Thursday, May 21, 2015

Evaluating the Evidentiary Value of an Italian Record

Now let's take a look at the document I posted on 15 May 2015, the decree of Giuseppe Fedele Covi, and discuss the evidentiary value of the different pieces of information the document contains. I've set my comments apart from the text of the document by placing them in red below.

"Decree number: 3508
Year: 1853

The Illustrious Magistrate

The undersigned, Giuseppe Fedele Covi, who resides in this city, provided the following answers to the [Magistrate’s] humble questions.

1.     He is a native of [the town of] Seio, District of Trento in the Tirolo [Tyrol].
2.     He married here [in Trieste] and is the father of three children.
3.     He has resided here [in Trieste] since 1829.
4.     He is the owner of grocery store number 967, approved by Magistrate Decree Number 12830 on 27 November 1852.
5.     He has never been convicted [of anything criminal].
6.     He earns sufficient money to maintain his family.

In the hope of attaining the grace of all, he signs [his signature below:]

Trieste, 19 March 1853
Signature of Giuseppe Fedele Covi"

The above section is the testimony of Giuseppe Fedele Covi, in order to answer a Magristrates' questions. This section would then contain primary information because it was stated by a participant in the events in question. 

What form of evidence each piece of information provides would depend on the research question. For example, if the question was "Where was Giuseppe Fedele Covi born?" then he provides direct evidence that he was born in the town of Seio in the Tirolo within his first response. Direct evidence is when the information seems to provide the answer to the research question by itself.

However, if the research question was "Where were his three children born?" then this information provides indirect evidence that his children were born in Trieste. For indirect evidence, you have to combine various pieces of information in order to reach a genealogical conclusion. Therefore, if Giuseppe Fedele had lived in Trieste since 1829 [answer 3], married in Trieste [answer 2], and had three children by 1853 [answer 2] this evidence combines to indirectly prove that his children were born in Trieste. However, I would suggest seeking the children's baptismal records in order to find direct evidence for this conclusion.

"I hereby declare, to the praise and triumph of the genuine truth, that Giuseppe Fedele Covi, a native of Tirolo and son of the living Nicol√≥ Covi, was employed in my shop in his youth, from the end of 1829 until the last months of 1833. During his service to me, he behaved with great willingness and activity and was well known for his honesty. I hereby place my signature and seal in the presence of two witnesses.

Trieste, 23 April 1836
Signature of Giacomo Antonio Depaul

I, Andrea Rabaux, hereby witness the signature of Mister Giacomo Antonio Depaul, which was made by his own hand [written in the hand of Andrea Rabaux, likely in lieu of a signature]. 

Signature of Giacomo Augustinish, also a witness to the above [signature of Giacomo Antonio Depaul]'[1]  

If the research question was "Who was Giuseppe Fedele Covi's father?" then the testimonial section by Giacomo Antonio Depaul provides direct evidence that his father's name was Nicolo Covi. However, because he was likely not a direct participant or eyewitness to the birth of Giuseppe Fedele Covi it provides secondary information.

Could Giacomo Antonio Depaul have personally known Nicolo Covi? Sure, but this document doesn't provide evidence of that either way. Therefore, we have to evaluate what evidence it does provide and assign the appropriate evidentiary strength to each piece of information.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at

[1] Trieste, Trieste Province, Italy, “Decretti [Decrees], 1853”: number 3508, register marked 1230 and 1/9 1, Decree of Giuseppe Fedele Covi; Archivio Generale del Comune di Trieste [Municipal Archives for the Town of Trieste], Via Punta del Forno, n. 2, 34121 Trieste, Italy.

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