Italy Sicilian Riveli Records

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Sicilian Riveli Records

By Robert Ralph Porcaro
Columbus Day 12 October 2005

During part of the years 2002 and 2003 I had the privilege to serve as a volunteer at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City Utah. My assignment was to scan and catalog over 1,100 Riveli microfilms. During that time I reviewed microfilm records for many of the 389 villages in Sicily. What a wonderful way to become acquainted with the homeland of my grandfather. As I scanned the microfilms I would locate the community on a map of Sicily then look up information on the atlas and gazetteer. Later I was able to search the internet for pictures and historical information on several communities. The following article is an attempt to summarize a few things I discovered about Riveli records from Sicily.

The Riveli

Riveli in Italian means to reveal. The Riveli record served as a census to record inhabitants (anime) and possessions (beni). The Riveli pages were bound together in a volume with a string threaded through a hole near the top of the page and another string through a hole near the bottom of the page. Most volumes held the records of up to 1,000 pages. A few Riveli records exceeded 1,000 pages.

Purpose of the Riveli

A Riveli was a census to determine population and taxation for revenue. The Riveli served the king of the country as a monitor to determine how many males there were in the kingdom that were of age to serve in the military or to work on road projects and also how many animals and producing farm land was available to produce food for the kingdom.

Years Available on Microfilm

The Family History Library has microfilms of Riveli records for many of the years that Riveli records were recorded. I have personally reviewed the following years from varied communities in Sicily.

  • 1548, 1569, 1583, 1584, 1589, 1593, 1597,
  • 1607, 1612, 1614, 1616, 1621, 1623, 1624, 1636,
  • 1637, 1639, 1651, 1652, 1664, 1674, 1681, 1682,
  • 1714, 1747, 1748, 1750, 1752, 1754, 1755, 1756, 1757, 1765,
  • 1811, 1812, 1815

About the Indice (index)

Older indexes such as 1674 listed family names using the given name, (first name) first, in alphabetical order followed by the surname. Following the name in the index is a page (folio) number and with some luck you can find the actual Riveli record either following the index or on another microfilm. Some indexes precede the record some follow the record, and some records have no index. I have experienced reading an index where there is no Riveli record available. Also, I have seen names listed on the index but that person’s Riveli page is not included with others. Finally, I have found a family Riveli page with others but that persons name was not in the index. Some indexes include the head of the household with other members of their family listed with them.

Information on Riveli Records

There are many words used in a Riveli record that are common to most records. Following is a list of a few words to be familiar with:

  • tassa = tax
  • terra = land
  • anime = souls/inhabitants
  • beni = goods/possessions
  • lordo = gross amount to be taxed
  • netto = net amount to be taxed (usually 5-10%)
  • mascoli = male
  • fimmini = female
  • capo di casa = head of household
  • moglie = wife
  • figlio = son
  • figlia = daughter

The name of the head of the household is listed on the top of the page (usually on the right side), and again in the text of the Riveli (usually after the word anime), and at the end of the Riveli on the left side of the final page.

Sometimes the name of the father of the head of the household is listed on the first entry at the top of the page and once in a while the mother’s name is also listed.

Within the text of the Riveli is first the name of the head of the household followed with the name of the wife (sometimes with her maiden name) then the children. Sometimes the children are listed with son’s names first then daughters next.

Ages are listed for males only. But I did find a few records where the females had their ages listed. Be aware that ages were estimates and then rounded off to the nearest ten years, so in most cases are not accurate.

In many Riveli records the head of the household has his nearest neighbors listed also. Look for family groups. It is interesting to note that the Riveli record for the common person was often scribbled and brief whereas a Riveli record for the aristocracy was printed in formal calligraphy with detailed pages. Sometimes the pages were adorned with fancy borders and large calligraphy letters.

I have even found pages with ink line drawings of the person taxed. The conclusion of each Riveli had the name of the tax assessor and at times the signature of witnesses and occasionally the priest of the community.

Items Taxed

Taxation was placed on people and possessions including real estate, buildings, and animals. The animals were divided as:

  • caprai = goats
  • giumenta = mares
  • cavalla = horses
  • bovi = cattle
  • vacche = cows
  • pecore = sheep
  • asini = donkeys
  • muli = mules

I saw pigs mentioned in the Riveli but never on a tax summary. The animals that pulled carts were inventoried separately (animale ad uso di carrozza).

Note that the taxation was ten percent of the value. (2197=219, 1049=104 etc.)

Land was taxed according to use such as:

  • irrigatablili = able to irrigate
  • frumentale = for growing grain
  • boschigne = wooded or orchards
  • rampanti = sloped or hillside
  • non pagano = not profitable.

Houses were taxed by the amount of rooms on each floor. Included in the assessment were vineyards, orchards, groves, water wells, farm tools, sheds, silos, and household furnishings. Land was sized in hectares. One hectare=2.47 acres.

Special Recognition

It is apparent that the Riveli records were focused on the peasant farm workers. Very few Riveli records were found listing nobility. However, when they were found they listed the person’s title such as Don or Donna for honorable people and Duca, Duchessa, Barone, Conte,Contessa, and Principe, for nobility.

Items of Interest

A few records listed a ten year back tax for persons that lived and worked in a community but had not been taxed for the past ten years. See the 1811 Riveli for taxation for individuals living in a community between 1800 and 1809.

Monetary Values on Riveli Taxation

Many of the Riveli records assessed the taxes in a system that is recorded in history. The following are from Monete Siciliane Antiche on the internet at Also from the introduction to the book Lo svilupo Di Villafrati 1596-1960 by Giuseppe Oddo.

Monete Sicilane Antiche: In 1862 the Cambio Rate was:

  • 6 Denare =1 Grano 1 Grano = .0215 Lire
  • 20 Grani =1 Tari 1 Tari = .425 Lire
  • 12 Tari =1 Scudo 1 Scudo = 5.10 Lire
  • 30 Tari =1 Oncia o Onza 1 Oncia =12.75 Lire

(Tariffe: Bestia di Carico) Tariff on animals information is from Lo Sviluppo di Villafrati 1596-1960 by Giuseppe Oddo (page 16).

  • Bestia di Carico (loaden or burden) = Grana 2
  • Carro a 2 Ruote (cart with two wheels) = Grana 4
  • Bestia di Lettiga (litter or pulled) = Grana 6
  • Carrozza a 4 Ruote (cart with four wheels) = Grana 8
  • E 2 Cavalli (cart with two oxen) = Tari 1
  • A 4 Buoi (with four oxen) = Tari 2

The Three Valleys of Sicily

The Riveli records are stored in repositories by community in alphabetical order according to one of the three valleys of Sicily.

  • Val Di Mazara is the western half of Sicily with its border starting between Termini Immerse and Cefalu on the north and Licata on the south.
  • Val Demone is the northeastern portion of Sicily with its border starting at Enna and going to Catania on the east.
  • Val Di Noto is the southeast portion of Sicily with its border starting at Enna going to Licata on the south.

Writing on Riveli Records

Most ink was home made and much of the writing has faded over the years. Common damage to the pages came from poor storage procedures in damp rooms. Damage occurred from dampness, mold, and worms.

Community Name Changes

Watch for name changes of a community over the years. Also, watch for spelling including dialect, Greek, and Latin.

  • Corleone = Cariglione, Coneglione, Coniglione, Cuniglione, Canigliumi, Cunigghiuni
  • Bisacquino = Busachino, Busschino, Busaguino, Busaechini
  • Monreale = Montisreaalis
  • Mezzojusso = Mensojusso, Meliguisi, Mioijusto, Mezzoiusso
  • Busacchino = Bisaquini, Bisaquino, Bisagrum, Bosachino, Bascchino
  • Sciacca = Ciacca, Sacca, Sacce, Xacca, Xiaca, Xiacca
  • Agrigento = Gergenti, Girgenti
  • Capri = Crapi
  • Aderno = Aderna, Adrano, Adranus, Adranu, Adranum, Adirmo
  • Geraci = Jachi, Dijaci, Jaci, Girachi, Di Jaci, Iaci, Jacis, Jachi, Jiraci
  • Acireale = Acis Realis, Jacis Realis

Comune Vari

Comune Vari is a variety of community records mixed, scattered, incomplete, and at best random. They may or may not be indexed. There may only be one report from a given community mixed in with many from another community Some commune vari records have a great deal of Riveli records for one community followed by many from another community. If you’re lucky the microfilm you are reading will have each of several communities in alphabetical order. Most commune vari records are, however from one geographical area from one of the three valleys of Sicily. It appears as though the Riveli recorders missed a few people and went through the countryside gathering information and taxes for those missed previously.

Bridges from The Past

Riveli records could be your means to bridge from your civil records back in time. Note that many of the available records are a generation apart, so a person listed as a child on one record will appear as the married head of a family in the next record.