Have you ever wondered where your name came from? Often when researching family genealogy, a namesake from an earlier generation will become apparent. For example: a son named after a grandfather or a daughter named after a favorite aunt. On the Genetti Family tree, sons are often named after fathers, grandfathers or an uncle. Each branch of our tree also has certain names that are passed down from generation to generation, identifying that particular family line. For example, you see the prevalence of Giovanni Battista, Pietro and Francesco in my branch of the tree. Another branch shows many Giorgio and Pietro ancestors. A third section of the tree has numerous Francesco Nicolo and Giovanni Battista.
When I began researching my great-grandfather and his siblings, I found the names in his family to be poetic and a bit different from others in that generation. A few children were named after family members, but others had their own unique character. My “bisnonno” (great-grandfather) was Cosma Damiano – certainly an unusual name! Other siblings included: Sisinio Alessandro, Angela Maddalena, Angelo Rafaele, Agostino Leone, Dionisio Antonio and Erminia Enrica. All lovely, expressive monikers.
But it was “Cosma Damiano” that I was fascinated by. There were no other men on the family tree with this name. Why had Catterina (my twice great-grandmother) baptized her second son with this odd name? With no clues to go by from the tree, I decided to do a web search. Perhaps he was named after a famous person or his “nome” had some other importance.
The answer came immediately from Wikipedia. “Santi Cosma e Damiano” or Saints Cosma and Damiano, were early Christian martyrs who died in the 3rd century. Twin brothers, they were considered to be two of the earliest physicians. They practiced their profession of healing, refusing to take any payment for their services. OK, this was interesting, but why had Catterina chosen this name for her son? Reading on, I found the clue. The feast day of Saints Cosma and Damiano was September 27. My bisnonno had been born on September 26, 1857 and baptized the next day on September 27th. His mother must have considered her baby’s birth to have an important synchronicity with this feast day. Although I have no proof to go by other than an educated guess, I believe this reasoning to be a fairly good conclusion of why the baby was named “Cosma Damiano”.
Two other interesting points to note:
– The Catholic church decided to move the feast day in 1969 from September 27th to September 26th, which coincidentally now coincides with Damiano Genetti’s birth date!
– Damiano Genetti, like his namesakes, was also considered a physician by the Tyrolean people of Castelfondo, Italy and Hazleton, Pennsylvania. He was well-versed in herbal medicine and several other curative methods. And, like Saints Cosma and Damiano, he took no payment from anyone who sought his services. This information was related to me many times by Damiano’s grandchildren and by several people in Castelfondo. It was also documented in a book by Marco Romano, comprised of interviews by village elders. Damiano and his healing abilities were mentioned many times by those who knew and remembered him.
If Catterina’s intention was to name her son after the two physician saints, it seems to have had a prophetic effect on Damiano’s life.
Read more about Saints Cosma and Damiano: