Catasto Onciario – How and why it was created

In 1740 the Catasto Onciario was proposed by King Charles III (who reigned from 15 May 1734 – 6 October 1759) and and by 1742 regulations had been sent out to all the towns in the Regno delle Due Sicilie with instructions to complete the work by the end of January 1743. Ten years later, in May 1753 the sent out Commissioners to the non-compliant towns to do the job for them.  Towns in Frosinone did the Catasto between 1742 and 1754.

The people were not happy with this new form of taxation and there was much resistance in many towns.  Previously taxes were either paid on consumed goods (gabelle) or on property and income (battaglione), the former being preferred as the people were reluctant to disclose the value of their property and holdings.

First order was to create a list of persons falling into various categories.  The local priest was ordered to create a special Stato d’anime to accomplish this to  include

  • Residents,
  • Widows and unmarried women,
  • foreigners,
  • non-resident property owners,
  • clergy,
  • Churches and other religious institutions.

A committee was formed to do the property and livestock evaluations. Six deputies were elected; 2 from the upper classes, two from the ‘mediocre’or middle class and two from the ‘inferior’ class. In addition there were four scrutineers consisting of two citizens and two ‘forestieri’ (strangers or foreigners) whose function was simply to supervise the recording of the evaluations.

There were taxes to be paid as follows:

  • Head tax: head of the family up to age 60, all family members living under the same roof
  • Income (labour) tax: all males (14-18 year olds paid less) calculated on ‘expected’ income for the various trades
  • Property tax:
  • Livestock tax:
  • Tax on money lent on interest

Note: the Head tax was not paid by those who lived on revenue from lending money or renting property or by those who had a profession, like Doctors, lawyers etc.

Thus: the farm labourer had to pay the Head tax but the lawyer did not!

The appraisal of the land and buildings depended largely on the professional capacity of the estimators, agriculturalists and their knowledge of the territory. Each day they began at a defined point and worked in a circular manner until they arrived back at the beginning.  Each day their evaluations were written on the ‘squarcifogli’ (scraps of paper) and transferred to the ‘libro dell’Onciario’ or Appraisal book’.

 

Cocozza family of Vallegrande in the catasto onciario of PIcinisco

When they finally began the task of putting it all together, the book was organized in several parts, compiled in alphabetical order by first name of the Head of the Household of each nuclear family:

  • The nuclear families consisted of the Head of Household, followed by his wife, his children, other family members and finally those living in the house that were not related. This was then followed by other members of the town in the order described in the Stato d’anime above.
  • The tax pertaining to each person was noted beside their name, except, of course for those living ‘nobly’.
  • This was followed by a description of their holdings starting with the house, whether owned or rented, the land and its boundaries, the type of agriculture and finally an estimate of their income.
  • Then the description of animals, if these were rented or loaned to others and the estimate of income from this.
  • Finally the total and the amount payable in taxes.

How did they pay?

For many people the barter system was used almost exclusively amongst the lower classes so this Catasto was a difficult tax for most citizens.

The Catasto was called the ‘Onciario’ because the ‘oncia’ was a virtual currency used to calculate income and taxes.  Legal tender money was the ‘ducato’ whose subunits were the ‘carlino’, ‘grana’ and ‘cavallo’.  These subunits were the equivalent of one tenth, one hundredth and one thousandth of the ‘ducato’.  The ‘oncia’ used for the calculation corresponded to three ‘carlini in all instances, and to six ‘carlini’ for the income derived from animals.

DENOMINATIONS OF NEAPOLITAN COINS  (from italyheritage.com)

  • “Carlino”: a small coin in gold and silver, first minted under Charles I, from whom the name. Equivalent to10 grani, 20 tornesi, 0,4368 lire until 1784, 0,4249 lire from 1784 to 1814.
  • “Cavallo”: ancient Aragonese coin in copper, circulating in the Neapolitan kingdom until October 1862. Equivalent to 0,0036 lire until 1784; to 0, 0035 from 1784 to 1814.
  • “Ducato”: silver coin circulating in the Kingdom of Naples and later in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies until 1865.
  • “Grano”: equivalent to 2 tornesi or 3 quattrini, 12 cavalli, 0,0437 lire until 1784 and 0,0425 lire from 1784 to 1814.

However, this new tax system did not fulfil the purpose of providing a fair tax system for all and in the end the King gave in and the towns were once again able to choose whether to pay with the ‘gabello’ system or the Catasto.

How does this Catasto benefit your family tree?

It provides a microcosm of the socio-economic system in place in the 1750’s that cannot be obtained elsewhere. The family structure, professions, property and livestock are all described.  Your ancestors emigrated mainly due to poverty or persecution; will you discover they were middle class in the 1700’s?  Some of you will be fortunate to find parish records that will take you back to the 1500’s but for others parish records may not be an option and the Catasto Onciario may be a valuable tool.

Buying a digital copy of the Catasto can be expensive as each page will be digitized and charged even if blank.  In 2020 the cost for each page is 2,08 eurocents per page.  The archives will also search for the page for your family but you will need to know the name of the Head of the Household.  Alternately you could request all the pages with your family surname.  Unless you have some big research project in mind you won’t need the ‘extra’ pages, like the squarcifogli or Stato d’anime.  Costs vary from 200 to 2000 Euro or more for the full Catasto.

Local historians in several towns have books published of the Catasto.  These are very useful as they transcribed the records making it so much easier to identify your family and their possessions.  Unfortunately you don’t get images of the documents, just the transcription.  As far as I can tell there are no published books of the Catasto for the towns in the Province of Frosinone.

If you would like to try ordering yourself the list of towns can be found here: https://angelresearch.files.wordpress.com/2020/08/elenco_catasto_onciario_napoli3.pdf (its will download to your computer)

If you would like us to take care of getting a quote and then requesting the digitization let us know.

We will hold off ordering until December 31st 2020 so we can let you know if others are interested in the same file and costs can be shared.

Comments
2 Responses to “Catasto Onciario – How and why it was created”
  1. Wendy R says:

    Hi Ann. I am interested in some information from these records. What information do I give you? I was not sure what columns to list or if I should go through and list Comune provincia distretto circondario comune diocesi archivio, for each one I am interested in. THanks

    Wendy

    On Sat, Nov 7, 2020 at 11:40 AM Angel Research and Genealogical Services wrote:

    > Ann posted: ” In 1740 the Catasto Onciario was proposed by King Charles > III (who reigned from 15 May 1734 – 6 October 1759) and and by 1742 > regulations had been sent out to all the towns in the Regno delle Due > Sicilie with instructions to complete the work by the end ” >

    Like

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