Marriage Records vs Marriage Contracts
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Still thinking that family history in Italy is a matter of only dates and names?

Italian Archives store much more info about our ancestors!

In this post we would try to show how much info about our ancestors lives is stored in the notary documents.
We are going to compare the "usual" marriage record available in the town hall archives with the "marriage contract" available in the notary archives.

In Italy every marriage was preceded by a "marriage contract" among the families of the bride and of the groom.

It was a formal act through which a man and a woman legitimise their union by joining a series of previous agreements reached between their respective families, on the assets that the woman received as dorwy, which later, with the wedding, the man should have handled.
So, the marriage contract contains all those agreements, thanks to which it’s possible to learn more about the economic condition of the couple and their respective families, as well as the familiar strategy they used.
As you can see below, a marriage contract was always concluded before the wedding.

What information is provided in the Marriage Records? A marriage record was written on a specific format common to every Italian town and it usually shows:
- name and last name for both spouses
- birthplaces, places of residence, ages and professions for both spouses
- names and last names, professions, the place in which they were living at the time, and if they were still living or not, for parents of both spouses.


To better understand the differences between a marriage record and a marriage contract, take a look at these two documents: the marriage record and the marriage contract of the same couple.
We added the pictures of the documents and we summarized the main info found in each of them.
As you will see the info available in the "contract" is much more interesting than the basic info available in the simple "record"! The different lenght also (7 pages compared to 1 page) easily gives us the difference of the content and the info included in both the documents.

Summary of the MARRIAGE RECORD
Nicola and Rosa got married in Caggiano (Salerno, Campania), on June 30, 1881 at 11:59 am.
Nicola Castellucci, single, 25 years old, farmer, born in Sant’Angelo le Fratte (Potenza, Basilicata) living in Sant’Angelo le Fratte, son of the late Paolo which lived in Sant’Angelo le Fratte, and the living Maria Giustina Ricotta, living in Sant’Angelo le Fratte.
Nicola married Rosa Cafaro, single, 23 years old, spinner, born in Caggiano, living in Caggiano, daughter of Giuseppe Maria (Cafaro) and Carmina Caggiano, both living in Caggiano.

Marriage Record

Summary of the MARRIAGE CONTRACT
between Nicola Castellucci and Rosa Cafaro, on April 30, 1881, Giustina Ricotta, daughter of the late Nicola, and her son Nicola Castellucci, son of the late Paolo, both landowners, born and living in Sant’Angelo le Fratte, on the one hand,
and Giuseppe Maria Cafaro, son of the late Giuseppantonio, his wife Carmina Caggiano, daughter of the late Egidio, and their doughter Rosa, single, all landowners, born and living in Caggiano, on the other side,
...... in the second room on ground floor of the house of Giuseppe Maria Cafaro located in Caggiano, at “ 27, Vico primo Trainato”, to conclude the marriage contract.
For the wedding to be between of Nicola Castellucci and Rosa Cafaro, Rosa gets as a dowry: an amount of “Lire” 807 and cents 50 from her father and “Lire” 127 and cents 50, from her mother.
This total amount, is divided in this way: “Lire” 297 and cents 50 as trousseau for the bride to be, and the remaining amount of “Lire” 637 and cents 50 is given to Nicola’s mother, Giustina Ricotta, which undertakes to purchase for both spouses, without her personal interests, a house.
To avoid any conflict of interest, Giustina Ricotta issues mortgage bonds on the real estate she is owner, in detail on an orchard with vineyeard, located in the place called "Contrada Pescara", Sant’Angelo le Fratte (Lands cadastral ID: Section B; Numbers 833, 834; Article No 1648) as well as on the arable land with chestnut trees, located in the place called "Contrada Pantano Ritorno", Sant’Angelo le Fratte (Lands cadastral ID: Section F; Numbers 436, 437, 440, 441; Article No 1648).
With regard to the trousseau for the bride to be, it will be produced a separate notary deed when those goods will be delivered.
At the same time, Giustina Ricotta gives his son, as irrevocable donation, the half part of her entire estate of 2519 lire.
She gives that amount by transferring to his ownership: a house of three rooms on the second floor and a barn on the ground floor, located at "Palazzo Vescovile" Street, Sant’Angelo le Fratte (Buildings cadastral ID: Article No 291”), an arable land with vineyeard and oak trees located in the place called "Contrada Cornicelle", Sant’Angelo le Fratte (cadastral ID: Section B; Numbers 602, 603, 693, 700, 701, 703; Article No 1648), an arable land located in the place called "Contrada Macchia", Sant’Angelo le Fratte (cadastral ID: Section D; Numbers 312) and another arable land with grassy and oak trees, located in the place called "Contrada Ponte", Sant’Angelo le Fratte (cadastral ID: Section A; Numbers 613, 614, 615; Article No 1648).
At the same time, Giustina Ricotta owns the right of usufruct of all donated assets, undertaking to give an amount of “Lire” 850 to her son Nicola Castellucci, on the arable land with vineyeard and oak trees located in the place called "Contrada Cornicelle", Sant’Angelo le Fratte (as above), in the case of separation from Rosa Cafaro, so that he can live separated from his mother.
The only one to be able to sign the notary deed is Giuseppe Maria Cafaro.

see below the Marriage Contract