Category: Genealogy Tips

Guest Post by Allen Rizzi: Tirolean Names

Allen Rizzi
Author and Blogger

Today we have an interesting and informative guest article by author, songwriter, genealogist and fellow Trentini American, Allen E. Rizzi. We feature two of Allen’s books in our Family Bookstore (you’ll find links for all of his books at the end of this blog post).

I follow Allen’s eclectic blog and as soon as I read this post, I knew it would be perfect for the Genetti Family Genealogy Project.

If you enjoy Allen’s insightful article, read more of Mr. Rizzi’s plethora of commentary or subscribe to his blog at: https://rizziallen.wordpress.com/

Here is Allen’s August 30th post in its entirety.

Tirolean Names by Allen Rizzi

I have always loved names, especially Tirolean surnames. Surnames were invented after first names ceased to distinguish various people in small villages and towns. Prior to the year 800, people usually only had given names in the Tirol. Hence, you find Johannes fu (or von) Dominicus to simply describe the birth of Johannes, son of Dominicus. It was a simple naming convention and it worked… for awhile.

Surnames were then used to distinguish between the various people having the same given name in any particular population center. They were often fashioned after the patriarch’s given name. Of the various Johannes living in one spot, the surname was added; perhaps Dominici to distinguish a particular Johannes who was descended from Dominicus. Surnames were always descriptive and were intended to differentiate for reasons of census and taxation.

But as populations grew, there were too many people of the same given name and same surname in any one location. Confusion once again reigned. In my native village of Cloz for example, there were many people named Giovanni Rizzi at any one time. What to do? In the Tirol, sopranomi (nicknames) were introduced.

Sopranomi were first used to distinguish people with identical names living in one population center or town. If there were too many Johannes Dominicis in one area, the sopronome helped to discern which Johannes Dominici was being named in any instance.

Sopranomi vary widely in the Tirol. Some are taken from physical characteristic, others from one’s occupation and still others from the patriarch of the family. I was, for example, born Picolo Alessandro di Eugenio Valentino Von Rizzi Regin. The last of this huge moniker is my soprnome, Regin. It derives from the fact that a very distant ancestor once worked in the court of Maria Teresa of Austria (regin = queen in our dialect) as a secretary. My grandmother’s sopranome was Segala, indicating that one of her ancestors was known for being born in a rye field. Sopranomi were mandatory for many years as populations in the Tirol grew. Both governments and local residents had to know who exactly was being referred to. Today, they are of little real importance although most families still carry them with pride as a cherished piece of their heritage. In fact in some villages, people are still known only by their sopranome rather than their surname.

But let’s turn our attention to those wonderful Tirolean surnames. Many simply mean “sons of” such as Michelini, Bertagnolli, Martinelli, Giuliani (sons of Michael, Umberto, Martin and Julian). Of all Tirolean surnames, this type is the most common. Hundreds of examples can be found, many ending in “i.” Sometimes surnames of German origin have been Italianized such as Gebardi (sons of Gebhart, which in turn means hardy and brave). Other Germanic surnames have survived intact such as Larcher (living among the larch ((tamarack)) trees), Mayrhofer (from the region of Mayrhof in Austria.) and Kirschbaumer (cherry grower).

Still other surnames are descriptive of physical characteristics such as my own surname Rizzi, which simply means “curly haired.” In my native village of Cloz in the Val di Non, there are only a few surnames: Angeli (Angels), Franch (free of taxation), Gembrini (born in December), Flor (flower), Floretta (little flower), Zanoni (sons of John), Canestrini (little jars), Rauzi (root harvesters) and of course Rizzi.

Yet other surnames describe a trade or residence location. These are commonly found in both the Italian and German rooted languages. Some examples of trade referenced surnames include Zadra (weavers), Kofler (land surveyors), Geiser (goat herders), Sartori (tailors), Mitterer (carpenters), Preti (priests), and Zucali (pumpkin growers).

Examples of residence referenced surnames include Aufderklamm (living on the gorge), Plattner (living on level fields), Egger (living on the corner), DalRi (living near the river), DallaValle (living in the valley), Dalsass (living among the stones), Dalpiaz (living in the piazza), Clauser (from Cloz) and Ausserer (living outside the edge of town).

Sometimes, surnames are super obvious. I recently saw a funeral notice for a woman whose maiden name was Carotta (carrot) and whose married name was Stanchina (a little tired). I joked that she had passed away as a “carrot who was a little tired.” Actually, the woman lived to 103 years; not bad for a tired old vegetable!

In all cases Tirolean surnames actually mean something, even if it has been lost in ancient local dialect. That’s where genealogists like me come in. Many of us are able to trace the exact origin of surnames, even if those words or names no longer exist or have been drastically changed.

Tirolean names – They are interesting and most have a very long and traceable history. If you would like your Tirolean name researched, please get in touch with me. Genealogy is what I do. You may contact me here: http://www.allenrizzi.weebly.com

About Allen Rizzi: Writer with over 55 years professional experience including non-fiction, music, and corporate analytical writing. Author of eight books available through Amazon.com. Additional expertise as a photographer. Specialties: Historical non-fiction, fiction, nostalgia, public profiles, biographies, contracts, and documentary writing in English, Italian, and German. Recent articles have appeared in The Numismatist, NOS Magazine, and on the internet. Music composition and lyrics have been a specialty since 1974. Songwriting credits include over 150 songs (1974-present): Easy Listening, Country, Rock, and R&B. Currently completing a book in German and writing music and lyrics for recording artists in the United States and Europe. Cogito, ergo scribo….

For more info, please see Allen Rizzi’s LinkedIn account at:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/allen-rizzi-59ab5420/

Books by Allen Rizzi

Click on book for Amazon link:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Link Resource List

Our Links section has just been updated! For all you genealogy buffs, or those just fascinated with Tyrolean history and culture, you’ll find this list to be a valuable resource. To locate just scroll down any page on our website and you’ll see the “Links” list in the right hand column, right below “Archives”.

All links have been checked and updated, plus several informative websites added. Here are two that I know you’ll enjoy –

Val di Non to USA:
Discovering our ancestors who left Val di Non for a job or better life in America.
Researched and published by Elaine Erspamer Marchant, this website is truly a work of love! Elaine’s family is from Fondo (just down the road from Castelfondo) and she has made it a mission to categorize as many immigrants as possible who came from Val di Non. This is a fantastic resource for family surnames!

 

Trentino Family History Links:
Resources specific to Trentino Family History Research
According to genealogist Lynn Serafinn, “this is a new list of resource links specific to the province of Trento (aka Trentino)”. You might know Lynn from her popular column in Filo Magazine called Genealogy Corner. Living in England, Lynn specializes in genealogy research for Trentini descendants, with the majority of her clients being Americans. A frequent researcher at the archives located in the city of Trent, Lynn is certainly the person to hire if you want deep and thorough research into your Tyrolean family tree. In this new section just added to her extensive website, Lynn shares many research tools for Trentini ancestry. She also includes The Genetti Family Genealogy Project under the Family History Blog section of her list! Plus one more interesting point – Lynn has a Genetti ancestor from Castelfondo in her family tree! That’s right, Lynn is a distant cousin to our family! Our common ancestor predates baptismal records, but we believe our closest shared ancestor lived sometime around 1500. Thanks again Lynn for creating such a valuable resource and for including our family website! Make sure you check out the entire Trentino Genealogy website as it is filled with informative articles, personal stories and photographs.

Cousins!

BillAndJean

First cousins, Bill Genetti and Jean Branz Daly, about 1940.

In previous blog posts you’ve heard me talk about 2nd cousins, 8th cousins, cousins that are once or twice removed, and so on. What does this genealogy jargon mean and how do I figure out the relationship between all of those cousins?

Surprisingly, we all have a multitude of distant cousins. If you take an autosomal DNA test (a combination of both parent’s DNA)  through Ancestry.com or Family Tree DNA, you will be matched up with others who have snippets of the same DNA. The more pieces of their DNA that match, the higher the likelihood that they are a close relative of yours. A first cousin may match up to 25% of your DNA. A sibling should match close to 50%. The more distant the cousin, the less DNA will match. We’ll save the DNA discussion for another time, since it is rather complicated. But just keep this info in mind as we discuss different degrees of cousins.

LidiaDaughters

Lidia Genetti (center) with two daughters, Giovanna and Laura. Laura’s young daughter Viola is also in the photo. Photographed 2014.

To determine a cousin relationship you first need to find your Closest Common Relative or CCR. You then count each generation away from this CCR to determine the cousin level.

Here’s is an easy way to remember cousin levels:

– Siblings or half-siblings: you share a parent.

– 1st cousins: you share a grandparent and are from the same generation.

– 2nd cousins: you share a great-grandparent and are from the same generation.

– 3rd cousins: you share a 2nd great-grandparent and are from the same generation.

– 4th cousins: you share a 3rd great-grandparent and are from the same generation.

Val,Me,MaryAnn

At Genetti reunion 2010, Valeria Genetti Bozek, Louise Genetti Roach and Marianne Genetti.

And it continues from there. I have traced some people to the level of 8th cousins! Usually I can figure out the relationships up to 4th cousins in my head. For really distant cousins (5th and beyond) I have to look at our family tree and physically count each generation from our Closest Common Relative. The further back in time that the CCR lived, the more distant the cousin. After discovering several 8th cousins, I found our CCR was born around the mid-1600’s.

Now comes the difficult part of the equation – what does “once removed mean”? This means that you share a CCR, but are from different generations. For example: the child of my first cousin would be my “first cousin, once removed”. Or in other terms, my grandparent(s) and their great-grandparent(s) are the same person – this is our shared CCR. A first cousin, twice removed would be the grandchild of my first cousin. Yeah, I know, it sounds complicated! But once you get the hang of it, the system really isn’t difficult to understand. The cousin relationship is one of the most important tools you have when researching genealogy to help discover family connections.

And in answer to several people who have written me – sorry, a second cousin is not the same as a first cousin, once removed. Second cousins share a great-grandparent. First cousins, once removed share a grandparent/great-grandparent (same person).

Let’s talk about the photos that accompany this post. The first image is of first cousins Bill Genetti and Jean Branz Daly, they share a set of grandparents and are also my father’s first cousins. My relationship to both Bill and Jean is first cousin, once removed – we have the same Closest Common Relatives, but I am from the next generation – or one generation removed.

The second photo shows Lidia Genetti from Italy with her two daughters and a granddaughter. Lidia’s 2nd great-grandparents and my 3rd great-grandparents are the same, Antonio and Veronica Genetti, (Antonio was born in 1789). That makes me Lidia’s 3rd cousin, once removed. Since I am from the same generation as Lidia’s daughters, I am their 4th cousin (we share the same 3rd great-grandparents, Antonio and Veronica). Laura’s daughter is my 4th cousin, once removed because she is from the next generation.

And the third photo pictures myself with Valeria Genetti Bozek and Marianne Genetti. Valeria and I are second cousins, we share a set of great-grandparents, Damiano and Oliva Genetti. But Marianne was my first cousin, once removed. Marianne’s grandparents were Damiano and Oliva, but since I am from the next generation, Damiano and Oliva are my great-grandparents. (To read more about Marianne Genetti, please visit her Tribute.)

Just one more fact to make your head spin – every person has sixty-four 4th great-grandparents or 32 sets! Yep, that’s a whole lot of great-grandparents! If each family had on average of three surviving children, that makes 96 fifth cousins. If you multiply that same equation out over five more generations, you end up with an average of 23,328 cousins! At last count my great-grandparents, Damiano and Oliva Genetti, have five generations of descendants – over 250 people!

Now you understand why you have so many cousins!

Here are two excellent Wikipedia articles that explain cousin relations and the DNA connection:

Autosomal DNA statistics

How to chart cousins

My Desk

deskJust for giggles I thought you might like to see my work space. This is where I do family research, work on the Genetti Family Genealogy website and blog, and ponder over ancestry mysteries.

Hanging on the wall is a print of our family tree, where I can easily reference it. The bright blue and yellow banner on the left  was given to me by Dino Marchetti, an ex-mayor and unofficial town historian of Castelfondo. It contains the Coat-of-Arms of the Commune of Castelfondo, Italy.

PrintsOn the wall to my left hangs a print of the carved marble family coat-of-arms (called a “stemma” in Italian), and a print of the Gothic fresco that graces the front wall of the Genetti homestead in Castelfondo.

This all sets the “mood” when I sit down at my computer to dig through names, dates, old newspaper articles, data bases and photos. I also have a bookshelf filled with books about Italy, the Tyrolean culture, documents and photos sent to me over the years, and a huge binder containing research notes. Lol …yes, I guess you could say that I am passionate about genealogy!