In Italy, the word leva means a call up to a mandatory military service. That task was performed by the communes during the Kingdom of Italy and the Italian Republic. The Leva Bureau (Uffici di Leva) in each Italian city was in charge to make lists, and to update them periodically, of every young male at the age for compulsory military service (20 years of age), organized by class, which means, year of birth. These lists were elaborated according to the civil records lists or the parish records, and later they were updated deleting dead or emigrated people or adding new residents of the commune. The final lists were sent to the Council of Leva (Consiglio di Leva) of the Circondario.
NOTE: In some communal folders are conserved original lists containing information about those who deceased before their 20 years of age, or those who changed their domiciles to another commune.
For instance: the lists of leva of Castellammare di Stabia, Napoli, available online in Family Search.
Every year, the Ministry of War established by law the number of males to be recruited in the “first category”, it is to say, the permanent military status. In base of the number of men recorded in the lists of leva, was established, in proportional way, the number of men each province, circondario and mandamento should send to the army. These young men were selected by military toss.
The toss (estrazione) was public and taken by mandamento, before the presence of those who were recorded in the lists, and it determined the order in which they had to be recruited by the Council of Leva of the circondario. At the Council of Leva of the circondario a physical exam was taken, to approve their ability to go to the military service. Who didn’t assist to the Council of Leva of the circondario was considered renitente (rebel) and persecuted by the law.
Once reached the number of members required in every mandamento, the following young men in the list were applied to the “second category”; it is, in the Provincial military legion. It explains how the good luck of being rewarded with a high number gave them the possibility of being physically examined when the recruiting for the first category was already closed. The exceeding number of recruits was incorporated to the second category, and they made a brief military training, being available to fight in case of belic conflict.
From 1855 the Council of Leva of the Circondario started to make another lists: the liste di estrazione, where the names of young men were recorded according to the order of number obtained in the military toss.
The Ruoli Matricolari contain only the men recruited to the military service. It was not necessary to have been at the military service to be recorded in the Ruolo Matricolare: all young men suitable for the military service according to the Council of Leva, was recorded.
The Ruolo Matricolare is a summary of the accomplished military service: information about the regiment in which the service was accomplished, war actions in which they participated, medals and condecorations they received. And information about: date and place of birth, domicile, name of parents, physical features, and level of education.
The ruolo matricolare was updated through constant communication between military districts and communes. In these documents were also the congedo illimitato (unlimited certificate of discharge) -which allowed the possibility of emigration-, with the information of the place they emigrated.
These records, after 70 years of the military call up, were sent to the Archive of the State of every city, and, actually, they can be consulted for free.