What if you discover your ancestor was an outlaw?
Would you be interested to know what he did and whether he was proved guilty or not?
Would you be prepared to read the sentence?
In the web site of the State Archive of Torino (Turin) in North West Italy http://archiviodistatotorino.beniculturali.it/Site/index.php/en/projects/filing/senate you can find the transcriptions of 28,786 trial sentences that were delivered by the Senate of Piedmont from 1724 to 1766.
Although the place and time are very limited, they are enough to get an idea about what was considered a crime and – most interesting of all – which sort of “fair” punishment was inflicted to the people.
Get ready to be shocked, here are a few examples:
- Carlo Giuseppe M. in 1737 is sentenced to: being tortured to obtain the names of accomplices, paying trial expenses, refunding the victim and 10 (ten!) years of oaring on the royal ships. He had stolen 1 (one!) cow.
- Giovanni Domenico M. in 1735 is proved guilty of the theft of a silver lamp from the church where he worked as sexton. The punishment is: sequestration of his ownings, refund of the church, payment of trial expenses and… public hanging!
- Sebastiano B. in 1728 is proved guilty of armed robbery and offence and his sentence states: public hanging, the body cut in four pieces to be exposed in the usual places. Refund of victims, payment of trial expenses and a “tip” of 5 scudi (coins) to the judge.
- Vitto P. in 1725 is punished for “producing false money and suiciding”. In fact, he had killed himself in jail, probably to escape a frightening punishment, and this is mentioned as part of his crime. The sentence pronounced after his deed is far from being merciful: his memory to be condemned, his body to be carried on a poor cart and transported to the usual places. At the arrival on the gallows platform, proceed with the formality of strangling and burning (the corpse) in public.
- Giovanni Domenico T. is a soldier. In 1746 he is proved guilty to be an accomplice in the killing of another soldier and robbery of his clothes and sword. The sentence states: torture to acquire the names of the accomplices, public hanging after application of red-hot pincers, the body slaughtered and exposed in the usual places. Payment of trial expenses, refund of the heir of the victim, tip for the judge etc.
Ok, I think it’s enough for my stomach, today…
The transcriptions are only in Italian, unfortunately, but you can try the search option (ricerca libera) and see if you can find your ancestor’s surname. If you do and you are prepared to have a translation of the sentence, just ask and I will do it.