Genealogical research

The documentation before the 16th centuryThe search for one’s origins and the reconstruction of one’s family history aim, in the first place, to trace kinship and parental relations.

But the reconstruction of the genealogical thread, of the table of ancestors by quarters and the family tree of a family are but the first step in advancing in the knowledge of one’s ancestors, which becomes deeper and closer through the search for documents that testify to their ways of life, their level of education, the places where they lived and spent their lives, the professions and trades they exercised, etc.

Thanks to their particular stories we can create a complex and articulate picture of the italian society through the generations.

So, where do you start to trace your ancestors?

Sources indispensable for genealogical research are generally of two types: private and public. The former include personal recollections (the direct sources) and the oral tradition of one’s own family (the indirect sources), to which are added family and personal archives; among the public sources, on the other hand, one can mention civil status, registry offices, military records and parish records; and, secondly, although less rich in genealogical data, notarial deeds, land registers, and professional order records.

Other public sources where data concerning individual people can be obtained are the funds of the Police Headquarters, Prefecture, Courts, public welfare bodies, orphanages, hospitals etc.

In realtà, la ricerca genealogica, come qualsiasi altra ricerca archivistica, ha bisogno di indizi e, in definitiva, nessun documento, nemmeno un registro contabile, può dirsi insignificante quando può fornire anche una sola informazione per integrare i nostri dati di partenza o una traccia che ci colleghi ad altri documenti utili per proseguire la ricerca.

But to begin with, we should first turn to the so-called ‘serial’ sources, i.e. records and documents produced and preserved over time mainly by public offices or ecclesiastical structures and today accessible in the State Archives or other historical archives. The search must start from geographical and temporal references and parental relations (filiation, brotherhood and marriage), to proceed, according to a general rule, necessarily backwards in time.

E quindi, per ricercare i dati anagrafici di un nostro antenato, partendo dalla data da noi conosciuta, generalmente ricavata da un documento o da una notizia in nostro possesso, è consigliabile procedere così:

  • from 1 January 1866 onwards, recourse should be had to Civil status records or, alternatively, to parish registers, military sources or civil registers or other municipal records;
  • from the date of 31 December 1865 until the early 17th century, it is advisable to search parish registers (for some areas and in particular cases, parish registers are older and even date back to the 14th century);
  • for ancient documentation century, prior to the 16th century, it is advisable to search notarial deeds and surveys and land registers; even further back in time, theoretically, it is possible to try to locate traces in the remotest ancestors in the diplomatic fonds of noble archives, municipalities, and the oldest monasteries and churches.