Some might be surprised to know that FamilySearch first began microfilming historic records in Italy during the 1940s following WWII. FamilySearch’s first agreement to microfilm records in Italy was in 1948 with the Chiesa Evangelica Valdese (Valdensian Evangelical Church). It captured 66 microfilm rolls of records from several churches in the region dating back to the 1600s.
Some of the delicate records literally had to be brought down a mountain from the archive on the backs of pack mules where they could be microfilmed.
The first Italian state archive FamilySearch began filming in was the Archivo di Stato di Firenze in 1975. It filmed 3,126 microfilm rolls of civil and church registers.
The Italian Ancestors Project between the National Archives of Italy (Direzione Generale per gli Archivi) and FamilySearch will focus on the historic civil registration documents located in all of the Italian state archives and branches (over 120 of them) throughout Italy to create a nationwide online collection.
This is an estimated 115 million or more images that includes about 250 million birth, marriage, and death certificates ranging from the early 1800s to 1942. Today, pack mules have been replaced by state-of-the-art digital cameras used to digitally preserve the remaining historic documents and online volunteers to make them readily accessible and searchable for free.
Anyone 12 years of age and older can help. Volunteers need only a computer with Web access. There are online tutorials, self-help guides, project instructions, and an online Facebook community (found at https://www.facebook.com/ItalianAncestors) to help new volunteers become comfortable and proficient with the indexing software and documents being indexed. For more information about getting started, visit familysearch.org/italian-ancestors/getting-started.