September 9, 2017

The Search for our Ancestry (XL)

Sicilian and Italian Civil Records on Familysearch
By Angelo Coniglio
FamilySearch refers to the website I have previously discussed the on-line records available there, but the site is constantly updated, so I’ll go over its use again, with some additional information. The records referred to are the digitized forms of the microfilms of records that patrons must read at LDS Family History Centers. As of this writing nearly 100% of the microfilms have been digitized, and most are on line. 
Completion of the process is awaiting agreement between the Italian government, which owns the records, and the LDS, which has filmed and digitized them. The negotiations involve users’ degree of access to the on-line records. Soon, the entire cache of records, civil and ecclesiastical, that the Mormon church has had microfilmed will be available. Some records will only be available on computers at an LDS Family History Center, but many will be accessible on home computers.
To view a town’s records on FamilySearch, enter the site and sign in. At the top, select “Search”, then “Catalog”. A box will come up headed “Place”. Enter the name of the town. Several options may appear; select the one that matches your town and province of interest, and press the blue “SEARCH” button at the bottom. If microfilms of civil or church records are available for your town, you’ll see “Italy, [Province name], [Town name] – Census/Civil/Church Records”. Pick the type you want. The following paragraphs apply to civil records. Census and church records will be addressed in future columns.  You’ll see (for example) “Registri dello stato civile di Serradifalco (Caltanissetta), 1820-1910” (Register of Civil Records for the town of . . .)  Select that link. Then the name of the town and province will appear at the top of the page with a message in red: “Records of Italy, [Province name], Civil Registration, are available online, click here.”  Avoid the temptation to click there. 
Instead, simply scroll down the page, where you’ll see a table showing dates and types of records. For example, ‘Nati 1820 – 1835’ (Birth records from 1820 through 1835). At the right of each line, you’ll see up to three icons: a ‘reel’ indicating that the records are on microfilm; a ‘camera’ meaning the records are viewable on line; and a ‘magnifying glass’ which tells you that the records are indexed and can be searched by name. At this writing, most records are available on line, microfilms are no longer available, and all records have not been indexed, so the only symbol will be the ‘camera.’ 
The on-line records on FamilySearch are images of the microfilms, and must be ‘scrolled’ through, similar to viewing the records on a microfilm reader. This is simplified by use of a strip of ‘thumbnails’, which can be scrolled quickly to zero in on the desired image. Civil records are usually kept chronologically, with an index of the year’s records immediately following each year.  The index at the end of a year will give the ‘Numero di Ordine’, or record number of a particular birth, marriage or death. Using that number, the image of the record itself may be accessed. Records are displayed on line with ‘image numbers’ that do not match the page numbers in the original register, nor the numbers of the records. 
A drawback of the FamilySearch system is that once the records for a given year are accessed, each annual index must be found. When the name of interest is found in an index, you must note the image number of the index and the Numero di Ordine of the record. Then page back to find the image of the record of interest. Birth records are generally filmed at three records per on-line image, marriages are two records per image, and deaths are four records per image, so you can estimate how many images back you must go to find the record you want. When you find it, make a note of the image number for future reference and to include in your documentation of the record’s source. If you need more records from the same year, go back to the yearly index (whose image number you had wisely recorded). Once found, an image can be downloaded to your computer. Another approach is to open the image of the index in one window and the record images in another, then switch back and forth between the index and the records. 
Coniglio is the author of the book The Lady of the Wheel, inspired by his Sicilian research. Order the paperback or the Kindle version at Coniglio’s web page at has helpful hints on genealogic research. If you have genealogy questions, or would like him to lecture to your club or group, e-mail him at