Italian censuses after 1860

Speaking of population counts, in this note we will deal with the Italian censuses conducted after unification. We already explained that before 1860 population counts were carried out, with different modalities, each Italian region had a different government and consequently in each of them different documents were generated.

This period corresponds to the most recent history of Italy, since political unification until today in Italy twelve general population censuses have been carried out, generally every ten years.

These were made in the years 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901 are available for research in some State Archives. Censuses after 1911 (considered the first major national census) 1921, 1931, 1936, 1951, 1961, 1971 and 1981 are not open to the public.

Foglio di Famiglia

During the censuses, the data of the families residing in each commune were recorded on books or tokens called Registri di Popolazione or Stato di Popolazione (Population or State Population Registers), which contained cards (usually pre-printed) called Foglio di Famiglia (Family Sheet) where the data of each of the members of the family were recorded. These tokens contained columns intended to record subsequent changes, such as moves, deaths, marriages. Population records began to be used in some important Italian communes before Italian Unification.

Where are these documents kept and how to request them?

  • These censuses are preserved in the Italian State Archives and also in some communal archives. Unfortunately in many states, almost all the records recorded during the first censuses (1861 – 1937) were eliminated, leaving only the statistical data and some cards as an example. Other Status Files do not store an anagraphic information.
  • There are censuses of some specific regions or communes that are preserved in the Historical Archives of the communes or in the State Archives of each province.
  • It is possible that in the communal historical archives or in the state archive of the province of our ancestors some of these censuses are preserved.


Looking for data from my ancestors, and repeating my previous experience with pre-unitary censuses, I wrote to the State Archive of Alessandria asking if old censuses were preserved there and if it was possible to obtain digital copies of them. The State Archive of Alessandria, preserves Population Records of the commune of Alessandria after 1866, which were placed under its protection after a violent flood occurred in the '90s. That's how I received a copy of the Foglio di Famiglia from several of my ancestors who lived in that commune.

later Italian census 1860

Thus, each of us can go to the State Archive of the province where our ancestors were born, or to the archive of the commune where they were born or lived, asking if they keep censuses and if they can make digitized copies of them. You can also search the portals that list the heritage of the state archives, using keywords such as censimento, popolazione, fuocchi, etc. to see if we find information about any specific census that is preserved in the file that interests us.

Model note in Italian to request a copy of the censuses from the archives