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Italian Military Records

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Archived military records (usually for those born in or before 1912) are in the provincial archives of their birth town.

More recent military records (for those born after 1912) are in the military tribunal offices for their birth town. The military districts cover a much larger area than the town.

I've worked in military records in Palermo on several occasions and while some are there, some just aren't. The wonderful military files I've seen in the provincial archives there and elsewhere have been limited to lista di leva. They include the birth date and location, names of parents, physical description, date of conscription and sometimes death or emigration. I've heard from archivists (working in the archives) that they have complete military files to 1912. They should include all the information you listed. The only files like that I've seen have been for folks only recently deceased (or still living) and out of the military district offices. Older records are sent to the provincial archives.

The lista di leva show the birth date, town of birth, names of parents and their towns of residence and occupations. I often use this method to locate the correct town when only the province is known. Since military service was (and is) mandatory, the lists are compiled from both civil birth and church baptism records (including illegitimate and foundling births), so I haven't yet found anyone missed. These records are arranged by birth year, classe 1894, for example.

This is a good method to determined the town of origin because the military lists were compiled from the civil and birth records and updated the year before the boys turned 18 to reflect all living males when the time came for their year of mandatory military service.

The only "if" is whether or not the archives has the ability and/or inclination to do such a search without knowing the town. Some do and some don't. This is a search I've occasionally done in person because the archives didn't do the search in response to a written request and there was an intense need to know on the part of the client. It is time-consuming because the records are arranged by year of birth, then by town. But it is certainly rewarding when the subject is located!

On one trip I copied the catalog (no longer in the reading room there) for the military records held in the Palermo provincial archives. For 1844, the only military districts represented are Termini and Cefalu and the only records are the summaries. For 1843 only Cefalu summaries. No records at all in 1845 and 1846. In fact, Termini district records don't appear again until 1876, and those only include Baucina, Ciminna, and Ventimiglia.The city of Termini doesn't appear again until 1891. These are the years of birth of the boys. This military record system was set in place in 1860 when Garibaldi "united" Italy, but wasn't well enforced for a few years. Highly unlikely that a boy under 18 could serve because it was too easy to determine his real age (unlike the US at the same time).

The summary (somario) is a list of all male children born in that year, and re-compiled when they were 18 and called for their year of service.

Mussolini didn't come to power until 1929. He pardoned those who missed military service because they had moved from the country as part of an effort to encourage those families to return to Italy. That affected many families who left Italy with young sons. Even if the man was born in 1900, he could still be called to serve as late as 1943 along with all the other Italian men. Amazing how old some of those recruits (most NOT volunteers) were!

My book on CD titled Sicily, Part 1 and Part 2 and is now available on 2 CDs. With a file for each town (plus many other files), it relates the history of Sicily as reflected in the photos, records and festivals of its towns.


Kathy Kirkpatrick Italy

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