In a little over five hours, the author discovered the names of 17 ancestors of an Italian-American immigrant. What's his secret? -- Italian marriage allegations.
In the 19th century, Italian government officials established stringent requirements each couple had to meet before they could marry. The potential bride and groom took copies of their birth acts or baptismal records, along with marriage and death acts concerning previous spouses, and death or burial records of deceased parents or guardians before civic officials. After completing these prerequisites, and publishing the third marriage banns, the couple could proceed to the parish priest to be married.
According to Trafford R. Cole, Southern Italians maintained Napoleonic civil marriage records from 1809 until the time the nation implemented the civil vital system in the mid-19th century. (1) In marriage records, genealogists can find references to the certificates couples produced before officials. Actual copies of their paperwork were filed with the marriage allegations. The allegations are filed in the same order as the marriage records, so always note the marriage certificate number in order to find the allegation.
Marriage allegations, or in Italian allegati, often provide documentation for several generations of the bride and groom's ancestry. Although the records begin in 1809, according to Carolyn Ugolini, an Accredited Genealogist for Italy, they may contain copies of Catholic records showing a person's descent from individuals living in the 17th and 18th centuries. Have your Latin dictionaries handy, as Catholic clerics composed baptisms, marriages, and burials in the official language. These records are particularly valuable because many marriage allegations are available on microfilm whereas few Italian Catholic records are.
To find out if this time-saving, pedigree-extending record has been microfilmed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for your ancestral area, look for the word Allegati under the film notes section of the Family History Library Catalog for your specific locality. If the records are not available for your town, send off a request to the pertinent repository to have your ancestor's file photocopied. Make sure to cite the specific marriage date and certificate number found on the civil marriage act. Trafford R. Cole in Italian Genealogical Records: How to Use Italian Civil, Ecclesiastical, and Other Records in Family History Research, provides excellent Italian letter-writing guides for English speakers who lack the ability to correspond in Italian.
Italian record keeping practices make it faster for genealogists to trace their ancestry than in most of the Western World. Microfilmed allegati allow researchers to quickly extend lineages back into the 17th and 18th centuries.
(1) Cole, Trafford R. Italian Genealogical Records: How to Use Italian Civil, Ecclesiastical, and Other Records in Family History Research. Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry Incorporated, 1995.