Category: Castelfondo, Italy

Cugini?

Massimino and Camillo Genetti, probably late 1920’s, photo courtesy of Giovanni Marchetti.

I am FaceBook friends with Gemma Genetti. She lives in Merano, a beautiful historical city in northern Italy. Gemma’s roots are from Castelfondo, the ancestral village of the Genetti family. Over the past few years we have kept in touch and were sure we were related. But somehow the link between our families eluded me – until yesterday.

I saw a FaceBook comment Gemma made under a photograph of her father and uncle posted in “Chei da Chastelfon,” a private FB group that we both belong to. The group publishes many historical documents and photos of scenes and people from Castelfondo. Yesterday I was staring at a portrait posted by the group administrator, Giovanni Marchetti, of Massimino Genetti and his brother Camillo in military uniform. As I translated the comments below the photo, a realization came to me. I might be able to match up the two siblings in the town’s baptismal records. If I could find both siblings, plus their sister Anna (mentioned in one of the comments) I would have the correct ancestors for this family. Since we have many repetitive names on our tree (such as Pietro, Giovanni and Fortunato) this is not always an easy task. But if all of the siblings’ records matched and I had the exact names of their parents and grandparents, I could positively identify the branch of their ancestors.

Part of Genetti Family Tree showing Antonio and Veronica Genetti with their six sons.

Within an hour I had scanned through pages of Castelfondo records prior to 1925 and found two of the three siblings. The baptismal records had exactly the information I was searching for. I glanced up at the family tree hanging above my desk and immediately saw Gemma’s grandfather, Pietro!

Grabbing a piece of paper, I drew a descendant chart for Gemma and another for me – and yes, we shared a set of great-grandparents! Our 3rd great-grandparents, Giovanni Battista Antonio Genetti (1789-1852) and Veronica Paniza (1789-1871) are one in the same. That means my 2nd great-grandfather, Leone Genetti (1826-1909) and Gemma’s 2nd great-grandfather, Francesco Genetti (1818-?) were brothers. After counting down the generations, I concluded Gemma and I are 4th cousins (cugini) from the same branch of the Genetti family. Yea!

It’s always exciting to find our genealogical connections and to acknowledge those that came before us. The life paths our families chose were different and yet we have a deep connection through DNA and ancestral heritage. Gemma’s great-grandfather, Fortunato, stayed in Italy. My great-grandfather, Damiano, came to America. Two different countries, two different families, two different languages – and yet connected six generations in the past.

A special hello and thank you (ciao e grazie) to Gemma Genetti, Giovanni Marchetti and all of the wonderful members of Chei da Chastelfon. I have so enjoyed connecting to my Trentino heritage through your posts and photos.

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)

 

 

Casa di Genetti (Lanci)

GenettiLanciCasa1916-2

Genetti home in Castelfondo, about 1916
click photo for a larger view

Surprises abound when you are connected to your roots!

I belong to a private group on FaceBook called Chei da Chastelfon. Members are either from my ancestral village of Castelfondo in Trentino or have family members who were born there. A few days ago I found this fantastic black and white photograph on Chei da Chastelfon’s group page. It was posted by Luciana Genetti, one of my Italian cousins. Luciana and I share my 3rd great-grandparents, Antonio Genetti and Veronica Panizza. In official cousin terms, we are 3rd cousins, once removed.

Luciana’s beautiful vintage photo was captured sometime around 1916 and is the Castelfondo home of Genetti Lanci. Yes, my ancestors were “Lanci” – a sopranome or nickname used by a particular branch of our family. I have been told that “Lanci” was originally from old German meaning Lance. I have no idea where or how this sopranome became attached to our branch of the Genetti family other than it is noted in baptismal records as early as the 1600’s. You can still see the sopranome used today on family markers in the village cemetery.

Luciana’s photo caption reads: “Cento anni fa i soldati austriaci davanti a casa nostra (Lanci). Viva la Pace e la Convivenza!”

Since my Italian is limited, I ran this through Google Translator. It translates as: “One hundred years ago the Austrian soldiers in front of our house (Lanci). Alive Peace and Coexistence!”

GenettiHome-1

The Genetti home today, with restored fresco and carved Coat-of-Arms over the doorway.
click photo for a larger view

If you remember world history, at the time this photo was taken it was during World War I. Tyrol was, and had been for centuries, part of the Austrian-Hapsburg Dynasty. Only in 1918, after WW I, was Tyrol turned over to Italy to become the Northern Italian province of Trentino. That is why many of our ancestors who immigrated to America around 1900 considered themselves Tyrolean (not Italian) and had Austrian passports.

Here is what Casa Lanci looks like today. As you can see, the home has been restored and updated. The structure dates to the mid-1500’s (or possibly older). It now houses five apartments, several of which are owned by Luciana and her sisters. The beautiful fresco of Madonna and Child, seen on the front side wall, was restored in 1998 with funds donated by Adriana Genetti, Luciana’s sister.

La nostra gratitudine a Luciana per contribuire questa foto. Mille grazie!

I have also added Luciana’s photo to our photograph page of Castelfondo. Take a quick visit to our ancestral village, click here to access this page on our family website.

Photos from the Past, Part 2

AngelineGenettiRecla

Raffael Recla (1864-1896) with wife Angeline Maddalena Genetti (1865-1937), children: Lawrence, Leonela, Frances. Photographed in 1891, Hazleton, PA

Back in June, I wrote about a cache of cabinet cards discovered on eBay by Giovanni Marchetti of Castelfondo. (Click here to read the original post of this amazing story!)

Since many of the picture postcards are not clearly labeled, I’m using whatever clues I have to identify these ancestral ghosts from the past. When I first received the digital images from Giovanni, I immediately recognized a postcard of my grandfather, Leon Genetti, with his cousin Peter Zambotti. It was also easy to translate the handwritten message on the back of their card, giving positive proof that this was indeed two of my relatives.

OK – one postcard identified, nineteen more to go!

Browsing through the ancient sepia photos, I looked for more obvious clues – something that easily jumped out at me. There it was – a portrait of a young family, with the name of the photography studio and its location stamped on front. It said Hazleton! The back of the card offered no identification. But as I examined the photograph, something in the back of my memory clicked in place. The mother, dressed in Victorian black, staring stoically into the camera, looked very familiar. I had seen her before, but where?

Then I remembered – she resembled a charcoal drawing sent to me by Don Lingousky of his great-grandmother, Angela Maddalena Genetti Recla. The beautiful portrait had been created by Angela’s adopted son, Henry Parisi Recla. Immediately I went to the Photograph section on our family website and scanned down the page. Eureka! It was a match! Henry had used the original postcard as a model for his drawing.

angela genetti portrait

Angeline Maddalena Genetti Recla (1865 – 1937), charcoal portrait by her adopted son, Henry Parisi Recla.

I couldn’t believe my good luck! I immediately emailed Don Lingousky with my surprise. His response: “Wow, we’re stunned! We have never seen the photo before, but it is clearly the same one that our portrait of Angeline Maddalena was taken from. What a great find, just can’t believe all these photos ended up on eBay of all places. I also do not have any photos of my grandmother as a child [Leonela], so that is really interesting too. Thank you!”

And so, another photo in this mystery group has been identified. After receiving Don’s confirmation, I returned to Giovanni’s Facebook page, Chei da Chastelfon, and properly labeled the portrait as follows:

“Raffael Recla (1864-1896) con la moglie Angeline Maddalena Genetti (1865-1937), bambini: Lawrence, Leonela, Frances. Fotografato su 1891, Hazleton, Pennsylvania, USA.”

Again our sincere thanks to Giovanni Marchetti for rescuing our priceless family memories! Molta grazie!

Want to know more about Angeline Maddalena Genetti Recla? A courageous woman and an inspirational ancestor, Angeline’s life will be cameoed in our reunion evening program: The Genetti Family of Castelfondo: Our Journey to America (click here to read about the presentation).

And by-the-way, you can meet Angeline’s great-grandson Don in person – he will be co-presenting our DNA workshop during Reunion weekend!

See you at the Reunion in October!

Photos from the Past

Pietro Zambotti and Leon Genetti

Pietro Zambotti and Leon Genetti,
photographed in Hazleton, PA, 1908

Sometimes clues to our past find us in the most unexpected ways. I belong to a Facebook group administered by Giovanni Marchetti. “Chei da Chastelfon” posts photos, stories and history about our ancestral village of Castelfondo. I love seeing photographs of ancient family homes, San Nicolo church and Castello di Castelfondo (the 12th century castle perched on a rock outcropping just below the village). Members of the group share vintage pics from their own family albums. And once in a while, Giovanni (who follows our family blog) will post a link back to the Genetti Family Genealogy Project. 

A month ago, Giovanni posted a message for me to look in a specific file under the group’s photo albums. He thought I might find something of interest there. It took a little searching, since of course everything is in Italian. Upon finding the correct album and opening the file, I found myself staring at a collection of twenty vintage cabinet cards and postcards. (A cabinet card is a type of photographic portrait mounted on a stiff card measuring 4.5″ x 6.5″. It was popular from the 1870’s through the 1920’s.)

I immediately was drawn to one postcard – it was an early photograph of my grandfather, Leon Genetti! There was no hesitation on my part – for you see, I have my grandfather’s eyes. It’s like seeing yourself reflected in a mirror. Those eyes are obviously a genetic characteristic, since I have recognize their lilting, soft appearance in several living Genetti descendants as well as in a number of ancestor portraits. Plus – my grandfather looks just like my younger brother, James, at that same age! What a surprise – I was overwhelmed with joy!

Pietro ZambottiIn the postcard, my grandfather is standing next to a shorter gentleman with dark hair. From other photos, I recognized him too. It was Pietro (Peter) Zambotti – my grandfather’s cousin! The back of the postcard was stamped Dec. 7, 1908 and had obviously been sent to Castelfondo since it was written in Italian (with a bit of Nones). I could tell that the message was from Pietro, but I needed a little help with the translation. So I wrote Chiara Dalle Nogare, one of our Italian cousins who lives in Trento. Chiara and I are 4th cousins, we share 3rd great-grandparents, Antonio Genetti and Veronica Panizza.

Chiara got back to me right away with a translation. Here’s what Pietro Zambotti wrote to his relatives back home in Castelfondo many, many Christmases ago:

“Many greetings from your godson; together with my cousin I want to wish you merry Christmas and a happy new year. I am well and so I hope are you and all of your family. Your godson Pietro Zambotti” (someone else wrote next to this: the shorter) and then on the left: Leo Daminano (the taller)

According to Pietro’s baptismal record, his godparents were: Pietro Dallachiesa and Barbara Zambotti. So the postcard must have belonged to one of these people. My curiosity was aroused! Was I related to any of the other images staring back at me from this group of century-old cabinet cards? Where did they come from and who had cherished this collection of memories for so many years?

Ecstatic, I wrote back to Giovanni, asking for his help in identifing more of the cards. His answer surprised me. Giovanni, also a lover of history and genealogy, had found the grouping on eBay! He recognized the names on several of the cards (many are not identified) and bid on the lot. Unfortunately, Giovanni could not identify any of the photos other than those that were obviously labeled. He had placed them online in the group photo album, with the hope that others might recognize their relatives and a name could be added to a face.

So it seems the history of the postcard goes like this: My grandfather at age 21 and his cousin (age 27) had a picture postcard photographed at a studio in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. The card was sent to Castelfondo, Austria in 1908 to one of Pietro’s godparents. At some point this godparent died and the photo was passed down to someone else. Ultimately the grouping was offered for sale on eBay, probably by someone who had no family connection to the photos (because who would sell such cherished family memories!). A caring soul, Giovanni Marchetti, rescued them from oblivion, bringing them back home to Castelfondo. What a story!

And there’s more! So far I’ve identified three additional cards and will tell their story in a future blog post.

Our thanks and appreciation to Giovanni Marchetti and the group at Chei da Chastelfon! Your American cousins are eternally grateful! Mille grazie!

 

 

Tyrolean Wisdom Stories #3

Damiano Genetti

Cosma Damiano Genetti in doorway of Genetti home in Castelfondo.

Proverbs from Trentino:

Dialect: Mort, fech e amor, l’é trei robes che no se sarà mai bogn de scone.

Translation: Death, fire and love can not be hidden.

 

Dialect: Ò prèst ὀ tardi sé paga tut.

Translation: One does not know if the remedy is worse than the cure.

 

Proverbs courtesy of Filo Magazine: A Journal for Tyrolean Americans.

Visit Filo for a fascinating glimpse into our ancestral arts, culture, cuisine, history and much, much more!

Buon Natale!

San Nicolo

Altar piece of the San Nicolo Catholic church in Castelfondo

Did you know that the patron saint of Castelfondo is San Nicolò? That’s right, the church of our ancestral village is named after San Nicolò in recognition of an early christian saint who is the inspiration for Father Christmas, aka: Santa Claus. In English he is known as Saint Nicholas.

San Nicolò di Bari lived during the 3rd to 4th centuries AD in a Roman colony that is now modern day Turkey. He died on December 6, 343 AD of old age.

There are several legends and miracles attributed to San Nicolò. One in particular may be the beginning of the gift-giving tradition associated with Father Christmas. Upon hearing of a poor man who could not afford dowries for his three daughters, Nicolò (then the Bishop of Myra) gifted part of his wealth to the daughters in the form of three bags of gold, saving them from a life with no husbands and most likely, forced prostitution. To read the entire story, (which includes one sack of gold being thrown down a chimney!) I recommend visiting the site: Life in Italy. This informative page includes the historical details of San Nicolò’s life and the explanation of how his legend morphed into today’s Santa Claus.

The photograph above pictures a prominent painting gracing the baroque altar of Castelfondo’s beautiful church. During my 2011 visit to the village, I was given a tour of San Nicolò by a lovely little woman who is the caretaker. She took me by the arm and escorted me around the altar, all the while describing paintings, frescoes and statues that adorn the church. Of course her explanation was in Italian! I nodded dutifully as I caught a word here and there. I was so appreciative that she had turned on the lights for us. Her obvious devotion to the church and the history it represented touched my heart. While she spoke, I could feel the spirit of my ancestors fill the pews. Generations of Genetti, Marchetti and Zambotti had worshiped in this church for hundreds of years! They had walked this very isle where I now stood. I’m sure they had a family pew where they knelt to pray, just as I had as a child in Hazleton, PA attending church at St. Gabriel’s with my father. I was awed and overwhelmed by that moment … reaching through time to share a moment with the ancestors who had shaped my life.

As we gather with our families this Christmas, remember to thank your ancestors. Without their bravery, determination and Tyrolean values, our lives would be so different. How wonderful it is to know our roots and inherit a rich culture that we share with many cousins around the world.

Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo a tutti i miei cugini!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of my cousins!

 

New Video!

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Photo of Castelfondo by Cristina Paternoster

I just added a new video to our Gallery Video Page. Created by Cristina Paternoster (from Castelfondo), this is a wonderful representation of modern day Commune di Castelfondo. The video clip offers beautiful views of the village, upper pastures, mountains that border the town and mountain huts known as Malgas. Cristina posted the video yesterday on the group Facebook page of: Chei da Chastelfon. I knew it would be the perfect addition to our Video page, offering a glimpse of Castelfondo to those who have never visited our ancestral home.

Thank you Cristina for sharing this video with your American cousins. Grazie mille!

If you are on Facebook, I recommend visiting the public group Chei da Chastelfon (this title is in the Nones dialect – not Italian! It translates as “People from Castelfondo.”). All photographs posted to this group page are little pieces of history and shared by Castelfondo natives. Just click the “Join Group” button and you’ll receive updates in your newsfeed when new photographs and videos are posted. Who knows, you may even spot an ancestor or two among the photos uploaded by your Italian cousins!

 

Photo from Castelfondo

CastelfondoChoir

Right to left: Bianca Genetti, Basilio Marchetti, Eligio Ianes, Carlo (Carleto) Stancher, Camillo Genetti, Tullio Cologna, Giuseppe Genetti, Vittorio Marchetti, Albino Morandi, Ferdinando Corazza, Luigi Genetti, Emilio Marchetti, Narciso Genetti, Attilio Morandi, Luigi (kimpil) Marchetti, Emilio Morandi; Kneeling: Flavio Cologna, Giuseppe Stancher, Angelo Corazza, Marino Segna

We just added a fantastic photo to our Photograph Page. Gemma Genetti, one of our Italian cousins from Trentino, posted it on my Facebook page and I just had to share it on our website.

Here is the church choir of Castelfondo! There is no date on the image, but I would guess it was taken in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s. Amongst the names you’ll see many familiar surnames: Genetti, Marchetti, Cologna, Corazza, Segna and Ianes (Yanes). We have descendants from all of these families in the United States. Heck – three of these names can be found on my own immediate family tree!

Gemma also sent me a link to a wonderful Facebook group called “Chei da Chastelfon”. The name is in the regional dialect of Nones. It translates to: “People from Castelfondo”. The group posts old photos of the villagers taken throughout the years. The pics are labeled in Italian, but are easy to translate using the translator function in Facebook (look for the link under descriptions and comments that says: See Translation). I spent an hour scrolling through the many photos of families, homes and festivities posted on this page. What a treat since I recognized many of the sites from my previous visits to Castelfondo. If you are a member of Facebook and would like to join “Chei da Chastelfon” – click here to access their page. Then just click on the “Join Now” button located on the right side of the banner photo. After you’ve joined, you’ll receive posts made by members of the group in your personal newsfeed.

What a unique and beautiful way to understand our ancestry through the vehicle of photos. This simple Facebook page transcends the barriers of language and the generations that separate us as cousins.

Mille grazie to Gemma Genetti, Gianpaolo Pedrazza and Giovanni Marchetti!

Welcome to New Cousins!

angela mary ralph peter

Left to right: Angela Maddalena Genetti, Ralph (Raffael) Recla, Peter Zambotti and Anna Maria (Mary) Genetti. About 1895. Photo contributed by Don Lingousky.

The past few weeks have been exceptionally busy with emails from new cousins who have stumble upon The Genetti Family Genealogy Project. Along with answering emails, I’ve been busy tracking down our shared ancestry so we can enter their family information on our tree.

We’d like to welcome Vicki Recla Underwood Simpson and Ralph Bones to our family genealogy project. Vicki and Ralph are first cousins from the Genetti/Recla branch. Their shared ancestors are grandparents Lawrence Leo Recla and Kathryn Piz. Lawrence was the son of Raffael Recla and Angela Maddalena Genetti of Sheppton, Pennsylvania. Vicki and Ralph have already supplied me with twenty-five descendants for our family tree. We look forward to their future contributions of photos and information about the Recla clan.

Do you remember Don Lingousky from past posts and contributions to this website? Well it turns out that Don is Vicki and Ralph’s second cousin, as well as a great researcher of his own family ancestry. Don’s grandmother, Leonela Recla, was the sister of Ralph and Vicki’s grandfather, Lawrence. Emails have already been exchanged between Recla cousins and I’m sure they will be comparing ancestral notes soon. (FYI – I am Vicki and Ralph’s third cousin because we share the same great-great-grandparents, Leone and Cattarina Genetti).

The tombstone of Col. Emil Joseph Genetti, Fort Logan National Cemetery, Denver, CO.

The tombstone of Col. Emil Joseph Genetti, Fort Logan National Cemetery, Denver, CO.

Also we would like to welcome Francesco Marchetti of Trentino, Italy. Francesco wrote me several weeks ago searching for information on his American cousins. His family, likes ours, is from the village of Castelfondo in northern Italy. Francesco’s 3rd great-aunt, Maria Marchetti, came to America in 1913 and married Pietro Genetti, also of Castelfondo. Their life in America and the amazing legacy that their children built deserves its own blog post! I am still researching this interesting family, but for now I can tell you that Maria and Pietro represent a new branch of our family that I have yet to add to the Genetti tree. The couple settled in Michigan, had three sons and their lives are well-documented through the Federal Census and newspaper articles. Plus I have uncovered several living descendants and hope they will eventually connect with our website, adding their own stories and photos. The great-grandchildren of Maria and Pietro, now living in various locals throughout the United States, are Francesco’s third cousins.

The story deepens because I am also from the Marchetti-Genetti families. After doing the math and counting the generations, I concluded that Francesco is my 6th cousin, once removed (Francesco is a generation younger than me). And I am also related to Maria and Pietro’s descendants – twice! Their grandchildren are my 5th cousins through the Genetti family, and my 6th cousins through the Marchetti family.

Within a few weeks, I will write the complete story of Maria, Pietro and their sons, Emil Joseph (Primo), Albert and Florian. My sincere thanks (mille grazie!) to Francesco for contacting our website and beginning the research into his fascinating family!

A final note – due to the many Genetti ancestors and their descendants who have served in the military, I have decided to compile a page honoring our family’s military history. If you would like to note family members on this page, please email photos, military history, documents, etc. to: info.genetti.family@gmail.com. I will do my best to create a suitable tribute to our family in uniform.