How to find Italian records for your Italian ancestry

how to find out if i have italian ancestors

In this post, I’m going to tell you about how to find Italian records.

First, let me tell you my story, which is related to today’s topic.

You can skip to the next section if you prefer.

How to find out if i have italian heritage

My Italian family

Back in 2001, my Argentinean grandmother received a letter from her Italian relatives whom she didn’t know. They were basically asking if we all existed on the other side of the world.

They knew they had family in Argentina and found my grandmother’s address somehow, but they didn’t know what to expect. They didn’t even know if someone would ever read that letter.

Luckily, my grandmother did get the letter and asked someone to translate it into Spanish for her, and she replied to them.

They did the same thing: they asked someone to translate the letter into Italian. That’s how they started exchanging letters.

After a few months, they decided to travel and meet us all in Argentina.

They were and are the loveliest people ever, and eventually convinced my parents to go and live in Italy since there were better opportunities there. And so we did.

My father was the first one to get Italian citizenship because his great-grandparents were Italian.

It took him a few months. Then my brother and I got it because our father was an Italian citizen. And my mom was the last one to get it because she was married to an Italian citizen.

Finding Italian ancestors

All of this is to say that if you have an Italian great grandparent, grandparent, or parent, you can get Italian citizenship.

If you’re from the United States, you’re likely to have Italian origins. In fact, between 1880 and 1914, more than 4 million Italians emigrated to the United States.

Back then, the United States was the main destination for Italian immigrants, with most first settling in the New York metropolitan area, but also in Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago, among other famous cities.

Most Italian immigrants were from the Southern regions of Italy, namely Campania, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, and Sicily.

If you think you might have Italian ancestors and you want to find out, do some research and be patient because it can take time.

Start with what you already know. For instance, does anyone in your family have an Italian surname? That might give you a clue.

You should also ask your parents and your grandparents. Ask someone you think might know.

Explore libraries, archives, and records. If you’re from a small town it might even be easier.

I was a child and didn’t really care about having another nationality.

But now I realize having two nationalities is a real advantage and a privilege.

Finding Italian ancestors

How do I know if I have Italian heritage?

If no one in your family can give you information about potential Italian ancestors, one option is to take a DNA test.

There are two possible results: you either have Italian heritage in your blood or you don’t.

If you don’t, then you should probably stop getting your hopes up.

If what you want is to live in Italy, you still have a few options: study or work in Italy or fall in love with an Italian and eventually get married to them.

If according to the test’s results, you do have Italian heritage, the test’s reports might also tell you where in Italy some of your family lives nowadays.

Some DNA companies will allow you to contact your relatives who share with you the same Italian heritage.

They might have useful information so, why not send them a message?

Ways to research your Italian heritage online

Ways to research your Italian heritage online

There are some websites that might help you search for records of your family and guide you in finding Italian records.

The Italian Catholic Church

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Church records can be very helpful in your Italian genealogy research. Unlike civil records, church records were recorded systematically and uninterruptedly since the 1500s.

If you know your family’s ancestral town, you may search for town parishes through The parish search engine, can also be used to locate churches throughout Italy.

While these directories only provide information on active parishes, records of churches that are no longer in use might have been transferred to a nearby church, such as the town’s Mother Church or cathedral.


FamilySearch is the largest source of online records for Italian genealogical research. You need to know your family’s ancestral town to search records.

If you have this piece of information, you might be able to find records of births, marriages, deaths, Catholic Church records, censuses, military conscriptions, and more.

The National archives

If you’re from the USA, The National Archives provides an index of over 800,000 Italians who migrated to the United States between 1855 and 1900.

Records may include each passenger’s name, age, the town of the last residence, destination, sex, occupation, literacy, and country of origin, among other details.

Portale Antenati

The Portale Antenati (The Ancestors Portal) offers access to records held in State Archives throughout Italy, including civil registration documents and military records.

Though some State Archives’ records have yet to be digitized and indexed, this portal also includes contact information and collection details for each archive.

Comuni Italiani

Comuni-Italiani provides contact information of municipal offices throughout Italy. This resource provides a list of all towns in each province and may assist you in locating ancestral towns for your family.

You’ll find information and statistics on Italy’s regions, provinces, and municipalities, and is a useful tool for locating Town Archives throughout Italy.

Your research will most likely lead you to the Town Vital Records Office for the community where your ancestors lived.

Find Italian ancestors

Good luck with your research!

Still translating in your head? Wanna speak Italian for real? Check out Stefano's courses to think directly in Italian and become fluent fast!


I’m originally from Argentina but grew up in Italy, so I’m bilingual. I love languages, which is why I studied French and Linguistics in London. I’m a grammar nerd and I love finding out about the meaning of words.

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