ITALY’S NOTARY RECORDS
Cav. Anthony Lascio
you say. Who cares?
You may......by the time you get to the end of this article.
Unless your blood flows blue (nobility) these records may be the only
resource you have to take your research back into history beyond the beginning
of the local parish ledgers.
in Italy revert back to the period of the Roman Empire. In those ancient times, the land owner designated one of his
slaves, who was literate, to record and maintain all of the owner’s business
transactions. No records, no
proof. Later in history the
emperor chose a public official to do the job.
This was particularly important as it pertained to transactions
regarding property. A noble
family, for example, required the recording of all it’s property activity in
order to keep the family’s control over such matters.
As time passed, the notary public role became a status symbol as the
position became more and more important.
It is not uncommon for a family to pass this function down from father
to son, even to this day.
All property or
possession transactions in Italy are registered and of course, taxed.
But what about
the notary connection to genealogy? Notary records are only important when
your search for ancestors comes to a screeching halt because your furthest
research reveals no more data. The
ledgers of the Catholic Church are the sources which carry you back deeper
into history than any other primary source.
But, all good things come to an end.
Whether it be the 1700's, 1600's or if you’re very fortunate, the
1500's, eventually even those valuable church ledgers had a beginning.
It is then, if you’re persistence overpowers you and more information
is sought, do these resources become a factor
The notarial documents can provide a means to carry your genealogical
quest back further into history. That
is the good news. The bad news is
the work you have ahead of you.
Every state archive in Italy has notary record copies, primarily concerning the transaction of property but also regarding wills/inheritance. These records, in some locales, could revert back to the year 1000, but on the average, as a rule, one will find these documents dating to the 1400's and the 1500's. There is no particular pattern to the method or manner these legal transactions were recorded. The style of the specific notary dictates the end result. The language used for these records was Latin and they are filled with notarial lingo including coded language and an abbreviated format. The typical American genealogist will discover that reading these documents will blow their mind. Further, no indexes were used and many of the documents were extremely lengthy. Recording of the notary records is chronological. The time required first to understand the Latin style, secondly to translate all of the coding, and thirdly to interpret the handwriting, will test the stamina and patience of the most seasoned genealogist.
genealogical information will notarial records provide.
If the ancestor had property, they will be among the records.
In most of Italy, especially the Northern and Central regions, even the
poorest had some property be it a meager house on a small piece of land.
The record will show not only who owned the property but list all the
family members and of course who inherited the deceased owner’s possessions.
record which may be of interest is the betrothal (marriage) contract which was
somewhat common in Southern Italy and Sicily.
This act occurred when a dowry became involved.
Example; Antonio wishes to marry Giuseppa, but, because he was much older
then his bride, her skeptical parents desired an exchange of property along with
the daughter to “sweeten the deal”. Antonio or his parents were required to
give Guiseppa’s parents land, livestock, or some other item of value in order
to obtain their blessing on the marriage contract.
Thus, the act was recorded in the notarial records to protect the
bride’s parents and provide legal certification and documentation.
notary records are considered a secondary or collateral record source.
When all else fails, they could provide data to fill missing links.
But do bear in mind these records are extremely difficult to track down
and interpret. Their value is
limited at best, but where nothing else is available, they can be helpful. When planning to tackle these documents I have one piece of
advise. Before you begin, take two
aspirin and go to bed.
© PIP Chapter 1, 2003 ~ Webmaster: LPRoots@yahoo.com ~ page last updated on Tuesday, April 22, 2003