Place of birth

This guide was last updated in August 2014

It is essential to know the comune of birth if you are to track down civil or church records in Italy.

This is often the most difficult aspect of research for UK residents. Unless you have known relatives still living in Italy, surviving correspondence with family members or other family documents you will have to try to find UK records with sufficiently detailed information. The first place to look is census returns where, apart from 1841, place of birth is recorded. Unfortunately you may well find that it is given simply as Italy.

Check the birthplace of any Italian neighbours – groups from the same village may well have lived adjacent to each other. You should also check the UK immigration, naturalisation and denization records held by The National Archives. All naturalisation and denization records (including rejected applications) have been indexed. If your ancestor did apply for naturalisation (the great majority did not) you are likely to find a wealth of information.

Italian surnames can be very local in origin so look at the distribution of the name in Italy. Check US immigration records for families with the same surname – those are likely to record place of origin. Also search those parts of Switzerland that are Italian-speaking, Corsica, which has from time to time been controlled by Italian city-states, and south-east France.

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