How to get started

Where to start from? How can you trace your ancestors? The sources indispensable for genealogical research are generally of two types: those private, including, obviously first and foremost, personal memories (direct sources) and the oral tradition of one’s family (indirect sources) but also family and personal archives; those public, such as civil status, registry office, military documentation and parish records; and, secondly, although less rich in genealogical data, notarial deeds, land registers and professional orders’ registration numbers are equally important.

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 reality, genealogical research, like any other archival research, needs clues, and ultimately, no document, not even an accounting register, can be said to be insignificant when it can provide even a single piece of information to integrate our starting data or a trace which links you to other useful documents to continue your research.

But to begin with, it is best to first of all resort to the so-called “serial” sources, i.e. the recordings and documents produced and preserved over time mainly by public offices or ecclesiastical structures and now accessible in state archives or other historical archives. The research must start from geographical references, time and parental relationships (filiation, brotherhood and marriage), to proceed, according to a general rule, necessarily backwards in time.

And therefore, to search for the personal data of one of our ancestor, starting from the date known to us, generally obtained from a document or news in our possession, it is advisable proceed as follows: starting from the date of 1 January 1866 onwards, it is appropriate make use of civil status documents or, (as an alternative, parish registers and military sources); from the date of 31 December 1865 until the early 1600s it is advisable carry out research on parish records (for some areas and in particular cases the parish records are older and date back to the 14th century); from the oldest parish records back in time to the 13th century it is advisable carry out research on notarial deeds and on estimates and land registers; even further back in time, in theory, it’s possible try to identify traces of the most remote ancestors in the diplomatic funds of the noble archives, of the municipalities, of the most ancient monasteries and churches.