A gazetteer is a dictionary of place-names. Gazetteers describe towns and villages, parishes and counties or provinces, rivers and mountains, sizes of population, and other geographical features. They usually include only the names of places that existed at the time the gazetteer was published. The place-names are generally listed in alphabetical order, similar to a dictionary.
Gazetteers may also provide additional information about towns, such as:
- The different religious denominations.
- The schools, colleges, and universities.
- Major manufacturing works, canals, docks, and railroad stations.
- Court and military districts.
Many places in Italy have the same or similar names. You will need to use a gazetteer to identify the specific town where your ancestor lived, the province it was in, and the civil and church jurisdictions that may have kept records about him or her.
Gazetteers are also helpful for determining provincial jurisdictions as used in the Family History Library Catalog.
Finding Place-Names in the Family History Library Catalog
The Family History Library Catalog uses the names of the towns and provinces as they existed in 1954. Regardless of the names a place may have had at various times, all Italian places are listed in the Family History Library Catalog by the name used in the following gazetteer:
- Nuovo dizionario dei comuni e frazioni di comuni con le circonscrizioni amministrative (New dictionary of communities and hamlets of communities with their administrative jurisdictions). 22nd edition. Roma, Italy: Società Editrice Dizionario Voghera dei Comuni, 1954. (FHL book EUROPE 945 E5n 1954.) This gazetteer includes court and military districts and indicates boundary and name changes.
If you are not sure which province that a town or city is in, use the Locality Search of the catalog. It provides "see references" for the names of towns that it recognizes. If you are using the catalog on compact disc, you can also use the Locality Browse feature.
For some research purposes, such as correspondence, it is useful to learn the modern jurisdictions for the area where your ancestors lived. Modern jurisdictions are also helpful if you want to find an ancestral town on a modern map.
You can find the following modern gazetteers at many large libraries and archives:
- Touring Club Italiano. Annuario generale dei comuni e delle frazioni d’Italia (General yearbook of the communes and fraziones of Italy). Milano, Italy: TCI, 1993. (FHL book EUROPE REF 945 E5t 1993.) This yearbook includes churches, schools, colleges, public works, and postal codes.
- United States. Board on Geographic Names. Italy and Associated Areas: Official Standard Names Approved by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. Washington DC, USA: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1956. (FHL book EUROPE REF 945 E5u; film 0874451.)
Similar national sources are listed in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
ITALY- POSTAL AND SHIPPING GUIDES
Because names and boundaries of some places have changed or no longer exist, you may need to use sources that describe places as they existed earlier. Some of the historical national gazetteers that identify places in Italy are:
- Crusius, Christian. Topographisches Post-Lexicon aller Ortschaften der kais. königl. Erbländer. (Topographical postal directory of royal lands). Wien, Austria: Druck von Mathias Andreas Schmidt, 1799–1828. (On 8 FHL films beginning with film 1187844.)
- Verzeichnis der Post- und Telegraphenanstalten in Jugoslawien (Königreich der Serben, Kroaten und Slovene, S.H.S.) (Index of postal and telegraphic localities in Yugoslavia [The kingdoms of Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia.]). Dresden, Germany: W.V. Baensch Stiftung, 1931. (FHL book EUROPE Q 949.7 E8e; film 0583459 item 3.)
- Kredel, Otto. Deutsch-fremdsprachiges Ortsnamenverzeichnis (German foreign language name dictionary). Berlin, Germany: Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft, 1931. (FHL film 590387; additional film 583457.)
These and similar sources are listed in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
ITALY, [PROVINCE] - GAZETTEERS