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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 estrazione].
Since the creation of the Italian state in the 1860s, all Italian males, subject to certain exceptions, have been subject to military duty. Training would begin at an early age and would continue throughout the life of the Italian male.The points in time of interest to us in this present discussion are (1) that point in time at the beginnning of the three premilitari years, which occurs at age 18 and continues to age 21 and (2) that point in time at the beginning of the period of military service itself, beginning at age 21.
Liste di Leva. 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 eighteen years earlier. The compiliation of the lists into one volume resulted in 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 eighteen-year-old males within a district by year of birth and provide (1) the young man's name, his parents’ names, his place of birth, and his currrent place of residence, to which is added (2) information concerning the information about any referrals, additional comments, and information showing verification of the list by the municipal council, followed (3) by data necessary for the operations of the draft commissioner (commissario di leva) such as information about the final verification of the list, the number assigned to the male at the time of the closure of the list, personal characteristics of the male (height, color, marital status), and (4) by information on the operations of the draft board (consiglio di leva) such as results of a final examination and enrollment, and finally (5) by data defining the status of the male, such as departure date from the district, the destination of the male, and indication whether the male is infirm. Often the liste di leva provided some but not all of this information. Examples of a title page and of a typical two-page spread in a lista di leva, showing five typical entries, appears immediately below.
Lista di leva title page (sample)
Lista di leva two-page spread (sample)
Liste di Estrazione. Then when a male became eligible at age twenty-one years of age, the draft board (consiglio di leva) would examine the man to determine his physical condition and the results of his premilitary training and in connection with that examination would compile (again on a year-by-year basis) a listing of those who were determined to be physically, mentally, and legally eligible to be drafted, or exempted therefrom. (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.This listing is the lista di estrazione. The liste 'di estrazione show the man's name; his parents' names; his community of domicile; his date and place of birth; his community of residence; his occupation, profession, or craft; an indication whether he was included in an earlier listing; the results of an examination of him by the draft commssioner (stating his height, giving a declaration of any inability to serve, and a statement of any commissioner decision concerning any inability to serve); the results of a final examination of him by the draft board (its decision and the date thereof). If the draftee had emigrated, the date and destination are noted. Examples of a title page and of a typical two-page spread in a lista di estrazione, showing five typical entries, appears immediately below.
Lista di estrazione title page (sample)
Lista di estrazione two-page spread (sample)
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 who had reached eighteen years of age and the liste di estrazione, also called liste di arruolamento, was a list of those who at age 21 were declared eligible to enter or were exempted from military service. The preparation of liste di leva was eliminated in 1923 and thereafter only those of estrazione were prepared.
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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