Church records

This guide was last updated in August 2014

Ecclesiastical records have been kept since the second half of the 16th century and, like the civil records, are generally retained in the parish, not a central archive.

As the parish for a particular village may have changed over the years it can sometimes be necessary to refer to several sets of registers. The earlier registers are in Latin, rather than Italian and some later entries before unification may be in the local tongue.

In earlier times baptism usually took place within a day or two of birth. Today, with improved infant survival, the interval is now a week or more. As with registers in this country, the earlier entries vary greatly in the information given but the names of the godparents are always included.

Marriage records will normally include the names of both parents of bride and groom and whether either party had been married previously, but a widower’s previous wife is not necessarily recorded and a widow’s father’s name may not be given.

Burials almost invariably took place within two days of death. The records often have more information than UK records, some regions including cause. Status Animarum or state of the soul records may be found in some areas – they are basically census returns compiled by the clergy for tax purposes and can be extremely informative.

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