This article will discuss the nitty gritty of what you need to request civil (birth, marriage, death) records from Italy. Everyone applying for citizenship via jure sanguinis will have to request their ancestor’s birth certificate from Italy, unless you have the original in hand. Some of you will also have to request marriage or death records. Hopefully none of you will have to request divorce records, since divorce was illegal in Italy before 1970 and divorce records are not open to the public.
Records requested from Italy must be certified copies, but do not require an Apostille or translation.
The True DIY Way
Requesting civil records from Italy the true DIY way is going to take a bit of perseverance and resourcefulness on your part, but it is a pretty straightforward process. You will need to have completed your genealogical research before you attempt to request any documents. Italian officials are not legally obligated to perform extensive document searches when a document is requested, so vague search parameters will not be accepted. Submitting multiple requests for Italian documents because you have incomplete or guessed-at information can get very time-consuming and costly.
What You Need
To successfully request documents from Italy, you will need the following information:
City (Citta), Comune, and Provence(Provincia) where ancestor’s life event occurred
Names, dates of birth, and places of birth of the involved parties
Date that the life event occurred (at least the year)
You will need the following materials for processing:
*Request Form Provided by the US Embassy. Fill this out and send it with your order.
*Letter of request This is to be sent in with your request form, to be polite. Manners!
*Photocopy of records you already have If you have any. Send these along to help process your request.
Signed photocopy of driver’s license This one is easy: take a photocopy of your drivers license (black and white is fine) and sign it. Done.
Stamps For putting on the envelope you send to Italy.
Envelope For sending your request across the pond.
Self-Addressed (not stamped!) Return Envelope You should provide a self-addressed envelope with your request, but leave off the stamps (unless you have Italian stamps, then go for it)
The following payments are optional and can be sent with your record request at your discretion:
*Processing fee If you decide to send this with your request, send it in Euros, and send no more than €5
*International Reply Coupon / €3 to €4 Euros to cover return costs
* Discussed in more detail below.
The Nitty Gritty
First things first. If you are going to be requesting documents from Italy without prior experience or know-how, I heartily recommend this book here:
This book contains literally everything you need to know about requesting records from Italy. The Appendix with addresses for Provinces in the back of the book is out of date – use the addresses listed in my post for requesting records Italian Records: ProvinceThere are many other books about Italian genealogical research, but this one is my personal favorite.
That being said, I will give you the basics of requesting documents below.
For the actual request forms, the US Embassy in Italy has created some pretty straight forward documents. Here you will find request forms for:
When using these forms, please indicate the option that requests the “estratto” of the document. The estratto is more detailed than the certificato. Also, write “La richieste serve per doppia cittadinanza per l’estero” and “in carte legale” somewhere on the request.
Letter of request
If you feel that you want to also send a letter with these request forms to explain your document request further – to explain your enclosures or to just be polite – a man named David Zerga has created an incredibly valuable website called David’s Italian Form Letters to Send to Italy. He walks you through the basics – including translations of polite salutations – and even has English translations for all of the Italian letter templates so that you know what you are saying. Please note that he still refers to Italian currency as the Lire – but Italy is now run entirely on the Euro. Another great letter writing resource is bab.la, where you will find many common phrases used in written correspondence translated for you. Additionally, templates for letters of request can be found in Italian Genealogical Records, and an interactive request letter writer can be found at Il Circolo Calabrese. Please make sure to include your email and phone number on your letter.
Photocopy of records you already have
If you have any photocopies or uncertified print-offs of the Italian documents you are requesting, I recommend sending these with your application. They may aid the officials in searching for your document.
Italian civil records offices can, but do not always, charge a processing fee for making copies of certificates. This information is rarely found on the Comune website.
If you decide to not send payment with your request, that is fine. I have done this before, and I received the document I requested anyway. If the vital records office requires payment, it will contact you somehow to request payment.
If you are in a particular hurry to get your document, you could send a processing fee with your application. I only recommend this to save you the time it will cost should the Provincia/Comune wait for payment to process your request. Send payment in Euros, as the records office would have to convert US Dollars to Euros for the money to be useful (and pay the associated fees). You can purchase Euros at airports, and I understand that Bank of America sells foreign currency. You should send no more than €5 to cover the processing fee for your request.
International Reply Coupon / €3 to €4 Euros to cover return costs
You should enclose a self-addressed return envelope with your request, so that the Comune can easily send your documents back to you.
Determining how to apply postage to this return envelope can be frustrating.
The US Embassy in Italy recommends sending an International Reply Coupon with your request. Most post office locations do not carry International Reply Coupons anymore, as they are not commonly requested. Thus, you may have difficulty finding an International Reply Coupon. The other issue is that Italian Comuni will rarely use a US Post Office to send mail, so this coupon may or may not be entirely worthless. If you can find an International Reply Coupon, they only cost about $2.20.
The other route to covering return postage is to enclose a few more Euros in your application – no more than €3 or €4. If you’re feeling overachieving, you could include both an International Reply Coupon and €3 to €4 with your application fee. We might as well cover all of our bases, here ;)
Of course, you could always opt to not provide either an International Reply Coupon or cash. I have certainly do this all the time. I receive my documents anyway.
Figure Out Where to Send Your Request
Time to pack up all of your request materials, and send it to the civil records office.
There are also countless blogs and forums on Italian citizenship where you can post questions and request information on the address of a Vital Statics Office. Here are a few links for you: ItalianGenealogy.com, ItalianCitizenship.FreeForums.org, MyItalianCitizenship.com.
Please note that some Comuni accept faxed document requests, which is free for you and greatly cuts down on processing time. This tends to be more the exception than the rule, however. You may be able to find this information at your Comune’s website (if one exists) or by posting to blogs and/or forums to gain information.
Time to send it off!
Once you send your application, you can expect the processing time to be about one to two months. If you have not heard from the Comune after one month, send a follow-up letter. Dave Zerga comes to the rescue here again, and provides a template for this letter here. You may also want to call the Comune, as well, if your Italian is decent or you know someone who speaks Italian well.
This Stinks, I Think I’ll Hire Someone Else to Do It
Does all of this seem a little overwhelming? I don’t blame you. Luckily for those of us who want to scream and pull our hair out at the thought of requesting documents from Italy, we can hire someone else to do it! Read this article about what you will need and who to hire: Hiring Someone Else to Request Italian Records for Me.