My great-grandfather, Damiano Genetti (1857-1944), had three brothers and three sisters who survived to adulthood. All of his siblings emigrated to the United States with the exception of his oldest brother, Sisinio Alessandro (1854-1908), who stayed in the village of Castelfondo. He passed away at the age of 53 of tuberculosis. From the perspective of genealogy, we know quite a bit about Damiano and his siblings since they all left a trail of documentation: census, vital stats (birth, marriage, death records), land deeds, family photos, newspaper articles, etc. Every sibling except for one – Giuseppe Genetti (or Joseph in English).
When I began our family research a number of years ago, I was told stories about Giuseppe. He had emigrated to Pennsylvania at a young age, worked in the coal mines, and one day left for California. His family never heard from him again. No one knew if he had any descendants, when he died or where he was buried. And there seemed to be no existing portraits of Giuseppe. Since I love a good mystery, my great granduncle, Joseph, became an ongoing research project that I have returned to time and time again throughout the years.
I had two documents for Giuseppe that I felt certain of: his baptismal record from St. Nicolo church in Castelfondo stating that he was born July 30, 1862 and a ship’s manifest showing his arrival in New York City on June 19, 1882. The ship’s list showed that Joseph came over with two other young men of his village, Fortunato and Peter Ianas (both of whom I have identified in Castelfondo baptismal records.) And that’s as far as I got!
He does not appear in any Federal Census, city directories, land deeds, marriage records or death notices under either Giuseppe or Joseph Genetti.
As much as I searched, the only clue to Joseph’s whereabouts was a mention in the obituaries of his sisters, Marie Genetti Zambotti and Angela Genetti Recla. Both obits state surviving family members and siblings, including “Joseph Genetti of California”.
Imagine my surprise when last month I received a photo from Don Lingousky identified as “Uncle Joe”. Don is the great-grandson of Angela Genetti Recla (sister of Joseph). After years of searching, here was an actual portrait of my mysterious great granduncle! What clues would it hold?
After a little investigative work, Don and I determined that this must indeed be a portrait of the missing Giuseppe (Joseph), since we could find no evidence of a Joseph on the Recla side of Don’s family. Obviously a studio portrait, the image also contained the name of the photographer: L.C. Marchetti. This was another amazing clue! Searching online I found several formal portraits photographed in the early 1900’s by the same L.C. Marchetti who was from Nuremberg, Pennsylvania. At this time the Genetti siblings all lived in the same region of north central PA in the towns of Weston, Nuremberg, Hazleton and Sheppton, as did many Tyrolean families who immigrated from the Val di Non region of Austria (Italy).
Since my grandmother was from the Marchetti family of Nuremberg, PA, I took a look at her family tree. There was my answer – she had an older brother named Lawrence Camillo Marchetti. He must have been L.C. Marchetti since no other Marchetti ancestors matched those initials. Lawrence would have known the other Tyrolean families and was probably the only photographer at this time in the area. Giuseppe may have had a formal portrait taken in Nuremberg before leaving on his travels. Judging from the dates on other portraits by L.C. Marchetti that I found, the time frame was most likely between 1900-1910. Since Don was in possession of the photo, it had apparently been handed down through Angela Genetti Recla’s family (Joseph’s sister). So from this evidence, we now know that Giuseppe (Joseph) was living in Pennsylvania at least until the turn of the century, that he had contact with his family before seeking his fortune elsewhere, and that he most likely lived with or close to them since the portrait was done in Nuremberg.
I was so grateful to Don for providing this unexpected find! The information we had gleaned from the portrait now gave me some idea of a timeline for Joseph. Again I went back to searching hundreds of online records for any inkling of his whereabouts. Taking a different tactic, I researched categories and scanned through individual data bases, rather than doing a general search under records. After two weeks of research, I found one document with promise – although there is no hard evidence that this is our Joseph Genetti. What I came upon was a California payroll sheet from the Southern Pacific Company – Salt Lake Division dated August of 1916. It shows a Joe Genetti who worked as a laborer for eleven and a half days during this month, earning $2.00 a day, for a total paycheck of $23.50. Not much info to go on!
I was aware of a Genetti family who had eventually settled in Utah, but they don’t show up in the Federal Census until much later in 1940. There was also a Genetti family living in California as early as the 1900 Census, but none that matched Joseph’s name, birth year or immigration year. Since the Southern Pacific was a railroad company, this could mean that he worked the rails and had no permanent address – if indeed, it is the same Giuseppe (Joseph) Genetti that we are looking for. With no other collaborating evidence, this may be hard to prove.
For now, it is the end of the line for Giuseppe. As more data bases are digitized, we may come upon new clues in the future. Or, like Don’s portrait of “Uncle Joe”, information may unexpectedly surface from a family member’s closet or attic. If you are reading this blog post and have information, stories, letters or documents about Giuseppe (Joseph) Genetti born in 1862 in Castelfondo, Austria (Italy), we would love to hear from you!
Our special thanks to Don Lingouski for your help and contribution to our family story.