The Jewish Genealogy Association
(Excerpt from GenAmi No 21)
by Micheline Gutmann, preliminary researches done by Francine Pallard
Complements from Jean-Marc Ovazza
Genealogical research in Italy could seem difficult but in reality what is unusual is not the number of sources but the number of genealogists who carry out research. For Italians, genealogy is only by succession, so it is necessary to speak about family history. By doing this it is possible to find a great number of sources which we will outline in this article.
A - Methodology
In GenAmi issue 20, article John Philip Coletta, a complete strategy for research in Italy. It is essential to read this document before going any further. Here is a brief overview of sources.
Libraries in Italy
The sources are mainly found in libraries: either a general bibliography where many Jews appear, or accounts concerning the Jews of a
city or an area (Venice, Leghorn, Mantoue. Milan, Piedmont... etc), or of the family stories like that of Norsa (see GenAmi
issue 12) and of Finzi or Colorni (Judaica Minore, of Vittore Colorni).
Avotaynu review contains many articles on research in Italy, GenAmi has a CD-Rom of the published articles.
Mario Modiano, of Athens, published two booklets on the families Modiano and Modigliano. The Saltiel family was also studied.
Florence - Piazza della Signoria (Sylvia Riveline document)
Civil records (BMD) started in 1866 in the boroughs. These acts are full of information.
The registers are indexed. It is necessary to ask the town hall for an integral record B.M or D for historical purpose and to send
a photocopy front & back of your identity card and the reference of the decree authorizing to deliver copy of these records.
In the Jewish cemeteries, the tombs are well maintained many still remain some of which are very old, it is necessary to go there.
You can write to the local Rabbi, visit the community.
The book of the Italian Holocaust by Liliana Piciotto contains more than 8 000 names of those deported.
The Centre of Jewish studies on the Italian Judaism in Tel Aviv contains approximately 6,000 files.
We explored the list of LDS microfilms of the Jews of Italy, which is on the inventory CD of IAJGS. It is perhaps not complete but there are at least films for Mantoue, Cremone, Modena, Parma, Pesaro, Urbino, Reggio Emilia, Verone.
There is a list of name registration for the old Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1809 found by entering key words Italy and Toscana.
B – "Our Italian ancestors"
Stamp to celebrate emancipation of Italian jews (given by Marc Margarit)
Association member of the French Federation of genealogy (FFG) in the same college as GenAmi. Then Micheline Gutmann represents this association on the FFG board.
General works on the Jews of Italy
Dictionaries of the surnames, dictionaries of the authors, bibliographies, history from the Middle Ages to the present day, Inquisition, Jews during the
second world war, history of the Jewish bankers, immigration, emigration.
Please note among the many works the census of 1841 by Michel Luzzati, Index of all the consultable Italian bibliographies in the national Library. As well as the alphabetical list of Italian families by Sergio Della Pergola (including Carmi from Carpentras and a line of Montel from Turino andAlessandro od Piedmont), several chapters on the lawsuits of Venice against the Jewslike from 1570 to 1681).
Files on the history of Communities
Towns : Ancone, Ascoli, Asti, Bitonto, Catagne, Chieri, Citta di Castello, Cremone, Cuneo, Este, Ferrare, Florence, Fossano, Genoa, Gorizia, Gradisca d'Isonzo, Lanciano, Livorno (several works), Lugo, Mantoue, Milan, Modene, Monferrato, Padova, Palermo, Perugia, Pisa, Pitigliano, Reggio di Calabre, Reggio Emilia and Scandiano, Soncino, Syracusa, Rodi, Rome, Riva del Garda, Terni, Trieste, Turin, Udine, Venice, Vercelli, Verone
Regions : Frioul, Lazio, Lombardie, Malte, Naples, Ombrie, Piedmont, Puglia, Sardaigne, Sicilia, Toscane, Venetia,
Families : Almansi, Ascarelli, Bassani de Parme et ceux de Vérone, Bassevi, Besso de Trieste, Carcassona de Sardaigne, Citone, Civitalli, Colorni, Contini, Corcos, Corinaldi, Curiel, Da Pisa, Della Pergola, Di Cori, Foa, Forti, Grassini, Guastalla et Lonzana-Formiggini de Modène, Montcalvo, Morpurgo et Moscati, Orvieto, Salmoni, Funaro et Bonaventura, Reichenbach, Senigalia, arbres de familles de Soncino, Traboti, Vitta de Lyon, descendance du couple Allessandro Vitale et Emma Del Vecchio, Terracina-Zarfati de Rome, Volterra, Zamorani.
Other services proposed by Marc Margarit
Addresses of libraries in Italy (see on his site), addresses of the communities, contact historians, the museums, research list of the names. The library also contains works concerning other Mediterranean countries.
C- Internet Sites
Old map of the city of Venice (Gérard Silvain collection)
D- GenAmi Library
We suggest you refer to our library contents list.
However the main works are:
E- Invaluable works of our member Jean-Marc Ovazza
The Italian Jewish communities were certainly very sedentary. The members knew each other, their parents, cousins and their lineage,
over very long periods. Whilst that is a very interesting part it also makes obtaining information very difficult. The mistrust of
foreigners is very important. This reflex is all the more present as the community feels in danger. Anti-Semitism is also present in
According to my very small experiment the best genealogical approach is to be presented as or by a member of a family or with a name known in the community, but it is not always sufficient. A lineage is also a history and culture and to be able to research it requires an attitude of understanding accompanied by a will to adapt to the culture and the history of the community. That requires it to be impregnated, to re-find a past which sometimes has escaped us.
Venice Ghetto today (photo Caroline Guillot)
The civil files
I used three files:
Depending on the dates, the first two files can hold the "registri degli uffuci di raised" or registers of the acts of conscriptions which are also a source of important information.
Genealogies already carried out as they are rather rare, they should be mentioned.
As I said, to know the history of the Jews of Italy it is an essential precondition to know them, for this I can only advise reading:
- The Jews in fascist Italy, by Renzo De Felice, 2001, New York, Ed.Enigma Books, 777p
- Benevolence and Betrayal, by Alexander Stille, 1991, New York, Ed Picador, 365p
Research on the Italian Jewish communities can be compared with walking on razer wire.
The Jews of Italy are very proud of their omnipresence in their community and within its young history. But this same nationalistic militancy and republican attitude is so thorough that it caused many of them to become fascistic at the start of the party and not by obligation, but by conviction. The communities must thus assume the pride of builders and at the same time accept the expensive cost.
To arrive as a foreigner in such a context and to question people on their past needs enormous diplomacy.