The available sources in the State Archives

Borgoforte (Mantova), stato civile napoleonico, morti 1807 (AS Mantova).

ASPa, Indice decennale dei Nati di Palermo, 1846-1855.

Liste di leva Castel Goffredo (Mantova), classe 1909 (AS Mantova).

ASNa, Fogli matricolari, classe 1895, inc. 311.

ASNa, Archivi notarili, Notai del XVIII.

Museo casa natale Giacomo Puccini, fondo dell'Anna.

ASLi, Archivio storico del cantiere navale Luigi Orlando di Livorno, anno 1902.

In the area of the administration of the italian archives, the State Archives, articulated in a provincial basis, represent the most important institutions for preservation and valorization of the public documents of the State. These Archives preserve: 1) the italian State Archives before the Unification of Italy; 2) the documents of the courts and administrative offices (either local and central branches) that are no longer needed; 3) the rest of the archives and documents, public and private, that the State owns or has received in deposit, as well as family, companies, religious associations or non-state public entites archives. The State Archives hold many private and public sources that are essential to the genealogical research and the History of some families and persons. The main sources are:

  • The Civil Registry, together with the attached 1-year and 10-year origin indexes
  • Military service and army archives.
  • Notary public archives.
  • Family and personal archives.
  • Nominal sources and sources for emigration.

After the fall of the Napoleonic Empire, the Civil Registry system based on the French model was abolished in every State, except in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, that is to say Southern Italy, and the Duchy of Modena and Reggio. In Sicily this registry was introduced in 1820.

The Grand Duchy of Tuscany established a mix system after the Restoration, in which civil authorities took control of the Civil Registry: the motuproprio of June 18, 1817, stipulated that the Civil Registry Body, an office attached to the Royal Law Secretary dedicated to the coordination and surveillance of the priests and chancellors’ work on Civil Registry and personal documents within the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. A copy of the registries issued by the priests had to be send to the headquarters of the Civil Registry in Florence. The same process was applied in the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1837, when it was enacted the Regolamento per la tenuta dei registri destinati ad accertare lo stato civile, a document attached to the Patent-letter of June 20.

Most of those documents were sent to the State Archives after the Unification of Italy, following the terms stipulated by Circular of the Royal Attorney of May 19 1873 and by Article 20 of Royal Decree 2252 of May 27 1875, which establish the rules for general organization of the State Archives.

The Italian Civil Registry (RCI), created upon the Royal Decree 2602 of November 15 1865, and in force since January 1st 1866 in all the City Councils of Italy, gives the task of issuing the birth, citizenship, marriages and death certificates only to the Civil Registry. Those certificates had to be issued in double copy: one of the copies would remain in the local Registry Office and the other would be sent (until 2001) to the local Court and later on to the State Archive to be held permanently.

All citizens are registered, regardless of sex or religion, so this archive is more comprehensive than military records, which regards only to male citizens, and Parish Books, which excludes atheist, unbaptized people or persons with different religions.

Annual and decennial alphabetical indexes (link a are attached to the registries. Those indexes allow us to do a quick search of the acts.

Since 1875 the new type of Civil Registry divides the space in a first and second part. The latter is dedicated to the so called diverse acts: in other words, the acts of the Civil Registry that concern the Italian citizens issued by a City Council or authority different from the one they live in, essentially transcriptions of Court sentences and Civil Registry acts from abroad.

The Attached files subseries contains original documents, such as medical reports of birth and death, and a great diversity of acts in which the transcriptions and notes of the Civil Registry documents are written. This Attached files are issued in a unique copy, which will be held by the district Court, and this documents will also be transferred to the State Archives, as the second copy of the Civil Registry certificates did.

Among the many documents that the fiancées had to present to register their marriage promise we may find: 1) the extracts of the birth certificate of the intending spouses; 2) the parental consent, if the parents were still alive (if not, the mother or father death certificate); 3) the residence certificate and the single status certificate of both intending spouses; 4) the notification certificate done in the residence of the intending spouses.

Until 2001, in compliance of the first book of the Civil Code (R. D. 1852 of December 12th, 1938), the Civil Registry affairs were regulated by the Royal Decree 1238 of July 9th, 1939, the so called “Civil Registry Organization” and the local judicial authorities were responsible for the surveillance of the application of this rule.

After the D.P.R. 369 of November 3rd 2000 (Regulations for revision and simplification of the organization of the Civil Registry), in force since April 1st 2001, the responsibility of the surveillance was devolved to the Prefectures, as they held the second copy of the registries originals.


In order to carry out a research in the Civil Registry files, either at the study rooms of the State Archives or with the help of the Ancestors Site, The sources of genealogical research, we can use the origin indexes if the databases of the Civil Registry (that you can check in the section “Find the names”) show no results. These indexes are organized both alphabetically and chronologically, and have been done at the same time of the archives, so they represent an efficient tool to identify and obtain the act of the Civil Registry or the specific information you are looking for. Unfortunately, those indexes aren’t always organized in a unique independent series, or, if this series exists, isn’t complete, as it may happen that the annual indexes could be put separately from the registers to which they refer. The indexes include the reference number and page of the Civil Registry for each person.

The Civil Registry indexes were already foreseen in the French law that introduced the Civil Registry in Italy and, therefore, we can find them in the Napoleonic Civil Registry and the Restoration Civil Registry. During the first years of the 19th century we can find indexes ordered by First Name and not by Last Name.

After the Unification of Italy Civil Registry indexes are filled systematically. The law stipulated that the registries would be closed each year with the signed declaration of the responsible, which was put immediately after the last act. January 1st of the next year the person in charge indicated in his declaration the reference number of last year acts in each registry and drafted in double copy an annual index in alphabetical order (by Last Name) of each of the persons present in the acts (articles 29 and 30 of the Royal Decree 2602 of November 15, 1865).

In addition to the annual index, each year a decennial index was drafted, also in double copy. The indexes must be listed “putting the Last Names in alphabetical syllabic order” (as the ministerial circular of August 3rd 1874 requested): that is to say, the Last Name should always precede the First Name.

In order to differentiate the acts of the second part of the registries [link alla descrizione dello stato civile] from those of the first part, the letter “S” was written over the registry and act number of the indexes.

As we said, the annual and decennial indexes include, besides the year, the act reference number. With this information we can identify the document we are looking for in the specific series (birth certificate, marriage certificate and death certificate).

The acts held in the Attached or Prenuptial exams series can be recovered through the act reference number of the marriage promise and the year this promise happened.

Almost every State Archive holds Recruitment Lists (Liste di Leva), issued by the City Councils on a year basis from the census data in double copy, in which they listed alphabetically all the military-age masculine residents, who will be subject to a selection process and a medical exam following the rules stipulated by law (in order to verify the availability of this lists on the State Archives please go to the section “The Land and the Sources”). One of the two original files remained in the local Registry Office, while the other was sent to the Recruitment Office in the province or circumscription capital for further selection and recruitment operations.

List of Extraction (that is to say, lists in which the conscripts were set in an order made by drawing lots) and Summary Registers of the Recruitment Council were drafted during such operations. Beside the information provided by each City Council, the Recruitment Lists and later the Extraction Lists, contain psychophysical information: alphabetization, occupation, physical and anthropometric features (eyes and hair color, shape of the nose, height and thoracic circumference), in addition to the medical report from the medical exam: «recruited able-bodied men», «reassessable» for the next draft, «reformed» or «draft-dodger».

Military service in the Kingdom of Italy was regulated by Law 1676 of the Kingdom of Sardinia of 1854 (La Marmora Law), which was extended to the rest of Italy since 1860-62. The military class ordered by year of birth that participate in the service start in 1840 or 1842, or even later in the annexed territories. This doesn’t mean that there could be older classes in many areas (apart from the ones of the Kingdom of Sardinia), in which the State Archives still hold the acts of military services previous to the Unification of Italy.

After the 1911 reform (last military class was the 1891) no new Lists of Extraction nor Summary Registries were drafted.

The originals of the Recruitment Lists are transferred to the competent State Archives after 70 years since its publication date.

The mandatory military service, regulated by article 52 of the Constitution of the Italian Republic, was suspended since January 1st 2005, following the terms stipulated by Law 226 of August 23rd 2004. Male citizens up to 1985 class can check their military service records at the Army Document Centers that replaced the ancient military districts (created in 1870) since October 30th 2000.

In many cases the State Archives hold attached to the recruitment files the Military records, issued by the Military Districts, the army section that held all military service files of each recruit and all the changes of rank of that particular person during his military duty.

Each recruit is identified by a progressive number, the «matricola», related to his military class (that can be different from the year of birth), to his Military District and his military category (until it was cancelled).

For each soldier the records include a summary of all information related to his military career: reference number, corps, date of recruitment, degrees, eventual honorary mentions or sanctions, or even desertions. Military records can be ordered by reference number in binders bound together by military class. These annual volumes include only the recruits, that is to say, those male citizens who were called for active military service. “Reformed” (unable men), “exempted” (those who avoid draft for family reasons) and draft dodgers (those who didn’t show after being called for service) are not present in these files.

Military records and the alphabetical lists (which constitute a fundamental research tool) were sent to the State Archive of the province of residence after 70 years since the date of military service; they are available for consultation following the privacy and personal data regulations.

Further information can be found in the service records, since the military records are a summarized form of the latter. Military Districts also issued the service records, but those were rarely sent to the competent State Archive. The records are divided in two sections: troop and non-commissioned officers, and they contain all the official information of each recruit.

The General Directorate for Military Personel (PERSOMIL)holds the Service Records of the Officers 10 years after their death (20 years in the case of Generals).

Notarial archives constitute in the State Archives the real bridge between the documents of the public archives (such as the processes of the old courts) and the private archives (most of the noble families’ documents are notarial acts)


The majority of the notarial protocols – from the Diplomatics point of view it’s the more common group of documents – are mixed: in a relatively small timeframe (generally, a year) we can find a great diversity of contracts. Most of them are economic or juridical documents (proxies, purchase agreements, rents, concessions, etc.), but there are also many documents that involve family relationships: child emancipation, marriage agreements, donations and testaments (often registered in specific volumes). Those documents are very important for genealogical and family history research. In fact, each document contains accurate genealogical references for at least the two previous generations: for the person who signs the act and for the father of the latter. Testaments are even more relevant: acts in which are often included precise references to three, sometimes even four, successive generations.


From the mid 16th century to the final decades of the 17th century Italian authorities developed three different preservation strategies for notarial archives. The first option was to concentrate all archives in a huge single unit, and it was the choice operated by Central and Northern Italian States (Lucca, Siena and Florence, Genoa, Venice and Padua). Those central archives collected all private documents drafted by notaries within their areas. The second choice was developed by the Papal States and it consisted in creating many local small archives throughout the Papal States. The Kingdom of Sardinia and the Kingdom of Two Sicilies developed a third strategy, based upon the French model, in which the documents passed from hand to hand among notaries.

During the Napoleonic Rule notaries and notarial archives in Italy were reorganized under the French law by Ventôse 25th 11th year (March 16th, 1803) law and the Notary Regulations for the Kingdom of Italy of June 16th 1806.

Law was unified and standardized in 1875 through the first Italian Notary Organization law of July 25 1875, based on previous regulations. This law was later modified by a 1879 law and the document gathering Unique Text, which was in force until 1913.

Unique Text number 4900 of May 25th 1879 stipulated that the “Insinuation Offices” (known today as “Civil Registry”) must deliver all Notarial Acts to the competent notarial archive of their district. This Text envisaged the possibility of creating eventual secondary archives in other cities of the district. These secondary archives were suppressed by Article 9 of Royal Decree 3138 of December 31, 1923, which forbid them to receive any new documents. Therefore, those archives preserve only old files.

In accordance with the second Italian Notarial law, law number 89 of February 16, 1913, the problem of notarial acts was addressed again. Article 96 of this law established that each City Council would create a District Court that would hold the local notarial archive. The ministries of Internal Affairs and Justice were authorized by this law to set agreements for the delivery of 50-year-old documents to the State Archives. Later on, after law 2006 of December 22nd 1939 this was no longer optional, but mandatory. Article 11th of this law established that “notary acts” drafted by any notary public retired before January 1st 1800 must be sent to the State Archives.

Another significant change was brought by law 629 of May 17 1952, the “Reorganization of Notarial Archives Act”, which, once the notarial archives were put under the authority of the Ministry of Grace and Justice, established that all documents older than 100 years must be sent to the State Archives. This regulation was later confirmed by the 1963 archival law (DPR number 1409 of September 30th 1963).

Many Italian State Archives held documents or letters from families and private individuals: noble and families archives and personal archives represent, without any doubt, one of the most precious resources among the many private sources indispensable for family history and biographies.

Noble families archives are closely linked to the Italian nobility tradition, which played a relevant political, social and economic role within the many medieval and modern Italian States. Thus, we will find an endless number and variety of public and private documents within the family archives, such as minutes from public meetings, administrative and accounting documents, private letters, diaries, building layouts, designs and photo albums.

In the last decades of the 19th century arrived the personal archives, gathered by important politicians, artists, intellectuals, professionals (architects, engineers, journalists, lawyers, etc.), businessmen (entrepreneurs, traders, etc.) but also a growing number of ordinary people that has played an active role in today’s social life. Together with private letters, which tell us about personal life and relationships, these archives hold many files related to their career and their participation in public life.

Since the second half of the 19th century and throughout the 20th century numerous family and personal archives have become a part of the documentary heritage of the State Archives, thanks to donations, legacies, acquisitions or documents on deposit.

These documents are an essential source available to those who are interested in reconstructing life and activities of their ancestors, since those archives contain not only precious information about the individuals and families that generated those files, but documents, letters, photos and other significant testimonies of those related to them as well. If you think your ancestor may have something to do with a family or person whose archive is available for consultation, it is worthy to check their archives, which may hold interesting surprises.

Please remember that many of this archives are hold by public libraries, cultural institutions, documentation centers, universities and private houses as well, either property of the person involved in that archive or his direct or indirect heirs. It is the task of Archival and Bibliographical Superintendencies to protect these archives, and these institutions are competent for declaring “historically important” the archives if they estimate that the files hold in that archive are particularly interesting. You need to contact these superintendencies to be granted access to those files.

You may find descriptions of family archives and contact information online: for those documents held by State Archives, at the Informatives System of the State Archives (SIAS) and for those held by non-State and private institutions and entities, at the Unified Informative System of archival and bibliographical superintendencies (SIUSA) or, for both cases, at the National Archival System (SAN).

Since the early 20th century, many public institutions have collected in the exercise of its duties a great variety of information about private individuals, either for political or social control or for providing those people the benefits of the Welfare State (pensions, indemnities, contributions and economic incentives, all kinds of assistance). Offices such as Prefectures, Police Stations, Courts or assistance and charity entities, but schools, orphanage, hospitals as well. In its files, many of which end up after 30 years in the district State Archive, include often various recordings, and, most of all, series of files property of a private individual, that contain bureaucratic documents, but as well instances or personal documents that can be useful to reconstruct the life and activities of our forefathers. These series can be found at any public office archives or private enterprises, associations, etc.

In some of these series is possible to find documents concerning emigration and, particularly, to America: for example, in the warehouses of the Police Stations and Prefecture you may find many emigration files, such as passports applications and illegal emigration control.

Boarding lists are very important too, particularly for the main output port towards America during the Great Italian Migration (in other words, Palermo, Naples and Genoa). Unfortunately the files of the Commissioners in charge of controlling migrations have not been preserved.

Genoa State Archive has created a database of the Emigrant Lists taken from the registries of the Health Commissioner from 1833 to 1856, which may be consulted at the website of the International Research Center for Italian Emigration.

The Naples State Archive holds many boarding lists recovered at the Naples Police collection, General Archive, 1st series, only for the period between 1883 and 1887. By contrast, the Naples Police passports sub-series is conserved entirely in its General Archive, for passports issued from 1888 to 1932. The specific database can be consulted in the inventory room of the Naples State Archive.