Deciphering Italian Records

In my research over the last 12 years, I have seen records written in many languages. The language is not as hard to figure out as the handwriting! The earlier handwritten records by Italians are particularly challenging because they sometimes use a "shorthand" unlike anything we use here in the states.

I have collected several samples of unusual handwriting styles, abbreviations or anything that may be confusing if you are not familiar with them.

7mbreThis is a date, and it's not February! Many years ago, the Roman calendar began in March, so September, October, November, and December were the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth months of the year. This image is actually the written "shorthand" for the month of September, which is Settembre in Italian. Sette=7, hence, 7mbre, ottobre (October) is the "eighth," novembre (November) is the "ninth," and dicembre (December) is the "tenth" month, all of which could be abbreviated similarly. Note that the months are not usually capitalized in Italian.

249This is the number 249. It probably seems obvious now, but without a hint, it is difficult to figure out.

TeresaThese 3 examples of a capital T were written by the same person, the first 2 are in the same document. This is the name Teresa.

testamoniThis word is Testimoni - the Italian word for the witnesses of a marriage.

TeresaThis is the name Teresa again.

AbbiategrassoThis is the name of a small town - Abbiategrasso. It is not uncommon to see a double s look more like an 'fs' than 'ss'.

Castano Primo This is the name of another town - I would have never figured this one out without help! It is Castano Primo. I have noticed that a lower case "a" can often have the loop and the straight part on the right separated when written. I think of it as the letters are "drawn" rather than written as we do here in the states. The number 1 with a superscript small circle, like a degree sign, can mean several things = Primo (first), it can be used to denote a first degree cousin, etc. It may not always be underlined.

ColomboColombo 2These are very easy to read, obviously they say Colombo, but I just wanted to illustrate that some handwriting appears to be "drawn" versus the 2nd example, which is more typical of our style of handwriting here in the US.

PietroAnother example, but with a little flourish this time. This is the given name Pietro. After you know what it is you can see it easily, but without the advanced knowledge, it can be very difficult to figure some of these out!

I will post more handwriting examples as I locate them and remove the background clutter from the copied records.


Websites with further examples to help you: - this is an excellent resource, it shows given names & many other words commonly found in records such as days of the week, months, etc.