Category: Family History

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 The group publishes many historical documents and photos of scenes and people from Castelfondo.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.

Hurry! Our Family DVD Will Soon Be Discontinued!

There are only a few copies left of our professionally edited DVD: “The Genetti Family of Castelfondo: Our Journey to America”! The deadline to order is December 31, 2017. After this date the DVD will be discontinued and we will no longer ship copies.

If you missed Reunion 2016 or would like a unique Christmas gift for a family member, this DVD is the perfect solution! Place your order TODAY – hurry before you miss this opportunity to own a piece of Genetti genealogy!

The price for this beautifully packaged presentation is $20 (includes shipping).

Please send your check addressed to:
William Genetti, 1345 N. Church St., Hazle Township, PA 18202.

Stop by the Genetti Family Shop for more goodies and gifts, from books about Tyrolean heritage to coffee mugs with the Genetti family coat-of-arms. Click here to shop!

Letters from the Past

DamianoDoorAs a genealogist, I get excited about dates and stats. But nothing thrills me more than finding a memoir or letter written by an ancestor. These bits of history allow a personal glimpse into the life and times of a family member.

On my last visit back to Pennsylvania, I was fortunate to be gifted a box of memories by my Uncle Leon Genetti. It proved to be a cache of information, transporting me back decades into my personal family line.

I am now in the process of sorting and scanning documents before returning this “time capsule” back to my uncle. The amount of historical information I have found is incredible, yielding several stories I will tell you in future blog posts.

letters1The first bit of Genetti memorabilia I’d like to share with you are two letters penned by my great-grandfather Damiano Genetti, sent to his son Stanley (Costante) Genetti. The letters were written in December of 1938 and August of 1939, sent from Castelfondo, Italy.

A little back history about Damiano – he returns to his native village in the Val di Non (Trentino, Italy) around 1922, without his family. He lives in Castelfondo for the next twenty-two years, until his death in December of 1944. During this time World War II breaks out (Sept. 1939 – Sept. 1945). The northern province of Trentino/Alto Adige is caught in the middle between German and Italian forces.

It is significant to note that Damiano’s wife, Oliva Zambotti Genetti, passes away in August of 1938. The second letter discusses Damiano paying for masses to be said in the memory of Oliva.

Another known fact to consider is that by 1939, Damiano is making plans to return to America, but is unable to leave due to the declaration of war in Europe.

Now back to our letters! After inspecting the documents, it’s obvious that the original letters were penned in dialect or Italian and later translated into English by someone familiar with the Tyrolean tongue. We can tell this from the unusual sentence syntax. Also, the signature at the bottom of both letters, does not match other documents personally signed by Damiano. From these observations we can conclude that the letters were received by one member of the family (in this case Damiano’s son Stanley) then translated, copied and distributed to other family members. We can also conclude from the mention of past letters, that Damiano wrote to his children on a fairly frequent basis and was concerned with their welfare.

letters2-aBefore composing this blog post, I shared the letters with Bill Genetti, Damiano’s grandson, to get his impressions. Bill made a very important observation: “The 2nd letter is dated 3 days before WWII broke out. September 1st was the date Hitler attacked Poland and war was declared. That 2nd letter may be the last letter to get through and he died before the Allies reached his area.”

Wow! Damiano was writing to his family on the very brink of war! I felt many emotions reading his letters – sadness, loneliness, affection for his children, a resignation of his position in life. Damiano’s words resonated through the decades, speaking volumes.

Since I was born thirteen years after his death, I can only go by the description others have told me of my great-grandfather: stubborn and determined, intelligent and scrupulous, caring and generous, a humanitarian yet distant and detached from his family. Perhaps Damiano’s words will give you a new perspective of an ancestor who lived many different lives (husband, father, mining superintendent, Calvary officer, businessman, traveler, mayor, herbalist).For these are personal letters from a man who lived a complicated life. It is an honor to share them with you now.

I’ll leave Damiano’s words speak for themselves. (To read each letter, click on the image for an enlarged view.)

letters2-bDo you have ancestor letters tucked away in your basement or attic? Why not share them with the Genetti Genealogy Project. Write me at info.genetti.family@gmail.com. Each letter will be added to your ancestor’s digital file in the Genetti Archive we are in the process of compiling.

See more photos of Damiano Genetti on our website Photograph Page.

Read Damiano’s obituary on our Tributes Page.

New Family Memory Page

raffaeleluciaolder

Raffaele Genetti and Lucia (Zambotti) Genetti – photograph of Nono and Nona. Probably photographed in the mid-1940’s.

During the past month, I have been working with Helene Smith Prehatny to create a Family Memory page about her beloved Nono and Nona, Raffaele and Lucia Genetti. The result is a beautiful memoir from Helene’s childhood, recalling loving moments with her grandparents who lived in Weston, Pennsylvania.

Raffaele was Helene’s buddy and mentor, always encouraging his young granddaughter to respect herself and believe “there are no limits in what you can accomplish”. Digging into her collection of photographs, Helene included family portraits that walk us through the years from the late 1890’s to the mid-1940’s. Her well thought-out piece is a moving tribute to her family. And her memoir has now become a treasured part of the Genetti family archive.

Thank you Helene! Your contribution to our Family Story page is so very appreciated!

Click here to read “Family Memories by Helene Smith Prehatny”.

All of Helene’s photographs have also been added to the Photograph Page of our Gallery Section (a total of nine new photos!). Make sure to visit this popular page to browse cherished memories of our ancestors.

Do you have special memories that you would like to preserve for future generations? A Family Memory Page is the perfect venue to express your thoughts and thanks to our ancestors. Feel free to email me with your ideas and we’ll work on your Family Memory Page together. Click here to go to our website contact page.

 

We Made the News!

standardspeakerOur thanks to writer, Jill Whalen, at the Standard-Speaker newspaper for writing an extensive article about the Genetti family of Hazleton, PA. When I sent out press releases a few months back, I had expected just a few paragraphs about our October reunion to be published in the paper. I was completely blown away by the full-page article detailing our family’s history in the area and their involvement in local business. Jill obviously did her research – digging into old family documents, genealogy records and newspaper archives. Since my memories of our family businesses are as a child – my father taking me for a visit to the Tyrolean Room (where he worked) or buying groceries at our local Genetti market, I was surprised by many of the details Jill included in her article. Some of which I wasn’t aware of! What a great piece to include in our growing family archive!

imagegallery1The complete article can be found as a link on our Family News page. Or just click here and go directly to the article page on our website.

Want to read the article online at the Standard-Speaker? Click here for the original story.

I’d like to acknowledge one detail left out of Jill’s article. It was brought to my attention by a descendant of Damiano and Oliva that there was no mention of their daughters or the role they played in establishing the family businesses. This was an unfortunate oversight and I offer my apologies.

Yes, it is my understanding that all of the children (including their daughters) worked hard to help the family prosper in a new land. Until they married and left the family home, the five Genetti daughters all contributed in some way to the growing business. Two daughters, Esther and Anne, also had official job titles within the Genetti company. According to the Federal Census, Esther never married and worked for many years as a bookkeeper in the family business. Youngest daughter, Anne, was also a bookkeeper in the Genetti offices until her marriage to James McNelis in 1932.

Our family history centers around the four Genetti sons, but often ignores their sisters and the part they played in establishing D. Genetti & Sons. My sincerest apologies to the descendants of these dedicated women (Dora, Tillie, Esther, Erminia and Angela) who were regrettably overlooked in this recent article.

I also would like to acknowledge the many grandchildren (and great-grandchildren!) of Daminano and Oliva who worked in the family businesses throughout the years. You are part of the entrepreneurial spirit our ancestors brought with them on the long journey from Castelfondo to Hazleton. I applaud your contribution to our family history!

Reunion Photos

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Genetti Family Reunion – 1987 – Hazleton, PA
First Row Seated, L to R: Gus Genetti, Esther Bott Clark, Jean Branz Daly, Catherine Branz LaPorte, Betty Zambotti Reich, Aunt Ann Genetti NcNelis, Leo Zambotti, Catherine Genetti Farkus, Rita Genetti Young, Agnes Bott York, Marianne Genetti, Bill Genetti. 1st Row Standing, L to R: Val Genetti, Gus Genetti III, Joseph LaPorte, Louis Reich, Erma Zambotti, Steve Farkus, Elaine White Young, unknown, unknown, Pat Genetti.

Thanks to Jean Branz Daly, we have just added a few more reunion group photos to our Reunion News page. Take a stroll down memory lane and see what the Genetti family looked like in years past. Click here then scroll to the bottom of the page to see reunions from 1983, 1987, 1992, 1994 and 1995. Jean even provided most of the names for the 1987 photo.

Alas, many of our old-timers are no longer with us. Some who were pictured in the early reunions, were born in Castelfondo, Tyrol (Stanley Genetti, Ann Genetti McNelis). We owe them a debt of gratitude as the first immigrants of our family. They came to Pennsylvania as children, forging a life for future generations. Their children were the first generation to be born in America. Many of our 1st generation family members are also pictured throughout the years (Jean Branz Daly, Catherine Branz LaPorte, Gus Genetti, Bill Genetti, Marianne Genetti, Betty Zambotti Reich).

Can you help identify others in our reunion photos? I know some, but not all. It would be a great gift to the family if we can positively identify each person in all of these photos. If you can help or you were in any of these photos, write me at info.genetti.family@gmail.com with your photo names, reunion year and position in the photo.

Many thanks to Jean Branz Daly (the granddaughter of Damiano and Oliva Genetti). Jean has been a frequent contributor to our family website and we are sincerely grateful! Grazie mille Jean!

Hey – have you sent in your Reunion Reservation yet? Only one week to go before the reservation deadline of September 1st! Don’t miss out on this special event – meet new cousins, hug old cousins, two special presentations, great food and loads of door prizes! It will be a memorable weekend for all, celebrating our Genetti Family heritage!

Check the links below for Reunion info:

Reunion News!

Reunion Reservation Form

Afternoon Workshop: The Basics of DNA Testing

Evening Presentation: The Genetti Family of Castelfondo: Our Journey to America

Reunion Prizes!

Reunion Sponsors

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!

 

 

New Archive Webpage

Three Genetti Sisters

Erma Genetti Branz (1896-1971), Tillie Genetti Zambotti (1890-1971) and Dora Genetti Bott
(1889-1971). Black Creek, Pennsylvania, 1920’s.

In case you haven’t visited our family website lately, we have introduced a new webpage entitled: The Genetti Family Archive: Tell Us Your Story. You can find the link for this page in the top menu, labeled: Genetti Archive.

This is an interactive page created just for YOU! We want to know about your family, your stories, your ancestors. The Genetti family stretches back to the mid-1400’s, documenting 18 generations! That means we have a whole lot of descendants – and a bunch of living cousins! It’s hard to keep up with every person on our extensive tree. But with your help, we can create a family archive that will live on for future generations.

At the Genetti Archive page you’ll find two fun and easy questionnaires.

The Personal History of a Genetti Descendant can be completed for any descendant alive or deceased. It offers a personal glimpse of an individual’s history. Tell us about yourself, one of your adult children or use the form as a memorial to a family member who has passed on. Submit as many Personal History forms as you like – one form per person.

The Genetti Descendant Survey is for living Genetti descendants only. This questionnaire provides current information about your family lineage and will help us update our family tree.

Stop by the Genetti Archive page and take a few moments to complete our surveys. Your participation will be a great help to those of us keeping our family records – and your info will provide an invaluable resource for future generations.

Click here to go to The Genetti Family Archive: Tell Us Your Story

Also – remember the Genetti Family Reunion 2016 is just four months away! Need info about the reunion? Click here for Reunion News and to download a Reunion Reservation Form.