Notary Documents in Italy for Family History

Notary documents are one of the most important sources for family history studies available in the Italian Archives.

Thanks to these documents, it’s possible to expand the knowledge of each person (and therefore family group), deepening other aspects of his/her life, such as:

– social and economic status (for example, searching for any qualifications, profession, economic conditions, through the study of the goods that he/her purchased, sold or donated);

– behavior (seeking any acts aimed at regulating or exacerbating a dispute);

– emotional relationships (searching for testaments, marriage contracts, donations and deeds of division, from which, it’s possible to learn about the most intimate family affections);

The notary deeds are contained in volumes. Among the types which show more useful information to the family history research, there are:

1) Testaments

2) Inheritance disputes

3) Sales and purchases

4) Permutations

5) Donations

6) Marriage contracts

7) Special powers of attorney

For each type of document we will provide a short summary of the typical content and an example.

The Testaments provide a valuable set of genealogical data such as the names and surnames of the individuals concerned, their family relationships, economic conditions and emotional ties, as well as offering an insight into the uses and customs of the time. They also describe movable and immovable property are subject to succession with great accuracy.

The Inheritance disputes highlight the controversies between members belonging to the same family, for reasons regarding the division of property following a testamentary bequest. In addition to family relationships, these types of documents contain several genealogical information such as acquired relationships (spouses), which often influenced the choices of the family members to the dispute.

The Sales and purchases offer detailed descriptions on the goods subject to sale, in addition to providing genealogical data such as name, surname, paternity, name of the spouse and offspring of the sellers, who were transmitting the goods, and the buyers, who promised to pay an amount.

The Permutations, like sales and purchases, provide genealogical data such as name, surname, paternity, name of spouse and offspring of contractors who mutually transferred ownership of goods, or any other property right.

The Donations, in addition to containing genealogical data on the donor of a good and on the recipient, such as name, surname, paternity and family relationships (since very often the donations were made between relatives), can be a proof of the emotional relationships that privileged a part of the family members (or a single member) than others.

The Marriage contracts give a full picture of the family and property strategies which are the basis of marriages, as well as showing genealogical data on the spouses and relatives concerned. The dowry was the fundamental element of marriage contracts since the marriage was seen as an economic relationship that served to the transmission of family names, blood and property, obviously.

A Special Power of Attorney is a legal act through which a person conferred the power to perform legal deeds to another person. In addition to providing genealogical data about the interested parties, it describes the reasons for which a deed was produced, so the reasons that prevented the person concerned from acting personally in his interests, often due to travel or work commitments, or any other kind of impediments.

So in conclusion, contents shared by most notarial deeds are, in addition to the date of production, the names of birthplaces of the interveners and the places where they were living at that time. Very often they also contain references to other situations or to other complementary documentation, a copy of which was sometimes attached to the deed. Typical example are Inheritance disputes, in which, very often, there is the reference to the testament underlying the dispute.

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