About the Waldensian Languages
The Parish Registers are in French until after the Unification of Italy, when they begin to appear in Italian.
The Notary Records, the List of the Exiles, and the Inheritance Claims of the Exile Survivors are in Italian, except for a few volumes of Notary Records for communities that at times were under French influence.
If you do not understand the language of documents needed for your research (including those on this site), we suggest:
Use a bilingual dictionary (examples: English/French or English/Italian; or French/Italian or Italian/French; or Spanish/Italian—whatever your native tongue is, and the language of the documents)
Use the Italian word list on this site. Click HERE
Use the word lists from the Family Search Wiki
- You might want to try automatic computer translation. However, notice what happened when we experimented with a computer translation for a randomly chosen act in the notary records.
Here is the actual abstract of a notary document (from Abadia volume 45) which reads as follows in the original Italian:
CESSIONE DI RAGIONI ...
10 GENNAIO 1645
─ Martra fu Gioanni e Margarita (coniugi) LORENZINO da Porte;
─ Giacomo BIENATO (cugino germano di sopra detta Marta);
─ Gioanni BALMAZZO (zio di sopra detta Marta).
Here is the automatic computer translation:
SALE OF REASONS ...
January 10, 1645
─ Martra was Gioanni and Margarita (spouses) Lorenzino from Porte;
─ BIENATO James (cousin of above said Marta);
─ Gioanni BALMAZZO (uncle of above said Marta).
And here is the English meaning of the act:
Ceding of rights
10 January 1645
Martra [a local version of Martha] daughter of deceased Gioanni LORENSIN* of Porte and of his wife Margarita; her 1st cousin Giacomo BIENATO; and her uncle Gioanni BALMAS.
The computer translation entirely missed the meaning of the Italian “fu” (meaning son or daughter of deceased [followed by the deceased parent’s name], confusing it with the past tense of the verb “to be.” The act does NOT say—and didn’t intend to convey—that Martra “was” Gioanni and Margarita!
Nor was the act describing a “sale.” The act describes a ceding (cession) of rights—transferring inheritance rights between relatives. In other words, the death of Martra’s father Gioanni had somehow changed who had the right to inherit part of the inheritance.
We also found that many names and places were erroneously converted to an English equivalent. For example, "Torre Pellice" became "Tower Pellice" and the surname "Stringati" became "Lace", the literal English equivalent. Sentence structure was also frequently awkward and difficult to interpret.
Therefore, if you choose to use computer translation to help with this site or the documents associated with it, be very cautious that the computer translation does not mislead you! We take no responsibility for the accuracy of any computer translation.
*NOTE: The Waldensian Archives requests that researchers use the French form of surnames in order to distinguish Waldensian from other families with the same surname, and to honor that request, we use the French forms here.
In most cases, the language of the original records is Italian (though it is the Italian of the 1600s), although a few volumes of the records are in French.
Note that, with just one exception, first names ending in "a" are feminine. For example, "Gioanna" (Jeanne) is the feminine form of "Gioanni" (Jean). The exception is "Andrea" (Andrew), which is masculine.
The name for Michael is often spelled "Michelle," although "Michele" appears more often. And sometimes an "a" follows the "c": Micahele. All these forms represent males, not females.
Occasionally, a notary will feminize a woman's surname as well. An example would be the surname "Turino" written as "Turina" for a woman.
If you use the notary records on this site abstracted by the PFO, you will not need a table to convert written–out numbers into numerals, as they have already been converted to numerals in the abstracts.
But you will need to decipher the names of the months. The following table provides this information. Note that in Italian, as in French, the names of the months are not capitalized.
Italian–English Names of the Months
For the Italian word list compiled by the Family History Library, click HERE.
The Parish Registers are in French until after the Unification of Italy which began in the mid-1800s.
Month names are listed below. Note that the months in French, as it is in Italian, are written in lower case. The Parish Registers will often use the abbreviation for the months September through December.
Notice in particular the abbreviations for the months in the a sample documemt from the Parish Registers. At that point in time, January was not the first month of the year; March was. Therefore, the ninth month was November; in fact the root of the word "November" means nine. December was the tenth month, and the root of "December" means ten.
To accurately decipher the dates in the documents, you must use this system. It affects the months of September (sept = seventh), October (oct = eighth), November (nov = ninth), and December (dec = tenth). The other months will either be written out or put in numbers, rather than a combination of number and letters as these four months often are.
In Parish Registers, you will often find French numbers written out in words, rather than in numerals. Information about numbers in the next table is adapted from the former BYU Independent Study Family History course, France: Reading French Handwriting.
The Number Equivalents of Written-out French Numbers
The word for the numbers 11-16 is formed by adding the ending ze to the corresponding word in column one. Starting with 30, the word is formed by adding ante or ente to the root of the word in column one. For example, to form 50, take the root of 5, cinq, and add ante, resulting in cinquante. (The "u" is required to maintain the proper sound.)
|French Word||Number||French Word||Number|
|Un (or premier)||1 (or first)||Seize||16|
|Deux (or second)||2 (or second)||dix-sept||17 ("10-7")|
|Six||6||Vingt et un||21 ("20-and-one")|
|Qinze||15||Mil or mille||1000|
The ordinal numbers (second, tenth, and so on) are written in French by adding ième to the root of the word for the number itself. For instance:
second = deuxième
third = troisième
You should also be aware that in the time period of these records, when numerals are used, you'll often see the following:
The following two aids will help with key words in French documents. The first shows various ways the letters could be formed.
To see the various ways the letters are formed, click HERE.
For the French word list compiled by the Family History Library, click HERE.