ITALYíS MILITARY RECORDS
Cav. Anthony Lascio
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
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.
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
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.
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
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: LPRoots@yahoo.com ~ page last updated on Tuesday, April 22, 2003