Many ancestors with Italian heritage made their way into the United States. Knowing their town of birth is essential to tracing them.
Some online sites have preserved and digitized civil registration (birth, marriage, and death) records from Italy for decades. They are now making them searchable online via their portal.
A key piece in finding Italian ancestors is their town of birth. Fortunately, several websites can help you locate their place of origin.
The family tree website has links to many databases that contain civil birth records. The search box allows you to add a specific surname and the comune and province you are interested in. Her site is very well organized and easy to use.
Online sites have several collections, including Italian birth records, but many still need to be indexed for a name search. The Italy State Archive Records collection lists those that have been indexed. You will need to know your ancestor’s religion, the town (comune) of their birth or death, and, if possible, the province or province where they lived.
Other resources may be found at the diocesan level, mainly if your ancestors were Roman Catholic. Church registers called status animarum, used for tax purposes, can be a genealogical goldmine and provide information on several generations within a household. This can help identify relationships that might otherwise remain unknown. They are available at ancestry and other sites. In addition, you can find the records at the local comune or its archives (Archivio diocesan). You will need to know the full name and sex of the person sought and their parents.
The next step in your search for Italian genealogy online records is to discover and document your ancestors’ deaths and burials. You can find a variety of civil, church, and state archived records on the Italy research page. These resources will help you discover generations of ancestors, including records of births, marriages, death certificates, biographies, censuses, cemeteries, and more.
Many of these records have yet to be indexed to allow searching by name. Instead, you will need to know the name of your ancestral town (Comune), or at least the Italian Province, also called the “provincial.” Include the name of the religious denomination. This information will help you locate the proper collection.
You may also want to check for records at the diocesan level, a type of church census called a status animarum. Parish priests kept these and are a genealogical goldmine.
Visit, telephone or write to all your older relatives and ask them what they know about your family in Italy. Take detailed notes. You will want to record names, dates, and other details to guide further research. Keep these records organized in a chart or file folder. It is also a good idea to share the chart with other family members so that they can add to it.
There are two main ways to search for Italian marriage records (or registry di matrimony): the catalog and records methods. The latter has a more user-friendly interface, but both methods work well, and you may find the same results. When using the records method, enter Italy in the place search box, click on Europe on the map, and then select Italy. You can then narrow it down by province, commune, and year.
Civil registration records, also called registri dello stato civile, are government-created vital records for births, deaths, and marriages. They are grouped by region, and within each province, they are organized by town at the time of the event. This means you must know which comune your ancestor came from to identify which archive has the appropriate collection.
Church records, on the other hand, were systematically recorded from the 1500s until the mid-1900s and are still one of the most valuable resources for genealogists. Church records are typically indexed and can often provide valuable clues about the names of relatives who lived with your ancestor and supplemental documents required for marriage, such as legitimation or parental acknowledgments [ricognizioni].
Many resources are available for researching Italian immigrant ancestors, including USA census records, Social Security death, birth certificates, naturalization papers, Ellis Island ship passenger lists, and obituaries. Church records are also beneficial, especially those that record baptisms, marriages, and burials.
The key to locating immigrant Italian ancestors is knowing their exact town (municipality, township, or village) in Italy. This information is only sometimes available, particularly before 1900. The best way to discover this is through family knowledge combined with United States records.
While some digitized Italian documents are available online, other collections are restricted to physical microfilm. These can be accessed in Family History Centers and most US libraries participating in the program. One workaround is to use the website, which offers a searchable index for many of the same collections confined to privacy restrictions.
Another great resource is this list of links to websites that offer transcribed Italian civil and church records. Some collections are specific to a comune or range of years, but others cover multiple towns and years. Note that these sites need to be regularly updated, and some no longer work.