Italian Military Records
Not knowing the name of the commune in which our forbear was born, and knowing only the province’s name, these records become a very important source.
The lists of military recruitment (Liste di Leva and Ruoli Matricolari)
The Liste di Leva contain the name of all those young residents in an Italian province who were twenty years old and in conditions to go to the military service. These records can be a very useful source if you only know the province or even the region of origin of your ancestor and if you know that he was born after 1840. Military and conscription records contain very precious genealogical information. They provide not only vital information on your ancestor but also physical information.
Conscription of all males at the age of eighteen was instituted in 1862 thus including all males born in 1842. Every Italian male—even those obviously disabled—was and still is required to report to the draft board for a physical exam. In some regions, military records begin about 1792 and give information about the man’s military career, such as promotions, places served, pensions, and conduct. They also usually include information about his age, birthplace, residence, occupation, physical description, and family members. Until 1913 he was recruited men who met 20 years. That year, the age was reduced to 18 years.
The particularity of these military records is that they were generated in the provinces. Not knowing the name of the commune in which our forbear was born, and knowing only the province’s name, these records become a very important source. The lists of military recruitment (Liste di Leva and Ruoli Matricolari) contain the name of all those young residents in an Italian province who were twenty years old and in conditions to go to the military service. These lists include young people who emigrated. They should regularize their military situation in the Italian consulates.
Liste di Leva and Ruoli Matricolari (PPS presentation)
List of Leva
In Italy, the word leva means a call up to a mandatory military service. That task was performed by the communes during the Kingdom of Italy and the Italian Republic. The Leva Bureau (Uffici di Leva) in each Italian city was in charge to make lists, and to update them periodically, of every young male at the age for compulsory military service (20 years of age), organized by class, which means, year of birth. These lists were elaborated according to the civil records lists or the parish records, and later they were updated deleting dead or emigrated people or adding new residents of the commune. The final lists were sent to the Council of Leva (Consiglio di Leva) of the Circondario.
NOTE: In some communal folders are conserved original lists containing information about those who deceased before their 20 years of age, or those who changed their domiciles to another commune.
Every year, the Ministry of War established by law the number of males to be recruited in the “first category”, it is to say, the permanent military status. In base of the number of men recorded in the lists of leva, was established, in proportional way, the number of men each province, circondario and mandamento should send to the army. These young men were selected by military toss.
The toss (estrazione) was public and taken by mandamento, before the presence of those who were recorded in the lists, and it determined the order in which they had to be recruited by the Council of Leva of the circondario. At the Council of Leva of the circondario a physical exam was taken, to approve their ability to go to the military service. Who didn’t assist to the Council of Leva of the circondario was considered renitente (rebel) and persecuted by the law.
Once reached the number of members required in every mandamento, the following young men in the list were applied to the “second category”; it is, in the Provincial military legion. It explains how the good luck of being rewarded with a high number gave them the possibility of being physically examined when the recruiting for the first category was already closed. The exceeding number of recruits was incorporated to the second category, and they made a brief military training, being available to fight in case of belic conflict.
From 1862 the Council of Leva of the Circondario started to make another lists: the liste di estrazione, where the names of young men were recorded according to the order of number obtained in the military toss.
Ruoli Matricolari (Matriculation Rolls)
– The Ruoli Matricolari contains a list of those young enrolled in the army. The government established a number of youth had to do military service. The men who did not perform military service were available to be called to arms in times of war, to forty years old. But the ruoli matricolari contains all enrolled youth: those who performed military service and those who did not. Young people with serious illnesses or disabilities are not enrolled, therefore, will not find them in the ruoli matricolari.
The Ruoli Matricolari contain only the men recruited to the military service. It was not necessary to have been at the military service to be recorded in the Ruolo Matricolare: all young men suitable for the military service according to the Council of Leva, was recorded.
The Ruolo Matricolare is a summary of the accomplished military service: information about the regiment in which the service was accomplished, war actions in which they participated, medals and condecorations they received. And information about: date and place of birth, domicile, name of parents, physical features, and level of education. The ruolo matricolare was updated through constant communication between military districts and communes. In these documents were also the congedo illimitato (unlimited certificate of discharge) -which allowed the possibility of emigration-, with the information of the place they emigrated.
These records, after 70 years of the military call up, were sent to the Archive of the State of every city, and, actually, they can be consulted for free.
How to ask for these documents?
Italian military records are kept by military districts. The archive of the military district stores the records. Most military districts are within the geographical boundaries of a province. A province can have up to three military districts, and in rare cases a military district may encompass two provinces.These records, after 70 years of the military call up, were sent to the Archive of the State of every city, and, actually, they can be consulted for free. Then you have to ask the Archivio di Stato of the province that is seeking. Entering here you find addresses of the Italian state archives.
Lists of military recruitment – This excel file contains a list of Italian military records digitization projects. That’s why some Archives of the State had load up these recruitment records on line.
Model of letter
Archivio di Stato di … (name of the province)….
Egregio Direttore / Egregia Direttrice:…(select depending on whether male or female)…
Mi chiamo …(your name)… e sono alla ricerca della mia storia familiare. Le sarei molto grato/a di farmi pervenire una copia della lista di leva o il ruolo matricolare di :
COGNOME e NOME:....(ancestor’s name).…
NATO IL : .…(date of birth, if you do not know the date write: “intorno” and an approximate date)… for example : intorno al 1880-1885) ……….
FIGLIO / A di: ……(son of, father’s name)… e di …..(mother’s name)…..
NATO IN :…(place of birth -may be approximate-. If you do not know where your ancestor was born, delete this line)…
RingrazioLa per quanto potrete fare, Le invio i miei cordiali saluti.
Dati Personali …(write your name, and postal address)…