As a nation state, Italy has emerged only in 1871. Until then the country was politically divided into a large number of independant cities, provinces and islands. The currently available evidences point out to a dominant Etruscan, Greek and Roman cultural influence on today's Italians.
I've been following my Albino ancesters through Campodipietra, a small town outside Campobasso. Click here to see my great grandfather's birth record. This was 1887, and the scribe recorded the baby's name as Nicola D'Albino. In the index for the 1887 birth records, this record was alphabetized with the A's, but recorded with the D' before the name. All the last names that began with A had that phenomenon going on. Note that my great great grandfather Vincenzo signed his last name as Albino, not D'Albino.
The microfilm I was examining started in 1883, and all the records I examined between 1883 and 1887 have the family name as D'Albino, but alphabetized with the A's, and signed with the name as Albino. All last names that began with A were recorded that way. I didn't have any records in 1888 to examine, so I skipped ahead to 1889, where I discovered the names are now recorded as Albino, and continue that way until 1910, where the microfilm ends.
I examined marriage records next. They also showed this strange custom. Marriages before 1888 showed the name as D'Albino. I had two marriages to record in 1888; one had D'Albino, and one had Albino. All subsequent marriages up to 1893, when I ran out of time, were listed as Albino.
I followed the phenomenon backward. I had a marriage to record from 1866, and the name was d'Albino with a small D. But the witness signed the announcement, not the principals because they were illiterate, so I don't know if they would have signed them as Albino or d'Albino.
Around 1874, the small d was changed into a capital D.
Once literate Albinos started getting married in the 1880s, they were signing their names without the D'. I haven't run across any example of someone signing their name with the D'.
Has anyone else seen this custom in practice in the records they have examined? Is this common, or unusual? Why did the record keeper add the D' before the surname, even if the family didn't spell their name that way?