Category: Ancestors

Anatomy of a Photograph, Part 3

Manifest of Alien Passenger for the U.S. Immigration Officer at Port of Arrival – 1906

Let’s skip ahead to 2020 and the discovery that inspired this entire series. During the past year I had been working with Loretta Cologna transcribing the school notebook of Tillie Genetti, who was my grandfather’s younger sister. As we worked through the text, adding historical information about Tillie and her siblings, I naturally used a timeline to trace personal information and immigration dates for my great-aunts and uncles. The family had arrived during three separate years: 1902, 1904 and 1906. Tillie, with her mother and five siblings, disembarked from their ship at Ellis Island in 1906. Although I had always been aware of the family’s immigration years, I had not paid close attention to the specific dates other than noting the Manifest Passenger List as a source citation in my Ancestry family tree.

Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry – arrival date December 3, 1906

While working on the school notebook, I was particularly interested in the transitional period of Tillie’s life between her final school year in Castelfondo and her new life in Pennsylvania. As I created her timeline I noted Tillie’s arrival in New York City on December 3rd, 1906. This date is correct and confirmed through public record according to the ship’s manifest and Ellis Island passenger records.

L to R: Dora Genetti, Richard Fedrizzi, Angeline Cologna, Tillie Genetti

A few months later while I was updating sections of our family website and playing with a new photo colorization tool, I stopped in my tracks! It suddenly occurred to me – the date included in the caption for the boarding house photo was suspect! Since Tillie and her older sister Dora had both attended the wedding and were clearly pictured standing in the front row, the date of October 1906 could not possibly be correct. Here’s why: while we believe Dora arrived sometime in 1902 with her father and sister Ester (there are no public records to confirm this year), Tillie had not arrived until much later in December of 1906 – three months after the supposed date of when the photo was taken – October of 1906!

Obviously, the story of Lucia Genetti giving birth upstairs in 1906 while a wedding took place downstairs was an interesting family legend – but alas, not founded in truth! Public immigration records verified this date could not be accurate as Tillie was not living in Pennsylvania in October 1906!

But what was the true date?

Although I was fond of the story attached to our infamous photo, it was obvious that we needed to correct the misnomer. It was time to dig into Pennsylvania marriage records at Ancestry.com to learn more!

Part 4 – coming soon!

Note – In both documents from Ellis Island we see that Oliva and her five children were detained for further examination. It appears that little Ann was only about three years old at the time and suffering from a hip problem. In Stanley Genetti’s biography he explains:

“Before we left Europe my three year old sister, Ann, suffered from leg poisoning and had to be operated on. She was still unable to walk when our ship docked at Ellis Island and my oldest sister carried her. One of the inspectors told her to put Ann down and let her walk. When she responded that Ann could not walk, they were both detained for special inquiry.

“The rest of the family had passed through inspection when we received the bad news. We had to wait three days for my father to arrive from Hazleton. During our wait mother became very upset. She said she feared that we would all be deported, but I think that she was more afraid that the two girls would be deported by themselves. Finally, my father arrived and convinced the authorities that he would have a doctor treat my sister and she would never become a public charge. We were released on the fourth day.”

Extra note: Little Ann went on to have a successful life and career, reaching the amazing age of 102 – outliving her entire family!

Anatomy of a Photograph, Part 2

Albert Lawrence Genetti (1906-1990)

When Ralph Genetti handed me the boarding house photo, it was numbered on the front and the names of those present were noted on the back. It also contained the date of October 1906. Ralph related an interesting story associated with the photo passed down through family legend during the past one hundred years. Supposedly while the wedding celebrations were taking place downstairs, his grandmother Lucia was upstairs giving birth to Albert (1906-1990), Ralph’s father. Since Albert was born on October 21, 1906, this seemed to confirm the date printed on the back of the photo.

No caption was provided and it was difficult to determine exactly who had married who since many of the people in the front row were wearing corsages. Eventually I was able to conclude that two siblings, Richard and Virginia Fedrizzi, had taken vows on that day. Virginia had married Peter Dallachiesa. But Richard Fedrizzi’s bride was labeled only as Mrs. Richard Fedrizzi. Not much help!

Peter Dallachiesa and Virginia Fedrizzi

I dutifully published the photo on our website along with the information and date provided on the back, although I felt it unfair to name one of the brides “Mrs. Fedrizzi” – as if she had no identity of her own. Unfortunately, at that time Ancestry.com was just beginning to add Pennsylvania wedding documents to their data base and I found nothing listed for a Fedrizzi wedding taking place in October of 1906.

A year passed and I received an email from a descendant of the Dallachiesa family. Arleen had seen our wedding photo and also wondered about the identity of the bride. Could she possibly be one of her ancestors? Arleen did a little research and soon wrote back to me. The bride was not from the Dallachiesa family. She was a woman named Angeline Cologna. And like most of the people in this photo, Angeline was a recent immigrant from our ancestral village of Castelfondo.

Our photo was updated with the newly found name. The bride of Richard Fedrizzi now had an identity!

Richard Fedrizzi and Angeline Cologna

Although Arleen had found the name of our illusive bride, she had not provided the date of the wedding, probably assuming the date I had listed was correct. I assumed the same thing!

That was my mistake. I had broken the number one rule of genealogy – never assume a date, event or name is correct unless substantiated by several public sources.

And the saga continues …

Watch for Part 3 – coming soon!

(Note: click on photos for a larger view)

Anatomy of a Photograph, Part 1

Photo taken in 1909, in front of Raffaele Genetti’s boarding house and saloon in Weston, PA. Group includes members of the following families: Genetti, Zambotti, Marchetti, Dallachiesa, Martini, Springetti, Yannes, Recla.

I’m sure you have heard the old adage: A picture is worth a thousand words. Recently this saying echoed in my brain as I updated a large group photo from the Genetti family of Pennsylvania. So much so, that I decided to write an entire blog series about the people and stories hiding behind the faces that stared back at me.

If you are a frequent visitor to our website, I’m sure you are familiar with the group photo memorializing a double wedding taking place at Raffaele and Lucia Genetti’s boarding house/bar in Weston, Pennsylvania. I received the photo at a family reunion in 2012. It was given to me by Ralph Genetti, the grandson of Raffaele and Lucia; and was the first photo I published on our new website in 2014. Over the years I have received many emails from descendants of those pictured in Ralph’s photograph.

Colorized photo

A few months ago I decided to use a new online tool to “colorize” the original black and white photo. I loved the results and thought it was a nice way to enhance this period image dating from the turn of the century. Taking a closer look at the newly colorized photo, I glanced at our website to check the caption. Immediately I noticed a glaring error! Although the photo had been online for the past six years, no one (including me) had caught the mistake!

The caption has since been corrected. But I was fascinated by the photo’s provenance and how a family story had persisted for over a hundred years, misinterpreting the true date of that day’s event. The following series will examine photo details as I compare dates and people to public records. I will also delve into historical information we have for each person, telling their story through documents, photos and whatever else I can find from other sources.

As you will soon find out, this picture is certainly worth a thousand words – and more!

Stay tuned for Part 2!

The Pandemic of 1918

Influenza ward, Walter Reed Hospital, Washington, D.C.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, public domain.

As we take precautions to stay well and protect ourselves against Covid-19, we can draw inspiration from our ancestors and their experience with the Spanish Flu of 1918-1919.

According to the CDC:

“While the 1918 H1N1 virus has been synthesized and evaluated, the properties that made it so devastating [in 1918-1919] are not well understood. With no vaccine to protect against influenza infection and no antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections that can be associated with influenza infections, control efforts worldwide were limited to non-pharmaceutical interventions such as isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, and limitations of public gatherings, which were applied unevenly.”

Sound familiar?

To give a personal perspective of how the Genetti family of Hazleton, Pennsylvania survived, I dug into Stanley Genetti’s memoir to find this:

Stanley Genetti: I drove around Hazleton delivering meat until 1917. When World War I broke out my brother Gus was drafted into the army. When Gus left, I and my sister had to manage the family’s main store.

It was during this time that the flu epidemic hit Hazleton. It was terrible! Entire families became sick at once. The hospitals were filled to capacity. Churches and auditoriums were pressed into service as emergency hospitals. People often died of the high fever within 24 hours after contracting the disease. So many people died that they could not be buried promptly. At one time Saint Gabriel’s Cemetery had to store between 200 and 250 unburied bodies in rough boxes until enough people recovered from the sickness to bury them.

The flue epidemic almost closed the town down. For a period of time there was no school or church services. Everyone stayed at home either tending the sick or trying to escape the epidemic. Some tried drinking whiskey and eating garlic as preventive measures. Others sniffed camphorated oil. But such home remedies offered little real protection.

The Genetti family was not immune from the flue. My oldest brother [Leon Genetti] and his entire family suffered from the illness. My mother [Oliva Genetti], my oldest sister [Dora Genetti Bott] and her entire family, with the exception of the baby, [probably Agnes Mary Bott Yorke] also contracted the disease.

It was very trying for our family. We not only had to take care of our own sick; we had to meet a great demand for deliveries. People could not leave their homes because of the flu and we filled their orders. Indeed, we were so busy that we had little opportunity to shop for ourselves. One afternoon I felt weak and complained to my mother that I thought I was coming down with the flue. She promptly made me go to bed. But after sleeping fifteen hours, I awoke feeling fine. I had suffered from exhaustion, not the flu.

I am so glad that Stanley Genetti penned his memories about the 1918 pandemic. It offers a glimpse into how our family survived that terrible time in our ancestral history. As mentioned in Stanley’s account, my grandparents, Leon Genetti and Angeline Marchetti Genetti, were two survivors of the pandemic. How thankful I am that they persevered as my father would not have been born in 1932 if Leon and Angeline had fallen victim to the virus. And I would not be here today to tell you this story!

Let’s keep in mind our responsibility to family and community by adhering to recommended social distancing, staying home as much as possible, etc. You never know what life you will save or how it will impact future generations.

The person you save may live a hundred years from now, someone who will carry on your legacy by telling your story.

 

Read more:

Autobiography of Stanley Genetti

CDC 1918 Pandemic

National Geographic – How some cities “flattened the curve” during the 1918 flu pandemic

Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre) – Spanish Flu was a devastating pandemic

Celebrating Memorial Day

Rudy Genetti
(1929-2012)
Airforce
Korea: 1951-1953
Aerial Photographer

As a tribute to the Genetti descendants who have served in the United States military, I have created a permanent page in the Gallery section of our website.

Visit our new page here: Military.

Thank you to all who have given so much to defend and protect our country. We honor you on this Memorial Day 2020.

 

 

 

 

Special request: If you know of other Genetti descendants that should be added to this list, please send me a message through our Contact page. Photos of our military ancestors are also welcome!

Tillie’s Notebook, Part 18 – Final Translation

Cover of 1902 Notebook
Title: The Tragedy of Ottilia Genetti

After some discussion, Loretta and I have decided to conclude our notebook translation project. Upon reviewing the remaining pages of Tillie’s notebook, we came to several conclusions.

It became obvious to us that the first half of the notebook, dated 1902, was written in a neat, legible handwriting. Whereas, the second half of our journal was in a script difficult to analyze, most likely written at a later date of 1903.

Second, the remaining pages of the notebook depict a tragic play entitled “The Roman Martyrs”. Printed on the label of our notebook cover is “The Tragedy of Ottilia Genetti” and may very well refer to this long and laborious entry. Loretta believes the text of this play was copied from a different source. Since the entry is not an original journal post, the handwriting is difficult to read, and there doesn’t appear to be any benefit in translating this lengthy text, we both agreed this was a good stopping point for our translation project.

However the last page of the journal is a personal letter penned and dated by Tillie. This leads us to believe that the first half of our notebook was most likely written in 1902 by older sister Addolorata (Dora). The notebook was then passed on to her sister Tillie, who used it during the school year of 1903.

Loretta has translated the last page and I’m sure you will find it to be a sweet conclusion to our project. Viewing the letter in context of the date, much was happening in 1903 concerning the Genetti family of Castelfondo. This unsettling time is reflected in Tillie’s affectionate letter to her mother. After reading the following translation, I’ll detail a few historical facts to bring further understanding to our final page.

Last page, click to enlarge

Translation, last page

My dear mother,

Christmas is knocking at our door. The love that I feel for you and the gratitude that I owe you, push me to wish you happy holidays.

Dear mother, I have always prayed for you and especially during these holy days I will double my prayers. I will pray to the holy baby so that he will spread abundant blessings upon you and will keep you healthy and happy for a lot of years, being the consolation of the whole family.

I will pray to the Baby Jesus to grow up good, studious and obedient, and to be your consolation.

On Holy Christmas Day I will receive Jesus in my heart, I will tell him a word for you that you may stay healthy, together with the whole family.

I am yours affectionately,

Ottilia

Castelfondo 16 December 1903

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Portrait of Damiano and Oliva Genetti with family, photographed in Castelfondo, Austria (now Italy), about 1898 or 1899. Damiao is seated on the left, Oliva is in the center, Leone (Leo) is the tallest son in the back touching his father’s shoulder, between his parents stands Augusto (Gus), seated between Damiano and Oliva is Esther, to the right of Oliva the taller girl is Addolorata (Dora), next to her is Ottilia (Tilly), Albino (Albert) is standing behind his sisters and Erminia (Erma) is the little girl holding Oliva’s hand. Their youngest children, Costante (Stanley) and Angela (Ann), are not in the portrait as they have yet to be born.

Looking back at 1903, we find the Genetti family in transition. Father Damiano has departed for far-off Pennsylvania. He will join his other siblings with the hope of establishing a business to support his large family. Damiano has brought with him two daughters: Addolorata (about 13 years old) and Esther (about 8 years old). We have no record of the exact date or place of arrival, but  most likely it was sometime towards the end of 1902 or early 1903.

When Damiano left, mother Oliva was pregnant with her thirteenth and final child. (Note: Four siblings died soon after birth or in early childhood, leaving nine surviving children who grew to adulthood).

Oliva gave birth to Tillie’s little sister, Angela Maria “Ann”, on April 21st, 1903. By Christmas of 1903, the date of Tillie’s letter, Oliva is managing the family household on her own and caring for seven children: Leone (age 16), Tillie (age 13), Augusto “Gus” (age 11), Albino “Al” (age 10), Erminia “Erma” (age 6), Costante “Stanley” (age 4) and little Angela (age 8 months). Obviously from Tillie’s letter, she is concerned for her mother and the great responsibility of taking care of a large family while Damiano is establishing a new home for them in Pennsylvania.

Tillie also misses her two sisters and is anxious about the family’s future move to America. Her childhood home of Castelfondo will be left behind, as well as her friends and classmates.

In 1904, oldest son Leone departs for America to join his father and two sisters in the new family business. By 1906, Damiano has secured a home in Hazleton and has sent for the rest of his family. On December 3rd, 1906, Oliva along with her six remaining children arrive at Ellis Island in New York.

How stressful the year 1903 must have been for thirteen year old Tillie. Her family is divided by an ocean and she faces an uncertain future in a strange land. According to Anne Marie Shelby (Tillie’s granddaughter), her grandmother refused to accompany her father Damiano to Pennsylvania, wanting to stay close to her mother Oliva in Castelfondo. We can certainly sympathize with the upheaval and emotional trauma facing this young woman as she shares a Christmas wish of a healthy and happy future for her family.

This concludes our translation of Tillie’s Notebook. Our sincerest thanks to Anne Marie Shelby  for sharing her grandmother’s precious journal with us. Thank you for being the guardian of this fragile century-old document! And for trusting in the United States Postal service to deliver and return your family heirloom in one piece, allowing me the opportunity to scan the entire notebook. We are so very grateful!

And once again our great thanks to Loretta Cologna for her generous contribution of time and translation skills. Your patience, generosity and insight has given our family a glimpse into our ancestral past. Non ho parole per ringraziarla! Grazie mille!

View Tillie’s original notebook in entirety here:
https://genettifamily.com/books-by-members-of-the-genetti-family/

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If any cousins have letters, documents or journals they would like to share on our family website, feel free to write me at our Contact Page.

 

Tillie’s Notebook, Part 17

Page 20 and Page 21 (click to enlarge)

Our next translation in Tillie’s notebook is a scientific description of a leech. Yes, you read that correctly – a leech! This entry was obviously copied from another text or from a teacher’s lesson. You might find it oddly curious (and a little disgusting) that the use of leeches was still considered an important part of medicine in 1902.

I did research into the use of “leech therapy” in modern medicine and found that it has made a resurgence as a simple and inexpensive treatment for a variety of health issues. Today leech therapy is being used to treat hypertension, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, skin problems, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and used to promote healing after cosmetic surgery. No kidding!

Page 22 and Page 23 (click to enlarge)

Don’t get me wrong, I can’t imagine going to the doctor and asking for “leech therapy”. But I do find it fascinating that a medical practice first used in ancient Egypt is still in practice today – and was obviously used by physicians and those practicing home remedies at the turn of the 20th century in Tyrol.

Translation: Page 21, right side and top of Page 22, left side

 

The Leech or Bloodsucker

They are born in sweet stagnant waters and in quiet streams. They are from 8 to 13 centimeters long with a curved form and a skin with a ring pattern. On the superior part they are from black to dark green with six yellow lines, on the lower part they are grey with black spots. The head is not separated from the body and around it there are ten small eyes hardly visible.

The leeches can stick to the skin. On the lower part they have a mouth with three little mandibles that have from 60 to 90 small teeth similar to those of a saw. If we put a leech on our skin it opens a three-ray wound and then it starts sucking blood.

The back part serves to adhere tenaciously to the bodies to which it attaches. They swim meandering and crawling and they hold still with their mouths, dragging their body behind them. They feed on the blood they suck from fish, frogs and other animals. The leeches are used to extract blood in case of an inflammatory disease, so they are seen at the chemist’s. If you put salt over a leech after it has sucked, it will vomit blood. A leech can be kept a lot of time if we put it in water changed every day, so the same leech can be used on animals many times.

Most of them are imported from Dalmatia, Hungary and Turkey. These small animals are once again a proof of the great goodness and patience of God who created all things to the advantage of man.

Castelfondo 21 April 1902

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Read more about the modern use of leeches here:

Healthline: What is Leech Therapy?

New In Family Stories

I was recently sifting through news articles about the Genetti family and found a fairly substantial story of historical importance published right before our 2016 family reunion by The Citizens’ Voice. Although both Bill Genetti and myself had been interviewed by phone for this article, it had completely slipped my mind until I stumbled upon it in search results.

Since the extensive article relates a historical timeline of the Genetti family in Pennsylvania, I felt it should be a part of the Family Stories section on our website. Take a moment, grab a cup of coffee and click here to read – Business: A Family Affair for Genetti Clan.

Find all of our Family Stories under the Gallery section of the main menu.

Links:

See everything featured in our online Gallery.

Lots more stories and memories to read at: Family Stories.

Don’t forget a browse through our extensive Photo Gallery featuring photographs from many branches of the Genetti Family.

Photo Gallery: Michigan Genetti Family

click to enlarge

I have just added our first photograph to the Michigan Genetti Family Photo Gallery. Thanks to John and Nancy Faulkner, we have a beautiful period image from Bessemer, Michigan dated 1919.

Representing three families, the photograph appears to have been casually posed on a family porch. All of the parents pictured here came from the Val di Non and likely moved to Bessemer (near Ironwood, MI) because it was a mining region with available work. Many Tyroleans, including several Genetti cousins, settled in this area.

Those pictured according to the handwritten note attached to the photograph are:

Standing in back: Flora (Marchetti) Ferrari, Mrs. and Mr. Menghini, Primo Emil Joseph (child), Maria (Marchetti) Genetti and Pietro Genetti.

Seated front: Albert Joseph Genetti, Joseph Ferrari and Florian Ferrari

Here is a little background information about the families in this photo:

Angelo Pietro (Peter) Genetti (1882 -1964) and Maria (Mary) Marchetti (1892-1962), both of Castelfondo, Tyrol, married in Hurley, Wisconsin in 1915. Settling in Bessemer, Michigan near Ironwood, where Pietro was a miner, the couple had three sons: Primo Emil Joseph (1914-1977), Albert Joseph (1916-1981) and Florian Joseph (1923-1997).

Emil and Albert had long, distinguished military careers. Emil attended Michigan State University, became a doctor and joined the US Army, serving in WW II and Korea. Emil retired  as a Colonel and went on to practice medicine in California.

Like his older brother, Albert attended Michigan State University, graduating with a bachelor of science in forestry. He joined the US Army as a career military man rising to the rank of Colonel. Albert was a World War II veteran. Special note: Albert’s son, also named Albert Joseph Genetti, Jr., attended West Point, is in the Military Times Hall of Valor, and retired as a decorated Major General from the US Army. (Click here to see more about Albert Jr.)

The couple’s third son, Florian, owned a barber shop in Bessemer and became a local politician.

Peter and Mary divorced in 1930 after fifteen years of marriage, with Mary gaining custody of the three boys. She eventually remarried Joseph Regis.

Next we look at Emma Fiorentina (Flora) Marchetti (1884-1959), originally from Castelfondo, who marries Pietro (Peter) Giambattista Ferrari (1877-1959) from Revo (Peter is not shown). In 1905 the couple marry and live in Wisconsin. The two boys seated on the right in the photograph are, Joseph Christopher Ferrari (1911-1999) and Florian Lewis Ferrari (1909-1986). Joseph and Florian were the couple’s youngest children. They also had a daughter, Mary Elizabeth Ferrarri (1906-1976) and another son, George David Ferrari (1908-1992). All four of the children were born in Wisconsin. The family later moved to Bessemer, Michigan where Peter supported his family as a miner.

Moving on to the older couple in the center of the photo, I’m not positive of their identification, but I believe they are Richardo Menghini (1860-?) and his wife Maria (Flor) Menghini (1864-?). Both of Brez, Tyrol, the couple came to Bessemer sometime in the 1880’s. They had a total of seven children. According to the obituary of one son, Louis Menghini (1889-1952), the family returned to Brez in 1894. By 1907 Louis and his family came back to Bessemer. From the date of this photo, we know that Richardo and Maria Menghini were neighbors of the Genetti and Ferrari families in 1919. But by this time the couple’s many children were adults and probably not living at home when this photo was taken.

We would like to thank John and Nancy Faulkner for contributing to our Family Photo Gallery. Nancy is the granddaughter of Pietro (Peter) Giambattista Ferrari and Emma Fiorentina (Flora) Marchetti who is pictured standing on the far left of our group photo. Mille grazie Nancy and John!

Photo Gallery Links:

Michigan Genetti Family

Pennsylvania Genetti Family

Wyoming Genetti Family

Illinois Genetti Family

Washington Genetti/Recla Family

Castelfondo Genetti Family

Tillie’s Notebook, Part 15

Page 18 and Page 19 (click to enlarge)

As we welcome in a new year and a new decade, I hope everyone had a joyous and safe holiday shared with family and friends.

We return to our translation of Tillie’s 1902 Notebook with another strange passage. Both Loretta (our translator) and I are baffled by this short entry.

Again, we have a page penned by Tillie’s older sister Addolorata (Dora). Although brief, it offers a personal glimpse into Dora’s young life and perhaps hints at a hereditary learning disability. Here is the translation followed by my commentary.

Addorlorata (Dora) Erminia Genetti
1889-1971

Translation: Page 19, right side

My name is Addolorata Genetti, born on the 13th of August 1889, baptized on the 14th of August 1889. My godfather and godmother at the sacred font were Sisinio Genetti and Erminia Recla.

I am Damiano and Oliva Genetti’s daughter.

I don’t remember anything about my childhood, just that at six years of age I started attending school. I repeated the first class for three years and the second for three years.

At eight I received Confirmation in April 1900, my godmother was Caterina Zambotti.

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In this short entry, there are a number of strange and confusing statements made by Dora.

As Loretta points out – Dora says that she receives the sacrament of Confirmation at the age of eight years old in 1900, but her actual age in that year was eleven!

She also says that she repeated the first grade three times as well as the second grade three times! To me this seems excessive. Since both Loretta Cologna and her mother were school teachers, I asked her if this was a normal occurrence. Although schools at that time were strict, requiring children to reach a certain level of accomplishment before advancing to the next grade, Loretta also agreed that repeating a grade three times seemed odd. And repeating two successive grades three times was certainly unusual!

We don’t know whether or not this entry is accurate in describing Dora’s schooling. But if it is, the thought occurred to me that Dora may have had a learning disability making it difficult to complete school assignments. Since I know several people with dyslexia, this was my first thought to explain Dora’s difficulty in school. My own husband is on the dyslexia spectrum. Michael graduated from college with an Engineering degree and has a sharp, analytical mind; however he has struggled with reading and the reversal of numbers throughout his entire life.

Dyslexia (originally known as “word blindness”) was virtually unheard of and certainly not recognized by teachers in 1902. It also has a genetic component, meaning it may be passed down through one or both parents. Here is a definition from the Family Education Network:

Dyslexia is regarded as a neurobiological condition that is genetic in origin. This means that individuals can inherit this condition from a parent and it affects the performance of the neurological system (specifically, the parts of the brain responsible for learning to read).

It’s not uncommon for a child with dyslexia to have an immediate family member who also has this condition. Also, it’s not unusual for two or more children in a family to have this type of learning disability.

Dora may have struggled her entire life with issues tied to dyslexia, now considered a well-recognized genetic disability that affects between 5 – 15% of the population. Although I’m sure she was an intelligent woman who adapted well to her new home in Pennsylvania, Dora probably had a difficult time with the skills of reading, writing and spelling.

What do you think? Does dyslexia run in your family line?

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About others mentioned in this Notebook Entry:

Dora’s godparents:

Sisinio Alessandro Genetti (1854-1908). This was Dora’s uncle and her father’s oldest brother. Sisinio was the only sibling of Damiano Genetti who did not emigrate to America. Tragically he died in Castelfondo at a rather young age of 44 due to tuberculosis.

Erminia Enrica Genetti Recla (1876-1972). This is Dora’s aunt and her father’s youngest sibling. Erminia emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1890, a year after becoming Dora’s godmother. She eventually settled in Spokane, Washington with her husband, had eleven children (eight survived to adulthood), and died at the advanced age of 95. Erminia outlived her goddaughter by six months.

Caterina Dallachiesa Zambotti (1853-1939). Most likely this is the person Dora references as her Confirmation godmother. Caterina was her aunt by marriage, married to her mother’s brother, Simone Zambotti.

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Learn more about Dyslexia:

Dyslexia: What Brain Research Reveals About Reading

Dyslexia Help: Frequently Asked Questions