International Institute of Genealogical Studies


International Institute of Genealogical Studies - LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

Understanding Latin in Italian Records

Every country-specific certificate program at The National Institute for Genealogical Studies includes courses for Religious Records. In many cases, the religious beliefs of our ancestors became a vital part of their family story. We explore the records of baptisms, marriages and burials, along with other religious ceremonies relating to their beliefs and customs, to discover information not found in the civil records.

In the course Italian: Catholic Church Records-Part 1, we will examine these records, but one of the first challenges may be language. A useful resource is the Italian Genealogical Word List for translating Italian to English. However, Latin may be a bigger challenge. Here are some tips.

A Lesson in Latin: Understanding the Italian Records

Latin is an inflected language in which all verbs are conjugated, and all the nouns and adjectives use different cases. This means that words have different endings according to the function they play in a sentence, so it really does not matter in what order the words in a sentence are presented. This is different than the English language.

Names and words can be seen in the normative, genitive, ablative, and accusative forms. These are defined as:

  • “Nominative (nominativus): Subject of the sentence.
  • Genitive (genitivus): Generally translated by the English possessive, or by the objective with the preposition of.
  • Accusative (accusativus): Direct object of the verb and object with many prepositions.
  • Ablative (ablativus): Used to show means, manner, place, and other circumstances. Usually translated by the objective with the prepositions “from, by, with, in, at.””[1]

Some examples include:

Nominative Genitive (of) ex + Ablative (from) Accusative Italian
Antoni-us Antoni-i ex Antoni-o Antoni-um Antonio
Joseph-us Joseph-i ex Joseph-o Joseph-um Giuseppe
Anna-a Ann-ae ex Ann-a Ann-am Anna
Joann-es Joann-is ex Joan-e Joann-em Giovanni

Recurrent words have different endings:

Nominative Genitive Accusative English
Fili-us Fili-i Fili-um Son
Fili-a Fili-ae Fili-am Daughter
Infans Infant-is Infant-em Infant

Months are often abbreviated:

English Latin Abbreviation(s)
September septembris 7ber, 7bris, VIIber, VIIbris
October octobris 8ber, 8bris, VIIIber, VIIIbris
November Novembris 9ber, 9bris, IXber, IXbris
December Decembris 10ber, 10bris, Xber, Xbris

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.

[1] “The 6 Cases of Latin Nouns,” ThoughtCo. ( : accessed 16 September 2019).

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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