Sicilian Riveli Records By Robert Ralph Porcaro Columbus Day 12
During part of the years 2002 and 2003 I had the privilege to serve as a
volunteer at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City Utah. My
assignment was to scan and catalog over 1,100 Riveli microfilms. During
that time I reviewed microfilm records for many of the 389 villages in
Sicily. What a wonderful way to become acquainted with the homeland of
my grandfather. As I scanned the microfilms I would locate the community
on a map of Sicily then look up information on the atlas and gazetteer.
Later I was able to search the internet for pictures and historical
information on several communities. The following article is an attempt
to summarize a few things I discovered about Riveli records from Sicily.
Riveli in Italian means to reveal. The Riveli record served as a census
to record inhabitants (anime) and possessions (beni). The Riveli
pages were bound together in a volume with a string threaded through a
hole near the top of the page and another string through a hole near the
bottom of the page. Most volumes held the records of up to 1,000 pages.
A few Riveli records exceeded 1,000 pages.
Purpose of the Riveli
A Riveli was a census to determine population and taxation for revenue.
The Riveli served the king of the country as a monitor to determine how
many males there were in the kingdom that were of age to serve in the
military or to work on road projects and also how many animals and
producing farm land was available to produce food for the kingdom.
Years Available on Microfilm
The Family History Library has microfilms of Riveli records for many of
the years that Riveli records were recorded. I have personally reviewed
the following years from varied communities in Sicily.
1548, 1569, 1583, 1584, 1589, 1593, 1597, 1607, 1612, 1614, 1616, 1621,
1623, 1624, 1636, 1637, 1639, 1651, 1652, 1664, 1674, 1681, 1682, 1714,
1747, 1748, 1750, 1752, 1754, 1755, 1756, 1757, 1765, 1811, 1812, 1815
About the Indice (index)
Older indexes such as 1674 listed family names using the given name,
(first name) first, in alphabetical order followed by the surname.
Following the name in the index is a page (folio) number and with some
luck you can find the actual Riveli record either following the index or
on another microfilm. Some indexes precede the record some follow the
record, and some records have no index. I have experienced reading an
index where there is no Riveli record available. Also, I have seen names
listed on the index but that personâ€™s Riveli page is not
included with others. Finally, I have found a family Riveli page with
others but that persons name was not in the index. Some indexes include
the head of the household with other members of their family listed with
Information on Riveli Records
There are many words used in a Riveli record that are common to most
records. Following is a list of a few words to be familiar with.
Tassa=tax, terra=land, anime=souls/inhabitants, beni=goods/possessions,
lordo=gross amount to be taxed, netto=net amount to be taxed (usually
5-10%), mascoli=male, fimmini=female, capo di casa=head of household,
moglie=wife, figlio=son, figlia=daughter.
The name of the head of the household is listed on the top of the page
(usually on the right side), and again in the text of the Riveli
(usually after the word anime), and at the end of the Riveli on the left
side of the final page.
Sometimes the name of the father of the head of the household is listed
on the first entry at the top of the page and once in a while the
motherâ€™s name is
Within the text of the Riveli is first the name of the head of the
household followed with the name of the wife (sometimes with her maiden
name) then the children. Sometimes the children are listed with
sonâ€™s names first then daughters next.
Ages are listed for males only. But I did find a few records where the
females had their ages listed. Be aware that ages were estimates and
then rounded off to the nearest ten years, so in most cases are not
In many Riveli records the head of the household has his nearest
neighbors listed also. Look for family groups. It is interesting to note
that the Riveli record for the common person was often scribbled and
brief whereas a Riveli record for the aristocracy was printed in formal
calligraphy with detailed pages. Sometimes the pages were adorned with
fancy borders and large calligraphy
I have even found pages with ink line drawings of the person taxed. The
conclusion of each Riveli had the name of the tax assessor and at times
the signature of witnesses and occasionally the priest of the community.
Taxation was placed on people and possessions including real estate,
buildings, and animals. The animals were divided as caprai=goats,
giumenta=mares, cavalla=horses, bovi=cattle, vacche=cows, pecore=sheep,
asini=donkeys and muli=mules. I saw pigs mentioned in the Riveli but
never on a tax summary. The animals that pulled carts were inventoried
separately (animale ad uso di carrozza).
Note that the taxation was ten percent of the value. (2197=219, 1049=104
Land was taxed according to use such as irrigatablili=able to irrigate,
frumentale=for growing grain, boschigne=wooded or orchards,
rampanti=sloped or hillside, and non pagano=not profitable. Houses were
taxed by the amount of rooms on each floor. Included in the assessment
were vineyards, orchards, groves, water wells, farm tools, sheds, silos,
and household furnishings. Land was sized in hectares. One hectare=2.47
It is apparent that the Riveli records were focused on the peasant farm
workers. Very few Riveli records were found listing nobility. However,
when they were found they listed the personâ€™s title such as Don
or Donna for honorable people and Duca, Duchessa, Barone,
Conte,Contessa, and Principe, for nobility.
Items of Interest
A few records listed a ten year back tax for persons that lived and
worked in a community but had not been taxed for the past ten years. See
the 1811 Riveli for taxation for individuals living in a community
between 1800 and 1809.
Monetary Values on Riveli Taxation
Many of the Riveli records assessed the taxes in a system that is
recorded in history. The following are from Monete Siciliane Antiche on
the internet at it.wikipedia.org/misure Also from the introduction to
the book Lo svilupo Di Villafrati 1596-1960 by Giuseppe Oddo.
Monete Sicilane Antiche: In 1862 the Cambio Rate was: 6 Denare =1 Grano
1 Grano = .0215 Lire 20 Grani =1 Tari 1 Tari = .425 Lire 12 Tari
=1 Scudo 1 Scudo = 5.10 Lire 30 Tari =1 Oncia o Onza 1 Oncia
(Tariffe: Bestia di Carico) Tariff on animals information is from Lo
Sviluppo di Villafrati 1596-1960 by Giuseppe Oddo (page 16). Bestia di
Carico (loaden or burden) = Grana 2 Carro a 2 Ruote (cart with two
wheels) = Grana 4 Bestia di Lettiga (litter or pulled) = Grana 6
Carrozza a 4 Ruote (cart with four wheels) = Grana 8 E 2 Cavalli
(cart with two oxen) = Tari 1 A 4 Buoi (with four oxen) = Tari 2
The Three Valleys of Sicily
The Riveli records are stored in repositories by community in
alphabetical order according to one of the three valleys of Sicily. Val
Di Mazara is the western half of Sicily with its border starting between
Termini Immerse and Cefalu on the north and Licata on the south. Val
Demone is the northeastern portion of Sicily with its border starting at
Enna and going to Catania on the east.
Val Di Noto is the southeast portion of Sicily with its border starting
at Enna going to Licata on the south.
Writing on Riveli Records
Most ink was home made and much of the writing has faded over the years.
Common damage to the pages came from poor storage procedures in damp
rooms. Damage occurred from dampness, mold, and worms.
Community Name Changes
Watch for name changes of a community over the years. Also, watch for
spelling including dialect, Greek, and Latin. Corleone =
Cariglione, Coneglione, Coniglione, Cuniglione, Canigliumi, Cunigghiuni
Bisacquino = Busachino, Busschino, Busaguino, Busaechini
Monreale = Montisreaalis
Mezzojusso = Mensojusso, Meliguisi, Mioijusto, Mezzoiusso Busacchino =
Bisaquini, Bisaquino, Bisagrum, Bosachino, Bascchino Sciacca = Ciacca,
Sacca, Sacce, Xacca, Xiaca, Xiacca Agrigento = Gergenti,
Capri = Crapi
Aderno = Aderna, Adrano, Adranus, Adranu, Adranum, Adirmo
Geraci = Jachi, Dijaci, Jaci, Girachi, Di Jaci, Iaci, Jacis, Jachi,
Comune Vari is a variety of community records mixed, scattered,
incomplete, and at best random. They may or may not be indexed. There
may only be one report from a given community mixed in with many from
another community Some commune vari records have a great deal of Riveli
records for one community followed by many from another community. If
youâ€™re lucky the microfilm you are reading will have each of
several communities in alphabetical order. Most commune vari records
are, however from one geographical area from one of the three valleys of
Sicily. It appears as though the Riveli recorders missed a few people
and went through the countryside gathering information and taxes for
those missed previously.
Bridges from The Past
Riveli records could be your means to bridge from your civil records
back in time. Note that many of the available records are a generation
apart, so a person listed as a child on one record will appear as the
married head of a family in the next record."