[From the May 1997 Newsletter]
by Jim Grillo
For those in more advanced stages of research, Italian census records called Rivelli are a little known and surprisingly accessible source of information. Rivelli is an old Italian term meaning declarations and refers to records where a head of a household would declare or reveal the precise extent and nature of his or her property for the purpose of calculating a tax paid to a local prince and can also be considered tax records..
The record can be a treasure trove of genealogical information. It contains the name of the head of household, their age, the names of their father and mother, whether the father is alive, the name of the wife (if the household head is male), the names of the children, the ages of the male children and a detailed description of the personal property (beni mobili) and real estate (beni immobili) held. As such they provide more significant genealogical data than comparable U.S. census records created much later.
The records are found in Sicily (the author has found them in provinces of Trapani and Palermo) and recently many of them have been filmed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They are only useful, however, if your research has carried you back into at least the mid to late 1700's, well before the start of civil vital records. This means that you would have had to consult parish records either yourself or via a researcher in Italy to bridge the gap.
The years the census was taken were sporadic. The most recent was 1757/8, then 1747/8, 1714, 1681/2, (many of the preceding having been filmed) and finally 1636 and 1623. Of course, it varies from town to town as to what has been filmed as is the case with any other type of record. The records are hand written in Italian and are usually indexed at the beginning by first name.
With a little luck and perseverance you may find as I did (with the help of Louis Mendola who directly consulted the Rivelli of Gibellina at the State Archives in Palermo) that an ancestor of yours living in 1714 owned a small parcel of land, two rental houses and a pig, and rendered an annual payment of two ounces in local taxes to the Prince of Poggio Reale!
[Note: These types of census or tax records are found in other parts of Italy under different names such as catasti.
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