Q. My grandfather was in the Italian cavalry. Was military service compulsory in Italy? How do I obtain his military records?
Happily for genealogists (if not necessarily for young Italian men), in 1865 Italy instituted conscription of all males at the age of 18. Even disabled men had to report to the draft board for a physical exam, so these records encompass every native Italian male born from about 1850 to the present, except those who emigrated before age 18. These conscription records (registro di leva) and discharge records (foglio di congedo illimitato) contain rich genealogical finds, ranging from birth data and parents’ names to physical descriptions. If you don’t know the exact locality where your ancestor lived—a must for most Italian research, such as in church records—military records can provide this essential information, because the records are grouped by military district and province rather than by town.
Other Italian military records include the “draftee curriculum of service record” (registro dei fogli matricolari) and service records (registro di ruolo), both of which contain details of the soldier’s actual service, such as promotions. These military records may date as far back as 1792.
Military records become available to the public after 75 years at the provincial archive covering the place your ancestor lived; each province included two or three military districts. For addresses and other information about Italy’s provincial archives, click here.
If a trip to Italy is not in your immediate plans, you’ll be glad to know the Family History Library has microfilmed a dozen provinces’ military records. To check the catalog, look for the name of your ancestor’s province and then scroll to Military Records. More provinces’ digitized records are being added to the FamilySearch.org website.
From the July/August 2012 Family Tree Magazine