Gary was the great-grandson of Costantino (also known as August) and Rosa Genetti. Costantino was born in Castelfondo, Tyrol in 1841 and immigrated to the United States with Rosa in 1868. They were the first members of the extensive Castelfondo Genetti family to leave their village and come to America. The couple, along with Costantino’s brothers and sisters, are considered the founding ancestors of the Illinois branch of the Genetti family.
Being a family genealogist is not always easy. And this is one of those times. I invariably knew the day would arrive when I had to create a memorial page for William “Bill” Genetti. It was a task I hoped would never come.
You see Bill was my family history mentor. When I first began my journey into genealogy back in 2010, Bill was happy to help by sharing his extensive family research files. Over the years, he had gathered information on all of the descendants of the Pennsylvania Genetti family. His files gave me a great jump-start into compiling our extended family tree.
Bill also introduced me to the original Genetti Family Tree – an amazing collection of ancestors presented as a beautiful fine art print. It was another incredible family history gift for a budding genealogist!
In 2014 he cheered me on when I accepted the responsibility of renovating and maintaining our family website. And in the Spring of 2016, Bill asked if I would help him organize a family reunion for that October. I was honored to assist Bill in bringing together cousins from all branches of our family. It was a wonderful reunion that I will always remember.
Throughout the years, Bill and I shared information via email correspondence and the occasional phone call, sometimes surprising each other with an unexpected family secret that we had uncovered through genetic genealogy or research. Yes, Bill was my genealogy buddy! I will very much miss his insight and generosity, as well as his passion for family history and the honor he brought to our ancestors. Bill will be greatly missed by our family and his Hazleton community. But I know his memory will live on through his many descendants and a lifetime of charitable works.
To my genealogy buddy, I bid you a fond farewell and God speed!
A memorial page has been created for Bill Genetti in the Tributes and Obituaries section of our family website. Please feel free to share your memories in the comments section of that page.
With much sadness I bring you the news that William (Bill) Edward Fox Genetti of Hazleton passed away this morning, May 8th, 2021. A great presence in the Pennsylvania family, Bill was a family man, business owner, genealogist and friend to many. Carrying on the family business from his father, Gus Genetti Sr., Bill was a prominent member of the Hazleton community. Over the years, he brought together many cousins and extended family by hosting reunions at his Genetti establishment.
We offer our thoughts and love to Bill’s wife Pat, his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as well as his brother Gus and his family during this difficult time.
A memorial for Bill will be posted on our Tributes and Obituaries Page at a later date.
With a heavy heart I bring the news that Valeria Elaine Yackshaw Genetti passed away peacefully in the early morning hours of December 22nd. It is always difficult to post news of this nature, but particularly hard when it is about a member of my Pennsylvania family.
Val was the wife of Gus Genetti Jr. and the mother of six children. Married for 60 years, Val and Gus lived the past 50 years in Wilkes-Barre, PA where they raised their family and grew a prosperous business. She was a beloved member of the Wilkes-Barre community and well known for her philanthropic endeavors.
For family and friends living in the Pennsylvania area, a social-distancing viewing will be held Sunday, Dec. 27th from 2 pm to 5 pm at the Daniel J. Hughes Funeral and Cremation Service, 617 Carey Ave, Wilkes-Barre (masks and social distancing required).
Funeral services will be held on Monday, Dec. 28, 2020, with a Mass of Christian Burial at 9:30 a.m. in St. Mary’s Church of the Immaculate Conception, 134 S. Washington St., Wilkes-Barre. Interment will follow in Calvary Cemetery Drums, Pa.
We extend our love and sympathy to the family of Val and Gus Genetti during this difficult time. Valeria’s cheerful and exuberant nature will be missed by all.
Wishing all Genetti descendants throughout the world Merry Christmas – Buon Natale.
May we remember our many cousins and friends who have been affected by the pandemic this past year, especially those who have passed on. Let us hold them in our hearts, light a candle in their memory and send them our love. It has been a difficult year for many of our Genetti cousins. May we look towards the future with the hope of a better New Year for all in 2021.
We are sadden to hear that John A. Genetti of South Bend, Indiana passed away on October 6, 2020. John was the son of John Genetti and LaVerne Gonder, the grandson of John B. Genetti and Julia Rolando, and the great-grandson of Vigilio Genetti and Domenica Maria Dolzadelli.
Originally from Castelfondo, John’s branch of the Genetti family settled in Collinsville, Illinois and the surrounding area near St. Louis during the late 1800’s. His great-grandfather, Vigilio, had numerous descendants, many of whom still live near Collinsville.
Remember our “rabbit hole”? Here is where my research took a new direction and like Alice in Wonderland, down I went into the ancestral void. Allow me to explain!
One of my favorite genealogy resources is Newspapers.com. Old newspapers can yield an amazing amount of information not found anywhere else. As I was scanning through local papers, searching for any clue to our missing children, I began seeing a pattern of references for Raffaele Genetti spanning about 35 years. Many of the clippings fell under the category of license submissions. Noting the dates, I realized they formed a chronological history of Raffaele’s business dealings.
I placed all of the clippings in order according to date beginning in 1895 and extending through 1923. Here’s what I found: Every February anyone involved in the food and liquor industry had to apply for a license to operate or continue operating a business. During the month of March, applications were reviewed and licenses granted at the end of that month. However, there seemed to be only a limited number of licenses available each year. Therefore a proprietor may be shut out of the process and not receive a license for the upcoming year.
The first year I found Raffaele referenced was 1895, applying for a liquor license in Black Creek Township, PA. It appears he was not granted a license for that year. In 1897 he applied again under a restaurant license in the village of “Hopeville”. The license was granted and we can assume that year was the beginning of his saloon business. But I wondered – where in the world was Hopeville? Although there are many little townships in the Hazleton area, I had never heard of this village. After a good bit of searching, I found an online history explaining that Weston was originally called Hopeville. Sometime after 1900 the village changed its name to its current moniker. One mystery solved!
So now we know Raffaele is attempting to establish a business in Weston around 1897. But it’s not until a few years later when he is finally granted a liquor license for his restaurant. We also see that in 1900 he has a license to operate a butcher shop in Union Township East, Schuylkill County. Raffaele’s sister, Angeline Genetti Recla, is the proprietor of a dry goods store in that township catering to miners in Schuylkill County. Since Raffaele and Lucia lived right next door to Angeline, we probably can assume he maintained a butcher business in collaboration with his sister’s store.
Considering these public records, this verifies Raffaele was attempting to build a new business in Weston while at the same time maintaining his original business in East Union before moving his family to his future boarding house establishment in Luzerne County.
From another article published in The Miners Journal dated July 1904, all did not go smoothly for Raffaele’s businesses. It reads:
WANTS $5,000 DAMAGES
Wilkesbarre, July 19 – An action for damage was yesterday commenced by Rafael Genetti, of Hazleton, against Anna R. Davis, of the same place. The plaintiff claims that owing to scandalous words uttered by the defendant about him he believes that his reputation has been damaged to the amount of $5,000 and he brings the suit to recover this amount.
The specific statement of which the plaintiff complains is to the effect that Genetti peddled meat that was not fit to eat and that he took some church money.
When I Googled the value of $5,000 from 1904 translated into today’s terms, I received the answer of a “relative inflated worth” of: $150,116. Obviously Raffaele was very serious about the claims made against him, so much so, that he brought a substantial lawsuit against the alleged defendant. And considering the woman’s claim that he had stolen money from the church, this was a direct personal attack against his reputation. If you remember from our previous posts, I mentioned a disagreement Raffaele had with the Weston priest. It’s a pretty good bet that this claim was the source of his anger! I could find no further reference in the papers for this lawsuit. We don’t know whether the court ruled in favor of Raffaele or the lawsuit was dropped.
The bad luck streak continued, with Raffaele’s liquor license denied during the years 1905, 1906 and 1907. Perhaps the lawsuit and alleged claims had something to do with the denial of his license. By 1908 things turned around and he once again regained his license to sell liquor at his Weston saloon. And in 1910 Raffaele was granted a license to operate a hotel and farm in Black Creek Township, Luzerne County, thus expanding his business holdings.
Of course, everything changed in 1920 with passage of the Prohibition Amendment. And sure enough, in an article dated February 1923, we find the following incident reported: “… agents had raided the saloons of Raffaele Genetti at Weston and Andrew Enama at Nuremberg where he secured a quantity of whisky and wine.” The article describes how local constables had turned a blind eye for several years to illegal liquor sales as well as gambling taking place at neighborhood businesses. Not trusting the local police to uphold prohibition laws, federal agents descended upon the area in 1923, raiding many businesses in Luzerne and Schuylkill counties.
Raffaele along with 23 other local “speak-easy” owners were arrested for “manufacturing, selling and possessing liquor, stills, spirits, coloring extracts and mash”. The paper continued: “The defendants arraigned were all held under $1,000 bail for court.” And: “The federal authorities will attempt to impose jail sentences upon the principals in every case.”
Considering how many businessmen were hauled into court at this time, Raffaele was certainly not the only saloon owner attempting to keep his business open by selling illicit booze. We even see a reference about illegal alcohol in Stanley Genetti’s biography, describing his brief dealings in the early 1920’s with a local bootlegging gang (see pages 21 – 22 of Stanley’s biography).
On April 3, 1923, Raffaele went before the court accused of “selling high voltage beverages.” Unfortunately we don’t know the outcome of the trial as I can find no follow-up reports in the 1923 newspapers nor can I find any court documents from that time.
But all was not lost! We know Raffaele bounced back from this set-back. From the memories of Raffaele’s granddaughter, Helene Smith Prehatny, we learn the former saloon/ dance hall was used from time to time for gatherings and events. Newspaper advertisements from the late 1920’s and early 1930’s announce public dances held at Raffaele’s establishment, proclaiming the “Big Tyrolean Dance at Genetti’s Hall Weston. Everyone welcome – good music!”
Raffaele concentrated his business efforts on farming and raising chickens, with help from his sons, who were by now grown men.
In 1933, the Prohibition amendment was repealed, allowing saloon owners to once again provide legal alcoholic libations to the public.
From the photos we have of Raffaele, I always thought him to be a dashingly handsome man. But now I also knew him as an interesting and colorful individual! You have to admit, the Genetti family was never boring!
We received an excellent comment from Conrad Reich suggesting I check parish records for baptismal and funeral information about little Alessandro and Raffaele Jr. I agree with Conrad, this appears to be the most logical place to search. Many of you are probably thinking the very same thing. I thought I should explain why this genealogical direction contains so many roadblocks.
If we look at public record, the family of Raffaele and Lucia Genetti were living in North Union, Schuylkill County, PA in 1900. Matter-of-fact, they were living right next door to Raffaele’s sister, Angela Genetti Recla. Soon after the 1900 Federal Census was recorded, the young family moved to Weston in Luzerne County, but we don’t know the exact date. Since both sons appear to have died right around this time, the question is what parish did the family belong to? Did they attend church in Schuylkill county or were they members of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Luzerne County? Without exact birth and death dates, or knowing the family’s parish during these transition years, makes it extremely difficult to locate records.
The next hurdle concerning parish records is accessibility. You may not realize this, but the Catholic Church simply doesn’t share their records. Although you will find parish registries for some Catholic Churches in Europe through LDS catalogs at FamilySearch.org, the church has completely cracked down on allowing access to their records through any genealogy data base. If you search for Pennsylvania church records on Ancestry.com, you will find many registries for various Protestant faiths – but absolutely none for any Catholic Church in the state. This means the only possibility of gaining access to baptismal records would be to go directly to the church (remember, we don’t know the specific church the family attended at the time of the two boys’ passing) and inquire with the local priest. You may also find that the baptismal records you are seeking are no longer kept at the church but archived somewhere else. Plus Catholic priests are notorious for not responding to genealogy requests!
Since I live in New Mexico, making personal contact with the priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Weston and tracking down the appropriate records is simply not feasible. Of course, if anyone else would like to undertake this task, I would be most appreciative!
Adding to this confusion is another issue. At our last family reunion I was told Raffaele had a discrepancy with the priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. As a result, Raffaele , Lucia and most of their family are not buried in Weston, but in Calvary Cemetery in Drums. Searching online cemetery records, it appears neither Alessandro nor Raffaele Jr. are buried near their family at Calvary. And I have yet to find an online grave listing for either of them in Weston or Schuylkill County.
FYI – this type of challenge is referred to in genealogy as a “brick wall” – and it can take years to break through!
However while I was conducting research about the family, I did stumble upon a series of notations published in the local newspaper containing enticing clues as to why Raffaele may have had a conflict with the priest in Weston. I’ll tell you all about it in our next blog post: Down the Rabbit Hole, Part 3!
When you hang out with genealogists, a certain kind of lingo infiltrates your thinking. Such things as brick walls, NPEs and search angels are common jargon amongst my research friends.
Since my last blog post about the family of Raffaele and Lucia Genetti, one particular genealogy term describes my recent research: “falling down the rabbit hole”.
Allow me to explain. After publishing the last post in our series, Anatomy of a Photograph, I received several thoughtful comments addressing missing information. Two of the comments were from descendants of Raffaele and Lucia. I felt their concerns were valid and should be researched, with the possibility of updating our current tree.
Beginning my research as I usually do by accessing various online data bases, I soon found myself “falling down the rabbit hole”. In genealogy terminology this means: I lost my focus due to search results leading me in a totally unexpected direction. The information I stumbled upon was interesting enough to pursue further and was directly linked to the Weston saloon owned by Raffaele and Lucia.
Because of this, I am taking a short break from our original series and will present several posts addressing your previous comments, as well as present new research I have unearthed about the Genetti establishment.
Two of the comments left on our blog were from the grandchildren of Raffaele and Lucia: Helene Prehatny and Ralph Genetti. Both thought there were eight children in the family, rather than the seven I mentioned in my original post. Although I had explained the death of the family’s oldest son, Alessandro, Ralph was sure there was another child named Raffaele Jr. who had died at birth. But Ralph had no specific information about the infant’s birth or death date or age at time of death.
This child was completely missing from our tree and I had no sources within my research indicating an eighth birth in the family. I agreed with Ralph that it required further investigation.
Since we had no specific information for Alessandro either, other than being mentioned in the 1900 Federal Census as being five years old, I felt it was necessary to do in-depth research for both boys.
Returning to my most reliable online sources, I scoured data bases for any mention of Alessandro or Raffaele Jr. I also searched Find-A-Grave and Newspapers.com for some scrap of evidence on either child. There was nothing. I even went back into my archive from San Nicolo in Castelfondo, hoping there may be a slim chance relatives of Raffaele or Lucia had notified the village priest of a family birth in Hazleton. (If the couple had relatives still living in Castelfondo and they had kept a close connection with family, sometimes you will find a birth in the United States included in the church’s baptismal records.) Unfortunately, once again I came up empty. There was simply no paper trail left for either infant.
As a genealogist, this places me in an unusual predicament. If I go by the rules, there is no confirmed evidence such as a grave or public record for an eighth child named Raffaele Jr. And since this child was born prior to the 1900 Federal Census, there is no one alive today with any memory of the birth. I know from experience, trusting stories as fact can often lead to inaccurate information entered into family trees and archives (our double wedding photo is a good example of this very thing!). Incorrect information is not useful for future generations of family researchers as it leads to generational mistakes.
It should also be noted that there is a common practice to exclude stillborn births and those that die in childhood from family trees as they produce no heirs to carry on the family line. Our original tree adheres to this philosophy as I have found dozens of births in the Castelfondo records where the child was dropped from various family branches due to death before reaching adulthood.
Since both Ralph and Helene were sure there was another child in Raffaele and Lucia’s family, I decided on a compromise. I have added little Raffaele to our tree but his birth and death dates are listed as “about 1897”. Since no one knows the facts about his birth date, age at time of death or death date, I had to use basic historical facts and make my best guess. We know from the 1900 Federal Census that Alessandro was born sometime around 1895 and the next child listed, Silvio, was born in 1899. There is a very good chance that Raffaele Jr. was born between these two children in 1897. Because he is not listed in the 1900 Census, we know that he did not reach the age of three and may very well have died as an infant.
In an attempt to keep our records as accurate as possible, the listings for both children have now been modified to read:
Alessandro Genetti, born about 1895, died between 1900 and 1910. Additional Note: There are no public records for the death of Alessandro. We know he appears in the 1900 Census as being 5 yrs. old, but he is not listed in the 1910 Census.
Raffaele Genetti Jr., born about 1897, died about 1897. Additional Note: There is no known evidence of the birth or death of Raffaele Jr. other than the memory of family descendants.
Watch for “Down the Rabbit Hole, Part 2” coming soon!
Time to look at the very person associated with our photo myth, Albert Lawrence Genetti. Albert is not pictured in our group wedding photograph. But for some unknown reason the date of his birth became part of the legend attached to this eventful day. Although we now know Albert was born in 1906, two and a half years prior to the date of the 1909 photo, public records show an interesting story also revolves around his birth.
Albert came into the world on October 21, 1906, the sixth child in a family of seven (note: Albert’s oldest sibling, Alessandro, passed away in 1910). According to Census records, his parents, Angelo Raffaele Genetti (Ralph) and Lucia Zambotti Genetti (Lucy), moved sometime around 1901 to Weston, Pennsylvania from North Union, Schuylkill County, where they had lived next door to Ralph’s older sister Angela Genetti Recla. The young couple established a large beer hall/boarding house in Weston, becoming prosperous entrepreneurs and growing their large family. Our double wedding was photographed on the front porch of Ralph and Lucy’s establishment.
To refute the original date of 1906 associated with our boarding house photo, I went in search of Albert’s birth certificate. This proved to be a difficult research task indeed. Due to numerous errors most likely made by the county clerk, not only was Albert’s surname misspelled as “Jenetti”, but his first name was also incorrect – plus the incorrect name was spelled wrong!
Ralph and Lucy’s infant son is registered as: Rafile Jenetti. And if this wasn’t bad enough, the names of both of his parents were also misspelled as: Rafile Jenetti and Lucia Zambody. Never have I found a birth record with so many errors, making it extremely difficult to research!
Albert’s date of birth is also a conundrum. The day and time are recorded as October 22, 1906 – 7 p.m. However, all other public documents for Albert Genetti (Social Security Death Index, WW II Draft Registration, U.S. Public Record Index and the U.S. Find A Grave Index) state his birth as October 21, 1906. Was Albert’s certificate of birth also wrong about his date of birth? Or did he and his family decide to celebrate his birthday on the 21st rather than the 22nd? I guess we will never know the answer to this puzzling question, but I’m betting the county clerk was not the most competent person for this job!
In a backwards kind of way, I stumble upon the original birth record by first finding a revised correction of the document that had been notarized and filed on May 10, 1977. In that year Albert finally had the name on his birth certificate corrected to read Albert Lawrence Genetti. However his date of birth remained as October 22, 1906.
Albert married Vivian Ellen Kummerer on January 20, 1940. They had two sons: Ralph and Lawrence. He had a long and successful career with Jeddo-Highland Coal Company, and became a well respected member of his community, belonging to numerous organizations. Albert passed away on December 15, 1990. You can read the obituary of Albert L. Genetti by clicking here.
Our thanks go to Ralph and Lawrence Genetti for sharing this fascinating photograph. It has added much to our family history!
In our next blog post, I will look into the lives of our two wedding couples from 1909.
Update: August 26, 2020
Thanks to comments from our readers, we have added an eighth child to this family: Raffaele Genetti Jr. (abt 1897? – abt 1897?).
Click here to read more about this additional child here.