Family History Research for Southern Italy
Note: the information here was last verified in March 2007 (Links in October 2016). Parts of it may be of only historical interest now.
This page describes some family history resources for the village of Sant'Angelo d'Alife in the Region of Campania.
However, in its outlines it applies to all the other villages in central southern Italy for which I have done some family history research. For my research in those other villages I have made a list of family names with links to my transcriptions of their Italian civil register records. Or you can search all my pages for surnames.
Note: the following is an account of how I did my own research, most of it between 1994 and 1996, when I had very little or no access to the Internet. If you are looking for Internet-based research suggestions, I can't help you because I don't know.
Five Types of Resources
My research of family history in Sant'Angelo d'Alife used five types of resources:
1. Family documents (birth certificates, baptisms, U.S. naturalization documents, and marriage certificates) found at home.
2. Marriage and immigration documents from the county and federal archives in the United States that I have either visited or written to.
3. Ship Passenger Manifests from the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
4. The United States Federal Censuses 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 from the National Archives.
Those four sources gave me my great-grandparents' names and approximate dates, and the name of my grandfather's actual village of origin in Italy. (I began with the name Sant'Angelo "not too far from Naples", but there are many places of that description in southern Italy, and in the whole of Italy there are 40 towns and hamlets named "Sant'Angelo".)
5. The Civil Registers from the State Archives in Italy. These are described in a following section, after a note about how to access them in the Americas and Europe.
You will need to know the name of the specific town and its province in Italy and have dates from before 1911 (for some towns, and before 1930 for others) before you can begin using these records. (In many cases you will be more fortunate than I was: for example, when I began my research only the records from before 1866 were available for Sant'Angelo d'Alife.)
If you cannot discover dates from before 1911 (or for some places 1930), you will need to examine the Civil Registers in the Casa comunale of Sant'Angelo d'Alife or in the Archivo di Stato ("State Archives") in Caserta. (I have never been to Sant'Angelo d'Alife and have never seen the original records, only microfilm copies of them.)
You can also write to the Office of the Civil Register (Vital Statistics) in Sant'Angelo d'Alife at the address below. However, note that office may be unable to help you unless you have an exact request; for example you might request a copy of a birth record for "Angelillo Raffaele nato il 16 agosto, 1888" (When I wrote in 2004 I included an international money order for 10 Euros). You should write in brief, simple and polite Italian (and be patient: when I wrote in 1995 a reply came a week later, but in 2004 it was three months later). The address is:
Ufficio dello stato civile
Comune di Sant'Angelo d'Alife
Provincia di Caserta
Note that you can find source notes on most pages of my Web site.
The Mormon Family History Library
Here is how you can find your ancestors in Sant'Angelo d'Alife (and many other places in Italy) on microfilm: by using the records available from the Mormon Church through their Latter Day Saints Family History Library (LDS FHL). Millions of people around the world use these resources every day, and you can too.
The Mormon Internet site (FamilySearch.org) makes available some of the Family History Library materials. However, to use many of the LDS FHL resources you may need to visit a Family History Center. There you can request that microfilm from Salt Lake City be sent to a center where you can examine it. You can search for a Family History Center (familysearch.org/locations/centerlocator), now also known as "Family Search Centers", near where you live. Centers can request any of the microfilms found in the LDS FHL Catalog for you; you must pay the postage to the center (The cost in 2007 is US$5.75/film in the USA [The cost was US$3.50 when I did my own research, most of which would be far too expensive for me now]) and when the films arrive you must view them in the center, where they remain for one month before being returned to Salt Lake City.
The Mormons run their Family History Centers as if they were public libraries: no one will try to convert you to the Mormon religion (I do not belong to their church) and you do not have to share your research results with them (You may have religious reasons for not wanting to do this). The staff at the centers will try to give you some general help with your research.
You can make a Place Search in the Family History Library Catalog (familysearch.org/catalog/search) online to find records that may be useful to you. That is one way the records available for Sant'Angelo d'Alife listed below can be found.
The Civil Registers of Sant'Angelo d'Alife on Microfilm
[The notes in brackets were added by me]
Registri dello stato civile, 1809-1910
[Civil Registers, or, Records of Vital Statistics, 1809-1910]
Sant'Angelo d'Alife (Caserta). Ufficio dello stato civile
[Comune of Sant'Angelo d'Alife, Province of Caserta, Office of the Civil Register, or, Office of Vital Statistics]
Microfilm dei registri originali nell'Archivio di Stato, Caserta, e nel Tribunale di Santa Maria Capua Vetere.
[Microfilm of the original Civil Registers in the State Archives in Caserta, and in the Courthouse of Santa Maria Capua Vetere (Province of Caserta)]
Include indici annuali.
[Include annual indexes]
Miscellaneous documents [Diversi, e.g. children born dead, paternal recognitions of unwed births],
Marriage documents [Matrimoni; and Processetti = Allegati (below)],
[Marriage Banns - Pubblicazioni],
Citizenship records [Cittadinanze],
Supplements (births, banns, marriages, deaths) [Processetti = Allegati],
from Sant'Angelo d'Alife, Caserta, Italy.
Text in Italian. Some years are missing.
Italy, Caserta, Sant'Angelo d'Alife - Civil registration
Format: Manuscript [i.e. 23 microfilms in 35 mm and 16mm; note that post-1865 are 16mm and require a high-magnification-lens fitted reader. Five new films have increased the total to 28 microfilms]
Publication: Salt Lake City: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1979-1994
The Mormon's Research Guides
I am very far from being an expert in family history research -- and were it not for the Mormon archives and the research guides that the Mormons publish, I would not have gotten so far with it. Copies of many of the research guides are available at Family History Centers; others have to be ordered from Salt Lake City. Most of the guides used to cost US$1 or less (however they now cost 3 to 5 times that amount); some are pamphlets, some are booklets. Titles have included:
- Tracing Immigrant Origins (9/92)
- Research Outline - Italy (3/99)
- Genealogical Word List - Italian (2/97)
- Letter-Writing Guides - Italian (2/00)
- Genealogical Word List - Latin (4/97)
- Research Outline - Canada (8/98)
- United States Military Records (2/00)
There are also individual Resource Outlines for each of the fifty U.S. states. Family History Centers should have up-to-date copies of the Family History Materials List.
What are Processetti?
In the above list of LDS FHL microfilms you will note that there are many films described this way: "Processetti 1862-1865". (In lists from other towns you may find this description: "Matrimoni, pubblicazioni, processetti"; in that case it is the last item that concerns us.)
Civil Registration began in southern Italy under the governments installed by Napoleon Bonaparte in about 1806; registration was done on the French model. Before 1809/10 the type of registration that interests us had only been done by the Roman Catholic Church. When in 1815, the old Bourbon government was restored to southern Italy (Kingdom of Naples), civil registration was continued.
Very well, to marry in southern Italy, you needed the consent of your parents. If your father was alive he gave his formal consent before an official of civil registration. If your father was dead, however, you had to prove that he was dead; this proof you provided with a copy of his death record.
If your father died after 1808, you got the record from the Civil authority; however, if he died before 1809, the record had to be gotten from the Church. Now, if your father was dead, you needed your father's father's consent to marry. If your grandfather was also dead, you needed to provide a copy of his death certificate. (Your mother's consent was also required for you to marry; however, if your mother was dead, you only had to provide her death certificate, not also her father's.)
Now, I think you can see, that if the parents and grandparents of the spouses were dead at the time of the marriage, and if the deaths occurred before 1809 ... then you have found a treasure that can easily lead you, by deduction, to the 1600s (for example, someone who died in 1750 at the age of seventy was born around the year 1680).
When the marriage was being arranged with the Civil authority, all the supporting documents (birth and death certificates, etc.) were collected and put into a special volume called "Processetti", here translated "marriage documents".
Now, how much you can find this way depends on two things: good luck (of course the records have to exist) and perseverance. You may find that all the parents were living at the time of the marriage you are looking at ... however, if your direct-line ancestor had a younger brother or cousin, maybe some of the parents and grandparents were dead at the time of his or her wedding. Etc. Etc. So if you really want to find everything available for your family, you will have to examine every single set of marriage documents available. In the case of Sant'Angelo d'Alife above, that would mean examining 7 films from 1809-1865. These documents may be well or poorly arranged and preserved, in good or bad handwriting -- easy to work with or pure slogging.
Special Note: different provinces, or perhaps dioceses or parishes, had different rules for how church records were to be extracted for delivery to the civil authority. In the Region of Molise, for example, an exact copy of the original record was made. However, in Sant'Angelo d'Alife, for the most part only partial extracts were made; for example, the name of the father was given but not the name of the mother, and the date of death was given but not the age of the person at death. Because it is usually safe in a small village to base an identification on either the names of both parents or on the name of a spouse but unsafe without one or the other, partial extracts tend to put an end to the discovery of a particular line of ancestors, at least where the civil register records are the only source. I was able to trace my family deeper in Molise than I was in Sant'Angelo d'Alife.
The URL of this Web page: https://www.roangelo.net/angelo/research.html
Last revised: 31 March 2007 : 2007-03-31 by Robert [Wesley] Angelo.