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Steve Saviello's
Genealogy Research Guide

Obtaining your Italian Family Tree Archives in Italy and in the USA is easier with a better understanding of what is involved, who has the records and if they are likely to still be available.

Thanks to Steven J. Saviello founder & Owner of the Comunes_of_Italy Genealogy Group for sharing this helpful information for your Italian Genealogy Records Research.

Writing to ITALY  - Where to Write For Italian Records & How To Format the Addresses.

Italian Records / Italian Organization - Lists what records are available and who has them. Directions on how to Research by Mail and more.
Letter which can be used to write to possible relatives in Italy - In Italian & English and includes the Italian Names for Grandparents.
New York City - Entry Points by Year - Not everyone coming into New York came through Ellis Island, some entered through Castle Garden and Barge Office.
Information Provided on Each US Census - Complete break down by Year.
U.S. Railroad Retirement Board Genealogical Related Requests - records on deceased persons for the purpose of genealogical research

Writing to Italy:

Where to Write for What:
Comune Archives - (L'Ufficiale Di Anagrafe)
  • Vital Records (Stato Civile)
  • Certificate of residency (Certificato di Residenza)
  • Certificate of Family Status (Certificato di Stato di Famiglia Originaria)
State Archives - (Archivio di Stato di _________<Name of Province>)
  • Vital Records (Stato Civile)
  • Registers of the Offices of Conscription (Registri degli Uffici di Leva)
  • Notarial Records (Minute, Attie, Bastardelli, Notarili)
  • Censuses (Censimenti)
  • Tax Assessment Records or Lists (Catasti)
  • Registers of Emigration and Passports (Registri dell'Emigrazione e Passaporti)

How To Format the Addresses:
If you are writing to a Comune (town) use the following ("example") of an address format:

L'Ufficiale Di Anagrafe
Comune Di Salerno
84100 Salerno (SA)

No matter which Comune you are going to write you change only the Comune name, Zip code and Province code, which is the (SA) above.

For the Archivio Di Stato ("example"):

Via Apia, 1
81100 Caserta (CE)

No matter which Archivio Di Stato you write, you change only the Name, Street address, Zip and Province code.
By Stephen J. Saviello,
Owner, Comunes_of_Italy Mailing List

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Italian Records / Italian Organization:

  • 20 Regions -- similar to States in US
  • 103 Provinces -- similar to US Counties
  • Within the Provinces are multiple Comuni
    Within a Comuni may be several Frazioni
Record Responsibility:
  • The Comune has been given the Administrative Duties of record keeping.
Record keeping - time frame:
Civil Vital Records were instituted by Napoleon, but were inconsistently used within Italy after Napoleon, however, the record format is valid today.
  • Officially began 1860 - 1870
  • In the south of Italy - 1866
  • Piedmont - 1839
  • Venice - 1870 - 1871
  • Many other areas began with Napoleon in the early 1800's
Types of Records: - There are three basic records plus 1 exception:
  • Birth - certificato di nascita
  • Marriage - certificato di matrimonio
  • Death - certificato di morte
  • EXCEPTION - Family certificate - stato di famiglia - when and where available - addressed later.
Where records are kept:
  • One copy is held at the comune level at the officio di stato civile.
  • A second copy is sent to province seat and is in the custody of the "procuratore" in the office of the "procura della repubblica".
  • These records are not available for consultation until they are 75 years old, at which time they are sent to the State Archives, where, dependent on resources they may be available for consultation.
  • Exception - records less than 75 yrs old may be viewed by the persons self, or family member.
  • There are no national archives.
  • There are no regional archives.
Where records are available:
Officio di stato civile - Civil Vital Records Office - which contains two records classifications:
  • anagrafe - concerned with current living residents.
  • ufficio di statto civile - concerned with records of all persons - born, married, died, within the comune (ie Putignano).
Types of documents available from the records:
Records within the comune reflect birth, marriage, & death, however, if a person married in another comune, the full record is in that other comune.
  The comune of residence can release a "certificate" of the event, however, a full EXTRACT would have to come from the comune where the event took place.  The same is true of births, or deaths.  
  • The original - la copia integrale dell'atto - not available except for personal viewing - subject to the 75 year rule of privacy.
  • The certificate - il certificato - usually sent unless otherwise specified - contains only minimal basic information.
  • The extract - estratto dell'atto - contains most information, but must be requested.
Record content:
Birth certificate:
  • Birth date
  • Commune
  • Province
  • Surname
  • Given name
  • Town of  birth (comune only except on a copy of the Original which can only be viewed which will show the frazione)
Birth extract:
  • Same as certificate
  • Time of birth
  • Childs sex
  • Parents names
  • Marginal notes - i.e. marriage, death, emigration information
Marriage certificate (recorded in brides parish):
  • Comune
  • Province
  • Date of Marriage
  • Place of Marriage
  • Bride & Grooms' names
  • Bride and Grooms marriage status (i.e. widowed, divorced etc.)
  • Birth place and date of  bride and groom, or alternately their ages
  • Bride and Grooms vocations/profession
  • Current residence and citizenship of  bride and groom
  • Presiding official or priests name
  • Witness names
Marriage extract:
  • Same as Marriage certificate except no birth dates, only ages
  • Parents names
Death certificate - found in comune where death occurred -
WARNING - if in a hospital, it may be a different location from the comune of residence, since not all comuni have hospitals.  A transcription is provided to the comune of residence, however, a full extract must come from comune where death occurred.
  • Commune
  • Province
  • Date of certificate
  • Surname/Given name
  • Residence
  • Born at
  • Birth date information, or approximate age
  • Marriage status
  • Date and place of death
Death extract:
  • Hour of death
  • Address
  • Parents names
  • Profession
Family Certificate - stato di famiglia (state of the family):
Two names:
  • stato di famiglia originario (original state of the family)
  • stato di famiglia storico ( historical state of the family)
  • Should be available for births >1911, (based upon the 1911 census and (later)
  • Can be constructed for earlier dates, from individual documents, if the town office staff is willing, and should cost approximately $40.00.
  • Kept at ufficio di stato civile
  • Documents all members of the family - past & present, died or moved away.
Research by Mail:
  • Write in Italian.
  • Use typewriter, or word processor.
  • Limit the request to one or two items of information at a time.
  • Most useful is stato di famiglia storico - if available, might be worthwhile requesting it even if you think it is not readily available.
  • If researching 2 families from the same era and location simultaneously, consider asking for both at the same time records will only have to be researched once for both.
  • Provide all available information.
  • Provide the purpose of the request.
  • Do not give or imply a deadline unless absolutely necessary, and then explain it.
  • Include your return address on your letter, and on the self-addressed return envelope.
  • Don't put stamps on envelope - use International Postal Coupons as an additional courtesy.
Writing the letter:
  • Address to: ufficio di stato civile in the comune of interest
  • Include zip code if known
  • If no zip code is available, include the Province name (or abbreviation) in parentheses following the town name.
  • Start with "Dear Sirs,"
  • End with "Sincerely yours"
1st part of the letter:
  • should identify who is making the request (include reference to the address you have included in the letterhead)
2nd part of the letter:
  • Requests the specific information & includes all the available information surrounding the request (use your imagination and provide any specifics that will allow them to single out your requested individual).
  • Request the EXTRACT!!! rather than the certificate.
  • Request the data on "non legal paper" (in carta libera) - unless you need it for legal purposes.
  • Include the fathers name of the individual if possible
3rd part of the letter (ending part):
  • Thank them in advance for their time and effort.
  • Request they charge you for postal and document expenses.
  • Include a self-addressed (unstamped) envelope
Additional information:
  • Research at the comune level for a single name with date supplied should cost approximately L1,000 per certificate.
  • Research at the comune level for a single name with name only supplied should cost approximately L10,000 per certificate (approximately $8.00).
  • Personal consultation is all right for records <75 years old with prior permission from the procura della repubblica.
Conscription Records:
Conscription began in 1865 for all males age 18 in some parts, however 1873 for most parts.
  • Includes all males born 1855 to present.
  • Referred to as "registro di leva" (conscription records)
Two copies made, held at:
  • Military archive of the military district.
  • Initially provided to the "procura della repubblica" and after 75 years provided to the State Archive.
State Archive has records of each military district within the province boundaries.
Records contain:
  • Name
  • Parents name
  • Commune of residence
  • Birth date
  • Commune of birth
  • Vocation
  • Ability to read/write
  • Physical description
  • Draft boards determination of eligibility
Letter Requesting Conscription Records:
  • Addressed to the Archive Director (Archivio di Stato di (province of interest (i.e. Bari)
  • Provide as much information re the person as possible (same rules as requesting birth, marriage, or death record information)
  • Provide a reason for the request.
  • Request their suggestion for further research in records peculiar to their region.
  • Request a copy of the document - it may contain some additional information you haven't requested.
File from Stephen J. Saviello,
List-Owner, Comunes_of_Italy Genealogy Group

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New York City Entry Points By Year:

  • Aug.1, 1855 - April 18, 1890 Castle Garden
  • April 19, 1890 - December 31, 1891 Barge Office
  • Jan. 1, 1892 - June 13, 1897 Ellis Island
  • June 14, 1897 - Dec. 16, 1900 Barge Office
  • Dec. 17, 1900 - 1924 Ellis Island 

The State of New York opened the very first examining and processing center for immigrants in 1855, Castle Garden, on an island off the southwest tip of Manhattan. Immigration remained purely an affair of State, not federal, government until 1875. In that year Congress asserted its Constitutional prerogative to legislate immigration affairs by passing a law forbidding entry into the USA of criminals and women "brought for lewd and immoral purposes".

From 1875 the reception of immigrants was handled as a joint State/Federal system. The Secretary of the Treasury signed a contract with the New York State Commissioners of Emigration to continue its services at Castle Garden. On April 18, 1890, the Secretary terminated the contract and the Treasury Department assumed total control of immigration at the Port of New York. The New York State authorities refused to allow the federal government to use the Castle Garden facilities.

On April 19, 1890 the US set up a temporary center in the old Barge Office near the Customs House on the southeast foot of Manhattan. Ellis Island opened on January 1, 1892. On June 14, 1897 the original wooden structure burned to the ground. ALL administrative records for Castle Garden for the period 1855-1890 and MOST records for the Barge Office and Ellis facilities were lost. [Ships passenger lists still exist as these were in the custody of other agencies] The barge Office was reactivated and used until the new Ellis Island facility opened on December 17, 1900. 

By Stephen J. Saviello.  1997
Includes information obtained by Gay Raab.

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Information Provided on Each US Census by Year:

  • 1 7 9 0 - Name of family head, free white males of 16 years and up; free white males, under 16; free white females; slaves; other persons.
  • 1 8 0 0  &  1 8 1 0 - Names of family head; if white, age and sex; race; slaves.
  • 1 8 2 0 - Name of family head; age; sex; race; foreigners not naturalized; slaves; industry (agriculture, commerce, and manufactures).
  • 1 8 3 0 - Name of family head; age; sex; race; slaves; deaf and dumb; blind; foreigners not naturalized.
  • 1 8 4 0 - Name of family head; age; sex; race; slaves; number of deaf and dumb; number of blind; number of insane and idiotic and whether in public or private charge; number of persons in each family employed in each of six classes of industry and one of occupation; literacy; pensioners for Revolutionary or military service.
  • 1 8 5 0 - Name; age; sex; race; whether deaf and dumb, blind, insane, or idiotic; value of real estate; occupation; birthplace; whether married within the year; school attendance; literacy; whether a pauper or convict.  Supplemental schedules for slaves, and persons who died during the year.
  • 1 8 6 0 - Name; age; sex; race; value of real estate; value of personal estate; occupation; birthplace; whether married within the year; school attendance; literacy; whether deaf and dumb; blind, insane, idiotic, pauper, or convict; number of slave houses.  Supplemental schedules for slaves, and persons who died during the year.
  • 1 8 7 0 - Name; age; race; occupation; value of real estate; value of personal estate; birthplaces; whether parents were foreign born; month of birth if born within the ear; month of marriage if married within the year; school attendance; literacy; whether deaf and dumb, blind, insane, or idiotic; male citizens 21 and over, and number of such persons denied the right to vote for other than rebellion. Supplemental schedules for persons who died during the year.
  • 1 8 8 0 - Address; name; relationship to family head; sex; race; age; marital status; month of birth if born within the census year; occupation; months unemployed during the year; sickness or temporary disability; whether blind, deaf and dumb, idiotic, insane, maimed, crippled, bedridden, or otherwise disabled; school attendance; literacy; birthplace of person and parents. Supplemental schedules for persons who died during the year.
  • 1 8 9 0 - General schedules most destroyed. Supplemental schedules for Union veterans of the Civil War and their widows.
  • 1 9 0 0 - Address; name: relationship to family head; sex; race; age; marital status, number of years married; for women, number of children born and number now living; birthplace of person and parents; if foreign born. year of immigration and whether naturalized; occupation; months not employed; school attendance; literacy; ability to speak English; whether on a farm; home owned or rented and if owned, whether mortgaged.
  • 1 9 1 0 - Address; name; relationship to family head; sex; race; age; marital status; number of years of present marriage; for women, number of children born and number now living; birthplace and mother tongue of person and parents; if foreign born, year of immigration, whether naturalized, and whether able to speak English, or if not, language spoken; occupation, industry, and class of worker: if an employee, whether out of work during year; literacy; school attendance; home owned or rented; if owned, whether mortgaged; whether farm or house; whether a survivor of Union or Confederate Army or Navy; whether blind, deaf and dumb.
  • 1 9 2 0 - Address; name; relationship to family head; sex; race; age; marital status; ii foreign born, year of immigration to the U.S., whether naturalized, and year of naturalization; school attendance; literacy; birthplace of person and parents mother tongue of foreign born; ability to speak English; occupation, industry, and class of worker; home owned or rented; if owned, whether free or mortgaged.
  • 1 9 3 0 - Address; name; relationship to family head; home owned or rented; value or monthly rental; radio set; whether on a farm; sex; race; age; marital status: age at first marriage: school attendance; literacy; birthplace of person and parents; if foreign born, language spoken in home before coming to U.S., year of immigration, whether naturalized, and ability to speak English; occupation. industry, and class of worker; whether at work previous day (or last regular working day); veteran status; for Indian; whether of full or mixed blood, and tribal affiliation. 1940 - 1950 - 1960 - 1970 - 1980 - 1990 These census records are not currently available for viewing by the public. The US Government has mandated that the records be closed for 72 years after the census was taken. The 1940 census will be open after 2012.
  • 1 9 4 0 Census supplement: (by the editor)
    Many of the questions on the 1940 census are standard: name, age, gender, and race, education, and place of birth. The 1940 census also asks many new questions. The instructions ask the enumerator to enter an [a circled x] after the name of the person furnishing the information about the family; whether the person worked for the CCC, WPA, or NYA the week of March 24-30, 1940; and income for the 12 months ending December 31, 1939. 1940 also has a supplemental schedule for two names on each page. The supplemental schedule asks the place of birth of the person's father and mother; the person's usual occupation, not just what they were doing the week of March 24-30, 1940; and for all women who are or have been married, has this woman been married more than once and age at first marriage.
    More on the National Archives (NARA) website:

File from Stephen Saviello
Owner Comunes_Of_Italy Italian Genealogy Mailing List.

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U.S. Railroad Retirement Board
Genealogical Related Requests.

The U.S. Railroad Retirement Board administers a Federal retirement benefit program covering the nation's railroad workers. The records it maintains deal primarily with the administration and payment of these benefits. The Board will provide information from its records on deceased persons for the purpose of genealogical research. However, it will not release information on persons who are still living without the written consent of that person.

The fee for searching our records is $27 for each individual on whom records are requested. This fee is payable before any search is attempted. It is not refundable, even if we are unable to locate the information requested or if the file has been destroyed.  Your check or money order should be made payable to the Railroad Retirement Board, and sent to the

Office of Public Affairs, Railroad Retirement Board
844 North Rush Street,
Chicago, Illinois 60611-2092.

The Railroad Retirement Board, like the Social Security Administration, was not established until the mid-1930's, and it began maintaining its own records of all covered rail service in 1937.  Therefore, the Board's records are essentially limited to individuals who worked in the rail industry after 1936. The Board would not have any records of persons who died prior to its inception.  Nor would it generally have any pertinent records of persons whose rail service was performed on a casual basis and/or was of short duration. Also, the Board's records are only on persons whose employers were covered under the Railroad Retirement Act.  Employers such as street, interurban, or suburban electric railways are not covered under this Act.

The Board's records are kept by the railroad employee's social security number and a person's social security number often appears on his or her death certificate. In some cases, if that number is not available, having the employee's full name, including middle name or initial, and complete dates of birth and death may be of some help in determining whether we have any records of that person.  However, in dealing with relatively common surnames, it is usually not possible to make a positive identification without the employee's social security number.

Requests for genealogical information should be sent directly to the

U.S. Railroad Retirement Board, Office of Public Affairs
844 North Rush Street
Chicago, Illinois 60611-2092.

Generally, the Board requires at least 30-60 days to reply to genealogical inquiries.

[ Ref: ]

File from Stephen J. Saviello
Owner, Comunes_of_Italy Mailing List

Special Thanks to
Stephen J. Saviello
List-Owner: Comunes_of_Italy Genealogy Group
Editor, 1997 to 2000, Comunes_of_Italy Italian Mailing List

Steve Saviello's articles appear on "Italian Genealogy Online and all things Italian" with his permission.

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