During the time of our grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents, the local churches in Trentino were the recordkeepers for birth, marriage, and death events. Generally, meticulous records were maintained by the parish priests in handwritten church registers. Absent destruction due to fire, flood, war, or other calamity, records can sometimes be available to the late 1500′s. From the early 1800′s forward, the records are generally written in Italian, with the earlier records written in Latin. The records for some areas on northern Trentino will be written in German.
Although you can (with some persistance and advance planning) view the original records on site at the local village church (assuming the local parish approves), most of these records have been microfilmed, and are available for viewing at branches of the LDS Family History Centers throughout the US, and often through your local public library. See my previous post Trentino Vital Records on Microfilm. Valuable information can be gathered from the microfilmed documents. For example, below is a copy of my great-great-grandfather’s marriage record to his first wife (she died of typhus less than 9 months later). Under the image is an explanation of the type of information that can be found (click on the image for a larger version).
On 15 December 1834, in the parish church, Gio’Batta Iob, age 19 and living at house #23, married Teresa Vilot, age 30, who lived in Flavon. Gio’ Batta’s father was also named Gio’ Batta Iob, who in turn was the son of the late Gio’ Batta Iob sicher. Gio’ Batta’s mother was Maddalena Iob, daughter of Domenico Iob remus of Cunevo. The bride (Teresa) was the daughter of the late Giovanni Vilot and Teresa Eccher, of Flavon. In addition, the document states that Gio’ Batta had to obtain a dispensation because there were second and third degrees of blood relationship between him and the bride. He also had to obtain permission to marry because he was a minor.
Thus, this one document gives us information for three generations — the groom’s name and address (house numbers without street names were used in that era), his father’s and grandfather’s names, his mother’s maiden name (also Iob — it was common in small villages for the bride and groom to have the same last name), and the name of his maternal grandfather. In each case, we are able to ascertain whether (on the date of Gio Batta’s wedding) the parent or grandparent was still living (the word “fu” in the document means the person was deceased). Also shown was the branch of Iob’s that his mother and father belonged to (sicher and remus). In small villages, branch names were used to distinguish between the clans since large percentages of the residents had the same surnames.
Although many villages have these documents for additional generations, the records for Cunevo were destroyed in an 1802 fire. Hopefully yours still survive.