The Italian family history records available to us on film in the U.S. are, for the most part, just the individuals’ vital records: birth, marriage, and death records. The Family History library rarely films Italian probate records, censuses, and other records that show entire households or offer us more biographical information.
So how do Italian American researchers find information about their ancestor’s households and everyday lives?
We write to archives and ask them to look through the military records, notarial records for us.
Sometimes we’re lucky, and we find a helpful archive employee who doesn’t mind wading through stacks of un-indexed papers for us. But really, that doesn’t happen often.
Enter the catasto onciario—
The catasto onciario is an Italian census record that lists an Italian familiy’s household goods, the names, marital status, (sometimes occupation), and ages of its family members, and more. It is a gold mine for researchers!
The catasto onciario has proved so popular among historians in recent years that Italian archives are now indexing or scanning them and putting them online.
The State Archive of Calabria, for example, is scanning and posting the catasti, organized alphabetically by comune (town) to their web site:
Some comuni, like the comune of Zumpano (below) are transcribing and indexing the catasto for their own locality:
And here we have a web site for a family who was kind enough to scan and post images not only of their ancestors appearing in the catasto, but the entire index, which is helpful to anybody searching for ancestors in the comune of Colledimacine:
As you can see from these examples, the effort to index, digitize, and make the catasti available online is not a unified effort–it is being done by a number of different entities (comuni, universities, state archives, and individual families), so there is no one hub that will tell you whether or not the catasti for YOUR ancestral comune are available online.
The best way to find out if any catasti for your ancestral paese are available online is by Googling the name of their comune, province, or region with the term “catasto onciario” included, then if you find nothing, create a Google alert for those search terms, so that you will be notified if and when the catasto for your ancestors’ town is finally posted!
Happy hunting! 🙂