Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Learning to Read Italian Records-Part One-Birth Records

Italian records are a treasure trove of information, but where do you start when you can't read Italian?

Luckily, most Italian records are neatly written on forms. With a few handy words, you can make out the basics without knowing the language. I am far from an expert, and all my Italian came from the television. If I can do it, so can you.

The place to begin would be the Italian site Antenati (Ancestors)
Antenati in Italian
Don't get scared off just yet, there is an option to use English on the home page. Just click the little British flag in the top right.
Ancestors in English
You can begin your search using Find Names, although only a small percentage are indexed.

Here are some basic facts:
Italian women keep their maiden names for life, and do not take their husband's last name.
Records often give a baby's first name only, but if the father is listed, the last name is inferred.
Ages, occupations, and places of residence are usually given for all people on the form, and usually in that order.
Records begin with the date at the top, which is the date the info was reported to the town official, and not necessarily the date of the event.
Births had to be reported within three days, and the official had to actually see the child.
There had to be witnesses for all events.

Searching for Fratoddi in Find Names yields 7 results. If you are using an option that automatically translates to English, you may want to turn it off, as the results will come over garbled up. Here's what I got:

Apri by the way means open.

The basic types of records are:

Birth Record of the above Pietro Fratoddi. 
Enlargement can be found by clicking here (opens in new tab)

At the top of the record is the date. This is always the date the event was reported. For help with months and days see Italian for Genealogists. (opens in new window)

You don't have to worry about translating the year, as the antenati website will always have the year of the record at the top of the page. In this example, the year is 1896, the day is tredici (13), and the month Agosto (August).
Next is the time reported, followed by the town official's name and titles that the event was reported to, and the commune (town). 
Then comes the good part.

Look for the word comparso or comparsa (appeared) after the name of the town. This will be the name of the person reporting the birth, (usually the father or midwife) in this case Orazio Fratoddi, di anni (of years-age) trentanove (39) followed by his occupation. I can't make out the first word, sorry, but the 2nd I believe is postale (postal) so maybe he's a mailman? His domiciliato (town he resides in) is Taranto. 

He declared the birth was A.M., quattro (5) (so born 5am, minutes are blank). The next field is the day of the month, dieci (10), the next blank is for the month, in this case corrente (current, so August), followed by where born (in this case a street name). 

This is followed by the mother's name, Erminia Sartori of Verona, di (of) Pietro (her father's name). If her father was deceased it would be du, so he is living. The next word is her age trenta (30).  
This should be followed by her occupation which again I can't make out. I don't see any words referring to married, but the last one is convivente (cohabitant).

The next part we see maschile (male) and the child's name Pietro Guilo. The rest of the document are the witnesses, who are usually not relatives.

So, for genealogy purposes, we have Pietro Guilo Fratoddi, born 5am on the 10th of August, 1896, in Tarento. Father is Orazio Fratoddi, 39, of Tarento, and mother Erminia Sartori, 30, of Verona, daughter of Pietro, who is still living.

Here are some Italian words for family to get you started:

bambino...male baby

bambina...female baby






male...maschio, maschile

midwife...ostericia, levantrice


single...celibe, nubile




All birth records follow basically the same format, so once you know what fields to look for, you can get the basic facts.

I highly recommend the Facebook group Italian Genealogy if you get stuck, they are very knowledgeable with both the records and the language.

I would love to hear of any finds you make in the Italian records.

Next time I'll cover Morti, the death records.