Am I Italian?


Modern Italy showing the provinces of Trentino-Alto Adige. The village of Castelfondo is located in Trentino (marked by a very small dot on the enlargement of this map!)

As a child, I was told that I was “Tyrolean”. Of course, I didn’t know the meaning of “Tyrolean”, but I knew it was a source of pride for my family. As I grew older, I wondered where exactly was this mythic country called “Tyrol”. I couldn’t find it on any map. And why did I have an Italian last name, but I wasn’t Italian? Oh so many unanswered questions …

Growing up in Buffalo, New York in the 1970’s I had many friends of Italian ethnicity. But none were Tyrolean. Usually when someone asked if I was Italian, I just gave in and said “Yes, yes I am”. Because how can you explain to someone that your heritage is from a country that you can’t find on a map?

Let’s jump ahead to 1991. Something on the nightly news catches my attention. Hikers have found a man frozen for over 5,000 years in the Alps … the Tyrolean Alps! Something awakens inside me and I proclaim to my husband, “Look he’s a Tyrolean, just like me! The iceman is one of my ancestors!” At the time my husband thought I was a little crazy. But there was a spark of recognition that, yes indeed, I did come from an ancient people. Today we know this man as Otzi – The Iceman and he is a treasure to the people of South Tyrol.

A few more years roll by. In 2010 I began genealogy research to find my family. Right away I saw there were discrepancies in the United States Census information. The 1910 Census stated that my great-grandfather’s family was from Austria. In the 1920 Census their birthplace is listed as Switzerland. And by 1930, the census taker became really confused! The family is first documented as Austrian. Then this answer is crossed out and Italy is scribbled over the category of birthplace. “OK,” I thought, “even the census is confused by my ethnic background!”


Map of Austrian Tyrol drawn in 1882. Portions of these regions now belong to Italy.

Thankfully we live in the age of the internet with answers right at our fingertips. In 2010, it didn’t take long to solve the mystery of my ethnicity. Apparently the region of Tyrol is smack in the middle of Europe. Because of its central location, the fact that it is land-locked with several bordering neighbor countries and that it guards important mountain passes between eastern Europe and southern Europe – this area has been invaded and controlled by many tribes, countries and governments throughout history. Human settlements in Tyrol can be traced back to 12,000 BC. Otzi is a mere 5,300 years old! Yep, we’re talking ancient!


Modern Tyrol today – Pink areas belong to Austria; Orange area is the province of Alto Adige or Sud Tirol (South Tyrol) and belongs to Italy; Purple area is the province of Trentino and also belongs to Italy.

We’ll save the long history of Tyrol for another blog post. For now the short answer of modern ethnicity is that Tyrol belonged to the Austrian Habsburg Dynasty, (that later became the Austro-Hungarian Empire) for about 550 years. There was a short period of rule in the 1800’s under Napoleon in which the country was given to Bavaria, then later returned to Austria. After World War I, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dismantled and the region of Tyrol was divided with the southern portion given to Italy. By 1919 this area became the Italian provinces of Trentino and Alto Adige (or South Tyrol). The little Austrian village of Castelfondo, ancestral home of the Genetti family, was now Italian!

So there you are – the Genetti Family is of all three ethnic backgrounds: Tyrolean, Austrian and Italian. I will always consider myself to be Tyrolean and from the same beautiful part of the world where Otzi, The Iceman once lived.

Read more about the History of Tyrol, click here.

Find out about the famous Tyrolean, Otzi – the Iceman as the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, click here.


We are online!


Louise Genetti Roach with Andrea Cologna and historian Marco Romano in Castelfondo.

The Genetti Family Genealogy Project just went live! It has been an intense couple of months compiling information and setting up this website, but it is finally online and ready to share. I’ll be sending out invites by email and through Face Book during the next week. If you would like to spread the word, please pass our website link on to other family members and invite them to visit:

I would also like to express my sincere thanks to all those who have contributed information and photos to this project. In particular, I would like to thank Bill Genetti of Hazleton, PA; brothers Larry Genetti of Philadelphia, PA and Ralph Genetti of Copley, Ohio; Marco and Claudio Genetti of Fondo, Italy; historian Marco Romano also of Fondo, Italy; Andrea Cologna of Castelfondo, Italy; and Pam from the Santa Fe, New Mexico Family History Center. Thank you for your immeasurable help and patience. This website would not have been possible without your assistance.


Louise Genetti Roach and Bill Genetti at last family reunion held in Hazelton, PA 2012.

And to the hundreds (maybe thousands!) of Genetti descendants scattered throughout the world, I look forward to meeting and corresponding with you via this website and blog. Send me your photos, stories, tributes and family trees. I will find a place for them here at The Genetti Genealogy Project.

With warm regards ~ Louise Genetti Roach


Genetti homestead in Castelfondo

Louise at the Genetti homestead in Castelfondo, 2011.

Hey – hi! Thanks for stopping by! This is the beginning of our genealogy journey together.

But first, let me introduce myself. My name is Louise Genetti Roach and I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico. My background is in photography and fine art. Over the years I’ve had a varied career with my last position being the Marketing Manager for an industrial manufacturing company. Today I’m retired, enjoy mountain hiking and traveling to interesting places.

How did I end up writing a genealogy blog? Well, five years ago I was bitten by the ancestry bug after watching the TV show “Who Do You Think You Are”. I started down the path of research and never turned back. At the time I knew almost nothing about my family. Then I began digging. What unfolded was a truly American story of an enigmatic family with a very long history that once lived in an ancient land. Sounds like a once-upon-a-time fairy tale, doesn’t it?

After five years of searching archives, meeting cousins and collecting data, I knew I had to share my findings with you – The Genetti Family. Since I have so much to tell you, this blog format will allow me to write a little at a time as I delve into our history. Plus it gives you the opportunity to ask questions and become a part of the process through the comments section of each blog post.

My father was a second generation American of 100% Tyrolean ancestry. That means that half of my DNA originated in a tiny valley in the Austrian Tyrol (now part of Italy). This fact alone blows my mind! For hundreds of years my ancestors knew each other’s families (Genetti, Marchetti, Zambotti, Fellin, Cologna, Lorenzetti, etc.). They intermarried and never moved away from their Alpine home. Even when their country was taken over by different rulers and governments, the people and their culture remained unchanged. Then came the great migration at the end of the 19th century when entire families left the Val di Non for a better life in North or South America. And yet today you can still find Tyrolean homes in Trentino, Italy built in the fifteenth century that are inhabited and well kept; coat-of-arms and frescoes that grace plaster walls; and cobblestone roads once traveled by Roman soldiers still wind their way up to mountain passes.

So begins the journey to unravel our family’s past and understand the almost-mythical land of Tyrol. I have stories to share, pages of history to turn and the lives of ancestors to recount.

While you’re waiting for each new blog post to be published, take a stroll through the website. Explore the ever-growing family tree, send me your photos and stories, and become a part of The Genetti Family Genealogy Project.

Let’s begin … or as they say in Italian “Cominciamo!”


If you want to feel that you belong in the world, a family, or any relationship, you must tell your story. But if you want to see into the hearts of other beings, your first task is to hear their stories.

~ Martha Beck