Italy Letter Writing Guide
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This guide is for researchers who do not speak Italian but must write to Italy or parts of Switzerland to request genealogical records. It includes a list of sentences you could use in a letter requesting genealogical records and the Italian translation for each of these sentences.
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Before You Write
- 3 Research by Mail
- 4 How To Address the Envelope
- 5 Postal Codes
- 6 How To Send Return Postage and Money
- 7 Checklist for Mailing a Letter to Europe
- 8 What To Expect
- 9 How To Write a Letter in Italian
The best sources of genealogical information in Italy are records of births, marriages, and deaths kept by churches and civil registration offices. The Family History Library has microfilmed copies of these records for many, but not all, localities. Use the FamilySearch Catalog to determine what records are available through the Family History Library and Family History Centers. If records are available from the library, it is usually faster and more productive to search these first. The Italy Wiki article explains how to research records at the library or at Family History Centers.
If the records you want are not available through the Family History Library, you can use this guide to help you write to a church or a civil registration office to obtain information. The Italy Church Records and Italy Civil Registration Wiki articles can help you decide whether church records or civil registration records will be more helpful to you.
Before You Write
Before you write a letter in Italian to obtain family history information, you should do three things:
- Determine exactly where your ancestor was born, was married, or died. Because most genealogical records were kept locally, you will need to know the specific town where your ancestor’s records were kept. See the Italy Gathering Information to Locate Place of Origin Wiki article for help in finding hometowns.
- Determine your ancestor’s religion. Because most early records were kept by churches or synagogues rather than civil registration offices, you may need to write to the parish church your ancestor belonged to in his or her hometown. If you are not sure what your ancestor’s religion was in Europe, determine what religion he or she practiced after immigrating. Usually people did not change religions when they moved from Europe to their new home.
- Determine where records from your ancestor’s hometown are stored. Records for smaller localities may be stored in repositories in nearby larger villages. You can use a gazetteer to determine which parish or civil jurisdiction serves your ancestor’s locality. You may also use the Italy Wiki article for help in locating records.
Research by Mail
Church records are obtained from parishes, and civil records are obtained from civil registration offices. Both kinds of records may be stored in archives. Genealogical societies may also be able to help you find some of the information you need.
Most of the earliest church records date from the mid-1500s, and some were kept even earlier. The records may be stored in a local parish or a regional archive. You should request information from the local parish first. In your letter, ask where you can write to request records that are no longer stored locally.
Civil registration offices
Civil registration records begin in 1866 in most of Italy and as early as 1809 in some areas. In Switzerland they begin in 1876. They are generally kept at a local civil registration office (Ufficio dello Stato Civile), but older records are sometimes deposited in provincial or district archives. These records include birth, marriage, and death records as well as family certificates, known as stato di famiglia storico or stato di famiglia originario certificates. Write to local offices first. Registrars may be able to tell you where to write to obtain records they no longer have.
If the records you need have been deposited in an archive, you may ask the archivist to recommend a private researcher you can hire. Archivists usually do not have time to search records.
Genealogical societies usually collect genealogies, periodicals, and some original records from their area and recommend researchers you can hire to search local records.
How To Address the Envelope
You can find some archive and society addresses in the Italy Wiki artile, or you can call the Family History Library at 801-240-3433.
For a Catholic parish
For a Protestant parish
- Reverendo Viccario
(Street address, if known)
(Postal code followed by the name of the locality, including the province abbreviation)
For a civil registration office
- Comune di (name of the locality)
- (Street address, if known)
- (postal code) (city) (Province abbreviation)
Every Italian town (comune) has a post office. Smaller villages, known as frazioni, fall within the jurisdiction of a comune. If you cannot locate a postal code for your locality, check a gazetteer to determine the comune (see the Italy Gazetteers Wiki article.
International postal codes can be found on the Internet at:
A listing of Internet sites that contain postal codes by country can be found at:
When addressing your letter, write the postal (zip) code in front of the name of the town to which you are writing. For help in finding postal codes, use a gazetteer or call the Family History Library at 801-240-3433.
How To Send Return Postage and Money
When you write to someone in Europe, formerly you could send an international reply coupon (formerly available at most large post offices) to pay for return postage. However, as of January 27, 2013, the U.S. Postal Service no longer sells international reply coupons." (See section 381.1 on page 163 of "Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service, International Mail Manual (May 7, 2018)," available at https://pe.usps.com/cpim/ftp/manuals/imm/full/imm.pdf.) Thus, when writing to Italy, some people have now have success sending an international bank draft.
Ruesch International bank drafts. An easy and inexpensive way to send money from North America to Europe is to telephone Ruesch International Financial Services at 800-424-2923. Ask for an international bank draft for the equivalent of the amount in Euros. There is a service charge. Have the check made payable to the organization, the Ufficio di Stato Civile (civil registration office), or the Parrocchia (parish). Ruesch will give you a transaction number to write on your payment check. Send the payment to:
- Ruesch International Financial Services
700 11th Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20001-4507
When they receive your payment, Ruesch will promptly send you a foreign currency draft (check) that you can mail to Europe.
Writing to a parish. When writing to a parish, it is also a good idea to send a donation of $15.00 as a courtesy. Do not send a personal check, which is difficult and expensive to exchange in Europe. Cash is most easily converted to European currency, but sending cash is always risky.
Writing to other offices or organizations. Some researchers do not send money when writing to a civil registration office, archive, or genealogical society for the first time. These organizations may prefer to bill you for their services. Some may ask you to make the check payable to their account number. If you want, you may write an institution to determine their fees before making a request. However, this will significantly increase the time it takes to get information.
Checklist for Mailing a Letter to Europe
- Keep a photocopy of your letter.
- Enclose payment for the return postage.
- Convert funds to foreign currency.
- Mark the envelope Air Mail.
What To Expect
It may take six months or longer for you to receive a reply to your request for information. The results of writing to parishes or civil registration offices can vary greatly. You may get a great deal of information, or you may get no answer at all. Some pastors and civil registrars are willing to do considerable research. Others will not answer until money is sent or offered. Some may be unable to provide information.
Because some information is not easily obtained by writing directly to a pastor or registrar, you may need to hire a local private researcher. We suggest that you inquire about a competent local researcher when you write.
When you receive a reply, send a note of thanks or acknowledgment. You may wish to do this in a follow-up letter requesting further information. Refer to your earlier letters and their return letters by date. If they have assigned you a reference number, include that number as well.
Use Italian-English dictionaries to help you understand the reply. Sometimes you can hire accredited genealogists or others to translate for you.
If you do not receive an answer, write again and send a copy of your first letter. Do not send more money unless you verify that your first letter did not arrive.
How To Write a Letter in Italian
Your letter should include:
- The date (at the top).
- The name and address of the addressee.
- A greeting.
- A brief introduction.
- Biographical information about your relative.
- A short, specific, genealogical request.
- A referral request.
- A comment about payment.
- Closing remarks.
- Your signature.
- Your return address (including your country).
Be brief and simple. Do not ask for too much at one time.
The English-to-Italian translations of this guide will help you compose your letter. Read the sentences in English and choose those that best express what you want to say. Be sure that your sentences are arranged logically. You may want to write a letter in English first, using the suggested sentences, and then rewrite the letter, using the Italian translations. Make sure you type or neatly print your letter and, when necessary, add any diacritical marks and special characters (such as é or è) with a pen.
Do not use this guide as the letter itself. That might insult the recipient and lessen the chance of a reply.
Write dates in the European style: day, month, year. Write the month and the year in full. For example, for December 10, 1889, you would write 10 dicembre 1889, not 12-10-89 or 10-12-1889.
English Italian Greetings
1. Dear Sirs
1. Egregi signori,
2. Dear Pastor,
2. Reverendo Padre,
3. My name is _______. I am researching my ancestors and need information from your records.
3. Mi chiamo ________. Sto facendo una ricerca sui miei antenati e ho bisogno delle informazioni dai vostri registri.
4. My ancestors come from (locality). I would like to know more about them.
4. I miei antenati provennero da ________. Vorrei sapere di più di loro.
5. The following individual is my ancestor. Below is all the information I have about this person:
5. L’individuo seguente è il mio antenato. Quanto segue è tutto ciò che so di questa persona:
[Give information about your ancestor using the terms from the following list.]
6a. Given name and surname:
6a. Nome e cognome:
6b. Date of birth:
6b. Data di nascita:
6c. Place of birth:
6c. Luogo di nascita:
6d. Father’s given name and surname:
6d. Nome e cognome del padre:
6e. Mother’s given name and surname:
6e. Nome e cognome della madre:
6f. Husband’s given name and surname:
6f. Nome e cognome del marito:
6g. Wife’s given name and maiden surname:
6g. Nome e cognome della moglie:
6h. Date of marriage:
6h. Data di matrimonio:
6i.Place of marriage:
6i. Luogo di matrimonio:
6j.Date of death:
6j. Data di morte:
6k. Place of death:
6k. Luogo di morte:
6l. Date of emigration:
6l. Data d’emigrazione:
7. Could you please check your birth registers from (year) to (year) for the birth or christening record of this person?
7. Potreste cercare l’atto di nascita o battesimo di questa persona nei vostri registri dal _______ fino al ____?
8. Please send me a complete extract of the birth or christening record (1) of this person. (2) of these persons.
8. Vi chiedo di spedirmi l’estratto completo dell’atto di nascita o battesimo di 1) questa persona. 2) queste persone.
9. Please send me a complete extract of the marriage record (1) of this person. (2) of this person’s parents.
9. Vi chiedo di spedirmi l’estratto completo dell’atto di matrimonio 1) di questa persona.2) dei genitori di questa persona.
10. I believe that (name of ancestor) died in your locality about (year). I would like a complete extract of the death record.
10. Credo che _____ sia morto/a nel vostro paese verso l’anno ____. Vorrei l’estratto completo dell’atto di morte.
11. I would like to know more about the family of this person. I would be grateful if you would provide the names and birth dates of the brothers and sisters and an extract of the marriage record of the parents.
11. Vorrei sapere di più della famiglia di questa persona. Sarei grato/a se poteste fornire i nomi e le date di nascita dei suoi fratelli e sorelle, e anche l’estratto dell’atto di matrimonio dei genitori.
12. I would like to locate any relatives who may live in (town). My ancestor was (name). If you know any relatives of the family, I would be grateful if you would give this letter to them so that they can contact me.
12. Vorrei trovare parenti miei che abitano ancora a_____. Il mio antenato si chiamò ________. Se conoscete parenti della famiglia, sarei grato/a se deste loro questa lettera affinchè possiamo metterci in contatto.
13. Please send me a copy of the family information on (husband’s name) and (wife’s name). They were married (1) (date). (2) approximately (date).
13. Per favore, vi chiedo di spedirmi una copia delle informazioni familiari su e. Si sono sposati il 1) 2) verso il .
14. For my family research I need information from the Jewish records of births, marriages, and deaths from your community. Do you know where such records were created and where they are currently located?
14. Per la ricerca sulla mia famiglia ho bisogno delle informazioni dai registri ebrei delle nascite, dei matrimoni, e delle morti dalla vostra communità. Sapete dove tali registri sono stati mantenuti, e dove attualmente sono collocati?
15. Would you please inform me if it is possible to obtain photocopies of your records and tell me the cost of such copies.
15. Vi prego di informarmi se sia possibile ottenere delle fotocopie dei vostri registri e di farmi sapere il costo delle copie.
16. If you do not have the necessary records, could you provide the address of the place where the records can be found?
16. Se non avete i registri corrispondenti, potete fornire l’indirizzo dell’archivio dove in cui i registri possano essere trovati?
17. If you are unable to do this research for me, could you please recommend a local researcher I could hire for this purpose—someone who speaks some English if possible?
17. Se non potete farmi questa ricerca, potete raccomandare un ricercatore locale che potrei impiegare a questo fine—qualcuno che parlasse un pò d’inglese se sia possibile?
18. To cover your expenses, I am enclosing a donation to your parish as well as payment for the return postage.
18. Per coprire le vostre spese, sto accludendo un contributo alla vostra parrocchia ed il pagamento per l’affrancatura di ritorno.
19. Please let me know the cost of your help and how I can pay.
19. Vi prego di farmi sapere il costo del vostro aiuto e come posso effettuare il pagamento.
Closing Remarks and Return Address
20. I thank you in advance for your help.
20. Vi ringrazio in anticipo per la vostra gentilezza e premura.
21. Distinti saluti,
22. My address:
22. Il mio indirizzo:
[Use these sentences in follow-up letters as needed.]
23. Thank you for the information you sent on (date). It has helped me very much.
23. Grazie per le informazioni che avete trasmesso il _____. Mi hanno aiutato molto.
24. I need further information about one of the individuals you mentioned in your letter: (name).
24. Ho bisogno d’informazioni addizionali su uno degli individui che avete accennato nella vostra lettera: _________.
25. I have already received from you the following information about this person:
25. Ho già ricevuto da voi quanto segue su questa persona:
26. I am enclosing a copy of a letter I sent you on (date). Please write and tell me if you can do this research.
26. Sto accludendo una copia della lettera che vi ho trasmesso il ___________. Vi prego di scrivere per farmi sapere se potete fare questa ricerca.
Date 4 novembre 1999
Addressee Ufficio dello Stato Civile
Via XXV Settembre
67010 L’Aquila, Italia
Greeting Egregi signori,
Introduction Mi chiamo Jane Doe e sto facendo una ricerca genealogica sulla mia famiglia. Ho bisogno di informazioni dai vostri registri. I miei antenati vennero da Succiano di Beffi, nella provincia di L’Aquila. Vorrei sapere di più di loro. L’individuo seguente è il mio antenato. Quanto segue è tutto ciò che so di lui:
Biographical Information Nome e cognome: Pietro Francesco Lapioli
Data di nascita: 30 gennaio 1852
Luogo di nascita: Succiano di Beffi
Nome e cognome del padre: Andrea Lapioli
Nome e cognome della madre: Maria Antonia Di Luzio
Nome e cognome della moglie: Aquila Delfina Di Camillis
Genealogical Request Potete cercare l’atto di nascita di questa persona nei vostri registri? Vi chiedo di spedirmi l’estratto completo dell’atto di nascita di questa persona.
Referral Requests Se non tenete il registro corrispondente, potete fornire l’indirizzo dell’archivio in cui il registro puo essere trovato? Se non potete farmi questa ricerca, potete raccomandare un ricercatore locale che potrei impiegare a questo fine—qualcuno che parlasse un pò d’inglese se sia possibile?
Payment Vi prego di farmi sapere il costo del vostro aiuto e come posso effettuare il pagamento.
Closing Vi ringrazio in anticipo per la vostra gentilezza e premura.
334 G Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84103