Sicilian Civil Records

(this page was inspired by the work of  Michael Angelini at www.michaelangelini.com)        

 
 

Two types of documents recorded the vital events in the lives of most Sicilians from the early 19th through the 20th century:

ecclesiastical, or church records of the sacraments, which record baptisms, chrismation or confirmation, marriages, and deaths; and

civil records, which record marriage contracts, banns or announcements of marriage, marriages, addenda to marriage records, change of address, and various other actions.

Sicilian civil records are among the most complete, uniform and informative in the entire world.  Recording of civil action in the Kingdom of Sicily (lu Regnu di Sicilia or simply 'lu Regnu') began in around 1805 in the northern portion of the Kingdom (from Abbruzzo and Napoli south to Calabria).  Civil record-keeping also began around that time in the various Apennine duchies and city-states north of lu Regnu.   There was no nation known as 'Italy' at the time. 

In both lu Regnu and the northern states, civil records were instituted which generally followed the format delineated by the Civil Code of Napoleon, whether or not he actually held sway over a region.  Initially, these records varied slightly between the various localities, until about 1819.  Today, they are referred to in Italian as 'Stato Civile Napoleonico' or Civil Records of the Napoleonic Era.  Because of the numerous forms of these records, I do not include them here

 

In the year 1816, the Kingdom of Sicily, after internal and external political machinations, re-formed as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (lu Regnu di li Dui Sicilii).  It comprised the same area as its predecessor, namely the present-day regions of Abruzzo, Molise, Campania, Napoli, Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, and the island of Sicily.

By 1820, 'regnicoli', or subjects of the realm of  the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, from Abruzzo to Palermo, had their vital records documented on standard pre-printed forms.  The format was in use until 1865 and is called, in Italian, 'Stato Civile della Restaurazione' (Civil Records of the Restoration).  This title is disingenuous because there was no 'Italy' at the time, for Sicily to be 'restored' to.  I prefer to call them Sicilian Civil Records.  They were recorded in two 'Registri', or permanent civil registers.  One register was kept in the town's 'Anagrafe' (Registry Office), and one was sent to the regional or provincial 'Tribunale' (Magistrate's Court).  These latter were eventually sent to the provincial archives in the capital city of the province in which the particular 'comune', or town, was located.   The records themselves are called 'Atti', the singular of which is 'Atto'.  Generally, after each year of a particular type of record, an 'indice' (index) appears; an alphabetical (usually) list with the 'Numero di Ordine' or number of each record.

NOTICE: None of the civil records described here are 'birth, marriage or death certificates', and should not be called such.  Certificates were not issued to the principals.  The 'Atti' are permanently kept in the registers, and if proof of the event was required, a 'copia integrale' (verbatim copy) or an 'estratto certificato' (certified extract) was made by hand.  The verbatim copy retains all the detailed information of the original, while the extract has far less information.

 

The 1820 - 1865 records include 'Atti di Nascite' (Records of Birth), which have a section on the right of the document, entitled 'Indicazione del giorno in cui e stato amministrato il Sacramente del Battesimo' (Notice of the day on which the Sacrament of Baptism was administered).   The right side is not the baptism record, but acknowledgement by civil authorities that they had been informed of the baptism and its date.  The actual baptism record was retained in the church registers.  An example of a civil birth record from the period follows.

 

From Serradifalco Registri Stato Civile Film 1466430, 1836 Births, No. 47, Gaetano Coniglio      

.

R E C O R D   O F   B I R T H  

Notice of the day on which
was administered the Sacrament
of Baptism

Number forty-seven

In the year one thousand eight hundred thirty-six on day twenty-seven of the month of February at hour twenty-one before Us Gaetano Piazza, Mayor and official of the Civil Record of the community of Serradifalco District of Caltanisetta Province of Caltanisetta appeared Raimondo Coniglio age thirty occupation Laborer living at Strada Calvario, who has presented us a boy that accordingly we have visibly witnessed, and he has declared that the same was born of Maria Messina his legitimate wife age twenty-four, living here, and of him, the declarant, age as above, occupation as above, living at as above on day twenty-seven  of the month of February in the year stated above at twenty-two hours, in their own house.

The same has also declared that he has given the boy the name Gaetano.

  The aforesaid presentation and declaration was made in the presence of Leonardo Avenia age thirty-three, occupation landowner, a subject of the realm, living at Strada Piconotti and of Francesco Messina age forty, occupation Sharecropper, a subject of the realm, living at Strada Calvario, witnesses attending the present act, and provided by him, Mister declarant

  This document, which we have created as required, was inscribed on two registers, read to the informant and to the witnesses, and on the day, month, and year as stated above, signed by Myself only, the declarant and witnesses having said that they don't know how to write.

The Mayor
(Signed by)
Gaetano Piazza

Number forty-seven

In the year one thousand eight hundred thirty-six on day twenty-nine of the month of February the Parish priest of this town has returned to us on the day stated above  of the year stated above, the record, which we had remitted to him on day twenty-eight of the month of February of the year stated above, the here-written birth act, at the bottom of which he has indicated that the Sacrament of Baptism has been administered to Gaetano Coniglio on day twenty-eight of the month stated above.

  Having seen this document after having it encoded, we have provided that it be preserved in the register of documents at page forty-seven

  We have also acknowledged to the Parish priest the receipt of the same, and we have created the present record which was inscribed on the two registers in the margins of the corresponding birth record, and then we have signed.

(Signed by) Gaetano Piazza

.

The civil records from 1820 through 1865 include the 'Atto della Solenna Promessa di celebrare il matrimonio' (Record of the Solemn Promise to celebrate matrimony), with the right hand side entitled 'Indicazione della seguita celebrazione canonica del matrimonio' (Notice of the subsequent canonical celebration of matrimony).  The left side is not a 'marriage record' but, essentially the record of a civil marriage contract.  The right side is not the marriage record, but acknowledgement by civil authorities that they had been informed by the church of the actual canonical marriage, and its date.  The canonical marriage record was retained in the church registers.  An example from the period, of a civil record of the promise to marry, follows below.

 

RECORD OF THE SOLEMN PROMISE
to celebrate matrimony

[p. 1] Number 5
Year eighteen hundred sixty-one, day six of the month of October at hour fourteen, before Us, Notary Antonino LicalsiSenior Councilman and Assistant to the Mayor and official of the Civil Record of the town of Serradifalco, district of
Caltanissetta, Province of Caltanissetta, have appeared in the Town Hall: Gaetano Coniglio, single adult age twenty-five, born in Serradifalco, district of Caltanissetta, Province of Caltanissetta,occupation Sulfur miner, living in Serradifalco, son of the late Raimondo, age ______ occupation ______ living ____, and of Maria Messina age forty-nine, living here; and Maria Carmela Calabrese, single minor, age eighteen, born in Serradifalco, living here, daughter of the late Felice age ___, occupation ___ living ____, and daughter of Maria Burgio age sixty-one, who lives here.
The couple,
in the presence of witnesses who will be mentioned below, and produced by them, have requested to receive their solemn pro-
[p. 2]
mise
to celebrate prior to the Church ceremony, according to the format prescribed by the Sacred Council of Trent for the
marriage which they plan between them
with the support of the respective mothers of the espoused, who came together for the present record in order to lend their express and formal consent, which they have accordingly declared.
   The notice of this promise was affixed to the door of the town hall of Serradifalco on Sunday the eighteenth day of the month of August of the year stated above.
 
 We, in accordance with their request, after having read them all the consistent documents:
First, the birth record of the groom
Second, the birth record of the bride
 
[p. 3]Third, the marriage banns made in this Town where they both live, to which there have been no objections
Fourth, the death record of the father of the groom
Fifth, the death record of the paternal grandfather of the groom
Sixth, the death record of the father of the bride
Seventh, the death record of the paternal grandfather of the bride.

Page 3 continues: and having also read chapter six under the title of marriage of the civil laws regarding the respective rights and obligations of the spouses, we have received from each of the parties, one after the other, the declaration, that they solemnly promise to celebrate the marriage before the Church according to the format prescribed by the Holy Council of Trent.
      We made the record of all this
in the presence of four witnesses attending the solemn promise of marriage:
Luigi Giardina,
age thirty-three, occupation Sharecropper subject of the realm of the Two Sicilies, living at Strada Cagnina;
Domenico Difrancesco,
age sixty-seven, occupation Sharecropper
[p. 4] subject of the realm, living at Strada Mintina;
Pasquale Giumento,
age thirty-three, occupation Sulfur miner subject of the realm, living at Strada Vullotti;
Leonardo Avenia,
age fifty-three, occupation Courier subject of the realm, living at Strada Piconotti;
We have read this record, which is inscribed on the two registers, to the witnesses and the bride and groom, to whom we have also given two consistent copies signed by Us, to be presented to the parish priest, to whom the celebration of the marriage pertains, and then it is signed by us alone, the betrothed, the mothers of the betrothed and the witnesses having said they don't know how to write.


The Senior Councilman of the Mayor
[Signed]
Antonino Licalsi

From Serradifalco Registri Stato Civile Film 1466476,
1861 Marriages, No. 5 Gaetano Coniglio and Maria Carmela Calabrese

 

The civil records from 1820 through 1865 also include the 'Atto di Morte' (Record of Death).  Death records rarely gave a cause of death, unless the death occurred in the military or in a hospital.  An example follows below. 

Note, this record is not the death record of the same person, Gaetano Coniglio, featured in the two records above, but the record of his father, Raimondo Coniglio.  These records had no individual titles, and had page numbers, but there is no relationship between the page number and the 'Numero di Ordine' (Record Number).  Indices list record numbers, not page numbers.

 

Atto di Morti (Record of Death)

 


Page 8

Number 15
Year eighteen hundred fifty-seven, day three of the month of
February at hour twenty before Us Biaggio lo Vullo Mayor ~
and official of Civil Records of the Town of Serradifalco District of Caltanissetta Province of Caltanissetta have appeared Gaetano Insalaco, age forty, occupation sulfur miner subject of the realm, living at Strada Insalaco, and Angelo Calamera, age thirty-eight, occupation plasterer, subject of the realm, living at Strada Concezione,
who have declared that on day three of the month of February, year as above, has died in his own house Raimondo Coniglio, age fifty-two
[born about 1803], husband of Maria Messina

he was born in Serradifalco, occupation manual laborer, lived on Strada NuovaSon of the late Gaetano and of the late Giuseppa Montalto.

    According to the law we went together with the named witnesses to the side of the deceased, and we have acknowledged his actual death. We have today created this document, we have inscribed it on two registers and have read it to the declarants on the day, month and year as above, and it is signed by Us alone, the witnesses having stated that they don't know how to write.
                                               The Mayor
                                            
Biagio lo Vullo

From Serradifalco Registri Stato Civile Film 1964374,         
1857 Deaths, No. 15, Raimondo Coniglio         

This translation is factually correct.      
To conserve space, it is not a strict literal translation.  
  

 
 

After 1861, there was unrest lingering from the 'resorgimento', which saw the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies subsumed with several northern states into the Kingdom of Sardinia, which then became the Kingdom of Italy.   One of the results of the 'unification' was that the civil authorities of the new nation appropriated most property of the nobility and the church and disbursed it among opportunists and venture capitalists. 

It evidently took the new nation several years to have new civil forms printed.  Until 1865, the previous forms were used.  They were then discontinued, and through 1874, civil records completely handwritten.  These records roughly followed the format of the previous years, and in some case had more information, in that in addition to the previous details, birth records gave the names of the fathers of the parents of the  newborn.

However, striking omissions are obvious in these records.  There is no mention of any church activity.  Birth records no longer indicate baptism information, and the 'promise to marry' is replaced by the civil 'Atto di Matrimonio' (Marriage Record) which does not mention a canonical marriage.  In fact if a couple married in church but not in a civil ceremony, the marriage was illegitimate, as were any children born from the union.  This resulted in most couples being married in separate church and civil ceremonies.

A new civil record that was added was the 'Pubblicazione di Matrimonio'  or 'Notficazione di Matrimonio' (Announcement of Proposed Marriage).  These were marriage banns, posted in two to three consecutive weeks, prior to the proposed date of marriage to give citizens the opportunity to come forward if there were any impediments to the marriage.  Both the marriage banns and the marriage records listed the names of the parents of the betrothed and whether they were alive or deceased, and required the consent of the parents (or if they were deceased, of the closet relatives) to assure there was no close consanguinity of the betrothed.  This was generally required, even for betrothed who were full adults.

Examples of 1866 - 1874 civil records will be added soon.

 
 

In 1875, the church-civil schism still existed, and new pre-printed civil forms were instituted, without mention of church sacraments.  The forms were in use at least until 1910, the last year in which microfilms were made of many towns' records.  These records are called 'Stato Civile Italiano' (Italian Civil Records).  The requirement for civil ceremonies to legitimize marriages still held.

 

Although they kept the general format, the new civil records of birth gave somewhat different information than in the previous years.  The 1820 - 1865 records gave the age of the newborn's mother, the 1875 form usually omits it.  The 1866 - 1874 handwritten records usually omitted it, but gave the names of the fathers of the infant's parents.  Many birth records from every era had 'margin notes', indicating the later marriage, death, or change in the name of the principal.  An example of a birth record from the Stato Civile Italiano follows.

 

From Serradifalco Registri Stato Civile Film 1961310, 1893 Births, No. 307, Rosa Alessi       

 


RECORDS OF BIRTH

           Number 307
Rosa Alessi

On First of December 1912
married
Gaetano Coniglio                Arnone


 

 

 

 






hIndicates occupation or status.

    In the year one thousand eight hundred ninety-three, on day ten  of  September,
at
AM hour ten , in the Town Hall.
   Before me,
Giuseppe Lima, Senior Councilman, assistant of the Mayor, because of the inability of the incumbent,
Official of Public Records of the Town of Serradifalco ___________ appeared Leonardo Alessi, agethirty-six ha sulfur miner living
in
Serradifalco, who has declared to me that at PM ,hour  ive and
minutes ____ on day
nine of the current month, in the house located at
via Prizzi number ____, by Concetta Abate
his waife, housewife, according to him living with him
,
_________________
_________________________________________________________
is born a baby of the feminine sex who was presented to me, and who was given the name Rosa ______________________________________________
   
To the above, and to this record, are present the witnesses Leonardo Lom
bardo
age thirty-seven,hsulfur miner, and Francesco Sferrazza, age twenty-eight,hsulfur miner, both residents of this Town ____________
The present act was read to those assembled but is signed
by me alone, they having said that they don't know how to sign

    G Lima
           
_________________________________________________________
 
 

Starting with 1875, the 'Atto di Matrimonio' was on pre-printed forms requiring the names, ages and occupations of the betrothed; the names of the parents of both and whether they were living; and the names of two witnesses.

 

Da Anagrafe di Serradifalco, 2008        

From the Serradifalco Registry Office, 2008        

 

Like earlier death records, the Atti di Morte from the Stato Civile Italiano generally gave no cause of death, nor any information about offspring.  In all eras, the death records are generally the least reliable of civil records, since the declarants may not have known the deceased very well.  The age of the deceased was usually estimated, and the names of the spouse and/or parents might be incorrect or even missing.  If the deceased had been married more than once, sometimes the name of all spouses was given, but usually only the most recent spouse was named.

 


Adapted from work by Michael Angelini at www.michaelangelini.com              

 
  ~ The Lady of the Wheel (La Ruotaia), my first book, inspired by my genealogical research of Sicilian families.  It's a historical novella about foundlings and sulfur mine workers in 1860s Racalmuto, a town in central Sicily.
 
 
SICILIAN LINKS Sicilianit Is Sicily 'Italy'? The Sicilian Languge
Cognomi ~ Sicilian Surnames Ngiurii ~ Sicilian Nicknames Place-names as surnames Sicilian Coats of Arms
Foundlings The Sicilian Naming Convention Americanized Sicilian Given Names Converting Latin given names to Sicilian
La Bedda Sicilia ~ My history of Sicily Heritage Path ~ original Sicilian records Civil Record Format ~ 1820 - 1910 I'm a Sicilian American
My Lectures on Sicilian Genealogy Sicilian Occupations in Civil Records Sicilian Records at the Buffalo FHC The Thing
 
 

Generations:

Genesis

1 (Siblings)

2 3 4

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Gaetano & Rosina

1
Guy

2
Len

3
Ray

4
Phil

5
Millie

6
Connie

7
Mary

8
Tony

9
Ange

Family
List

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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