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The Catasti Onciari of 1742

The "catasti onciari" are among the most important resources for the study of the social and economic history of Southern Italy, as well as family genealogy backwards into the 1700's.

The Catasti before 1742

Until mid-18th century the ancient catasti were evaluations of the possessions of the citizens and the revenue of their activities, to establish the amount of taxes due and this kind of fiscal levy was called "battaglione". However, it was possible for the Universitates (the municipalities) to pay taxes with a simpler method, called "gabella" which was basically a tax on consumer goods. For this reason only a minority of municipalities, until 1740, chose to pay taxes with the "battaglione" method, and for many places there are no ancient catasti.
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catasti
Abruzzo Ultra Primo Abruzzo Citra Molise Capitanata Terra di Bari Terra di Otranto Abruzzo Ultra Secondo Terra di Lavoro Principato Ultra Basilicata Napoli Principato Citra Calabria Citeriore Calabria Ulteriore Secondo Calabria Ulteriore Primo

The Catasti ordered in 1742

However all this changed with a Law by Charles II Bourbon of 4 October 1740, ordering the catasto system for the whole kingdom. In the following two years 1741 and 1742 the Regia Camera della Sommaria gave out instructions on how to make these catasti, and on 28 September 1742 the final ordnance was to deliver the catasto fiscal census within four months. Over ten years later many "universitates" had not accomplished the job, so the king sent his Commissioners in May 1753 to close the works where the municipalities had not been able to do the catasto by themselves.

The result was a kind of census of all the population of Southern Italy with all their ages, profession and property, including houses and lands with extension and boundaries, big animals (horses, cows, oxen, donkeys, sheep, goats), debits, rents, credits. A kind of Domesday book, that each universitas (municipality) had to make out in two copies, one to be kept at the universitas for further updates, the other to be sent to Naples to the regia Camera della Sommaria, the central tax authority of the Kingdom.

The ancient Provinces of 1742

The Kingdom of Naples was divided at the time of Charles III Bourbon into provinces, which only partly correspond to the present provinces of Southern Italy.

For a thorough family and demographic study a very good knowledge of handwritten Italian and acquaintance with land use regulations, measures, names of places of the mid 18th century is advisable.

The books can be requested for study in the Archive of Naples (http://www.archiviodistatonapoli.it/), and the archive has a photographic section that can release microfilms, prints from microfilms, or digital images of whole books.

The catasti extant in the Archive of Naples

Since then, many of the copies that were held locally have been destroyed or delivered to province archives. The copies that were sent to Naples are now kept in a special section containing thousands and thousands of books, most of them still not studied. In the lists here supplied of the onciari books existing in Naples, however incomplete and certainly not without mistakes, the places are listed alphabetically, divided by ancient Province and followed by the official date when the book was finished.
  • Abruzzo Citra with capital Chieti, included places today in the provinces of Chieti or Pescara
  • Abruzzo Ultra I with capital Teramo, included places today in the provinces of Teramo or Pescara
  • Abruzzo Ultra II with capital Aquila, included places today in the provinces of Aquila, Pescara or Rieti
  • Basilicata with capital Matera, included places today in the provinces of Potenza or Matera
  • Calabria Citra with capital Cosenza, included places today in the province of Cosenza
  • Calabria Ultra I with capital Reggio, included places today in the provinces of Reggio Calabria, Catanzaro or Vibo Valenzia
  • Calabria Ultra II with capital Catanzaro, included places today in the provinces of Reggio Calabria, Catanzaro, Crotone or Vibo Valenzia
  • Capitanata with capital Lucera, included places today in the provinces of Foggia, Avellino or Benevento
  • Molise with capital Isernia, included places today in the provinces of Campobasso, Isernia, Chieti, Benevento
  • Napoli, included places today in the provinces of Napoli or Caserta
  • Principato Citra with capital Salerno, included places today in the provinces of Salerno or Avellino
  • Principato Ultra with capital Benevento, included places today in the provinces of Avellino, Benevento, Salerno
  • Terra di Bari, included places today in the province of Bari
  • Terra di Lavoro, included places today in the provinces of Caserta, Frosinone, Benevento, Avellino, Isernia, Latina, Napoli
  • Terra di Otranto, included places today in the provinces of Lecce, Brindisi or Taranto