Civil Records

What are Civil Records?

Civil Records are very detailed documented papers of all births, marriages, deaths, and other events known as ACTS which are reported to and recorded at the Comune (municipality) of each town. Copies of each act recorded are then forwarded to the Tribunale (courthouse).  Each type of act would contain different key pieces of information about the event such as parents names (and possibly grandparents names), age, occupation, date and time of event, date and time of registration, where the person(s) resided at the time of event, and any witnesses present at the reporting of the event.  Annotations were also often written on birth acts throughout the persons life that would record other vital events such as marriages or deaths, spouse name and dates.


Domenica Caterina Fuda
Domenica Caterina Fuda Church Birth 1889

Prior to 1804, most Italian records [birth, marriage or deaths] were recorded by the local church. There was no standard for how or what was written on the certificate and what they contained relied heavily on the discretion of the priest. Record keeping varied greatly from town to town as some were written in Latin while others in the local dialect. These records could be difficult to read as many people were limited in their reading/writing skills.

Rosa Chiricosta Civil Birth Act 1823
Rosa Chiricosta Civil Birth Act 1823

In 1804, much of Europe, including parts of Italy, were under the rule of the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaporte [Buonaparte 1769-1821]. Napoleon began to annex large portions of Italy and implemented an early form of standardized record keeping created within the town itself which we now know as Registri dello Stato Civile or Civil Registration.  With Napoleon’s defeat in 1815, many areas of Italy  – especially in parts of Northern Italy – decided to stop  keeping civil records  but resumed using again a few years after the Unification of Italy. The period of 1860 – 1865 is especially difficult to find so it may be necessary to use Church records for this time frame.

**Note:  Just added: Extraction of an Italian Birth Act »

Next: Reading Civil Records »


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