11 March 2017

What's Napoleon Got to Do With Italy?

As I continue downloading thousands of birth, marriage and death records from my grandpa Iamarino's hometown in Italy, I find that the online archive I'm using has each town's documents split into three categories. These are worth explaining to anyone with Italian ancestors.

I live on this website 24/7 now.


From 1806 to 1815 the communities of Italy were required to keep official documentation of births, marriages and deaths. Before this period your best source of such information is handwritten church documents. The requirement was known as the Stato Civile Napoleonico (Napoleonic Civil Registration). During this period of time, Italy and many regions were under the rule of imperial France, so, you know, all hail Napoleon.

The period of time between 1815 and 1865 was known as Stato Civile della Restaurazione (Civil State of the Restoration) when ruling authorities in different parts of Italy also required formal record keeping for births, marriages and deaths. During this time Italy was not a single, united country, but a collection of kingdoms and city-states.

Italy became a unified country in 1861 under the leadership of King Victor Emmanuel, although for several more years a handful of wars resulted in annexations to form the Italy we now know. The country issued a decree at the end of 1865 calling for Stato Civile Italiano (Italian Civil Registration) which continued the practice of keeping meticulous records. And I want to thank them sincerely.

So that explains the excellent documentation and the way they are categorized and stored.

Italy is subdivided into 20 regions, each containing a few provinces (96 total), which contain cities (città metropolitane), municipalities (comuni), and hamlets (frazioni).

You can compare Italy's regions to states, and its provinces and counties. Lucky me. All of my ancestors are from the same county.


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