Italian Church Records

Church registers are the most informative document available for researchers of Italian ancestry prior to the early nineteenth century. While most areas have civil registration for later time periods, church registers in present-day Italy can document events well back into the sixteenth century, depending on the region and upon record survival. Predominantly Catholic, the church records of Italy also include some fragmented registers of Protestant congregations, though they were few prior to the twentieth century. In general, most church records, whether Catholic or Protestant, will offer the following information:

Birth/Christening records are available for most religious denominations. They include the date of the event, name of child, names of parents, household number and/or town of residence, witnesses, and additional miscellaneous information. The information is less detailed the further back in time it was recorded. These records are organized chronological by date of event.

Marriage records will usually include the date of the event, name of the groom and bride, their residence of origin, prior marital status and witnesses. Many records show ages of the bride and groom, and later records show the names of the fathers for each. Even more recent records show both the mother and father for each party. Residences can lead to outside parishes of origin when births did not occur in the same parish being researched. Marriage records are organized chronological by date of event.

Death records generally include the date of death and burial, name of the deceased, age and residence at time of death. The cause of death is often listed in more recent records, as well as whether a widow or widower, and a father’s names is usually given if the child is an infant. Death records are found organized chronological.

Finding Church Records

Although there have been many Catholic parish records microfilmed by the Family History Library, most records are still kept by the parish. Hence, it can sometimes be challenging to access and search these records. For simple requests, writing or calling the local parish priest is sometimes an effective approach, although there are many instances where letters, emails or phone calls go unreturned. If this occurs, or if your search request is much more expansive, it may require either a personal visit or having an on-site researcher visit the parish for you.


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