Your Italian Heritage

August 23, 2018  - by 

From the Roman Empire to the Renaissance to the modern day, Italy has influenced cultures globally with its great achievements. With such a rich history behind them, Italians around the world today are deeply proud of their Italian roots. With anywhere from 60–140 million people with Italian heritage worldwide, Italians are among the most populous ethnic groups in the world. It’s possible that you too have Italian ancestry.


Italy Emigration

A history of Italian immigrants and immigration records

How to research your Italian genealogy

Italian Last Names

Common Italian last names and their origins and meanings

Learn about your Italian last name and its meaning

Italian Dual Citizenship

Italian heritage and dual citizenship laws

Italian heritage and dual citizenship

Italian Records

How to find and use Italian genealogy records

Italian heritage and genealogy records research

Italy Records Research

FamilySearch’s free archives make it easy for you to find your Italian ancestors’ names. FamilySearch has the largest collection of Italian genealogical records (images and indexes) in the world, and its collections continue to grow by millions yearly. FamilySearch’s work with archives throughout Italy has digitally preserved more than 150 million images of historical genealogical records to make them freely accessible online. These records currently contain more than 500 million names—and it’s likely your ancestors might be among them.

As digital images are created and indexed, these records become available in multiple locations on the FamilySearch website, so start with FamilySearch’s Italy Research Page when looking for Italian records. Here you can easily find information about all of the Italy collections and learning aids on one helpful reference page. Be sure to explore the indexed historical records, image-only historical records, and catalog material to discover the extensive inventory of vast Italian genealogical records available to you on FamilySearch.  

Do you know when Italy first started recording censuses, military drafts, and civil registrations? Several types of Italian records may help you find your ancestors, and each one has a historical beginning. For example, finding an Italian birth record or death record for an ancestor may help answer a lot of questions regarding your Italian family history, and you can find those types of records in Italy starting in the 1500s. Check out the time line on “When Did Italian Historical Records Begin?” to find hints about what record collections you can use to search for your ancestors. The best records to start with might be civil registration and church records, since they are accessible from the early 1800s to the 1940s.

Italian genealogy research and historical archived documents

Italian Culture and Emigration

Around 50 million people with Italian heritage live in Italy today, and up to 140 million people worldwide can claim Italian heritage.1 It doesn’t matter if you live in Europe, South Africa, or even Australia, if you say “pasta” instead of “spaghetti,” listen to Andrea Bocelli and Enrico Caruso frequently, or your friends joke that if they tied your hands it would make you speechless, you probably are among the many Italians whose family traditions are alive and strong. Even if you’re not as sure about your Italian ancestry, you’re in good company wherever you may be! There are people with Italian heritage just about anywhere you might go.

Why is Italian culture and the worldwide Italian population so widespread? Italy has had a few major emigration waves, the largest of which occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries. If your family was among these early emigrants, they likely moved to new home countries for better work and living conditions or to escape political pressures during times of upheaval. This time line shows some of the major factors that prompted and slowed this mass migration.

A time line of Italian immigration to find your Italian family and ancestors

Whatever their reason for moving to and from Italy, Italian immigrants throughout history have brought rich cultural traditions of Italian food, fashion, music, and a zest for life to many countries and have left genealogical footprints for their descendants to trace:


  1. “Italians,” Wikipedia, last modified August 4, 2018,

Additional Sources:

  • Trafford R. Cole. Italian Genealogical Records: How to Use Italian Civil, Ecclesiastical, and Other Records in Family History Research (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Incorporated, 1995). 


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  1. Can you tell me what proportion of the italian civil registration records has been microfilmed? Is there an expected completion date for that record set?

  2. I have my grandfather and grandmother info ….ie; date and place of birth. with that info what is the best way to discover if I have family in Italy……

  3. I can’t find any traditions for Italians, I need to figure out the traditions so I can help out with my family cultural day.

    1. If you are looking for someone in Lombardy, it would be essential to know the Province. It would also be helpful to know where within the province to look, as registries were kept at the parish level at that time (often one parish per village). I just took a look at, the site that generally has records for Italy ~1808–1866, before the Italian Republic. It looks like a lot of Lombardi records have not yet been published. Milano, for example, appears to be unavailable at this time. The situation may be different for other provinces. I don’t know. Once you have narrowed it down to a province, you may be able to write to the local Catholic Church Archdiocese to find out if local records have been centrally preserved, or if they are still located in the original parishes. I’ve been relatively lucky, because most of the records related to my family in Pisa are at Antenati. I did a quick search for the contemporary distribution of the surname Taroni in Italy on Lombardia and Emilia Romagna are the two regions with significant concentrations of Taroni. Many of them are in the province of Como, so that might be a good place to start.

  4. I’ve been activelky researching ancestors in Pisa, here in FamilySearch and on Antenati.San.Benicultural.It for the ~1808-1866 period. It appears that for some ancestors, I now need to extend my search to neighboring Livorno. I could not find any Livorno records at either site. I wonder if someone at FamilySearch could tell me if Livorno records exist and may some day be digitized, or if they are known to have been destroyed. I woiuld be interested in any and all Livorno vital records, but am especially interested in Castiglioncello 1810-1812 births.

  5. Luiggi Pinasco Pinasco born sometime between 1867 and 1880, left Cogorno for South America. I need his birth certificate. I hope hou can help me. Thanks in advance.
    Manuel Ponce Pinasco

  6. i am trying to find my uncles (by marriage) origins.
    i know his family came from Pozzouli which i believe in Latina.
    he was born around 1920 & his name was Nicola Tortora. family emigrated to London & settled in Clerkenwell.,but not sure which year.

    1. There is a Pozzuoli in Campania, and there are vital registration records for Pozzuoli in FamilySearch. I also checked – a site that allows you to see the distribution of surnames in Italy. While there are Tortoras all over Italy, the name is by far most common in Campania, which is consistent with the idea that Nicola’s home town was located there.