Registry and other municipal documentation

The tasks of the municipalities include not only the keeping of civil status, but also the composition of the conscription lists, i.e. the list of male births for each year subject, at one time, to medical examination and, if necessary, military service.

But the fundamental documentation for reconstructing the family status, i.e. the list of members of a given family at a precise moment in history, is that kept at the registry office (from the Greek verb enrol, register) of each municipality.

That is why it is always advisable to start researching your ancestor from the archives of your municipality of origin or residence.

The Registry Office, also known as the population registry, has the task of registering the resident population of a municipality by name, taking into account both natural variations (births and deaths) and those caused by migratory movements; it records residences and their changes and transfers, immigrations and emigrations.

Other municipal services, such as the tax roll, electoral rolls and conscription lists, draw on the data contained in the registry office. The modern Anagrafe was established by Royal Decree No. 31 December 1864. 2105 based on the first population census of 1861.

It was optional, so many municipalities did not establish it. It was not until 1871 with Law N. 297, which fixed the interval of each census at ten years, the obligation to keep population registers was established.

The population register kept at each municipality (Law No 1285 of 1954) consists of a complex of files, made up of so-called household sheets; each household sheet corresponds to a group of persons related by kinship who occupy a dwelling together; sorted by geographical fractions within the census sections.

In each section, individual cards are placed in alphabetical order of the surname and first name of the holder. When persons cease to be part of the resident population due to death, emigration or transfer to another municipality, the records are kept separately.

For registry searches or requests for certification of one’s ancestor, it is necessary to contact the municipality of origin or residence. Telephone and fax numbers, e-mail contacts and websites of Italian municipalities can be found on the website of theAssociazione Nazionale dei Comuni d’Italia (ANCI) or at Also useful is the Wikipedia page Comuni d’Italia.

Descriptions of the historical archives of municipalities can be found in the Sistema Informativo Unificato delle Soprintendenze Archivistiche e Bibliografiche (SIUSA) and the Sistema Archivistico Nazionale (SAN).
Some municipalities have deposited their population registers or census registers at the competent State Archives.

However, this remains an exception and most of the documentation described, in particular the registers of the Registry Office, is kept exclusively in the archives of the municipality. Detailed information on genealogical sources at each State Archive can be found in the section Explore Archives.