The Civil Records

Before 1809 all records of baptisms, marriages and deaths were held by parish priests.
The Civil Records were established by Joachim Murat in application of the Napoleonic code, with decrees of 22 and 29 October 1808. Since 1809 therefore, in the areas of southern Italy under Murat's rule, Civil Records were to be kept by each municipality.
Joachim Murat - portrait
Murat, born in Labastide-Fortunière on March 25, 1767, was a French general, Admiral of the Empire and King of Naples from 1808 to 1815 under Napoleon Bonaparte, whose younger sister Caroline he had married becoming Napoleon's brother-in-law. After Napoleon's defeat, he continued to fight against the Austrians, was captured and executed on the spot at Pizzo Calabro on October 13, 1815.

After the Restoration of the monarchy, in May 1815 King Ferdinand I Bourbon ordered that the Registrar was to write down the dates of baptism and of the religious marriage on the civil acts of birth and marriage upon presentation of certificates issued by the parish priest. After 1861, when Italy was united following the Second War of Independence, the keeping of Civil records was gradually extended all over the country.

The books of Civil records were kept in two copies, one of which remained in the Municipality, while the other was handed over to the Province Court, which after 75 years can usually deliver the books of records to the State Archives of the Province, where they become available to researchers.

In the last few years a magnificent project of the Italian State Archives has started to make these records available online, you can check what provinces are available on the Antenati Portal.

The Promise of Marriage

Since 1809 therefore the new procedure of marriage had been consolidated in Italy. A few weeks before the religious marriage the two spouses appeared before the Mayor or the Second Elected for the "Promessa di Matrimonio", commonly called "giuramento " (=oath), before which there were two "Pubblicazioni" (=banns), in the municipality (or municipalities) of the spouses.

The Giuramento requires the presence of all the parents, in case of a parent's death, his or her grandfather was to assist the spouses. The birth certificates of the spouses and any death certificates of the parents and grandfathers had to be produced, which together with the Pubblicazioni, the certificates of non-opposition and the declaration of the parish priest of the celebration, came to form the so-called "Processetto".

Civil records can include:

  • Nati (=births).
  • Nati, battesimi (baptism certificates)
  • Nati, esposti (=births of foundlings)
  • Nati, battesimi (=baptism certificates of foundlings)
  • Morti (deaths)
  • Matrimoni (marriages)
  • Matrimoni, memorandum notificazioni ed opposizioni (marriages, summary of notifications and oppositions)
  • Matrimoni, notificazioni (marriages, notifications)
  • Matrimoni, processetti (marriages, all documents of births, death and other certificates produced by the spouses)
  • Matrimoni, pubblicazioni (marriages manns)
  • Diversi (Miscellaneous), special acts, such as notary deeds which make up for missing birth and death records; birth occurring during sea crossings, reconnaissance deeds, adoption deeds, acts of death outside the place, acts of stillborn children, acts of legitimacy, acts of foundlings and rectifications.