My journey with genealogical research has always come in short bursts. The research is enjoyable but more time consuming than Facebook. I started my research when I was a student, and not a busy full-time marketer working 40 hours a week. So these days if I’m going to spend hours researching it needs to be planned, targeted and specific.

There’s one mystery in my family tree that I have wanted to solve since the beginning.

Ignazio Sulfaro, and the mystery of his death

The loss of a child, whether in the womb, through childbirth or in infancy, was more common in the 1940s. Both of my grandmothers suffered the loss of a baby.

My maternal grandmother lost her son, Ignazio Sulfaro, when he was just 18 months old. I want to know why he died, his date of birth and his date of death. Nobody in my family recalls any of the information above. Ignazio died years before my mother was born, and before two of her other siblings. Paolo was just a small child himself when Ignazio died – and I’m sure the memories of losing her son prevented Maria Stagno from talking about him to her other children.

My Mum recalls her one of her aunts saying that Ignazio died after a doctor misdiagnosed him, thus treating him with the wrong medicine and inadvertently causing his death. Ignazio died in the late 1940s, a time in which misdiagnosis was still common.

Slow correspondence with the local comune

I’ve tried in vain for the past 3 years to contact the comune di Giardini-Naxos for information on his birth and death. The comune used to be very responsive, and have given me information about my grandmother and great-grandparents without any form of identification needed. Of course, that’s probably because the privacy protection over that information had already expired.

Italian privacy laws explained

Due to Italian privacy laws, civil acts within the last 75 years can only be accessed by the subject or a closely related family member. After the 75 year period has lapsed, the public can make requests for copies of records can be made to the comune’s Ufficio di Stato Civile. (Read through this post on the Italian forum for examples.)

Working within the bounds of the Italian privacy laws I should be able to access these records already because 75 years has passed. The records for the late 1940s should have become public in the early 2010s.

I’m sure I could retrieve these records if I could visit the comune in person and show proof of direct relation. Unfortunately, Giardini-Naxos is far away and I am not fluent in Italian.

Has anyone else had problems with the privacy laws? Have you got a solution? I would love to hear suggestions.

Update: Ignazio Sulfaro’s Birth & Death Information

After many years of asking about my Zio Ignazio I finally received a response from the comune di Giardini-Naxos. They sent me a photocopy of his “Certificato di Morto“, which also included his date and place of birth.

The document is a transcription of the details recorded in the town’s Atti di Morti for 1947. It seems it would be a violation of Italian privacy laws to share the original, especially because the record would have other names of deceased individuals on the page.

It was wonderful to finally know when Ignazio was born and when he died. Unfortunately the details of his death were not recorded.