Messina, Sicily, Italy Genealogy

From FamilySearch Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Italy Research Topics
Roman Forum
Beginning Research
Record Types
Italy Background
Ethnicity
Local Research Resources
Italy
Sicily
Messina Province
IT Locator Map Italy Messina.png

Guide to Messina province ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.

{{{link}}}Ask the Community Button New Version.jpg
Most of your genealogical research for Messina, Sicily will be in two main record types: civil registration (registri dello stato civile) and church records (registri ecclesiastici). This article will teach you methods for locating and searching these two record groups.

History

The city reached the peak of its splendour in the early 17th century, under Spanish domination: at the time it was one of the ten greatest cities in Europe. In 1674 the city rebelled against the foreign garrison and it managed to remain independent for some time, but in 1678, with the Peace of Nijmegen, it was reconquered by the Spaniards and sacked. A massive fortress was built by the occupants and Messina decayed steadily.
In 1783, an earthquake devastated much of the city, and it took decades to rebuild and rekindle the cultural life of Messina. In 1847 it was one of the first cities in Italy where Risorgimento riots broke out. There was another earthquake that damaged the city on 16 November 1894. The city was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake and associated tsunami on the morning of 28 December 1908, killing about 100,000 people and destroying most of the ancient architecture.
[1]


Civil Registration

  • Language: The records were almost always kept in Italian, except for records kept during the rule of foreign powers such as France and Austria. In the northern regions, many records are in French and German. Some church records were transcribed into civil registration records in Latin. Don't worry; you will be able to search these foreign languages by learning just a few typical words such as those for mother, father, born, name, bride, groom, married, etc. More help with this is given later in this article.
  • Accessing the records: Civil registration records were and are kept at the local registrar’s office (anagrafe) in each town or city. A copy of each record is sent to the tribunale (district court).
  • Determining the locality: You must determine the town where your ancestor lived before you can find the records. Your ancestor may have lived in a village that belonged to a nearby larger town. Large cities may have many civil registration districts. You may need to use maps, gazetteers, and other geographic references to identify the place where your ancestor lived and the civil registration office that served that place. See Italy Maps and Italy Gazetteers for information on how to find civil registration offices.
  • State of the Family (Stato di famiglia): A civil record unique to Italy is the stato di famiglia, or state of the family certificate. The comune keeps a record of each family and updates each change, including births, marriages, deaths, and emigration. All individuals in a household are included. Some households include more than one family. Historical states of the family (stato di famiglia storico) are kept at the provincial archive (ufficio dello stato civile). These records document past generations of families. Not all areas have kept this record, but where they exist, they are a valuable research tool.


1. Online Digital Records for Civil Registration

For some localities, digital copies of civil registration can be searched online:

"Nati" are births. "Matrimoni" and "allegati" are marriages. "Morti" are deaths. "Indici decennali" is the 10-year index.

2. Microfilm or Digital Copies of Civil Registration Records in the FamilySearch Catalog

Icon-warning.png

There are many microfilmed records available but not included in the online collections. Also digitized records are being added directly to the catalog without appearing in FamilySearch Historical Records listings.Currently, all microfilms are being digitized, and plans are to complete that project by 2020. Check back occasionally to see if your records have become available. In the meantime, some of them might be available at a Family History Center near you. To find a record:

a. Click on this link to see a list of records for Italy, Messina.
b. Click on "Places within Italy, Messina" and a list of towns and cities will open.
c. Click on the town or city you wish to search.
d. Click on "Civil Registration" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
e. Choose the correct event and time period for your ancestor.
f. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the microfilm listed for the record. FHL icons.png. The magnifying glass indicates that the microfilm is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the microfilm.

3. Writing for Civil Registration Certificates

If the records are not online or microfilmed, civil registration records in Italy can be obtained by writing to the local civil registry. This is also necessary for more recent records. Recent records are covered by privacy laws, so they are not released for microfilm or online. But relatives are allowed request them for genealogy. Civil officials will generally answer correspondence in Italian. Your request may be forwarded if the records have been sent to the tribunale or the provincia.

Address list for municipalities of Messina
Format for address for local office: use this address as a guide, replacing the information in parentheses:

Sindaco
Comune di (name of the locality)
(Street address, if known)
(postal code) (city) (Province abbreviation:ME)
Italy

Address for provincial office:

Ufficio dello Stato Civile
Provincia di Messina
437, Viale San Martino
98135 Messina (ME)
Italy

After you have determined what office has jurisdiction over the records you need, write a brief request to the proper office. Write your request in Italian whenever possible. For writing your letter in Italian, use the translated questions and phrases in this Italy Letter Writing Guide. Send the following:

  • Cashier’s check or international money order (in local currency) for the search fee. See How To Send Return Postage and Money.
  • Full name and the sex of the person sought.
  • Names of the parents, if known.
  • Approximate date and place of the event.
  • Your relationship to the person.
  • Reason for the request (family history or medical).
  • Request for a complete extract of the record


If your request is unsuccessful, search for duplicate records that may have been filed in other archives or search in church registers.

Church Records (registri ecclesiastici)

  • Church records (registri ecclesiastici) are vital records kept by priests and are often called parish registers or church books. They include records of christenings (baptisms), marriages, and deaths (burials). In addition, church records may include confirmations, first communions, and church census records. The Roman Catholic Church is traditionally recognized as the state church because most Italians are Roman Catholic. Nearly every person who lived in Italy was recorded in a church record during the last 200 to 300 years.
  • Church records are crucial for research before the civil government started keeping vital records, which began about 1809 to 1820, and in some provinces, 1866 or 1871. After that, church records continued to be kept but often contain less information. It can be helpful to search both types of records, particularly if your ancestors' information seems to be missing from one or the other. Of course, in some cases you will find only church records online for a locality, which are therefore more accessible than writing for civil registration. However, they usually contain fewer details.

1. Digital Online and Microfilm Church Records in the FamilySearch Catalog

There are some microfilmed records available. Currently, they are being digitized, and plans are to complete that project by 2020. Check back occasionally to see if your records have become available. In the meantime, some of them might be available at a Family History Center near you. To find a microfilm:

a. Click on this link to see a list of records for Italy, Messina.
b. Click on "Places within Italy, Messina" and a list of towns and cities will open.
c. Click on the town or city you wish to search.
d. Click on "Church Records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
e. Choose the correct event and time period for your ancestor. "Battesimi" are infant baptisms, which are used for birth information. "Matrimoni" are marriages. "Morti" are deaths.
f. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the microfilm listed for the record. FHL icons.png. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the microfilm.

2. Writing to a Catholic Priest for Church Records

Baptism, marriage, and death records may be searched by contacting or visiting local parish or diocese archives in Italy. Italy has no single repository of church records. Write your request in Italian whenever possible. This method is not always reliable. Officials might or might not respond.

Write a brief request in Italian to the proper church using this address as guide replacing the information in parentheses:

Reverendo Parroco
(Street address, if known: consult The Catholic Directory)
(Postal code) (City) (Province abbreviation:ME)
ITALY

Write your request in Italian whenever possible. For writing your letter in Italian, use the translated questions and phrases in this Italy Letter Writing Guide. When requesting information, send the following:

  • Cashier’s check or international money order (in local currency) for the search fee. See How To Send Return Postage and Money.
  • Full name and the sex of the person sought.
  • Names of the parents, if known.
  • Approximate date and place of the event.
  • Your relationship to the person.
  • Reason for the request (family history or medical).
  • Request for a complete extract of the record


Reading the Records

  • You do not have to be fluent in Italian to read your documents. Genealogical records usually contain a limited vocabulary. Use this Italian Genealogical Word List to translate the important points in the document. If you find that the records are written in German, French, or Latin, click on that language link in this sentence.
  • Online interactive slideshow lessons are available to help you learn to read these records:

Tips for Finding Your Ancestor in the Records

Civil Registration Tips

  • In many areas during the earliest years of civil registration, records were indexed by the given names. Therefore, you must search every entry in the index to make sure you find every individual who had a certain surname.
  • Eventually, however, indexes were alphabetized by surname. Women are always found in the indexes under their maiden names.
  • Births were generally registered within a day or two of the child’s birth, usually by the father of the family or by the attending midwife. Corrections to a birth record may have been added as a marginal note. In later records, marginal notes' are frequently found, providing marriage and death information.
  • After 1809 Napoleonic law required that the marriage ceremony be performed first by a civil authority and then, if desired, by a church authority. At first, some people resisted this law and had their marriages performed by church authority only. Later when it became legally necessary for their children to be recognized as legitimate, a civil ceremony was performed. In rare cases, you may find a marriage record for a couple in their 50s who were actually married 30 years earlier. In most cases you may find marriages recorded in both civil and church records.
  • Marriages were usually performed and recorded where the bride lived.
  • Do not overlook the importance of death records. Death records are especially helpful because they may provide important information about a person’s birth, spouse, and parents. Civil death records often exist for individuals for whom there are no birth or marriage records.

Church Record Tips

  • Effective use of church records includes the following strategies:
  1. When you find an ancestor’s birth or baptismal record, search for the births of siblings.
  2. Search for the parents’ marriage record. Typically, the marriage took place one or two years before the oldest child was born. However, the birth of a first child within the same year as a couple's marriage was not unheard of.
  3. Search for the parent’s birth records. On the average, men tended to marry in their late 20s while women married in their early 20s; marriages prior to age 20 occurred more frequently after 1900. Subtract approximately 20 or so years from the marriage date for a starting year to search for the parents' birth records.
  4. If you do not find earlier generations in the parish registers, search neighboring parishes.
  5. Search the death registers for all known family members.
  • If the original church records that you need have been lost or destroyed or are illegible, you may be able to find a duplicate church record. Unfortunately it was not standard practice to keep duplicate records until the 1900s. But some dioceses started making duplicates as early as 1820. Duplicates, when they exist, are normally located at the curia vescovile (diocesan archives).
  • In Italy, the parish priest was often required to collect taxes. He would sometimes record information about his parishioners and the tax in church censuses (stato delle anime or status animarum). If the censuses do exist for your parish, the registers list all family members living in a household and their ages or birth dates. Deceased children were not listed. Married children, if living in the same household, were recorded with the family but as a separate household. Familial relationships and addresses were also noted.