Trento and Austrian archives

We have all used or heard of many online resources (FamilySearch, Ancestry, etc) and the availability of microfilmed records of the towns and villages in Trentino.  One source that may not be often thought of is the archives in the city of Trento, Italy, and the one in Vienna, Austria (we should all be aware that prior to 1919 Trentino was under Austrian control).  These archives have hundreds of years of documents that have not been digitized or otherwise made available for remote or online research.  Depending upon the period involved, the documents can be written in Italian, Latin, German, or Old German, and must be translated to be of any use.  The most difficult to translate is the Old German since the script and wordage is generally not in use in these modern times, thus requiring the services of scholars or historians for translation.  Even with these difficulties, the archives should not be overlooked.

I was able to locate two documents at the archives.

IMG_0089The first was a 1604 document written in Old German depicting the coat of arms (family crest) of a Job (Iob) family from the village of Cunevo.  It is multi-page and contains drawings.  I could not locate someone able to translate it, but was fortunate enough to find a transcription and a translation into Italian in a book about Cunevo.  I had heard about this document and sent an inquiry to the archives in Vienna.  I wrote the inquiry in English since I figured that there would be many learned archivists with knowledge of commonly used languages.  The staff there was kind enough to locate it, and mail a copy to me.


IMG_0088The second document (see left for one of the pages) was the military service record of an ancestor conscripted in 1901 and who served in the Austrian army.  As we are aware,although culturally Italian, the people from Trentino were Austrian subjects and required to serve in that country’s armed forces.  The military record was six pages, written partially in Italian and partially in German.  It provided information with regard to my ancestor’s entry into the army, the unit with which he served, awards and decorations, personal description, fitness, reassignments, and discharge.  This document was located at the Trento archive, and I enlisted the help of a researcher to locate the document and provide translations.

The archives have an online presence which can be used to make inquiries.  Normally, the archives will not undertake extensive research for you, but may be able to tell you if certain documents exist.  They may also be able to refer you to a researcher who would be able to undertake the research and locate relevant documents for you (if so, you should agree on rates and time since there could be extensive research involved).  The archive sites are:

Trento State Archives — Archivio di Stato di Trento

Tirol Regional Archives — Tiroler Landesarchiv

Each of the sites has an e-mail address.  If you know of the possible existence of official records (military, cultural, etc) for an ancestor from Trentino, try contacting either or both of the archives.  Good luck.

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3 Responses to Trento and Austrian archives

  1. I’ve been researching our Serafini and Onorati family (mainly in Santa Croce parish in Bleggio, Val Giudicarie) and can relate to so much of what you are talking about on this site. I’ve been translating loads of docs I was fortunate enough to be given digital scans of by the Archediocese of Trento. I also was given lots of old photos, which I’ve been touching up, and I’m still editing the dozens of videos I made while visiting the different frazione where my father and his family came from (and many still live). I’d love to share a blog post some day with your readers (If I can think of a topic that you haven’t arleady covered!). I’d also love to connect with you, as I’m working on a family history book that will hopefully also be useful/interesting to other Trentini decendents. Can I ask you whether or not you’ve had any luck tracking down old WW1 military records of ancestors who fought on the Austo-Hungarian side? I mean…WHO has those records now? Which country? Where? The regimental office was in Bolazano back during the war, but now? Also, my grandfather and his brother were POWs: my grandfather in Siberia and his brother in Italy. Where can we find out more information about that? Any ideas you have would be BRILLIANT and immenesely appreciated. You can have a look at the family tree I’ve made so far (going back to 1590) on Ancetry at (if you send me a message with your user name there, I’ll invite you to view it so you can see all the photos and stories). Thanks! ~ Lynn Serafinn (changed from Serafini in the 1930s before I was born).

    • Thank you for writing. A blog post is definitely welcome. Maybe one about how you did your research, sources used, pitfalls, resources. Maybe one about your grandfather’s WW I service and effect on the family still living in Trentino. If you do write one, email to me using the address on this site and I will post it.

      As far as I know, all military records are at the archives noted on this post and can only be viewed in person. I did receive my grandfather’s records, but his service was before the war. A few years ago I read an article about POW’s at the Russian front, and the hardships they endured upon release – there were quote a few who returned to Trentino by way of China – due to lack of transportTion and horrible weather that necessitated detours.

  2. Gion Job says:

    Thank you for the interesting Information. Kind regards Gion Job, Switzerland

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