Down the Rabbit Hole, Part 1

Raffaele Genetti (1867-1949) and Lucia Zambotti Genetti (1867-1952) with their first child, Alessandro (1895-1900?). Photographed about 1897, Pennsylvania.

When you hang out with genealogists, a certain kind of lingo infiltrates your thinking. Such things as brick walls, NPEs and search angels are common jargon amongst my research friends.

Since my last blog post about the family of Raffaele and Lucia Genetti, one particular genealogy term describes my recent research: “falling down the rabbit hole”.

Allow me to explain. After publishing the last post in our series, Anatomy of a Photograph, I received several thoughtful comments addressing missing information. Two of the comments were from descendants of Raffaele and Lucia. I felt their concerns were valid and should be researched, with the possibility of updating our current tree.

Beginning my research as I usually do by accessing various online data bases, I soon found myself “falling down the rabbit hole”. In genealogy terminology this means: I lost my focus due to search results leading me in a totally unexpected direction. The information I stumbled upon was interesting enough to pursue further and was directly linked to the Weston saloon owned by Raffaele and Lucia.

Because of this, I am taking a short break from our original series and will present several posts addressing your previous comments, as well as present new research I have unearthed about the Genetti establishment.

Part 1

Two of the comments left on our blog were from the grandchildren of Raffaele and Lucia: Helene Prehatny and Ralph Genetti. Both thought there were eight children in the family, rather than the seven I mentioned in my original post. Although I had explained the death of the family’s oldest son, Alessandro, Ralph was sure there was another child named Raffaele Jr. who had died at birth. But Ralph had no specific information about the infant’s birth or death date or age at time of death.

This child was completely missing from our tree and I had no sources within my research indicating an eighth birth in the family. I agreed with Ralph that it required further investigation.

Since we had no specific information for Alessandro either, other than being mentioned in the 1900 Federal Census as being five years old, I felt it was necessary to do in-depth research for both boys.

Returning to my most reliable online sources, I scoured data bases for any mention of Alessandro or Raffaele Jr. I also searched Find-A-Grave and Newspapers.com for some scrap of evidence on either child. There was nothing. I even went back into my archive from San Nicolo in Castelfondo, hoping there may be a slim chance relatives of Raffaele or Lucia had notified the village priest of a family birth in Hazleton. (If the couple had relatives still living in Castelfondo and they had kept a close connection with family, sometimes you will find a birth in the United States included in the church’s baptismal records.) Unfortunately, once again I came up empty. There was simply no paper trail left for either infant.

As a genealogist, this places me in an unusual predicament. If I go by the rules, there is no confirmed evidence such as a grave or public record for an eighth child named Raffaele Jr. And since this child was born prior to the 1900 Federal Census, there is no one alive today with any memory of the birth. I know from experience, trusting stories as fact can often lead to inaccurate information entered into family trees and archives (our double wedding photo is a good example of this very thing!). Incorrect information is not useful for future generations of family researchers as it leads to generational mistakes.

It should also be noted that there is a common practice to exclude stillborn births and those that die in childhood from family trees as they produce no heirs to carry on the family line. Our original tree adheres to this philosophy as I have found dozens of births in the Castelfondo records where the child was dropped from various family branches due to death before reaching adulthood.

Since both Ralph and Helene were sure there was another child in Raffaele and Lucia’s family, I decided on a compromise. I have added little Raffaele to our tree but his birth and death dates are listed as “about 1897”. Since no one knows the facts about his birth date, age at time of death or death date, I had to use basic historical facts and make my best guess. We know from the 1900 Federal Census that Alessandro was born sometime around 1895 and the next child listed, Silvio, was born in 1899. There is a very good chance that Raffaele Jr. was born between these two children in 1897. Because he is not listed in the 1900 Census, we know that he did not reach the age of three and may very well have died as an infant.

In an attempt to keep our records as accurate as possible, the listings for both children have now been modified to read:

Alessandro Genetti, born about 1895, died between 1900 and 1910. Additional Note: There are no public records for the death of Alessandro. We know he appears in the 1900 Census as being 5 yrs. old, but he is not listed in the 1910 Census.

Raffaele Genetti Jr., born about 1897, died about 1897. Additional Note: There is no known evidence of the birth or death of Raffaele Jr. other than the memory of family descendants.

Watch for “Down the Rabbit Hole, Part 2” coming soon!

  4 comments for “Down the Rabbit Hole, Part 1

  1. Helene Prehatny
    August 26, 2020 at 2:30 pm

    Thank you, Louise. My memory was of being told that Alessandro was around 6 years old when he died, and Raffaele, about 2. Just oral history – no records.

    • L.Roach
      August 26, 2020 at 2:37 pm

      You’re welcome Helene.

  2. John N Fellin
    August 26, 2020 at 8:24 pm

    Very interesting, Louise I had no idea that deceased young children are dropped from the family records. I often wondered why my Grandfather Fellin had only one sibling, his younger brother Romano. Now, having read your article, I wonder if there were other siblings who were stillborn or died young.

    • L.Roach
      August 26, 2020 at 8:38 pm

      Yep, if you search the original records you’ll find many more births than are in most trees. My great-grandfather has three additional brothers who all died in infancy. None are listed on the original family tree. Also girls were not included as the lineage went through the sons. Plus if a son had only daughters he was usually dropped from the tree too as his line would be considered extinct.

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