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I am looking for the birth certificate of my great grandfather who was born in the year 1875 or 1876 in Novara, Piedmont, Italy. He died on 19 July 1958 in Argentina.

I went to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and searched at familysearch.org but there is little information. Where can I find more information?

  • Did you just search in the record databases or did you also read the FamilySearch Wiki page for Italy? [familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/… ]. You may need to write to the local registrar, rather than finding your ancestor's information on-line. – bgwiehle Mar 25 '14 at 14:34
  • @TomH I searched the online database of the church and now I am reading the link that you told me. Also I send mails and e-mails to catholic churches and to the Italian civil register from different Italian communes but the answers explain that the birth certificate couldn't not be found. A friend is going to Italy next month and will try to find birth certificate but we are not sure where to look for and where to go. – Roby Sottini Mar 25 '14 at 15:31
  • I think you meant to address that comment to @bgwiehle, not me. – TomH Mar 25 '14 at 16:36
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    Did you know that you can use the edit button beneath your Question to revise it with additional details that come out of Comments? That way it can standalone without requiring future readers and potential answerers to read a trail of comments. – PolyGeo Mar 25 '14 at 23:19
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There are a couple of related questions here which might help you. Is there a single place I could go in Italy to view birth records from Northern Italy from 1750-1850? has an answer with information about the start of civil registration in Italy.

There is also a general question How can I determine what records are available in a particular locale? with many ideas about where to find records, both online and offline. In an answer to that question, our fellow user JustinY introduced his finding aid Find a Record. (Find a Record has changed since JustinY first brought it online, so the paragraphs that follow describe the results I got on the original system when I used it in 2014.)

When I go to Find a Record and type in "Novara, Italy" I get several different choices, so the first step might be to see if there is more than one place with that name, and to look for information in your family records to determine which Novara, Italy is the right one. (I am adding another section below a dividing line to talk about other finding techniques.)

Find A Record directs me to the FamilySearch collection Italy, Births and Baptisms, 1806-1900. The catalog description reads:

Index to selected Italy births and baptisms. Only a few localities are included and the time period varies by locality. Due to privacy laws, recent records may not be displayed. The year range represents most of the records. A few records may be earlier or later.

One technique for testing an online collection is to put in the place name and a wider date range than you need. A search for Novara, Italy with the range "1870 - 1880" yields 1,713 records, so there is some coverage for this area. But the coverage for the area may not be complete, and if you click on the link "Learn More" in the catalog listing, it sends you to the article about the collection in the FamilySearch Wiki, which says:

This index is not complete for any particular place or region.

The Family Search Wiki on the Piedmont region is really just a stub, but it says:

The State Archive (Ufficio dello Stato Civile) of each province is located in the provincial capital. Municipalities provided the state archives with copies of their original civil registration during the years 1809-1865.

From there the Wiki directs readers to another stub about Piedmont jurisdictions that says:

Tribunal (Tribunale)

From 1866 to the present time, copies of civil registration are sent to the Tribunale (much like a county court in the United States) from the towns that lie within its jurisdiction. Each province has several tribunali.

Town/Municipality (Comune)

A town (comune) recorded and still records the births, marriages, and deaths of everyone within its jurisdiction. This may include outlying smaller villages and farms. The original is kept in the comune while copies were sent to the state archives (1809-1866) and to the tribunale (1866-present).

Hamlet/Ward/Village (Frazione)

A hamlet is referred to as a frazione. A comune may have several frazioni within its boundaries. Usually the civil records for a frazione are kept in the larger comune.

If the record cannot be found in the comunes, is it possible that the local record has been filed incorrectly? Have you also asked the tribunale?

The FamilySearch Wiki has an article Italy Gazetteers that describes some of the research materials held in the Family History Library and how to look for the modern and historical place names.

Whether you do the research yourself, or hire a professional, try to collect enough information from family sources so that you can look in the right location, and determine that the record you find is your relative and not someone else with the same name. Writing a brief biographical sketch, with a list of all the sources you've checked and the search results (both positive and negative) is often useful -- it gathers all your information in one place and sometimes helps you think of other records you might have missed.

These links may also be useful:


I also wanted to add a couple of examples to show why it is important to review all the things you think you know, because it is very easy to create a roadblock for yourself. Ask yourself this question: How do I know that my great-grandfather was born in Novara, Italy? How can I find other sources of information about where he was born?

Case 1: I am the youngest of many children. I remembered that my father was "from" a particular place. What I remembered was the name of the largest big city that was closest to his hometown. If I had written to that city, which is in a different county, and I had asked for copies of records about his birth, they would have told me they didn't have a record for him. I would have been looking for him in the wrong place. (Fortunately my older brother was able to give me the name of the small town where he was from, and after that it was easy to find him in the census and in other records.)

Case 2: We knew the birthplace of my husband's grandfather from family stories, and it was easy to find many records about him that mentioned both his name and his birthplace. The town is small, so I have confidence that these records are about him and not someone else with the same name. However, there is ONE record which gives his birthplace as the name of a larger town which is nearby. If that record had been my starting place, instead of the other information I had from his family, I never would have found any of the records about him, just like I wasn't able to find my father until I had the right place.

If you have someone's birthplace from a death certificate, that is pretty far removed in time from when he was born, and it's possible that the person who gave that information for the certificate made a mistake, or didn't know the right town.

So one technique is to find out what information would have been recorded in the birth records in Italy at that time, and then look for other records which also have the same information that the birth certificate might have. Collect records which have enough information on them that you can be sure that it is your grandfather. Now use those records as clues when you look for your grandfather's birth certificate. One of them might list a birthplace which is nearby, and that could be your grandfather's actual birthplace.

The other thing I would suggest is to collect records about your grandfather's siblings. If you look at an entire family group, that gives you a bigger group of records to look at, and there may be clues on the siblings' records that your grandfather's records don't have. Sometimes it can also help to look at the records of associates and neighbors, if you know of neighbors who came from the same area. See QuickLesson 11: Identity Problems & the FAN Principle by Elizabeth Shown Mills. (FAN = friends associates neighbors)

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  • IMHO the FamilySearch Wiki can be very frustrating to use. There is a lot of useful information there but finding the article you need is often due to luck. – Jan Murphy Mar 25 '14 at 18:39
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    For immigrants, the FAN principle extends to neighbours from the old country who still associate in the new, and those left behind. Current city directories may show where a surname concentrates, helping find original locations. – bgwiehle Mar 25 '14 at 19:10
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It's true Family Search does not have records for the Province of Novara. The only source I have found is ancestry.com. There are two draw backs to their data base. One is it cost money. For the World Wide data base it's about $45 per month. The second is the records are not indexed. You won't get the birth certificate but the announcement record transcribed by the town clerk. If you do find your great grandfather's record then you'll also get the name of your great great grandfather and great great grandmother their ages, profession and the town of residence or birth. Then the search continues.

Besides birth records, there are death and marriage records. Before you pay any fees to ancestry, I suggest you check to see if they have records for the particular city in the Province. You may have to sign up for the free trial to do the search but can cancel before any fee is due.

To do this search select search on the drop down select records. The screen will change and a map will appear. On the map or a selection box select Europe the Italy. There are about 150 different records you can search. There are three records you'll look for. They all start with Verbania .... Select the one with about 2.5 million records. Once you select this, the screen changes and you have a choice province. Select Novara. Then it will show the cities in this province. Select the city you want. After you select this the records available for the city will appear. If you want Birth select Nata and the years available will display. That's as far as you can get without paying a fee.

If you decide to continue then select the year. Once the record appears either in front of the record ( first 5 pages) or in the rear there will be an Index. To get to the rear quickly look to see how many pages in the record and type in the next to last page #.

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    Welcome to G&FH.SE! I have edited your answer to make it a little more readable -- if you want to make further changes or improve the formatting yourself, you can use the 'edit' link under your message. – Jan Murphy Apr 18 '15 at 19:52
  • You asked "Since your great great grandfather immigrated to Argentina, do you know of any web sites that may have immigration records for Argentina? I'm trying to find the town in Italy where my ancestors came from that immigrated to Italy." Start with the other questions on the site about Argentina, and if those don't answer your question, please ask a new question. I have removed your email address, but if you like, you can edit your user card and post it there. – Jan Murphy Apr 18 '15 at 19:58
  • To edit your your user card click here. – PolyGeo Apr 18 '15 at 23:06

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