Italy's Military Records

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Cavaliere Anthonly Lascio

Cav. Anthony Lascio Chapter - PIP 1

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by Cav. Anthony Lascio

As a typical genealogist knows, the principal records in Italy are the civil and church sources.  But for those who are interested in expanding their family histories with facts and information beyond the data provided by those basic resources, there are alternatives.

One category of those alternative resources are Italian conscription and military records.  There are no known conscription records before 1865, when the newly formed unified Italian state was conceived.  This burgeoning government enacted a draft, the conscription of all eighteen year old males.   Because all of Italyís regions did not comply to the governmentís decree simultaneously, the origin of these record resources will vary, however, by about 1873, the entire country had begun to register eighteen year old males.  These records are called, registro di leva.  The manner of listing these young draft age eligible Italian males is by year of birth for each military district.  They are indexed, usually.  The registration was generally made in two copies, one for the military archives, one for the procura della republica, the court (tribunale) archive.  After seventy-five years, the court copy was transferred to the state archives.

The state/provincial archives will maintain the conscription records for any and all military districts which fall within itís borders, one, two, sometimes  three districts. On the other hand, there are examples where one military district encompasses more than one province.

What do these registro di leva documents contain of genealogical value?  The names, parents names, residence, birth date, birthplace, occupation, ability to read and write, complete physical description, and finally, the disposition of the fitness of the draftee.  As you can clearly determine, some of the preceding data is genuinely valuable for the genealogist.  In fact, there is data these records provide that is unavailable from any other sources.

Another record of particular value is the registro dei fogli matricolari which is the document of the individualís military service.  Of special interest in this record is the complete chronological history of the individualís military career, including the reason for non induction, if that was the case.  For example, the draft eligible citizen may have emigrated out of the country, was found physically unfit, deserted, dishonorably discharged, or other significant military related events.

Military records may be located before the birth of the Italian state, 1865. But these will vary by region, usually more prevalent in the Northern regions of Italy.  It has been reported that some Italian military records were found dating to 1792.

The LDS (Mormon Church) has microfilmed conscription and military records along with their usual filming of civil records at some provincial archives. Contact them to determine where.

Searching for these conscription and military records can be a very time consuming and expensive proposition. Also, the process of locating the exact archive where these records can be accessed may become an extremely frustrating experience.  However, when one considers the value of these records and the important genealogical data they may provide, many researchers are willing to devote the time and expense which they believe outweigh the negative factors.

To access these precious conscription or military records, the first step is to contact the state archive (archivio di stato).  Compose a letter, typewritten, in Italian, to the attention of the director of the specific archive you believe the records are located.  Enclose as much information as possible, but do not clutter the request with superfluous information .  In other words, supply the facts but do not include useless information.  Do not send money, rather ask what charges will be incurred.  Keep a copy of the request for follow up purposes.

The response will dictate your next course of action.  If you do not receive a reply, say within ninety days, send a courteous follow up.  As with a request for any genealogical information from Italy, you may or may not receive a response.  If you do, count your blessings, if you donít try other alternatives.  These include a personal visit on your next excursion to Italy; utilizing relatives in your ancestral town; or engaging the services of a professional, certified Italian genealogist.  It all depends upon how intensely you require these records.

I know of very few Italian researchers who have actually pursued these records.  Those who have, in most cases, found the procedure to be unnerving, to say the least.  But those who persevered and ultimately successful, were extremely pleased with the data provided by those documents.  The specific data, particularly that which physically described the Italian ancestor, added a totally new dimension to the basic names, dates and places of fundamental genealogy.  The genealogist acquired the advantage of virtually ďseeingĒ those ancestors as persons, not merely names on a chart.  After all, isnít that what genealogy is all about?                                                          


© PIP Chapter 1, 2003 ~ Webmaster:  ~  page last updated on Tuesday, April 22, 2003