Name and emigration sources

Many public institutions, in the exercise of their functions, have collected, since the beginning of the 20th century, a great deal of information on individuals both for reasons of political and social control and in order to provide them with the services guaranteed by the welfare state (pensions, allowances, economic contributions and incentives, assistance of various kinds). These are, for example, offices such as Prefectures, Police Headquarters, Courts or welfare and charity organisations, but also schools, hospitals, orphanages, etc. In their archives, many of which are transferred after thirty years to the competent State Archives, there are often various records and, above all, series of files in the name of individuals, which contain documentation of a bureaucratic nature, but also applications, letters, personal documents etc., which can be very useful in reconstructing the life and activities of our ancestors. Sets of employee files and register books can also be found in the archives of any public office or of private companies, associations, etc.

In some of those series, it is also possible to find documentation concerning emigration to foreign countries and in particular to the American continent: for example, in the funds of the Police Headquarters and Prefecture, it is possible to recover many emigration-related files such as passport applications and controls on clandestine emigration .

However, emigration did not always take place according to the rules laid down by law: fundamental information for the descendants of emigrants can be found in the Lists of Leva; the great emigration was, in fact, one of the causes of the recalcitrance to the draft; finally, in the Rolls or Matriculation Sheets the clearance for those applying for a passport is recorded, sometimes even with an indication of the country of destination.

Very important are the embarkation lists in particular for the main ports of departure during the Great Italian Emigration, namely Palermo, Naples and Genoa. Unfortunately, documentation on the Commissariats that actually verified the movement of emigrants to other continents has not always been preserved.

The Genoa State Archives have created a database of emigrant lists taken from the Registers of the Magistrate of Health fund for the period 1833-1856 that can be consulted on the website of the International Centre for Italian Emigration Studies.

Few embarkation lists are preserved at the Naples State Archives, recovered in the Naples Police Headquarters fund, General Archives, I series, for the years 1883-1887 only. On the other hand, the subseries of Passports, also in the Naples Police Headquarters, General Archive, issued mainly to Neapolitan citizens, from 1888 to 1932, is preserved in its entirety. The relevant database can be consulted at the Inventory Room of the State Archives in Naples.

These sources are particularly useful for the descendants of Italian emigrants living abroad: since the last decades of the 20th century, in fact, the desire to rediscover one’s own origins is perceived as a strong need. Some of the approximately 80 million Italian immigrants around the world who consult the Portal have the desire to rediscover their genealogical roots and thus learn about their family history and the reasons that brought their family to the new worlds; to reconnect with relatives who remained in Italy and obtain Italian citizenship and thus enjoy the benefits of being a citizen of the European community (see Request for certificates).

For further research you can consult the list of databases in the section of the Portal: Research Aids, under Immigration.