROPE 945 D27c.)
  • Archivum; revue internationale des archives publié e avec le concours financier de l’Unesco et sous les auspices du Consil internationale des archives (International review on archives published by the International Council of Archives with the financial aid of Unesco). Paris, France: Presses Universitaires de France, 1952. (FHL book EUROPE REF 020.5 Ar25 v. 38.)

In addition, you can find a complete list of archives and their hours, services, and fees on the Internet. For more information about useful Internet sites, see the "Computer Networks and Bulletin Boards" portion of Italy Archives and Libraries.

You may also find archive inventories that describe the record keeping systems and available civil registration records in Italy. These and other guides are found in the Family History Library Catalog under:

ITALY- ARCHIVES AND LIBRARIES

ITALY, [PROVINCE]- ARCHIVES AND LIBRARIES

After you have determined what office has jurisdiction over the records you need, write a brief request to the proper office. Send the following:

  • Cashier’s check or international money order (in local currency) or the search fee.
  • Full name and the sex of the person sought.
  • Names of the parents, if known.
  • Approximate date and place of the event.
  • Your relationship to the person.
  • Reason for the request (family history or medical).
  • Request for a complete extract of the record
  • International reply coupon, available from large post offices (optional).

If your request is unsuccessful, search for duplicate records that may have been filed in other archives or church registers.

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