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Italy Military Records
Military records identify individuals who served in the military or who were eligible for service. From 1865 on, all young men were required to serve in or register for military service in Italy. Evidence that an ancestor actually served may be found in family records, biographies, census, probate records, civil registration, and church records.
Church records and civil registration records have much the same information as military records, and they are usually easier to access. However, you must know the name of a town before you can search them.
If you do not know the name of a town, provincial military records can identify a man’s birthplace. Even if you know only the region, you can check the records of all military districts within the region.
In some regions, military records begin about 1792 and give information about the man’s military career, such as promotions, places served, pensions, and conduct. They also usually include information about his age, birthplace, residence, occupation, physical description, and family members.
Conscription of all males at the age of eighteen was instituted in 1865. Every Italian male—even those obviously disabled—was and still is required to report to the draft board for a physical exam. Therefore, draft records list every native Italian male who was born from about 1850 to the present and do who did not leave the country at an early age.
Military Records of Genealogical Value
The military records that are most useful to family history researchers are described below.
Conscription Records [liste di leva] and Draft Records [liste di estrazioni].
The draft of young men occurred in two steps. First, all towns in Italy sent to the military district of their province or region, year by year, a list of all living males who had been born in their town twenty-one years earlier. This became the liste di leva. These records, recorded in volumes on a year-by-year basis by military district within a region or province, list all living twenty-one-year-old males within a district by year of birth and provide the name, parents’ names, place of residence, birth date, birthplace, vocation, literacy, and physical description. They also show the draft board’s decision regarding the draftee’s fitness for service. If the draftee had emigrated, the date and destination are noted.
Then when the males became eligible, a draft board was instituted (again year-by-year) to evaluate who was physically, mentally, and legally eligible to be drafted. (For example the third or fourth son of a family whose older brothers had already served in the military was often exempted, as were sole-surviving sons.) The young man had to be present for the examination or could be represented by someone (usually a parent) to document why the young man should not be drafted.
Young men had no right to emigrate from Italy before the age of 18 unless the whole family had departed. From the list of all males eligible for the draft, a certain amount of young men were called (extracted) to actually serve the draft. This depended on eligibility and the number necessary to fulfill the draft quota of the Italian State. Therefore, the liste di estrazioni were those eligible who were actually drafted. If a young man did not present himself for the draft and was not represented at the draft call he could be declared eligible and labelled as a deserter. This happened at times to those who emigrated to North or South America and who did not return because they could be legally imprisioned for draft evasion.
Therefore, in essence liste di leva was the list of all young men and the liste di estrazione, also called liste di arruolamento was a list of those who were declared eligible. The liste di leva were eliminated in 1923 and only those of estrazione remain.
Draftee Curriculum of Service Record [registro dei fogli matricolari].
These records include details of the young man’s military service, including such items as promotions.
Discharge Records [foglio di congedo illimitato].
These records prove a soldier’s discharge from military service. They include birth information, parents’ names, physical description, vocation, and educational information. They also give information regarding the date and place of draft, length of service, transfers, campaigns, medals, and wounds. One copy was given to the soldier, and one copy was kept in his file.
Service Records [registro di ruolo].
These also contain details of the man’s military service.
Finding Military Records
Italian military records are kept by military districts. The archive of the military district stores the records. Most military districts are within the geographical boundaries of a province. A province can have up to three military districts, and in rare cases a military district may encompass two provinces.
A copy of the records is held at the archive of the tribunale (court). After 75 years, this copy is moved to the provincial archives and made available to the public. Each provincial archive has the records of the military district within its provincial boundaries.
Military records can be of great genealogical value, and the Family History Library has begun to microfilm them. As of 2008, the library has the following records:
- Parma, 1806–1915 (province)
- Cosenza, 1842–1901 (province)
- Catania, 1840–1913 (province)
- Gorizia, 1899-1910 and 1908-1926 (province)
- Torino, 1875–1910 (province)
- Bolzano, 1809 (Austrian at the time)
- Piacenza, 1842-1919 (province)
- Pistoia, 1809-1814, 1833-1903 (province)
- Messina, 1870-1902 (city)
- Siracusa, 1874-1900 (province)
- Aosta, 1792-1904 (region)
To find Italian military records in the Family History Library Catalog, check the Locality Search under:
ITALY - [PROVINCE] - MILITARY RECORDS
You can also write to the provincial archives for information. See Italy Archives and Libraries for more information.
- The lists of military recruitment (Liste di Leva and Ruoli Matricolari)
- (Italian) Esercito Italiano: I Centri Documentali(Italian Army: Places Documentation)
- Italian Military and Conscription Records
- Italian Military Records (D'Addezio)
- Italian Military Records (PDF)
- Vizzini,Catania,Italy Genealogy - Vizzini 1840-1913 Lista di Leva - Military Index(11,788 records)
- Caduti Della Grande Guerra (Italian soldiers who died in WWI)
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