As we research our ancestors and their family members, we will undoubtedly be faced with the challenge of locating their religious records within the communities where they spent their lives. In small rural areas, it may be easy as we locate the only village parish. However, it is not always as simple as we may think.
As we continue in the course Italian: Catholic Church Records-Part 1, our next task will be to Understand Ecclesiastical Jurisdictions & Archives and how to access the Parish records in local archives. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Diocese & Archdiocese
Diocese, spelled the same in Italian and English, is a group of parishes within a particular ecclesiastical district. Each diocese has a diocesan archive, usually named Archivio Diocesano or Archivio Storico Diocesano.
An archdiocese is a group of dioceses within a particular region (regione ecclesiastica). Some larger cities may contain the seat of the archdiocese as well as one of the dioceses within their jurisdiction. In these cases, the main offices are usually combined and the Archivio Diocesano located in the same building. These archives are usually quite organized, but their hours of operation are few. Often there is only one archivist who is also a priest with all the duties that come with that position.
Many diocesan archives will have their own websites containing contact information, hours, and descriptions about their collection. Research in the diocese archive is usually by appointment only so please be sure to write ahead for permission several weeks in advance before leaving for Italy on a research trip. Additionally, you should verify that they have the type of records you seek. An archive’s contents, what records have survived, and the procedure to access the records can vary widely. It is advisable to leave at least 50 euros as a donation after being allowed to access these records.
Some diocesan archives have the parish records for all the parishes within their jurisdiction prior to 1900. Other dioceses have records conserved in each individual parish.
The types of records usually found in a diocesan archive may include:
- Marriage supplements (which may contain a dispensation)
- Baptismal and Marriage records after 1900 (second copy)
- Records of Closed Parishes
- Service Records for Priests and Nuns
- The State of the Souls Records (stato delle anime)
These records will be invaluable to your Italian research.
Are you researching your Italian Catholic ancestors? Our course Italian: Catholic Church Records-Part 1 can help you to discover part of their stories through the records they left behind. Check the Course Calendar for the next time this course will be offered.
Visit our website for a complete list of online courses offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. Check our Course Calendar here.
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