Guest Post by Cecelia Joliat

Cecelia Joliat, a descendant of the Genetti family, is the granddaughter of Regina Branz Daly (1931-2017) and Dr. Joseph E. Daly (1919-2013). She is also the great-granddaughter of Henry Branz (1897-1971) and Erminia Genetti (1896-1971).

Last year Cecelia made the long journey to her ancestral home of Castelfondo in the Val di Non. Today Cecelia shares with us an essay she composed about her family’s homeland along with personal photos from her trip. Many thanks Cecelia for your beautiful words and images!

The Val di Non – by Cecelia Joliat

Winter and spring had met in the valley and decided to form a truce; through the air was warm, little patches of snow clung to the grass and hid in the shadows of the houses at the base of the mountains. The mountains themselves served to break up the monotony of the blue sky, which threatened to swallow the valley whole. Indeed, the Val di Non was a place of perfect peace and clarity, a place where the tedious actions of every day life seemed to be carried away with the wind. It was there that my family packed its belongings and, with heavy hearts, left the comfort and security of their homeland to travel to America.

Over a hundred years later, I was inspired to make a personal pilgrimage to the land of my ancestors, and what I found exceeded expectation. The hillsides were covered in bare apple trees, slumbering in preparation for the next harvest, and the roof of every church glittered like a green gem. Train tracks cut swaths through the fields and bored holes in the sides of the mountains, with the stops punctuating the vast stretches of empty land in between. Neither photographer nor painter could do such sights justice.

No measure of time spent in the valley would have been long enough, so when it came time to leave, I left with the same heaviness of heart that my ancestors had. The windows of the train framed the snowy peaks, quaint farms, and ancient castles until the sun retreated and I was left peering into the darkness, hoping one day to return. ~ by Cecelia Joliat


(click on photos to view larger)



  11 comments for “Guest Post by Cecelia Joliat

  1. Helene L. Prehatny (daughter of Elizabeth Genetti Smith)
    December 13, 2017 at 7:22 pm

    Loved the story. Makes me want to go.

  2. Anne Marie Shelby
    December 13, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    I was so glad to read about your trip and the pictures were great

  3. Linda Genetti Applonie
    December 14, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    Beautiful story, I could close my eyes and really believe I was there. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Regina Marie
    March 29, 2020 at 7:29 pm

    My name is Regina Marie Stefanik (married name Seavey). If your Great Grandfather is Henry Francis Branz born October 28, 1898, in Freeland, Luzerne, Pennsylvania; son of Leonardo Branz of Sanzeno, Tyrol, Austria (now Trentino, Italy) and Angela Domenica (nee Lorenzetti) Branz, Castelfondo,Tyrol, Austria (now Trentino, Italy), we are cousins. Your great grandfather, Henry Francis Branz, is my grandmother’s brother. My grandmother was Mary (nee: Stefanik) Branz, 1904-1978, sister to Henry Francis Branz. I also have, or had an Aunt Angeline (nee: Branz) who married Walter Sly. They lived in Pennsylvania with their 5 children their whole life. My dad is Francis Sylvester Stefanik..his mom is Mary (Branz) grandmother is a sister to Henry Francis Branz. If you Google Leonardo Branz, in Val di Non, you will see your great grandfather’s name as the first born of 10 children. The list of children, born to Leonardo Branz and Angela Domenica (Lorenzetti) Branz are: Henry Francis 1898-1971; Mary (Stefanik) nee: Branz (my grandmother) 1904-1978; Leonard 1906-1962; Sylvester 1907-1934; Anna 1909-1909….Angela Domenica (Lorenzetti) Branz died 2 yrs following the death of Anna, in Freeland, Luzerne, Pennsylvania October 1, 1911. Leonardo Branz remarried Maria Caterina (Piazzi) Branz who was also born in Castelfondo, Tyrol, Austria now Trentino, Italy. Both Leonardo and Maria Caterina Branz, appeared to live in and die in Sanzeno, Tyrol, Trentino, Italy. They had 5 children: Anna 1914-? ; Emil Joseph 1914-1998; Francesco Peter 1916-2002; Angelina Emma (Dona-married name) 1917-1983; William 1923-? Father of Leonardo Branz is Francesco Domenico Branz born April 14, 1831, Sanzeno, Tyrol, Trentino, Italy, and Mother: Teresa Elisabetta Maria Pontara -Born December 10,1832 in Cles, Tyrol, Trentino, Italy. My grandmother: Mary (married name: Stefanik) Branz married John Stefanik (birthplace Czeck Republic). My grandmother, Mary(nee: Branz) Stefanik and grandfather’s children are: John Stefanik Jr.; Joseph Stefanik; Francis Sylvester Stefanik (my dad) born July 13, 1934 (not the other Francis Sylvester Stefanik)…my dad, Francis Sylvester Stefanik died August 27, 1976 in car accident due to a young woman drunk driver in a separate car. .; Angeline Stefanik (Sly..married name); Ann Rita Stefanik (Gabula…married name). I believe my grandmother named her children after her brothers and sisters. Francis, after your great grandfather, my grandmother’s older brother’s middle name, and Sylvester, after her 3rd brother. Perhaps i was named after your grandmother Regina, Henry Francis Branz’ daughter Regina? My grandmother supposedly chose my name Regina Marie….Marie likely as a variant to her name Mary.

    • L.Roach
      March 29, 2020 at 7:41 pm

      Thank you for commenting Regina. This was a guest post by Cecelia Joliat who is the great-granddaughter of the Genetti family and a granddaughter of the Branz family. I don’t think she will see this comment unless she visits our website. Of course this is a website dedicated to the descendants of the Genetti family and we only have one connection to the Branz family – Erminia Genetti who married a Branz.

      • L.Roach
        March 29, 2020 at 7:47 pm

        And yes Erminia Genetti married Henry Francis Branz, who were Cecelia’s great-grandparents. Therefore you are cousins with Cecelia.

    • Toni Jo Dona
      August 5, 2022 at 1:10 pm

      I am the wife of George Dona who is the son of Angelina (Branz) daughter of Leonardo Branz from Val de Non. My husband George, his brother Leonard and his sister were all born in Bolzano and Fondo, Italy. Your family history is a part of our family history. I have been searching for information for my husband’s family. I found this information and am excited to share it with them. I Thank you for all of this wonderful and accurate information!

      • L.Roach
        August 5, 2022 at 2:23 pm

        Thank you for commenting. The Branz family married into the Genetti family. The author of this guest post, Cecelia Joliat, is the great-granddaughter of Henry Francis Branz (1898-1971) and Erminia Genetti (1896-1971) of Freeland, Pennsylvania. Erminia was born in Castelfondo, Trentino and immigrated to the United States in 1906. Her husband, Henry Branz, was born in Freeland and I believe he was a first generation American. Erminia is my great grandaunt, the sister of my great-grandfather, Damiano Genetti. I am the webmaster for the Genetti website and my name is Louise Genetti Roach.

      • Toni Jo Dona
        August 5, 2022 at 2:44 pm

        Yes, my mother-in-law, Angelina is Henry Francis Branz half sister. We did not know until now that there was a 2nd Leonard Branz family. We had a picture of Henry and his wife Helen and their children in our family album. When I tried to find out who he was and how he was related, I discovered the 2nd family. Then I saw your family information which completed the family history. Now we even know the names of our family’s Great Grandparents.
        Thank you!

    • Toni Jo Dona
      August 6, 2022 at 1:29 pm

      I wanted to let you know that Anna, Francesco, Emil Joseph and Angelina Emma were born in Freeland, Pennsylvania. Anna was born in 1919. They moved back to Italy in 1922 where William was born.

  5. Regina Marie
    March 29, 2020 at 7:31 pm

    correction: my Aunt Angeline was a Stefanik prior to marrying Walter Sly

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