Tracing your Italian ancestors can be challenging. But thanks to many volunteers, many records are now available online. Catholic Church parish priests keep baptism, marriage, and death records are Italian genealogy records online. There are some useful websites for finding the town where your ancestors lived. Then, visit the local church archives to explore these records in person.
Identifying your Italian ancestors’ town of origin is crucial to progressing with your genealogy. Unlike the United States, where records are centralized, Italy had a system of provincial archives that kept birth, marriage, and death records (registri di stato civile) for each comune (town).
A free website has been working with the Istituto Centrale per gli Archivi to preserve these records in microfilm. They are slowly being scanned and converted to digital images for online viewing. Once indexed, you’ll be able to search them by name. The project will be completed in 2019, but the indexed images won’t be available until 2021.
Some of these registri aren’t yet viewable because of privacy restrictions. So you’ll need to visit a Family History Center, an affiliate library or the Family History Library. Other records — including church and notary records, censuses and immigration documents — are available at the Antenati site. A useful tool is Comuni-Italiani, which lists the contact information for each Italian comune and may help you locate your ancestral town.
Church records provide insight into your ancestors’ lives and may reveal more information than other documents. While not as complete as civil registration records, they can help you fill in the gaps and discover more about your ancestors’ life.
You can find baptism, marriage, and death records in church archives, depending on the time frame. The Catholic Church kept these records for centuries, making it a valuable source of information for many families. However, these archives are only sometimes digitized or available online. While it is not a substitute for Antenati, it can be an invaluable resource for Italian research. Many church records have been indexed, making them searchable by name. The website also provides a Gallery view of the record to browse it.
Many Italian immigrants came to the US, and their descendants have been searching for ancestors in family history records. An intensive digitization project has brought a gold mine of civil record sets to the Internet, but the searchability of these collections depends on how they are indexed. Most are not yet browsable by name, but the indexing effort is moving along quickly.
You can access these records online by going to the Search page and using either the “search collection titles” box, clicking on Europe on the map, and then selecting Italy to view a list of all available collections. You can narrow your search by province and year with options to select the commune you’re also looking for.
If you’re lucky enough to know the commune where your ancestors came from, Comuni-Italiani can help you find the contact information for their town archives. Church records can also help find ancestors in that area, since church records were kept systematically and continuously from the 1500s. Look for a status animarum, a kind of church census, updated regularly so that you can trace families over time.
The Portale Antenati provides a searchable database of records from state archives in Italy, including civil registration documents. You can use this with a good source, which has millions of records digitized from archives throughout the country and is a safety net against natural disasters or loss to human handling.
Aside from civil registration, the most important records of an Italian ancestor’s life are his military service and burial.
Many military records have been indexed, but some will need to be searched by name and year, rather than by place or event. These are usually called indici decennali. An example is Nati in Trentino, which indexes 1.2 million births and marriages that took place in the region of northern Italy between 1815 and 1923.
Sponsored by the government of Italy, some websites give patrons access to images digitized at the state archives. The site allows users to browse records from a specific period and includes each archive’s contact information.
Civil registration (or registri dello stato civile) records can be a gold mine for genealogy depending on the area and time. They contain indexes, certificates of birth and marriage and death for individuals registered in a specific town and can be used to verify an ancestor’s identity.
You can access them by going to Search, then Catalog. In the place search field enter Italy and select a province. Various collections, including the registri dello stato, indici, cittadinanza and allegati, will come up for that region. Those that have been indexed can be searched by name. Others, however, still need to be browsable and may need to be searched by date.