Monday, April 14, 2014

Strength of the Evidence in Italian Genealogical Documents - Part II - Genealogical Sources and Information

Genealogical Sources

There are two main categories of genealogical sources, authored works and records.

1. Authored works - There are not as many authored works in Italian research then one sees in North America. An example of this might be a published family history or a town history, which may mention notable people or noble families.

2. Records - These are the battesimi, nati, morti, pubblicazioni di matrimonio, atti di matrimonio, notarial, censimento, catasto, allegati/processetti, etc.  This is where the majority of evidence lies in Italian genealogical research.

Records are either original or derivative.

An original record is made at the time of the event or close to it, usually by a direct participant in the event. Therefore, a birth record reported by the midwife would definitely be an original record. Could these records still err? Of course. They were created by humans with inherent flaws and there are many reasons why the wrong information may have been given on purpose.

A derivative record is created from a prior record. Therefore, all officially issued copies of records from an Italian town hall [whether an estratto, in international format, or a certificato] are derivative records. However, a photocopy of a civil record or an image copy, as found on FamilySearch microfilm, are not considered derivative as long as no changes were made to the record. The act of translation also makes a record derivative.

Genealogical Information

There are three main categories of genealogical information, primary, secondary, and indeterminable.

1. Primary information is reported by an eyewitness to the event, either at the time of the event or many years later. Therefore, is a death record recorded four days later by two men who lived on the same street as the deceased primary information? I would say for most of the information contained, yes. If they didn't directly see the person slip from life's grasp, then they likely saw the priest arrive to give the final sacraments, heard the weeping, or saw the civil official come to verify the death. That is primary information of the deceased's death date.

2. Secondary information is hearsay. Therefore, an Italian-American descendant who says their great-grandfather was killed in Palermo by the Mafia in 1904 is likely stating information they heard passed down through their family. Unless they have the death record stating his violent death in this city or some Italian court records documenting the murder, then it is likely hearsay.

3. Indeterminable information comes when we cannot determine who might have been the informant, therefore making it impossible to say with any accuracy what type of information it might be. In the death record example above, would a neighbor have primary information of the deceased's parent's names? Maybe or maybe not, making this information indeterminable IMHO.

As in American documents, different pieces of information within a record could be different types of information.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Updates to Portale Antenati (Main Italian Archives Website)

In keeping with their objective to digitize all civil registers held in Italian state/provincial archives and post them on the internet, the Portale Antenati website is continuously being updated with more records. Below are the records that have been uploaded since January 2014.

March 2014 - Genoa State Archives is complete, 246,957 images from 3,210 napoleonic registers

February 2014 - Updated online index with Modena births for the years 1817-1902. Also, the Lucca State Archives is complete, 89,811 images from 970 napoleonic registers.

January 2014 - Completed Mercato District and the Santissima Annunziata [home of abandoned children] in Napoli, 1,195,449 images of napoleonic, restoration, and Italian civil registers.

See the website linked above for more information on this project.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Learning to Cite Italian Genealogical Records

Below are several examples which will help you learn to cite Italian genealogical records. The purpose of citing our work is so that we, and other researchers, can follow our work. Additionally, in this way, we can judge the strength of the evidence found and, if needed, reevaluate the documents for evidence to support a genealogical conclusion.

To Cite a Civil Marriage Promise Found on FamilySearch Microfilm

Noci, Bari Province, Italy, “Registro di Atti di Solenne Promessa di Matrimonio [Register of Acts of Solemn Promise of Marriage or Marriage Promise], 1836,” record 8, page 19, marriage promise of Antonio Schiavo and Celestina Maria Martina; FamilySearch microfilm #1,603,400.

To Cite a Civil Death Record Found at a Town Archive

Ne, Genova Province, Italy, “Registro degli Atti di Morti [Register of Acts of Death], 1882,” record 41, death record of Concetta Piccone; Comune di [Town of] Ne, Piazza del Mosto, n. 2, 16040 Ne (GE), Italy.

To Cite a Stati d’Anime [Parish Census]

Clusone, Bergamo Province, Italy, “Status Animarum, Parrochie Cluxonis, 1833 usque 1842” [Parish Census for the Parishes of Clusone between 1833-1842], record kept progressively, page number not given, likely household number 3 in Tonet al Paghér, parish census entry for the Saverio Rostini Family; Basilicata di Santa Maria Assunta, Via Brasi, no. 11, 24023 Clusone, Italy. 

To Cite a Civil Birth Record Found Online at FamilySearch

Bari, Bari Province, Italy, “Registro di Atti di Nascita  [Register of Acts of Birth], 1851”: record 162, p. 162, image 3002, birth record of Maddalena Fusco; digitized images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 15 November 2013).

[You could also shorten the url to just but be sure to include the access date as changes are constantly being made to the digital locations of documents such as these.]

To Cite a Military Conscription Record Found at a Provincial Archives

Lucca Province, Italy, "Liste di Leva [Conscription Lists]," record 1, year: 1897, military conscription record of Simone Parchese; Archivio di Stato di Lucca [Provincial Archives of Lucca], P.zza Guidiccioni, 8, 55100 Lucca, Italy, conserved amongst the papers of the “R. Prefettura di Lucca,” military conscription office number 854, conscriptees from the town of Lucca.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Strength of the Evidence in Italian Genealogical Records - Part I

In order to understand the strength of each piece of evidence within Italian genealogical documents, one must understand the basics of genealogical evidence analysis and the cultural practices that surrounded the creation of the records.

The best book to begin your studies on genealogical evidence analysis is Elizabeth Shown Mill's Evidence Explained Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. The first chapter covers this subject and the rest of the book shows you how to cite any type of record you may encounter within genealogy. The examples for Italian records are limited but do cover the basics of citing civil records.

Direct evidence is any piece of evidence that answers the research question by itself. Therefore, a civil birth record that states the child was born on 2 March 1856 at 10:00 a.m. in the town of Altomonte is clearly direct evidence of said child's birthdate, place, and time.

Indirect evidence is any piece of evidence which, by itself, does not answer the research question. Therefore, a parish marriage record documenting the marriage of Simone Mattei and "the girl Isabella" provides indirect evidence of Isabella's full name. Her surname was not given so additional evidence would need to be gathered in order to determine her full name.

Negative evidence occurs when information should be there but isn't. Because of this, we then infer our genealogical conclusion by the lack of clearly stated evidence. For example, the death record of Carmelo Catanese gives his parent's names as Simone and Maria Abbate. The sections for occupation and residence following Simone's name are crossed through. While no word precedes Simone's name to indicate he was deceased, the fact that they did not insert an occupation and residence infers that he was deceased and provides negative evidence of this conclusion.

The next post on this subject will discuss sources and information, also valuable subjects to understand when working in Italian records.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Working with the Documents - Part III - Civil Birth Record of Aurelia di Marco

Birth Record of Aurelia di Marco

            Aurelia’s birth was reported to the Altomonte town hall on 13 November 1818 at 12:00 p.m. by her father, Rafaele di Marco. Rafaele was forty years old [born about 1778], a farmer, and resident of this town on Vallina Avenue.

            He declared that the female child he was presenting was born “the day before indicated” [13 November 1818 ?] at 12:00 p.m. in his home and to his wife, Cherubina Perrone. Cherubina was thirty years old [born about 1788].

            The child was given the name Aurelia. The witnesses to the presentation and declaration were: Domenico Paladino, age sixty, a farmer, and resident of this town on Vallina Avenue as well as Saverio Costante, age forty-six, a shoemaker, and resident of the town on Vallina Avenue. Rafaele and both witnesses made their marks on the bottom of the document, as they were not literate.[1]

COMMENTS:  Rafaele was born about 1778 while Cherubina was born about 1788. Rafaele was not literate so he could not verify that their ages were recorded correctly.

A “di” not a “De” was used in Rafaele’s surname [as seen in other records of this family]. They both mean the same thing in the Italian language, “of” or “from.” Capitalization was often used interchangeably when a “Di” or “De” preceded a surname and does not change the translation. This type of surname is patronymical, meaning they were likely the descendants of a Marco. Italians began using surnames at different points in time over the last four hundred years, depending on the locality. Patronymical surnames are just one form of surname seen throughout Italy.

Aurelia may have been born on 12 November 1818. The document says that she was born on “the day before indicated” [logically meaning the date of recordation, 13 November 1818] yet they say that the child was presented on that exact date and time.  It is unlikely that the father grabbed the child and ran to the town hall the moment she was born.

[1] Altomonte, Cosenza Province, Italy, “Registro di Atto di Nascita [Register of Acts of Birth], 1818,” record 64, birth record of Aurelia di Marco; FamilySearch microfilm #1,329,794.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Working with the Documents - Part II - Another Civil Marriage Record

Transcribed Marriage Promise of Francesco Antonio Labbollita and Maria Rosa Cordasco

            This couple appeared in the Altomonte town hall on 25 June 1820 at 2:00 p.m. to record their marriage promise. The groom was Francesco Antonio Labbollita, age forty-five [born about 1775], a farmer, born in Altomonte, and a resident of Altomonte on San Nicola Avenue. He was the son of the deceased Cherubina Labbollita, a seamstress and resident of this town, and an unknown father.

            The bride was Maria Rosa Cordasco, age thirty-five [born about 1785], born in Altomonte, and a resident of Altomonte on San Nicola Avenue. Her parents were Giuseppe Cordasco, a farmer and resident of this town, and Maria Angela Pitrelli, a resident of this town. Both of her parents were deceased.

            Their first marriage bann was posted on 21 May 1820. The documents that were to be attached to the marriage promise were:

 §  The birth record of the groom.

§  The birth record of the bride.

§  Death record of Rosa Guerzino [?], second wife of the groom, who died on 24 August 1819 [?].

§  Death record of the groom’s mother who died on 4 September 1814.

§  Death record of the bride’s mother who died on 26 September 1819.

§  Death record of the bride’s father who died on 8 January 1810.

§  The marriage bann and declaration of no opposition.

The witnesses to the recording of the marriage promise were: Gaetano Battaglia, age thirty-seven, a carpenter, and resident on San Nicola Avenue; Nicola Zaccarrelli, age [illegible], a shoemaker, and resident on the above-named avenue; Pasquale Franco, age twenty-three, a municipal employee, and resident on San Giacomo Avenue; and Vincenzo Adamo, age twenty-six, a mason, and resident on San Nicola Avenue. The groom, bride, and last witness were not literate and they made their marks at the bottom of the document. The other witnesses signed their signatures.

They then married in the Parish of San Giacomo Apostolo Maggiore the next day [26 June 1820] before the witnesses: Filippo Battaglia and Antonio Paladino. Their marriage was recorded in the parish records on 27 June 1820 as number [not given], on pages 197-198.[1]

COMMENTS: It is not unusual to see the exact death dates for each parent given within a marriage promise and this may be a local practice. Normally, they are simply noted to be deceased and that they were including their death records in the marriage supplements. Having this information, will make researching for these records easier and can be used as additional evidence that the death records found are the correct ones.

Please note that this was Francesco Antonio’s third marriage. The death record of his first wife was required to be included when he married the second wife so therefore it was not required when he married his third wife, Maria Rosa Cordasco. His third marriage followed within a year of his second wife’s death, likely an indictor that there were small children in the household needing care.

This couple’s estimated ages in this record puts Francesco Antonio’s birth about 1771 and Maria Rosa’s about 1778. This marriage record is a strong form of evidence. However, since Francesco Antonio and Maria Rosa were both illiterate, they could not verify that their ages were recorded correctly. This should be kept in mind when evaluating the document's evidentiary value.

The witnesses to an Italian couple’s parish marriage were often the godparents to their first child or two.

[1] Altomonte, Cosenza Province, Italy, “Registro di Atto di Matrimonio [Register of Acts of Marriage], 1820,” record 23, page 23, transcribed marriage promise for Franscesco Antonio Labbollita and Maria Rosa Cordasco; FamilySearch microfilm #1,329,794.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Working with the Documents - Mining an Italian Marriage Record for Useful Clues

There's nothing like working with multiple documents to increase your knowledge of Italian research.

I find it interesting when a civil record provides more information than was required by law. Below is a translated abstraction of the marriage record of Vincenzo Rafaele di Marco and Cherubina Perrone. The abstraction includes all genealogically useful information from the document. The unusual portions and a clue that might lead to additional information [including my explanations] have been highlighted in purple.

Marriage Record of Vincenzo Rafaele di Marco and Cherubina Perrone

            This couple appeared in the Altomonte town hall on 9 May 1814 at 11:00 p.m. to be married. The groom was Vincenzo Rafaele di Marco, of legal age, age twenty-five [born about 1789], a peasant farmer, and resident of this town on San Quaranto [?] Avenue. He was the son of the deceased Pietro [di Marco], who died in this town on 6 March 1805 but whose death record does not exist, as well as the living Aurelia Ciaccio, age forty-two [born about 1772], a seamstress, and resident of Altomonte in the household of her son, the groom. They note that his mother gave consent for the marriage [even though this wasn’t necessary because he was of legal age.]

            The bride was Cherubina Perrone, a minor [no age given]. Her parents were the living Rosa Guaragno, thirty-seven years old [born about 1777], a weaver, and resident of this town on San Quaranto Avenue as well as the deceased Raimondo Perrone, who died in this town on 21 January 1807 but whose death record does not exist.

            The first marriage bann was posted on Sunday, 24 April 1814 and the second bann on Sunday, 13 [?, ink bleed-through] May 1814. There were no oppositions to the marriage.

            The witnesses were: Leopoldo Lattarchi, age thirty-four, a priest, and resident of this town on Pequaria [?] Avenue; Giuseppe Adamo, age forty-four, a mason, and resident of this town on [illegible] Avenue; Vincenzo Maione, age forty-seven, an Archpriest, and a resident of this town on Pequaria [?] Avenue; and Carmelo Guaragno, age thirty, a municipal employee, and a resident of Morano [perhaps Morano Calabro] on La Piazza Avenue.

            The bride, groom, and their mothers were present but could not write. They each made their mark at the bottom of the document.[1]

COMMENTS: Interestingly, this document was not in the form of a marriage promise, as is usually seen in this part of Italy prior to 1865. 

They apparently looked for the death records of both fathers, as they would do for any marriage, but neither death record was found. It is unusual for them to include the exact dates of death for each father within the actual marriage document. Normally, they would just be marked as deceased and their death records included in the marriage supplements. They may have given the information within the marriage document because their death records could not be found. 

There was a lot of ink bleed-through from the other side of this document that made the bottom section of page 1 difficult to read.

The last witness may be a relative of the bride’s mother, as their surnames are the same. It is unlikely that this man worked for the town of Altomonte because Morano Calabro is a little too far away for someone to travel to work on a daily basis, especially in 1814 [see below]. It is likely he was a town employee in Morano Calabro. This may be a clue as to the origins of the Guaragno family.

[1] Altomonte, Cosenza Province, Italy, “Registro di Atto di Matrimonio [Register of Acts of Marriage], 1814,” record 8, page 29 [?], marriage record of Vincenzo Rafaele di Marco and Cherubina Perrone; FamilySearch microfilm #1,329,794.