Italian Parish Records
Acts of baptism, marriage and decease
We have two available sources to know all of that: the parish records (made by the churches or parishes) and the records made and conserved by the Italian State (Civil Register = stato civile). They have the necessary information about births, marriages and deaths.
Parish records were used since long time ago, before the civil records. Through the Council of Trent, at the end of the 16th century, the Catholic Church established that every parish priest would maintain records of every parish baptisms, marriages and deaths of all parishioners and outlined the procedures for those sacraments.
Church registers are the most informative document available for researchers of Italian ancestry prior to the early nineteenth century. While most areas have civil registration for later time periods, church registers in present-day Italy can document events well back into the sixteenth century, depending on the region and upon record survival.
Italian Church Records
Predominantly Catholic, the church records of Italy also include some fragmented registers of Protestant congregations, though they were few prior to the twentieth century. In general, most church records, whether Catholic or Protestant, will offer the following information:
– Birth/Christening records are available for most religious denominations. They include the date of the event, name of child, names of parents, household number and/or town of residence, witnesses, and additional miscellaneous information. The information is less detailed the further back in time it was recorded. These records are organized chronological by date of event.
– Marriage records will usually include the date of the event, name of the groom and bride, their residence of origin, prior marital status and witnesses. Many records show ages of the bride and groom, and later records show the names of the fathers for each. Even more recent records show both the mother and father for each party. Residences can lead to outside parishes of origin when births did not occur in the same parish being researched. Marriage records are organized chronological by date of event.
– Death records generally include the date of death and burial, name of the deceased, age and residence at time of death. The cause of death is often listed in more recent records, as well as whether a widow or widower, and a father’s names is usually given if the child is an infant. Death records are found organized chronological.
How to ask for these documents?
Most of these records remain at the local parish or are in diocesan archives. You probably will need to correspond with the local priest in order to obtain information from these church records. Although there have been many Catholic parish records microfilmed and digitized by the Family History Library, most records are still kept by the parish. Hence, it can sometimes be challenging to access and search these records. For simple requests, writing or calling the local parish priest is sometimes an effective approach, although there are many instances where letters, emails or phone calls go unreturned. If this occurs, or if your search request is much more expansive, it may require either a personal visit or having an on-site researcher visit the parish for you.
The Diocesan Archives
The main activity of the Diocesan Archives is to keep and widespread the parochial records of the documentary historic funds of the corresponding Diocese. In some Diocesan archives there are duplicates or the parochial records the bishops used to send and still send to be filed.
How to locate Dioceses and Italian Parishes?
In these links you will be able to find information (postal addresses, e-mails and websites) of the Italian diocese and parishes.
Chiesa Cattolica (Catholic Church) – Official Site of the Catholic Church in Italy – Offers information on all Italian dioceses, whether the diocese has a website, find there the link. Find addresses parishes: to find the postal or electronic address of the Italian Diocese, you can search those sites that contain data on them.
Parrocchiemap – Searching parishes
SittiCattolici (Sites Catholic) – The Italian portal contains a comprehensive list of links to sites related to Catholicism and each link is described in detail. The list includes links to pages of parishes and dioceses. Start choosing the region of interest.
ParrocchieWeb (Web Parishes) – Another Italian portal offers a map of parishes with records of parishes have a website organized by region. In the left menu select the region that interests us in the Mappa Parrocchia.
Parrocchie.it – is a database of parishes throughout Italy is born and develops as an open project and no-profit. One of its aims is to put online, the simple way, information on more than 25,000 parishes in Italy.
Catholic Churches in Italy – Useful directory for Catholic Church research.
Model of letter (diocese)
Diocesi di…( name of Diocese)…..
S.E. Rev.mo Mons. ……((name of the archivist, the bishop, the Cancelliere as appropriate) …..
Mi chiamo …(your name)…. e vivo in …(country)…
Da qualche tempo sto cercando di ricostruire la mia storia familiare.
Qualora ci siano nel Suo archivio copie dei registri di battesimo, di matrimonio e di morte, potrebbe avere la gentilezza di farmi pervenire una copia (copia integrale o fotocopia) del:
1) Request act of baptism
… copia integrale o fotocopia dell’atto di battessimo di
NOME e COGNOME: ....(ancestor’s name).…
NATO / A il: …..(date of birth, if you do not know the date write: “intorno a” and an approximate date)...
FIGLIO / A di: ……(son of, father’s name)… e di …..(mother’s name)…..
2) Request act of marriage
… copia integrale o fotocopia dell”atto di matrimonio di:
NOME e COGNOME del esposo: .….(name and surname of husband)….
FIGLIO DI: ……..(husband’s father)… e di …(husband’s mother)….
NOME e COGNOME della esposa:…(name and surname of wife)….
FIGLIA DI: ……..(wife father)… e di …(wife mother)….
IL:.....(date of marriage, if you do not know the date write: “tra” and an approximate date)...
3) Request act of death
… copia integrale o fotocopia dell”atto di morte di:
NOME e COGNOME:....(ancestor’s name).…
CHE A MORTO il: ...(date of death, if you do not know the date write: “tra” and an approximate date)...
FIGLIO / A di: . ……..(husband’s father)… e di …(husband’s mother)….
Le sarei grata di farmi sapere il costo di questa ricerca.
RingraziandoLa in anticipo per la Sua cortese attenzione, La prego di accogliere, Rev.mo Monsignore, i miei devoti ossequi.
Dati Personali …(write your name, and postal address)…
Model of letter (parish)
Prete della Parrocchia di …(parish name)…
Credo che il mio bisnonno,:…..(ancestor’s name).…, figlio di :…..(son of).…, sia stato battezzato nella sua parrocchio verso il :…..(date).…. Le sarei molto grato se potesse cercare il suo atto di battesimo e il otto di matrimonio dei suoi gentori, e se li trova varrei pregarla di spedirmi gli estratti di tali atti coi nomi dei genitori cosi come sano registrati in ciascuna entra. Se non trova teale nome, ed se Lei ha conoscenza che nel suo vicinato il cognome …(your surname)… era conosciuto verso il :…..(date).….. Le sarei molto grato/a (use a if who writes and who will receive the order is a woman, in case of a man use o) se volesse informarmi.
Qui incluso invio un vaglia per la somma di $2.70. Se non fosse sufficiente, la prego di infomarmi circa l’ulteriore somma da spediere.
La ringrazio gentilment per il Suo aiuto.
Dati Personali …(write your name, and postal address)…
PRIEST OF THE PARISH OF __________________
4 July 1974
I believe that my great-grandfather, …., son of …, was baptized in your parish in about …. I will appreciate it very much if you could seek his baptism record and the marriage record of his parents and if found send me extracts with the names of parents as given in each entry. If you do not find these entries, and you know where in your vicinity the surname ….. was knon in about 1860, I would be very grateful to you to inform me of tthis.
Enclosed is a money order for $2.70. If this is insufficent, please inform me of the additional amount to send.
Thank you very kindly.