Category: Family History

New Photos in the Gallery

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Four Genetti brothers at the opening of the Laurel Street market in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, 1939.

I just added new photos to the website Gallery section. Come by and take a peek, just click here!

Do you have old family photographs tucked away in a shoe box in the attic? Why not dust them off and send then to me via email. I’ll post them in the Gallery along with dates and details. Since I’ve heard from many of you, I know for a fact that other family members would love to see them too!

New Names on the Tree

Original Genetti Family Tree

The Genetti Family tree showing male lines of the family dating back to 1461.

A few weeks ago I received an email from Tom Genetti. His family had emigrated to Illinois around 1880 from Castelfondo, Austria. Tom was enjoying the new Genetti website, but did not find his family on the tree. He wanted to know what branch his ancestors had come from and if he was related to the Genetti family in Pennsylvania (my branch of the tree). Like most of us, Tom had grown up with various family stories, one being that he had cousins in Pennsylvania. Good questions that required research to find the answers.

Since different branches of the Genetti family had emigrated to different parts of the United States (Pennsylvania, Wyoming, California, Illinois, Michigan, Utah) and, for the most part, we are all related, it was a matter of tracing his ancestry in the Castelfondo church records to find the closest common relative.

Tom’s grandparents had Americanized their names, a common practice by many immigrants. This complicated the search because we needed his true name to continue. Since we knew his grandfather had lived and died in Illinois, it was easy to find details in the census and Illinois Death Index. That gave me a clue to his original baptismal name, plus his actual birth date and the name of his father. When I located Tom’s great-grandfather on the original tree (lower left branch of the tree shown above), I knew exactly what part of the family Tom was from and where to look in the records. It took about two weeks worth of digging to find the names and dates of his direct male ancestors. But they were all there.

And guess what … yes, Tom was related to my branch of the Genetti tree. Matter-of-fact, he was related twice! It turns out that Tom’s great-grandparents were Cipriano Genetti and Catterina Genetti. They were distant cousins from two different branches of the tree. Catterina was first cousins with my great great-grandfather Leone. OK – here is where it gets really confusing! This would make Tom my 3rd cousin twice removed (through Catterina’s line) and my 7th cousin once removed (through Cipriano’s line) with our closest shared blood relative being Pietro Genetti born in 1650!

Yes, I’m kind of a genealogy geek since I love figuring out family tree relationships. So far, I’ve located three marriages between distant cousins that have joined various branches.

With Tom’s line completed, I have added 26 new names to the Genetti online tree. Beginning with Pietro Genetti (1650 to 1706) and descending to Tom’s father.

There are many, many more branches of our tree to research and add. I’m sure my genealogy journeys through ancestral documents will keep me busy for years to come!

 

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”.

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.

 

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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. 

Welcome!

Genetti homestead in Castelfondo

Louise at the Genetti homestead in Castelfondo, 2011.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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