Civil records

This guide was last updated in August 2014

Civil records, known as Stato Civile, generally start in Italy at about the time of unification, between about 1860 and 1870, although in some regions they date back as far as 1809. They have the advantage that they are often far more informative than UK records.

In birth records the parents' fathers' names are also likely to be recorded, in marriage records both parents of the bride and groom are noted; a woman’s maiden name will be used, whatever her marital status; ages, occupations and addresses are routinely entered too. The records are held at the town hall of each comune, not centrally, so it is essential to know where your ancestor originated. Unfortunately this can be difficult to establish.

Records less than 75 years old can only be searched by town hall officials. You can write to the Ufficio di Stato Civile for the relevant comune to ask for copies of documents, or for permission to search. A fee will be payable. If you cannot access the original documents yourself you should always ask for an extract (estratto dell’atto) rather than a certificate (il certificato), as the extracts provide more personal information than the certificates.

Death records can be more difficult to locate as they will be found in the place where the person died, often a hospital which is likely to be in a large town or city, not the normal place of residence. Again the estratto will contain more information than a UK certificate, occasionally including the names of the deceased’s parents. There are no useful records comparable to the UK decennial census returns.

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