FamilySearch Unlocking Centuries of Italian Ancestry Records
FamilySearch International announced free access to over 150 million Italian historical genealogical records—the largest online collection of its kind. The unprecedented initiative is the result of collaboration between FamilySearch, the Italian government, the Italian State Archives (Direzione Generale per gli Archivi or DGA), and many other archives. The free collections include over 200 years of digitized images of birth, marriage, death, and other significant family history records from all regions of Italy and many other repositories. Search the free Italy collections online at FamilySearch.org.
Over 100 million people worldwide claim Italian roots. Today, tracing their origins to Italy is much easier. Joel Conte and his wife Victoria, both third generation Italians living in the United States, were able to extend their Italian lines back many generations using the newly accessible, free records online. “Using the Italian records and FamilySearch Family Tree hints, we were miraculously able to trace our Italian family back many generations in a short period of time,” said Conte. “It would have taken us years and decades previously to accomplish it.”
FamilySearch has been preserving historical records from Italy archives for decades. In 2011, it launched a massive collaborative effort with the National Archives of Italy (DGA) that is proving to be “La Stele di Rosetta” (Rosetta Stone) for Italian descendants like Conte all over the world seeking their family origins. This project was the seminal initiative for all Italian historical projects with far reaching impacts.
The effort has reached its initial goal to digitize all available birth, marriage, and death records from 1806 to 1945 found in the civil registrations of Italy in every state archive and make them available for free online. FamilySearch is now focusing on its second, much more challenging goal, to use online volunteers to create a searchable online database that makes every name, place, and date in each record (estimated to be over 500 million names) easily discoverable on any internet-enabled device—for free.
The Italy civil registration records are the most complete of FamilySearch’s collections. FamilySearch also has Church records in Italy dating back to the 1500s. Starting a little later, Italy's court (tribunali) records can be found. Civil records became available after 1806. After annexing large sections of Italy during his reign, Napoleon Bonaparte introduced civil registration and the mandatory creation of duplicate records. Copies of birth, citizenship or residency, marriage, and death documents were kept in the community, and a second set were sent to the court having jurisdiction for the area. Today, these are a gold mine for Italian family history researchers—as they continue to become accessible online.
Through agreements with Italian governments and other repositories, FamilySearch is preserving not only the civil records online, but also millions more from archives throughout Italy—essentially helping to open Italian archives to patrons all over the world, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The digital images are also a safety net against natural calamities and loss to human handling.
FamilySearch has an ongoing goal to process over 15 million newly digitized historical records and scanned microfilm images yearly.
"Amazingly, we will finish digitizing the civil records of all the Italian provinces in 2019, but the indexes that make the records easily searchable by name will take many more years," said Laura Giometta, who leads the FamilySearch Italian Records program. Until the records are indexed, they can be searched as a free digital image collection online.
FamilySearch online volunteers from around the world are indexing the Italian records. "We have learned that English speakers with no prior foreign language experience can index the Italian historic records accurately without becoming fluent by learning to recognize key words through online training," said Ornella Lepore, indexing supervisor. She said very difficult records are still handled by language experts.
Lepore says about 2,000 online volunteers are helping index the records—more than 1,000 from the US, about 530 more in Italy, and the rest from other countries.
Explore Italy’s rich historical records:
To help index historical Italian records, go to FamilySearch.org/Indexing.
FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch and its predecessors have been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at FamilySearch.org or through over 5,000 family history centers in 129 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.