Many ancestors who applied for Italian citizenship had to provide certified birth, marriage and death certificates. These records could be obtained by writing to the civil registry office of the town (comune) where they lived. You will need to know the commune where your ancestor lived, which you can determine with maps and gazetteers. You will also need their birth date.
When you want to apply for Italian citizenship, you must have a certificate of birth from the comune (municipality) where your ancestor was born. If lucky, this can be obtained online through the Ancestry indexes. These indexes are much more than a simple list of names and dates; they contain transcripts from the actual certificates, and you can see what is on them. In Italy, civil registration of births, marriages and deaths is the responsibility of the municipal authorities [ufficio di stato civile]. Most towns have their archive that contains the original records. Older records may also be held at the provincial archives. You must often write to the local registrar’s office [ufficio anagrafe] to request a birth or marriage certificate.
The clerk in the ufficio will need to know your ancestor’s full name, date of birth and parents’ names to find the appropriate record. You should always request the certificate in writing – oral requests or letters written in a foreign language or with numerous grammar mistakes will almost certainly be rejected. The clerk will then send you an extract of the records they have on file; this usually contains only the most basic information and does not replace the original certificate itself. Italian genealogical research was difficult, if not impossible, until a few years ago. Few government archives had websites with helpful finding aids, and few records had been converted to digital format. Thankfully, it’s much simpler than ever to access Italy birth records thanks to online sources.
The process for obtaining Italian marriage records is similar to birth certificates. Individuals should write to the local civil registry (Ufficio di Stato Civile) at the comune where their ancestor was born. The letter should contain the full name and sex of the person, as well as their parents’ names. The records must be searched because the records are not available online or on microfilm. The request must be in Italian, and the comune will require a cashier’s check or international money order for the search fee. The best way to access these records is on the official Antenati website, which is in Italian, but includes an English language option. The website is organized by province, civil registration period, town, type of record, and year. Depending on the particular comune, you may have to do some trial and error to locate the correct form. It is important to check all documents word by word and be sure they have the exact spelling of names, ages, etc. It will avoid problems later when they are used for immigration or other legal matters.
When an immigrant became a United States citizen (naturalized), they must have filed a Declaration of Intention and later a Petition to Naturalize. These records can be obtained by searching the courts in the state and county they lived in for several years. In some cases, searching for these records in the state and county where their spouse resided is necessary since traditional couples in Italy married in the wife’s municipality. A person applying for Italian citizenship by descent must present a “family tree” of certified birth, marriage and death records and naturalization records. In some cases, these documents must be authenticated by the embassy or consulate of the country where the ancestor was born.
If an ancestor is alive and cannot locate their naturalization record, they must make the request themselves, even though you may help them with this process. They must provide a Certificate of Non-Existence of Records from USCIS or a Letter of Negative Search from the government agency in charge of the counties where they resided to obtain their documentation. Suppose you wish to assist a living relative with their request for these documents. In that case, it is important that they are aware of what is required and be ready to comply with the official recommendations made by Homeland Security or the immigration office to receive their documentation. It can be a lengthy and frustrating process for the individual, so it is always best to work with an experienced and professional genealogist.
You can find information on an Italian ancestor’s death in the same place where you would obtain birth or marriage records. The death record called a “stato civile” or “anagrafe,” is available from the comune where the event occurred. A person requesting the certificate must justify their need and provide their full name, date of birth, and parent’s names. The registrar may also require a copy of the obituary. Using maps and gazetteers, locate the town where your ancestor lived and the comune in which they were registered. If your ancestor was naturalized, you might be able to identify their immigration or citizenship papers from local, county, state, or federal offices. These papers frequently contain spelling mistakes in names and dates, which can be challenging to fix.