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Italy has been divided into city-sates, duchies, and kingdoms under many different rulers throughout history. Modern Italy includes some areas that have been part of Austria, Switzerland, France, and the former Yugoslavia.
1806-1815 Napoleonic Records
During the reign of Napoleon (from about 1806-1815) Italy was divided into provinces (provincie), communes (comuni), and hamlets (frazioni). These political boundaries have remained basically the same today, nearly 200 years later. While Napoleon ruled Italy, he made civil registration a national law. As a result, most areas of Italy have civil registration from at least 1808-1815. After Napoleon's defeat, most areas in the northern part of Italy ceased their civil record keeping. One notable exception to this was the province of Trento. In this area the Catholic priests themselves kept up the civil registration along with their own parish registers. Much of central Italy, from the regions of Marche and Abruzzo, continuing to the south, and all of southern Italy continued civil registration without a break. See maps. Sicily, on its own (never having been conquered by Napoleon) began civil registration in 1820, using basically the same format as the Napoleonic records. Although Sardegna was not conquered by Napoleon, records there begin in 1866 at the time of Unification.
1866 - Present Post-Unification Records
Most of Italy was unified into a single kingdom between 1861-1870. It is divided into 20 regions - much like the states in the United States - and 103 provinces, which correspond to counties. Within each province are several smaller jurisdictions called "tribunali". A tribunale, or court, has jurisdiction over civil records from 1866 to the present, while the province maintains control of records from 1809-1865, when they exist. Most records were and are still kept on a communal level and it is possible to access them from the town itself. Civil registration became national law in 1866 so virtually every town is represented from 1866 to the present day.
Records are rarely found on a regional level, Toscana being the exception. Records were kept, as in the rest of Italy, on a town level or, in the case of church records, on a parish level. The records were gathered together region-wide and the basic information was extracted, creating a regional record of births, marriages, and deaths from 1808-1865. In some cases records go back to 1745. The province of Lucca became a part of Toscana in about 1850 and records for its towns are included from 1851. These records were microfilmed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and may be found in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Copies of the films may be ordered through a local Family History Center .