Viva Italia! Roots Records in Italy
6/1/2005
Certain Italian records are hard to come by stateside. Follow these tips for requesting records from Italian archives.
Other Italian records are harder to come by in the United States — you'll probably need to write to Italy or travel there to use them. If you do, you'll find that records access varies by town. For example, in Terlizzi (population 2,500), I got carte blanche to go through the civil records and indexes to my heart's content. Just 15 miles away in Potenza, a city of 100,000, the clerk wouldn't even let me breathe on the record books. In case you have a similar experience, be prepared with a list of names and dates of the people you're researching. Then the clerk easily can look up things for you if he's willing. Most clerks won't speak English, so know some phrases and questions in Italian.

Italy's state archives (archivio di stato) have copies of civil records (after 75 years), military-conscription and service records, censuses, tax assessments and notary records. You can research in these archives, or hire someone to do it for you, but the staff won't do research for you by mail or in person. The Italian Web site <www.db.archivi.beniculturali.it/ucbaweb/indice.html> lists addresses for state archives; so does Nelson's guide. State archives usually are in each province's major city, though nine provinces established in 1994 don't have archives. If your ancestral town is in one of the new provinces, look in that locale's pre-1994 province. To learn more about researching in Italy, read John Philip Colletta's Finding Italian Roots.

Here's a look at other Italian records that could hold clues to your family's past: