What you need to know about reconstructed civil records

Avezzano 1915 Earthquake that killed 9000 persons in Avezzano aloneEarthquakes, wars, fires, floods, landslides, tsunami etc. can all be responsible for the destruction of civil birth, marriage and death records.  When this happens research into your ancestry can present brick walls that are not easily overcome.

After the disaster is over a Tribunal is set up and citizens are asked to present themselves, bringing whatever documentation they may have in their possession, and make a declaration of their civil records.

Many of these citizens had little or no education and were often illiterate meaning that a clerk or other family member must complete the declaration, sometimes without knowing all the detials. Birth records are the most important with marriage and death records taking second place as they are needed for inheritance purposes.

Once the Tribunal has completed its task the anagrage clerks begin to create, what will become the offical ‘reconstructed’ record.  Once this is completed, the declarations are usually destroyed.

In some smaller communities the clerks will reconstruct the civil records from the parish records with the cooperation of the priest, assuming the parish records also survived.

There is plenty of room for error in both information provided and in transcription.

When you are faced with this situation consider first the likelhood of finding records.  If your ancestor left before the disaster and did not return, it is very unlikely you will find a record unless a family member who remained in Italy reconsructed the record for inheritance, or other reasons.  You should do the search anyway but be prepared for the worst.  If you are seeking this record for citizenship purposes you should then contact the local priest for a baptism record that the Consulate will accept in these circumstances.

If you are looking for a male ancestor you should try to locate a military record since this will give you the names of his parents and MAY allow you to move your family tree backwards. Unfortunately it will be much more difficult to trace a female ancestor especially if the marriage took place in a different town.


  1. Where can you go, to find a person in Italy [1800s] when you have a year of birth, citta of birth, exact marriage data, parent’s names, but that citta doesn’t find a record? Ann, you found that my bisnonno lived in Napoli, but a document says he’s “from Otranto” [not on antenati yet]. I wrote Otranto, Lecce, & they searched a few years before & after the year I gave, but found niente! I haven’t written Brindesi yet, I hear they have some of Lecce’s records? Should I write the church in Otranto [which is a Cathedral]? I understand they don’t have local church records. Or do I contact the archives in Napoli where he lived & died? I am So frustrated. I may just call on you once more, Ann, to flesh this elusive man out, if you’re amenable to that. mille grazie e vada con dio


      • From experience I have not found Atenati records easier than thos posted on Family Search. Although all records are not accessable on Family Search. Some must be accessed at a FHC and then some restrictions exist.
        Your comments are valued, Thank you.


      • I was just looking at my E-mails & can’t believe I didn’t reply to you till now Ann. Actually you found his 3 page Marriage record for me [2016] & sent it to me – that’s where it said he was “di Otranto.”I’ve tried to translate it [along with dozens of other documenti di famiglia]. I did not know he was from Otranto, Lecce, so I Emailed them, but they said they looked at records from 1848 -1841 & he wasn’t on it. He’s still not on Antenati or family search. It’s maddening, I know the birth & death dates of my bisnonne, but not the bisnonni ! weird. Any ole who, if Otranto doesn’t have it & Napoli, nor Antenati & family search don’t have it I’m at a loss where to go next.
        By the way, thanks at least for finding that document. It had new information for me. I know you’re one busy lady & thanks for all your Face Book videos. vada con dio, Kathy


  2. Daniel, Thanks but Family search doesn’t have all Italian records. The only ones on family search that I did find are Ferdinando’s parents, his wfe, Emilia’s parents, & a few of his & her siblings! But not him. FS & Antenati have lots of data on Napoli, where they wed & Emilia was born, but he, on the marriage record Ann got for me, is “de Otranto” in Lecce, Puglia. It had his age, but no DOB. I’ve written, well E-mailed the Archives in Otranto, Lecce, & Brindisi, even Napoli where he died. Only Lecce answered, they looked a few years before & after he is thought to be born & found niente! I only have a ca. year of birth & no date of death. Not much to go on. So, once more, I may have to go to Ann to search this. . . soon.


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