Category: Castelfondo, Italy

What’s In a Name

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Cosma Damiano Genetti
Born: 26 Sept 1857
Died: 3 Dec 1944

Have you ever wondered where your name came from? Often when researching family genealogy, a namesake from an earlier generation will become apparent. For example: a son named after a grandfather or a daughter named after a favorite aunt. On the Genetti Family tree, sons are often named after fathers, grandfathers or an uncle. Each branch of our tree also has certain names that are passed down from generation to generation, identifying that particular family line. For example, you see the prevalence of Giovanni Battista, Pietro and Francesco in my branch of the tree. Another branch shows many Giorgio and Pietro ancestors. A third section of the tree has numerous Francesco Nicolo and Giovanni Battista.

When I began researching my great-grandfather and his siblings, I found the names in his family to be poetic and a bit different from others in that generation. A few children were named after family members, but others had their own unique character. My “bisnonno” (great-grandfather) was Cosma Damiano – certainly an unusual name! Other siblings included: Sisinio Alessandro, Angela Maddalena, Angelo Rafaele, Agostino Leone, Dionisio Antonio and Erminia Enrica. All lovely, expressive monikers.

But it was “Cosma Damiano” that I was fascinated by. There were no other men on the family tree with this name. Why had Catterina (my twice great-grandmother) baptized her second son with this odd name? With no clues to go by from the tree, I decided to do a web search. Perhaps he was named after a famous person or his “nome” had some other importance.

StCosmaDamiano

Twin physician brothers,
Saints Cosma and Damiano.

The answer came immediately from Wikipedia. “Santi Cosma e Damiano” or Saints Cosma and Damiano, were early Christian martyrs who died in the 3rd century. Twin brothers, they were considered to be two of the earliest physicians. They practiced their profession of healing, refusing to take any payment for their services. OK, this was interesting, but why had Catterina chosen this name for her son? Reading on, I found the clue. The feast day of Saints Cosma and Damiano was September 27. My bisnonno had been born on September 26, 1857 and baptized the next day on September 27th. His mother must have considered her baby’s birth to have an important synchronicity with this feast day. Although I have no proof to go by other than an educated guess, I believe this reasoning to be a fairly good conclusion of why the baby was named “Cosma Damiano”.

Two other interesting points to note:

– The Catholic church decided to move the feast day in 1969 from September 27th to September 26th, which coincidentally now coincides with Damiano Genetti’s birth date!

– Damiano Genetti, like his namesakes, was also considered a physician by the Tyrolean people of Castelfondo, Italy and Hazleton, Pennsylvania. He was well-versed in herbal medicine and several other curative methods. And, like Saints Cosma and Damiano, he took no payment from anyone who sought his services. This information was related to me many times by Damiano’s grandchildren and by several people in Castelfondo. It was also documented in a book by Marco Romano, comprised of interviews by village elders. Damiano and his healing abilities were mentioned many times by those who knew and remembered him.

If Catterina’s intention was to name her son after the two physician saints, it seems to have had a prophetic effect on Damiano’s life.

 

Read more about Saints Cosma and Damiano:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santi_Cosma_e_Damiano 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saints_Cosmas_and_Damian 

Take a Walk with Google Earth

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View of the town’s fountain with the Genetti home in the background. Look for this landmark while you are walking around Castelfondo using Google Earth.

If you find genealogy a tad on the dry side, here’s a tech tip that will make it a whole lot more interesting. Why not take a walk through your ancestral village using Google Earth!

This is SO cool! You can be transported directly to a town in Europe (or anywhere else!) without leaving your home. I spend hours on Google Earth exploring places I’m going to visit on my next trip. So let’s zero in on Castelfondo, the ancestral village of the Genetti family and see what we can find.

If you haven’t already played with Google Earth, you will first need to download the basic software from the site. Go to https://earth.google.com. It’s free and only takes a few minutes to load. After you finish downloading you’ll see an icon on your desktop that looks like a blue marble with white swirls. Click on the icon and you are ready to explore!

Let’s get started. In the upper left corner you’ll see a search box. Type in Castelfondo, Trentino, Italy and hit the search button. In an instant you’ll be whisked to a small village in the Italian Alps. From this perspective you will see an aerial view of Castelfondo, the surrounding countryside and nearby villages. Zoom in using the “plus” sign found on the right side of the screen. Or for a lot more fun, grab the little orange man located on the right and drag him into the village. Now you are at street level and can take a stroll through town. Yes, really! You can walk the very streets your ancestors called home, all from the comfort of your desktop!

If you click and hold on the little orange man before you move him into town, you’ll see blue lines pop up on the screen. This tells you where you can and cannot walk. Once you are moving around town, just click on the yellow line to move forward. You can also click on the left or right of the screen to turn around and take in the surrounding view. To return to the aerial view, just toggle the button marked “Exit Street View” found in the upper right of the screen.

Of course, you won’t be able to adventure down every street, but you can maneuver around most of the town and see quite a few sites. Here are a few landmarks to look for: the castle on the edge of town (only seen from the aerial view), the town bar (right over the bridge and on the left side of the stream that runs through town), San Nicolo Church, the town’s central fountain, the village grocery store, apple orchards and vineyards that surround the town and Amici di Castelfondo (the local cultural and historical society). If you find the town fountain, look just beyond it and you will spy the Genetti homestead. Unfortunately you can’t walk right up to the house, but you can see the fresco that is displayed on the side of the home.

Have fun with Google Earth and happy exploring!

 

What Is a Sopranome?

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The grave marker for Famiglia Genetti Lanci in Castelfondo’s San Nicolo cemetery.

During my visit to Castelfondo, Italy in 2011, I had the good fortune to meet a distinguished gentleman by the name of Andrea Cologna. Born in the village, Andrea had left as a young man, living most of his adult life in Canada. He had recently returned to his childhood home of Castelfondo. Luckily Andrea was fluent in English, Italian and the local dialect of Nones. He was the perfect guide, telling me stories of the old days, explaining important village landmarks and helping me walk in the footsteps of my ancestors.

When we visited the small cemetery next to San Nicolo church, there were many surnames I recognized … of course among them, many Genettis. Andre brought me to a very specific part of the cemetery and pointed to several grave markers. “These are your family, the Lanci. The other Genettis aren’t from your branch. Damiano (my great-grandfather) was a Lanci,” Andrea said.

I was mystified, what was a “Lanci”? I had never heard this name before. So I took a few photos of the stones that read “Famiglia Genetti Lanci” and decided to look into this odd name later. About six months after my trip, I began researching the old church documents. And there it was again! The name “Lanci” was attached to Genetti in most birth, marriage and death records of my branch of the family, but not to other branches. It appeared in different forms such as Lanchet, Lancia and Lanci. Andrea wrote that he had done a little research on his own and found that the original form of the name was “Lanchet” which was Old German for the word “Lance”.

After a bit more research into Trentino history, I soon learned this “second name” was commonly used by large Tyrolean families to designate different sections of the family. It was called a sopranome or nickname. The sopranome had several purposes. It helped delineate close blood relatives so you didn’t accidentally marry your cousin, which could happen in a small, isolated community. It also identified a specific person. At any one time there could be five or six men named Giovanni Battista Genetti living within the village, as children were often named after parents, grandparents or other relatives. By adding the sopranome to the surname, one could tell the difference between Giovanni Battista Genetti Lanci and Giovanni Battista Genetti di Raina. Besides Genetti Lanci, I also found Genetti Onz, Genetti di Ovena (of Ovena) and Genetti di Raina (of Raina). These seemed to signify the main branches of the Genetti family tree.

Closely examining each generation in the ancient ledgers, I discovered the first ancestors in my direct line to have Lanci documented in a birth record was Pietro Genetti born in 1650. Most likely his father, Georgio Genetti (born 1623) had begun using it during his lifetime and passed it on to his children. And so this sopranome continued through at least eight generations, but was not used by the families that emigrated to the Americas. When my great-grandfather returned to Castelfondo to live out his later years, he was known in the village as Dominic Lanci. With the passing of three generations, the tradition of the sopranome has faded from our memories. What a shame! I rather like the idea that my Italian name could have been “Aloisia Anna Genetti Lanci”.

News from Castelfondo

I’ve been corresponding recently with Chiara Dalle Nogare, one of our Italian cousins. She is on holiday right now with her mother, and three aunts (the Genetti sisters) in Castelfondo. Chiara sent some very interesting news from the village that I wanted to share with you.

Chiara wrote:

“You may have heard of the dramatic situation of people from Siria and many parts of Africa crossing the Mediterranean packed in wrecks (victims of cruel people asking a lot of money for the service) to land in Sicily. Many of them die in the sea or suffocate, it is a real tragedy. Survivors are distributed among the different Italian regions. 63 of them are now hosted in Castelfondo’s hostel. So there is a new multi-ethnic dimension this year to the local community. Migration stories again.”

This story was also broadcast through local news on Cinformi. You can view their YouTube video that was taped inside San Nicolo church at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHwW40tZNDM.

It completely warmed my heart to see such acceptance and empathy by the people of Castelfondo for refugees that had lost everything. Thank you Chiara for sending us this news!

Hello Italy!

Genetti Family Homestead

The original Genetti homestead in Castelfondo, Italy.

Ciao alla mia famiglia in Italia! Sending a big hello out to our Italian cousins especially those from Castelfondo. Word about the website has reached the Genettis of Trentino – how wonderful!

August is a time of holiday in Italy (vacation to us Americans) and many family return to Castelfondo to enjoy the coolness of the mountains. Perhaps our little genealogy website will be shared with distant family during this August holiday.

It is truly a small world when we can connect and share our ancestry with cousins in different countries. Cari cugini Italiani – please feel free to send us your stories and photos to post on this website. Your American cousins would so appreciate the opportunity to learn of your life and ancestry in Trentino. Mille grazie!

Pursuing the Past

The Genetti Family Tree contains over 1,000 people (with many more to be added). It begins in the 15th century and represents about 18 generations.

You’re probably wondering how the heck did I find all of those vital statistics such as birth, marriage and death records, especially for people who lived hundreds of years ago. Well here’s the story.

From the perspective of genealogy research, the Genetti Family is quite lucky. We know the exact village where the family first took root, the church where their records were kept, how long they lived there and when they left. The Genettis also kept a record stretching back to the 1500’s of male ancestors, their birth dates, their wives and the date of their marriage. This information was passed down through the generations. The fact that the family lived in exactly the same location for hundreds of years, plus their penchant for record keeping is almost unheard of in the realm of genealogy. It makes the task of researching so much easier.

For our modern relatives born in the United States, we have census records, immigration records, state birth and marriage records, the Social Security Death Index, land grant and ownership records, military records, cemetery indexes and newspaper records such as obituaries. All of these stats are easily found online, are part of public record, and in English. By compiling this information, we can build a fairly accurate picture of a person’s life in the United States.

However, our ancestors from Castelfondo posed a much more interesting challenge. Armed with a modern version of our family tree, I reasoned that most of these people must have been born, married and died in Castelfondo. Therefore, they would likely all be listed in the parish church registries. Next I went to FamilySearch.org (maintained by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who supposedly have the world’s largest genealogy data bases) and checked their catalog. Yes, Castelfondo church records were available on microfilm. I ordered the films and had them sent to my local Family History Center. At the center I could access the information to my heart’s content.

One day in 2012, I sat down to view my first microfilm. That’s when the fun began. The records start in 1567 and continued through 1925. I believe many generations came before this time, but the church was not required to keep official records until the mid-1500’s. The registries also contained a few gaps here and there, but for the most part the records appeared complete.

However, the registries were all hand-written (since there were no typewriters or computers in the 1500’s) and not always very neatly done depending on the scribe at that time (usually the parish priest). Also the records were written in a variety of languages … none of which I understood! Early records (1563 to the mid-1600’s) were in the regional dialect of Nones (an ancient language spoken only in the Val di Non region, considered a Gallo-Romance language). Records from mid 17th century to about the 1820’s were in Latin, with some Italian and a bit of German. Later records beginning in 1824 are all in Italian and neatly transcribed into registries with pre-printed headings and columns. Luckily most information contained in baptismal, marriage and death (morti) registries is basically the same. So with the help of online translators and by comparing older records with later ones that I could easily translate, I was able to decipher the information.

Over a period of a year, I visited the Family History Center every Tuesday and spent about six hours on each visit, searching through registries for Genetti ancestors and translating records. Finally I decided to photograph all of the records from the microfilm (several hundred pages!). Now I have San Nicolo’s records from 1567 to 1923 on my computer, and easily accessible for further research.

So for your pleasure, here are three baptismal records from different time periods along with my translations. All three people also reside on our family tree. I’m sure there will be many questions concerning the information contained in these documents … but that will have to wait for another blog post.

I hope to have many more vital statistic records available to you in the future.

AndreaGenetti1568Andrea Genet, baptized 11 Jan 1568. Peder (Pietro) Genet of Melango is his father, no mother is recorded. His godparents are: Zoan Segna and Battista (unknown name?) wife of the late Antoni Lorenceto of Melango.

 

PetriGenetti1650small

Petrus (Pietro), baptised 25 June 1650, the legitimate son of Georgeii (Georgio) and Lucia who are married with the name Geneti di Lanci. The child was baptized and his godparents are: Joanne (Giovanni) Batista (Baptista) (unable to translate surname) and Anna daughter of Andrea Geneti di Lanci.

 

RaffaeleBaptismalsmall

Born on the 24th of October, 1867 at 8:00 in the morning. Baptized on the 24th of October. Baptismal name: Angelo Rafaele Genetti of Castelfondo. He was the 26th Catholic child to be born that year and the 8th boy child. He was also of legitimate birth. The person who delivered him was Maria Detta. His father was Leone Genetti, son of the late Antonio of (Genetti) Lancia (this is the sopranome or nickname for our branch of the family). His mother was Catterina Genetti, daughter of Nicolo (Genetti) (Catterina and Leone were actually distant cousins). It says who the priest was that baptized Raffaele but I can’t make this out. His godparents were Giacinto Genetti, son of Nicolo (Genetti) and Veronica Genetti, daughter of Battista (I believe Veronica was also Raffaele’s grandmother).

 

For more info about the Ladin language of Northern Italy and the Nones dialect of the Val di Non, click here.