requesting records from italy
There will come a time in your research of your Italian family ancestry when
you will have to request record information from Italy. You need to become
familiar with the different records available and how to request them.
what, who, and how to write
By Deborah K. Millemaci
(return to genealogy)
What Tells You What
"Stato Civile" or vital records include birth, death, and marriages found in
your ancestor was from. Writing to a parish priest for church records would
give you baptismal, marriage, and burial information. If requesting a "Family
Certificate" you would write to the "Ufficio Anagrafe." This type of record
normally has current records of town residents but has been known to also
have older records. Family census information will normally be found here.
If you are planning a visit to Italy, and you wish to view vital records, you
should write a letter to the "Sindaco" (the mayor) of the town you will be
Writing Your Letter
Before you compose your letters, you need to have the pertinent data
for the person receiving your letter to process your request. The name of the
person you are researching, town he/she was born in, date of birth, and date
death (if they died in Italy) are required. In addition to this information,
for best results your letter should be composed in Italian. But don't
will list some websites that offer form letters in Italian that will help
you. If you aren't fluent in our beautiful Italian language, these websites
will also provide you with the terminolgy you need to know for your letter.
Time is Money
When requesting records from Italy, I have noticed there is a difference of
opinion as to whether to send money as payment for the researcher. From my
personal experience, I purchased an international money order and enclosed
it with my letters to cover the cost of the person's time and research. One
thing I strongly advise against is sending cash or a personal check overseas.
sending cash, you have no idea whether it was received (mail service can be
very slow in Italy), and no guarantees that your research request will be
completed. I have also been advised by some of my friends in Italy that
personal checks are difficult to cash. The number of records you request
affect the amount of money you will need to eventually send. The current
exchange rates are 2.58 Euro for 1 record and 5.16 Euro for 2 records, etc.
If you are hesitant to send monetary payment with your initial letter, then
all means don't do it. You can either offer to make a donation to the local
parish or wait to see if there is a monetary request when you receive a reply.
Get Ready to Wait
You must also realize your inquiry may not be processed immediately. It may
takes weeks or maybe even a couple of months, as there is such a large volume
of requests. If after a few months you have not received a response, you can
send a follow-up letter reqesting your information again. Be sure you
a self-addressed unstamped envelope also.
These websites are great reference sources that will help you in composing
letters to Italy. If you don't have access to a computer, I would highly
recommend Lynn Nelson's book "A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your
Italian Ancestors," which includes letter-writing samples as well as
addresses of the Italian archives and Italian terminology you need to know
composing your letters.
The following websites will further assist you in composing your letters to
Italy. They not only include letters, but postal codes, white and yellow
pages, church listings, and more:
©Deborah K. Millemaci - 2002
No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the author.