Evaluating the Evidence in an Italian Record

Now let’s take a look at the decree of Giuseppe Fedele Covi, and dis­cuss the evi­den­tiary val­ue of the dif­fer­ent pieces of infor­ma­tion the doc­u­ment con­tains. I’ve set my com­ments apart from the text of the doc­u­ment below by plac­ing them in red.

Decree num­ber: 3508

Year: 1853

The Illus­tri­ous Mag­is­trate

The under­signed, Giuseppe Fedele Covi, who resides in this city, pro­vid­ed the fol­low­ing answers to the [Magistrate’s] hum­ble ques­tions.

  1. He is a native of [the town of] Seio, Dis­trict of Tren­to in the Tiro­lo [Tyrol].
  2. He mar­ried here [in Tri­este] and is the father of three chil­dren.
  3. He has resided here [in Tri­este] since 1829.
  4. He is the own­er of gro­cery store num­ber 967, approved by Mag­is­trate Decree Num­ber 12830 on 27 Novem­ber 1852.
  5. He has nev­er been con­vict­ed [of any­thing crim­i­nal].
  6. He earns suf­fi­cient mon­ey to main­tain his fam­i­ly.

In the hope of attain­ing the grace of all, he signs [his sig­na­ture below:]

Tri­este, 19 March 1853

Sig­na­ture of Giuseppe Fedele Covi”

The above sec­tion is the tes­ti­mo­ny of Giuseppe Fedele Covi, in order to answer a Magris­trates’ ques­tions. This sec­tion would then con­tain pri­ma­ry infor­ma­tion because it was stat­ed by a par­tic­i­pant in the events in ques­tion.

What form of evi­dence each piece of infor­ma­tion pro­vides would depend on the research ques­tion. For exam­ple, if the ques­tion was “Where was Giuseppe Fedele Covi born?” then he pro­vides direct evi­dence that he was born in the town of Seio in the Tiro­lo with­in his first response. Direct evi­dence is when the infor­ma­tion seems to pro­vide the answer to the research ques­tion by itself.

How­ev­er, if the research ques­tion was “Where were his three chil­dren born?” then this infor­ma­tion pro­vides indi­rect evi­dence that his chil­dren were born in Tri­este. For indi­rect evi­dence, you have to com­bine var­i­ous pieces of infor­ma­tion in order to reach a genealog­i­cal con­clu­sion. There­fore, if Giuseppe Fedele had lived in Tri­este since 1829 [answer 3], mar­ried in Tri­este [answer 2], and had three chil­dren by 1853 [answer 2] this evi­dence com­bines to indi­rect­ly prove that his chil­dren were born in Tri­este. How­ev­er, I would sug­gest seek­ing the chil­dren’s bap­tismal records in order to find direct evi­dence for this con­clu­sion.

I here­by declare, to the praise and tri­umph of the gen­uine truth, that Giuseppe Fedele Covi, a native of Tiro­lo and son of the liv­ing Nicoló Covi, was employed in my shop in his youth, from the end of 1829 until the last months of 1833. Dur­ing his ser­vice to me, he behaved with great will­ing­ness and activ­i­ty and was well known for his hon­esty. I here­by place my sig­na­ture and seal in the pres­ence of two wit­ness­es.

Tri­este, 23 April 1836

Sig­na­ture of Gia­co­mo Anto­nio Depaul

I, Andrea Rabaux, here­by wit­ness the sig­na­ture of Mis­ter Gia­co­mo Anto­nio Depaul, which was made by his own hand [writ­ten in the hand of Andrea Rabaux, like­ly in lieu of a sig­na­ture]. 

Sig­na­ture of Gia­co­mo Augus­tin­ish, also a wit­ness to the above [sig­na­ture of Gia­co­mo Anto­nio Depaul]’[1]

If the research ques­tion was “Who was Giuseppe Fedele Cov­i’s father?” then the tes­ti­mo­ni­al sec­tion by Gia­co­mo Anto­nio Depaul pro­vides direct evi­dence that his father’s name was Nico­lo Covi. How­ev­er, because he was like­ly not a direct par­tic­i­pant or eye­wit­ness to the birth of Giuseppe Fedele Covi it pro­vides sec­ondary infor­ma­tion.

Could Gia­co­mo Anto­nio Depaul have per­son­al­ly known Nico­lo Covi? Sure, but this doc­u­ment does­n’t pro­vide evi­dence of that either way. There­fore, we have to eval­u­ate what evi­dence it does pro­vide and assign the appro­pri­ate evi­den­tiary strength to each piece of infor­ma­tion.

If you have any ques­tions, please feel free to email me at Melanie@holtzresearch.com.

[1] Tri­este, Tri­este Province, Italy, “Decret­ti [Decrees], 1853”: num­ber 3508, reg­is­ter marked 1230 and 1/9 1, Decree of Giuseppe Fedele Covi; Archiv­io Gen­erale del Comune di Tri­este [Munic­i­pal Archives for the Town of Tri­este], Via Pun­ta del Forno, n. 2, 34121 Tri­este, Italy.