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Italian Catholic Church Records from Parish Archives in Italy

Giorgio Alessandri  was born in Rome, Italy. He has done much personal Italian Genealogy Research and offers this overview of Catholic Church Records in Italy parish archives.  


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Italian Catholic Church Records
by Giorgio Alessandri 

It's interesting to talk briefly about the main historical changes of parish documents over time.

Parish priests used to record the most important events in the spiritual lives of the parish members. From ancient times, parish priests used to keep information about baptisms, marriages and deaths not only in the parish documents but also in some books called "Soul's State".

At first parish priests individually did that work but later it became an official instruction of canon law.

Since 1563 for the dispositions approved by the sessions 23 - Cap.1 "De Reform" - and 24 - Capp. 1 and 2 "De Reform" - of the Council of Trent, every parish priest has to record events in parish books, in which there are dates of birth, marriage and death.

After about three centuries from this official instruction, the Canonical Codex Iuris of 1917 confirmed that it was compulsory for parishes to have parish books with information about baptisms, marriages , deaths and the "Soul's State".

Thanks to this official instruction it is possible to find in parish archives important documents for genealogical research, but only since the second half of the XV century. Only some of these parish archives have documents about the period before the XV century.

At first there were no regulations for writing these documents. But since the second half of the 1800s parish priests began to record events in individual documents introducing new elements to make documents more detailed.

Another improvement in the canonical way of keeping archives was introduced in 1917. In fact since this date, because of the binding power of the canons 470, 777, 1103, 1107 of the Canonical Codex Iuris every parish had to periodically deliver a copy of every parish book to its Curia.

So if you want to do genealogical research about the following period you can find documents not only in parishes but also in the bishop's archives of the competent Curia.

As I have already said, information in genealogical documents are not very regular, especially for the past.  I'm going to explain to you what kind of information you can find in the documents of different historical periods.  I will chronologically divide the genealogical information recorded in documents, into three different historical periods.

I° period: from the second half of the 1500s to the first half of the 1800s

  1. Certificate of Baptism: date of the baptism; name of the baptized; first and last name of the father of the baptized; name of the mother of the baptized.
  2. Certificate of Marriage: certificate of marriage or record of marriage date of the marriage; first and last name of the husband; name of the wife's father (rarely); First and last name of the wife.
  3. Death Certificate: first and last name of the deceased; state of the dead person (married or widower) (rarely); name of the possible spouse (rarely); age of the dead person.

II° period: from the first half of the 1800s to the first half of the 1900s

  1. Certificate of Baptism: date of presentation of the declaration; sex of the newborn; date of birth; name, last name, profession and domicile of the father; name, last name, profession and domicile of the mother; name and last name of the priest to give the baptism; names imposed to the baptized; names given to the baptized name, last name, profession and domicile of the godfather; name, last name, profession and domicile of the godmother.
  2. Certificate of Marriage: date of celebration of the marriage; name, last name and parish of residence of the husband; name of the father of the husband; name, last name and parish of residence of the wife; name of the father of the wife; name, last name, name of the father and parish of residence of each of the two witnesses.
  3. Death Certificate: date of the funeral; name and last name of the dead person; name of the father; name and last name of the mother; age of the dead person; date of the death; place of tomb.

III° period: from the first half of the 1900s to the present time.

  1. a) Certificate of Baptism: date of presentation of the declaration; sex of the newborn; date of birth; name, last name, place of birth and condition of the father; name of the father of the father; name, last name, place of birth and condition of the mother; name of the father of the mother; place of residence of the parents; name and last name of the priest to give the baptism; names given to the baptized; name, last name, name of the father and domicile of the godfather; name, last name, name of the father and domicile of the godmother
  2. b) Certificate of Marriage: date of celebration of the marriage; name and last name of the priest celebrant; name and last name of the husband; age of the husband; profession of the husband; place and date of birth of the husband; place of residence of the husband; parish of residence of the husband; name of the father of the husband; place of residence of the father of the husband; name and last name of the mother of the husband; place of residence of the mother of the husband: name and last name of the wife; age of the wife; profession of the wife; place and date of birth of the wife; place of residence of the wife; parish of residence of the wife; name of the father of the wife; place of residence of the father of the wife; name and last name of the mother of the wife; place of residence of the mother of the wife; name and last name of the two witness; names of the fathers of the two witness; age of the two witness; place of residence of the two witness.
  3. c) Death Certificate: date of the funeral; name and last name of the dead person; name of the father; name and last name of the mother; age of the dead person; date of the death; place of tomb.

Special Thanks to...
Giorgio Alessandri   - born in Roma, Italia -
recently disappeared from the Internet whose legacy lives on.


Spelling edited + links added by Paula Nigro 

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