Who or Where is Melango?

While visiting Castelfondo this past September, I was told an interesting story by an old-timer of the village. See what you think …

TreeCloseup

Base of the original family tree.

Since I began researching our family genealogy, I’ve had a question about “Melango”. The first time I saw this word was on the Genetti Family Tree under Pietro Genetti born in 1461. Along with Pietro’s name is the word “Melango”. At first I thought this was Pietro’s wife, as this is the format for everyone else on the tree – husband’s name first, wife’s name listed below his.

But when I began researching baptismal records, I found that Melango was recorded as a place of origin. The record pictured below states that a son was born to Pietro Genet (oldest form of our name) of Melango on the 12th of February, 1568. He was baptized Andrea. The godmother to the child was the wife of Antoni Lorenecto (maybe a form of the name Lorenzetti) also of Melango. Obviously, Melango was a place. In almost all baptismal records of the time, the father’s village of origin is recorded, as a means of identification. For example, if you have five men named Pietro Genet born in the same region, you can tell them apart by their town.

baptismalrecord

Baptismal record from St. Nicolo Church, 1568.

 

Since the origin of the Genetti Family was supposedly the village of Castelfondo, I was confused. Researching further, I found that baptismal records through the end of the 1500’s clearly state that our branch of the family were all from Melango. About 1625, the records change, stating that our ancestors were “di Castelfondo” or “of Castelfondo”.

After searching for Melango on historical maps, Google, Wikipedia and even consulting with a local historian, I had no clear-cut answers. It seemed that Melango had been lost somewhere in time!

Melongo-2

Possible location of Melango – hill near Castelfondo.

 

On my first visit to Castelfondo in 2011, I met an older gentleman who had known my great-grandfather in the 1930’s and 40’s. Since Andrea spoke fluent English, he escorted me around the village, explaining various sites. When I approached the question of Melango, Andrea was also unsure. He and our historian friend, Marco, thought that it was a name for the general area of Castelfondo, but it was no longer used.

When I returned to the village this past September, Andrea had a surprise for me. He brought me to a hill right off the road leading into Castelfondo. The site was located between the village and Castello di Castelfondo, an ancient castle with origins dating back to the 11th century. “This is Melango,” he told me. We were standing on a high mound, covered with grass and partially planted with apple trees and grape vines. From the top of the hill we could see the gables of Castello di Castelfondo, peaking out from the forest further down the highway. Again, I was confused.

Melongo-3

Possible location of Melango – hill near Castelfondo.

Andrea explained. After speaking to a number of people, he had learned that Melango had indeed been a village located closer to the castle than the current town of Castelfondo. He was told at some point in history, there was a landslide that covered the village of Melango. And this hill was the remains of Melango – we were standing on top of an archaeological site! Apparently everyone who had survived moved up the road to Castelfondo or to the other surrounding hamlets. I asked if he knew the date of the landslide. No, he did not. Judging from the Castelfondo baptismal records I had spent months scouring over, Melango as a location seemed to fall out of use by around 1600. So if a slide had occurred, my guess was that it happened a generation before, around 1575.

Castle

The rooftops of Castello di Castelfondo as seen from the hill where Melango may have been located.

Arriving home, I tried researching Melango again. This time I was lucky! I found it mentioned on the Commune di Castelfondo webpage under the section titled: “Il paese”. After running the page through Google translator, I had a rough English translation. It seems the name “Castelfondo” designated a parish region composed of the communities of Melango, Raina and Dovena. I was familiar with Raina and Dovena, as they are hamlets bordering Castelfondo still in existence today – almost like Gothic suburbs. So that meant Melango had also bordered the village at one time. From the website translation, the description of Melango’s location matched the hill that Andrea had taken me to.

According to the historian, Carl Ausserer (“Archive Trentino” published 1900, historical literature quoted on the Castelfondo website), Melango was the original location of the first fortification and settlement in the region. It pre-dated Castello di Castelfondo!

Numerous archaeological finds from the site confirm that there were originally Roman and pre-Roman settlements on this location. The text also states that apparently over time the community of Melango disappeared due to abandonment or depopulation as a result of plague epidemics. The name was no longer used and the entire region became known as Castelfondo.

So now I had two stories about Melango, both fascinating! The village certainly did exist, but it’s true history pre-dates written records. Now I don’t know how valid either story is, but a few of the puzzle pieces are following into place.

In conclusion, it appears that our true family origin is from a village that no longer exists! However, this also could mean that the Genetti family is much older than the first date on our family tree of “1461”. What do you think?

I have another date that I’m researching of 1265 concerning the origin of our family. But hey, that’s another story!

 

Special Note: here is a link to an excellent photograph by Enrico Marchetti, showing Castello di Castelfondo in the forground and the village of Castelfondo in the background. Click here!

 

 

 

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