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Research: Italian Ancestors
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NOTE: This course requires compulsory materials to be ordered. Please click on the Supplies tab for details.

So you want to research your Italian ancestors! Welcome to a fascinating area of genealogical research. Italians have contributed to all aspects of life in the countries they immigrated to. They often came poor and destitute, seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Hard work and placing great value on family helped them to excel within their new country. Their sacrifices provided a better life for their descendants.

Italian research can be done well by anyone, whether you know the Italian language or think you have linguistic ability. Most Italian records follow a standard format which is a great help when working in records created in a foreign language. Your language proficiency will grow with time and experience as you work with the records.

This course will provide you with a solid foundation with which to begin your research. We will discuss, amongst other things:

  • Historical Considerations – How did historical events affect record keeping?
  • Finding Your Ancestor’s Place of Origin – Why is it important?
  • Political Jurisdictions – How can you find the records if you don’t know how and why they were created?
  • Language Resources – What languages are the records written in? Can I research in the records without being fluent in Italian? What about the handwriting?
  • Available Record Types – We will discuss civil, ecclesiastical, and other records.
  • Accessing the Records – Where are the records and what archives are there?
  • Research Tips and Practical Applications – I’ll share tips gained from my experiences such as how to accurately cite a microfilmed civil record.
  • History of Italian Immigration – The course contains short summaries of Italian immigration to six different countries.

    There are several more advanced resources that will be discussed briefly, but not expanded upon, because this course is meant to be a general overview of Italian genealogical research. Consider taking more advanced courses later, once you have more experience, where these records can be covered in more depth. By the end of the course, I have confidence you will be ready to start your Italian research and will say Andiamo! [Let’s go!]

    Course Content

    Module 1

    Getting Started
    • Note about Web Addresses
    • Websites
    • Reference Materials for Italian Research
    • What Am I Looking For? Why Do I Want To Do This?
    • Desire to Learn More about Your Family History
    • Desire to Obtain Dual Citizenship with Italy
    Where Do I Start?
    • Begin in the Place of Immigration
    • Finding Your Ancestor’s Place of Origin
    • Why It’s Important
    • Historical Considerations

    Module 2
    • Websites
    • Required Reading
    Italian Political Jurisdictions
    • Town (Comune) or City (Cittá)
    • Province (Provincia)
    • Region (singular: Regione, plural: Regioni)
    • Parish (Parrocchia)
    • Diocese (same spelling in Italian & English, pl. diocesi)
    Additional Italian Archive Useful for Genealogical Research
    • Local Library (Biblioteca Comunale)
    United States & Canada Resources
    U.S. Resources on Italian Immigrants
    • Italian Records Brought by the Immigrant
    • Italian Identification Cards
    • Military Discharge Papers
    • Understanding Naming Customs
    Canadian Resources on Italian Immigrants
    • Naming Customs
    • Immigration Records
    • Passenger Manifests
    • Immigration after 1935
    • Border Entry Records – 1908-1935
    • Citizenship and Naturalization Records
    • Census Records
    • Where Can I Find Them?
    • Vital Registrations
    • Church (Parish) Records

    Module 3
    Italian Record Types
    Civil Registration
    • How Many Sets Were Created and Where Can They Be Found?
    • Napoleonic Civil Records (Stato Civile Napoleonico) - 1804-1815
    • Restoration Civil Records (Stato Civile Restaurazione) - 1816-1865
    • Italian Civil Records (Stato Civile Italiano) - 1865 onward
    Most Useful Civil Record Types
    Italian Privacy Restrictions
    Conflict between Church and State

    Module 4
    Parish Or Diocesan Records
    • Websites
    • Required Reading
    When Did They Begin and Why?
    Can I Find my Ancestors Back to the Beginning of Ecclesiastical Records?
    Baptismal or Ecclesiastical Birth Records
    Confirmation Records
    Marriage Records
    • Ecclesiastical Marriage Attachments
    • Notice of Birth in a Different Parish
    • Marriage Dispensations
    What Can Be Found in the Parish and What Can Be Found in the Diocese?
    Records of Other Religions
    • Jewish (Ebrei)
    • Waldensian Evangelical Church (Chiesa Evangelica Valdese)
    • Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church (Chiesa Greca or Chiesa Ortodossa)
    Additional Record Types
    • Military Records (Registri Militari)
    • Military Conscription Records
    • Military Service Records
    • Discharge Papers
    • Notarial Records (Registri di Notai)
    • University Records

    Module 5
    • Websites
    • Language Guides/Word Lists
    Will the Records be in Italian?
    Other Languages
    Common Abbreviations
    Additional Language Resources
    • Handwriting
    Citing the Records
    Form Letters to Request Records from Italy
    • What if They Don’t Answer my Request?

    Module 6
    Accessing The Records
    • Websites
    • Required Reading
    Use of Indexes
    Microfilm and Digital Collections
    • FamilySearch
    • Main Archives of the Italian Government (Archivio Centrale dello Stato)
    Resources for Maps or Gazetteers
    • Libraries
    • Use the Internet!
    • Other

    Module 7
    Countries With Historically Italian Poplations
    • Websites
    United States
    Final Summary

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