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The BORZAGA of Cavareno. Origins, Genealogy, Famous People

The Borzaga of Cavareno

Genealogist Lynn Serafinn discusses the origins, history and expansion of the noble Borzaga of Cavareno, and famous Borzaga of the 20th century.

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Introduction

Cavareno – An Overview

The charming village of Cavareno, highlighted in the map below,[i] lies in the north-eastern part of Val di Non in northern Trentino. Possibly already settled by the late Roman Empire, the dialect spoken in Cavareno is found only in a few other nearby villages, i.e., Sarnonico, Ronzone, Romeno (and its frazione Salter), Don, Amblar, and Malgolo.[ii] Perhaps this is part of the reason why we will often find marriages (and movement) between the families of Cavareno and these places.

This is the setting for the family we will be examining in this report: the BORZAGA.

MAP: Val di Non, with the village of Cavareno highlighted in yellow.

Arriving in Cavareno in the early 1500s, the Borzaga would become one of three noble families associated with that village (the Campi and Zini being the other two).

In this report, we will explore their origins and early generation in Cavareno, their noble titles and their family occupation as notaries. Then, we will look at how some Borzaga lines settled in other parts of the province, all of whom can ultimately be traced back to the original settlers in Cavareno. Lastly, we will look at the lives of a few renowned personalities from more modern times, descended from this ancient family.

Sarnonico: The State of its Parish Records

To construct a genealogy for any family, it is first essential to get a good understanding of the state of surviving birth, marriage and death registers for that parish. Although an independent parish today, Cavareno (along with Malosco, Ruffré, Ronzone and Seio) was a curazia (‘daughter’ parish) of the larger parish of Sarnonico for many centuries. Hence, all baptismal records for Cavareno before 1855, as well as all marriages and deaths before the 20th century, will be found in the parish registers for SARNONICO.

Baptismal records

Although the baptismal records for the parish of Sarnonico begin in 1585, they do not flow in a continuous manner. The records stop abruptly and leap back and forth many times. To summarise what I have encountered:

  • There is a GAP in the baptismal records from July 1609-January 1616.
  • There are two random pages of baptisms from 1628-1629 mixed with the marriages in the 1620s. They are not duplicates, and do not appear in the baptismal register.
  • I am convinced many baptismal records from the 1600s are missing, as I have often found evidence of people whose births ‘should’ be there, but they are not.
  • Volumes 3 (1629-1650) and 4 (1650-1681) of baptismal records are organised in alphabetical order according to FIRST name. As such, they tend to leap around chronologically, and sometimes you will find things entered in the wrong place.

Marriage records

Similarly, although the Sarnonico marriage records begin in 1586, we again encounter many irregularities and gaps. Here is a summary of what you can expect:

  • Volumes 1 and 2 of the marriage records contain indexes, but the priest who made the index for volume 1 has also noted that he was unable to read a great many of names, and hence about a quarter of the records are omitted from the index.
  • Many of the pages referred to in the index are missing. Volume 1 of the marriages contains only pages 41-52 and 61-64 of the original register. Volume 2 starts on page 58; pages 63-64 are missing.
  • Curiously, there is an index in Volume 2 that covers those missing pages, from which we can sometimes learn the surnames of some of the women, but nothing else.
  • In Volume 1, there is ONE record from 1586, then it leaps to 1619, then back to 1587. After 1589, they stop and go to 1601 and forward (so there is about an 11-year gap here). Many records are extremely hard to read, as they tend to run into each other.
  • The dates at the beginning of the volume 2 marriage records also leap around.
  • SUMMARY OF GAPS IN SARNONICO MARRIAGE RECORDS: Dec 1589-Dec 1600; Nov 1612-Feb 1618; Dec 1619-March 1627; Aug 1638-Jan 1655.

Death records

Like most other Trentino parishes, the death records do not begin until the second half of the 1600s (in this case, 1664). The main issue is that the earlier registers do not appear to included infant/child deaths, which can make it more challenging to piece together families. While I have not yet found any significant gaps in the death records, I am convinced some records are missing, as I cannot find certain death records within the time frame they ‘should’ be found.

Origins

Linguistic Origins – Unsatisfactory Theories

Although several historians have offered theories on the linguistic origins of the surname Borzaga, I have not yet found any that are particularly convincing.

Linguistic historian Aldo Bertoluzza suggests that the surname Borzaga was derived from a place called ‘Borzago’ in Val Rendena.[iii] However, although there is a family named Borzaghini in Rendena who are undoubtedly connected to that village, I have found no historical connection between that family or village and the Borzaga of Val di Non.

As to the literal meaning of the surname, historian Ernesto Lorenzi says Borzaga (along with other surnames sharing the root ‘Borz’) may be derived from the antiquated male name ‘Burcio’, which is pronounced ‘Borz’ in Trentino dialect. Alternatively, he suggests it could also be a corruption of the German word/name ‘Swartz’ (having first been ‘Sborz’ and then ‘Borz’).[iv] But again, while these might apply to surnames such as Sborz, Borz, Borzi, etc., we find no such names among the family that start to be known as ‘Borzaga’ in the 1300s. Thus, I cannot accept these suggestions as likely explanations for the linguistic origins of the surname Borzaga.

Outliers – Pellizzano and Condino

For the sake of thoroughness, I should briefly mention that there were a few Borzaga ‘outliers’ appearing in the 1500s and 1600s, for which I currently have no explanation.

In a land sale agreement dated 24 August 1501, we find an Ognibene, son of the late Giacomo called ‘Borzaga’ of Pellizzano, in the southern part of Val di Sole.[v] I have checked the Pellizzano records that begin in 1626, but I have found no mentions of any Borzaga, and I cannot explain who this could have been.[vi]

Later, in a document dated 22 November 1595, we find a Nicolò, son of the late Angelo Borzaga da Condino, confirming he had received the dowry for his wife Flora Mazzola.[vii]  Priest historian P. Remo Stenico also lists a priest named Nicolò Borzaga of Condino whose name appears in a record from 1693.[viii] Condino is in the Val del Chiese area of the Giudicarie Interiore, just north of Storo. Sadly, most of its archives were destroyed during World War 1,[ix] so I currently have no way to follow up this information.

For now, I will set aside these outliers as not being relevant to the topic of the current report, but it is possible that future research might reveal a connection between these and the Borzaga of Cavareno.

Geographic Origins of the Borzaga – Tuenno

There is much convincing evidence suggesting that the Borzaga of Cavareno were descended from the Lords of Tuenno in Val di Non.[x] [xi] [xii] Here, I have highlighted Tuenno on the map of Val di Non that I shared earlier, showing its position in relation to Cavareno. The distance on Google maps is roughly about 18 kilometres (about 11 miles) but bear in mind that this is all mountainous terrain.

MAP: Val di Non with Tuenno and Cavareno highlighted

In a work from 1955, Enrico Leonardi stated that the ultimate progenitor of the noble Borzaga family was ‘Giacomo de Borzaga’ of Tuenno, present at Castel Valer in 1211, who served as an attorney of Prince-Bishop Federico Vanga.[xiii] [xiv] Historian Paolo Odorizzi refers to this man only as ‘Giacomo of Tuenno’,[xv] as he was not truly a ‘Borzaga’, as the surname did not appear until about two centuries later.

Odorizzi explains that, while we have no documentation to definitively show us that Giacomo himself was a direct ancestor of the Borzaga, the Borzaga (along with the Concini and Cazuffo) were surely descended from Signore Bartolomeo I of Tuenno (ca. 1140-1210), as well as a later Bartolomeo II, who was certified as a notary in 1306.[xvi]

Thus, we see the foundations of what would eventually evolve into a legacy of notaries in the Borzaga family, which would endure for many centuries to follow.

First Appearance of the Surname

We first find the surname ‘Borzaga’ in the mid-1300s, in documents drafted by a Tuenno notary referred to as ‘Ser Bartolomeo, son of Benvenuto,[xvii] called Borzaga’. [xviii] [xix]

Paolo Odorizzi also tells us that this Bartolomeo (who was sometimes called ‘Tomeo’), was the grandson Sicherio of Tuenno, one of the Lords of Tuenno, who was also a notary.[xx]

We find Ser Bartolomeo in many high-ranking professional roles, such as the Vicario of Justice in Val Giudicarie (1360), Assessor of Stenico in Val Giudicarie (1375),[xxi] and the Assessor and Vicario of Val di Non and Val di Sole. He was also the notary who documented a truce between Valli di Non and Sole in 1371, [xxii] and was invested as a notary for Prince-Bishop George I von Liechtenstein at Castel Tuenno in 1400 and 1401.[xxiii]  According to research by Odorizzi, Bartolomeo had two sons, Giovanni and Benvenuto Antonio (sometimes just called Antonio), who were also notaries.

It is from this Benvenuto Antonio, he says, that the Borzaga of Cavareno are descended. Below, I have put a screenshot from a tree (in spreadsheet form) constructed by Odorizzi, showing the descending line from Ser Benvenuto to the early Borzaga in Cavareno. [xxiv]

Borzaga ancient lineage as illustrated by historian Paolo Odorizzi

Note, however, that there are several gaps in Odorizzi’s tree (which he indicates by dotted lines, or absence of vertical connecting lines), and this diagram does not show a continuous ancestral line, but rather a chronology of names for which we have evidence.

In fact, as we will examine shortly, there seem to have been multiple Borzaga lines in Cavareno in the late 1500s, which seems to infer more than one family group made the shift from Tuenno to Cavareno around the same time.

The Early Borzaga in Cavareno

Arrival of the Borzaga in Cavareno – When, Why and Who?

Writing in 1899, historian Carl Ausserer says the Borzaga left Tuenno for Cavareno by the year 1530. [xxv] [xxvi] Trusting Ausserer as a source, this date has been repeated in just about every other history I have read on Cavareno despite the fact that Ausserer gives no sources for this claim. He tells us only that the Tuenno notary (Alessandro) Compagnazzi, acting as the attorney for Borzaga family members who were still of minority age (i.e., not yet 25 years old), had arranged to have their Tuenno properties sold around this time.

The fact the attorney was acting on behalf of ‘minors’ seems to indicate their father was deceased. It is also important to bear in mind that the Guerra Rustica (Rustic War, or peasant revolt) had taken place just a few years earlier, in 1525. Perhaps both of these factors contributed to the family’s desire (or need) to make the shift to a new village.

Unfortunately, we do not seem to have any documents containing the names of the family members who made this move. We know there was a ROMEDIO Borzaga, son of the late BALDASSARE Borzaga, who was already living in Cavareno when he purchased some property there in 1560.[xxvii] But having carefully examined the very fragmented early parish registers for Sarnonico (which notionally begin in 1586), I feel fairly certain there had to have been more than one Borzaga household in Cavareno by this time, and that Romedio cannot have been the sole progenitor.

Early Patriarchs: Simone and Giovanni Borzaga

What we do know, via the surviving parish records for the Sarnonico, is that there were two Borzaga men – SIMONE and GIOVANNI – who were alive and having children in Cavareno during the last decades of the 1500s.

The male line of Borzaga descended from Simone (via his son Antonio) still exists today not only in Cavareno, but also in other parts of the province and beyond.

The male line descendants of Giovanni continued in Cavareno until the end of the 1700s, after which they appear to die out.[xxviii] There are still living descendants via some of the females in Giovanni’s line (some of my clients are descended from these female lines), but of course they do not carry the Borzaga surname.

None of the documents I have found record the name of Simone’s and Giovanni’s father(s). Although timing of the family in Cavareno would seem to suggest they would have been related to each other in some way (and also probably related to Romedio, son of Baldassare), I have found no documentation even suggestion what their relationship might have been.

My personal suspicion is that Simone and Giovanni were brothers, but this is based on an admittedly tenuous theory I have formed, as I will explain later in the section on nobility.

Patriarch 1: Simone Borzaga (Senior), Notary

Family group of Simone Borzaga, born ca. 1550
Click on image to see it larger

Most likely born in Cavareno sometime around 1550, Simone followed in the footsteps of his Borzaga predecessors, and took on the profession of a notary.

We find the name ‘Simone Borzaga of Cavareno, imperial notary’ as the author of numerous legal documents between 1594-1603.[xxix] [xxx] Unfortunately, none of the documents I have not found includes name of Simone’s father, but as he is always referred to as ‘of Cavareno’, we can presume he was born there and not in Tuenno.

We know Simone had at least one son – ANTONIO Borzaga – who was also a notary, and who would be the recipient of many noble honours. We will discuss the activities of Antonio in some detail later.

We find the name of Simone’s wife, Chiara, in a document drafted in Cavareno on 18 August 1599. In that document, Simone and Chiara agree to give an annual payment of rye on a meadow which was part of Chiara’s dowry as payment to a Giovanni Giacomo Mazza; in exchange, Simone gives his wife a guarantee for the same value from his own properties.[xxxi]  Looking at the timing of this document, I am fairly certain Chiara would have been Simone’s second wife, and not the mother of his son Antonio.

Patriarch 2: Giovanni Borzaga

The surviving parish registers contain baptismal records for two of Giovanni’s sons – NICOLÒ (1588) and ROMEDIO (1589). Neither of these records mentions the name of their mother. The baptismal record of a daughter named MARINA in 1597 gives her mother’s name as Maria, but the wide gap between her birth and that of Romedio suggests Maria was Giovanni’s second wife.

Family group of Giovanni Borzaga, born ca. 1545
Click on image to see it larger

In addition to the three children whose births are recorded in the parish register, we also know Giovanni had a son named BARTOLOMEO (evidently born before the beginning of the records), who married an Orsola Rosati (daughter of Giacomo Antonio) of Romeno on 7 February 1610:[xxxii]

7 Feb 1610. Marriage record of Bartolomeo Borzaga of Cavareno and Orsola Rosati of Romeno.
Click on image to see it larger

Later, when we discuss a diploma of nobility granted to the Borzaga in 1626, we will learn of a third brother named BALDASSARE, again born sometime before the beginning of the records.

Baldassare, Bartolomeo and Nicolò all grew up to have families of their own. I have no further information about Romedio or Marina.

More Outliers

Aside from Giovanni and Simone, we do find a few instances of the other Borzaga in Cavareno in the early 1600s, but none of these lines appear to have endured.

We find, for example, a MICHELE Borzaga, married to a Lucia, who had twin boys named Pietro and Giacomo on 15 May 1606.[xxxiii] Aside from this baptismal record, I have can find no further mention of Michele or his sons, and I have no idea if or how they are connected to Giovanni and Simone.

A bit later, we find a ‘NICOLÒ Bodessaroli called Borzaga’, married to a Maria, who had a daughter Cattarina (born 27 December 1624)[xxxiv] and a son Baldassare (born 8 May 1628).[xxxv] We find this same Nicolò named as the ‘son of the late Baldassare “Bodessaroli” of Cavareno’ in a payment agreement dated 25 April 1625 in Sarnonico. [xxxvi] In that document, it says a DIFFERENT Nicolò Borzaga of Cavareno was the curator (legal representative) for the other Nicolò ‘Bodessaroli’. After these citations, we see no further mention of the soprannome ‘Bodessaroli’, nor any further mention of Nicolò ‘Bodessaroli’ Borzaga or his children. Thus, we have to assume this line died out.

Still, the records regarding the short-lived ‘Bodessaroli’ may contain clues to the ancestry of the Borzaga lines that did survive:

  • The simple fact that we see a soprannome in use makes it clear that there was more than one Borzaga line present in Cavareno in the early 1600s. We see this clearly in the 1625 document where there are two different men named Nicolò Borzaga – one with the soprannome, and one without. (I am reasonably certain the ‘non-soprannome’ Nicolò was the son of Giovanni).[xxxvii]
  • As none of the descendants of Giovanni and Simone used the soprannome ‘Bodessaroli’, they were clearly NOT from the same branch as the ‘Bodessaroli’ Borzaga.
  • The fact that ‘Nicolò Bodessaroli called Borzaga’ was the son of a Baldassare makes me wonder whether he was a brother of the afore-mentioned Romedio, whose father was also a Baldassare Borzaga (although the document we have for Romedio does not mention a soprannome).
  • If this was the case, knowing that Giovanni and Simone were from a different line, we might then theorise that they were NOT the sons of Romedio, but from a different Borzaga whose name we do not yet know.

For now, we have to set these lines of inquiry aside, holding them in the back of our minds as possible clues that might reveal more information as more documentation comes to light.

The Noble Borzaga

Noble Title and Stemma – 1615

Although the Borzaga had already come from a noble lineage, they attained additional titles of nobility in the 17th century. In the ‘Ausserer Collection 1897’ preserved at the Tiroler Landesmuseen in Innsbruck, there is an illustration of a Borzaga family stemma (coat-of-arms), said to have been granted to one Antonio Borzaga in 1615. The inscription on the card says, ‘Palatine Diploma, 25 November 1615 (granted) by P. Alessandrini to Anton (i.e., Antonio) B (Borzaga):[xxxviii]

1615 Stemma (coat-of-arms) awarded to Antonio Borzaga of Cavareno
Click on image to see it larger

It is somewhat perplexing, however, why Carl Ausserer makes no mention of this award in his 1899 book. I wrote to the Landesmuseen in Innsbruck, and one of their archivists told me via email that they have no further reference to that diploma in their library other than this card. Moreover, neither Leonardi nor Tabarelli de Fatis and Borrelli mention this 1615 title in their books.

Nonetheless, despite the scanty information about this 1615 award, I am confident that the ‘Antonio Borzaga’ in question was Antonio Borzaga, notary, son of Simone (‘Patriarch 1’), as Antonio’s son Simone, and all of Simone’s descendants, are consistently referred to as ‘noble’.

Although Antonio was born before the beginning of the surviving parish registers, we can estimate from dates of the legal documents he drafted that he was most likely born sometime around 1575.

Variants on the Stemma

The main component of the 1615 stemma is a red lion standing upright, holding an uprooted tree, with three gold stars overhead. Tabarelli de Fatis and Borelli show a variant of this where the same lion is also in the crest atop the main shield:[xxxix]

Variant on Borzaga stemma
Click on image to see it larger

Endrizzi shows us yet another variant, where the lion is holding a sword instead of a tree, with other elements now depicted on the left side of the shield:[xl]

Variant on Borzaga stemma
Click on image to see it larger

Authentication and Extension of Title – 1626

After a noble title has been granted, the need would often arise for them to be ‘confirmed’ or ‘authenticated’ by a representative of the empire or the principality. Usually, such confirmations would become necessary if the original recipient of the title had passed away, and future generations required proof of their inheritance.

But sometimes, a confirmation would be needed if noble privileges were to be extended to ‘parallel’ members of the family (brothers, cousins, etc.) who had not been named in the original diploma, and who were not direct heirs (children, grandchildren, etc.) of the original recipient. This appears to have been the scenario for the Borzaga in 1626.

Leonardi tells us, ‘On 25 December 1626, the Prince-Bishop, having seen the caesarean privileges previously granted to the family, authenticates the privileges and grants the stemma.’[xli] Thus, he infers there was an earlier title (presumably the one from 1615), but he provides us with no details about it.

Tabarelli de Fatis and Borelli give us some additional information, saying that the stemma was granted on 25 December 1626 by Count Palatine P. Alessandrini de Neuenstein of Trento to Antonio, Baldassare, Bartolomeo and Nicolò Borzaga, brothers, of Cavareno.[xlii]

After assessing and comparing these descriptions alongside what we see in the parish records and notary documents, I believe none of these fragmented statements gives the complete picture. Moreover, I think some of the wording in the books is misleading, if not incorrect.

About the title

It is clear that P. Alessandrini de Neuenstein who awarded the title and stemma to the Borzaga was a ‘Count Palatine’. This title was once associated with one of the most illustrious positions of the early Middle Ages in the kingdoms of the Franks. The original job of the Palatine Count was to judge all the cases that had appealed to the sovereign’s tribunal, and then to bring to the King’s knowledge only those judgments that he considered most important. But over the centuries, the title lost its original importance, and by the early 1600s, it was often little more than a token granted by the emperor in exchange for loyalty (or money). Nonetheless, the title still carried a certain amount of social prestige.

By saying ‘caesarean privileges’ Leonardi seems to infer the Borzaga had been granted the title of ‘Count Palatine’, but this was not the case. Such a title would have been granted by the Holy Roman Emperor, not by another Count Palatine. Moreover, while the Borzaga were referred to as ‘noble’ in the parish registers, they are never referred to as ‘Conte Palatino’.

About the recipients

I also believe the reference to ‘Antonio, Baldassare, Bartolomeo and Nicolò Borzaga, brothers’ may be slightly incorrect. Based on what I have been able to ascertain, I am fairly confident that the term ‘brothers’ refers to the last three men, and NOT to the original Antonio:

  • We know from a document from 1616 that the notary Antonio Borzaga was the son of the notary Simone (Patriarch 2).[xliii] However, I have found no evidence that Simone had any other sons, nor have I found evidence of a second Antonio.
  • As discussed earlier, we know from parish records that Giovanni Borzaga (Patriarch 2) had two sons named Bartolomeo and Nicolò. The parish registers also show us a Baldassare Borzaga who had a son named Giovanni on 18 January 1616.[xliv] As this appears to be his only child, it seems logical to assume Baldassare was another son of Giovanni.

Thus, Antonio Borzaga CANNOT be a brother of Baldassare, Bartolomeo and Nicolò, as he was not the son of Giovanni.

Based on this information, I am inclined to re-interpret the wording by Tabarelli de Fatis and Borelli as: ‘the stemma was granted to Antonio (Borzaga) [and to] Baldassare, Bartolomeo and Nicolò Borzaga, brothers.’

My theory

My working theory is that the patriarchs Simone and Giovanni were brothers. This means Antonio the notary would have been the first cousin, not the brother, of the other three recipients (Baldassare, Bartolomeo and Nicolò).

One possible reason why this title may have been extended to Antonio’s cousins is the fact that he appears to have had no living siblings. Moreover, he himself had only one surviving son – Simone, born 29 November 1603.[xlv] Simone, who was still a minor when the awards were granted, would have automatically inherited his father’s title and stemma, and thus there was no need to include his name in these diplomas. But were this Simone to die young, the title would go extinct when Antonio died.

Although that didn’t actually end up happening (in fact, Simone’s descendants continue to this day), in 1626 it would have made perfect sense that the family wanted to ensure the continuation of their noble privileges by requesting they be extended to include Antonio’s cousins.

Below is a stripped-down diagram, showing this configuration. To make the chart easier to understand, I have removed the names of all wives and daughters, as they are not relevant to the issue of the noble title. I have also removed Giovanni’s son Romedio[xlvi], who was most likely deceased before 1626 as he was not included in the diploma of nobility.

Descendants of Simone and Giovanni Borzaga of Cavareno
Click on image to see it larger


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Six Generations of Borzaga Notaries

In his 1999 publication, P. Remo Stenico lists four Borzaga notaries from Cavareno; but in constructing a Borzaga genealogy using the parish register, I have identified others Stenico did not include in his study.[xlvii] In fact, when we work through the families methodically, we discover an unbroken chain of notaries from father to son for six generations, as well as another cousin in generation 6:

GENERATION RELATIONSHIP NAME/DATES
1 PATRIARCH Simone (b. about 1550)
2 Son Antonio (b. about 1575)
3 Grandson Simone (b. 29 Nov 1603)
4 Great-grandson Antonio (b. 28 June 1627; d. 24 May 1704)
5 2X great-grandson Giovanni Battista (b. 22 June 1682)
6a 3X great-grandson Carlo Antonio Martino (b. 13 November 1709; d. 4 December 1764)
6b 3X great-grandson Pietro Antonio (b. 14 December 1726; died 21 June 1803). NOTE: he was the 1st cousin (not the brother) of Carlo Antonio Martino.

We have already looked briefly at Simone ‘Senior’, so let us now look at the professional careers of his notary descendants.

Generation 2: Antonio, son of Simone

Most likely born around 1575, Simone’s son Antonio is found actively practicing his profession as a notary at least between December 1602[xlviii] and October 1631[xlix]. As he typically signed his name simply as ‘Antonio Borzaga, notary of Cavareno’, we might never have known who his father was, if it were not the Carta di Regola (Charter of Rules) for the comune of Seio which he drafted on 3 March 1616, in which he signs his name as ‘Antonio, son of egregio domino Simone Borzaga of Cavareno, Val di Non, Diocese of Trento.’[l] While the honourific words ‘egregio domino’ can be loosely translated as ‘the esteemed gentleman,’ the term ‘egregio’ is nearly always an indication the man (in this case, his father) was a notary.

As already mentioned, this is surely the Antonio who had been granted the noble title and stemma in 1615 and again in 1626. We find his descendants referred to as ‘noble’ in the Sarnonico records, especially in the indices.

Generation 3: Simone, son of Antonio (grandson of Simone Senior)

Born 29 November 1603 to Antonio and his wife Margherita,[li] Simone is not listed in Stenico’s book of notaries. However, he is called ‘egregio’ in baptismal record of daughter Margherita (11 September 1630)[lii], and ‘spectabilis’ in marriage record of daughter Barbara (28 April 1667).[liii] These honourifics are used only when referring to notaries.

On the Archivi Storici website, we find several references to a Simone Borzaga, notary, during this era; however, some of the earlier documents (especially one dated 1627) may refer to his grandfather, as I am unsure as to when the elder Simone passed away.[liv] [lv] [lvi] [lvii]

Generation 4: Antonio, son of Simone (great-grandson of Simone Senior)

Born 28 June 1627, the next Borzaga notary was another Antonio, the eldest son of Simone (b. 1603) and his wife Maria.[lviii]

His first marriage took place on 27 November 1664, when he was already 36 years old. His bride was the noble Maria Sofia Zini, who was nearly 14 years his junior.[lix] Their marriage record contains some interesting details. First, we notice that Antonio is referred to as ‘Nobilis Magister Philosophia’, which literally means ‘Noble Master (or teacher) of Philosophy.’ While this could mean he was a teacher, it more likely refers to his educational degree. The record does not say he is a notary, but it does refer to his father Simone as ‘spectabilis’ (indicating he was a notary). We also learn that he and Maria Sofia, who is also referred to as nobility, were granted a dispensation for 3rd grade consanguinity. This means they were 2nd cousins (i.e., they shared great-grandparents). Unfortunately, the records do not go back far enough to help us establish this connection, but it does tell us that there was already early intermarriage between these two noble families of Cavareno.

Soon after his marriage, we find him as the notary who drafted several level documents between the years 1660-1671.[lx] [lxi] [lxii] [lxiii] In the private collection of the noble Thun family (now held at the Archivio Provinciale di Trento), we also find six letters sent from Antonio to Count Cristoforo Riccardo Thun, written between the years of 1659-1667.[lxiv]

A few months after the birth of their fifth child, Maria Sofia passed away at the age of 35.[lxv] Soon after, Antonio remarried Veronica Rosina, with whom he father 6 more children. He died on 24 May 1704, just a month before his 77th birthday.[lxvi]

Generation 5: Giovanni Battista, son of Antonio (2X great-grandson of Simone Senior)

As we would have expected, Antonio and Maria Sofia did have a son named Simone, but he died when he was still in his teens, so he never lived to learn the family profession. Instead, it was Giovanni Battista Borzaga, the eldest son of Antonio and his second wife Veronica Rosina, who would carry on the tradition.

Born 22 June 1682[lxvii], we first find an indication of Giovanni Battista’s profession when he is referred to as ‘spectabilis’ in the baptismal record of his daughter Maddalena Veronica, who was born 4 May 1726.[lxviii] Stenico cites ‘Giovanni Battista Borzaga, son of Antonio’ as being active between the years 1731-1734,[lxix] but I have also found a document drafted by him in 1745.[lxx]

In 1732, Giovanni Battista held the office of general sindaco of Valli di Non and Sole together with the noble Giovanni Nicolò Bevilacqua and Giuseppe Maffei.[lxxi]

Although not specifically related to his practice as a notary, there is also a record held at the Municipal Library in Trento, in their Archivi di famiglie (Archives of families), dated 26 August 1721, which is an agreement stipulated between the prelate of the Provost of San Michele all’Adige and Giovanni Battista Borzaga, along with his two younger brothers, Tommaso (i.e., Tommaso Romedio) and Antonio. [lxxii]

Although not listed in Stenico’s book, we have some news of another brother, Pietro Antonio (born 19 October 1687)[lxxiii], who became a priest. Described as the ‘noble Rev. Pietro Antonio Borzaga’, he was the godfather of his niece Veronica Teresa Margherita Borzaga (eldest child of his youngest brother, Antonio) on 11 October 1716.[lxxiv]

Generation 6: Carlo Antonio Martino and Pietro Antonio (3X great-grandsons of Simone Senior)

At this point, we now find two Borzaga notaries, both the 3X great-grandsons of Simone Senior.

Both grandsons of Antonio Borzaga and Veronica Rosina, the first of these – Carlo Antonio Martino Borzaga – was actually 17 years senior to first cousin and professional colleague, Pietro Antonio Borzaga.

Relationship of Carlo Antonio Martino Borzaga to Pietro Antonio Borzaga
Click on image to see it larger

Although baptised Carlo Antonio Martino on 13 November 1709,[lxxv] the elder cousin was generally known only as Carlo or Carlo Antonio. Stenico cites him as being active as a notary between the years 1740-1749,[lxxvi] but he is referred to as a notary in the baptismal records of his children as early as August 1731.[lxxvii] We also find him as the notary who recorded a criminal trial in Cles between the years 1750-1759.[lxxviii] He fathered at least eight children with his wife Lucrezia Cattarina, none of whom appear to have been notaries. He passed away on 4 December 1764.[lxxix]

Baptised 14 December 1726, Pietro Antonio (sometimes known simply as Pietro) was the son of Carlo Antonio’s paternal uncle Antonio.[lxxx] Sometime before 1751, he married the noble Maria Veronica Antonia Bartoli of Cornaiano in South Tyrol, with whom he fathered at least 11 children. Stenico cites his professional career as a notary as spanning nearly half a century, from 1749-1797.[lxxxi]  He is consistently referred to as a notary in the baptismal records of his children, beginning in 1751.

As with Carlo Antonio, I can find no notaries amongst Pietro Antonio’s sons, and the impressive legacy of Borzaga notaries appears to end with his death at the age of 76, on 21 June 1803.[lxxxii]

Expansion: Beyond Cavareno

Over the centuries, some branches of the Borzaga would eventually expand and settle in other places, both near and far from their home in Cavareno.

With the exception of one case where records appear to be missing, I have managed to trace every one of these lines back to ‘Patriarch 1’, i.e., Simone Borzaga, Senior, notary. The descendants of ‘Patriarch 2’ (Giovanni Borzaga) appear to have stayed in Cavareno until they died out around the end of 1700s.

Below is an overview of each of these lines, including a look at their ‘founding parents’.

Borzaga in Ronzone

One of the most prominent sub-branches of the Borzaga are those in Ronzone, another curate of the parish of Sarnonico. This branch began when Tommaso Romedio Borzaga (born 21 December 1685)[lxxxiii] and his wife Maria Elisabetta moved from Cavareno to Ronzone sometime between 1709-1711.

Tommaso Romedio was the son of the notary Antonio Borzaga (1627-1704), and younger brother of the notary Giovanni Battista Borzaga (b. 1682). Thus, he was the 2X great-grandson of the notary Simone Borzaga ‘senior’.

I mentioned Tommaso earlier, in the section on his brother Giovanni Battista, when I referenced a document from the Trento Municipal Library.

Parents of at least 12 children (all but the first was born in Ronzone), they are the ancestral parents of the all the Borzaga of Ronzone, a line which continues to this day.

Family group of Tommaso Romedio Borzaga, patriarch of the Ronzone line
Click on image to see it larger

Borzaga in Brez

Situated just to the west of Sarnonico, the nearby parish of Brez was home to many Borzaga over the centuries.

The earliest Borzaga I have found in Brez was not a family, but the priest Antonio Borzaga from Cavareno, who served as the parroco (pastor) of the parish of San Floriano in Brez from 1634 until 1651.[lxxxiv] Unfortunately, I don’t know who his parents were, and he was either born before the beginning of the Sarnonico records, or his baptismal record is missing.

Later, Brez became the home of two different ‘waves’ of Borzaga families, arriving there at different periods of time, one from Cavareno, and the other from Ronzone.

Wave 1: Family of Andrea Borzaga and Maria Cattarina Bertoldi

The first ‘wave’ began when an Andrea Borzaga of Cavareno married a Maria Cattarina Bertoldi of Brez in 1695.[lxxxv]  Sadly, Andrea’s father’s name is not mentioned in the marriage record, nor in the baptismal records of any of his children, nor in his 1745 death record, when he is said to be about 80 years old.[lxxxvi] I have also looked exhaustively in the Sarnonico records for an Andrea or Giovanni Andrea who would have been born around the right time, but I was unsuccessful. Although the couple had at least six children, only one son (Baldassare) grew up to have a family, while a younger son (Giovanni Andrea) became a priest.

Andrea and Maria Cattarina’s younger son Giovanni Andrea was born in Brez on 15 May 1706.[lxxxvii] Rather than marrying, Giovanni Andrea became a Catholic priest.[lxxxviii] At the age of 33, he became the curate (equivalent of a pastor) of Proves in South Tyrol, where he served for 27 years.[lxxxix] [xc] He died 25 Feb 1781, when he was nearly 75 years old.[xci] In addition to mentioning his former role as the curate of Proves, his death record also says he a beneficato for a member of the Ruffini family[xcii], and the founder of the ‘Benefici Borzaga’ apparently another legacy of funding for local priests.

Their elder son Baldassare was born in Brez on 24 December 1698.[xciii] He married Maria Maddalena Betta of Cagnò (parish of Revò) on 26 April 1729.[xciv] After suffering a massive stroke, he died at the age of 45 on 13 November 1744,[xcv] four months before the birth of his last child (who was named Baldassare in his memory).

The couple had at least 6 children together, including three sons. Of these, the only one who appears to have lived to adulthood is their son Giovanni Luigi, who was born 1 February 1736.[xcvi] Although he married twice, he does not appear to have had any children of his own, as the marriages were

Giovanni’s first wife, Domenica, who died 26 January 1791 at the age of 64, was apparently nearly a decade older than he was.[xcvii] I haven’t found a marriage record for them, but it is possible it took place when she was already widowed and beyond childbearing age. A few months later, on 29 April 1791, he married his second wife, Maria Antonia Zuech, widow of Romedio Gilli.[xcviii] Again, the marriage produced no children (she was already 38 and he was 56), but the couple lived out their days together.

With the death of Giovanni on 6 March 1809[xcix], this first ‘wave’ of the Borzaga in Brez died out.

Wave 2: Family of Tommaso Antonio Cirillo Borzaga and Maria Flor

A few years before the death of the last Borzaga from the ‘first wave’, another Borzaga line established itself in Brez, this time coming from the Ronzone line. The founding father of this second wave was Tommaso Antonio Cirillo Borzaga, who was born in Ronzone on 30 March 1778, the son of Tommaso Romedio Borzaga and Maria Domenica Gius.[c] He was the 5X great-grandson of the notary Simone Borzaga ‘senior’.

This younger Tommaso married Maria Flor of Brez on 25 September 1800,[ci] and opted to settle in his wife’s home village to raise their family. However, after his wife Maria Flor died Brez on 25 March 1848,[cii] Tommaso moved back to his native village of Ronzone, where he passed away from respiratory issues on 3 March 1853, just a few weeks before his 75th birthday.[ciii]

Of the couple’s nine children, three were sons; the youngest (Nicolò) died in infancy, but the other two sons (Baldassare and Giovanni), went on to have many children of their own, all born in Brez. Baldassare’s line does not seem to have endured, as five of his six sons died as children or young adults.[civ] Giovanni’s descendants continued well into the 20th century, and we find references to 10 of his great-grandchildren cited in the indices of the Brez register, who were born between 1935-1952, although all but one of the males died in their teens. [cv]

One other great-grandson and many great-granddaughters were still alive as of 1965; some of these may still be alive today, so I cannot share specific information about them, although the Cognomix website does not show any Borzaga families living in Brez today.[cvi] Writing in 2005, however, author Bruno Ruffini alludes to this Borzaga line in his book L’Onoranda Comunità di Brez, saying that they arrived in Brez the second half of the 1700s, and have since gone extinct.[cvii] If this is indeed the case, the Borzaga surname would have gone extinct in Brez sometime within the past generation.

Borzaga in Amblar

On the Nati in Trentino website, you will find a line of Borzaga living in Amblar beginning in 1858. As Amblar is a curate of the ‘mother’ parish of Romeno, you will find these births register in both Amblar and Romeno.

The founding parents of the Amblar line are Gaspare Melchiore Borzaga of Cavareno and Barbara Pellegrini of Amblar, who married on 24 January 1857[cviii]. Born in Cavareno on 15 January 1828, Gaspare was the 6X great-grandson of the notary Simone Borzaga ‘senior’.[cix]

Gaspare and Barbara had only 6 children, as Gaspare died from pulmonary tuberculosis at the age of 40.[cx] Although at least two of their four sons died in infancy, their son Luigi Lorenzo had at least 12 children with his wife, Cattarina Francesca Malench (also of Amblar).

Family group of Luigi Lorenzo Borzaga, patriarch of Amblar line
Click on image to see it larger

Of their five daughters, two died in infancy (Maria Giuseppina and Maria Cattarina). The baptismal records of the other three daughters tell us they all married,[cxi] but of course they did not pass on the Borzaga surname.

Of their seven sons, one died in infancy, and two (Lino and Enrico) perished on the Eastern front during World War 1, when they were still young, unmarried men.[cxii] The baptismal records for three of the other sons (Ernesto Augustino, Silvio Giuseppe, Emilio Giuseppe) tell us they all married.[cxiii] The Cognomix website says there are presently for Borzaga families currently living in Amblar, and another in Don (also part of the parish of Romeno),[cxiv] so I presume these are the descendants of these sons.

Borzaga ‘On the Road’: Alta Garda, Rendena, Giudicarie, Trento

Towards the end of the 19th century, we find a Borzaga who not only appears to have had an interesting life travelling throughout the province, but he was also the father and grandfather of two widely renowned Trentino personalities. Here is a map showing all the ‘stops’ this family made over a 20-year period:

MAP: from Ronzone through Arco, Strembo, Carisolo, Preore and Tione
Click on image to see it larger

The man in question is BASILIO GIAMBATTISTA BORZAGA. Born in Ronzone on 29 November 1856, Basilio was the second son of Giovanni Battista Antonio Borzaga and Marcellina Maria Gius.[cxv] He never really knew his father, however, as Giovanni Battista died tragically from a serious fall when Basilio was only 3 years old.[cxvi]

Basilio married Cattarina Thaler of Bronzolo (South Tyrol) on 7 November 1883.[cxvii] Although the marriage took place in Ronzone, the record tells us that Basilio was then living in Arco, which is about 90 km to the south (56 miles) in Alta Garda, just above Lake Garda, in the southernmost part of the province of Trento (see map above).

Cattarina was obviously pregnant at the time, as only three months later, she gave birth to their first child, Augusto Basilio Borzaga, who was born in Arco on 3 February 1884.[cxviii] Augusto, who was better known as GUSTAVO BORZAGA grew up to become a famous painter. We will look at his life and work a bit later in this report.

The following year, we find the family has travelled north to Strembo, in Val Rendena in the northern part of Val Giudicarie Interiore, where their daughter Giuseppina Marcellina is born.[cxix] The record also has a margin note telling us she died on 29 August 1940, but it does not give a place of death or whether she had been married.

At first, I was unsure whether Giuseppina Marcellina was the daughter of Basilio or his brother Giuseppe Giambattista, because the record says the child’s father was ‘Giambattista Borzaga, son of the late Giambattista and the living Marcella’. It also says the mother’s name is Cattarina Furletti (which is similar to Cattarina Toller’s mother’s surname of Furtarelli). It specifies that the family came from ‘Ronzone in Val di Non’. Although Furletti is a surname in nearby Preore, my colleague James Caola, who has done extensive research with the Rendena parish records, has found no such marriage between a Borzaga and a Furletti either in Preore or in the Rendena parishes. Additionally, the record says the godparents were Giuseppe Borzaga and Marcellina Borzaga, ‘uncle and aunt of the child’. Surely the ‘uncle’ godfather must be Giuseppe Giambattista Borzaga, the elder brother of Basilio, which confirms to me the parents must be Basilio Borzaga and Cattarina Toller. Moreover, the ‘aunt’ named Marcella is surely referring to the child’s grandmother, as we know she was still alive (I will explain more about this shortly).[cxx] Thus, I presume the record is simply full of errors due to the priest being unfamiliar with this family, as they apparently were there only for a brief time.

A year and a half later, we find the family in Carisolo, also in Val Rendena, a bit north of Strembo and not far from Pinzolo. There, another son was born, Urbano Cornelio Pietro, on 25 February 1887. [cxxi] Known alternatively as Urbano Cornelio and Cornelio, he served in the Austro-Hungarian Army during World War 1.[cxxii] His baptismal record tells us that married a Carlotta Bertotti at the Duomo of San Vigilio in the city of Trento on 13 Jul 1914. The Nati in Trentino database tells us the couple had two children, both born in Trento, in 1914 and 1920, respectively. He passed away at the age of 77 on 30 September 1964.

After the birth of Urbano, Basilio and Cattarina moved again. This time, they went south to Preore in Val Giudicarie, where two more two daughters were born – Marcellina Pierina Maria Elisabetta (30 June 1888) and Elvira Daria Maria (29 December 1889). In the baptismal record for Marcellina, we see the godmother is ‘Teresa Borzaga, aunt’.[cxxiii] This surely refers to Basilio’s younger sister, Domenica Teresa Borzaga, who was born in Ronzone on 18 June 1859, and was apparently still unmarried although in her late 20s. The following year, in Elvira’s baptismal record, we see her godmother is ‘Marcellina Borzaga’, again surely referring to Basilio’s widowed mother.[cxxiv]

After Preore, the family makes one more shift to Tione di Trento, which is only a short distance from Preore, still in Giudicarie Interiore. Here, Basilio and Cattarina had four more children: two daughters and two sons. The only one of these for whom I currently have any information is their son and youngest child, Eduino Borzaga. Born in Tione on 29 August 1899, Eduino became a Trento-based lawyer, who was active in his profession at least through the end of 1958.[cxxv] Eduino’s daughter was the prolific author and poetess GIOVANNA BORZAGA (1931-1998). Again, we will look at her life and achievements in the next section of this report.

To sum up the movements of Basilio and Cattarina’s family, here is a screenshot showing the births of their children in the various villages, as well as their death dates/estimates, where known:

Family group of Basilio Borzaga and Cattarina Thaler
Click on image to see it larger

We know the family stayed in Tione at least until 1902, because this is where we are told Basilio’s widowed mother Marcellina passed away on 26 May 1902.[cxxvi] When I first saw this notation in her records, I was bewildered as to why she would have died in Tione, but it now is clear that Marcellina and her other two (adult) children accompanied Basilio and his family throughout their travels.

Sometime after his mother’s death, Basilio returned to his native village of Ronzone, where he passed away on 12 September 1915. Only from his death record do learn he was a retired travelling schoolteacher.[cxxvii] Thus, we finally have an explanation for Basilio’s interesting and unconventional lifestyle.

I feel it also gives us some insight as to how so many skilled and educated children and grandchildren came from one family, and why at least three children from this family left rural life forever, settling in the city of Trento.

Five Distinguished Borzaga from the 20th Century

Gustavo Borzaga – Painter

Born in Arco on 3 February 1884,[cxxviii] the renowned painter GUSTAVO BORZAGA (born Augusto Basilio Borzaga) was the eldest son of Basilio Borzaga and Cattarina Thaler.

Although Gustavo’s family left Arco when he was only a few months old, he was nonetheless hailed as being a ‘native’ of that comune in an exhibition held in 2004 at the Palazzo dei Panni, the seventeenth-century residence of Count Emanuele d’Arco.[cxxix] In the promotional material for that exhibit, we are told that Gustavo’s talent was discovered when he was a mere 14 years old, when the artist Angelo Comolli, a professor at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milano, came to Tione in 1898 to paint some frescoes at the church there. Comolli took the young Gustavo back to Milano with him as his student. By the time Gustavo was 22, we find him living in the city of Trento, working on numerous commissioned frescoes in many palazzi and public buildings.

His major projects in the city of Trento included Fozzer house in Via Cervara, the frescoes of the Brunner house in Via Grazioli (now disappeared), the friezes that adorn the Palazzo delle Scuole Civiche on via Verdi, now the seat of the University of Sociology. In 1910 he decorated the walls of the art deco Eden cinema, located in Piazza Silvio Pellico, which has since been demolished. [cxxx] [cxxxi]

His activities during World War I appear to have been recorded incorrectly in some sources. Although Nicoletti and Weber both say he was drafted in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I, I believe this is an error, as his name does not appear in the online database of men enlisted in the military.[cxxxii] Moreover, Nicoletti tells us that he was held at Katzenau (near Linz) in 1915,[cxxxiii] which was not a POW camp but, rather, an internment camp for civilians suspected as ‘irredentists’ (i.e., pro-Italy), and thus considered enemies of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.[cxxxiv] During his internment, Gustavo decorated the church at the camp.[cxxxv] Later, from 1916-1918, he was moved to Benešov (today part of Czechia), and was held at the Company of Political Suspects, [cxxxvi] where he again kept himself busy by painting the meeting room for officers.

With the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, Gustavo was no longer a political prisoner. He returned to the city of Trento, where he continued to work on commissioned projects. During this period, he painted a Madonna on the door of Casa Cappelleti on Via Grazioli, and frescoes at the halls of the regional governor on Via Grazioli.

On 12 July 1920, he passed away in Trento at the young age of 36. He had never married.

Giovanna Borzaga – Storyteller and Poetess

Born in Trento in 1931, we meet the prolific author, storyteller and poetess Giovanna Borzaga.[cxxxvii]

From the beginning, Giovanna was immersed in an environment full of educated, articulate, and artistic people. Her father was the Trento-based lawyer, Eduino Borzaga, the youngest brother of painter Gustavo Borzaga. Her mother, Francesca Zanini, was the elder sister of the renowned painter and architect, Gigiotti Zanini (1949-1967).[cxxxviii]  Giovanna even wrote a biography of her uncle Gigiotti’s life.[cxxxix]

About her life and work, we read this on the back cover of a republication of her 1971 book Leggende del Trentino:

‘Giovanna Borzaga (1931-1998), journalist, collaborator at RAI [Radiotelevisione italiana], poetess, author of books for children and adults, as well as theatrical texts, passionate scholar of local culture and traditions, represented for years the ‘critical conscience and regret’ of a Trentino which exists no more, but remained in the consciousness and memory of many.’[cxl]

Her passion for a ‘Trentino which exists no more’ refers to her commitment to the preservation and retelling of Trentino folk tales and legends, drawn from the rich ‘pagan’ culture of rural Trentino[cxli], in which the natural world and the mystical are inextricably intertwined. Alongside ‘fairy tale’ characters like kings, princesses and knights, these tales contain ‘magical characters of the valleys and forests,’ including dragons, witches, wood elves and gnomes. Her writing also illustrates her clearly defined ecological perspective. Her book 3-volume series Clausilia e Moscardino is even subtitled fiaba ecologica (an ecological fable).

Below is a partial bibliography of her published works:

  • Leggende del Trentino. Magici personaggi di valli e boschi
  • Come vivevamo noi trentini
  • Leggende dei castelli del Trentino
  • Clausilia e Moscardino: fiaba ecologica (3 volumes)
  • La civiltà dei minatori tirolesi
  • Nel bosco verde
  • Nano Pen
  • Nella valle di Genova: romanzo
  • I teschi d’avorio ed altri racconti trentini
  • Noi Fantasmi
  • La ferrovia della Valsugana: da spazzacamini ad Eisenbahner

In addition to writing of fables, Giovanna was one of a handful of poets and playwrights who published works in vernacular (i.e., local dialect), as seen her Sta nossa tera: dramma in tre atti in dialetto Trentino, as well as El Filò: Terza Raccolta Di Poesie Dialettali Trentine, and other works in which she was a contributing author.

Giovanna passed away in Trento in 1998, at the age of 67.

Francesco Borzaga – Environmentalist

Born in the city of Trento on 15 September 1934 (and still alive as of this writing), Francesco Borzaga is the younger brother of author Giovanna Borzaga, whom we just discussed. Like his sister, Francesco also developed a profound respect for the natural world at an early age. But where his sister used the medium of fiction to express this respect, Francesco became one of Trentino’s most distinguished environmentalists.Francesco Borzaga, environmentalist in 2018

After graduating in Law in Bologna in 1958, Francesco working briefly at his father Eduino’s law firm, but soon found himself entering public debates on the issues of the protection of nature, and the heritage of Trentino’s historical-artistic-landscape.[cxlii] Soon, the young Francesco choose to shift his direction so he could devote his energy to the protection of the natural environment – a service which has continued to embrace for more than 60 years.[cxliii]

Early in his career, he collaborated with the Movimento Italiano Protezione della Natura (Italian Nature Protection Movement), and with the Pro Cultura and Italia Nostra association, where he served as Secretary of the Trento section until 1970. In 1968 he founded the Trentino-Alto Adige Delegation of the WWF-World Nature Fund – with the main purpose of supporting bear protection initiatives– where he served as President until 2010. [cxliv]

In 1968, he met environmental activist Donatella Lenzi, whom he would later marry in 1977. Throughout the decades, Donatella has participated in and supported her husband’s environmental activities. Since retiring, she has also become a painter. [cxlv]

In 2018, his extensive collection of writings on environmentalism and urban planning, spanning six decades from the 1950s to the present era, along with hundreds of letters, press releases and press reviews, were compiled into an archive for the benefit, education and inspiration of future environmentalists. A full inventory of the archives can be found online in the publication Francesco Borzaga. Inventario dell’archivio (1942 – 2017).[cxlvi]

Fr. Mario Borzaga – Martyr of Laos

Born in the suburbs of the city of Trento on 27 August 1932, Mario Borzaga was the third of four children of Costante Borzaga of Cavareno and Ida Conci (I believe she was from Cogolo, Trento).

1935: Emilio, Fabio and Mario Borzaga, brothers
1935: Emilio, Fabio and Mario Borzaga, brothers

Drawn to the priesthood from an early age, he began his studies at the seminar in 1948.[cxlvii] Responding to a powerful an inner calling to become a missionary, he departed his homeland become a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate on 7 November 1952.[cxlviii] [cxlix] He was ordained on the 24 February 1957, performing his first Mass as a priest the following day.[cl] On 28 April 1957 he celebrated High Mass in at the Duomo di San Vigilio in Trento, while contemplating what his next mission should be. Soon after, he volunteered to be sent to Laos, where he felt he could be a better missionary ‘to the nations.’[cli] He departed for Laos in the autumn of that year with five other Oblates.[clii]

In the autumn of 1956 Fr. Mario began a diary, which he entitled Diario di un Uomo Felice (Diary of a Happy Man). The part of this diary that dealt primarily with his missionary experiences in Laos was published under that title (in Italian) in 1985. Other sections, which covered his seminary years and his decision to become a missionary priest, were later published under the title Verso la Felicità (Towards Happiness) in 1986.[cliii]

1957. Fr. Mario Borzaga, at ordination
1957. Fr. Mario Borzaga, at ordination

In his diary, Fr. Mario writes of his difficulties with learning basic survival skills, like fishing, recognising the sounds and tracks of animals, working with wood, fixing engines.[cliv] The threat of serious and unfamiliar illnesses was also every-present.[clv]  But perhaps the most persistent challenges he writes about is feelings of loneliness and isolation due his difficulty in learning the language well enough to communicate well with the local people. It seems his fluency did improve over time, however, as he eventually became brave enough to try to learn Hmong as well as Laotian.[clvi]

In 1992, his younger sister Lucia, herself a member of the Secular Institute of Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate, published a personal and emotive biography (in English) of her brother’s life, in which she sharers her own observations about her brother’s memoires:

His diary was written closely, without correction or afterthought, in the certainty that no-one would ever read it. He wrote rapidly, about what happened during the day. Between the lines there emerges his whole personality. The shyness disappears and what bursts through the quickness of his pen is his romantic soul, ecstatic before the beauty of creation, without hiding his aversion for manual labour, his pain and suffering, his moods, his preferences. And, intimately part of the community as he was, he sculpts in a few words the figure of his companions and friends, of the professors and superiors, without ever permitting himself superfluous observations and rash judgements.[clvii]

Biographer Gianpiero Petteti adds:

The days of the mission [in Laos] are meticulously recounted in his “Diary of a Happy Man”, which expresses in the title all his joy of being where he believes the Lord has called him, but between the lines he hides all the fatigue of his immersion in the new culture, of learning its language and customs, of adapting to the climate, of doing everything for everyone.

But all of these challenges were far less of a threat to his survival than the intense political turmoil that was shaking the entire nation of Laos during this period. In 1959, North Vietnam communists had occupied areas of eastern Laos. They found sympathetic supporters in the form of the Pathet Lao (AKA Lao People’s Liberation Army), which was a communist organisation in Laos, which would ultimately assume political power of the country in 1975.[clviii]

In the years that Fr. Mario was in Laos, ‘there was the ever-present threat of the Pathet-Lao; the danger of ambush lay in every mountain track.’[clix] Outbreaks of massacres to Christians and spiralling guerrilla warfare would frequently force him to go into hiding.[clx]

The details of his death is subject to some uncertainty, if not a bit of local legend.

We do know that, on 25 April 1960, Fr. Mario set out on a missionary visit to the village of Pha Xoua, accompanied by a 19-year-old catechist Thoj Xyooj Paj Lug (who also used the Christianised name Paolo Thao Shiong). The journey took them near the border of China. Sworn testimonies say the two were ambushed by guerrillas of Pathet Lao.[clxi] Some say this happened because they had lost their way to their destination, but Fr. Mario’s sister says the pair had reached their destination, administered the sick and ministered the sacraments, and then vanished on their return journey. [clxii]

Accounts by locals say the attack was initially aimed a Fr. Mario only, as he was a priest and a foreigner, and that his young Laotian companion was offered the chance to flee. However, Thoj Xyooj Paj Lug reportedly replied, ‘If you kill him, you kill me too. If he dies, I will die’ and he was indeed killed along with his mentor. [clxiii] [clxiv] Some sources say their remains were tossed into a pit, but they were never officially identified.

Fr. Mario Borzaga and Thoj Xyooj Paj Lug are among 17 priests and laymen venerated as the ‘Martyrs of Laos’, all of whom were killed between 1954-1970 during a time of anti-Christian sentiment. In 2015, Pope Francis officially approved their ‘beatification’, [clxv]with their beatification ceremony taking place on 11 December 2016. [clxvi]

Mario Borzaga was only 27 years old.

Frank Borzage – Hollywood Film Director

At a global level, perhaps the most famous Borzaga was Hollywood film director Frank Borzage (at some point after immigration, the family changed the spelling of their surname).

Frank Borzage, film director
Frank Borzage, film director

Frank was one of at least 10 children of Francesco Luigi Borzaga (but known as ‘Luigi’) of Ronzone and Maria Ruegg (or possibly Ruigg) of Switzerland.[clxvii] According to one biographer, Luigi Borzaga met his future wife when he was working as a stonemason in Switzerland. Like many other Trentini men, he emigrated to Hazleton, Pennsylvania in the early 1880s to work in the coal mines; Maria joined him later and the couple married in Hazelton sometime between 1882-1883.[clxviii] [clxix] After the birth of their first child, Henry Domenico, in 1885, the family moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, where all their subsequent children were born.

Frank was born in Salt Lake City on 23 April 1894.[clxx] In 1912, when he was still in his teens, he started working in Hollywood as a silent film actor. But his true passion for directing emerged quickly, and he made his directorial debut in 1915 with the film, The Pitch o’ Chance.[clxxi] His directing career continued for nearly 50 years, starting in the silent film era, and continuing until the year before his death in 1962. Wikipedia has attributed a whopping 113 film titles to him (although a few of the earlier ones were actually films he acted in, not directed), of which about 45 were sound pictures.[clxxii]

Having already made a breakthrough success with his silent film Humoresque in 1920,[clxxiii] Frank gained widespread critical acclaim with his 1927 film 7th Heaven (again, a silent film), for which he won the first ever Academy Award for best director of a dramatic film.[clxxiv] Shifting then into the new technology of ‘talkies’, his next major success was the Bad Girl (1931), for which he again won the Oscar for best director.[clxxv]

Film posted: A Farewell to Arms

The following year, in 1932, he made what is probably his most famous film, A Farewell to Arms, based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway. Despite powerful performances from box office favourites Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes, it is said that Hemingway was ‘grandly contemptuous’[clxxvi] of Borzage’s treatment of his work when the film came out, and the New York Times critic panned it brutally. And although it was nominated for four Academy Awards – including Best Picture and Best Art Direction (but NOT Best Director) – it won only for its cinematography and sound recording.

Happily, later generations have seen the film through more receptive and appreciative eyes. Dan Callahan of Slant Magazine (2006) says, ‘time has been kind to the film’ adding that it ‘launders out’ Hemingway’s dry pessimism, and replaces it with ‘a testament to the eternal love between a couple.’[clxxvii] Writing in 2014, London critic Tom Huddleston calls it ‘remarkable film’, and adds (with typical British sarcasm):

‘Ernest Hemingway was scornful of this rich, romantic 1932 adaptation of his semi-autobiographical novel set in Italy during WWI.
Luckily, he was a better author than he was a movie critic.’[clxxviii]

It would be beyond the parameters of the present article to discuss more about Frank Borzage’s truly impressive catalogue of films. For those interested in reading more about his life and work, you might wish to check out the book Frank Borzage: The life and films of a Hollywood Romantic by Hervé Dumont.[clxxix]

At least three of Frank’s brothers were also active in the Hollywood film industry. His brother Lew[clxxx] worked as Frank’s assistant director for several years/ His brothers William[clxxxi] and Danny[clxxxii] were both actors. He married actress Lorena Rogers in 1916; after their divorce, he married stage manager and script writer Edna Stillwell in 1945.[clxxxiii] [clxxxiv]

Towards the end of his life, Frank received many awards in recognition of his prolific and significant contribution to the film industry. In 1955 and 1957, he received The George Eastman Award, for distinguished contribution to the art of film. On 8 February 1960, he was given motion pictures star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (located at 6300 Hollywood Blvd).[clxxxv] That same year, he was received the D. W. Griffith Award.[clxxxvi]

Frank Borzage passed away in Los Angeles on 19 June 1962.[clxxxvii]

He was the 8X great-grandson of patriarch Simone Borzaga ‘senior’, notary of Cavareno.

Conclusion

In this report, we discussed the Tuenno origins of the Borzaga family, and their arrival in Cavareno. We looked at the early generations, with specific detail given to the two patriarchs, Giovanni and Simone. We looked at the many generations of Borzaga notaries and their noble titles. We looked at how the Borzaga spread to other parts of Trentino, and how all of these lines could ultimately be traced back to the patriarch Simone Borzaga ‘senior’, sixteenth century notary of Cavareno. And, finally, we looked at the lives and contributions of five distinguished Borzaga of the 20th century.

The Borzaga continue to flourish in the province of Trento today, with the majority still living in and around Cavareno (including Ronzone and Sarnonico), with the next highest numbers in Trento and the Romeno area (Amblar, Don), respectively. Aside from these, we also find a few families in Ton, Roverè della Luna, Baselga di Pinè, Fondo and Rovereto.[clxxxviii] While I have not researched these last few families, it seems probably that they, like the others, are descended from patriarch Simone Borzaga ‘senior’, the Cavareno notary from the late 1500s.

On that same website, we also find there are a dozen Borzaga families currently living in the province of Bolzano (South Tyrol), with the largest numbers appearing in Merano and the city of Bolzano. Cognomix also shows five Borzaga families currently living in in other regions of Italy: two in Vicenza in Veneto, one in Como in Lombardia, one in Siena in Toscana, and one in Rome in Lazio.[clxxxix] It would certainly be interesting to discover if and how all of these non-Trentino families are connected to the Borzaga of Cavareno.

I hope you found this report to be interesting and informative, especially if you have Borzaga ancestors. In researching this family, I have constructed a ‘Borzaga Master Tree’ with nearly 800 people whose births span nearly 500 years, from 1485 to 1952.[cxc]

If you are seeking help researching your Borzaga family, or if you have any additional information about the Borzaga that would make a good addition to my Borzaga Master Tree, please do not hesitate to contact me at https://trentinogenealogy.com/contact.

If you enjoyed this article, you can help support my research by purchasing it as a 37-page downloadable, printable PDF, complete with clickable table of contents, colour images, charts, footnotes and resource list. Price: $3.75 USD.
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This article and others on this blog are ‘working drafts’ of research for my ‘in progress’ books entitled The Birth of Your Surname: The Origins, Evolution and Genealogy of 15 Ancient Trentino Families (although it might end up being more like 20 families), as well as a multi-volume set covering many hundreds of surnames called ‘Guide to Trentino Surnames for Genealogists and Family Historians. It will take me a few more years to complete these book projects, but I am offering these PDF eBooks while they are still in progress.

Until next time!

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
8 August 2022

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ENDNOTES

[i] ANZILOTTI, Giulia Mastrelli. 2003. Toponomastica Trentina: i nomi delle località abitate. Trento: Provincia autonomia di Trento, Servizio Benni librari e archistici, page 321. The original image is greyscale; I have highlighted Cavareno in yellow using Photoshop.

[ii] ENDRIZZI, Cristoforo. 1967. Cavareno: spunti di paesaggio di storia e di vita, page 18.

[iii] BERTOLUZZA, Aldo. 1998. Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino. Trento: Società Iniziative Editoriali (S.R.L.), page 53.

[iv] BERTOLUZZA, Aldo. 1998. Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino. Trento: Società Iniziative Editoriali (S.R.L.), page 53.

[v] Provincia Autonoma di Trento. ‘Compravendita’, 24 August 1501, Pellizzano. Archivi Storici del Trentino, https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/1008967. Accessed 10 July 2022.

[vi] The Pellizzano baptismal records start in 1626, marriages in 1653, and death records in 1664. As of this writing, I was only able to check the indexes for each.

[vii] Provincia Autonoma di Trento. ‘Consegna di dote e assicurazione di dote’, 22 November 1595, Condino. Archivi Storici del Trentino, https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/1141567. Accessed 10 July 2022.

[viii] STENICO, P. Remo. 2000. Sacerdoti della Diocesi di Trento dalla sua Esistenza Fino all’Anno 2000. Indice Onomastico, page 69.

[ix]CASETTI, Albino (dottore). 1951. Guida Storico – Archivistica del Trento. Trento: Tipografia Editrice Temi (S.R.L.), page 249-254. Due to this damage, the registers for Condino begin in 1919, although archivist Albino Casetti says there are some copies of 19th century baptismal and marriage records.

[x] LEONARDI, Enrico. 1955. Tuenno nelle sue Memorie. Trento: Arti Grafiche Saturnia, page 39-40.

[xi] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. 2005. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine. Trento: Società di Studi Trentini di Scienze Storiche, page 60.

[xii] ODORIZZI, Paolo. ‘Genealogia famiglie di Tuenno (e nobili di Tuenetto)’. Annotated spreadsheet at: http://www.dermulo.it/DermuloStory/PaoloOdorizzi/Genealogia%20famiglie%20di%20Tuenno%20(e%20nobili%20di%20Tuenetto).xlsx. Accessed 12 July 2022 from ‘Dermulo: Storia di un piccolo paese’. http://dermulo.it.

[xiii] LEONARDI, Enrico. 1955. Tuenno nelle sue Memorie. Trento: Arti Grafiche Saturnia, page 39.

[xiv] ENDRIZZI, Cristoforo. 1967. Cavareno: spunti di paesaggio di storia e di vita, page 26.

[xv] ODORIZZI, Paolo. ‘Genealogia famiglie di Tuenno (e nobili di Tuenetto)’.

[xvi] ODORIZZI, Paolo. 2018. La Val Di Non E I Suoi Misteri – Volume I, page 305. PDF version downloaded 20 February 2022 from https://www.academia.edu/38068122/1_LA_VAL_DI_NON_E_I_SUOI_MISTERI_VOLUME_I_Aggiornamento_dicembre_2018. Odorizzi discusses many aspects of the Borzaga genealogy throughout the book, but his chart on ‘Genealogia famiglie di Tuenno (e nobili di Tuenetto)’ provides an easy visual summary of his conclusions.

[xvii] ODORIZZI, Paolo. ‘Genealogia famiglie di Tuenno (e nobili di Tuenetto)’.

[xviii] STENICO, P. Remo. 1999. Notai Che Operarono Nel Trentino dall’Anno 845. Trento: Biblioteca San Bernardino, page 76. Stenico only lists him as ‘Bartolomeo Borzaga of Tuenno’ but he does not say he was the son of Benvenuto. On the same page, he also mentions lists Baldassare Borzaga of Tuenno as the son of Antonio.

[xix] ODORIZZI, Paolo. 2018. La Val Di Non E I Suoi Misteri, Volume I. PDF version downloaded 20 February 2022 from https://www.academia.edu/38068122/1_LA_VAL_DI_NON_E_I_SUOI_MISTERI_VOLUME_I_Aggiornamento_dicembre_2018, page 295.

[xx] ODORIZZI, Paolo. 2018. La Val Di Non E I Suoi Misteri, Volume I, pages 295, 305 and others.

[xxi] ODORIZZI, Paolo. ‘Genealogia famiglie di Tuenno (e nobili di Tuenetto)’.

[xxii] LEONARDI, Enrico. 1955. Tuenno nelle sue Memorie. Trento: Arti Grafiche Saturnia, page 39.

[xxiii] ODORIZZI, Paolo. ‘Genealogia famiglie di Tuenno (e nobili di Tuenetto)’.

[xxiv] ODORIZZI, Paolo. ‘Genealogia famiglie di Tuenno (e nobili di Tuenetto)’.

[xxv] AUSSERER, Carl. 1985. Le Famiglie Nobili Nelle Valli del Noce: Rapporti con i Vescovi e con i Principi Castelli, rocche e residenze nobili Organizzazione, privilegi, diritti; I Nobili rurali. Translated by Giulia Anzilotti Mastrelli from the original German work Der Adel des Nonsberges, published in 1899. Malé: Centro Studi per la Val di Sole, pages 112 and 172.

[xxvi] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. 2005. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine. Trento: Società di Studi Trentini di Scienze Storiche, page 60.

[xxvii] Archivio Arsio, n. 155. 18 December 1560, in Cavareno, Giovanni, son of the late Simone Chanarz (?) sells to Romedio, son of the late Baldassare Borzaga, a plot of land in Cavareno and Campaz. This is cited by Odorizzi in his online tree.

[xxviii] The last Borzaga descendant of Giovanni I have found was Giovanni Luigi, born in Cavareno on 16 June 1778. Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 7, page 74-75.

[xxix] Provincia Autonoma di Trento. ‘Locazione temporale di decima’, 27 February 1594, Sarnonico. Drafted by Simone Borzaga of Cavareno, notary by imperial authority. Archivi Storici del Trentino, https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/1104675. Accessed 10 July 2022.

[xxx] Provincia Autonoma di Trento. ‘Costituzione di censo’, 11 May 1603, Cavareno. Drafted by notary Simone Borzaga of Cavareno. Archivi Storici del Trentino, https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/3568069. Accessed 10 July 2022. There are many other documents for him; I have only included the earliest and the latest I have found..

[xxxi] Provincia Autonoma di Trento. ‘Costituzione di censo con dichiarazione di obbligo’, 18 August 1599, Cavareno. Cites the name of Simone Borzaga’s wife, Chiara. Archivi Storici del Trentino, https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/1085107. Accessed 10 July 2022.

[xxxii] Romeno parish records, marriages, volume 1, page 6-7.

[xxxiii] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 180-181.

[xxxiv] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 2, page 80-81.

[xxxv] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 2, page 118-119.

[xxxvi] Provincia Autonoma di Trento. ‘Costituzione di censo’, 25 April 1625, Sarnonico. Archivi Storici del Trentino, https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/1089297. Accessed 10 July 2022.

[xxxvii] Nicolò Borzaga, son of Giovanni, was born 28 January 1588. Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 26-27. No mother’s name is mentioned in the record.

[xxxviii] TIROLER LANDESMUSEEN. Tyrolean Coats of Arms. Landing page: http://wappen.tiroler-landesmuseen.at/login.php. Borzaga stemma accessed 10 July 2022 from http://wappen.tiroler-landesmuseen.at/index34a.php?id=&do=&wappen_id=4062&sb=borzaga&sw=&st=&so=&str=&tr=99.

[xxxix] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine, page 331.

[xl] ENDRIZZI, Cristoforo. 1967. Cavareno: spunti di paesaggio di storia e di vita, page 26.

[xli] LEONARDI, Enrico. 1955. Tuenno nelle sue Memorie. Trento: Arti Grafiche Saturnia, page 40.

[xlii] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine, page 60. They specifically say the for men were brothers. They also say it was Count Alessandrini who awarded the stemma in 1626, but Enrico Leonardi (Tuenno nelle sue Memorie, page 40) says it was the Prince-Bishop, who was confirming the earlier award.

[xliii] GIACOMONI, Fabio. 1991. Carte di Regola e Statuti delle Comunità Rurali Trentine. 3 volume set. Milano: Edizioni Universitarie Jaca, volume 2, page 532; 549.

[xliv] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 2, page 2-3.

[xlv] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 156-157. Antonio also had at least one daughter, but while females could INHERIT their father’s noble titles and privileges, they could not pass these privileges onto their children.

[xlvi] Romedio was born 7 December 1589. Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 38-39.

[xlvii] STENICO, P. Remo. 1999. Notai Che Operarono Nel Trentino dall’Anno 845. Trento: Biblioteca San Bernardino, page 76. One of these four is an Antonio Borzaga, but I am positive Stenico has combined citations from two different Antonios, one who was the grandfather of the other.

[xlviii] Provincia Autonoma di Trento. ‘Costituzione di censo’, 19 December 1602, Castelfondo. Drafted by notary Antonio Borzaga of Cavareno. Archivi Storici del Trentino, https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/3568044. Accessed 10 July 2022.

[xlix] Provincia Autonoma di Trento. ‘Compravendita’, 20 October 1635, Sarnonico. Land sale agreement drafted by notary Antonio Borzaga of Cavareno. Archivi Storici del Trentino, https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/1089455. Accessed 10 July 2022. Again, there are numerous surviving documents written by him in between these dates; I have cited only the earliest and the latest of those on the Provincia Autonoma di Trento website.

[l] GIACOMONI, Fabio. 1991. Carte di Regola e Statuti delle Comunità Rurali Trentine. 3 volume set. Milano: Edizioni Universitarie Jaca, volume 2, page 532; 549.

[li] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 156-157.

[lii] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 3, page 120-121.

[liii] Sarnonico parish records, marriages, volume 2, page 165-166. 28 April 1667. Adamo, son of the late Michele Zogmaister of Ruffré’ married Barbara Borzaga, daughter of ‘spectabilis’ Simone Borzaga (of Cavareno).

[liv] Provincia Autonoma di Trento. ‘Costituzione di censo’, 24 May 1627, Seio. Drafted by notary Simone Borzaga of Cavareno. Archivi Storici del Trentino, https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/51172. Accessed 10 July 2022.

[lv] Provincia Autonoma di Trento. ‘Compravendita’, 7 June 1632, Revò. Drafted by notary Simone Borzaga of Cavareno. Archivi Storici del Trentino, https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/1396100. Accessed 10 July 2022.

[lvi] Provincia Autonoma di Trento. ‘Cessione di censo’, 13 May 1646, Castelfondo. Drafted by notary Simone Borzaga of Cavareno. Archivi Storici del Trentino, https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/3568375. Accessed 10 July 2022.

[lvii] Provincia Autonoma di Trento. ‘Compravendita’, 6 November 1649, Cavareno. Drafted by notary Simone Borzaga of Cavareno. Archivi Storici del Trentino, https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/3568432.  Accessed 10 July 2022.

[lviii] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 2, page 108-109.

[lix] Sarnonico parish records, marriages, volume 2, page 145-146.

[lx] Provincia Autonoma di Trento. ‘Compravendita’, 19 April 1660, Castel Thun (Ton). Drafted by notary Antonio Borzaga of Cavareno. Archivi Storici del Trentino, https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/3565190. Accessed 10 July 2022.

[lxi] Provincia Autonoma di Trento. ‘Testamento’, 26 February 1666, Ronzone. Will of Giovanni ‘Palma’ of Ronzone drafted by notary Antonio Borzaga of Cavareno. Archivi Storici del Trentino, https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/1091866. Accessed 10 July 2022.

[lxii] Provincia Autonoma di Trento. ‘Cessione di Censi’, 25 June 1671, Sarnonico. Drafted by notary Antonio Borzaga of Cavareno. Archivi Storici del Trentino, https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/1092125. Accessed 10 July 2022.

[lxiii] Provincia Autonoma di Trento. ‘Donazione con obbligazione’, 13 September 1671, Sarnonico. Drafted by notary Antonio Borzaga of Cavareno. Archivi Storici del Trentino, https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/1092315. Accessed 10 July 2022.

[lxiv] Provincia Autonoma di Trento. ‘Cristoforo Riccardo Thun (1604-1668) – Corrispondenza’. 1659-1667. Six letters sent to Count Cristoforo Riccardo Thun by Antonio Borzaga (sent from Cavareno and Trento between 1659-1667). Fascicolo, cc. 12. https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/1721404. Accessed 10 July 2022.

[lxv] Maria Sofia Zini, wife of Antonio Borzaga, died on 22 December 1676. Sarnonico parish records, deaths, volume 1, page 438-439.

[lxvi] Sarnonico parish records, deaths, volume 2, page 122-123.

[lxvii] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 5, page 16-17.

[lxviii] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 5, page 560-561.

[lxix] STENICO, P. Remo. 1999. Notai Che Operarono Nel Trentino dall’Anno 845, page 76.

[lxx] Provincia Autonoma di Trento. ‘Rinnovazione di locazione’, 11 January 1745, San Michele all’Adige. Drafted by notary Giovanni Battista, son of Antonio Borzaga of Cavareno. Archivi Storici del Trentino, https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/995030 . Accessed 24 July 2022.

[lxxi] ENDRIZZI, Cristoforo. 1967. Cavareno: spunti di paesaggio di storia e di vita, page 26.

[lxxii] Biblioteca Comunale di Trento. ‘Contratti, 26 August 1721, Convenzione stipulata tra il prelato della Prepositura di San Michele all’Adige ed i fratelli Giovanni Battista, Tomaso ed Antonio Borzaga. Archivi di famiglio. Collocazione: BCT1-5334/4; Estremi Cronologici:1721; Data di Acquisizione e Provenienza: Campi di Montesanto (famiglia). Note that, as of this writing, this is not viewable online.

[lxxiii] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 5, page 82-83.

[lxxiv] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 5, page 438-439.

[lxxv] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 5, page 348-349.

[lxxvi] STENICO, P. Remo. 1999. Notai Che Operarono Nel Trentino dall’Anno 845, page 76.

[lxxvii] 20 August 1731. ‘Giovanni Battista Vigilio, son of the noble and ‘spectabilis’ Carlo Borzaga, notary of Cavareno’. Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 5, page 630-631.

[lxxviii] Provincia Autonoma di Trento. ‘Processus criminalis formatus ad instantiam Georgii Gerri Casetii’, etc., 2 November 1750-19 March 1759, Cles. Fascicolo, cc. 122. Notary, Carlo Antonio Borzaga. Archivi Storici del Trentino, https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/3375508 . Accessed 24 July 2022.

[lxxix] Sarnonico parish records, deaths, volume 3, page 21.

[lxxx] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 5, page 568-569.

[lxxxi] STENICO, P. Remo. 1999. Notai Che Operarono Nel Trentino dall’Anno 845, page 76.

[lxxxii] Sarnonico parish records, deaths, volume 3, page 232-233.

[lxxxiii] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 5, page 60-61.

[lxxxiv] WEBER, Simone (Sac.). 1992. Le Chiese delle Val di Non Nella Storia e Nell’Arte. Volume II: I Decanati di Cles e di Fondo. Mori (Trento): La Grafica Anastatica, page 132. Looking at the signatures of the priests in the baptismal register for Arsio e Brez, Pr. Antonio must have either retired or died sometime between June and September 1651.

[lxxxv] The couple married 27 Jun 1695. Sarnonico parish records, marriages, volume 2, page 80-81.

[lxxxvi] Andrea Borzaga died 29 January 1745. Sarnonico parish records, deaths, volume 3, no page number.

[lxxxvii] Arsio e Brez parish records, baptisms, volume 2, page 380-381.

[lxxxviii] STENICO, P. Remo. 2000. Sacerdoti della Diocesi di Trento dalla sua Esistenza Fino all’Anno 2000. Indice Onomastico, page 69.

[lxxxix] WEBER, Simone (Sac.). 1992. Le Chiese delle Val di Non Nella Storia e Nell’Arte. Volume II: I Decanati di Cles e di Fondo. Mori (Trento): La Grafica Anastatica, page 97. Although part of the diocese of Bolzano today, Proves was then considered a curate of the parish of Revò in the diocese of Trento. Weber says Giovanni Andrea served as curate from 1739-1766.

[xc] Provincia Autonoma di Trento. ‘Spese e rendite di don Giovan Andrea Borzaga’, etc. An inventory of his expenses says he left the curate of Proves on 2 April 1766.  Archivi Storici del Trentino, https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/957345. Accessed 24 July 2022.

[xci] Arsio e Brez parish records, deaths, volume 3, no page number.

[xcii] A beneficiato or ‘beneficio’ is a priest who was paid in money or land to celebrate a certain number of Masses. In other words, he was there to perform specific service for the benefit of the parish or a specific patron of that parish. In this case, his patron was a someone from the Ruffino family, who had left the funds to the church as part of his legacy.

[xciii] Arsio e Brez parish records, baptisms, volume 2, page 340-341.

[xciv] Revò parish records, marriages, volume 2, page 45.

[xcv] Arsio e Brez parish records, deaths, volume 3, no page number.

[xcvi] Arsio e Brez parish records, baptisms, volume 2, page 652-653.

[xcvii] Arsio e Brez parish records, deaths, volume 3, no page number.

[xcviii] Arsio e Brez parish records, marriages, volume 4, page 17.

[xcix] Arsio e Brez parish records, deaths, volume 4, page 38-39.

[c] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 7, page 72-73.

[ci] Arsio e Brez parish records, marriages, volume 4, page 19. The marriage record has an inserted note that Tommaso came from Cavareno, but the baptismal record of their daughter Maria Antonia says he was actually from Ronzone. The only ‘Tommaso, son of Tommaso’ born in this era was from Ronzone, so I would disregard the note in the marriage record as an error.

[cii] Arsio e Brez parish records, deaths, volume 6, page 68.

[ciii] Sarnonico parish records, deaths, volume 5, page 122-123.

[civ] There was one son, Tommaso, born 13 Feb 1843, but I cannot find any further information about him.

[cv] The parish records themselves have not been microfilms/digitised past the year 1923, but names and years (not full dates) of births, marriages and deaths in Arsio e Brez appear in the indices of the same register that contains the 1923 records. This is where I have drawn the information about events taking place after 1923. Note that not all parish registers will have microfilmed their indices past 1923.

[cvi] COGNOMIX. ‘Borzaga’. Mappe dei Cognomi Italiani. https://www.cognomix.it/mappe-dei-cognomi-italiani/BORZAGA/TRENTINO-ALTO-ADIGE/TRENTO. Accessed 22 July 2022.

[cvii] RUFFINI, Bruno. 2005. L’Onoranda Comunità di Brez. Fondo: Litotipo Anaune, page 241 FF.

[cviii] Romeno parish records, marriages, volume 5, page 70.

[cix] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 8, page 129. Gaspare’s parents were Pietro Antonio Mattia Borzaga of Cavareno and Cattarina Covi of Seio.

[cx] Gaspare died 27 April 1868. Amblar parish records, deaths, volume 2, page 27-28.

[cxi] Amblar parish records, baptisms, volume, 3, pages 30, 42 and 52.

[cxii] This info is in their baptismal records, and they are also listed on the ‘caduti trentini della I guerra mondiale’ (Fallen Trentini of the First World War) database on the Trentina Cultura website at https://www.cultura.trentino.it/portal/server.pt/community/caduti_in_guerra_-_cerca/309/cerca_nella_banca_data/19671

[cxiii] Amblar parish records, baptisms, volume, 3, pages 37, 39 and 44. The baptismal record of the youngest son (Antonio Luigi, born 13 June 1906, page 49) tells us he died in Cles, but it does not say whether he had married. I believe the date of death is 3 February 1976, but it is difficult to read. I did find him in the military registry on the Archivio di Stato database. Both his baptismal record and the military entry indicate he was known by his middle name, ‘Luigi’.

[cxiv] COGNOMIX. ‘Borzaga’. Mappe dei Cognomi Italiani. https://www.cognomix.it/mappe-dei-cognomi-italiani/BORZAGA/TRENTINO-ALTO-ADIGE/TRENTO. Accessed 22 July 2022.

[cxv] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 9, page 243.

[cxvi] Giovanni Battista died 13 July 1860. Sarnonico parish records, deaths, volume 5, page 172.

[cxvii] Sarnonico parish records, marriages, volume 7, page 158. I have written Cattarina’s surname as ‘Thaler’ here, as that is how it appears in all the Trentino records, but it is spelled ‘Toller’ in her Bronzolo baptismal record (02 July 1861). Bronzolo parish records, baptisms, 1861-1913, page 3.

[cxviii] WEBER, Simone; RASMO, Nicolò. 1977. Artisti Trentini e Artisti Che Operarono Nel Trentino. Trento: Monauni.  Originally published in 1933, this is the 2nd edition, page 66. Date also on Nati in Trentino website.

[cxix] Strembo parish records, baptisms (May 1888), page 131.

[cxx] Marcellina’s baptismal record has a note saying she died in Tione on 26 May 1902: Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 8, page 93-94. This same info is recorded in a note in her 1853 marriage record to Giovanni Battista Borzaga: Sarnonico parish records, marriages, volume 6, page 146.

[cxxi] Urbano’s marriage information and his date of death are in his baptismal record in the Carisolo parish register (sorry, my copy does not have the volume and page number). It does not say where he died.

[cxxii] Urbano Borzaga of Carisolo, born 1887, is listed in the Ruoli Matriculari database on the Archivio di Stato website at http://www.archiviodistatotrento.beniculturali.it/index.php?it/222/ruoli-matricolari-1867-1911.

[cxxiii] Preore parish records, baptisms, June 1888, page 10.

[cxxiv] Preore parish records, baptisms, July 1889, page 13.

[cxxv] He is one of several lawyers mentioned in a lawsuit described at https://www.consiglio.provincia.tn.it/leggi-e-archivi/giurisprudenza-costituzionale/Pages/giurisprudenza.aspx?uid=22266 . Accessed 29 July 2022.

[cxxvi] Marcellina’s baptismal record has a note saying she died in Tione on 26 May 1902: Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 8, page 93-94. This same info is recorded in a note in her 1853 marriage record to Giovanni Battista Borzaga: Sarnonico parish records, marriages, volume 6, page 146.

[cxxvii] Sarnonico parish records, deaths, volume 6, page 269-270. It is difficult to make out one of the words, but a Trentino historian and I both believe it indicates he was some sort of peripatetic teacher, rather than a local schoolteacher.

[cxxviii] WEBER, Simone; RASMO, Nicolò. 1977. Artisti Trentini e Artisti Che Operarono Nel Trentino. Trento: Monauni.  Originally published in 1933, this is the 2nd edition, page 66. Date also on Nati in Trentino website.

[cxxix] Cultura Trentino. 2004. ‘Gustavo Borzaga. Mostra a cura di Giovanna Nicoletti’. Description of exhibition of the works of Gustavo Borzaga, which was held at the Atelier Segantini in Arco, June-August 2004.

https://www.cultura.trentino.it/eng/layout/set/print/Events/Gustavo-Borzaga. Accessed 28 July 2022.

[cxxx] WEBER, Simone; RASMO, Nicolò. 1977. Artisti Trentini e Artisti Che Operarono Nel Trentino, page 66.

[cxxxi] Cultura Trentino. 2004. ‘Gustavo Borzaga. Mostra a cura di Giovanna Nicoletti’.

[cxxxii] Ministero della Cultura. ‘Ruoli matricolari 1867-1913’. Database of Trentino soldiers born between 1867-1913, who were enlisted in the military. http://www.archiviodistatotrento.beniculturali.it/index.php?it/222/ruoli-matricolari-1867-1911. We do, however, find the name of his younger brother Urbano among those enlisted. Urbano was surely active during the war, as there is a 6-year gap between the births of his children (1914-1920). It would be interesting to know whether or not he shared any of his brother’s political views.

[cxxxiii] Cultura Trentino. 2004. ‘Gustavo Borzaga. Mostra a cura di Giovanna Nicoletti’.

[cxxxiv] ‘Katzenau internment camp – Internierungslager Katzenau’. 2020. Second Wiki website. https://second.wiki/wiki/internierungslager_katzenau. Accessed 30 July 2022.

[cxxxv] Cultura Trentino. 2004. ‘Gustavo Borzaga. Mostra a cura di Giovanna Nicoletti’.

[cxxxvi] Weber and Rasmo (page 66) say Gustavo painted the frescoes for municipal hall in Beseno (in Trentino), where he was stationed as a soldier during the war. I believe this is surely an error, and that they confused the name ‘Benešov’ with Beseno. Besides, I cannot imagine a soldier on active duty during such a major war would be allowed to spend all his time painting.

[cxxxvii] Giovanna’s birth year is published in numerous books, but I have yet to find her precise date of birth.

[cxxxviii] Gigiotti’s name at baptism was Luigi Francesco Antonio Zanini. He was born in Val di Fassa on 10 March 1893. ‘Zanini Gigiotti’. Recta Galleria d’Arte website. Biography of the artist at https://www.galleriarecta.it/autore/zanini-gigiotti/. Accessed 30 July 2022. Date confirmed on Nati in Trentino website.

[cxxxix] Archivio di Riccardo Maroni. ‘Note biografiche’, 1964. Text by Giovanna Borzaga with the biography of her uncle, Gigiotti Zanini. http://cim.mart.tn.it/cim/pages/documenti_c.jsp?sid=&method=ric&lang=it&expand=375142&fromp=ris_ricerca.jsp. Accessed 30 July 2022.

[cxl] BORZANA, Giovanna. 2011. Leggende del Trentino. Magici personaggi di valli e boschi. Trento: Reverdito. Reprint of original 1971 edition. The quote is my translation from the Italian.

[cxli] In Leggende del Trentino, she narrates tales from Valle dell’Adige, Valle dei Mocheni, Valsugana, Valle di Primiero, Val di Fiemme, Valle di Cembra, Val di Sole, Val di Genova, Valle di Chiese, Val Giudicarie, as well as Terlago, Lago del Garda and Vallarsa.

[cxlii] Various Authors. 2019. Francesco Borzaga: 60 Anni Per La Difesa Della Natura E Dell’ambiente Del Trentino. Trento: Accademia degli Accesi, Sezione trentina di Italia Nostra, page 91. PDF version downloaded from http://www.uomoenatura.it/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Francesco-Borzaga.pdf. Accessed 30 July 2022.

[cxliii] Alongside his environmental work, Francesco also worked for many years as a German language teacher. I know one of his former students who studied with him at the middle school in Vigolo Vattaro.

[cxliv] Studio associato Virginia (cura). 2018. Francesco Borzaga. Inventario dell’archivio (1942 – 2017). Trento: Soprintendenza per i beni culturali. Ufficio beni archivistici, librari e Archivio provinciale, page 107. Trento: Soprintendenza per i beni culturali. Ufficio beni archivistici, librari e Archivio provinciale, page 7. PDF downloaded from https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/inventari/esporta/5753270. Accessed 31 July 2022.

[cxlv] Studio associato Virginia (cura). 2018. Francesco Borzaga. Inventario dell’archivio (1942 – 2017), page 17 and 107.

[cxlvi] Studio associato Virginia (cura). 2018. Francesco Borzaga. Inventario dell’archivio (1942 – 2017).

[cxlvii] BORZAGA, Lucia. 1992. To Be a Happy Man. Mario Borzaga, O.M.I., 1932-1960. Rome, Italy: Oblate Heritage Series, number 4, page 7. Downloaded 22 July 2022 from https://www.omiworld.org/wp-content/uploads/04-Mario-Borzaga.pdf

[cxlviii] For definitions of the term ‘oblate’ see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oblate

[cxlix] BORZAGA, Lucia. 1992. To Be a Happy Man. Mario Borzaga, O.M.I., 1932-1960, page 9.

[cl] BORZAGA, Lucia. 1992. To Be a Happy Man. Mario Borzaga, O.M.I., 1932-1960, page 13.

[cli] PETTITI, Gianpiero. 2017. ‘Beato Mario Borzaga, sacerdote e martire’. Santi Beati e Testimoni. http://www.santiebeati.it/dettaglio/91548.  Accessed 20 July 2022.

[clii] BORZAGA, Lucia. 1992. To Be a Happy Man. Mario Borzaga, O.M.I., 1932-1960, page 14.

[cliii] BORZAGA, Lucia. 1992. To Be a Happy Man. Mario Borzaga, O.M.I., 1932-1960, page 10 (footnote).

[cliv] PETTITI, Gianpiero. 2017. ‘Beato Mario Borzaga, sacerdote e martire’.

[clv] BORZAGA, Lucia. 1992. To Be a Happy Man. Mario Borzaga, O.M.I., 1932-1960, page 16.

[clvi] BORZAGA, Lucia. 1992. To Be a Happy Man. Mario Borzaga, O.M.I., 1932-1960, page 16.

[clvii] BORZAGA, Lucia. 1992. To Be a Happy Man. Mario Borzaga, O.M.I., 1932-1960, page 10-11.

[clviii] Wikipedia. ‘Pathet Lao’. Accessed 31 July 2022 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pathet_Lao

[clix] BORZAGA, Lucia. 1992. To Be a Happy Man. Mario Borzaga, O.M.I., 1932-1960, page 18.

[clx] PETTITI, Gianpiero. 2017. ‘Beato Mario Borzaga, sacerdote e martire’. Also in Lucia Borzaga, page18.

[clxi] PETTITI, Gianpiero. 2017. ‘Beato Mario Borzaga, sacerdote e martire’.

[clxii] BORZAGA, Lucia. 1992. To Be a Happy Man. Mario Borzaga, O.M.I., 1932-1960, page 19.

[clxiii] PETTITI, Gianpiero. 2017. ‘Beato Mario Borzaga, sacerdote e martire’.

[clxiv] WIKIPEDIA. ‘Martyrs of Laos’. Accessed 22 July 2022 from https://wiki.beparanoid.de/wiki/Martyrs_of_Laos?lang=en

[clxv] ‘Beatification’ is the term used when a person is acknowledged as a saint at a local level, as opposed to ‘canonisation’, which means that person’s sainthood is recognised throughout the Catholic Church.

[clxvi] WIKIPEDIA. ‘Martyrs of Laos’. Accessed 22 July 2022 from https://wiki.beparanoid.de/wiki/Martyrs_of_Laos?lang=en

[clxvii] I have found memorials for 10 of their children Find-A-Grave, but there may have been one or more not listed on that site. Frank’s entry on Wikipedia says there were actually 14 children, only 8 of whom survived childhood; however, they provide no sources for this information, so I cannot say where this is correct.

[clxviii] WIKIPEDIA. ‘Frank Borzage’. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Borzage/ Accessed 20 July 2022.

[clxix] The Wikipedia article gives a date of 1883 for the marriage, but the 1900 US census says the couple had been married 18 years, which would infer they married in 1882.

[clxx] FIND-A-GRAVE. ‘Frank L. Borzaga’. Memorial page at https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/4379/frank-l-borzage. Accessed 2 August 2022. Info also on Frank’s Wikipedia page.

[clxxi] WIKIPEDIA. ‘Frank Borzage’. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Borzage/ Accessed 20 July 2022.

[clxxii] LA TIMES. ‘Frank Borzage’. 1962 (20 June). https://projects.latimes.com/hollywood/star-walk/frank-borzage/. Accessed 2 August 2022.

[clxxiii] WIKIPEDIA. ‘Humoresque (1920 film)’. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humoresque_(1920_film). Accessed 2 August 2022.

[clxxiv] IMDB. ‘Frank Borzage’. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0097648/. Accessed 2 August 2022. Also on Frank’s Wikipedia page.

[clxxv] IMDB and Wikipedia, as above.

[clxxvi] CALLAHAN, Dan. 2006 (27 July). ‘A Farewell to Arms’. Slant Magazine. https://www.slantmagazine.com/film/a-farewell-to-arms-2311. Accessed 2 August 2022.

[clxxvii] CALLAHAN, Dan. 2006 (27 July). ‘A Farewell to Arms’. Slant Magazine. https://www.slantmagazine.com/film/a-farewell-to-arms-2311. Accessed 2 August 2022.

[clxxviii] HUDDLESTON, Tom. 2014 (28 May). ‘A Farewell to Arms’. Time Out London. https://www.timeout.com/movies/a-farewell-to-arms-2.  Accessed 2 August 2022.

[clxxix] DUMONT, Hervé. 2015. Frank Borzage: The life and films of a Hollywood Romantic. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. Reprint of 2006 publication. Translation from the 1993 French publication, Frank Borzage: Sarastro à Hollywood. Limited preview of this book is available on Google Books at https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/Frank_Borzage/FL3wCQAAQBAJ?gbpv=1

[clxxx] FIND-A-GRAVE. ‘Louis Borzage’. Lew’s birth name was ‘Louis;’ he was born in Salt Lake City on 30 January 1898. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/201915183/louis-borzage. Accessed 2 August 2022.

[clxxxi] FIND-A-GRAVE. ‘William Borzage’. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/12751/william-borzage. Accessed 2 August 2022.

[clxxxii] FIND-A-GRAVE. ‘Danny Borzage’. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/18328/danny-borzage. Accessed 2 August 2022.

[clxxxiii] WIKIPEDIA. WIKIPEDIA. ‘Frank Borzage’. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Borzage/ Accessed 20 July 2022.

[clxxxiv] Some sources say he had a third wife named Juanita, but I have found no mention of her in any obituaries of vital records. One website, made by an independent researcher, says he had her name was Juanita Scott, but they have offered no sources to support this. Another site mentions this same Juanita Scott, makes no mention of her being the widow of Frank Borzage.

[clxxxv] HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME. ‘Frank Borzage’. https://walkoffame.com/frank-borzage/. Accessed 2 August 2022.

[clxxxvi] WIKIPEDIA. ‘Directors Guild of America Lifetime Achievement Award – Feature Film’.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Directors_Guild_of_America_Lifetime_Achievement_Award_%E2%80%93_Feature_Film. Accessed 2 August 2022.

[clxxxvii] FIND-A-GRAVE. ‘Frank L. Borzaga’. Memorial page at https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/4379/frank-l-borzage. Accessed 2 August 2022. Info also on Frank’s Wikipedia page. Several sites say he died of cancer, but I have not confirmed this via a death record of obituary.

[clxxxviii] COGNOMIX. ‘Borzaga’. Mappe dei Cognomi Italiani. https://www.cognomix.it/mappe-dei-cognomi-italiani/BORZAGA/TRENTINO-ALTO-ADIGE/TRENTO. Accessed 22 July 2022.

[clxxxix] COGNOMIX. ‘Borzaga’. Mappe dei Cognomi Italiani. https://www.cognomix.it/mappe-dei-cognomi-italiani/BORZAGA. Accessed 22 July 2022.

[cxc] I have entered most (if not all) of the Borzaga births from Cavareno, Ronzone, Sarnonico, Brez, Amblar, Romeno and the city of Trento, with the additional births in Arco, Rendena and the Giudicarie.

 

 

 

 

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The RIGOS Family of Malosco. Origins, Evolution, Nobility.

Genealogist Lynn Serafinn discusses the origins of the Rigos family of Malosco in Val di Non, and how it evolved into two distinct branches, one of which is now extinct.

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Image: Composite of various stemmi (coats-of-arms) of the noble Rigos of Malosco.[1]

INTRODUCTION

Premise

One of my life’s passions is the research of Trentino surnames. Occasionally, I am drawn to dive more deeply into the history of a particular surname than others. Very often, I become curious because the original family bearing that surname came to Trentino from outside the province. Other times, a surname appears in many different parts of the province, and I am curious to discover whether or not these disparate lines are ancestrally connected.

But the surname we will examine in this article meets neither of these criteria. Today, we look at the surname RIGOS, which is found almost exclusively in a single village: Malosco in Val di Non. Although ‘family lore’ claims the Rigos came from a foreign land, much evidence points to it being ‘home grown’, and that it was probably ‘born’ in the same place it has existed for at least the past half-millennium. Moreover, the surname has remained remarkably ‘static’ in that there do not seem to have been any significant migrations outside Malosco (at least not before the wave of migrations that started at the end of the 19th century).

I will often also become curious about a particular family if I know they were nobility. This curiosity does not stem from a particular fascination with nobility itself, but rather from the fact that noble families will often have a more definable ‘paper trail’ than non-nobility, as the diplomas that contain the details of their awards are often still extant. As we shall see, one of the Rigos lines was indeed ennobled, and the information we can glean from documents relating to their nobility can help us to piece together a narrative about them that cannot be gleaned from the parish registers alone.

Finally, I always become curious when an author says a particular family ‘went extinct’. It is true that one specific line of the Rigos family did die out before the end of the 18th century, and I will show precisely when this happened in this article. However, the Rigos of Malosco still exist via other lines not always mentioned in books, and I wish to illustrate this point, as some texts might lead readers to believe the surname no longer exists.

This article is not intended to be a complete genealogical review of the Rigos of Malosco, but an overview of their earliest appearance in available documents, and a summary of the destinies of its two primary lines. I have drawn my information from a combination of the parish registers for both Malosco and Sarnonico, along with transcriptions of legal parchments, and research compiled by previous historians.

All the books and documents I consulted are in either Italian or Latin. All translations are my own.

IMPORTANT NOTE: ‘RIGOS’ is NOT the same surname as ‘RIGO’, which is found in many other parts of Trentino, especially in Valsugana and in/around Rovereto.[2] While these two surnames probably have a similar linguistic root, the families bearing these surnames are neither historically nor genealogically connected.

Researching Malosco Families

Malosco has an ancient and colourful history. Most famously, it is the site of a medieval castle (and a noble family) that bore the same name. We also we know its church of Santa Tecla was already established 800 years ago via the Last Will and Testament, dated 18 August 1228, of Pietro, a Lord of Malosco, who requested that a gift of oil would be given to that church every year on his behalf. [3]

Despite its antiquity, the church of Santa Tecla has been an independent parish for only a bit more than century, having been elevated parish status on 1 August 1919.[4] Before then, it was considered a curate (a ‘daughter’ parish) of the larger parish of Sarnonico. It is important to know this when tracing the histories of the families of Malosco, because you will most likely be working with the parish records for Sarnonico for most of your research.

Where to Look for Malosco Births, Marriages and Deaths

  • Malosco started recording its own BAPTISMAL records in 1768, even though it was still considered a curate. However, between 1768 and the early 20th century, you are likely to find many Malosco baptisms recorded in both Malosco and Sarnonico. Occasionally you will find a record in one or the other, so it’s always a good idea to check both places. ALL Malosco baptisms before 1768 will be found ONLY in the Sarnonico registers.
  • ALL Malosco MARRIAGE records before the year 1919 will be found in the Sarnonico registers.
  • ALL Malosco DEATH records before the year 1917 will be found in the Sarnonico registers.

Overview of Sarnonico Parish Records

Sarnonico is one of the most ancient parishes of Val di Non; it is comprised of a matrix of curate churches in Cavareno, Malosco, Ruffré, Ronzone, Seio and Vasio, as well as its own parish church.

The BAPTISMAL records for Sarnonico go back to the year 1585, but be aware:  

  • The names of the mothers are often omitted in the early baptismal records. Thus, when there happen to be two men of the same name in the same era, it can often be difficult to know which child belongs to whom, unless the record happens to mention the name of the paternal grandfather. Even in the index (compiled long after the records were written), you will find instances where the priest wrote question marks after some entries, as he was unsure who was who.
  • There is a GAP in the baptismal records from July 1609 to January 1616. Thus, you will often find evidence of adults whose birth records ‘should’ be in the register, but they are not. I also suspect other records are missing besides those within this timeframe.
  • There are two random pages of baptisms from 1628-1629 mixed in with the marriages in the 1620s. They are not duplicates, and they do not appear in the baptismal register.
  • Volumes 3 (1629-1650) and 4 (1650-1681) of baptismal records are organised in alphabetical order according to FIRST name. As such, they tend to leap around chronologically, and sometimes you will find things entered in the wrong place.

The MARRIAGE records for Sarnonico date back to the year 1586, however:

  • Volumes 1 and 2 of the marriage records contain indices, but the priest who made the index for volume 1 has also written that he was unable to understand a great many of names, and he did not record them. Hence, in my estimation, about a quarter of the records in volume 1 are omitted from the index.
  • Many pages referred to in the marriage indices are missing. Volume 1 of the marriage register contains only pages 41-52 and 61-64 of the original register. Volume 2 starts on page 58; pages 63-64 are missing. I am unsure at this point whether they are actually missing, or if they were never microfilmed/digitised.
  • The beginning of volume 1 is extremely disorganised. There is ONE record from 1586, then it leaps ahead to 1619, then back to 1587. After 1589, it stops and jumps to 1601, moving forward from that point, meaning there is about an 11-year gap here. Many records are extremely hard to read, as they tend to run into each other.
  • The dates at the beginning of volume 2 of the marriage records also leap around.
  • MY SUMMARY OF GAPS IN SARNONICO MARRIAGE RECORDS: Dec 1589-Dec 1600; Nov 1612-Feb 1618; Dec 1619-March 1627; Aug 1638-Jan 1655.

The DEATH records for Sarnonico begin in the year 1664. While I have not yet found any significant gaps in the death records, the main issue is that the earlier registers do not appear to include infant/child deaths.

Where to View the Records

All of the parish records for Trentino have been digitised by the Archivio Diocesano di Trento, and they are viewable at their research centre in the city of Trento. If you know what you need, you can also obtain copies via email. They cannot do extensive research for you.

The LDS church microfilmed these registers back in the 1980s, but most of their Family History Centres no longer have microfilm readers, as they gradually work on digitising all their films. Digital images are only viewable at their Family History Centres; they and are not available online. As of this writing, the films for Sarnonico and Malosco have not yet been digitised by the LDS, but you should check with them to see if this has since changed.

If you are unable to access the records for these parishes via the means above, you are welcome to contact me via https://trentinogenealogy.com/contact, as my professional research over the years has enabled me to obtain all the records for both parishes.

PART 1: Overview of the Surname ‘Rigos’

Geographic and Linguistic Origins

Traditionally, Rigos ‘family lore’ maintains that they originally came from Spain,[5] [6] and that surname is a patronymic derived from the name ‘Enrique’, equivalent of the present-day Italian name ‘Enrico’ and the English name ‘Henry’. Perhaps the strongest linguistic argument for this claim is that the surname ends in ‘-os’, which is a common suffix in Spanish names and surnames, and one that is not generally seen in names of Italian origin.

Most historians, however, disregard this theory, saying that ‘Rigos’ is derived from the Germanic personal name ‘Rigo’ (a diminutive form of the name ‘Hendrigus’ or ‘Henrico’),[7] [8] which was a reasonably popular name in medieval Trentino. Linguistic historian Aldo Bertoluzza also suggests it could have been derived from another medieval name, i.e., ‘Arrigo’,[9] which he says means ‘extremely wealthy’[10]. He also theorises that it might be a diminutive of the Trentino name ‘Odorico’ or ‘Udalrico’, which itself is a derivation of the Old German name ‘Od-Rik’.[11] Strictly from an historical perceptive, Germanic origins seem more plausible than Spanish, given Trentino’s proximity to German-speaking South Tyrol (AKA the province of Bolzano) and its ancient historical connection with Tirolean Austria. There are also many surnames of Germanic origin in the province.

One thing we know with certainly is that a good half-dozen Rigos households appear in the first volume of Sarnonico baptismal records starting in 1585, with at least 17 Rigos children baptised in the 25-year span from 1585 through 1609. We also know by inference in later records that there were several others born in the 8-year gap in the register between 1609-1616. Occasionally in these early records, we find references to paternal grandfathers, which helps us extend our research by an additional generation.

Using the parish register alone, I have identified at least 10 different Rigos households whose patriarchs would have been born roughly between 1520-1560. The eldest of these were Giovanni and Nicolò, both of whom were probably born around 1520-1525. I know each of these men had at least one son, and I suspect Nicolò may have had at least two sons. The five remaining Rigos patriarchs may well have been related in some way, but whether they were sons, brothers or cousins, I cannot say at this point.

Whenever we see this many households bearing a surname in a small, rural village, it is usually a good indication that the family had already been well-established in that place for many generations. Knowing this, I feel confident in theorising that the Rigos had already been living in Malosco when surnames were first ‘invented’, which was normally around the early to mid-1400s. I feel this makes a strong case against the idea of Spanish origins, as it seems likely the surname was ‘born’ in Malosco.

But whatever the case, if the surname is indeed a patronymic, we currently have no trace evidence of the specific patriarch named ‘Rigo’ or otherwise, from whose name the surname was derived.[12]

Variant Spellings in Early Records

You will find many variant spellings for the surname Rigos in the 1500s and into the early 1600s.

Some authors tell us that the surname was recorded as ‘Righi’ in many documents through the early 1500s,[13] [14] although I have not yet personally seen this version.

In his book of on notaries, priest-historian P. Remo Stenico lists a ‘Cristoforo, son of Ser Nicolò Rigossi of Malosco,’ a notary whose name appears in a document from 1579, [15] which is surely a variant of Rigos. It is significant that Nicolò is referred to as ‘Ser’, which generally indicates some form of nobility.

The variant I have seen most frequently is ‘Rigousi’, sometimes with Latin declensions ‘-is’ or ‘-us’.  Below is the baptismal record, dated 26 June 1601, for Maddalena, daughter of Pietro Rigos (spelled ‘Rigousis’) and his wife Maria.[16] Notice that the godfather is another Rigos, i.e., Giacomo, son of Tommaso Rigos (‘Jacobus, filius Tomei de Rigousis’). Notice also that someone (most likely the priest who made the index for the register) has written the name ‘Rigos’ above the surname, to clarify what ‘Rigousis’ means.

1601 baptismal record for Maddalena Rigos, where surname is spelled 'Rigousis'

Click on image to see it larger

Although these variants appear into the early 1600s, for the most part the surname was already recognised as ‘Rigos’ by the time the Sarnonico baptismal register begins in 1585. The earliest record showing this is dated 6 March 1586, for the baptism of Lucia, daughter of Tommaso Rigos, son of the late Giovanni (the priest does not record her mother’s name).[17]

1586 baptismal record of Lucia Rigos of Malosco, Sarnonico parish register.

Click on image to see it larger

Two Overall Lines

When looking at the Rigos of Malosco, we notice there are basically two overall lines:

one that was ennobled, and one that was not.

The distinction between these two isn’t so apparent in the early parish records, because (for whatever reason) the status of the ‘noble line’ is rarely mentioned in the register until the mid-1700s, despite the fact they had already been ennobled for more than a century.

I find it interesting that, while each of these lines had many branches, I have found no instance of the two lines intersecting at any point in recorded history. This includes backwards as well as forwards in time. In other words:

  • I have not yet found any instance in which a ‘noble’ Rigos married someone from the ‘non-noble’ Rigos line.
  • I have not yet found any ancestral connection between the two lines.

That said, considering the localised nature of this surname, I would imagine the two lines were probably descended from the same patriarch at some point in antiquity. Unfortunately, we have no written documentation to prove or disprove this, and we are unlikely to be able to prove this through Y-DNA testing, as the male lineage of the ‘noble’ line died out more than two centuries ago.

Evolution, Expansion and Extinction

Some authors say the Rigos of Malosco are now extinct, but these writers are referring specifically to the noble ‘Rigos de Rigasburg’ line, and not the Rigos families as a whole. The surname is actually still very much alive.

Looking at the 19th century and later, the Nati in Trentino website shows us that 158 children with this surname were baptised in Trentino between the years 1815-1923.[18] Although the database shows a handful of births in other parishes (Condino, Arco, Cles, and Fondo), in every case I have been able to trace these families back to Malosco. The family of the Rigos child born in Fondo (Francesco Rigos, born 1 January 1851 and died in infancy[19]) even moved back to Malosco after his birth, where seven younger siblings were born.

Having now traced all of these lines, and I can confirm that NONE of these 19th century Rigos are descendants of the ‘noble line’. That line, as we will discuss next, did indeed die out before the end of the 1700s. Thus, if you have the surname Rigos, or if your most recent Rigos ancestor was born after the year 1784, you are definitely descended from one of the ‘non-noble’ Rigos lines.

Article continued below…

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PART 2: The Noble Rigos of Malosco

Early Stemma (Coat-of-Arms)

In 1576, a Giacomo Rigos of Malosco (also written ‘Jacopo’), member of the Archducal Imperial Guard, was granted the right to use a stemma. [20] [21]  This privilege was extended to Giacomo’s brother and cousins. The fact this privilege was not also extended to Giacomo’s son(s) would indicate either that he had no living male heirs, or that they were all of minority age at this time. I have not yet found any evidence he had any children.

Sadly, I have not found the names of said brother and cousins in any of the sources I have consulted. But after tracing the lines that were ennobled later and tracing them backwards, I suspect his brother may have been the father of Romedio Rigos (meaning Romedio would have been the nephew of Giacomo), who was the patriarch of the line that would later be granted imperial nobility in the 1600s.[22]

Their ancient stemma has a silver shield, and a picture of an upright green serpent, wearing a gold crown.[23] [24]

Original stemma granted to Giacomo Rigos of Malosco (Trentino) in 1576.

SIDE NOTE: Apparently, there is a house in Malosco on which you will find the Rigos stemma with a date of 1562,[25] [26] but this date may be for the Vasio family, whose stemma is pictured along with it.

Despite being granted a stemma, the family is not usually referred to as ‘noble’ in the parish records.

Imperial Nobility and Predicate

VARIANTS: Rigos de Rigasburg; Rigos von Rigosburg um Malusk; Rigos von Rigasburg und Malosco; de Rigaspergg.

Two generations later, we find the Rigos had increased significantly in social status. On 10 June 1634, Ferdinando II, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, granted Imperial nobility to Romedio Rigos, ‘Maggiordomo’ (Manager of the household) for Claudia de Medici, and his cousin Giacomo Rigos, Court Chamberlain.[27] [28]

With this diploma, the family were granted the use of the predicate Rigos von Rigasburg und Malosco,’[29] although there are several variant spellings. The ones I see most frequently in the parish records is Rigos ‘de Rigasburg’ or ‘de Rigaspergg.’

With this title, the original serpent on their stemma was replaced by a lizard; in some versions, the lizard is flanked by two gold stars. Over time, other enhancements were added.[30]

Enhances stemma (coat-of-arms) of the Rigos de Rigasburg of Malosco, after 1634.

Challenges of Identification

Although we have dates and names about these noble titles, identifying the specific Rigos men to whom these titles where granted has proved to be somewhat challenging.

So far, I have not been able to pinpoint precisely who Romedio and Giacomo were. The wording of the 1634 document infers that Romedio was the elder of the two cousins. He is probably the Romedio I mentioned earlier, whom I believe may have been the nephew of Giacomo who had been granted the stemma in 1576. Although he would surely have been in his late 70s by this point, the strongest evidence to support this theory is the fact that we can trace later noble lines back to him. Also, the only other males I have found with the name Romedio Rigos were still minors in 1634.

As to Giacomo, the only mention of a Giacomo in this era is in the baptismal record I shared earlier, in which Giacomo, son of Tommaso Rigos (written ‘Rigousis’) appears as a godfather.[31] We can surely exclude the Giacomo who had been granted the stemma in 1576, as he would have been about a century old by 1634; even if had still been alive, he was definitely older than Romedio.

Confirmation of Titles

On 15 May 1666, confirmation of the family’s noble titles, along with enhancements of the stemma, was granted by Emperor Leopoldo I to yet another Romedio Rigos, Chamberlain of Ferdinando III and resident Count Palatino in Graz, Austria. I am fairly certain this Romedio was the son of Nicolò, and the grandson of the Romedio who had been granted the Imperial title in 1634. If my configuration is correct, this Romedio was born in Malosco on 21 October 1622.[32]

This title was again reconfirmed by Prince-Bishop Antonio Thun on 18 May 1743 to Simone Antonio Rigos.[33] Born 19 December 1693,[34] he was the grandson of the abovementioned Romedio (born 1622), and the great-great-grandson of the Romedio who had been first granted the Imperial title.

Baptismal record of the noble Simone Antonio Rigos, born in Malosco 19 December 1693 (Sarnonico parish register).

Click on image to see it larger

We see in the baptismal record that Simone Antonio’s father was Pietro Paolo Rigos. Sometimes referred to as ‘Paolo’, Pietro Paolo was the son of the Romedio Rigos (born 1622) who had been Chamberlain of Ferdinando III and resident Count Palatino in Graz. As Pietro Paolo’s baptismal record is not in the Sarnonico register, I can only assume he was born in Austria. I suspect other Rigos children were not registers in Sarnonico for the same reason. Both Pietro Paolo and his son Simone Antonio lived long lives, reaching about 80 years of age.[35]

Overview of First Five Generations of Imperial Noble Line

Piecing together all of the information about the noble line, we can construct the following pedigree chart for Simone Antonio, back to his great-great-grandfather Romedio who had received the Imperial title in 1634.[36]

5-generation pedigree chart for Simone Antonio Rigos of Malosco, born 1693.

Click on image to see it larger

Looking at the naming pattern, it is possible that the Nicolò ‘Rigossi’, father of the notary Cristoforo (whom I mentioned earlier) was also the father of the elder Romedio. If so, this elder Nicolò would surely have been the brother of the Giacomo who had received the stemma in 1576. However, I am not yet confident enough to make this connection, so I have not included him in this chart.

Extinction of the Noble Line

Simone Antonio (born 1693) had at least 8 children with his wife Anna Rosina. Of these, most were girls, and I have only found evidence that one of sons – another Simone Antonio – reached adulthood and had children of his own.

That younger Simone Antonio was born in Malosco on 23 June 1741.[37] His baptismal record mentions a dizzying array of noble godparents.

Simone Antonio married the noble Elena Francesca Ferrari of Denno; the couple had four daughters and two sons between 1768-1783, but both of sons died in early childhood.

Simone Antonio himself died at the age of 41 on 19 April 1783,[38] one month before the birth of his last daughter, Anna Maria Francesca; you can see he is cited as deceased in her baptismal record, as indicated by the word ‘quondam’ (abbreviated as ‘qm’).[39]

Thus, having no sons to carry on the surname or title, with Simone’s Antonio’s death, we see the extinction of the noble Rigos line.

1783 baptismal record of Anna Maria Francesca Rigos of Malosco, whose father Simone Antonio had died one month earlier.Click on image to see it larger

Continuation of ‘Gene Pool’ via Female Lines

If you look closely at the baptismal record for Simone Antonio’s posthumously born daughter Anna Maria Francesca, you will notice the godfather was the noble Carlo Antonio Pilati of Tassulo. Carlo Antonio was actually Simone Antonio’s brother-in-law, as he married Simone’s sister Maria Cattarina Francesca Rigos.

The marriage took place in Malosco on 20 January 1755. The record tells us that Maria Cattarina Rigos ‘de Rigaspergg’ of Malosco, daughter of (the elder) Simone Antonio, married the noble Carlo Antonio Pilati, son of Doctor Giovanni Nicolò Pilati of Tassullo.[40] The marriage record contains many honourifics, such as ‘Illustris’ (the most illustrious/distinguished), and ‘Excellentissimus’ (the most excellent), which are reserved for persons of Imperial noble rank.

1755 marriage record of the noble Carlo Antonio Pilati of Tassullo and the noble Maria Cattarina Rigos of Malosco (Sarnonico parish register).

Click on image to see it larger

I know at least one living person who is direct male descendant of this couple; but, of course, that person is not a ‘Rigos’ but a Pilati. Still, I show this record to illustrate that although the noble Rigos line has gone ‘extinct’ in terms of the male lineage, their genes live on through the descendants of some of their daughters.

Conclusions and Closing Thoughts

The aim of this article was to give a general overview of the origin and evolution of the Rigos families of Malosco. To conclude, I would like to summarise the key points I feel we can draw from our discussion:

  • Although similar linguistically, the surname ‘Rigos’ has no historical connection to the surname ‘Rigo’, which appears in other parts of the province of Trentino.
  • In Trentino, the surname ‘Rigos’ is unique to Malosco, where it has existed at least since the early 1500s, and probably at least a century earlier.
  • Although local lore maintains the Rigos family came from Spain, there does not currently seem to be any evidence to support this; rather, the surname seems to have been ‘born’ in Malosco, with possibly Germanic linguistic origins.
  • There are two primary Rigos branches: one ennobled, one not ennobled.
  • These two branches do not appear to have intermarried at any point.
  • These two branches are likely to be ancestrally connected, but I have not yet found any evidence to verify that connection.
  • The male line of the ennobled branch, who used the predicate ‘de Rigasburg’, is now extinct; however, there are still living descendants via their daughters.
  • The non-ennobled Rigos line is still thriving in Malosco, and some branches have moved out of Malosco since the beginning of the 20th
  • If you have the surname Rigos, and your ancestors came from Malosco, you are descended from the non-noble line.

I hope you found this article to be informative and interesting. If you know of any information you feel should be added to this research, or if you have Rigos ancestors (or any other Trentino surnames) and would like to explore your family history, please do not hesitate to contact me at https://trentinogenealogy.com/contact.

This article and others on this blog are ‘working drafts’ of research for my ‘in progress’ book entitled Guide to Trentino Surnames for Genealogists and Family Historians, as well as another book I am writing that is comprised of longer studies of specific families, such as this article you have just read. That will still take me a couple of years to complete, but I already have a lot of material written for it. My aim will be to create a book of ‘case studies’ of origin and migration stories, which collectively can show us a bigger picture of the diversity of families who make up our beautiful ancestral province. I haven’t made up a working title for it yet, but I will surely let you know when I have.

In the meantime, if you enjoyed this article, you can help support my research by purchasing it as a 16-page downloadable, printable PDF, complete with clickable table of contents, colour images, charts, footnotes and resource list. Price: $1.50 USD.
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Until next time!

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
3 May 2022

P.S. I am currently taking client bookings for July 2022 and beyond. If you would like to book a time to discuss having me do research for you, I invite you to read my ‘Genealogy Services’ page, and then drop me a line using the Contact form on this site. Then, we can set up a free 30-minute chat to discuss your project.

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 NOTES

[1] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. 2005. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine. Trento: Società di Studi Trentini di Scienze Storiche, page 369.

[2] I have not yet researched the surname Rigo extensively, but I do know it was present in Trambileno (near Rovereto) at least back to the first half of the 1600s, with no indication the family had come from elsewhere.

[3] WEBER, Simone (Sac.). 1992. Le Chiese delle Val di Non Nella Storia e Nell’Arte. Volume II: I Decanati di Cles e di Fondo. Mori (Trento): La Grafica Anastatica, page 166.

[4] CASETTI, Albino (dottore). 1951. Guida Storico – Archivistica del Trento. Trento: Tipografia Editrice Temi (S.R.L.)., page 432.

[5] MARINI, Pacifico. 2004. Malosco e la Sua Gente. Storia, ricordi, immagini di vita. Malosco: Comune di Malosco, page 64.

[6] AUSSERER, Carl. 1985. Le Famiglie Nobili Nelle Valli del Noce: Rapporti con i Vescovi e con i Principi Castelli, rocche e residenze nobili Organizzazione, privilegi, diritti; I Nobili rural. Translated by Giulia Anzilotti Mastrelli from the original German work Der Adel des Nonsberges, published in 1899. Malé: Centro Studi per la Val di Sole, page 118. Ausserer actually says ‘They used to pretend they were from Spain.’

[7] AUSSERER, Carl. Le Famiglie Nobili Nelle Valli del Noce (Der Adel des Nonsberges), page 118.

[8] MARINI, Pacifico. Malosco e la Sua Gente, page 64.

[9] AUSSERER, Carl. Le Famiglie Nobili Nelle Valli del Noce (Der Adel des Nonsberges), page 118.

[10] BERTOLUZZA, Aldo. 1998. Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino. Trento: Società Iniziative Editoriali (S.R.L.), page 295.

[11] BERTOLUZZA, Aldo. Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino, page 295.

[12] MARINI, Pacifico. Malosco e la Sua Gente, page 64.

[13] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine, page 240-241.

[14] MARINI, Pacifico. Malosco e la Sua Gente, page 64.

[15] STENICO, P. Remo. 1999. Notai Che Operarono Nel Trentino dall’Anno 845. Trento: Biblioteca San Bernardino, page 291.

[16] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 138-139.

[17] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 5.

[18] NATI IN TRENTINO. Provincia autonomia di Trento. Database of baptisms registered within the parishes of the Archdiocese of Trento between the years 1815-1923. https://www.natitrentino.mondotrentino.net/ .

[19] Francesco died 31 August 1851. Sarnonico parish records, deaths, volume 5, page 100-111. A later brother named Francesco Costantino also died in infancy.

[20] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine, page 240-241.

[21] AUSSERER, Carl. Le Famiglie Nobili Nelle Valli del Noce (Der Adel des Nonsberges), page 118.

[22] Romedio (likely born around 1550), may have been the son of the aforementioned Nicolò. I based this theory this solely on the fact that he had a son named Nicolò, who was born shortly before the beginning of the parish register.

[23] Black and white image from AUSSERER, Carl. Le Famiglie Nobili Nelle Valli del Noce (Der Adel des Nonsberges), page 118.

[24] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine, page 240-241.

[25] AUSSERER, Carl. Le Famiglie Nobili Nelle Valli del Noce (Der Adel des Nonsberges), page 121 (notes).

[26] MARINI, Pacifico. Malosco e la Sua Gente, page 64.

[27] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine, page 240-241.

[28] A Chamberlain is a person who manages and administers the goods and finances of a community. It usually refers to a role in the papal household, but the authors have used the word ‘di corte’ indicating he was employed by the royal household, not the pope.

[29] AUSSERER, Carl. Le Famiglie Nobili Nelle Valli del Noce (Der Adel des Nonsberges), page 118.

[30] Colour image from MARINI, Pacifico. Malosco e la Sua Gente, page 57.

[31] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 138-139.

[32] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 2, page 58-59.

[33] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine, page 240-241.

[34] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 5, page 166-167.

[35] Simone Antonio died at the age of 79 on 16 May 1773 (Sarnonico parish records, deaths, volume 3, page 74-75). Although I do not have a baptismal record for Pietro Paolo, his death record, dated 5 May 1733 (Sarnonico parish records, deaths, volume 2, no page number), says he was an octogenarian.

[36] I made this chart using Family Tree Maker, drawn from a Rigos ‘master’ tree I constructed while researching this family.

[37] Sarnonico parish records, baptisms, volume 6, page 66-67.

[38] Sarnonico parish records, deaths, volume 3, page 124-125.

[39] Malosco parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 38-39. ‘Quondam’ is a Latin word for ‘deceased’; it is commonly abbreviated as ‘qm’ in documents.

[40] Sarnonico parish records, marriages, volume 3, page 250-251.

The STANCHINA of Trentino. Origins, Nobility, Genealogy.

The Stanchina of Trentino. Origins, Nobility, Genealogy.

Genealogist Lynn Serafinn discusses the medieval origins of the Stanchina family, and how its branches in Livo, Terzolas and Carciato are ancestrally connected.

This article is also available as a 31-page downloadable, printable PDF, complete with clickable table of contents, colour images, charts, maps, footnotes and resource list. Price: $3.25 USD.
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I love researching the history and origins of our Trentino surnames. But sometimes, there is something about a surname that will make me curious to dig more deeply than I normally would. It doesn’t even have to be a surname from my own family tree. More often, it is a surname I stumbled upon when doing research for a client.

Perhaps I found the sound of the surname to be interesting, or perhaps its sound or linguistic origin is unique amongst others in the province. Or perhaps the surname is ‘imported’ either from outside the province, or from a different part of the province. In such cases, the obsessive genealogist in me will want to verify whether different families with that surname are ultimately descended from the same patriarch. I will want to discover the precise point of entry – the who, where and when of the first person who brought that surname to the province, or to that village.

Lastly, I am often drawn to study families who have been ennobled. This is not because I am attracted by noble titles, but because I know I will be more likely to find their names in legal documents that pre-date the beginning of the parish registers. Generally, I’m not so interested in the very highest-ranking nobles, such as the Counts of Tyrol. Firstly, many volumes have already been written about the Counts of Tyrol by other historians; secondly, while many of my clients have noble ancestors, I’ve yet to have a client descended from a Count (at least not ‘legitimately’).

The surname STANCHINA meets many of these criteria. It has an unusual sound, and it is not closely similar to most other Trentino surnames.[1] Although the surname appears to have originated within the province, many branches arose as a result of migration over the centuries, making it an intriguing genealogical puzzle to piece together. And finally, many lines were considered nobility, some attaining the rank of Knights of the Holy Roman Empire. Lastly, a few of my clients have ancestors with this surname, meaning I had the added motivation to share a history of their ancestors with them, and show them how they are all ‘cousins’, even if only distantly.

But doing such a study does not come without its challenges. Surnames as we know them did not really exist before around the beginning of the 1400s (and early surnames were often somewhat ‘fluid’), and parish records did not begin until the latter half of the 1500s. Thus, weaving your way back in time to find the precise origin of a particular surname is often difficult, and may not always yield the answers you seek.

The Aims of this Article, and the Sources Used

In this article, I will aim to identify the origins of the Stanchina lineage, and to illustrate how various branches of the family migrated and expanded over the centuries.

As the parish registers will only come into play from the late 1500s (and, in some cases, early 1600s), any information about their more ancient history has been gleaned mainly from surviving legal parchments, also called ‘pergamene’ (singular = ‘pergamena’). Most of the pergamene I have cited were taken from in the 3-volume work entitled Inventari e Regesti degli Archivi Parrocchiali della Val di Sole by Giovanni Ciccolini. Others were attained from other published inventories or from the Archivi Storici del Trento database. Most of the information about nobility has been gathered from published books that refer to diplomas and lists held in the State Archives in Trento or Innsbruck. You will find all endnotes and resources at the end of the article.

All genealogical charts in this article were made by me, drawn from a ‘Stanchina Master Tree’ I have constructed using Family Tree Maker software. This tree is a composite of all research I have done independently using the sources mentioned above, with some items drawn from writings of other published histories.

Geographic Origins and Expansion of the Stanchina

In most books published before 2010 or so, you will read that that Stanchina were originally from Terzolas in Val di Sole.[2] [3] [4] [5] However, more recent research has convincingly demonstrated that the family originally came from (or at least lived in) Tassullo in Val di Non, and then moved to Livo, which lies at the junction between Val di Non and Val di Sole. From Livo, a branch of the family relocated to settle in Terzolas.[6] [7] The most recent branch is that of Carciato (also in Val di Sole), which began when a member of the Terzolas line relocated there in the 18th century. Throughout this article, we will be examining all of these branches, with an aim of reconstructing a genealogical link between them.

To get a feeling for what the migration pattern looked like, here is a street map starting in Tassullo to the southeast, then looping northward to Livo, then southwest towards Terzolas, and finally to Carciato:

MAP_Tassullo-Livo-Terzolas-Carciato

IMAGE: Street map from Google Maps showing of journey (on foot) from Tassullo, to Livo, Terzolas, and Carciato. Click image to see it larger.

What this type of map does not show, however, is why this journey was shaped so peculiarly. When we look at the same journey on a map showing the terrain, we can see it ‘hugs’ the outline of mountainous, densely forested, and essentially uninhabitable area. Even if you were driving in a car today, you would still need to made this somewhat zig-zagged, inverted U-shaped journey:

Terrain map from Google Maps showing of journey (by car) from Tassullo, to Livo, Terzolas, and Carciato.

IMAGE: Terrain map from Google Maps showing of journey (by car) from Tassullo, to Livo, Terzolas, and Carciato. Click image to see it larger.

Unconvincing Linguistic theories

Spelling variants: Stanckhini; Staigkin; Stanken; Staiken; Stanghin.

Nobility variants: Stanchina von Panienthurm um Leiffenburg; Stanchina Panianthurn zu Leiffenburg; Stanchina de Torre de Pegnana.

The linguistic origins of a surname can often tell us much about the history of the family. But in the case of the Stanchina, many of the published theories about its linguistic are unconvincing, if not altogether incorrect.

Bertoluzza[8] proposes the surname may be derived from the eastern European name ‘Stanislav’. Alternatively, both he and Leonardi[9] suggest it is a patronymic derived from the medieval personal name ‘Stancario’, which has been found in documents as early as 973. But these linguistic theories do not stand up against what we now know about the actual history of the Stanchina family in Trentino. If the surname were a patronymic, then you would find a patriarch with that personal name who lived just before the surname was adopted. As we will see shortly, there is no ‘Stancario’ to be found among the ancestors of the man we now know as the ‘first’ Stanchina in Tassullo.

Another possibility is that Stanchina is a toponymic surname, i.e., one derived from the name of a place associated with the founding family. Bertoluzza comments there once was a locality known as ‘Stanchini’, but he does not say where it was,[10] and none of my own investigations led me to information on a place with this name. Moreover, in none of the early documentation do we find the family mentioned in connection with a place with a name resembling Stanchina.

As the word does not resemble an occupation, the last possibility is that it was a soprannome, used as a nickname describing Nicolò’s personal attributes. In modern Italian, the word ‘stanca’ is the feminine form of and adjective meaning ‘tired’, and the diminutive ‘stanchina’ might be interpreted as ‘tired little girl’, which of course makes no sense at all. Leonardi says the word ‘stancario’ refers to a lance or a spear,[11] but connecting it to the surname seems a bit of a stretch to me.

Thus, for now, I feel the linguistic origins of the surname must remain a mystery. But happily, we know much more about the family’s activities in this late medieval era.

The First ‘Stanchina’ and His Possible Ancestry

According to Guelfi, early forms of the surname – Stankin, Stainken, Stangehin – appear in documents from the 1300s.[12] Ausserer says the same, but lists completely different variant spellings – Staubin, Staickin, Stangkin.[13] However, neither author cites his sources, or tell us where the family lived, or whether these examples are from the early, middle or latter part of the century. So, without more information, I cannot comment or assess their relevance.

We do have some concrete documentary evidence of the surname appearing in the early 1400s, however. In a legal agreement dated 28 April 1423, held in the Thun Archives in Castelfondo, we find amongst the witnesses to the transaction a ‘Nicolò called “Stanchina”, son of Ser Belvesino di Tassullo, now living in Livo’.[14] [15] This is, to the best of my knowledge, the earliest surviving document containing the surname (or at least the designation) ‘Stanchina’. As we find out more about this Nicolò and his descendants, it become apparent that he was the patriarch of all the Stanchina branches that would eventually flourish in Livo, Terzolas and Carciato, and other places in the province.

In his list of Trentino notaries, P. Remo Stenico mentions a as ‘Belvesino (‘Belvesinus’), son of the late Guglielmo of Tassullo’, who appears in a document dated 1391.[16] Historian Paolo Odorizzi believes this to be the previously-mentioned Belvesino of Tassullo, who was the father of Nicolò Stanchina.[17] As the surname was not yet in use, this is admittedly somewhat speculative, but I am inclined to agree with Odorizzi that Belvesino, the father of Nicolò, and Belvesino, son of Guglielmo, are one and the same person. If that is true, then it takes us back one more generation, to Guglielmo of Tassullo. From this point, Odorizzi tells us of a ‘Ser Guglielmo, notary, son of Ser Belvesino of Tassullo’, who is named as a witness in a notary document dated 11 March 1374.[18]

Based on these documents (and others cited by Odorizzi), we can construct a 4-generation tree, outlining the paternal lineage of Nicolò Stanchina of Tassullo back to around the year 1300:

4-generation chart, ancestors of Nicolo' Stanchina of Tassullo, back to about 1300.

Possible Links to the Thun Family?

To readers who may be familiar with the history of medieval Trentino, the name ‘Belvesino’ may have already caught your attention. Castel Thun, the formidable and majestic residence of the noble Counts of Thun (which, today, is just as formidable a museum), was originally called ‘Castel Belvesino’. In the High Middle Ages, before surnames were commonly in use, many people (including nobility) would be referred to by the name of their place of residence. Thus, as ‘Belvesino’ is such an uncommon name, and one directly associated with the Counts of Thun, it would not be too far-fetched to imagine he had some familial connection to the Thun family. Moreover, it is significant that we see the title ‘Ser’ recurring in this line, which is an honourific generally reserved for nobility.

This is precisely the theory by Paolo Odorizzi in his book Val di Non e i Suoi Misteri, wherein he proposes that Belvesino (the elder) was a son of an illegitimate son (Corrado, called ‘Buscacio’) in the noble family of Castel Belvesino, who would later be known as ‘Thun’. As his argument is very complex, and as I have not personally reviewed the documents from which has sourced the information, I refer the reader to pages 461-484 of that book for further consideration.[19]

Investiture at Mostizzolo

We return now to Nicolò Stanchina and move forward in time to see how the family evolved over the coming centuries.

In 1435, the Prince-Bishop of Trento Alessandro di Mazovia (reigned 1423-1444), invested Nicolò Stanchina with the Office of Massaro in the fief (‘feudo’) of Mostizzolo.[20] This fief intitled Nicolò to the use of all the fields, pastures, vineyards, etc., in that property, and also to a portion of the taxes collected from the same. Nicolò’s role as debt collector is evident from a parchment in the Stanchina family archives in Livo dated 13 June 1442, in which Cardinal Alessandro tasks Nicolò with the job of obtaining long overdue payments in the area.[21]

Aside from the income made from working the lands, and the profits the Stanchina were permitted to draw from taxes, the investiture at Mostizzolo had other assets that can only be understood by looking at where it is located:

Terrain map from Google Maps showing location of Mostizzolo

IMAGE: Terrain map from Google Maps showing location of Mostizzolo. Click on image to see it larger.

The location of Mostizzolo was highly desirable, as it is positioned at the ‘apex’ of that inverted U-shaped journey we saw in the earlier maps, precisely at the junction between Val di Sole (running to the southwest) and Val di Non (to the south and east, on both sides of Lago di Santa Giustina). This made Mostizzolo an important crossing point for trade between the two valleys. Its geographical position also made it an important military stronghold; in fact, it was the site of a fortress, which had stood there since the 1100s. Thus, being granted this investiture was no small stroke of fortune for the Stanchina.

The Stanchinas’ feudal privileges at Mostizzolo were unfortunately short-lived, however, as the next Prince-Bishop (Giorgio de Hack) transferred the fief of Mostizzolo to Vigilio of the Counts of Thun in 1447. The Thun, who had been keen to possess this valuable military and economic strategic point for themselves, retained control over Mostizzolo until the Napoleonic invasions in 1789.[22]

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The Five Sons of Ser Nicolò of Livo

In 1456, Ser Nicolò (who had by now acquired citizenship of Livo), purchased two houses in Pedergnana (Val di Rabbi), but was deceased by January 1458, leaving behind 5 sons: Antonio, Belvesino, Leonardo, Ottone and Pietro, who were all still living in their paternal home in Livo.[23]

Of these, Belvesino may have died soon after, as we have no further information about him.

Pietro Stanchina, who stayed in Livo, practiced the profession of a notary at least between the years of 1458-1462,[24] but absence of other records indicates he may have died relatively young (under 40), leaving behind at least one son (Baldassare), whom we find alive in 1496. None of the sources I have consulted mention whether Baldassare had sons who carried on the family name.

Leonardo, who also remained in his ancestral home of Livo, is the founding father of the Stanchina family of LIVO, as all of those lines can be traced back to him.

Antonio left Livo to establish his residence in Terzolas and became the founding father of the Stanchina line of TERZOLAS. Again, all the Stanchina of Terzolas can be traced back to him. In the early 1700s, a branch from this line established itself in Carciato, making him the ancestral patriarch for that line as well.

Finally, we look at Ottone Stanchina, who appears to have been the longest lived of the five brothers. By 1470, he had transferred to the parish of Malé, which then included the areas of Samoclevo and Terzolas.[25] HIs aristocratic career was long and illustrious. In a land sale agreement, in Terzolas, dated 23 March 1491, we learn that ‘Ser’ Ottone, son of ‘Ser’ Nicolò Stanchina of Livo was Captain of Castel Rocca in Samoclevo, under the authority of the noble Giacomo Thun.[26] We see him performing a similar transaction on behalf of Antonio Thun on 3 December 1493.[27]

Sometime before 27 March 1496, Ottone passed away, as the noble Pangrazio Spaur then passes the investiture of Castel Rocca to Bartolomeo Stanchina, son of Ottone’s late brother Antonio. [28] This document stays Ottone had been granted the investiture on 15 December 1491, although we know from the other documents already cited that he was already Captain of Castel Rocca by March 1491 (so I can only presume the document from December 1491 was some kind of update on his previous investiture).

This 1496 investiture is particularly rich in genealogical information. It tells us that, in 1491, Ottone had obtained the investiture in 1491 not only for himself, but also on behalf of his nephews – the sons of his deceased brothers, Pietro and Leonardo. While we are told that Pietro’s son was named Baldassare, the names of Leonardo’s sons are not mentioned (although it says ‘brothers’, indicating there was more than one), possibly because they were still children.[29] The document further tells us that now, in 1496, Bartolomeo Stanchina is appealing for the investiture on his own behalf, as well on the behalf of the same Baldassare (son of the late Pietro) and ‘the Stanchina brothers’ (sons of the late Leonardo) granted the investiture in 1491, as well as Pietro, son of the late Ottone.[30] This is the only mention of Ottone’s son Pietro I have found in any record, and I have no further information about it.

The late Ottone’s name appears in a later document from 1510, which mentioned his ‘biological’ son, Gregorio, who was living in Caldes.[31] The terms ‘biological son’ infers Gregorio may have been illegitimate; indeed, the fact that he was not represented by Bartolomeo Stanchina in the 1496 investiture document also seems to indicate he was not considered to be a legitimate heir.

Overview of Early Stanchina Generations

To summarise what we’ve just discussed, and before moving on to look at the development of the Stanchina lines in Livo, Terzolas and Carciato, here is a genealogical chart showing the first five generations of Stanchina men known to be descended from Belvesino of Tassullo:

Descendant Chart for Belvesino of Tassullo (5 generations)

Click on the image to see it larger.

I made this chart after constructing a tree in Family Tree Maker, inserting estimated dates of births, marriages and deaths, using the compiled information I have gathered so far.

In green, I have highlighted Leonardo, the ‘Founding Father of the Livo Stanchina’, and his sons.

In purple, I have highlighted Antonio, the ‘Founding Father of the Terzolas Stanchina’, and his sons, who is also the patriarch of the Carciato line.

Stanchina of Livo (1510-1600)

We start our discussion on the specific branches of the Stanchina by looking at the family that remained in Livo, descended from Leonardo (son of ‘Ser Nicolò), the ‘founding father’ of the Livo line.

As the baptismal and marriage records for Livo do not begin until the 1570s, we must again draw upon notary parchments for our information about the earlier generations of this family. We already learned from the investiture documents of 1491 and 1496 that ‘Ser Leonardo’, then deceased, had more than one son. My research has uncovered only two – Nicolò and Antonio – who were alive after those dates.

Nicolò and Antonio, Sons of Leonardo

Nicolò’s name is especially prominent in the pergamene, as he had a long career as a notary at least between the years 1510–1555,[32] and his signature appears in numerous legal documents. While many of his signatures say he was ‘son of the late Ser Leonardo Stanchina’, some also specify that he was also the grandson of ‘Ser Nicolò’.[33] [34] As we can assume he was a legal adult (25 years or older) when he began his practice, we can estimate he was born no later than 1485, and that he was probably in his 70s when he passed away (Livo death records do not begin until 1658).

The earliest document in which I have found a reference to Antonio is a land sale agreement drafted on 2 January 1513, where ‘Antonio Stanchina, son of the late ser Leonardo Stanchina’ is cited as witness.[35] Being a legal witness most likely means he was then of majority age (25 years or older), thus born no later than 1487.

We can conclude from this that both Nicolò and Antonio were the ‘brothers’ referred to in the investiture document of 1491, although there may have been other siblings for whom we have no evidence.

Rural Nobility (1529)

After the so-called ‘Guerra Rustica’ (Rustic War) of 1525, many families in Val di Non and Vale di Sole who remained loyal to the Prince-Bishop, who was then Cardinal Bernardo Cles, were granted a title of ‘rural nobility’ in 1529. We are fortunate to know many (if not most) of these names, as the notary Giuseppe Sandris of Nanno[36] compiled them into a Catalogue of Rural Nobility of Valli di Non and Sole in 1529 (albeit many entries are somewhat vague). Under the listing for rural nobility in Livo, as transcribed by Guelfi, we find both brothers:

Antonio Stanchina; ser Stanchina, notaio [37] [38]

The word ‘notaio’ means ‘notary’; although Nicolò is not mentioned by name, he is the only Stanchina notary living in Livo in this era, and it definitely refers to him.

MORE READING:   Was One of Your Trentino Ancestors a Notary?

The Descendants of Giovanni, son of Nicolò

I have found no evidence of descendants for Antonio. We know, however, that the notary Nicolò had at least one son, namely Giovanni, who is cited as the ‘son of the late Nicolò Stanchina di Livo’ when he is a witness at the drafting of a land sale agreement recorded on 31 March 1572.[39]

Giovanni had at least three sons (Nicolò, Antonio and Matteo) and a daughter (Anna), who were all born before the beginning of the Livo parish records, but whose names and connection to their father are documented in pergamene, and in later baptismal or marriage records for their children. His sons Antonio and Matteo were especially prolific, both having no fewer than 10 children each between about 1577 and 1609 (albeit many died in infancy/childhood). [40]

Although we know Antonio had a son named Nicolò who was born before the parish records begin in 1579, the first recorded child for him and his wife Pasqua (or for any Stanchina in Livo, for that fact) is dated 29 Sept 1581, for a daughter named Anna.[41] Note also that Anna’s godmother was Maria, the wife of Antonio’s brother, Matteo:

1581 baptismal record for Anna Stanchina, daughter of Antonio Stanchina of Livo and his wife Pasqua.

Click on image to see it larger.

As Antonio was already married before the beginning of the parish records, we do not know the surname of his wife, Pasqua. But we do know that on 19 January 1579, Matteo married Maria Aliprandini, a young daughter of the notary Aliprando Aliprandini of Preghena.[42] Based in Preghena, the Aliprandini were another affluent, noble family, renowned for producing dozens of notaries throughout the centuries.[43] The closeness of these two families is evidenced by a document dated 28 July 1583, in which ‘Matteo, son of the late Giovanni Stanchina, and the heirs of Aliprando Aliprandini of Preghena’ are jointly invested with the use of several fields and pasturelands.[44] There are similar examples connecting these two families in later generations.

Here we begin to see how, through intermarriage, the Stanchina would ultimately establish a strong network of family (and business) connections not just with the Aliprandini, but also with other many influential and aristocratic families, in the centuries to come.[45]

Following tradition, Matteo and Maria named their first son after Matteo’s father, Giovanni, and their second son after Maria’s father, Aliprando. After that Aliprando apparently died in infancy, they had another son named Aliprando in 1598.[46] This is the first time we find a Stanchina with the name Aliprando, but from this point forward, we will find this name recurring numerous times amongst Aliprando’s descendants, at least into the mid-1700s, an enduring reminder of their connection to the Aliprandini family in the past.

Knighthood – The Stanchina de Leiffenburg (1624-1661)

We know from many sources that, in 1624, the Stanchina of Livo were elevated to the grade of Knights of the Holy Roman Empire (Cavalieri del S.R.I.), granting them the right to use the predicate ‘de Leiffenburg’ (sometimes ‘von’ is used instead of ‘de’), which is German for ‘Castel Livo’. [47] [48] [49] [50]

The original stemma (coat-of-arms) awarded to the Stanchina in 1624 was a blue shield with a vertical band of gold.[51] [52] Many variations of this original stemma appear in books, the primary difference being the contents of the crest adorning the shied. One key element that appears in all versions of the crest is the pair of blue and gold buffalo horns in the middle. Rauzi comments that the Stanchina ‘boasted’ that they had essentially the same stemma as that of the Counts of Thun, the only difference being the additional elements in the crest.[53] Whether this is merely coincidence or intentional, I cannot say. If intentional, it could possibly indicating an ancestral connection between the two families, as suggested by Odorizzi; alternatively, it could simply have been an expression of a desire to be associated with the Lords of Thun. For comparison, here are two depictions of the Stanchina stemma from 1624, followed by one version of the stemma for the Thun von Hohenstein. The similarity is certainly evident.

1624 stemma of the Stanchina de Leiffenburg, as depicted by Tabarelli de Fatis and Borrelli

ABOVE: 1624 stemma of the Stanchina de Leiffenburg, as depicted by Tabarelli de Fatis and Borrelli. [54]

1624 stemma of the Stanchina de Leiffenburg, as depicted by Rauzi

ABOVE: A more ornate version of the 1624 stemma of the Stanchina de Leiffenburg, as depicted by Rauzi
. [55]

Stemma of Thun von Hohenstein, as depicted by Tabarelli de Fatis and Borrelli

ABOVE: Stemma of Thun von Hohenstein, as depicted by Tabarelli de Fatis and Borrelli
. [56]

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Who Exactly Was Knighted?

One thing I find curious (and slightly frustrating) is that none of the sources I have consulted specify the name of the man or men upon whom the title was granted. Unfortunately, the Livo death records do not begin until 1658, so the only way we can determine who was still alive in 1624 is by cross-referencing the parish registers and the scattered parchments. Having done this, I can attest that there were very few adult Stanchina men who were (or may have been) alive in 1624.

One is the afore-mentioned Aliprando Stanchina. We know he died sometime between September 1639 and May 1640, because he is cited as deceased in the baptismal record of his daughter Marina on 24 May 1640.[57] He would have been 26 years old and already a head of a household in 1624. Given these facts, alone with the apparent social advancement and additional noble titles we see later amongst his descendants, he was certainly one recipient of this imperial title.

We know that all the Stanchina men from the generations before his were already deceased (except perhaps his father Matteo[58]), and we know at least three of Aliprando’s first cousins (sons of his uncle Nicolò) were alive in 1624, but they all would have been minors at the time. His nephew Antonio (son of his brother Bernardino) was also still alive, as we see his name in a later document when he is a young man.

To make an educated guess on who exactly had been granted this the diploma of knighthood, let us consider the information from a parchment dated 19 April 1661 in the Stanchina Archives in Livo.[59] This document tells us that on 12 January of the previous year (1660), four Stanchina men had been granted the use of (and profit from) a house and many feudal lands by the Count Prospero Francesco of Spaur, who had since passed away. In this document, his successor Count Giovanni Antonio of Spaur is renewing the investiture, upon which the same four Stanchina men swear an oath of loyalty to their new ‘Lord’.

What makes this document so informative is that is gives the name and paternity of each of these Stanchina men, namely:

  • Ser Antonio, son of the late Bernardino Stanchina
  • Brothers Matteo and Antonio, sons of the late Aliprando Stanchina
  • Nicolò, son of the late Leonardo Stanchina

I made this chart to illustrate how all of these men were related:

DESCENDANTS - Giovanni Stanchina of Livo (4 generations)

Click on chart to see it larger.

To make the chart easy to read, I have removed all the mothers and siblings, leaving only the direct male lineage of the four men who were granted the investiture. I have highlighted these four men in orange, with their paternal lines in purple and green, respectively. As per the usual protocol, the four men are listed in the document in order of descending age, starting with the eldest Antonio, son of Bernardino, who was born in 1619.

We already know from the document that Matteo and the younger Antonio (born 1629) were brothers, and sons of the late Aliprando. But here we can clearly see that the elder Antonio was their first cousin, as he was the son of their father’s brother.

The youngest of the four men was Nicolò, son of Leonardo, born in 1640. We can see from this chart that Nicolò’s father Leonardo was the 2nd cousin of the other three men, as they were all great-grandsons of Giovanni Stanchina. This means Nicolò was the 2nd cousin 1X removed of the other three men, as he was born in the subsequent generation.

In my view, I cannot imagine such a significant investiture would have been granted to so many members of this extended family if they were not ALL considered to be of high noble rank. For this reason, I suspect the 1624 Knighthood had been granted either to the ‘heirs of Giovanni Stanchina’, or perhaps (as they would have been more recent in people’s memory) to ‘the heirs of brothers Antonio and Matteo Stanchina’.

Stanchina de Turri de Pegnana (1723)

On 20 April 1723, Prince-Bishop Gian Michele Spaur granted episcopal nobility to Matteo Alessandro Stanchina, granting him the right to use the predicate ‘de Turri de Pegnana’, also see written ‘Torre Pegnana’. [60] [61] The word ‘torre’ means ‘tower’ and ‘Pegnana’ may be a contraction of the place name ‘Pedergnana’ in Val di Rabbi[62], where the Stanchina had owned property since the mid-1400s.

Born in Livo on 11 April 1691, Matteo Alessandro was the son of the noble dominus Aliprando Stanchina of Livo, and his wife Lucia.[63] He was his parents’ eighth child, but their only son, having been born after seven elder sisters.

1691 baptismal record for the noble Matteo Alessandro Stanchina of Livo.

Click on image to see it larger.

Matteo Alessandro’s Paternal Ancestry

Perhaps, seeing the name ‘Aliprando’ for Matteo Alessandro’s father, you may have already suspected that he was descended from the Aliprando Stanchina de Leiffenburg (grandson of Aliprando Aliprandini), who was knighted in 1624. If so, you would be correct. Below is a chart showing Matteo Alessandro’s paternal ancestral line, with the addition of his 3X great-grandfather Aliprando Aliprandini at the top.[64] Notice how the names ‘Matteo’ and ‘Aliprando’ recur in alternating generations:

Click on image to see it larger.

Due to an unfortunate 80-year gap in the Livo marriage records (1650-1730), I do not currently know anything about Matteo Alessandro’s mother or wife other than their first names.

We do see that his great-grandmother was Agata Sparapani, from the renowned Sparapani family of Preghena who, much like the Stanchina, produced many notaries and had various noble titles throughout centuries.

We ‘met’ his grandfather Matteo earlier, as he was one of the four men who had be granted the investitures of 1660 and 1661. While I know little more about the family of Matteo’s wife Agnese Tomasi (other than her parents’ names), what struck me as most unusual about this couple is that Matteo Stanchina was not quite 15 years old[65] when he married Agnese Tomasi on 26 August 1640.[66] Moreover, Agnese was nearly 9 years his senior, which makes this even more unusual.[67] I have quadruple checked the records and this is no error.

We note, however, that their first child, Aliprando (who would later become the father of Matteo Alessandro), was not born until 21 November 1642, when Matteo would have just turned 18 years old. This does make me suspect that the marriage may have been arranged to create some sort of profitable alliance between the two families, but that the actual consummation of the marriage had been delayed until Matteo was closer to a more ‘acceptable’ marriage age. I have seen other examples of this kind of arrangement, but they usually involve a very young bride (but no younger than 15), rather than a very young groom. The gaps in their ages could also explain why there were no children born after 1656, when Agnese was nearly 40 years old, despite the fact both of them died well after that date.[68] [69]

Another Knighthood. Another Predicate (1764)

According to don Luigi Conter, the Stanchina families continued to increase in both wealth and status throughout the 1700s, while the affluence of several other ancient Livo families – such as the Aliprandini and Anselmi – was steadily declining. [70]

One testament to their increasing influence was the award of yet another knighthood. On 16 January 1764, the three eldest sons Matteo Alessandro – namely Aliprando Michele (born 1724), Giovanni Andrea (born 1726) and Lorenzo Nicolò (born 1728) – were themselves elevated to the rank of Knight, this time being granted the predicate ‘von Panianthurn zu Leiffenburg’, which means ‘of Torre Pegnana e Castel Livo,’[71] thus combining the previous predicates into one. Again, there are many variant spellings for this predicate, depending on whether you are reading German or Italian sources; moreover, Italian sources will always say ‘de’ instead of ‘von’, ‘zu’ or ‘um’). Tabarelli de Fatis and Borelli express that the Stanchina surname in these documents ‘suffered’ many variant spellings (including Staigkin, Stanken, Staiken and Stanghin), undoubtedly due to the language difference between the Stanchina and their German-speaking superiors.[72]

Tabarelli de Fatis and Borelli also tell us that Aliprando Michele was a lawyer in Graz (Austria), and Giovanni Andrea was a Controller of the War Office in Milan. [73] The fact that their occupations took them outside the province is surely why there appear to be no children born to these two men in Livo. Although these same authors say nothing more about Lorenzo Nicolò, my own research has shown that he married the noble lady Teresa Cazzuffi of Trento sometime before 1769, and the couple had at least five children, all born in Livo. Below is this baptismal record for one of their sons, Aldobrando Michele, born 13 February 1778. Two godfathers are listed for the child, the second of whom is Lorenzo Nicolò’s brother Aliprando Michele, who is described as ‘Consiliario Graecansi’, which means ‘Advisor of Graz’.[74]

1778 baptismal record for the noble Aldobrando Michele Stanchina of Livo.

Click on image to see it larger.

It is likely the child Aldobrando Michele was named after his uncle/godfather, as it appears Aliprando was known as Aldobrando when he lived in Austria, as it is the equivalent name in German.

Eighteenth-century historian and Franciscan priest Giangrisostomo Tovazzi cites a very interesting and somewhat revealing letter, dated June 1775, addressed to ‘the most illustrious Signor Aldobrando Stanchina de Turri Pegnana zu Leiffendorff’ (i.e., Aliprando Michele), who is referred to as ‘Imperial Judge (Giudice Cesareo Regio) and President (or Dean) of the Provincial Civil Court of Trieste’. [75]

Tovazzi tells us this letter was written by Stanchina’s nephew, a young Franciscan monk Lorenzo Zini of Cavareno. Lorenzo (whom Tovazzi refers to as ‘our brother’ as they were from the same religious order), would have been the son of his sister Anna Claudia, who marriage the noble Giovanni Battista Zini in 1747.[76] As Tovazzi would have been Lorenzo Zini’s contemporary, I presume he was allowed to see the letter before it was sent.

Perhaps to honour his Brother Lorenzo’s privacy, Tovazzi does not transcribe the letter the contents of the letter; rather, he inserts his own rather scathing opinion:

(Aldobrando) Stanchina is a native of Livo, whose father was a very wealthy man, though not very civil, whose name was Alessandro. For his eulogy at his funeral, the Archpriest Manfroni of Cles [sic] proposed the theme: ‘The rich man is dead, and he was buried in hell.’[77]

Clearly, neither Father Manfroni nor Tovazzi had a very high opinion of Lorenzo Zini’s grandfather, the noble Matteo Alessandro Stanchina!

Just to clarify, Tovazzi actually says Archpriest Manfroni was from Cles. He was, rather, Archpriest Antonio Dionisio Manfroni from Caldes (born 12 January 1702).[78] He served as the parroco of Livo for 35 years, so he must have known the Stanchina very well. He died at the age of 77, on 12 September 1778, a few years after this letter was written.[79]

Tovazzi closes his comments by telling us that in the year 1788, Aldobrando Stanchina is said to have offered 127 thousand florins to obtain the jurisdiction of Königsberg (which he spells ‘Chinigspergensi’), which included the villages of Lavis, Pressano, Nave, San Michele and Faedo, Giovo, Lisignago, Cembra, Faver and Valda, and constituted a district for the administration of criminal and civil justice. [80]

Changes to the Family Stemma

With the new knighthood granted in 1764, the family stemma went through several changes. The first was the addition of a red cross, set at an angle, placed on the centre of the gold banner:

1764 stemma of the Stanchina von Panianthurn zu Leiffenburg, Tiroler Landesmuseen, Innbruck

ABOVE: 1764 stemma of the Stanchina von Panianthurn zu Leiffenburg, Tiroler Landesmuseen, Innbruck. [81] [82]

The crest above the shield was also embellished. Before 1764, it had been comprised of two blue buffalo horns in the centre, with black birdwings to either side, and a gold bar and band on the outer border. After 1764, towers were added in front of the bird wings, and a raised arm holding a silver sword was placed at the top between the buffalo horns:

1764 stemma of the Stanchina ‘von Panienthurm um Leiffenburg’, as depicted by Leonardi

ABOVE: 1764 stemma of the Stanchina ‘von Panienthurm um Leiffenburg’, as depicted by Leonardi.[83]

Marriages With Other Noble Families

One thing that is striking as we watch the Livo Stanchina throughout the centuries is how they married members of many other noble families – often high-ranking ones – from various parts of the province. Some of those families include:

ALIPRANDINI. You may recall this surname we looked at the descendants of Matteo Stanchina of Livo and Maria Aliprandini (daughter of Aliprando) of Preghena, who married on 19 January 1579.[84] The Aliprandini are a very old and influential noble family from Preghena, who produced many notaries and many priests. Like the Stanchina, a branch would be granted knighthood in the 1700s.

CAPOLINI. About 1807, Matteo Alessandro Stanchina (born 22 December 1764, grandson of the knighted Matteo Alessandro), married the noble Teresa Capolini of Riva del Garda. [85] Teresa’s father was Filippo Capolini de Varonenbach um Brionberg, who had been elevated to the rank of Count of the Holy Roman Empire on 25 August 1790.[86]

MAFFEI. On 25 November 1767, Giovanni Antonio Stanchina (born in Livo 9 December 1721)[87] married the noble Anna ‘Isabella’ Maffei of Romallo.[88] Isabella’s mother was also high nobility, namely Teresa Elisabetta Clara Wielandt from Castelfondo.

SPARAPANI. On 7 February 1622, Aliprando Stanchina (bone 13 August 1598) married Agata Sparapani.[89] I suspect (but am not certain) that Agata came from one of the many ennobled lines in the Sparapani family. We do know that the Sparapani in general were socially affluent family, producing many notaries, with one branch being knighted in 1740.

TORRESANI. While I have not been able to find a marriage record for this couple, all the baptismal records of the children for Antonio Stanchina (born 8 December 1619)[90] and his wife Cattarina Torresani state that she herself is nobility.

ZINI. On 7 Feb 1747, Anna Claudia Stanchina (born 4 August 1730, daughter of Matteo Alessandro) married the noble Giovanni Battista Zini of Cavareno. [91]

I am certain we would see many more such ‘alliances’ in the Stanchina lineage if there were not an unfortunate 80-year gap in the marriage records for Livo. Even so, this gives us an idea of how noble families over the centuries sought to strengthen their wealth and power by forming close ties with other families of similar social influence.

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Stanchina of Terzolas (1478-1529)

In their book Memorie di Terzolas, authors Tiziani Ciccolini and Udalrico Fantelli comment that information about the Stanchina of Terzolas is mainly to be in the ‘occasional notes in the matricular registry of the parish archives of Terzolas’, as well as ‘in the margin notes of curate don Pietro Silvestri,’ a renowned expert in the history of his homeland. They tell us also that don Pietro constructed a family tree the early Stanchina, but they also warn us that this tree contains ‘serious gaps’ and inaccuracies during the period prior to the beginning of the parish registers (which, for Malé, where the Terzolas records were kept at that time, was 1553 for baptisms, and considerably later for marriages and death records). [92]

Thus, without drawing up those notes of don Pietro (which I don’t have at my disposal anyway), let us return to the available pergamene and other references, with an aim of piecing together an early history of the Stanchina in the village of Terzolas.

Recalling our earlier discussion on the five sons of Ser Nicolò Stanchina of Livo, we learned that his son Antonio Stanchina became the founding father of the Terzolas line. Born in Livo (most likely sometime around 1425), we have documentation placing him and his family in Terzolas by 1478.[93] [94]

We also know Antonio had at least four sons – Bartolomeo, Nicolò, Guglielmo and Michele. As all of these sons would have been born well before 1478, I cannot say with certainty whether they were born in Livo or Terzolas. However, as all the records I have found refer to his sons as being ‘of Terzolas’ rather than ‘living in Terzolas’, it is certainly possible Antonio settled in Terzolas around the time he married and started his family, and that his sons were born there.

  • We briefly ‘met’ Bartolomeo earlier in this discussion, when he was awarded the investiture of Castel Rocca in Samoclevo in 1496, after his uncle Ottone had passed away. [95]
  • We first find Nicolò in a land sale agreement in 1491, wherein he is referred to as ‘son of the late Antonio Stanchina of Terzolas’, [96] thus telling us patriarch Antonio Stanchina was now deceased.
  • We know little about Guglielmo, other than the fact he was one of the recipients of rural nobility in 1529, as we will discuss shortly.
  • Antonio’s son Michele, who is said to appear in a document from 1501[97], passed away by 1522, when we find various documents referring to ‘the heirs of the late Michele Stanchina of Terzolas’. [98] [99]

Rural Nobility (1529)

As we saw with the Stanchina in Livo, many members of the Stanchina family in Terzolas also were granted the rank of ‘rural nobility’ after the Guerra Rustica of 1525. Again, we refer to Guelfi’s transcription of the list from 1529, wherein the Stanchina of Terzolas who were ennobled are said to be:

Ser Nicolò Stanchina; Guglielmo Stanchina;
Robonello; his brother Giacomo; other, Leonardo.[100]

 ‘Ser Nicolò and Guglielmo’ at the top of the list are surely the sons of the late Antonio.

We know from the afore-mentioned parchments that Antonio’s son Michele was already deceased by 1522, and the absence of Bartolomeo’s name would surely indicate that he had also passed away before 1529. Thus, by process of elimination, the other Stanchina mentioned must be the sons of either Bartolomeo or Michele, as there simply were no other Stanchina families in Terzolas in this era.

Ciccolini and Fantelli state that we know with certainty that Antonio’s sons Nicolò and Michele had descendants, but they are uncertain about their other two sons.[101] Numerous sources confirm that Nicolò had at least three sons (Matteo, Giovanni, and Bartolomeo), whom we will ‘meet’ a bit later. Regarding the heirs of Michele, I have a couple of theories, which I will discuss below. Regarding the last two brothers – Bartolomeo and Guglielmo – after identifying all the early Stanchina births (and Stanchina as godparents) in the first volume of the Malé baptismal register, and cross-referencing these with legal parchments, I am fairly certain his son Bartolomeo had at least two sons. I also think his son Guglielmo might also have had a son, although I am not yet certain about this.

I believe Giacomo (brother of Robonello) mentioned on list of rural nobility, was the son of the late Bartolomeo. I say this because we know Giacomo had a son named Bartolomeo (most likely born around 1530) [102] who, in turn, named his first son Giacomo (born 18 Oct 1559)[103], as well as a later son (born 13 September 1575), after the first child had died. [104]

Thus, if Robonello (more commonly spelled ‘Rubinello’) was Giacomo’s brother, then he would also be a son of Bartolomeo. The name Rubinello is certainly unusual, but the parish registers do show us a Rubinello Stanchina married with at least three children appearing a generation later in 1560s.[105] I presume this is not the same Rubinello listed in the catalogue of rural nobility, but that he was more likely his son or nephew[106].

Regarding Leonardo, the way his name is recorded by Guelfi (or perhaps in the original document) is slightly problematic. After a semicolon (which indicates a new person), it says ‘altro, Leonardo’, which literally means ‘other, Leonardo’. While I feel safe in interpreting ‘altro’ to mean ‘un’altro’ (i.e., another), we have to query whether this mean ‘another brother of Rubinello (and Giacomo)’ or ‘another Stanchina’?

After comparing many documents and constructing these lines as best I can, I suspect it means ‘another Stanchina’, and that Leonardo, may have been the son of the late Michele, I am hypothesising this SOLELY based on the fact that Leonardo had a son named Michele.[107]

Given the fact we know Michele had ‘heirs’ when he passed away, we would expect to find at least two living children after 1522. With that in mind, I am also theorising that an Antonio Stanchina (who had numerous descendants through his son Gaspare) may also have been a son of Michele, but he would surely have still been a child at the time of the award of nobility. Again, I have no solid evidence other than the fact Michele’s father’s name was Antonio, and I would presume had named one of his sons after his father. We will come back to this Antonio when we visit the Stanchina branch that settled in Carciato.

I should stress that there are several other Stanchina males whose names appear in the early records for Malé, but owing to a lack of early marriage records in that parish, I have yet been able to identify their parentage.[108]

Overview of First Two Generations

Based on what we have observed so far, we can construct a rough chart of the male descendants of Terzolas ‘Founding Father’ Antonio Stanchina born the first two decades of the 1500s. I should point out, however, that while we know Michele had ‘heirs’, I am speculating that Leonardo and Antonio below were his sons. I have omitted my theory about a possible son of Guglielmo for now.

MALE Descendants of Antonio Stanchina of Terzolas, 2 generations

Click on image to see it larger.

Stanchina of Terzolas (1530 to early 1600s)

Working through the pergamene for Malé and the Thun of Castelfondo, we learn that Ser Nicolò who had been granted rural nobility in 1529 was already deceased by August 1546.[109] [110] From these documents, we find he had at least three sons – Matteo, Giovanni and Bartolomeo. However, of these, it seems Bartolomeo was the only son who had sons of his own: Cristoforo, Gregorio and Antonio.

Apparently, in his Will, Ser Nicolò had left a ‘perpetual legacy’, wherein every year 6 bushels of rye would be harvested and baked into bread, which would then be distributed to the people of the community of Terzolas. The legacy specified that this grain was to be harvested from a plot of land they owned in Terzolas called ‘in sum pra’ (‘pra’ is short for ‘prato’ which means a meadow or pastureland). Evidently, Ser Nicolò’s son Bartolomeo honoured his late father’s wishes and kept up this legacy throughout his long lifetime. But on 21 July 1580, around the time when Bartolomeo’s death seemed imminent (he was probably in his mid to late 70s), Bartolomeo’s son Cristoforo was named the administrator of his father’s assets – his ‘power of attorney’, so to speak – and appealed to the citizens of Terzolas to be released from this obligation. [111]

As a result of the meeting on 21 July, various exchanges were made, and the very next day (22 July 1580), we find Cristoforo Stanchina at Castel Caldes selling that very same plot of land to Count Sigismondo Thun. This time, the document says Bartolomeo was acting on behalf of his father, as well as his brothers Gregorio and Antonio.[112] The fact the Cristoforo is the designated legal representative infers he was the eldest of the three brothers, which, based on the birth dates of their children, does seem to have been the case.

The elderly Bartolomeo died sometime within the next two years or so, as we find another document drafted at Castel Caldes dated 14 October 1582 in which ‘Cristoforo and Gregorio, sons of the late Bartolomeo Stanchina of Terzolas’ are negotiating a solution to their debts to the Lords of Thun by giving them yet another plot of arable land in Terzolas, in a place called ‘in Lidrama’.[113]

Economic decline, but increasing numbers

It seems the Stanchina of Terzolas (or, at least this particular line) were experiencing at least a temporary economic decline, in contrast to their Livo cousins who seemed to be continually increasing in power, wealth and influence.

This does not mean they were in declining in numbers. Far from it, in fact. By the early decades of the 1600s, so many branches of Stanchina started to appear in Terzolas that we begin to see the use of soprannomi to distinguish one line from another. One of the granddaughters of the younger Rubinello Stanchina cites the name ‘Rubinel’ as a soprannome in her baptismal record on 6 August 1613.[114] The very next day, with find the birth of a Cristoforo Stanchina with the soprannome Beatricis’, drawn from the name of his paternal grandmother, Beatrice.[115]

Overview of Descendants through Early 1600s

Below is a chart summarising the first four generations of male descendants of Ser Nicolò, son of Antonio, although it really is more of a descendant chart for Nicolò’s son Bartolomeo, as I have not identified any children for his son Matteo, and his son Giovanni seems to have had only daughters. The blue, green and peach colours show the descendant lines of Bartolomeo’s sons Cristoforo, Gregorio, and Antonio, respectively. To make the chart easier to read, I have omitted all female children, and all male children who died in infancy. I have also omitted all the wives, except for Beatrice, to show how the soprannome arose in the line descended from Bartolomeo’s son, Antonio:

MALE Descendants of Nicolò Stanchina of Terzolas, 4 generations.

Click on image to see it larger.

Similarly, this chart summarises the first four generations of male descendants Michele, son of Antonio. I have filtered the information the same way as I did in the chart above. However, I must point out that, although we know Michele had heirs, I am not yet fully confident Leonardo and Antonio were actually Michele’s sons. The blue line shows the descendants of Leonardo, and the green line shows the line for Antonio. The one person I am not completely certain I have in the correct place is Giovanni, son of Leonardo, as I have found no reference of his father’s name in any of the sources I consulted. I am theorising he is the son of Leonardo as he had a son of that name.

MALE Descendants of Michele Stanchina of Terzolas, 4 generations

Click on image to see it larger.

Antonio’s line becomes relevant as we move to the next stage of our discussion, as one of his descendants became the found of the Carciato Stanchina in the early 18th century.

Stanchina of Carciato

Among the notes by 19th-century priest historian don Pietro Silvestri in the parish archives of Terzolas, there is mention of a Giovanni Domenico Stanchina, said to have been a mason, who moved from Terzolas to Carciato (part of the parish and comune of Dimaro in southwest Val di Sole) after having married Domenica Pontirolli from that village on 19 April 1711. [116] [117] This couple thus became the ‘founding parents’ of the Stanchina in Carciato. Their marriage record, shown below, clearly states that Giovanni Domenico was from Terzolas, with no indication he was already living in Carciato, which infers he moved there only after his marriage.

1711 marriage record for Giovanni Domenico Stanchina and Domenica Pontirolli of Carciato (parish of Dimaro, Trentino)

Click on image to see it larger.

Ancestry of Giovanni Domenico, Founding father of Carciato Stanchina

The priest did not record the name of Giovanni Domenico’s father his 1711 marriage record, but this was not uncommon when a groom came from outside the parish, as the priest would not personally have known his family. However, there was only one Giovanni Domenico Stanchina born in Terzolas in the appropriate era. He was born on 10 December 1686[118], the son of Leonardo Stanchina and his wife Domenica (her surname is currently unknown, owing to a gap in the marriage record for Livo).

Below is a chart illustrating his paternal lineage back to Michele, son of Antonio, Founding Father of the Terzolas line. As mentioned at the end of the previous section, the one grey area for me is whether Giovanni Domenico’s 3X great-grandfather Antonio (ca. 1518-1572) was indeed the son of Michele, or of a different son of Antonio. But either way, we can see that the Carciato line has a direct link to the ancient Stanchina, as Giovanni Domenico was the 9th great-grandson of Belvesino of Tassullo from the early 1300s.

Vertical Pedigree Chart for Giovanni Domenico Stanchina, founding father of the Stanchina in Carciato (Trentino).

The Expansion of the Stanchina in Carciato

Historian Udalrico Fantelli tells us that the anagraph for the family of Giovanni Domenico and Domenica shows the couple had at least 12 sons and daughters in the parish records between the years 1712 and 1738.[119] I have not researched this family in detail, in my own research I have ‘met’ three of their sons – Giovanni Battista, Antonio and Pietro – all of whom had many descendants. Antonio and his wife Anna Domenica Mochen (married 16 Jul 1750)[120] are the 4X great-grandparents of one of my clients in the United States.

Fantelli tells us that, from this first nuclear family, the Stanchina expanded and spread out, until this family became one of the most solid and articulated ancestral lines of Carciato and, successively, in Dimaro.[121] That same author tells us that a Giovanni Domenico Stanchina, who, in his role as ‘regolano’, lead the important assembly of the citizens of Carciato that made the decision to build the new church in 1750.[122] Later, on 23 April 1764, we find a Giovanni Domenico Stanchina who was present as a witness at the drafting of an agreement in Mezzana.[123] I have yet to investigate whether these citing refer to the Giovanni Domenico who was head of the lineage or to one of his sons.

The Stanchina Today

So many of the ancient families of Trentino have gone extinct over the centuries, the Stanchina continued to thrive in their three adopted villages (Livo, Terzolas, and Carciato) up through the early 20th century. A quick search on the Nati in Trentino website shows us that, between the years of 1815-1923, there were 634 children born with the surname Stanchina, and all but a handful of them were born in the three parishes we just discussed:

  • 161 Stanchina children were born in the parish of LIVO.
  • 255 Stanchina children were born in the parish of TERZOLAS.
  • 201 Stanchina children were born in the parish of DIMARO (presumably from Carciato).

Of those from Livo, two were born in Preghena, a frazione of Livo. Twenty were recorded as ‘de Stanchina’ rather than ‘Stanchina’; these are all descendants of the noble Matteo Alessandro Stanchina. One child was baptised in the city of Trento, but as the family was from Livo (and were living there after that birth), I’ve included in in the Livo births.

This leaves only 17 additional Stanchina children born in scattered parts of the province over a period of more than a century. These usually appear with only one or two children showing up in each place, and do not appear to indicate any significant migration to these places prior to World War 1 and the years just after it.

Noticeably, the numbers in Livo are significantly lower than in the other two parishes. Perhaps that explains why, on the Cognomix website, no Stanchina families are listed for Livo at all, while there are still many families living in Dimaro and some in Terzolas/Malé.[124] Although I haven’t investigated this further, I feel we should not necessarily take this to mean they simply ‘died out’; rather, it is more likely they migrated elsewhere (including emigration to the Americas).

Chart from Cognomix website showing the number of Stanchina FAMILIES (not individuals) living in each comune.

ABOVE: Chart from Cognomix website showing the number of Stanchina FAMILIES (not individuals) living in each comune.

Closing Thoughts

Before anything else, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Robert Jusko for his patient proofreading of this article, and to Andrea Pojer for his deciphering a couple of strangely spelled place names I could not make out in some of the Latin documents. I do hope you found this article interesting, and that you feel I achieved my original goals, which was to show the origins of the Stanchina family, how they gained in power and influence, how they dispersed throughout the province, and how all the Stanchina of Trentino are ultimately related via a common ancestral patriarch. Speaking for myself, even though I do not have (to my knowledge) any Stanchina ancestors, I find their journey and the history of the times fascinating.

As some of you know, I have been working on a book entitled Guide to Trentino Surnames for Genealogists and Family Historians for some time now. That book, which currently has about 800 surnames (most in very rough form), is going to take me several more years to finish (plus I want to bring the total up to at least 1,000 surnames).

However, this week I decided to publish another book before the Guide is complete: a set of histories of selected Trentino families, which will be a composite of longer studies I have done on specific families, such as this article you have just read. That will still take me a couple of years to complete, but I already have a lot of material written for it. My aim will be to create a book of ‘case studies’ of origin and migration stories, which collectively can show us a bigger picture of the diversity of families who make up our beautiful ancestral province. I haven’t made up a working title for it yet, but I will surely let you know when I have.

In the meantime, if you enjoyed this article, or have comments or questions, I welcome you to share them in the comments field below. And, as always, if you wish to read more articles like this, I invite you to subscribe to this blog, using the form below.

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Until next time!

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
11 March 2022

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 NOTES

[1] The closest in sound is the surname Stancher, but it is not historically related (and probably not linguistically) to Stanchina.

[2] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. 2005. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine. Trento: Società di Studi Trentini di Scienze Storiche, page 268.

[3] RAUZI, Gian Maria. Araldica Tridentina: stemmi e famiglie del Trentino. 1987. Trento: Grafiche Artigianelli, page 325.

[4] BERTOLUZZA, Aldo. 1998. Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino. Trento: Società Iniziative Editoriali (S.R.L.), page 337.

[5] GUELFI, Adriano Camaiani. 1964. Famiglie nobili del Trentino. Genova: Studio Araldico di Genova, page 117. Unlike the other references above, Guelfi does not specify Terzolas, but says merely ‘Val di Sole’.

[6] CICCOLINI, Tiziana; FANTELLI, Udalrico. 2013. Memorie di Terzolas. Cles: Centro Studi per la Val di Sole, page 181.

[7] ODORIZZI, Paolo. 2018. La Val Di Non e i Suoi Misteri – Volume I. On pages 461-484.

[8] BERTOLUZZA, Aldo, Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino, page 337. On this same page, he also offers the same linguistic origin for the surname ‘Stancher’ and its variants.

[9] LEONARDI, Enzo. 1985. Anaunia: Storia della Valle di Non. Trento: TEMI Editrice, page 385.

[10] BERTOLUZZA, Aldo, Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino, page 337.

[11] LEONARDI, Enzo. Anaunia: Storia della Valle di Non, page 385.

[12] GUELFI, Adriano Camaiani. Famiglie nobili del Trentino, page 117.

[13] AUSSERER, Carl. 1985. Le Famiglie Nobili Nelle Valli del Noce: Rapporti con i Vescovi e con i Principi Castelli, rocche e residenze nobili Organizzazione, privilegi, diritti; I Nobili rural. Translated by Giulia Anzilotti Mastrelli from the original German work Der Adel des Nonsberges, published in 1899. Malé: Centro Studi per la Val di Sole. Page 243.

[14] CICCOLINI, Tiziana; FANTELLI, Udalrico. Memorie di Terzolas, page 181. They reference a ‘Compravendita di diritto di decima’ dated 28 April 1423 in the Archives of the Thun family, Castelfondo line. This document is listed, but not fully transcribed, in the resource listed in the next footnote.

[15] VALENTI, Elena. 2006. Famiglia Thun, conti di Thun e Hohenstein, linea di Castelfondo. Regesti delle pergamene (1270-1691). Trento: Provincia autonoma di Trento. ‘Compravendita di diritto di decima’, 28 April 1423 (Cles), page 17, pergamena 14.

[16] STENICO, P. Remo. 1999. Notai Che Operarono Nel Trentino dall’Anno 845. Trento: Biblioteca San Bernardino, page 198.

[17] ODORIZZI, Paolo. 2018. La Val Di Non e i Suoi Misteri – Volume I, page 461-484. Also, via private correspondence, Odorizzi says this comes from Codice Clesiano, volume 2, page 210.

[18] This information was given to me directly by Paolo Odorizzi, who says he obtained this information from the APTn atti notaio Tomeo di Tuenno; but I have not seen the original document.

[19] ODORIZZI, Paolo. 2018. La Val Di Non e i Suoi Misteri – Volume I, page 461-484.

[20] CICCOLINI, Tiziana; FANTELLI, Udalrico, page 181.

[21] CICCOLINI, Giovanni. 1965 (reprint). Inventari e Regesti degli Archivi Parrocchiali della Val di Sole. Volume 3: La Pieve di Livo. Trento: Temi – Tipografia Editrice, page 301, pergamena 406.

[22] CICCOLINI, Tiziana; FANTELLI, Udalrico, page 181.

[23] CICCOLINI, Tiziana; FANTELLI, Udalrico. This as subsequent information about the sons of Nicolò appear on pages 181-182.

[24] STENICO, P. Remo. 1999. Notai Che Operarono Nel Trentino dall’Anno 845. Trento: Biblioteca San Bernardino, page 317.

[25] CICCOLINI, Tiziana; FANTELLI, Udalrico, page 181.

[26] VALENTI, Elena. 2006. Famiglia Thun, conti di Thun e Hohenstein, linea di Castelfondo. Regesti delle pergamene (1270-1691). Trento: Provincia autonoma di Trento, page 59, pergamena 111.

[27] VALENTI, Elena, page 60-61, pergamena 115.

[28] CICCOLINI, Giovanni. Inventari, Volume 3, La Pieve di Livo, page 301-303, pergamena 407.

[29] We know from other documents that Leonardo had at least two sons, namely Antonio and Nicolò.

[30] In this document, Bartolomeo refers to the other Stanchina as his ‘nephews’, but technically he was their first cousin. This same Bartolomeo is later found in Terzolas, where he is listed amongst the rural nobility in 1529.

[31] CICCOLINI, Tiziana; FANTELLI, Udalrico, page 182.

[32] STENICO, P. Remo, Notai, page 316-317. He is also cited in numerous documents in Ciccolini’s inventory for Livo.

[33] CICCOLINI, Giovanni. Inventari, Volume 3, La Pieve di Livo, page 159, pergamena 258. ‘Not. Nicolò Stanchina, son of the late ser Leonardo, son of the late ser Nicolò Stanchina di Livo’ signature in document dated 22 Jan 1553.

[34] CONTER, Luigi (don). 1982. Fatti Storici di Livo. Narrati ai suoi compatrioti da don Luigi Conter, parroco di Cloz. Trento: Stampalith. On page 67-68, he transcribes the Will, dated 18 April 1531, of a Melchiore Graziadei of Celledizzo, which was drafted by ‘Nicolò, son of Leonardo, son of Nicolò Stanchina of Livo, notary’.

[35] CICCOLINI, Giovanni. Inventari, Volume 3, La Pieve di Livo, page 145, pergamena 224.

[36] STENICO, P. Remo, Notai, page 302. Stenico says Giuseppe Sandris was active at least between the years 1519-1531. Guelfi and Stenico identify him as the author of the catalogue of rural nobility.

[37] GUELFI, Adriano Camaiani, page 160.

[38] CONTER, Luigi (don). Fatti Storici di Livo. On page 64, the author refers to a slightly different list, which he says was compiled by priest historian Giangrisostomo Tovazzi, in which ‘Ser Stanchina, notaio’ is further described as ‘de domo Aliprandina superveniente’, which means ‘from the following Aliprandini household’. This is surely an error (either by Conter or Tovazzi) and the words ‘de domo Aliprandina superveniente’ introduce the list of Aliprandini family members that follows, and have nothing to do with the Stanchina.

[39] CICCOLINI, Giovanni. Inventari, Volume 3, La Pieve di Livo, page 165, pergamena 276.

[40] This information is based on my own research, using the Livo parish records.

[41] Livo parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 28.

[42] Livo parish records, marriages, volume 1, page 6. As their last child was born in 1609, Maria had to have been very young (possibly about 16 years old) when they married in 1579. However, their first child was not born until January 1582, which may be an indication they did not consummate the marriage until she was closer to 18 years old. This was not an uncommon practice.

[43] STENICO, P. Remo, Notai, page 20-21. Stenico lists 24 Aliprandini notaries.

[44] CICCOLINI, Giovanni. Inventari, Volume 3, La Pieve di Livo, page 303, pergamena 408.

[45] Unfortunately, there is an 80-year gap in the Livo marriage records between 1650-1730, so we do not know all of these connections.

[46] Livo parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 64.

[47] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine, page 268.

[48] GUELFI, Adriano Camaiani, Famiglie nobili del Trentino, page 117. He says, however, that the predicate was ‘Leiffendorf, not Leiffenburg, a variant I have not seen in any other source.

[49] RAUZI, Gian Maria. Araldica Tridentina, page 325.

[50] Carl Ausserer (Le Famiglie Nobili Nelle Valli del Noce, page 243) incorrectly says this predicate was given to them in 1764, but he is surely confusing it with a later award where the predicate was embellished.

[51] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine, page 269. They say there was a red cross on the gold band, but the cross was actually added later, in 1764.

[52] RAUZI, Gian Maria. Araldica Tridentina, page 325.

[53] RAUZI, Gian Maria. Araldica Tridentina, page 325.

[54] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine, page 375.

[55] RAUZI, Gian Maria. Araldica Tridentina, page 325.

[56] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine, page 377.

[57] Livo parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 245-246.

[58] Matteo was alive when his son Bernardino married Marina Andreis on 28 Nov 1618 (Livo parish records, marriages, volume 1, no page number), but I do not know if he was still alive in 1624.

[59] CICCOLINI, Giovanni. Inventari, Volume 3, La Pieve di Livo, page 303-304, pergamena 409.

[60] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine, page 268. They refer to him simply as ‘Alessandro Stanchina’.

[61] GUELFI, Adriano Camaiani, Famiglie nobili del Trentino, page 117. He refers to him as ‘Mattia Alessandro’ Stanchina.

[62] My apologies: I did read this explanation in one of my sources, but at the moment, I cannot find the reference, so I am simply saying it ‘may’ be the case.

[63] Livo parish records, baptisms, volume 2, page 174-175.

[64] This chart is from a tree I made using Family Tree Maker software, from information gathered during my research.

[65] Matteo Stanchina was born 5 September 1625. Livo parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 185-186.

[66] Livo parish records, marriages, volume 1, no page number.

[67] Agnese Tomasi was born 16 December 1616. Livo parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 117-118.

[68] ‘Agnese Stanchina’ died on 30 July 1664. Although it does not say ‘wife of Matteo Stanchina’, the only other Agnese Stanchina who was alive at this time was a young child, and the record is clearly for an adult.

[69] ‘Dominus Matteo Stanchina’ died on 30 March 1683. Livo parish records, deaths, volume 1, no page number.

[70] CONTER, Luigi (don). Fatti Storici di Livo, page 94-95.

[71] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine, page 268.

[72] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine, page 268.

[73] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine, page 268. They refer to Aliprando Michele as ‘Aldobrando Michele’, but he was baptised Aliprando Michele in Trentino.

[74] Livo parish records, baptisms, volume 3, page 88-89. Many thanks to historian Andrea Pancheri for deciphering the word ‘Graecansi’ (of Graz), which I honestly could not make out in this document.

[75] TOVAZZI, P. Giangrisostomo. 1994. Varie Inscriptiones Tridentinae. Originally published in the late 1700s. 1994 version edited by P. Remo Stenico. Trento: Edizioni Biblioteca PP. Francescani, page 496, inscription 842. The exact words in Latin are ‘All’Illmo Signor Aldobrando Stanchina de Turri Pegnana zu Leiffendorff, Giudice Cesareo Regio e Preside del Civico Provincial Tribunale ec. in Trieste’.

[76] Using the parish records for Sarnonico, I have found five children for this couple, including three sons, but none is named Lorenzo. P. Remo Stenico (STENICO, P. Remo. 2000. Sacerdoti della Diocesi di Trento dalla sua Esistenza Fino all’Anno 2000, page 468) cites a Lorenzo Zini of Cavareno who died 16 May 1824 at the age of 76. This would mean he was born around 1748, which is when the couple’s eldest son Pietro Antonio Adamo Zini was born (2 February 1748). I can only assume that the letter was from this nephew, and that he adopted a different personal name when he took Holy Orders.

[77] TOVAZZI, P. Giangrisostomo. Varie Inscriptiones, page 496, inscription 842. The Latin exact words in Latin are ‘mortuus est dives, et sepultus est in inferno.’

[78] Caldes parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 329-330.

[79] Livo parish records, deaths, volume 2, page 62-63.

[80] CASETTI, Albino. 1981. Storia di Lavis. Giurisdizione di Königsberg-Montereale. Trento: Società di studi trentini di scienze storiche. Except accessed 6 March 2022 from ‘Castelo di Monreale (Königsberg)’ on the Piana Rotaliana website at https://www.pianarotaliana.it/territorio/luoghi-di-cultura/castelli/castello-di-monreale-koenigsberg

[81] This image, which I have cropped and enhanced, was downloaded from TIROLER LANDESMUSEEN. Tyrolean Coat of Arms; Fischnal coat of arms index. The writing on the card says the stemma is from 1764. Accessed 3 March 2022 from http://wappen.tiroler-landesmuseen.at/index34a.php?wappen_id=26296&drawer=&tr=1#next.

[82] GUELFI, Adriano Camaiani, Famiglie nobili del Trentino, page 153. He says the diploma is stored in volume 61, folio 270.

[83] LEONARDI, Enzo. 1985. Anaunia: Storia della Valle di Non. Trento: TEMI Editrice, page 446 (page number inferred).

[84] Livo parish records, marriages, volume 1, page 6.

[85] I don’t have the marriage record, but I have gleaned the information and estimated the marriage date from the birth records of their children.

[86] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine, page 74.

[87] Livo parish records, baptisms, volume 2, page 300-301.

[88] Revò parish records, marriages, volume 2, page 117-118.

[89] Livo parish records, marriages, volume 1, no page number.

[90] Livo parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 137-138.

[91] Sarnonico parish records, marriages, volume 3, page 226-227.

[92] CICCOLINI, Tiziana; FANTELLI, Udalrico, page 182-183.

[93] CICCOLINI, Tiziana; FANTELLI, Udalrico, page 182. The authors reference Ausserer – Regesti di Castel Bragher, pergamena 593, dated 2 May 1478.

[94] CICCOLINI, Giovanni. 1939. Inventari e Regesti degli Archivi Parrocchiali della Val di Sole. Volume 2: La Pieve di Malé. Trento: Libreria Moderna Editrice A. Ardesi, page 138, pergamena 94. Bartolomeo, son of Antonio Stanchina of Terzolas is cited as a witness.

[95] CICCOLINI, Giovanni. Inventari, Volume 3, La Pieve di Livo, page 301-303, pergamena 407.

[96] CICCOLINI, Tiziana; FANTELLI, Udalrico, page 182.

[97] CICCOLINI, Tiziana; FANTELLI, Udalrico, page 182. On page 260, the cite a source from Ciccolini’s pergamene, but I have not been able to find the source they cite.

[98] CICCOLINI, Giovanni. Inventari, Volume 2, La Pieve di Malé, page 227, pergamena 269. The document, dated 14 October 1522, refers to ‘the heirs of the late Michele Stanchina’.

[99] CICCOLINI, Giovanni. Inventari, Volume 2, La Pieve di Malé, page 350, pergamena 354. The document, dated 7 October 1526, refers to ‘the heirs of the late Michele Stanchina’.

[100] GUELFI, Adriano Camaiani. Famiglie nobili del Trentino, page 161.

[101] CICCOLINI, Tiziana; FANTELLI, Udalrico, page 182.

[102] We know the younger Bartolomeo married Simona David, daughter of Giovanni David of Terzolas, as per the baptismal record of their son Giacomo, born 18 October 1559 (Malé parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 48). We also know the couple were already married by 1 April 1558, as Simona is referred to as ‘the wife of Bartolomeo Stanchina’ when she is a godmother on that date (Malé parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 33). This puts his most likely date of birth between 1530-1535, meaning he was most likely the eldest son of the elder Giacomo.

[103] Malé parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 48. The baptismal record cites the names of both grandfathers, i.e., Giacomo Stanchina and Giovanni David.

[104] Malé parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 139. The record cites the name of his paternal grandfather, Giacomo Stanchina.

[105] Leonardo (born 10 July 1560), Margherita (born 1 October 1562) and Domenica (born 5 June 1567), Malé parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 53, 64, and 92, respectively.

[106] One anomaly is that the only son of this younger Rubinello was named Leonardo, which would normally make me suspect his father’s name was also Leonardo.

[107] Leonardo’s name is cited in the baptismal record of his granddaughter Maria Stanchina, born 31 October 1564, daughter of Michele Stanchina and his wife Flora. Malé parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 78.

[108] There are a few Stanchina men, namely Antonio, Bernardo, Pietro and Simone, who were all most likely born between 1510-1525, whose parentage I have not yet been able to identify (although I suspect Antonio was a son of the late Michele). There are also a few other men in the next generation (born circa 1540-1552), whose fathers I have not yet identified.

[109] CICCOLINI, Giovanni. Inventari, Volume 2, La Pieve di Malé, page 353, pergamena 498. ‘Matteo, son of the late Nicolò Stanchina of Terzolas’ cited as a witness in a legal document dated 17 August 1546.

[110] VALENTI, Elena. Famiglia Thun (Castelfondo). Regesti delle pergamene, ‘Costituzione di censo’, 3 January 1551, Castel Caldes, page 151, pergamena 315. ‘Giovanni, son of the late Nicolò Stanchina of Terzolas…’

[111] CICCOLINI, Giovanni. Inventari, Volume 2, La Pieve di Malé, page 299-300, pergamena 465. The document also mentions another Bartolomeo, son of the late Giacomo Stanchina (Cristoforo’s 2nd cousin), as well as a Leonardo and a Nicolò Stanchina, but it does not identify their fathers.

[112] VALENTI, Elena. Famiglia Thun (Castelfondo). Regesti delle pergamene, page 204, pergamena 426.

[113] VALENTI, Elena. Famiglia Thun (Castelfondo). Regesti delle pergamene, page 212, pergamena 445.

[114] Maria, daughter of Leonardo ‘Rubinel’ Stanchina and his wife Agata, born 6 August 1613. Malé parish records, baptisms, volume 2, page 118. Leonardo was the son of the younger Rubinello.

[115] Malé parish records, baptisms, volume 2, page 119. Cristoforo (born 7 August 1613) was the son of Nicolò (born 19 September 1568), who was in turn the son of Antonio and Beatrice. Antonio was the son of the Bartolomeo

[116] CICCOLINI, Tiziana; FANTELLI, Udalrico. 2013. Memorie di Terzolas. Cles: Centro Studi per la Val di Sole, page 182-183.

[117] Dimaro parish records, marriages, volume 2(?), page 94-95.

[118] Malé parish records, baptisms, volume 3, page 244.

[119] FANTELLI, Udalrico. 1992. Carciato: il paese e la gente. Centro Studi per la Val di Sole, page 57.

[120] Dimaro parish records, marriages, volume 3(?), page 108. NOTE: The LDS church did not microfilm the records for Dimaro before 1770, but the Archivio Diocesano has made colour digital images of the early books that had been overlooked. Albino Casetti says there are 5 books of marriage records; I suspect this one is from volume 3, but I am unsure. The number of the digital file in Trento is P6150851.

[121] FANTELLI, Udalrico. Carciato, page 57.

[122] FANTELLI, Udalrico. Carciato, page 57.

[123] CICCOLINI, Giovanni. 1936. Inventari e Regesti degli Archivi Parrocchiali della Val di Sole. Volume 1: La Pieve di Ossana. Trento: Libreria Moderna Editrice A. Ardesi, page 182, C.n.575.

[124] COGNOMIX. ‘Diffusione del cognome Stanchina’. Accessed 10 March 2022 from https://www.cognomix.it/mappe-dei-cognomi-italiani/STANCHINA/TRENTINO-ALTO-ADIGE/TRENTO

Lockdown Genealogy. Making Your Family Tree Better When Everything Is Closed

Lockdown Genealogy. Making Your Family Tree Better When Everything Is Closed

How to start, develop and improve your family tree when you have no access to genealogy research materials during the worldwide pandemic. By genealogist Lynn Serafinn.

Without a doubt, the COVID pandemic has affected all of us in some way. For family historians, it has presented unexpected challenges, as the LDS Family History Centres around the world, where so many people (including those of Trentino ancestry) do their research, have all been closed. And although the Diocesan Archives in Trento are finally open again, travel restrictions have prevented many of us from going to Trento to do research.

Hopefully, we may finally be starting to see the proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ of this situation. But as there have been so many setbacks and disappointments, we really cannot predict how quickly life will fully feel ‘normal’ again.

For that reason, I thought it would be a good time to write an article on ‘lockdown genealogy’, because ‘lockdown’ does NOT mean our genealogical progress needs to stop.

In this article, I will share a few ideas for how you can start or improve your family tree, even amidst these challenges. While some of these ideas are specific to Trentino research, most of them are pertinent to any kind of genealogical research.

Getting Started – Ideas for Beginners

Understandably, many beginners want to dive right into finding their Trentino ancestors.

But as tempting as this is, it is crucial that you start your research by recording everything you can about your family AFTER they arrived in their adopted country. I have seen many beginners ‘leap over’ this part of their research, and end up tracing the WRONG Trentino ancestors as a result. So, find everything you can about your family after they immigrated. Look for census records, birth/marriage/death records, military records, naturalisation records, arrival records, etc. Glean every clue you can from these, as they may contain the names of your ancestors’ parents and/or the village from which they came (if you don’t already know it).

Once that is done, and you can then begin searching for your ancestors on Nati in Trentino, a database of births in Trentino between 1815-1923. I’ve mentioned Nati in Trentino in various articles on this website, but it was recently updated. You can find two video tutorials on how to use the new Nati in Trentino database at https://trentinogenealogy.com/genealogy-video-tutorials/.

MORE READING:   Searching Online for 19th & 20th Century Trentini Ancestors

TIP: To create a tree, you can set up a free account at sites like Ancestry dot com, Family Search dot org, etc. You can also use specialised software, such as Family Tree Maker (the program I use), which can synchronise with your online Ancestry tree. Family Tree Maker also makes it much more manageable to perform some of the other tasks I will discuss later in this article. That is NOT an affiliate link, by the way, and I don’t make any profit if you buy the program.

Scan Documents and Photos

If you have a boxful of documents and family photos gathering dust, now is the perfect time to scan them into digital format using a flatbed scanner. There are many economical ones on the market, and many printers also have flatbed scanners.

For archiving or printing purposes, I recommend scanning at a resolution of 600 dpi (dots per inch). However, for images you intend to upload online, it’s better to use a smaller resolution of about 300 dpi. I tend to keep high-resolution images of old photos, and then make copies of them at the lower resolution when I put them on my tree.

Create a System for Naming Images

The more digital images you have, the more difficult it will be to locate them unless you have a system for naming them. Sometimes a new client comes to me and none of the images are labelled in a way that clearly identifies what the image is, or who it is for.

If you have been haphazard with your labelling, now is the perfect time to relabel your images so they are easily findable. The system I use is, date, surname, first name, event.

For example, for documents I would use labels like this:

1930_SerafiniLuigi_USCensus

1919_SerafiniRomeoFedele_baptism

1914_SerafiniL_OnoratiM_marriage

The same labelling system will also work with photographs, although sometimes you might not know the exact year. In such cases you might label your images like this, with ‘c’ standing for ‘circa’ (about):

1944c_SerafinnRalph_USArmy

Alternatively, you might have a group photo, where you have to decide whether to label everyone, or identify a head of household. For example:

1927c_SerafiniLuigi_Family_BrooklynNY

I guarantee that using such a labelling system will make it easier to find your images when you want them.

Fix and Standardise Place Names

Many people end up with a mishmash of place names in their trees. I have seen trees where the same place is entered five or six different ways. This can easily happen if you have merged a lot of sources from different online websites.

I strongly recommend going through all your place names and make sure the same place is entered only ONE way. This is easiest to do in a program like Family Tree Maker.

Be sure to include the county/province, state/region, and the name of the country (I have found that many Americans tend to leave out ‘USA’ in their place names).

Here are some examples of properly labelled place names:

Hazleton, Luzerne, Pennsylvania, USA

Revò, Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy

In the case of Trentino, you may also wish to include the name of the comune, especially the frazione is so small it is unlikely to be found easily on a map. For example, my father’s hamlet of Duvredo, I tend to put:

Duvredo, Bleggio, Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy

Technically, my label is no longer ‘correct’ as the comune was recently changed from Bleggio to Comano Terme. However, Comano is actually part of a different parish, and nobody (except the local government) really thinks of ‘Bleggio’ as being part of Comano. The key thing is that I have chosen this way to label that frazione and it is consistent throughout my tree.

TIP: Some older documents have antiquated and/or dialect versions of place names in them. These variants are not ‘errors’ per se (except in non-Trentino sources, such as US docs), but simply the result of natural linguistic evolution OR dialect. For example, my grandmother’s frazione is Bono, but in dialect it is ‘Boo’ (pronounced like ‘Boh’). And some places like ‘Denno’ and ‘Dorsino’ don’t have the ‘D’ in older records, as their names were originally ‘Enno’ (i.e., D’enno) and ‘Orsino (i.e., D’Orsino). Don’t fall into the trap of thinking ‘Enno’ is a different place from ‘Denno’, etc.

Standardise Spellings of Names

Prior to the 20th century, there was no concept of standardized spelling for names in Trentino documents. For example, while my family surname is usually recorded as ‘Serafini’, you will also see it entered as Serrafini, Seraffini, etc. The same is true for personal names. You might see your great-grandmother’s name spelled Cattarina, Caterina, Catharina, etc. Moreover, it might appear one way in a person’s baptismal record, a different way in the marriage record, and still another way in the death record.

Our trees will become a MESS if we enter every variation of name or surname as they appear in the documents. It is essential to choose and use one spelling throughout your tree, regardless of how it was entered into a document. This can help identify family connections more quickly, as well as help avoid accidental duplicate entries. The exception, of course, is when names changed after immigration (such as my surname, Serafinn).

TIP: Names in older documents were written in Latin, even though they would have been known by their Italianate versions. For example, a document may well say ‘Johannes’, but the person was actually known as ‘Giovanni’. Occasionally, you will also see Latin versions of surnames. For example, ‘Rubeis’ is the Latin form of ‘Rossi’, and ‘Lepores’ is the Latin form of ‘Levri’. Always use the local version of the name, not the Latinised form.

Cite Your Sources!

‘Sources’ are the documents that provide evidence of a fact. Many people enter facts into their family trees without saying where they obtained the information. Thus, they have no way of proving the information is correct, nor any easy way of finding the document again. I have just spent the past 3 weeks helping a client identify all the sources on a tree he researched some years ago. In doing so, I discovered that some of the facts he had in the tree were actually wrong.

If you have not cited or linked your sources in your family tree, you might use this time to do so. If you’ve never developed a system for citing sources, you may wish to read an article I wrote sometime back on this subject called ‘Genealogical Breadcrumbs’.

MORE READING:   Genealogical Breadcrumbs: Notes, Sources & Reviewing Research

Run Error Reports

If you use a program like Family Tree Maker, this is a great time to run error reports to identify any missing or duplicate information in your tree.

You might also want to run an ‘undocumented facts’ report, to see where you have not yet linked any sources.

That should keep you busy for a while!

Closing Thoughts

I hope this article has helped inspire you to work on your family tree, even during these challenging times.

I know that some of the suggestions I have made might sound tedious or boring, but I guarantee that they will help make your tree more rigorous as a piece of research. You are also likely to discover a few things you may have missed in your earlier work.

I must say that I feel truly blessed to have been able to continue research for most of my clients during the pandemic, as I have many thousands of parish records in my home library. I don’t know what I would have done if that had not been the case.

But blessed as I am, I really cannot wait until I can get back to Trento again.

If you found this article to be helpful, I do hope you’ll subscribe to this blog, using the form below. 

Until next time!

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
7 March 2021

P.S. As you can probably surmise, I am still not sure when I will be able to go back in Trento, as we are still in lockdown here in the UK, and the government is still advising against making any travel plans.  Fingers crossed, I will be able to go there by the summer, but there really is no way of knowing for sure at the moment.   

However, as mentioned, I do have resources to do a fair bit of research for many clients from home, and I now have some openings for a few new client projects starting in May 2021.

If you would like to book a time to discuss having me do research for you, I invite you to read my ‘Genealogy Services’ page, and then drop me a line using the Contact form on this site. Then, we can set up a free 30-minute chat to discuss your project.

Join our Trentino Genealogy Group on Facebook: http://facebook.com/groups/TrentinoGenealogy

Lynn on Twitter: http://twitter.com/LynnSerafinn

View my Santa Croce del Bleggio Family Tree on Ancestry:
https://trentinogenealogy.com/my-tree/

CALDES in Val di Sole. Family Trees, History of Ancient Surnames

CALDES in Val di Sole. Family Trees and History of Ancient Surnames.

A Treasure Trove of Family Trees of the Ancient Families of Caldes. Part 6 of ‘Trentino Valleys, Parishes & People: Guide for Genealogists’ by Lynn Serafinn.

These past few weeks I was working on a tree for a client whose ancestry in the 1600s took me on a journey through the historic parish of Caldes in Val di Sole. I found this research so interesting, I decided to feature Caldes as the topic for my last ‘Filò Friday’ podcast (5 February 2021). I also decided, while it was fresh in my mind, to make Caldes the feature of the next part in my blog article series on ‘Trentino Valley, Parishes and People’.

WHAT WE’LL EXPLORE TODAY

Called ‘a noble community’ by author and historian Alberto Mosca, many of the families of Caldes are well documented back to the medieval era. But Caldes also has a true ‘genealogical treasure’ in its parish registry: a collection of family trees of the ancient families of Caldes made by Father Tommaso Bottea in the 19th century.

In this article, I will discuss:

  1. Where Caldes is in the province, and its connection with other nearby parishes.
  2. The state of the surviving parish records for Caldes.
  3. Who Father Tommaso Bottea was.
  4. Details of the Caldes family trees made by Father Bottea: what families they cover, what the trees contain (and what they don’t), how they are organised, and how to use them in your research.
  5. Surnames and history of the ancient families of Caldes, including their linguistic and geographical origins, as well as the titles of nobility conferred on some of these families.

So, while some of you might have been expecting another article on Val di Non, I hope you enjoy our excursion today to Val di Sole. Even if you don’t think you have ancestors from Caldes, I am sure you will find this to be a fascinating journey into our Trentino culture and history.

VIDEO PODCAST

If you wish, you can also watch the Filò Friday podcast on Caldes below:

SIDE NOTE: Apologies to those looking for Filò Friday podcasts from Oct 2020 through Jan 2021. I just haven’t had time to edit them for YouTube yet! You can see them ‘on demand’ (but unedited) in our Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/TrentinoGenealogy, in ‘Guide 1: Video Podcasts’.

CALDES: Where It Is in the Province

To get oriented, here is a map I shared with you back in the first article in this series, showing the various valleys of Trentino. I have highlighted Val di Sole (number 19) in YELLOW. Notice how Val di Non (number 18) lies on its eastern border, and Giudicarie Interiore (number 9) – but more specifically Val Rendena which is included in the Giudicarie on this map – runs along its southern border.

MAP - Val di Sol in the province of Trentino

click on image to see it larger

Now, if we zoom into Val di Sole, we see Caldes (highlighted in yellow) sitting right on the eastern tip of the valley, just on the border of Val di Non:

MAP - Caldes in Val di Sole, province of Trentino, Italy

click on image to see it larger

These maps were taken from the book Toponomastica Trentina: I Nomi delle Località Abitate by Giulia Mastrelli Anzilotti (2003).

The Frazioni of Caldes

One of the limitations with the maps from Anzilotti’s book is that they show the civil comuni (municipalities), which frequently change. Also, they don’t show all the frazioni (villages/hamlets) contained within each comune, although she discusses them in detail in her book.

Within the comune of Caldes are seven frazioni:

  1. Bordiana
  2. Bozzana
  3. Cassana
  4. Molini (i.e. the mills)
  5. Samoclevo
  6. San Giacomo
  7. Tozzaga

Anzilotti tells us that all of these frazioni, with the exception of Samoclevo, are collectively known as ‘le Cappelle’, which was a term used in Val di Sole to refer to inhabited areas that were part of the community that had ‘non-curate’ churches (at least in the past).

The Decanato of Malé and its Curate Parishes

As a reminder, back when I started this series, I explained how Catholic parishes are organised in a hierarchical fashion: In English, this hierarchy is:

Diocese (or Archdiocese) –> Deanery –> Parish –> Curate

Or, in Italian:

Diocesi (Arcidiocesi) –> Decanato –> Parrocchia (Pieve) –> Curazia

All the parishes I discuss in this series are in the Archdiocese of Trento.

Caldes is a curate parish of the decanato of Malé, which includes the curate parishes of: S. Bernardo (Rabbi), Caldes, Dimaro, Monclassico, Bolentina, Piazzola, Terzolas, Samoclevo, Cavizzana, Magras and Pracorno. I’ve highlighted these on the map below, but remember the map shows comuni, not parishes, and some of the parishes are contained within these comuni:

MAP - Decanato of Male' and curate parishes in Val di Sole, Trentino, Italy

click on image to see it larger

The Parish Registers for Caldes

Below is a summary of the surviving parish registers for Caldes, with some observations I have made in my own research. I include the number of the LDS microfilms, as this is the medium most familiar to many of you. However, the LDS Family History Centres have stopped making their microfilms available to the public, as they gradually transfer their libraries into digital format. After they are digitised, you will only be able to view them at a local Family History Centre, not online. ALL of these records were digitised by the Diocese of Trento more than a decade ago, and they are viewable at their archives in the city of Trento (again, not online).

SIDE NOTE: I feel most fortunate to have collected tens of thousands of Trentino parish records over the years, which has enabled me to work from home on many (but not all) projects. This has proved especially valuable for me and my clients during the recent COVID lockdowns and travel restrictions.

PARISH REGISTERLDS MICROFILM NO.MICROFILM ITEMCONTENTS
Baptismal INDEX1388646Part 31Contains index (page numbers) of volume 1 of baptisms for surnames A-F; L, M. These pertain to records that appear on the NEXT microfilm (1388647). There are no Caldes records on this film.
Baptisms vol 1-51388647Parts 1-5Baptisms: 1605-1702; 1703-1784; 1784-1817; 1818-1862; 1863-1922
Marriages vol 1-31388647Parts 6-8Marriages: 1618-1815; 1820-1919; 1874-1923
Deaths vol 1-31388647Parts 9-11Deaths: 1629-1818; 1816-1865; 1866-1923
BOTTEA TREES1388647Part 3These appear at the very END of volume 3 of the baptismal register (part 3 of microfilm)

NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:

  • All of the volumes are indexed, with page numbers. I have no idea why there are a handful of pages from the first baptismal index on a separate microfilm (1388646).
  • GAP in Caldes baptismal records: 1663-1672; there is a note in the book that says where to look for them, but I haven’t found this in any of the photographed volumes.
  • GAPS in marriage records: June 1659-Feb 1663; March 1700-Dec 1705; Dec 1738-April 1743. The dates of the marriage records leap around a lot, especially around the beginning of the 1800s.
  • GAPS in the death records: Dec 1658-Jan 1663. There may be more, but I haven’t worked as much with the death records as with baptisms and marriages.

RESEARCH TIPS:

  • CHECK MALÉ. Knowing that Caldes is part of the deanery of Malé is crucial because early records for Caldes (if they have survived) will most likely be found in Malé. The Malé baptismal records are particularly of importance, as they go back to 1554.
  • CHECK ADJACENT PARISHES, ESPECIALLY FOR MARRIAGE RECORDS. Being familiar with the adjacent parishes is also important, as you might find relevant records for Caldes ancestors there, such as marriage records between a man from Caldes and a woman from a nearby parish.
  • CHECK THE BOTTEA TREES. The Bottea trees (which I will discuss shortly) can be found at the very end of volume 3 of the baptismal register. They contain a wealth of information.

The Curious Case of Samoclevo

Before I move on to the Bottea trees, I’d briefly like to mention Samoclevo, as it can sometimes be a challenging parish to research. As we see above, Samoclevo is a frazione of Caldes, and a curate parish of Malé. While Samoclevo started keeping its own baptismal records in 1733, its marriage records don’t start until towards the end of that century (1771) and its death records start even later (1818).

As a rule of thumb, if you cannot find a record for Samoclevo, or you are looking for a record before these dates, your first resource should be the records for Caldes. If you cannot find it there, look in Malé. There’s actually no ‘straight line’ of logic for where you will find the record, as they often seem to jump around. There are also several small gaps in the Samoclevo records (possibly because of this administrative ambiguity).

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About Father Tommaso Bottea

One of the most wonderful treasures contained in the Caldes parish registers are the family trees of the ancient families of Caldes researched, constructed, and beautifully ILLUSTRATED BY priest, author, historian (and apparently an artist) Rev. Tommaso Vigilio Bottea of Monclassico.

Tommaso Bottea was born in Monclassico on 30 December 1819, and died in Malé on 13 February 1895, where he had served as parroco, as well as the deacon of the deanery of Malé (see above for a list of parishes this included). During the course of his life, he wrote many books, including a history of Val di Sole published in 1890.

But he also left behind two invaluable treasures for genealogists and family historians who are researching the families of Val di Sole: family trees of the historic families of Caldes and Malé.

We’ll look at the Malé trees in a future article, but today we’ll look at the trees he made for Caldes.

Families Included in Father Bottea’s Caldes Trees

In alphabetical order, the families included in Father Bottea’s Caldes trees are:

  • Antonietti
  • Bonomi
  • Cova
  • Fattarsi
  • Lorenzo
  • Malanotti
  • Manfroni
  • Rizzi
  • Rosani
  • Scaramella

Note, these are ONLY the Caldes lines of these families, as some also exist in other parishes.

There are also trees for the Guarnieri and Leita families (as well as an extension of the Rizzi family), but these were made by someone in the 20th century (not signed) and they don’t go back as far.

Content of the Bottea Family Trees

When working with the Bottea trees, it is crucial to understand what they contain – and what they don’t!

Father Bottea drew his information from the records from both Caldes AND Malé. Remember, as he was the head of the decanato, he would have had easy access to all of these registers.

As he made these trees as genealogical studies of the surnames, the trees contain only the MALE lines, i.e., sons of sons with that surname. Moreover, they do not include sons who died young or who had no children. The only exceptions are PRIESTS, and the rare instances of men whose names happened to appear in older documents that pre-date the registers.

The SINGLE exception of a daughter is in the Antonietti tree, where a daughter was the last heir of the family name, and whose husband adopted the surname after it died out via the male lines (more on this later in this article).

He did NOT make trees of families who were recent migrants to the parish, or who died out shortly after the records began (such as the Dalle Caneve, whom we will examine shortly).

Several of the trees contain elaborate illustrations of the stemmi (coats-of-arms) of those families who were nobility, with details about when, to whom and by whom these titles were granted. These beautiful drawings (and the information they contain) make these trees especially wonderful to study.

Be aware that some of the pre-registry information Bottea gives has been gleaned via other kinds of documentation, such as ‘pergamene’ (parchments) of legal documents, etc., which are in the archives for those parishes or comuni.

Organisation of the Bottea Family Trees

When working with the Bottea trees, it is also important to know which information is included, and how he chose to organise it.

He did not put any birth dates in his trees; rather, he recorded the MARRIAGE DATE of each couple, or an estimated YEAR of marriage in cases where it would have occurred before the beginning of the records.

When he knew the surname of the wife, he included it in the tree; if not, then only her first name will be in the tree.

In the case of early marriages where the children were born before the beginning of the surviving registers, you will see only the patriarch’s name, with no wife.

In some cases, he recorded a person’s DEATH DATE (or year of death). You will recognise these by a cross (+) before the date/year.

If a man served in the military, he often includes those details, especially if he was an officer and/or someone who died in battle.

If a branch of the family migrated to another parish and/or outside the province, he also recorded what he knew about them.

Close up of part of Manfroni tree by Tommaso Bottea (Caldes)
Above: close-up of part of the Manfroni tree by Father Bottea. Notice how the first two marriages in the bottom row and the marriage in the top row have surnames of the wives, as well as a specific year of marriage. This tells us he located the marriage records in the register for either Caldes or Malé. In the lower right, we have a surname of the wife, but only an estimated marriage year, while in the middle row, we have only the first name of the wives, and an estimated marriage year. This means these marriages took place outside Caldes or Malé, and Bottea had not been able to identify them.

A few caveats:

  • A few dates have been scribbled over. As I have not seen the original books (and digital images are all in greyscale, so I cannot tell if there are different colour inks), I cannot say which (if any) of these corrections were most likely made by don Bottea himself or by some else, after the fact. This can sometimes result in ambiguity in some of the trees.
  • At least one tree (Manfroni) contains some speculation about early medieval origins (circa 1200), resulting in information that seems to leap over several generations.

How to Use the Bottea Trees in Your Research

If you have these surnames in your family tree, and you’ve been able to identify your nearest male ancestor with the surname in one of the Bottea trees, that’s great. Now, you can use the Bottea tree as a starting point for that surname, and try to find the marriage, birth and possibly death records to support what Bottea has outlined.

But let’s say the first ancestor with that surname you’ve discovered is not male, but female. Well, obviously, you’re not going to see her name on the tree itself, as he only recorded male lines. But you can still use these trees to identify her ancestry by working through the following steps:

  1. FIND OUT HER FATHER’S NAME. The first task would be to find out her father’s name; this is first done via her marriage record. As already mentioned, the marriage records for Caldes go back to 1618 (although there are occasional gaps). Hopefully, you’ve found that record, and you know at least her father’s name (it is rare for marriage records before the 1800s to have a mother’s name). If you cannot find a marriage record, you can estimate the date by finding all the children for that couple, and then estimating the marriage about one year before the birth of the first child.
  2. CREATE AN ESTIMATE FOR DATE OF BIRTH. Once you found a marriage date (or created a marriage estimate) you can estimate the date of birth for that woman either by the date of marriage, or by the date of the youngest known child. Before the 20th century, Trentino women tended to marry between the age of 19 and 22, although you will occasionally see them marry younger or older. Of course, if she (or her husband is widowed), she is likely to be older at the time of marriage. Typically, a healthy woman would continue to have children until she was about 42-44 years old, so finding as many children as you can for her will really help you zero in on a good estimate for her date of birth.
  3. LOCATE BIRTH RECORD (if it exists). Once you know her father’s name and you’ve created a good birth estimate, the next thing to do would be to find her actual birth record, if she was born within the range of the surviving baptismal records for Caldes (1605 and after).
  4. FIND HER SIBLINGS’ BAPTISMAL RECORDS. Spending some time finding the baptismal records of all the siblings of your female ancestor can help you estimate the marriage date of her parents, and thus identify which of the possible couples on the Bottea tree are YOUR ancestors (especially in the case when there is more than one man with the same name). They also may contain information your ancestor’s baptismal record does not have.
  5. LOCATE YOUR ANCESTORS ON BOTTEA’S TREE. Once you’ve gone through all those steps, you should be able to find your ancestors on Bottea’s tree for that surname. From that point, it’s just a matter of plugging in the information he has on his tree, and then looking for the documents to support his dates.

IMPORTANT: If you haven’t personally located the documents for a marriage, birth or death, but are simply inserting Bottea’s information into your tree, be sure to cite HIM as your ‘source’ of information. This way, you can go back to the tree and look it up, and try to follow it up another day. Never, ever enter information without saying WHERE you got it.

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Histories of Eight Ancient Families of Caldes

As promised, I’d now like to share a few short histories of some of the most ancient families of Caldes. All of these families – with the exception of Dalle Caneve – are represented in Father Bottea’s family trees in the Caldes registry.

Dalle Caneve

Originally seen in records as ‘Canipis’ or ‘Canepis’, the Dalle Caneve appear in documents back to the 1300s. Historian Alberto Mosca tells us that the first citing of the name is from 1386, when a Bartolomeo is indicated as a settler in Val di Rabbi. Mosca also tells us that this family were in the service of the Counts of Flavon, and that in that capacity, they start to be seen present in Caldes on feudal properties of their Lords by the end of the 1400s. He also says a Bartolomeo and Bonomo Dalle Caneve participated in the Guerra Rustica (‘Rustic War’) of 1525. Later, in 1559, a ‘Peter da le Caneve’ of Caldes is cited as being in the service of the Counts of Thun.

In my own research, I first stumbled upon this surname in Caldes with the 1635 marriage record of Matteo Malanotti (son of Giovanni) and Margherita Dalle Caneve. Although the record says she is the daughter of Marino/Martino, I suspect this is an error, and that she was actually the daughter of Michele (as per a baptismal record dated 8 Feb 1616).
1635 marriage record of Matteo Malanotti and Margherita Dalle Caneve, both of Caldes, Trentino, Italy

click on image to see it larger

There are a handful of Dalle Caneve baptisms in Caldes in the early years of the 1600s, after which they appear to have ‘daughtered out’ and gone extinct before the middle of the century. A branch of the family who transferred to Val di Rabbi, however, survived there until the end of the 1800s.

Father Bottea didn’t create a tree for the Dalle Caneve, most likely because they had been extinct in Caldes for at least 250 years by the time he did his research. However, they are an important family to remember because, according to historian Alberto Mosca, they may have an ancestral connection to at least two of the other historic families of Caldes: the Bonomi and the Manfroni.

Bonomi

Bonomi is a patronymic from the man’s name ‘Bonomo’, from the Latin ‘bon + homo’, meaning ‘good man’ or ‘good human being’.

Alberto Mosca tells us that the name ‘Bonomo’ was a recurring name in the Dalle Caneve family through the end of the 1500s, which he feels adds weight to the hypothesis of an ancient ancestral connection between the Bonomi and the Dalle Caneve.

Mosca also reports that the first known diploma of nobility for the family was for a ‘Pietro Bonhomo’, who was ennobled in 1370 by Emperor Carlo IV (as per an epigraph from the 1600s).

Stemma (coat-of-arms) of the noble Bonomi family of Caldes, as drawn by Father Tommaso Bottea in 1881.
Stemma (coat-of-arms) of the noble Bonomi family of Caldes, as drawn by Father Tommaso Bottea in 1881.

We know from surviving records that the Caldes Bonomi originated in nearby Cavizzana. For example, the earliest surviving baptismal record for a Bonomi in Caldes is for an Anna Maria, daughter of Francesco Bonomi and Massenza (Manfroni), dated 27 April 1606:

1606 baptismal record from Caldes for Anna Maria Bonomi

click on image to see it larger

Admittedly difficult to read, her father is referred to here as ‘Francesco Buon Homo, now living (nunc incola) in Caldes’, implying that is not where he was originally from.

In this baptismal record from the following year, we find a ‘Blasio (Biagio), son of Stefano Bonhom’ and Marina, born 4 April 1607. Here the priest specifies that Stefano came from Cavizzana:

1607 baptismal record from Caldes for Biagio Bonomi

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Thus, it would appear that the Bonomi arrived in Caldes sometime toward the end of the 1500s, and that they are an extension of the original Cavizzana family. Bottea identifies the patriarch of this line as a man named Bonomo (son of Martino, of Cavizzana), who was most likely born in the mid-1400s. Thus, all Caldes Bonomi are ancestrally related to the Cavizzana Bonomi.

The family’s diploma of nobility, as sculpted on the historic Bonomi house in Caldes, was later confirmed by the Emperor Ferdinando III (reigned 1637-1657) to the Caldes notary, Aurelio Bonomi. Aurelio, who was the son of the same Francesco Bonomi and Maria Malanotti in the above record, married a Lucia Manfroni around the year 1616. These are all noble families of Caldes. Mosca says there are two doors (dated 1608 and 1638) on the present-day street ‘via Manfroni Prati’ in Caldes that depict the Bonomi stemma.

While this surname appears in many other parts of the province, it would be wrong to assume they are all related. You will find it in various parts of the Giudicarie, Arco and especially in Pinzolo in Val Rendena. Tabarelli de Fatis mentions a noble Bonomi family from Pinzolo, who were living in Trento. An Antonio from this family was granted a stemma by Prince-Bishop Carlo Gaudenzio Madruzzo on 25 July 1615.

Manfroni

Manfroni is a patronymic surname, derived from a patriarch named ‘Manfrone’ (or ‘Manfrono’) of Caldes, whose name appears in a record dated 1480. In that document, he is said to be the son of the late Pietro, and grandson of the late Girardino. As with the Bonomi, Alberto Mosca believes the Manfroni were originally a branch of the now extinct the Dalle Caneve family. Like the Dalle Caneve, he has found evidence they were in the service of the Counts of Flavon.

Alberto Mosca tells us that the Manfroni are documented well into the 1400s, and that they are the only family among the ancient nobility of Caldes who are still in existence.

By the 1600s, there were at least six branches of the Manfroni family present in Caldes, all of which are represented in the Manfroni tree by Father Bottea.

Another noble family of Caldes, the first known title and stemma of nobility for them was awarded on 25 April 1554 to captain Giovanni Giacomo Manfroni (captain of the cavalry) of Caldes and his brothers Bernardino and Baldassare ‘and their legitimate descendants’ by Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor.

Stemma (coat-of-arms) from 1554 for Giovanni Giacomo Manfroni of Caldes, as drawn by Rev. Tommaso Bottea (1881)
Stemma (coat-of-arms) from 1554 for Giovanni Giacomo Manfroni of Caldes, as drawn by Rev. Tommaso Bottea (1881)

On 23 May 1726, H.R. Emperor Carlo VI awarded the predicate ‘de Manfort’ (also see Monfort and Montfort), and the rank of Knights (cavalieri) of the Holy Roman Empire to the relatives of Bernardino, Giovanni Giacomo, Giovanni Federico and Giovanni Antonio. On 28 Oct 1766, Antonio Manfroni of Caldes was granted an embellishment of his coat-of-arms by Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinando I.

During his short but tyrannical reign in Trentino at the end of the 1700s, Napoleon managed to dissolve both the Holy Roman Empire and the office of the Prince-Bishop of Trento, as well as nullify all noble titles. However, after he was ousted, and the Austrian empire took his place (which later became the Austro-Hungarian empire), some of the higher-ranking noble families managed to regain their titles and noble privileges.

One of these families was the Manfroni of Caldes. Not only did they regain their noble privilege, they were elevated to the rank of Knights of the Austrian Empire by Francesco Giuseppe on 30 March 1855. Later, Maurizio Manfroni, ship captain, was elevated to the rank of BARON of the Austrian Empire on 23 Jan 1874, and they were added to the list of ‘noble Tirolese’ in 1886.

Antonietti

This family’s surname was originally ‘Dalla Piazza’, also seen ‘de Platea’ or ‘De Plateis’ in Latin sources.

In his Caldes trees, don Bottea shows us a Domenico dalla Piazza, born sometime before 1500, and his son Antonio who appears in records around 1524. This Antonio had the nickname ‘Toniet’. This Antonio ‘Toniet’ had a son named Domenico, and it is from his descendants, that the surname Antonietti starts to appear around the year 1600.

Although it seems the family were already ennobled in some way before the year 1500, this Domenico, who was probably born around 1570, was elevated to the rank of ‘Conte Palatino’ (Palatine Count) in 1645. This title was originally associated with one of the most illustrious positions of the early Middle Ages in the kingdoms of the Franks, but it gradually lost importance over the centuries. They were also granted various titles from the Prince-Bishops in the 1700s.

Stemma of the ancient noble Antonietti family of Caldes, as drawn by a priest-historian Rev. Tommaso Bottea in the parish register in Caldes.
Stemma of the ancient noble Antonietti family of Caldes, as drawn by a priest-historian Rev. Tommaso Bottea in the parish register in Caldes.

A branch of the family, headed by Giovanni Battista Antonietti, settled in Malé around 1655.

Both the Caldes and Malé lines are now extinct. If you look on Nati in Trentino, there are no Antonietti (sometimes entered ‘de Antonietti’) born in Caldes after 1825, and none at all in Malé. Apparently around the middle of the 1700s, a Chiara Antonietti married a Cristoforo Caretta, and because there were no male heirs to the noble title in that line, their son Michele Caretta (who married a Francesca Manfroni in 1777) was granted the right to append the name Antonietti to the surname Caretta, resulting in the new surname ‘Caretta-Antonietti’.

There are a few Antonietti in the city of Trento and in Ledro in the early 20th century, but I currently have no idea where these lines originated.

Malanotti

‘Malanotti’ is a conjunction of the word ‘mala’ for ‘bad’ and ‘notte’ or ‘nocte’ for ‘night’. Thus, it means somebody in the past had a ‘bad night’. Alberto Mosca says the surname is found in numerous Italian places in the medieval era, as well as in the parish of Ossana in 1281.

In the specific case of Caldes, this surname came from a soprannome given sometime in the 1400s to someone whose original surname was ‘Arpolini’. The surname ‘Arpolini’ or ‘de Arpolini’ is a patronymic, derived from the man’s name Arpolino. Alberto Mosca says the name Arpolino (which was recurring name in the noble families of Flavon and Caldes) is probably a variant of a German name, such as Arpo, or Aribo, so, perhaps this family has some Germanic roots.

The family appear to have already been ennobled by the late 1300s, as per the decima (record of tithes) of Terzolas in 1385, where we find cited a Nicolò, son of the late ‘Sir’ Arpolino of Caldes.

While Father Bottea’s tree traces the ‘de Arpolini’ back to the late 1300s, the name ‘Malanotti’ starts to appear as a soprannome – a personal nickname – sometime in the mid-1400s with an Antonio, who was the son of the Nicolò I just mentioned.

The oldest known stemma for the family is in the ceiling of the church of San Rocco in Caldes, painted in 1512, for a ‘Sir’ Bernardino Arpolino, ‘vulgo Malanot’. Apparently, this church was built by Bernardino and other benefactors in thanks for surviving an outbreak of the plague in 1510 (San Rocco is the patron saint for plague victims).

Bernardino Malanotti’s stemma appears above the altar in the church, at the far right. To its left is the stemma of the Emperor Massimiliano, followed by the stemma of Prince-Bishop of Trento Giorgio Neideck. At the far left is an allegorical depiction of Death personified.

Stemmi, dated 1512, above the altar of the Church of San Rocco in Caldes. Photo by Alberto Mosca.
Stemmi, dated 1512, above the altar of the Church of San Rocco in Caldes. Photo by Alberto Mosca.

The stemma depicts two bears grabbing either side of a tree. I’m not sure if the bear on top is still part of the stemma, or just an illustration of the story behind the stemma. Alberto Mosca calls this a ‘talking’ coat of arms, showing us the kind of ‘bad night’ the family member spent: a certain member of the family sheltered in a tree. Although he doesn’t delve any deeper, my friend, client, and colleague, Gene Pancheri, shared a local legend about the origin of this nickname. The story goes that, after having been chased by a brown bear, a man took refuge at the top of a tree, because he knew brown bears cannot climb trees. However, the bear was persistent, and would not leave, causing the man to spend the entire night up in the tree before the bear finally gave up and moved on. From this point on, this man was nicknamed ‘malanot’ or ‘malanotti’, i.e., the man who once had an infamously ‘bad night’.

Close-up of stemma of Bernardino Malanotti, dated 1512, in the church of San Rocco in Caldes, Trentino, Italy
Close-up of stemma of Bernardino Malanotti, dated 1512, in the church of San Rocco in Caldes, Trentino, Italy

Who was this original ‘Malanotti’ who spent his night up a tree? The evidence suggests it was probably Antonio Arpolino, sometime in the mid-1400s.

Mosca gives a wealth of additional information about illustrious Malanotti throughout the centuries. While I don’t have room to mention them all, one that stands out is another Bernardino Malanotti, most likely the grandson of Bernardino whose stemma appears in the little church of San Rocco. This Bernardino is documented in 1598 as being an imperial advisor, and secretary of the Archduchess Anna Cattarina in the Courts at Innsbruck and Vienna. Apparently, he also accompanied the then Princess Cecilia Renata (daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II, of the House of Habsburg) to Poland, where she would be crowned Queen of Poland.

At least two Malanotti lines emigrated from Caldes to Ceresé in Val di Rabbi in the 1500s, where the surname mutated to ‘Breton’ and Marinolli. Other lines were in Terzolas, where it went extinct in 1742.

Fattarsi

Fattarsi is a toponymic surname, i.e., a surname derived from the name of a place. It is of Germanic origin, and it took some time before it fully developed into the surname as it appears today.

According to Rev. Tommaso Bottea, the name ‘Fattarsi’ is a contraction of the words ‘Pfarre Tartsch’ (sometimes written Tarschg), meaning ‘(of) the parish of Tartsch’, which is in Val Venosta in South Tyrol (aka province of Bolzano). He estimates the surname was in use in Caldes by around 1590, although I see only very early (and not quite ‘fully baked’) versions of the surname during that era.

The founding father of the Fattarsi family of Caldes was a Federico Fattarsi, who arrived in Caldes from South Tyrol sometime by 1590, after marrying a woman named Brigida from Castelfondo. They had at least five children together. Thus, all of the present-day Fattarsi of Caldes are related, as they are descended from this same couple.

The 1594 baptismal record of their son Giovanni Giacomo refers to Federico as ‘Federico Fortag, a German living in Caldes’. In the baptismal record of their son Michele (4 Aug 1591), the priest refers to Federico as ‘Federico Fortach, teutonico chellero’ (Teutonic/German Keller), employed by the Most Distinguished dom. Filippo Thun of Castel Caldes’.

1591 baptismal record of Michele Fattarsi of Caldes, Trentino, Italy
1591 baptismal record of Michele Fattarsi of Caldes, Trentino, Italy

click on image to see it larger

A ‘Keller’ is the keeper of the wine cellar/cold food cellar. As there is no ‘K’ in the Italian vocabulary, it is often spelled ‘Cheller’. For this reason, some of the early baptismal records are recorded under the surname ‘Cheller/Keller’, and we also see ‘Cheller/Keller’ used as a soprannome for this family some subsequent generations. Don Bottea also mentions this occupation in his research.

The family produced many priests who worked in the curate churches in Caldes and Val di Rabbi, especially during the mid-1700s to early 1800s.

Rosani

Rosani is another patronymic, based on the man’s name ‘Rosano’ or ‘Rochesano’. Father Bottea says this family can be traced back to a ‘Rosano of Caldes’ who allegedly lived sometime in the 1200s. However, in working with the Bottea tree for Rosani, the dates don’t quite work, and they seem to leap over several generations in the very early years. Also, someone (I don’t know if it was Father Bottea or a later researcher) wrote the name ‘Rochesano’ over the name ‘Rosano’ in two places in the tree.

Alberto Mosca’s research might clear up some of the ambiguity of this ‘very ancient’ family. He tells us that a ‘Rochesano, son of the late Michele’ is cited in records dated 1393 and 1399, and another ‘Rochesano, son of the late Michele’ is found two generations later in 1465. This younger Rochesano is cited as being a ‘muln’, i.e., a miller (mugnaio), an occupation which seems to have continued for many generations (note I mentioned earlier there is an area in Caldes known as Molino, which means ‘mill’). We then find a ‘Michel Rosan of Caldes’ at the end of the 1400s and again in the early 1500s, where he is included in a list of people who were obligated to pay for public education to the Count Valentino Spaur.

In comparing these two sources of information, we can interpolate how these men fit into Father Bottea’s tree. Just from naming conventions, I would have presumed the youngest Michele mentioned was the son of Rochesano/Rosano, and Bottea’s tree does show this to be the case. However, from his tree, it seems Michele’s line died out, and the line that survived to carry on the surname was via a different son, named Antonio:

Most ancient generations of the Rosani family of Caldes, as researched by Father Tommaso Bottea (1881)
Most ancient generations of the Rosani family of Caldes, as researched by Father Tommaso Bottea (1881)

click on image to see it larger

Mosca tells us that a Bartolomeo Rosani of Caldes, son of Paolo, was living in Livo in 1541, and that some members of this branch emigrated to Brescia (in Lombardia) in the 1800s, where they set up an award-winning business as engravers.

Scaramella

This family were originally from Valtellina in the region of Lombardia. The patriarch of the Scaramella line was a Domenico who came to Caldes sometime before the beginning of 1600. He had at least two sons (most likely born in Lombardia) Antonio and Giovanni, but according to Father Bottea’s tree Antonio’s line appears to have died out by the end of the 1600s. Thus, all Scaramella of Caldes today are descended from Domenico’s son Giovanni and his wife Cattarina. Alberto Mosca tells us that the family were active in local commerce by the year 1633.

Regarding the linguistic origins of the name, Aldo Bertoluzza says it may be a variant of the word ‘scaramuccia’, which means a ‘skirmish’.

Although the surname is still present in Caldes today, only a handful of Scaramella families remain there. It is much more common in its region of origin, Lombardia, especially in the provinces of Sondrio and Brescia.

Closing Thoughts

For those of you with Caldes ancestors, I hope this article has been informative and useful. And to those of you who do not, I do hope you found it interesting. Speaking for myself, I am always fascinated by the histories of Trentino families.

As mentioned, there are several other ancient surnames of Caldes that were researched by Father Bottea, which I have not covered in this article. There are also many other Caldes families who arrived in the parish later, many of which are covered by Alberto Mosca in his book on Caldes, which you will find in the references below.

All of these surnames (including those I have not mentioned here) will be covered in my book in progress entitled Guide to Trentino Surnames for Genealogists and Family Historians. I hope you follow me on the journey as I research and write this book; it will probably be a few years before it comes out, and it is likely to end up being a multi-volume set.

If you enjoyed this article, and would like to receive future articles from Trentino Genealogy,  be sure to subscribe to this blog using the form below.

Until next time!

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
8 February 2021

P.S. As you probably know, all my 2020 trips to Trento were cancelled due to COVID-19 lockdowns. I am still not sure when I will be able to go back in Trento, as we are still in lockdown here in the UK, and the government is still advising against making any travel plans.  Fingers crossed, I will be able to go there by the summer, but there really is no way of knowing for sure at the moment.   

However, I do have resources to do a fair bit of research for many clients from home, and I now have some openings for a few new client projects starting in April 2021.

If you would like to book a time to discuss having me do research for you, I invite you to read my ‘Genealogy Services’ page, and then drop me a line using the Contact form on this site. Then, we can set up a free 30-minute chat to discuss your project.

Join our Trentino Genealogy Group on Facebook: http://facebook.com/groups/TrentinoGenealogy

Lynn on Twitter: http://twitter.com/LynnSerafinn

View my Santa Croce del Bleggio Family Tree on Ancestry:
https://trentinogenealogy.com/my-tree/

REFERENCES AND RESOURCES

ANZILOTTI, Giulia Mastrelli. 2003. Toponomastica Trentina: I Nomi delle Località Abitate. Trento: Provincia Autonoma di Trento, Servizio Beni librari e archivistici.

BERTOLUZZA, Aldo. 1998. Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino. Trento: Società Iniziative Editoriali (S.R.L.).

CASETTI, Albino (dottore). 1951. Guida Storico – Archivistica del Trento. Trento: Tipografia Editrice Temi (S.R.L.).

MOSCA, Alberto. 2015. Caldes: Storia di Una Nobile Comunità. Pergine Valsugana (Trentino, Italy): Nitida Immagine Editrice.

STENICO, P. Remo. 1999. Notai Che Operarono Nel Trentino dall’Anno 845. Trento: Biblioteca San Bernardino. Can be downloaded for free in PDF format from http://www.db.ofmtn.pcn.net/ofmtn/files/biblioteca/Notai.pdf

STENICO, P. Remo. 2000. Sacerdoti della Diocesi di Trento dalla sua Esistenza Fino all’Anno 2000. Can be downloaded for free in PDF format from http://www.db.ofmtn.pcn.net/ofmtn/files/biblioteca/Preti-Indice-Preti.pdf

TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. 2005. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine. Trento: Società di Studi Trentini di Scienze Storiche.

Not Just a Nickname: Understanding Your Family Soprannome

Not Just a Nickname: Understanding Your Family Soprannome

Genealogist Lynn Serafinn explains the role of the soprannome in Trentino and other parts of Italy and shows how to recognise them in genealogical records.

Sooner or later, anyone working with Italian genealogy will encounter something called a soprannome’ (plural: soprannomi).

And if you’re working specifically on Trentino family history, you might also hear or read the word scutum’, which is the Trentino dialect word for soprannome.

Despite the fact that EVERY family of Italian origin has a soprannome, many people researching their Trentino (or other Italian) ancestry either don’t know anything about them or fail to recognise them when they see them. And of those who DO know something about them, they often misunderstand the meaning and ‘behaviour’ of their family’s soprannome over time.

I’ve mentioned soprannomi within the context of other articles on this website but have never spoken about them in detail. As this subject is such an important part of Trentino genealogy, I thought it would be helpful to devote an entire article to the subject.

In this article, I will discuss:

  • What soprannomi are and why they are used
  • Why I think the word ‘nickname’ is not an appropriate term for them.
  • The various ways soprannomi are recorded in parish registers
  • How soprannomi are ‘born’, change, and what they might mean
  • Why soprannomi can be both a blessing and a curse for genealogists
  • How to record soprannomi in your family tree

Recording Data – The Computer as an Analogy

Think back to the days when you first started using a computer. Imagine you’ve just created your first Word document.  You probably just saved it to the default ‘Documents’ folder without thinking about it. You might not even have given it a title, just calling it something like ‘Document 1.’

But over time, you made lots and lots of Word documents. Perhaps some were business letters. Perhaps others were letters to the family, stories you wrote or genealogy research notes. After a while, it became difficult to find the documents you had written in the past because they weren’t labelled clearly, and they were all in one big folder called ‘Documents’.

So, what did you do? Well, first of all, you probably started renaming the documents, so you knew what was what. But then, you might also have started creating folders inside the main ‘Documents’ folder. Perhaps one folder was called ‘Business Letters’, and another ‘My Research’, etc.

But soon, you created still MORE documents. For example, perhaps your research diversified, and now you wanted to separate your notes for different branches of the family. So, you started to create subfolders inside the folder called ‘My Research’.

By labelling your files clearly and creating a system of folders and subfolders, it became easier for you to identify and find the correct files when you needed them.

In simple terms, we can say that creating a structure is fundamental to being able to identify things and to distinguish one thing from another.

Name, Surname, Soprannome – An Increasing Need for Accuracy

If you think about it, names, surnames and soprannomi serve much the same purpose as the filing system on our computer:

  • Our personal names are like the documents, in that each document is an individual entity.
  • Our surnames are like the folders in which our documents are stored, in that they group many individuals into different categories.
  • And, in the case of Trentino and other Italian ancestry, our soprannomi are like the subfolders within those folders, in that they create sub-groups within the group.

Just as your system for naming files was less complex when you started out using your computer, naming people was also less complex in the past, when the population was smaller, and most people were living in small, rural hamlets or homesteads.

Indeed, in the beginning, people were known mainly by their personal names along with their father’s name and/or their village of origin. Thus, in early records (and sometime even after surnames were already in use), you will see things like ‘Sebastiano of Sesto’, or ‘Nicolo’ son of Sebastiano of Sesto’.

But just like when you created folders because you had created so many documents you could no longer find what you were looking for, people started using surnames.

The Italian word for surname is ‘cognome’ (plural = cognomi):

Con = with

Nome = name

When the words are joined together, the ‘n’ in ‘con’ is changed to a ‘g’, which creates the sound ‘nya’ (like the ‘gn’ ‘lasagne’).

Thus, cognome means ‘with the name’, implying it is a kind of partner to the name.

While some surnames on the Italian peninsula appear in records as early as the 1200s or so, you don’t really see them becoming the norm until around the 1400s, and even then, they are often a bit ‘fluid’ and still in the state of change/clarification.

The ‘Black Death’ (1346-53) dealt a severe blow to the European population, wiping out an estimated 50% of the population. But gradually, and additional outbreaks of plague notwithstanding, the population not only restored itself, but eventually expanded by the 1600s.

Then, we see a situation where there was a limited number of cognomi within a small community, but lots of sons were being born, all naming their sons after their fathers. Just like your research documents, things started to get confusing.  This is when soprannomi became necessary.  

Like cognome, the word soprannome is also comprised of two Italian words:

‘Sopra’ = above or ‘on top of’

‘Nome’ = name

When the words are joined together, the ‘n’ is doubled.

Thus, together, the term means ‘on top of the name’.

What are Soprannomi and Why Are They Used?

As you might have already surmised:

A soprannome is an additional name used that is used to distinguish one branch of a family from others who share the same surname.

I think it is useful to think of a soprannome as a kind of ‘bolt on’ family surname, an idea that is also consistent with literal meaning of the word (‘on top of the name’).

Just as creating subfolders can be extremely helping in helping organise and identify individual files on our computer, soprannomi can be extremely useful in identifying the correct people – both during their own lifetimes, and in our family trees – especially when many people seem to have the same name and surname.

And, although I have NOT seen this mentioned in any of my research resources, I would assume that soprannomi might also have been considered useful (if not necessary) tools in helping ensure close bloodlines didn’t intermarry. As I mentioned in an earlier article (see link below), marriages between 3rd cousins or closer were only permitted via a special church dispensation.

MORE READING:   Kissing Cousins: Marital Dispensations, Consanguinity, Affinity

Why I Think ‘Nickname’ is a Misleading Term

I have frequently seen the word soprannome translated into English as ‘nickname’. However, I believe this is a misleading term, and it doesn’t really reflect the true purpose and behaviour of a soprannome.

When we use the term ‘nickname’ in English, we usually mean:

  1. A shortening/adaptation of a person’s personal name (such as ‘Charly’ for ‘Charles’ or ‘Peggy’ for ‘Margaret’) OR
  2. An individual ‘pet name’ given to someone reflecting a personal trait or characteristic; alternatively, it may be associated with an achievement or event unique to them. Almost everyone will have had at least one ‘pet name’ in their lives, if not various ones from parents, schoolmates, spouse, friends, etc., according to their relationship with them.

While a soprannome might share some obvious similarities with one of these criteria, its historical origins might be so obscure that even the families who ‘inherited’ it may no longer know where it came from or what it means. Moreover, the original significance of the soprannome may have no relevance whatsoever to the family in the present day. This is quite different from what we associate with the term ‘nickname’, which is usually something intentionally given to someone to create a sense of intimacy and familiarity.

The function of a soprannome is also quite different from a nickname, as its purpose is to identify a specific lineage of people within a larger group, rather than one particular person. Perhaps the English word ‘clan’ might be a bit closer in meaning, but I don’t know enough about clans in other cultures to make a true comparison.

How Soprannomi Are Recorded in Parish Registers (or not!)

After analysing hundreds of thousands of Italian parish records from at least five different provinces, I can conclude:

There is NO consistently used system for recording soprannomi.

Soprannomi appear in all manner of ways in the records, depending on the era, the parish and the individual style of the priest. You can sometimes read decades worth of records in some parishes, and never stumble across a single soprannome. In fact, I have NEVER seen the soprannome for the branch of our Serafini family in any record, despite the fact it has most likely been around since the beginning of the 19th century. I only know the soprannome anecdotally, via my cousins in Trentino.

That said, there are some common practices for recording soprannomi, including:

‘Detto’ or ‘Dicti’

Perhaps the most commonly seen way of recording a soprannome is with the word detto’ (if the record is in Italian, usually after 1800) or the word dicti’ (if the record is in Latin, as is almost always the case before 1800). Without going into the grammar too much, these words are derived from the verb ‘to say’. You will often see them in documents with the meaning of ‘the aforesaid’, but in the context of surname/soprannome, they can loosely be translated as ‘called’ or ‘otherwise known as’.

For example, consider this baptismal record from 1705:

1705 Baptismal record for Antonio Buschetti, soprannome 'Caserini'

Click on image to see it larger

Here we see the name of the baptised child is Antonio, and his father is referred to as ‘Giovanni, son of Francesco Buschetti, called (dicti) Caserini. In other words, the surname is Buschetti, and the soprannome for that branch of the family is Caserini.

Be aware, however, that these words are FREQUENTLY abbreviated, e.g. ‘dtofor detto, or ‘dtifor dicti. Here’s one example from a 1768 marriage record from Tione di Trento:

1768 marriage record from Tione di Trento.

Click on image to see it larger

Here, we see the groom is referred to as ‘Antonio son of the late Francesco Salvaterra called Borella’ (i.e. surname Salvaterra, soprannome Borella), and the bride is ‘Cattarina, daughter of Giuseppe Salvaterra called Serafin’ (i.e. the surname is again Salvaterra, and the soprannome is Serafin or Serafini). In both cases, the soprannome is indicated by the word dicti in its abbreviated from.

‘Vulgo’

Recently when I did some research in Valvestino in the province of Brescia (Lombardia), I encountered another method of recording in soprannomi in Latin records, using the word ‘vulgo’. This word loosely means ‘commonly’, but in this context can be translated as ‘commonly known as’.

Consider this baptismal record from 1839 (during an era when I would have expected to see the record written in Italian):

1839 marriage record from Valvestino in the province of Brescia, Lombardia, Italy

Click on image to see it larger

Here, the child’s father is referred to as ‘Giovanni Grandi, vulgo Ecclesia’ (the priest had actually omitted the surname at first and inserted it above the line). Thus, the surname is Grandi, and the soprannome is ‘Ecclesia’. However, in this particular case, the family’s soprannome is actually Chiesa (which means ‘church’ in English), as the priest has used the Latin word for church (Ecclesia).

Surname Followed by Soprannome

Some priests don’t bother to use an indicator such as detto, etc. for the soprannome, preferring simply to write the two names one after the other. Consider this baptismal record from 1760, again from the parish of Tione di Trento:

1760 baptismal record for Francesca Failoni of Tione di Trento.

Click on image to see it larger

Here the priest refers to the father of the child as ‘Felice, son of Francesco Failoni Battaia’. It is understood from this context that the surname is Failoni, and the soprannome is Battaia – at least we HOPE that is what he means.

I say ‘hope’ because, in my experience, priests will occasionally REVERSE the surname and soprannome, making it difficult to know which is which. A perfect example is this same document, in the name of the godmother. She is described here as ‘Maria, widow of the late Vittorio Seraphin (Serafin or Serafini) Salvaterra’.

Having done a fair amount of research on the families of Tione, I am fairly certain the Vittorio’s surname was Salvaterra, and his soprannome was Serafin(i), not the other way around (in fact, we saw an example of this combination in a previous record in this article). I couldn’t say that this was definitely the case, however, without future research.

‘Equal’ sign

Sometimes soprannome is preceded by an ‘equal’ sign (=). I have seen this system used most frequently in 19th century records. Usually, this sign will be between the surname and the soprannome, but not always. Consider this 1838 death record from the parish of Cavedago in Val di Non:

1838 death record for Tommaso Viola of Cavedago

Click on image to see it larger

Here, this 86-year-old deceased man is called ‘Tommaso Viola, son of the late Giovanni = Rodar’. In other words, his surname was Viola, and his soprannome was ‘Rodar’.

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Where Do Soprannomi Come From?

Much like Italian surnames, many (but not all) soprannomi may be derived from:

  • The personal name of a patriarch or matriarch
  • A place of origin of either a patriarch or matriarch
  • An historic profession of the family
  • A personal characteristic or attribute of a family or individual

Personal names

Some examples soprannomi I’ve encountered which mostly likely came from patriarchal personal names include: Stefani (from Stefano), Battianel (from Giovanni Battista), Vigiolot (from Vigilio), Gianon (from Giovanni), Tondon (probably from Antonio), and many others too numerous to count.

Sal Romano of the ‘Trentino Heritage’ blog told me that one of the soprannome for his Iob family was ‘Sicher’, which he theorises may have come from the personal name of a man named Sichero (Sicherius in Latin) in the 1670s.

Occasionally, you will see a soprannome that is derived from the name of a female ancestor, especially if the name is not so common. For example, one of my clients’ trees had the soprannome ‘Massenza’ because that was the name of one of the matriarchs for that line back in the 1700s.

Notice how I am expressing different levels of certainty here. That is because, of the above soprannomi, the only one for which I have definitely identified the origin is ‘Massenza’. The origins of the others are only hypothetical until research proves (or disproves) the theory.

Place of Origin

Some soprannomi indicate a connection with another place somewhere in the ancestral line. My friend and client Gene Pancheri, author of Pancheri: Our Story, told me that one of the Pancheri soprannomi is ‘Rumeri’, which means ‘a person from the village of Rumo’. He traced the origins of that soprannome to one of the female ancestors (who married a Pancheri of Romallo) who had come from Rumo.

Similarly, my own Serafini branch has the soprannome ‘Cenighi’ because my 4X great-grandmother, Margherita Giuliani (married to a Serafini in Santa Croce parish), came from the frazione of Ceniga in the parish of Drò (near Arco).

When making a tree for a client last year whose ancestors came from Tione di Trento, I noticed one of the soprannomi for the surname Salvaterra was ‘Ragol’. While I haven’t yet traced it back to its source, it is highly likely to have originated with female who came from the nearby village of Ragoli, which was often included within the parish of Tione in the past.

Notice how all of the examples above are linked to matriarchal lines. In my observation, most soprannomi that are linked to a place of origin tend to come from a female line. This is because women tended to move to the village/parish of their husbands (unless the woman was wealthy or had inherited property from her father).

There are exceptions, of course. On a list I recently received for Villa Banale in Val Giudicarie via Daniel Caliari at Giudicarie Storia, one of the soprannome for the surname Flaim was ‘Nonesi’, which means, ‘from Val di Non’. I found this interesting because Flaim is not indigenous to Villa Banale, and ALL the Flaim from that parish are descended from one man (named Bartolomeo Flaim) who came from Revò in Val di Non, who migrated there in the 1700s. Thus, all the Flaim there are technically ‘Nonesi’; it made me wonder how they figured out which branch got to ‘keep’ this soprannome as a memory of their origins.

Family Profession

Most soprannomi I have found that relate back to profession will refer to a ‘family’ profession rather than one for an individual. In this regard, the many variants on the word for ‘blacksmith’ spring to mind: Ferrari, Frerotti, Frieri, Fabro, Fabroferrari, etc. While most of these are also surnames in their own right, you will also see them crop up as soprannomi, telling you that, at least at some point in your family’s history, the blacksmithing was the family occupation.

Perhaps one of the most curious soprannomi I have ever encountered was when I was researching the Etro family of the Bassano del Grappa area of the province of Vicenza (Veneto), who migrated to the mountains of Madonna di Campiglio near Pinzolo in Trentino in the 1860s.

Their soprannome was ‘Rollo dei Mori’, which means ‘Rollo of the Moors’. In this era, the term ‘Moor’ referred to dark-skinned people from the Iberian Peninsula who were of north African descent, and usually Muslim.

It his book Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino, Aldo Bertoluzza stressed that the surnames/soprannomi derived from this word were most likely used to describe someone with black hair or very dark complexion, NOT someone who had Moorish background.

Bearing that in mind, there was something about the Etro family that MIGHT explain this curious soprannome: THEY WERE CHARCOAL MAKERS (carbonai).

Charcoal making was a ‘whole family’ operation, requiring the family to spend many months of the year in the woods, away from their main village. Children learned the skills of the profession from a young age, and sons often followed in their fathers’ footsteps, also becoming carbonai when they grew up.

In my mind, I imagine the family would often have been seen with blackened hands and faces as a result of their occupation. Perhaps ‘Rollo dei Mori’ was an affectionate or teasing term given to (or adopted by) the family because they were charcoal makers.

Of course, this is JUST my own theory.

Moorish style chandelier at Castel Stenico, Val Giudicarie

SIDE NOTE: Interestingly, Moorish themes and motifs were very popular in Trentino, and indeed throughout Italy between the 17th and 19th centuries. Consider this amazing ‘Moorish’ chandelier in Castel Stenico in Val Giudicarie. I’ve seen many such artefacts in many places in the province. It also brings to mind the ‘Dance of the Moors’ in Verdi’s opera Aida.

Character or Attribute of Family or Individual

Recently I stumbled across the soprannome ‘Piccolo Vigiloti’, which suddenly cropped up after several generations of seeing ‘Vigilot’. This is an example of a patriarchal soprannome differentiating to reflect an attribute of either a branch of the family or an individual. We can safely assume that the ‘Vigiloti’ branch got too big for the soprannome to be useful, and rather than create a new soprannome, they called one of them ‘Piccolo’, meaning ‘small’. As this branch was not the main focus of my research at that time, I didn’t trace it back to its roots, but my guess would be it either means ‘the smaller branch of descendants of Vigilio’, or ‘the descendants of the YOUNGER Vigilio’ (which I think is more likely).

Another soprannome I encountered that might be connected to a personal attribute (although, again, I haven’t yet excluded other possibilities) is Papi, which I have seen in connection with the surname Rigotti in San Lorenzo in Banale in the 19th century. The word ‘papi’ is the plural of the word for ‘pope’ (papa), not to be confused with the word papà, which means ‘father’. Both Papa and Papi are surnames in other parts of the province, but the soprannome MIGHT have no connection with these. Rather, as Aldo Bertoluzza theorises in Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino, it might have been used as a nickname for a man (again, perhaps in an affectionate way) who was said to have the demeanour or ‘presence’ of a pope.

There are a lot of ‘mights’ here, of course, and I prefer NOT to speculate too much, lest it blind me to the truth later. I think soprannomi that are derived from attributes are often the most difficult to identify with confidence, as we have no way of knowing much, if anything, about the personality of the people or families in question.

Soprannomi Taken from the Surname of a Matriarch

I’ve put this topic under its own header because I didn’t want it to get lost amongst the other categories.

Some soprannomi are actually other SURNAMES. Some examples I’ve personally encountered include:

  • Serafini/Serafin (a common surname in Ragoli and Santa Croce) was a soprannome for a branch of the Salvaterra in Tione in the 19th century (as we saw earlier).
  • Armanini (a common surname in Premione) was a soprannome for a branch of the Scandolari in Tione in the 19th century.
  • Conti (a surname in many parts of the province, but it also means ‘Counts’), was a soprannome for the Pancheri of Romallo in the 20th century.
  • Bondi (a common surname in Saone, and later in Santa Croce) was is a soprannome for a branch of the Devilli of Cavrasto in the 1600-1700s.
  • Bleggi (a common surname of Tignerone/Cilla’) was a soprannome for a branch of the Duchi in Sesto in the 1500-1600s.

Now, while I cannot say categorically this is true across the board, my ‘educated guess’ is that most of these surname-derived soprannomi are the surnames of a matriarch in the ancestral line.

In the case of the older lines, I probably will never be able to prove this theory, as the records won’t go back far enough to find the origins. Moreover, the further back you go in time, information about women in general becomes increasingly scant.

The fact that some soprannomi are identical to surnames can be a real bother – especially if a priest writes the soprannome before the surname in the record, as you have no way of knowing which is which without cross-referencing lots of other records.

Even worse is when a priest suddenly decides to use the soprannome INSTEAD of the surname, leaving the surname out altogether. That is definitely NOT fun.

When Soprannomi Become a Nightmare

On that note, consider this 1708 marriage record, where the groom is clearly identified as Giovanni Battista, son of the late Vigilio Bondi:

1708 marriage of Giovanni Battisa 'Bondi' Devilli and Domenica Farina

Click on image to see it larger

As Giovanni Battista is also called Bondi in his 1690 baptismal record, I originally took this at face value, and assumed ‘Bondi’ was the family surname.

However, for the longest time I couldn’t figure out who this Bondi family were or how they connected to the rest of the tree. They just sort of ‘popped up’ out of nowhere, like time travellers.

Then, and only by a great stroke of fortune where the priest made a correction in the records, I saw another marriage record for the same Giovanni Battista (he had been widowed twice at this point), where the priest had ORIGINALLY written ‘Bondi’, and then crossed it out and wrote ‘Villi’ (one of many spelling variants for the surname ‘Devilli’) above it:

1730 marriage record for Giovanni Battista Devilli and Margherita Caliari

Click on image to see it larger

Only then did I realise that the ‘Bondi’ family and the ‘Devilli’ family were one and the same – which was really handy, as Giovanni Battista Devilli happened to be my 6X great-grandfather.

Now consider this record of a double marriage in 1583, in which two siblings married two other siblings:

1583 Reversi Ballina double wedding, Santa Croce del Bleggio.

Click on image to see it larger

Now, I know many of you will find this challenging to read, so let me just identify the key people:

  • Benedetto REVERSI (son of the late Antonio) married Lucia BALLINA (daughter of Vincenzo)
  • Silvestro BALLINA (son of Vincenzo, hence brother of Lucia) married and Maddalena REVERSI (daughter of the late Antonio, hence sister of Benedetto)

In this record, the priest (don Alberto Farina) has apparently recorded the surnames for the couples, without and mention of soprannome.

But now have a look at this baptismal record from 1588, written by a different priest (Nicolo’ Arnoldo) of the same parish:

1588 baptismal record for Antonio 'Tacchel' Reversi, Santa Croce del Bleggio

Click on image to see it larger

The child’s first name is Antonio, and his surname (or so we assume) is underlined in the first sentence. It looks like ‘Tacchel’, but I have also seen it spelled ‘Tachelli’ in other records. I also found a record for Antonio’s elder sister, ‘Margherita Tacchel’, born in 1568.

Like the ‘Bondi’ family, this ‘Tacchel/Tachelli’ family were kind of floating in space on my tree for the longest time because I just couldn’t figure out who they were. But the answer was staring me right in the face (you can probably already guess it, as I’ve already shown you the document with the answer).

As you can see in Antonio’s baptismal record, his parents’ names are ‘Benedetto’ and Lucia’, and they lived in Cavaione. Now, remember we are talking about tiny hamlets, especially back in 1588. Only a handful of extended families would have been living in each frazione.

Add to that, the name ‘Benedetto’ is not a super common. But the combination of Benedetto AND Lucia in Cavaione in the 1580s? What are the chances of there being more than one such couple?

The answer is: none. There was indeed only one couple with those names in that village at that time.

As my tree is pretty large, I ran a few filters in my Family Tree Maker programme to find a ‘Benedetto’ living in Cavaione in this era and found Benedetto Reversi and Lucia Ballina, whose marriage I had already entered into the tree. What’s more, I knew that Benedetto’s father’s name was Antonio, and it was the usual practice back then to name the first son after the paternal grandfather.

All this made a very strong case for concluding that these were one and the same couple, and that ‘Tachel/Tachelli’ was a soprannome for this branch of the Reversi family (a surname that is still in use to this day in that parish).

MAIN ‘TAKEWAY’: If you see a surname that just sort of ‘appears’ in the records, and no mention is made that the family came from someplace else, consider the possibility that you are looking at a soprannome and that this family may already exist in your tree.

SIDE NOTE: The surname for the ‘Ballina’ family here eventually become ‘Fusari’. But I digress…

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The Ever-Changing Nature of Soprannomi

While the linguistic conventions for creating soprannomi might be similar to those for surnames, there is one BIG difference between them:

While surnames tend to stay the more or less the same for a long time (often for centuries), soprannomi will CHANGE whenever they need to, sometimes from one generation to the next.

Whenever a branch of a family gets very large, with lots of male descendants carrying the family surname, new soprannomi will suddenly spring up to differentiate these various male lines. This is why you might sometimes see a father with one soprannome, and his son with another.

So, if a relative tells you that your family’s soprannome is such-and-such, don’t just accept it something ‘cast in stone’. It might be so, but then again it might not. It’s essential to know WHEN they are talking about. If that person saw that soprannome in a book or in some parish records from the 1600s …well… it is highly unlikely this will be your family soprannome TODAY. Many soprannomi will be used only three or four generations (sometimes less) before they morph into something else.

Remember, it’s just like creating subfolders (and sub-subfolders) on your computer. There is no way to keep everything straight without continual, dynamic change to adapt to new situations and needs.

And sometimes, but less frequently, these adaptations may result in a more radical change, where a soprannome will replace the surname altogether. In my father’s parish of Santa Croce, for example, the family now known as ‘Martinelli’ used to be called ‘Giumenta’ before the 1630s, adopting their soprannome (apparently derived from a patriarch named Martino who was born around 1515) as their surname. Similarly, the present-day surname ‘Tosi’ in the same parish came from the soprannome of a branch of the noble Crosina family of Balbido.

Unless you are aware of these shifts from soprannome to surname, it can seem like your ancestral family has vanished into dust when you are trying to trace them backwards.

Tracing the Origins of Your Family’s Soprannomi

As you can see, origins and behaviour of soprannomi are highly varied, often unclear, and constantly changing.  As such, tracing the origin and meaning of a soprannome can range from really obvious to doggedly elusive.

But if we are to have even the slightest chance of understanding them, and to using them as genealogical tools, we must make it a practice to keep a record our family soprannomi whenever we encounter them. They are not just colourful names, but important clues as to our ancestral lines, which can help us identify specific people, places and/or occupations of the past.

If you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend that you start keeping a list of soprannomi, taking care to record: 

  • The SURNAMES they are connected to
  • The VILLAGES in which they appear
  • The DATES (both the earliest AND the most recent) you have seen them in a record

I keep an ongoing list of soprannomi for my father’s parish, mostly from the 1500-1700s. I keep it as a ‘general task’ in my Family Tree Maker programme, and refer to it frequently. For me, those years are the most crucial to record, because (as already illustrated) there are so many instances of the priests using soprannomi instead of surnames. Without this ‘road map’ I could easily get lost.

Recording Soprannomi in Your Family Tree

I believe it is important to record soprannomi in your family tree, not only because they are an important part of your family history, but also because doing so will also help you keep track of your ancestral lines.

So, what is the ‘best’ way of doing this? I think it ultimately comes down to personal choice. I’ve used a variety of methods in different trees,all with their own advantages/disadvantages. Below are a few options you might consider.

TIP: Whichever method you choose, BE CONSISTENT. Try to use the same method throughout the same tree. My oldest tree (now around 26,000 people) has a patchwork of styles, which I am gradually trying to standardise.

OPTION 1: Soprannome as a MIDDLE NAME

Sometimes I put soprannomi in ALL CAPS as a middle name just before the surname.

This has the advantage of making things visible for me to find them quickly in the index when using a programme like Family Tree Maker or searching for that person on Ancestry.

However, it can also be confusing, as I also use the same method with middle names that are used as the primary name by which the person was known.

OPTION 2: Using ‘Also Known As’

Both Ancestry and Family Tree Maker have an option for ‘also known as’ (AKA).

This might seem like a good choice for a soprannome, but I feel that is better used for when someone is known by one of their middle names OR an actual NICKNAME as we think of it in English.

OPTION 3: The ‘Double-Barrelled’ Surname-Soprannome

In some parishes, the surnames are SO repetitive, and the priests CONSISTENTLY used soprannomi in just about every record, I have occasionally opted to HYPHENATED the surname with the soprannome. This was a method I used when making a tree for someone with family from the parish of Tione di Trento, as the soprannome in that parish are almost always see in conjunction with the surname.

The advantage of this method is it immediately organised everyone with the same surname-soprannome combination alphabetically in the person index for the tree, which is actually very useful.

The disadvantage is that, if you don’t know a person’s soprannome because it wasn’t recorded in the record, they might look like they are disconnected from their branch of the family.

OPTION 4: Create a Custom Fact or Event Called ‘Soprannome

Although sites like Ancestry and programmes like Family Tree Maker don’t have a ‘soprannome’ in their default settings, it is possible to create a ‘custom fact’ (in Family Tree Maker) or ‘custom event’ (in Ancestry) and label it ‘soprannome’.

Personally, I believe this the BEST option, as it makes it absolutely CLEAR that this name is a soprannome and not something else. When using Family Tree Maker, it gives you the additional advantage of being able to create filtered lists or custom reports for specific soprannomi (which can be really informative). Equally important, you can also write NOTES about the soprannome ‘fact/event’, where you can discuss how it was derived, when it started, where it was recorded, or any other relevant information.

UNBREAKABLE RULE: Record WHERE You Found It

Regardless of which method you choose or devise to record your family’s soprannomi, there is one ‘unbreakable rule’ I strongly advise you include in your research practice:

After the soprannome, make a note of where you found it – preferably the earliest record.

For example, if a soprannome is in Giovanni’s baptismal record, put down ‘as per Giovanni’s baptismal record’ or something to that effect.

But what if it’s NOT in the baptismal record for Giovanni, but in the baptismal records of two of his children? Then, write ‘as per the baptismal records of his children, Antonio and Maria,’ etc. This helps you remember that the soprannome MIGHT have started with that generation, and not earlier. Later, if you find an earlier record, change the notation to reflect that.

Please trust me on this point. In the past, I neglected this important ‘rule’, which resulted in me not being able to identify where the soprannome first entered the tree, which can potentially create some confusion as you move backwards in time.

How NOT to Record Soprannomi (or Nicknames) in Your Tree

Two things you should NEVER (ever!) use in the name field for people in your tree are:

  1. Quotation marks (AKA inverted commas)
  2. Parentheses (AKA brackets)

I’ve seen these on so many trees on Ancestry, I’ve lost count. They are especially common in trees where people changed their names after immigration.

SIDE NOTE: While not on the subject of soprannomi, I really want to stress that married surnames should NEVER be part of a woman’s name – neither in the name field, and not in the ‘also known as. It is already understood that she would possibly have been known by her husband’s surname if she lived in the US or UK. Besides, when we are talking about Italian women, many, if not most, retain their maiden names throughout life.

So, let’s have a look at what a MESS all these variables can create. I’ll use my father’s eldest sister as an example (both she and my dad are deceased):

  • My dad’s sister was born Pierina Luigina Serafini,
  • She was known as Jean Serafinn in America.
  • She was sometimes called ‘Gina’ in the family and ‘Jeannie’ by American friends.
  • She was married to a man whose surname was Graiff who died young.
  • Later she remarried a man with the surname Watson (he is also deceased).
  • Oh, and just for the heck of it, let’s go ahead and throw in our family soprannome, ‘Cenighi’.

Using the ‘quotation mark’ and ‘parentheses’ methods, and inserting her married surnames, my poor aunt’s name might end up looking like this:

Pierina Luigia “Gina” (Jean Serafinn) “Jeannie” Serafini “Cenighi” Graiff Watson

Please DON’T do this!!

Not only is this only horribly confusing to as to what her name actually IS, but all those quotation marks and brackets can cause errors in software programmes.

The best policy is to record the person’s name AT BIRTH in the name field, and then put alternative names in the ‘also known as’ field. And, as mentioned, the husbands’ surnames stay with the husbands, not the wife.

Thus, here is how my aunt SHOULD be entered into the tree:

  • NAME: Pierina Luigina Serafini
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: Jean Serafinn
  • SOPRANNOME: Cenighi (not in records, but via verbal info from Serafini cousins)
  • HUSBAND 1: Albino Graiff
  • HUSBAND 2: Gary Watson

If you really wanted, you could put additional ‘also known as’ to put her nicknames ‘Gina’ and ‘Jeannie’, but I think those are unnecessary, as we already know she was known as ‘Jean’.

Also, if you wanted (and if you knew enough information), you could write some notes about the historical origins of the soprannome in the notes for that fact in Family Tree Marker…. something I am again only just starting to integrate into my own trees. Here are some notes I’ve entered about the Cenighi soprannome:

The soprannome ‘Cenighi’ originates with Margherita Giuliani, who married Alberto Serafini in 1803, as she came from the frazione of Ceniga in the parish of Drò (near Arco). Their descendants are thus known as the ‘Cenighi Serafini’. I have not yet seen this soprannome in any records; rather, I was told the soprannome by Luigina Serafini (daughter of Luigi Paolo Serafini and Gemma Gasperini). Apparently, the family were unaware of the origin of the soprannome prior to my researching the family history.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks so much for taking time to read this article on soprannomi. I do hope you enjoyed it, and found it informative and useful to your research. It’s an article I’ve been wanting to write for some time now. It’s a complex topic – in many ways more complex that surnames.

I also hope I have presented a convincing argument AGAINST the word ‘nickname’ as a translation for the word soprannome. It really doesn’t do the term justice, nor does it reflect its important social function.  Perhaps we can all agree to stick to using the original word – soprannome. 

I would mean so much to me (and you would really help me know if these articles are explaining things clearly enough), if you could take a moment to leave a few comments below, sharing what you found most helpful or interesting about the article, or asking whatever questions I may not have answered.

Until next time!

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
6 Oct 2019

P.S. My next trip to Trento is coming up in November 2019. My client roster for that trip is already full, but if you would like to book a time to discuss having me do research for you on a future trip in 2020, I invite you to read my ‘Genealogy Services’ page, and then drop me a line using the Contact form on this site. Then, we can set up a free 30-minute chat to discuss your project.

P.P.S.: As I’ve had so many other projects lately, I have still not finished the edits for the PDF eBook on DNA tests, which I will be offering for FREE to my blog subscribers. I will send you a link to download it when it is done. Please be patient, as it will take a month or so to edit the articles and put them into the eBook format. If you are not yet subscribed, you can do so using the subscription form at the end of this article below.

Join our Trentino Genealogy Group on Facebook: http://facebook.com/groups/TrentinoGenealogy

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Kissing Cousins: Marital Dispensations, Consanguinity, Affinity

Kissing Cousins: Marital Dispensations, Consanguinity, Affinity

Genealogist Lynn Serafinn explains canon law regarding consanguinity and affinity, and how dispensations in marriage records can help us in our research.

When we think of our genealogical ‘pedigree’ we often imagine it to be an ever-expanding ‘fan’ of ancestors, multiplying by two at each generation. After all, we have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and so on, so it makes perfect sense that this doubling would continue ad infinitum, right?

Well… no. While it makes sense in theory, in reality this doubling at each generation is both a mathematical and practical impossibility.

The Mathematics of Why Our Ancestors Did Not Double Every Generation

If our ancestors had doubled at every generation, they would eventually exceed the total population of the earth. And I mean by a LOT. For example, if we allow for around 30 years per generation, by the time we get back to around the year 1,000 C.E. we would have gone back about 32 generations (more if you are younger than I am). If we double our ancestors at every generations, we would end up with over 4 billion ancestors. Well, the problem with that is that the entire human population of the earth for the year 1,000 is somewhere between 250-350 million peopleroughly 93% LESS than the total number we would need if our ancestors actually doubled at every generation.

And the further back you go, the more our calculations contradict the actual figures. By the time we got back to time of Julius Caesar, for example, we would have reached an astronomical one quintillion ancestors (that’s 1,000,000,000,000,000,000) – a figure so large it is doubtful our planet would be able to sustain us. In reality, there was an estimated total 200-400 million people alive on the planet at that time: only 0.000000000002% of the number of people needed if we were to double at every generation.

To understand these figures better, it is important to bear in mind that population growth in the past was not as linear as it is today. Infant mortality was high. Young women died in childbirth, and young men died in accidents and wars. Poor sanitation, infections and malnutrition claimed the lives of many others, sometimes before people were old enough to marry and have children. The plague and other epidemics were a recurring presence, often wiping out huge chunks of the human population. Overall, the population of the human species, although going up and down repeatedly through the centuries, didn’t really ‘explode’ and rise consistently until around the beginning of the 19th century.

The Practical Reasons Why Our Ancestors Did Not Double at Every Generation

People in the pre-industrial era tended to stay – and marry – within a small geographic parameter. Those of us who have researched our families will probably have discovered that most of our ancestors married within their community of birth, or at least not far from it.

The reason for this is twofold:

  • Long-distance travel wasn’t as easy or available as it is today.
  • Most people were subsistence farmers, whose survival was dependent on the land; thus, moving around was not usually a practical option.

In one genealogy course I took, the lecturer said the ‘rule of thumb’ was that, for countless millennia, until the introduction of the bicycle (and later the railway), people chose spouses who lived no further than a day’s walk away from their own home. In my own research, I would estimate at least 90% of people married much closer than that, i.e. usually within their own parish, and often within their own tiny frazione (hamlet). I would bet most couples knew each other their whole lives before marrying.

Considering again the mathematical calculations, if I trace my father’s Trentino ancestry back to the beginning of the parish records in 1565, it would reach back around 14 to 15 generations. If my ancestors had doubled at each generation, the figure would be somewhere between 8,000 to 16,000 people. The problem with this is that, at any given era in the past, there never were more than around 1,500 people alive in my father’s parish, and of those, maybe only 25-35% would have been of child-bearing age. And while some people certainly married outside the parish, those marriages were in the minority.

Endogamy and Pedigree Collapses

So, what is the explanation for these anomalies between biology, practicality and mathematics?

Two terms are needed to answer this question: ‘endogamy’ and ‘pedigree collapse’.

Endogamy is a term used to describe the tendency for people to marry within their own community. I have often seen writers use this term with reference to ethnic minority groups living within larger ‘majority’ societies. However, in my experience, the term really is applicable to ALL communities throughout history. Every one of us is the ‘end product’ of an endogamous ancestry because, until the past century or so, nearly all of our ancestors chose spouses within their own communities of origin.

Because people tended to marry within their own communities, it was inevitable that some (if not most) husbands and wives would end up being related by blood in some way. In other words, they would share a common ancestor (or pair of ancestors). When we have couples in our ‘pedigree’ (list of ancestors) who share a common ancestor, it creates what we call a ‘pedigree collapse’. We call it a ‘collapse’ because our ancestors do NOT double at the point where the couple shares a common ancestor. For example, if your grandparents were 2nd cousins, it means they shared great-grandparents (your 3X great-grandparents). Thus, instead of having 32 great-great-great-grandparents, you would only have 30.

Due to the mathematical and practical reasons already discussed, pedigree collapses happen repeatedly in our family trees. If you dig deeply enough into your family history, you are likely to find that nearly all of your ancestors had common ancestors at some point in the past. In fact, once you get back to the beginning of the parish records in the mid-1500s, you are quite likely you are to discover you are related to virtually everyone who was alive in that parish at the time, and that most of these ancestors are related to you via multiple branches. Some of my ancestors from that era are related to me at least 10 different ways!

That is how ‘pedigree collapses’ reconcile the anomaly between theory and practice.

Consanguinity versus ‘Inbreeding’

When my clients first find out they have ‘pedigree collapses’ in their trees, some become alarmed. Isn’t this what people call ‘inbreeding’? Doesn’t that cause all kinds of genetic problems? And isn’t ‘inbreeding’ forbidden by the church?

To address these concerns, we need to introduce another term: ‘consanguinity’.

Consanguinity means two people are related by blood (in Italian, con = ‘with’ and ‘sangue’= blood). We can also say they have a ‘consanguineous relationship’.

‘Inbreeding’ is consanguinity in the extreme. It refers to when people who are very closely related marry generation after generation, usually within the same ‘line’. For reasons I will touch upon later in this article, this happened more frequently in the upper classes than the ‘peasantry’. And, yes, true inbreeding can cause serious genetic health issues.

But normally, the degree and frequency of consanguinity most of us have in our family trees do not create a significant genetic weakness. If that were the case, the entire human race would have died out long ago. Moreover, as we’ve seen, consanguinity was actually a practical necessity: without it, our ancestors wouldn’t have been able to FIND any marriage partners.

That said, as we’ll explore next, the Church (and more recently, civil governments) created many rules about the degrees of consanguinity permitted between a husband and wife, to ensure families did not become too ‘inbred’.

Marriage and the Church

Something I find interesting is that the Christian sacrament of marriage as we think of it today wasn’t clearly defined until the year 1215, at the Fourth Lateran Council. Before that, anyone could claim they were ‘married’ simply by cohabiting. In ‘Canon 51’ (a canon is a mandate or church law) from that council forbid the practice of ‘clandestine marriages’, even if witnessed by a priest. From this point, it became church law that all those who intended to marry were required to announce their intent publicly by publishing banns in their parish church.

One of the reasons for making marriage a public was to ensure there were no legal impediments to it. One obvious impediment would be if either party was already married or promised in marriage to someone else. But another impediment, defined more clearly in Canons 50 and 52, was the issue around consanguinity and affinity.

Canon Law Regarding Consanguineous Marriages

The Fourth Lateran Council decreed that a marriage between persons who had a consanguineous relationship at the ‘fourth degree’ or closer was prohibited.

‘Fourth grade’ grade means they shared a common ancestor (or pair of ancestors) four generations back, i.e. great-great-grandparents. To make this easier to understand, here is a table I’ve made showing 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade consanguinity:

CHART – Consanguineous Relationships According to Canon LawCHART - Consanguineous Relationships According to Canon Law

Click on image to see it larger

Note that I have written ‘common ancestor(s)’ rather than ‘common ancestors’. This is because a couple might share only one common ancestor. For example, if a woman died in childbirth and the husband remarried, the children of the second wife would be the half-siblings of those of the first. In this case, the husband might be the only common ancestor, as the bride and groom might be descended from a different mother.

Interestingly, prior to this ruling, marriages were actually prohibited back to the 7th degree (6th cousins!). Eventually, the church realised this rule was impossible to monitor (especially as there were no official records of births before the mid-1500s, and it was unlikely most people could trace their ancestry that far back), but it also made it virtually impossible for people to find an eligible marriage partner in their community who was not related to them in some way.

English Thinking Versus Italian Thinking

The ‘grades’ of consanguinity are sometimes confusing for an English speaker because a ‘second grade’ relationship in terms of canon law is what we would call ‘1st cousins’. Similarly, ‘third grade’ is what we would call ‘2nd cousins’ and ‘fourth grade’ is what we would call ‘3rd cousins’. For this reason, I find it useful to shift my thinking to a more visual way of seeing the relationships (as in the chart above) rather than trying to think in English terminology.

Also, when you are communicating with Italian speakers, trying to translate from English doesn’t always work. For example, some time back, before I fully understood how Italian speakers thought about cousin relationships, I used the term ‘cugini di secondo grado’ (‘cousins of the second grade’, which I took to mean ‘2nd cousins’) when I was explaining to a parish priest how I shared great-grandparents with my Serafini cousins. The priest was quite insistent that I meant ‘cugini di terzo grado’ (‘cousins of the third grade’), which confused me until I realised he was thinking in terms of canon law.

Canon Degrees Versus Civil Degrees

Something else that English speakers might find confusing is that the grades in canon law are substantially different from those defined by CIVIL law. In America, for example, the degrees of consanguinity are calculated by counting up and down the lines (rather than back to the nearest common ancestor), without including the two starting individuals.

For example, my grandparents, Pietro Luigi Serafini and Maria Giuseppa Onorati, shared common a pair of 3X great-grandparents:Relationship Chart: Maria Giuseppa Onorati and Pietro Luigi SerafiniClick on image to see it larger

This means:

  • They were 4th cousins, in our English language way of thinking.
  • They were ‘cugini di quinto grado’ (cousins of the fifth degree) in Catholic church (canon) law.
  • They had a 10th degree relationship according to US civil law (i.e. there are 10 people between them if you count up and then down the tree).

No wonder the terminology is confusing for so many!

Affinity – A ‘Spiritual’ Relationship

Sometimes a couple were not related by blood but via a marriage in the family. This is referred to as ‘affinity’. For example, if a man’s first wife died and he wanted to marry his late wife’s sister (i.e. his sister-in-law), they had a ‘first grade affinity’; if he wanted to marry his late wife’s first cousin, they had a ‘second grade affinity’.

I have seen some genealogists refer to affinity relationships as ‘spiritual’ relationships’. In my view, they are, at least, ‘emotional’ or ‘psychological’ ones. A sister-in-law, for example, may be treated as and viewed as a ‘sister’. As such, the same prohibitions regarding affinity marriages applied in the church.

This law of affinity was, in fact, the logic Henry VIII used (or abused) when he rationalised his divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Henry based his claim on the grounds that Catherine was the widow of his late brother (who died at age 16). Thus, Catherine was (in terms of canon law) Henry’s ‘spiritual sister’, even if she was not his biological sibling.

Much to Henry’s annoyance, the Pope refused his request to have the marriage annulled, reminding the King that he had granted the couple a DISPENSATION to marry in the first place, back in 1509 (more about dispensations in a minute). But Henry wasn’t about to take no for an answer, and he went ahead and dissolved his marriage to Catherine, married Anne, split from the Roman pope, set himself up as the spiritual leader of the new Church of England, and forever changed the course of British (and European) history.

Marital Dispensations – The Legal Loophole

While canon law regarding consanguinity and affinity in marriage was the ‘official’ ruling of the church, in practice, couples were frequently given permission to marry despite such ‘impediments’, provided they obtained an official church dispensation, usually granted by the Bishop of the diocese or his representative.

When a priest records a marriage in the registry, he also provides details (or, at least, he’s supposed to) about any dispensations that may have been granted to the couple. Mention of a dispensation is always of interest to a genealogist, as it can provide important clues as to how a tree will progress as you move backwards in time. Understanding what they mean can sometimes make work faster, and also help you break through barriers when records are ambiguous or missing.

The reasons why the church might grant a dispensation will vary according to circumstance. Occasionally, it is deemed a matter of moral necessity, such as when the couple are already known to have had an intimate relationship (and especially if the woman is already pregnant). More commonly, however, a dispensation may be granted because there simply wasn’t another suitable (and available) partner within the parish. This is especially understandable when we consider how small and isolated many rural parishes were in the past.

Although I’ve never seen this discussed, one would assume that various other factors may have been taken into consideration, such as whether similar dispensations had occurred in the previous generation, within the same branch(es) of the family. But while that may have been the case, I am continually amazed at just how commonly marital dispensations were given in the past.

Moreover, while dispensations for affinity relationships were governed by the same guidelines as consanguineous ones, I have seen markedly fewer of these in marriage records, which makes me think that many of them sort of ‘slipped through the cracks’ as they were considered to be less important.

More Frequent Dispensations Among the Noble Classes

Many of my clients are surprised when I discover a line of noble ancestors in their tree; but, in my experience, you’d be hard pressed NOT to stumble upon a noble line or two if you go back far enough.

During the Holy Roman Empire (and later during the Austrian and Austro-Hungarian Empires), there was a plethora of ‘rural nobility’ in the province of Trentino. Some of these families were ennobled by the Emperor himself (imperial nobility), while others were ennobled by the Prince-Bishop (ecclesiastical nobility).

In my research, I’ve often noticed more frequent marital dispensations noble families than for ‘ordinary’ contadini (farmers). In some noble families, you will find a dispensation at almost every generation, often at a close level of consanguinity (2nd and 3rd grade).

Funnily, some of those same clients who were first delighted to discover they had noble ancestors, later became alarmed to find out how much they had intermarried! To understand why we might see so many consanguineous marriages amongst nobility (and even more amongst royalty), we need to consider how society was organised in the past.

During the feudal era, the ‘peasantry’ constituted at least 90% of the population, with the church and nobility comprising the other 10%. When choosing a ‘suitable’ marriage partner, it was considered essential that you select someone within your own ‘class’. Thus, nobles married other nobles (or at least someone who is descended from a noble, even if he/she no longer had the official title). As the noble families comprised a small minority of the local population, if they kept on marrying within the tiny geographic parameter of their local parish, the ‘pickings’ were going to get slim pretty quickly with each successive generation.

For this reason, rural nobility almost NEEDED to look beyond their own villages for spouses every now and then, lest they become too ‘inbred’ (which is what eventually happened to the royal Habsburgs). Being wealthier and less tied to the land for their survival than the poorer classes, they at least had greater means to do this.

Recognising and Understanding Dispensations in Marriage Records

As a family historian, it’s important to:

  • Remember to LOOK for marital dispensations in marriage records
  • Be able to RECOGNISE a marital dispensation when you see one, and
  • Be able to UNDERSTAND what the dispensation means, and what it can tell you.

Looking for dispensations becomes a matter of habit the more you work with parish records.

Recognising them is not as hard as you might think, even if you don’t understand Italian or Latin. Keep your eyes open for words that look like ‘impediment’ (impedimento) dispensation (‘dispensa’), ‘consanguinity’ (consanguineità) or ‘affinity’ (affinità).

Understanding them will require you to look for key words like grade (grado), ‘fourth’ (quarto), ‘third’ (terzo) or ‘second’ (secondo) and then referring to the chart above called ‘Consanguineous Relationships According to Canon Law’.

Below are a few examples illustrating a variety of dispensations in church marriage records, and how they reflect the relationship between the husband and wife.

EXAMPLE 1: 1836 – Third Grade Consanguinity

1836 marriage record of Giovanni Brocchetti and Cattarina Grazia Bleggi.

Click on image to see it larger

This marriage record, dated 17 Sept 1836, is from the parish of Santa Croce del Bleggio in Val Giudicarie. The groom is Giovanni Brocchetti of Cavrasto (age 20), son of Basilio Brochetti and Rosa Andreolli. The bride is Cattarina Grazia Bleggi (also age 20), daughter of Francesco Bleggi of Cavrasto and Grazia Armani of Fiavè (then part of the nearby parish of Vigo Lomaso).

Below the groom’s entry, the priest has noted that the groom had obtained a dispensation from the Ordinario of Trento (i.e., the office of the Archbishop), as he had a third-grade consanguineous relationship with his intended bride. He also records the number (100) of the ‘protocol’, which refers to the registry in which the parish priest records permissions, dispensations, etc.

So, if we refer to our chart showing consanguineous relationships, we see that ‘third-grade consanguinity’ means they had a shared ancestor(s) three generations back, i.e. at the level of great-grandparent. In ‘English language’ thinking, this means they were 2nd cousins.

We can see this consanguineous relationship illustrated in the following relationship chart. Here, we see the paternal grandparents of Giovanni’s father are also the maternal grandparents of Cattarina’s father (Bartolomeo Brocchetti and Elisabetta Pellegrinati):

Relationship chart of Giovanni Brocchetti and Cattarina Grazia Bleggi

Click on image to see it larger

When I first obtained this marriage record, I hadn’t yet traced the ancestry for both Giovanni and Cattarina back to their shared great-grandparents. The priest’s notation about the dispensation provided me with valuable information that sped up my research considerably.

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EXAMPLE 2: 1883 – Second and Third Grade Consanguinity

1883 marriage record of Cesare Viola and Angela Viola

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Here’s a really interesting record I found recently when doing research in Trento for a client. This record, dated 28 April 1883, is from the parish of Cavedago in Val di Non.  The groom is Cesare Viola (age 24), son of Giacomo Viola and Angela, whose surname is also Viola. Perhaps a bit confusingly, the bride’s name is ALSO Angela Viola (age 20), daughter of Bartolomeo Viola and Maria Melchiori (it says Merchiori in the record).

Now, with all those common surnames, you might guess the couple would have had a consanguineous relationship – and you’d be correct. If you at the fifth line in the section about the groom (on the left), you’ll see the words:

‘senza scoperta d’altro impedimento che dal dispensato di II e III grado di consanguineità’

This means, ‘without discovering any impediment other than the (already) dispensed (i.e. having been granted a dispensation) 2nd and 3rd grade consanguinity’. The priest then goes on to cite the details of the dispensation, as well as the civil license.

Now, what do you supposed ‘2nd AND 3rd grade consanguinity’ means here? Does it mean they were related in two ways? Well, I suppose it could, but more often than not it means the couple’s common ancestor(s) was at two different generational levels.

In this case, Cesare’s maternal great-grandparents, were the same people as his wife Angela’s paternal grandparents. If you look at the following relationship chart visually, you can understand why they priest called their relationship ‘2nd and 3rd grade’: the common ancestors are two generations before the bride, and three generations before the groom:

Relationship chart of Cesare Viola and Angela Viola

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Now, in our English-language way of thinking, the couple were 1st cousins 1x removed, as Angela’s father was the younger brother of Cesare’s grandfather. Frankly, I find this way more confusing than thinking in ‘canonical’ terms.

I must confess, this particular family tree has a LOT of pedigree ‘collapses’ and so many recurring surnames it was really confusing at first. But the clarity with which the priests have notated the marital dispensations helped me a LOT when piecing it all together.

EXAMPLE 3: 1778 – Third and Fourth Grade Consanguinity

Another example of ‘mixed’ consanguinity is in this marriage record (now in Latin, rather than Italian) dated 6 May 1778, again from the parish of Santa Croce del Bleggio:

1778 marriage record of Bonifacio Blasio Furlini and Maria Levri

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The couple here are Bonifacio Blasio Furlini (son of Antonio) and Maria Levri (daughter of the late Bartolomeo), both from the frazione of Balbido. In lines two and three, the priest alludes to a dispensation granted for ‘third and fourth grade consanguinity’. Again, this refers to the fact that the couple shared a pair of common ancestors at different generational levels. In this case, Bonifacio’s great-grandparents (three generations back) were the great-great-grandparents (four generations back) of his intended bride, Maria:

Relationship chart for Bonifacio Blasio Furlini and Maria Levri

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When I had entered this particular marriage into my Santa Croce tree, I had already pieced together a good deal of the Furlini line. The information I gleaned from the marriage record enabled me to place Maria Levri in the right place, despite the fact that over 30 years of 18th-century marriage records are missing for this parish.

EXAMPLE 4: 1873 – First Grade Affinity1873 marriage record of Giovanni Battista Speranza and Luigia Scalfi

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This marriage record, dated 27 Jan 1873, comes from the parish of Saone in Val Giudicarie.

Here, the 29-year-old groom Giovanni Battista Speranza (son of Pietro Speranza and the late Maria Cappellari) is described as the ‘widower of Giulia Scalfi’. After the information about the banns, the priest has said Giovanni Battista had obtained a dispensation for 1st grade affinity from the Curia of Trento on 23 Nov 1872, and for 2nd grade affinity on 28 Dec 1872.

I haven’t yet identified the 2nd grade affinity relationship but let’s have a look at the dispensation here for 1st grade affinity, as it’s quite interesting.

I almost NEVER see the term ‘1st grade’ in dispensations, because it would mean we were taking about siblings (who would never be permitted to marry in the Catholic church). But here, it clearly specifies ‘AFFINITY’ referring to a sibling relationship at an in-law level.

Well, as the 19-year-old bride’s name here is Luigia Scalfi (daughter of the late Ignazio Scalfi and the living Elisabetta Battitori), it seemed pretty likely that Luigia was the sister of Giovanni Battista’s late wife, Giulia Scalfi.

At the time I found this record, I hadn’t yet traced all the siblings for Luigia (who was actually baptised ‘Emma Luigia Perpetua Scalfi’ on 25 Jan 1854); but, sure enough, using Nati in Trentino I found she had an older sister Giulia Virginia Scalfi, who was born 31 Jan 1850.

MORE READING:   Searching Online for 19th & 20th Century Trentini Ancestors

Also using that site, I found Giulia and Giovanni Battista had two children in 1870 and 1872, meaning they most likely married around 1869 (I haven’t looked for their marriage record yet). The birth date of their second child was heart-rending – 29 May 1872, just 8 months before Giovanni Battista married Giulia’s sister. This means Giulia had to have died sometime during those 8 months, most likely shortly after giving birth (again, I haven’t looked for her death record). She would have been only about 23 years old when she died. Such a tragedy!

These days, remarrying so quickly after the death of a spouse is difficult to imagine, as it would barely give the family a chance to grieve and recover. But back then, it was actually not an uncommon practice. And remarrying a sibling of the late spouse was also not uncommon; after all, it meant a blood-relation (an aunt or an uncle) would be the new ‘step-parent’ of the children left behind, if any. They were more likely to have an emotional connection to – and natural inclination to care for – their late sibling’s children.

What is even more heart-rending about this family’s story is that, after having two children together (one of whom died in infancy), GIOVANNI BATTISTA himself then dies on 7 Sept 1875, at the age of 32. Now, poor Luigia has become a widow at the age of 21! Four years later, she remarries a man named Luigi Buganza, with whom she has 8 more children. (Side note: they had no ‘impediments’ cited in their marriage record).

THIS couple (Luigi Buganza and Luigia Scalfi) were the great-grandparents of the client whose tree I was making when I ‘met’ this family. To me, I find it poignant to think of all the deaths that had to come before this couple finally got together. Had not BOTH Giulia and GB passed away at such young ages, my client would never have been born.

EXAMPLE 5: 1859 – Dispensation for Time of Year

There is another kind of marital dispensation that warrants mention, and this one has nothing to do with any kind of familial relationship. It is a dispensation to be married during one of the ‘ferial times’ (feria) in the Catholic calendar, namely during Advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas, through to the Feast of the Epiphany) and the Lenten season (from Ash Wednesday through to the first Sunday after Easter).

The reason why couples needed a dispensation to marry during Lent or Advent is that these are supposed to be times of austerity and prayer. Because of this, they would have to have had a simple marriage, without any elaborate celebration. When I first learned about this, I reflected on how, when I was a child, we traditionally associated May and June as the most common wedding months.

But just because ‘feria’ was not the traditionally most desirable time for a wedding didn’t mean nobody got married during those periods. Consider this marriage record from the parish of Moena in Val di Non, dated 2 March 1858:

1858 marriage record of Fioravante Giacomuzzi and Margherita Damolin

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Here, the groom, Fioravante Giacomuzzi, and his Margherita Damolin were granted a dispensation for marrying during ‘ferial time’, as the date fell during the season of Lent (it was the 2nd Tuesday of Lent, to be precise; Easter that year fell on Sunday 4 April).

When I see things like this, I’ve got to ask, what would compel a couple to marry during a period (which was probably a bit wet and chilly, too) when they could not have a nice big celebration?

Well, in this case, I am pretty sure I figured out the reason. Five months earlier, Margherita had given birth to their illegitimate son, whom she named Fioravante, after his father. The child was born in a maternity home in the city of Trento called ‘Istituto delle Laste’ (one day I’ll write more about this interesting place). And while he was under the care of the Institute, there was a possibility he would be fostered out to another family.

In so many of these cases, the child’s father is not cited in their birth records. But in this case, the elder Fioravante acknowledged he was the biological father of his son of the same name. For whatever reason, he and Margherita did not marry before the child was born, but not it seems they were making haste to legalise/sanctify their union, so they could legitimise their 5-month-old son as quickly as possible.

Closing Thoughts

As a genealogist, I find the appearance of pedigree collapses in our trees to be of continual interest. Whenever I see a dispensation mentioned in a marriage record, not only do I get excited about trying to figure out the puzzle of how the couple is related, but I also know this valuable information may also help me verify other data that may be elusive. But most of all, I find it fascinating to see the ongoing relationships between specific families over time.

I hope this article has been useful to you as you progress in your research, and helped make it a little easier to understand the ‘sea of words’ you may feel like is in front of you when you open a new record. Although most of the records I have looked at in this article were from the 19th century, older records will contain pretty much the same degree of information (if you’re lucky!). Knowing ‘the basics’, as I’ve aimed to demonstrate in this article, can really help to make advances in your family history.

If this article gave you any ‘ah ha’ moments, I’d love to hear about them. And, as always, do feel free to ask questions or share interesting discoveries about your own family in the comments box below.

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
12 Aug 2019

P.S. My next trip to Trento will be in November 2019. I am only just starting to compile my client roster for that trip, so if you are considering hiring a genealogist to do your Trentino family history, I invite you to read my ‘Genealogy Services’ page, and then drop me a line using the Contact form on this site. Then, we can set up a free 30-minute chat to discuss your project.

P.P.S.: I am still working on the edits for the PDF eBook on DNA tests, which I will be offering for FREE to my blog subscribers. I will send you a link to download it when it is done. Please be patient, as it will take a month or so to edit the articles and put them into the eBook format. If you are not yet subscribed, you can do so using the subscription form at the end of this article below.

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Keeping Our Ancestors Alive: Reflections on the Day of the Dead


Keeping Our Ancestors Alive – Reflections on the Day of the Dead
Genealogist Lynn Serafinn and her grandson, Percy, celebrate Il Giorno di Morti (The Day of the Dead), and discover the power of fil
ò family storytelling.

Like many, if not most, people of Trentini descent, I was raised Roman Catholic (although, in my case, I probably owe my religious education more to my Irish mother than my Trentino-born father). For Catholics, the first two days of November are special holy days.

November 1st is ‘All Saints Day’, the purpose of which is to honour the memory of all the saints in Heaven, even those about whom we might never have heard. The name of our modern holiday ‘Halloween’, which falls on October 31st, was derived from the term ‘All Hallows Eve’, i.e. the evening before the day on which all ‘hallowed’ spirits are honoured.

November 2nd is ‘All Souls Day’, the purpose of which is to pray for the souls of all those who have left this world. In Italy, it is called Il Giorno di Morti – the Day of the Dead. While English-speaking people may not be familiar with the Italian term, many may have heard of Dia de los Muertos, which is the celebration of the Day of the Dead amongst Mexican Catholics.

As I write this article, it is November 2nd – the Day of the Dead. As a genealogist, sometimes it seems like every day is the Day of the Dead, as I am constantly researching and thinking about those who walked this planet before us. But for me, the transition from the month of October to November always has special significance, because my father (who passed away in 2001) was born on Halloween – October 31st, 1919 – in the parish of Santa Croce del Bleggio, in Trentino. His birth name was ‘Romeo Fedele Serafini’, but it he changed it to ‘Ralph Serafinn’ in the 1930s, after the family emigrated to the United States.

This year, on my dad’s birthday, I thought about posting some photos or stories about my dad on Facebook, but work got in the way and it felt like I had lost the moment. But then, last night, something unexpected happened: my 11-year-old grandson, Percy, called me on the phone. His mom (my daughter, Vrinda) had come up with the idea to celebrate Dia de los Muertos by remembering the family Percy never got the chance to meet. As part of this, she told him to call me and ask me to tell him some stories about my parents.

Ralph Serafinn – Inventor of the First Telephone for the Deaf

1965 - Ralph Serafinn and the 'Sensicall'
1965 – Newspaper advert showing Ralph Serafinn with his invention, the ‘Sensicall’, the first telephone device for the deaf.

I asked Percy what kind of stories he wanted to hear. At first, he said, ‘Anything,’ but then he said his mom had told him my dad had invented the first telephone device for the deaf, and he wanted me to tell him more. I told him how my father was an electrical engineer for the New York Bell phone company. In 1965, the company gave him the assignment to come up with a device that would enable the deaf and deaf-blind to use the telephone. I told Percy how my dad worked in our basement for many months, experimenting with different ideas. He created two different devices – one using a small, red flashing light to communicate in Morse code (for deaf people who could see), and another that used a sensitive, hand-held buzzer that could transmit the code through vibrations (for the deaf-blind). I explained that there was no such thing as home computers in those days, so these were actually cutting-edge technologies even though they might look very primitive to us today.

I told Percy how my dad used to invite me – then 10 years old – to help him with his experiments. He would send me into another room with one of his beta models, and I would report back to him how many lights I saw or buzzes I felt. As the devices became more precise, I had to tell him whether the signals were long or short (as in Morse code). I explained how my father also invented a system that made the lights in the house flash on and off when a call came in, so the deaf and hard-of-hearing knew they had a phone call.

I told Percy how a newspaper came and took photos of my dad working, and even took one of me working alongside him (sadly, those photos have been lost with time). I told him how the story of my dad’s invention – dubbed the ‘Sensicall’ – was covered in newspapers all over the United States, and how we received letters from people all over the world (I remember one very beautiful one from South America) profusely thanking my father for inventing this device. Those days are some of my fondest memories of my dad, and it was such a privilege to share the story with my grandson.

Then Percy made a very astute – and beautiful – comment. He said, ‘You know how you said they didn’t have home computers back then? Well, you might say that without my great-grandfather’s invention, there might not BE any home computers today. It’s like, his invention is the thing that made everything else happen.’

‘Yes,’ I agreed. ‘It’s like building a staircase to go from one level to another. Each step is important. You can’t just leap from the ground floor to the second floor. There’s no telling how different the world would be if you took out even one step.’

From this, Percy asked questions about my dad during World War 2. I told him how my dad had fought in Japan, and was on a ship on the Pacific, less than 100 miles from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when the US dropped the atomic bomb on those cities. We talked about how my father died at the age of 81 from a rare blood disorder called myelodysplasia, which has been linked to exposure to high amounts of radiation. We even talked about my father’s (sometimes wacky) OCD – a condition both my daughter and Percy inherited (at least in part) from my dad.

Escape from Siberia in World War 1

1915 - Luigi Pietro Serafini, in Austro-Hungarian army uniform during World War 1
1915 – Luigi Pietro Serafini, in Austro-Hungarian army uniform during World War 1

Percy then asked me to tell him stories about my grandfather – Luigi Pietro Serafini, who was born in the same village of Duvredo in 1888.

Percy remember hearing that Luigi had fought in World War 1, but didn’t know much else. I didn’t want to go into all the politics of Trentino being part of the Austro-Hungarian empire (I’ll save that for another discussion), as I thought it would take us off the track of talking about my grandfather. So, I told Percy how my grandfather was sent to fight in Russia, and how he and thousands of others were captured by the Russian army and sent to Siberia, where they were prisoners of war for about two years.

Percy was curious to know what it was like in the prison. He asked me, ‘Did they feed the prisoners? Was it like prison food?’ I told him, yes, they fed them, but it was probably not very nutritious food. I explained that many men died from illness, lack of nutrition and poor sanitation.

‘Didn’t you tell me once that he escaped from the prison camp?’ Percy asked.

I acknowledged this was true. Percy then asked how my grandfather managed to get out.

I told him, ‘Well, actually, there are three different versions of that story, and I’m not sure which is true.’

‘Why not?’ he queried.

‘Because people tend to elaborate when they tell family stories. They’re not necessarily lying, but they will often make up things to fill in forgotten details, or just to make the story more exciting. Would you like to hear all the different versions, so you can decide?’ I asked him.

‘Yes, please!’

‘Well,’ I said, ‘story number one, which my father told me, is that my grandfather was so ill with some disease, he fell unconscious. The Russians thought he was dead (or as good as), so they tossed him into a mass grave with a lot of other dead bodies. Then, something happened (my father never said what), which caused the Russians to leave in a hurry. When my grandfather regained consciousness, he found himself surrounded by dead bodies! At first, he felt panic; but eventually he realised his captors were gone, and he was free to go. Then, he got up and walked home – many hundreds of miles, in tattered clothes and in poor health – all the away from Siberia to Trentino.

‘Story number two is one I heard from my (male) cousins, who said they had also heard it from my father. It’s similar to the first story, except in this version, my grandfather supposedly “faked his own death” so the Russians would toss him outside the camp into the place where they kept the dead bodies. He lay there until dark, and when the guards weren’t looking, he got up and ran as fast as he could until he knew he wasn’t being followed. Then, he walked home.

‘Story number three is less dramatic, but is possibly closer to the truth,’ I said. ‘It’s something I read in a book specifically about the prisoners of war in Siberia in World War 1. In 1917 there was a big revolution in Russia. When that happened, the whole Russian government collapsed, including the army. There was no more money to feed the prisoners, or to pay the soldiers who guarded the prisons. So, the prison guards opened the gates and basically told the prisoners they were on their own now. Many thousands left and made their way home on foot. Some, who were either too ill or too afraid to leave, stayed behind and didn’t go home until the Red Cross came to help almost a year later. My grandfather was one of the men who left.’

Percy asked me, ‘If you were in that situation, would you have left, or would you have waited for the Red Cross to come?’

‘Oh, I would have left and taken my chances,’ I said.

‘Really?’

‘Definitely. After spending so much time in prison, I’d just want to get out of there, and I’d worry about the details later.’

Percy seemed to like my reply.

‘Which story do you think is true?’ I asked him.

‘I like the one about faking his own death!’ he chimed enthusiastically.

That figures, I thought to myself. That’s the version my dad told my male cousins, when the eldest was about Percy’s age. I guess it’s the kind of story boys would like.

‘Yes, it’s very dramatic,’ I acknowledged. ‘But somehow I don’t think the Russian soldiers would have been so easily fooled.’

Percy quickly agreed, and immediately adopted version number 1 as his own.

‘I’m going to tell my friends that my great-great-grandfather escaped from prison because he was tossed into a stack of dead bodies by the Russians,’ he said with great satisfaction.

A FOURTH VERSION: Something I only remembered after my call with Percy is that my father’s sister, Fiorina, wrote a story about her father’s escape from Siberia, in which she says the Russian guards simply opened the gates one day and let them all go. She doesn’t offer an explanation for why, but I am certain it is linked to the timing of the Russian revolution. Fiorina also describes how the Russians used to pile the corpses onto a flat-bed train car. This image is not so unbelievable when you consider that harsh Siberian winters made the frozen ground too hard to dig graves except in the warmest months of the year. I assume Fiorina heard these details directly from her father, but my experience with my father’s stories makes me suspect that Trentini men might sometimes tell ‘softer’ versions of the same story to their daughters than to their sons. After hearing all the family stories, and reading various historical accounts, my own belief is that my grandfather may well have been left for dead by the Russians when they were getting ready to abandon the camp after the 1917 revolution (and was possibly dumped amidst the many unburied dead bodies), but his escape entailed no deliberate trickery on his part.

Percy and I went on to talk about my grandfather’s homecoming, and how my grandmother – after she got over the shock of seeing him alive – made him burn his clothes and scrub down his hair and body with kerosene (Percy thought I had said KETCHUP when he heard this story on a previous occasion!) to kill off all the germs, fleas or whatever else had made its home on him over the past two to three years. When he was finally free of vermin (but probably stinking of kerosene), my grandmother welcomed him into the house, where my grandfather finally got to meet his baby daughter, Luigina (whom I knew as Aunt Jean), who had been born while he was in Russia.

Ancestry and the ‘Butterfly Effect’

1910 - Luigi Parisi of Duvredo, Bleggio, Trentino
Circa 1910 – Luigi Parisi of Duvredo, Bleggio, Trentino. Photo taken in Pennsylvania, where he was working in the coal mines.

After we spoke about my grandfather, I said, ‘There’s someone else I’d like to tell you about – my grandfather’s uncle. His name was also Luigi, but his last name was Parisi. The reason I want to tell you about him is that if he had never lived, you and I would probably never have been born, and we wouldn’t be talking about all these stories today.’

I explained how Luigi Parisi – the younger brother of my grandfather’s mother – had gone back and forth from Trentino to America four times. Each time he went to America, he worked in the coal mines, earning money that he sent back to his wife and children back in Duvredo in the parish of Bleggio. While he was away on one journey, his wife Emma died, leaving their children without anyone to care for them. Luigi came back to Bleggio and married Emma’s sister, Ottavia. Together they had four more children (one died young), and named their first daughter after Emma. I told Percy how Luigi had come home to see his family in 1914, but was sent to war, where he died. I recounted a story I had read in a book where one of his comrades said Luigi simply disappeared when they were crossing a river together somewhere in Russia. One minute he was there, and the next he was gone. Nobody knows whether he was shot, or the current of the river got hold of him and he drowned. To this day – 100 years later – his official status is still ‘missing’.

‘Now, shall I tell you why I said you and I would probably never have been born if it weren’t for Luigi?’ I asked.

‘Go on, then,’ Percy replied.

‘Well, according to a book I have, my great-great uncle Luigi Parisi was the first person from my father’s parish (perhaps even from all of Trentino) to settle in the mining town of Brandy Camp in Pennsylvania. He went there first as a young man, around the time my grandfather was born. Each time he went back to Trentino, he brought more men from his village with him, and helped them to settle into their new surroundings. Over time, almost all the Trentini settlers in Brandy Camp came from Santa Croce del Bleggio. That’s why they named their new church ‘Holy Cross’ (which is what Santa Croce means). When my grandfather was a teenager, his uncle Luigi brought him and his younger brother, Angelo, with him to Brandy Camp. There, my grandfather worked in the mines for several years.

‘Finally, when 1914 rolled around, Luigi told my grandfather that he wanted to go back to visit his wife and children. By this time Uncle Luigi was getting close to 50 years old, so he was probably hoping to settle down and spend his later years in his native homeland. But (or so I heard from my cousin Aldo, the son of Angelo), Luigi also thought it was time for my grandfather, now 25 years old, to go home and find himself a wife. Aldo told me that my grandfather didn’t really want to go back to Bleggio, as he had become accustomed to his life in America. But he respected his mother’s brother, and eventually agreed to go back with him in the spring of that year.

‘My grandfather married my grandmother in May 1914. By August, World War 1 had broken out, and most of the local men – including my grandfather, my great-great-uncle Luigi and my grandfather’s brother Angelo – were sent to fight in Russia. As I told you, Luigi Parisi died, but my grandfather and his brother both survived. After the war, my grandfather spent some time recuperating from the trauma of the war and imprisonment. That’s when my father and his younger sister, Pierina (whom I knew as aunt Ann), were born.

‘After a few years, my grandfather went back to America, to the same place his uncle Luigi had brought him – Brandy Camp. After he got settled in, my grandmother, my father and my dad’s sisters followed. My aunt Fiorina was born during their stay in Brandy Camp. Later, they moved to New York where another child – my uncle Raymond – was born. My mother (who wasn’t from Trentino) lived in New York. She became best friends with my father’s sister, Pierina. Later, she and my father fell in love and got married, and started their own family.

‘So you see, Percy, if Luigi Parisi had never lived, he wouldn’t have gone to Brandy Camp and started a community there. He would never have brought my grandfather to America when he was a teenager, or insisted my grandfather get married in 1914. If that had never happened, my father might never have been born, or the family would never have gone to America. If they had never gone to America, my parents would never have met. If they hadn’t met, I wouldn’t have been born, or your mother, or you. And if neither of us had been born, we wouldn’t be talking on the phone right now!’

Percy became excited. ‘Well, you can also say that if Luigi’s FATHER had never been born, then HE wouldn’t have been born, and we wouldn’t be here either. I mean, you can keep going backwards….’

‘Exactly!’ I said. ‘Every single person in our ancestry has played a part in making us who we are, even if we don’t know them, or we’ve never heard of them.’

I didn’t say this to Percy at the time, but it’s just like that science-fiction concept, the ‘butterfly effect’, where everything in the future changes when you change even one, seemingly disconnected event in the past.

Filò – How Stories Keep Our Ancestors Alive

Mural in Favrio, in the town of Ragoli, depicting the ancient tradition of filò - family storytelling.
Mural in Favrio, in the town of Ragoli, depicting the ancient tradition of filò – family storytelling.

When I first reconnected with my long-lost family in Trentino in the summer of 2014, I visited the hamlet of Favrio in the town of Ragoli, where my Serafini ancestors lived before they moved to the parish of Santa Croce. In the historic quarter of that town, you’ll find many fascinating murals illustrating the history of our Alpine people. One of these murals (see image above) depicts the ancient practice of filò – family storytelling.

Filò was the time – between dinner and bedtime – when families came together to tell and listen to stories. Families would gather, either around a hearth or in the stable (typically on the first floor of their mountain house), where they could benefit from the body heat radiating from their livestock. Traditionally, the storyteller was the head of the household, who wove tales from local legends, family history or his own imagination.

Literally, the word filò means ‘spinning’. Many people say that filò is so-named because women used this time to spin their yarn while listening to the stories. While that may be tree, I also believe it refers to the ‘spinning’ and weaving of the tales themselves.

Filò served as entertainment in an age before radios, televisions and computers. In fact, when I asked my cousins when the tradition stopped, they said it phased out pretty much when radio became popular. It was also simply a time for families to bond and spend time together after a hard day’s work. It was a way of enjoying humour, passing down traditions and instilling cultural values. But, most relevant to what I’ve been talking about today, it was a way bring back to life those who lived before us.

My grandson Percy had no idea that last night – almost instinctively – he and I were sharing filò.

I guess it’s in our blood.

What is ‘true’ in history is only partially made up of facts, dates and evidence. The rest is down to us – our stories, our imaginations, our memories.

We are our stories.

Our ancestors continue to live through our stories. We will continue to live through the stories our grandchildren tell THEIR grandchildren.

Keep telling stories. And don’t wait for the next Giorno di Morti to come for your storytelling hour. Share a story with someone in your family today.

I invite your reflections about family storytelling, or any other topic to do with Trentino Genealogy. Please feel free to express yourself by leaving a comment in the box below, or drop me a line using the contact form on this site.

Until next time, enjoy the journey.

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn

P.S.: I am going back to Trento to do research in March, 2018. If you would like me to try to look for something while I am there, please first read my ‘Genealogy Services’ page, and then drop me a line using the Contact form on this site. I look forward to hearing from you!

Subscribe to receive all upcoming articles from Trentino Genealogy!
Desktop viewers can subscribe using the form at the right side at the top of your screen.
If you are viewing on a mobile device and cannot see the form, you can subscribe by sending a blank email to trentinogenealogy@getresponse.net.

Lynn on Twitter: http://twitter.com/LynnSerafinn

Join our Trentino Genealogy Group on Facebook: http://facebook.com/groups/TrentinoGenealogy

View My Santa Croce del Bleggio Family Tree on Ancestry:
https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/tree/161928829

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

LYNN SERAFINN is a bestselling author and genealogist specialising in the families of Trentino. She is also the author of the regularly featured column ‘Genealogy Corner’ for Filò Magazine: A Journal for Tyrolean Americans.

In addition to her work for clients, her personal research project is to transcribe all the parish records for the parish of Santa Croce del Bleggio (where her father was born) from the 1400s to the current era, as well as to connect as many living people as she can who were either born in Bleggio or whose ancestors came from there. She hopes this tree, which already contains tens of thousands of people, will serve as a visual and spiritual reminder of how we are all fundamentally connected.

View the Santa Croce del Bleggio Family Tree on Ancestry:
https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/tree/161928829

CLICK HERE to view a searchable database of Trentini SURNAMES.

Preparing for Research: Using Microfilms for Family History


Preparing for Research: Using Microfilms for Family History
Genealogist Lynn Serafinn explains what to do before working with parish records on microfilm, and shares tips for finding your Trentini ancestors’ parish.

IMPORTANT NOTE (June 2019): Since I originally published this article in June 2016, the LDS Family History Centres have DISCONTINUED their microfilm ordering service, and are working on digitising all their microfilms. However, these digital images will only be viewable at one of their Family History Centres, not online. Nonetheless, the tips below might still be useful if you are lucky enough to have Family History Centre centre near you that can give you access to the old films OR the newly digitised images.

If you’re new to genealogy, you’ll notice that family historians talk a lot about parish records (if you’re unfamiliar with parish records and what they can tell you, you might find some useful information in a previous article on this site called ‘Parishes, Parish Records & Genealogy Resources for Trentino’). While parish records are fundamental to nearly every family history, they are old and fragile documents that would not survive being handled by every modern researcher who comes along. The other challenge they present is that the original, handwritten records are kept as archives in their parish of origin, often thousands of miles away from those who would like to access them.

To address both of these problems, back in the 1950s (or so I read somewhere) archivists at the archdiocese of Trento permitted historians at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) to photograph these records and convert them into microfilm. The original films are kept in Salt Lake City, Utah, but copies can be rented (not purchased) by the public for a nominal fee, and viewed at their local Family History Centre (FHC). According to one source, there were more than 4,700 FHCs in 134 countries as of September 2014; it is my guess that this number has probably grown since then. You can find instructions for locating your local FHC by following the above link.

These microfilms are what the majority of English-speaking family historians with roots in Trentino use for their research. However, finding your way around the microfilms is rarely straightforward, and extracting accurate information from them requires an organised approach and regular study. I can remember numerous occasions when I was trawling through microfilms at the National Archives in Kew, London, when a first-time enthusiast came in (probably after having watched a TV show like ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’) and turned on a microfilm reader, fully expecting they would be able to trace their family back 200 years in a single sitting. Nine times out of ten, the person gives up after an hour.

Microfilms themselves are extremely unwieldy tools, and the challenges of using them are only compounded by the fact that the parish records themselves are even more unwieldy. If you’re not ready to commit yourself to many days, weeks or months (or even years, if you’re really serious) of study to master both of these challenges, you are unlikely to find much joy in using microfilms to construct your family tree.

In this article, I will be offering my advice for things you need to do before you attempt to research your Trentini roots via LDS microfilms. We’ll be looking at:

  • What your ancestors may have meant when they said they were ‘from Trento’
  • Finding your ancestors’ parish
  • Understanding how your ancestors’ parishes may have changed over time
  • Locating and ordering the film you need
  • Familiarising yourself with the layout of the film

Did your ancestors actually come from Trento?

So many people of Trentino descent say to me, ‘My parents/grandparents came from Trento.’ But what they don’t always understand is that saying ‘Trento’ is kind of like saying ‘New York’. If you say you’re ‘from New York’, most people assume you mean New York City. However, ‘New York’ could also refer to New York State. So, simply saying ‘I’m from New York’ could lead people to misunderstand where you mean.

The same is true for Trento. You’ve got Trento the city, and you’ve got Trento the province (also referred to as Trentino). Furthermore, you’ve got Trentino-Alto Adige – referred to as an autonomous region – which is comprised of the two provinces of Trentino (Italian speaking) and Alto Adige (largely German-speaking). On top of this, there is the Catholic archdiocese of Trento.

SIDE NOTE: For those who may be unfamiliar, a ‘diocese’ or ‘archdiocese’ is a collection of many parishes under the ‘governance’ of an Archbishop – a high-ranking priest within the church.

In my experience, when our parents/grandparents said they came ‘from Trento’ (or ‘Tirol’/‘Tyrol’ as so many of us heard when we were growing up), they were usually referring to the province of Trento (Trentino). The fact is, the majority of those who emigrated from Trentino to the Americas in the late 19th and early 20th century did not come from the city, but from rural villages (frazioni) scattered around the province. Each of these frazioni belongs to a parish and a single parish may be comprised of a dozen or more frazioni. ALL of the parishes of Trentino (over 400 of them) come under the umbrella of the Catholic archdiocese of Trento.

Through your local FHC, you can rent individual microfilms for any of these 400+ parishes from the archdiocese of Trento. Thus, the very first thing you need to know is the name of your ancestors’ parish (or parishes).

But what can you do if you DON’T have this information?

How to find your ancestor’s parish

Even though my father was born in Trentino, he never told me name of his frazione or parish of origin. Whenever I asked him where our family came from, he would say, ‘Near Trento.’ If I pressed him further for the name of the village, he would deflect my question by answering, ‘It’s not even a village. It’s barely even a hamlet. It’s so small it’s not even worth mentioning.’ And that would be the end of the conversation. To be honest, I’m not even sure he knew.

Perhaps you were luckier that I was, and you know the name of the parish and/or frazioni of your Trentini ancestors. But if you don’t, all is not lost! Even if you have only a bit of information about your ancestors, you have a good chance of finding their parish using the Nati in Trentino website, which I mentioned in a previous article. Sometimes, simply having a surname and an approximate year of birth can reveal a definitive parish of origin. This is because many families lived entirely (or almost entirely) within a specific parish over the centuries.

For example, let’s say I was trying to track down my father’s mother, Maria Onorati, and that I had only a rough idea that she was born in the early 1890s. In this case, if I search simply for females with the surname Onorati born between 1890 and 1895, ALL of the returns are from a single parish – Santa Croce del Bleggio (the Onorati lived almost exclusively in the village of Bono in that parish for many hundreds of years). You might discover that your family name is similarly ‘attached’ to a particular parish.

Of course, many surnames will pop up in various parishes throughout the province. The more information you can put in the search form on Nati in Trentino, the more you will be able to narrow down your results (I recommend reading through my search tips in the previous article). If your search ends up giving you too many options, try to think laterally. Is there someone in your ancestor’s family – a sibling, perhaps – with a more unusual first name than your direct ancestor? For example, one of my grandmother’s sisters was named Rustica. This name is so uncommon I have only ever seen it once (i.e. in the baptismal record of my great-aunt). Searching for a ‘Rustica’ is far more likely to give me definitive results than searching for a ‘Maria’, and can therefore lead me to discovering not only the name of the parish, but also the names of the parents and other siblings.

How your ancestors’ parishes may have changed over time

Another matter that might cause some confusion for you is that parishes are not static entities, and they will probably have gone through many changes over the centuries.

  • Some parishes no longer exist today because they were incorporated into another parish at some point in time.
  • Conversely, new parishes may spring up having separated from another parish as populations changed.
  • Sometimes, smaller villages will be ‘passed back and forth’ between two (or more!) parishes over the years. This means you’ll need to cross-check records in both parishes lest you miss something.
  • Some parishes are actually ‘sub’ parishes of a larger parish. In such cases, records for a specific ancestor may appear in the registers of both

If you hit a ‘brick wall’ in your research, it could be due to this fluidity of parish boundaries. More than once I’ve accidentally stumbled upon a record I never thought I would find when I was browsing through a neighbouring parish. Another thing to remember is that, if a husband and wife in your lineage come from different parishes, it is probable their marriage was recorded in the registers of both parishes. This can be very useful if their marriage record in one of the parishes happens to be missing or unreadable.

How to order a microfilm of your ancestors’ parish records

Once you are confident you have found the parish you want to research, you are ready to order a copy of the microfilm from the LDS website. Sometimes finding the correct film can be a bit tricky, if you don’t know your way around (and, in my experience, few people at the FHC centres understand enough Italian to be able to help you).

Here’s a quick, step-by-step way to find the microfilm you need:

  1. In a new tab on your browser, log into your account at http://familysearch.org (if you don’t have an account, you can create one there for free).
  2. Once logged in, click the word ‘Catalogue’ in the top menu on your screen.
  3. When the search window opens, enter ‘Country, Diocese, Parish’ where it says ‘Place’. That is to say, if you are searching for a parish in the archdiocese of Trento, you should enter: Italy, Trento, Name of the Parish.

TIP: I recommend putting only the main word(s) from the name of the parish as it might be spelled slightly differently on the LDS site from how it appears on Nati in Trentino. Here’s a screenshot of what that could look like:

Family Search website - screenshot of search fieldclick on image to see it larger

SIDE NOTE: Even though Trentino was part of Austria prior to 1918, the records are listed under its current country (Italy).

4. When the search results for your parish pop up, CLICK the arrow next to the name to expand it. Then, click the link that says ‘Registri ecclesiastici’, etc. to open more information about it.

Family Search website search results - archdiocese of Trentoclick on image to see it larger

5. Scroll down the page to see the catalogue number of the film for those parish records. Be aware that many records are spread across more than one film. For example, below you can see that the very early baptismal records for the parish of Drò are on a separate film from the other baptismal records (and marriage records), and that the death records after 1828 are on yet another film. This means, depending on the era you are researching, you may need to order more than one film to get all the records you require:

Family Search website - example of microfilm numbersclick on image to see it larger

6. Once you know the NUMBERS of the films you need, you can order them from the Family Search website at https://familysearch.org/films/. Just enter the number of each film and choose either a ‘short term’ or ‘extended’ loan period. While an extended loan costs slightly more, I strongly recommend choosing that option if it is available so you don’t have to worry about rushing through your research. Otherwise, the usual length of short-term loans is about three months. You can renew them, but some centres will only allow you to renew them once. In my experience, every Family History Centre has its own rules about this, so be sure to check with them first before ordering your film.

Before selecting which FHC you want to use to view the films, be sure to check their opening hours as many of the smaller centres are only open a few hours a week. You might find it better to have the films delivered to a centre slightly farther away, if their opening hours are more convenient for you.

SIDE NOTE: SOME (but by no means all) of the actual images of the Trento parish records are viewable online, but you can only view these when using the site AT a Family History Centre or if you are a member of a ‘supporting organisation’. Also, some of the records have been transcribed and can be searched online using the Family Search site. However, this research is still in its very early stages, and the transcriptions do not give nearly as much information as you will find if you consult images of the original records.

Getting familiar with your microfilm

When your film arrives at your Family History Centre, you’re probably going to be tempted to dive right into it to find specific ancestors. My recommendation is that you try to resist this urge, and spend a session or two simply orienting yourself with how the film is organised. This can save you countless hours of research in the long-term. Here’s how I work whenever I want to get acquainted with a new microfilm:

  1. Locate the relevant Items. Every microfilm has been broken into ‘Items’ to make navigation a bit more manageable. Not all the items on your microfilm might be records of your parish. For example, if you look at the screenshot above of microfilm number 1448235, you will see that only Items 1 through 4 (out of 32) pertain to the parish of Drò. In fact, if I go back to my catalogue search and look up the contents of this film number, I can see it contains images of records from seven different parishes:

Family Search website - how different parishes are on a single microfilmclick on image to see it larger

2. Get a feeling for how the records are organised. Prior to the mid-19th century, priests had no ‘standard’ system for recording events in their parish records. In fact, it was all a bit of an experiment, especially in the early days of record-keeping. While most marriage records tend to be chronological for the whole parish, the chronological organisation of earlier baptismal records can be a bit ‘loose’:

  • Organisation by frazione. Many priests chose to organise birth records by frazione. In other words, they would enter all the births for a particular frazione chronologically during a specific time period, and then start the same process all over again for the next one. The ‘specific time period’ could be anything – 5, 20 or even 50 years. This means you can’t just scroll through the film to find a particular record, you’ll need to know which frazione you’re looking for, and where that frazione and time period is located on the film. Otherwise, you’ll have no choice but to scroll through pages and pages of files, just in case the record you’re looking for is hiding there.
  • Organisation by first name. Even more challenging is when a priest chooses to organise his baptismal records by the child’s first name. This means you’ll see dozens of pages of Antonios and Annas followed by dozens of pages of Bartolomeos and Brigidas. Fortunately, this type of record keeping doesn’t happen too often, but when it does it can be a nightmare for research, unless you happen to be looking for one specific person whose name you already know.

3. Create a ‘map’ for yourself. Once you know which items are relevant to your research, and how the priests have organised them within each of these items, I strongly recommend making some sort of ‘map’ or guide that helps you remember where everything is, and how the information is organised. Sometimes the records have page numbers in the corners of the images (although, these numbers can be confusing, as they are numbers of the original books and not of the films themselves). In such cases, you might find it useful to make a table of where the different frazioni are located, where to find certain first names, and where different years/eras start and end in the records. Armed with this ‘map’, you will find your job much easier and less frustrating when you do your research.

Closing thoughts

I mentioned in an earlier article that, when researching parish records, I prefer to work with the digital image library at the Archives at the archdiocese of Trento. Of course, this requires making the trip to Trento (and it also helps if you speak Italian). For many people, however, going to Trento is not always possible. So, even though working with microfilms can be challenging, it is often the more practical option. Hopefully the guidelines I’ve shared in this article will help you approach those challenges with some sort of plan of attack, so you can build your Trentini family tree more easily and with greater confidence.

Coming up soon on the Trentino Genealogy blog, we’ll be looking at what to expect when working with the Archives at the Archdiocese in Trento (if you do decide to make the trip), how to interpret parish records from Trentino, an introduction to notaries and noble families in Trentino, and how to use church parchments to understand more about your ancestors’ daily lives. I do hope you’ll subscribe to this blog so you can follow along on this genealogical journey, and read all future articles on this site. Desktop viewers can subscribe using the form at the right side at the top of your screen. If you are viewing on a mobile device and cannot see the form, you can subscribe by sending a blank email to trentinogenealogy@getresponse.net.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, or if you’d like to talk to me about researching your family history, please feel free to drop me a line via the contact form on this site.

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn

Subscribe to receive all upcoming articles from Trentino Genealogy! Desktop viewers can subscribe using the form at the right side at the top of your screen. If you are viewing on a mobile device and cannot see the form, you can subscribe by sending a blank email to trentinogenealogy@getresponse.net.

Lynn on Twitter: http://twitter.com/LynnSerafinn

Join our Trentino Genealogy Group on Facebook: http://facebook.com/groups/TrentinoGenealogy

View My Santa Croce del Bleggio Family Tree on Ancestry:
https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/tree/161928829

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

LYNN SERAFINN is a bestselling author and genealogist specialising in the families of Trentino. She is also the author of the regularly featured column ‘Genealogy Corner’ for Filò Magazine: A Journal for Tyrolean Americans.

In addition to her work for clients, her personal research project is to transcribe all the parish records for the parish of Santa Croce del Bleggio (where her father was born) from the 1400s to the current era, as well as to connect as many living people as she can who were either born in Bleggio or whose ancestors came from there. She hopes this tree, which already contains tens of thousands of people, will serve as a visual and spiritual reminder of how we are all fundamentally connected.

View the Santa Croce del Bleggio Family Tree on Ancestry:
https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/tree/161928829

CLICK HERE to view a searchable database of Trentini SURNAMES.

Searching Online for 19th & 20th Century Trentini Ancestors

Searching Online for 19th & 20th Century Trentini Ancestors
Ca. 1923: Serafini and Franceschi families of Vergonzo in Bleggio, Val Giudicarie

Genealogist Lynn Serafinn explains how to find your ancestors using use ‘Nati in Trentino’, a free online database of baptisms from the Archdiocese of Trento.

UPDATE MARCH 2021: Since publishing this article in 2016. the Nati in Trentino website has been UPDATED. You will find the new website at by clicking here: Nati in Trentino (1815 – 1923) (mondotrentino.net).

While most of the information in this article is still relevant, some of it is now out of date. I have created two video tutorial on how to use the NEW website, which you will find on my ‘tutorials’ here: 

MORE READING:   Genealogy Video Tutorials

ORGINAL ARTICLE FROM 2016:

Last time on Trentino Genealogy, we started our discussion on parish records. In that article I spoke about what we can learn from church records, and the role of the parish in Trentini life. I also mentioned that there were three primary ways to access parish records from the archdiocese of Trento:

  1. The Nati in Trentino website
  2. Microfilms made by the Latter Day Saints (LDS)
  3. The archives of the Archdiocese of Trento, in Trento, Italy

If you didn’t catch that article, you can read it by clicking HERE.

In today’s article, I’m going to be talking about the Nati in Trentino website, because I believe it is especially helpful for anyone who is just starting to construct their Trentini family tree. It is also highly useful for experienced researchers who quickly want to flesh out parts of the 19th and early 20th century in their tree.

In this article, I’ll be looking at:

  • What Nati in Trentino is and how to access it
  • Advantages of using it for research
  • What the site CAN and CANNOT tell you (compared to the original parish records)
  • Technical limitations of the site
  • Tips and tricks for getting the most out of it

Nati in Trentino – What it is and how to access it

Nati in Trentino is a free, searchable website located at https://secure.natitrentino.mondotrentino.net. This site contains a database of information taken from ALL baptismal records registered in the Archdiocese of Trento between the years of 1815 and 1923. The project was done by experienced researchers at the Archivio dell’Arcidiocese (the archives of the archdiocese).

When you land on the site, select your preferred language. Assuming you’ve selected ‘English’, after you enter the site, look to the right side of your screen and you will see these options:

Screenshot - Nati in Trentino landing page.Click on the image to see it larger.

If you click “Search Database Birth Index”, it will take you to a log-in page. If you already have an account, you can log-in here. If you haven’t yet created your free account, you register from that page as well.

NOTE to Users of Ancestry.com and similar sites: The Nati in Trentino database is owned by the Archdiocese of Trento, and is NOT accessible via other, commercial sites. The only way to access it is to go directly to the Nati in Trentino website.

Advantages of Using Nati in Trentino

It has been made by EXPERTS

I think this is the primary advantage of using Nati in Trentino. The people who made this database are not random volunteers (as is the case with MANY other online databases) but official researchers who work for the diocese. They are native Trentini who speak Italian AND have studied Latin. They are familiar with the parishes and local surnames of the region. They have been trained to read old handwriting. Furthermore, these people (and I know some of them personally) CARE about preserving this history.

It is extremely accurate

Unlike so many other transcription projects you might find on the Internet, Nati in Trentino is clear and accurate. You’ll especially appreciate this if you’ve ever found yourself pulling your hair out trying to make sense of your Trentini ancestors’ names and villages in US census records or Ellis Island documents.

It has an English language option

If you are an English speaker, you will especially appreciate the Nati in Trentino website as you don’t need to have any knowledge of Italian to use it. Also, if you are less experienced in working with parish records, it takes the guesswork out of trying to read the priests’ handwriting.

It can save you time

Lastly, the most obvious advantage is that it can save you hours of research time. Records that might otherwise take you hours to find via microfilm can often be found within minutes. For speed and ease of use, there really is no other Trentino resource like it (not yet, anyway!). I often use the site to do a ‘first draft’ of certain family groups for the 19th Century. Then, when I next have an opportunity to work directly with the images of the baptismal, marriage and death records, I can start to fill in the missing information.

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What The Site CAN and CANNOT Tell You

It is important to be aware of what the site can and cannot tell you, lest you inadvertently assume the wrong person is your ancestor. One thing to bear in mind is that this site does NOT contain the full transcription of the baptismal records. Nor does it contain the images of them. Thus, many things that are probably IN the baptismal record are NOT included in the search results on Nati in Trentino.

To give you an idea of how a search on Nati in Trentino differs from an original parish record, compare these two images. First, is a screenshot of a search I did on Nati in Trentino for my great-grandmother, Domenica Filomena Europa Parisi (who was known in life only as ‘Europa’):

Search results for Europa Parisi, born 1856, on Nati in TrentinoClick on the image to see it larger.

 As you can see, from this record we now know:

  • Europa’s full name
  • Her gender
  • Her date of birth
  • Her father’s first name
  • Her mother’s first name
  • Her mother’s maiden surname
  • Her parish

VERY IMPORTANT (especially for readers in America): European dates are written with the DAY first, followed by the MONTH (the opposite of what is used in the United States). If you see a date that says 06/12/1850, for example, it means December 6th, NOT June 12th.

About the date of birth

Prior to the introduction of printed forms (about 1810), parish records would only record the date of baptism, rather than the date of birth. For this reason, most researchers will use the baptismal date as a date of birth in a family tree, if no other record of birth is available.  In earlier times, due to the high mortality rate, a child was often baptised within hours of their birth anyway (sometimes by the midwife). But by the 19th Century, there might be a gap of one or two days between the birth and baptism of a child; both of these dates are recorded in most Trentino parish records from about 1810 onwards. Wherever both dates have been recorded, Nati in Trentino will give you the actual date of birth.

About parishes

You don’t need to know the parish from which your ancestors came to search the database, but it can really help narrow down your search, especially if the surname is common to several areas of the Province. Fortunately, the search function includes a drop-down menu of all the parishes (which means you don’t need to know how to spell them!).

You can find a complete list of parishes in the Diocese of Trento on Wikipedia. They are grouped into their respective valleys. I don’t know how accurate this list is, as it isn’t an official site for the diocese, but I cannot find a live link on the dioceses site anymore.

Now let’s compare the information we found out on Nati in Trentino to the information you will find in the original parish record. Europa’s entry is the last one in the image:

Example of 19th Century baptismal record from the parish of Santa Croce del BleggioClick on the image to see it larger.

If you look closely at this image, you will see that, in addition to the information you found on the Nati in Trentino website, you now also know:

  • Europa came from the frazione of Duvredo (written in the left margin).
  • She was born at 10 PM
  • She was baptised the day after she was born.
  • The midwife who delivered her was Margarita Furlini (written under Europa’s name). In fact, if you look closely, you will see that Margarita delivered ALL the babies on this record (that’s four babies in within 20 days).
  • Europa died on 24 Feb 1937 (this was inserted by the parish priest many years later)
  • She was Catholic
  • She was the 44th girl baby to be born in the parish that year
  • She was legitimate (i.e. her parents were married)
  • The names of all four of her grandparents (full names of the grandfathers; first names of the grandmothers)
  • That her maternal grandfather (Luigi Troggio) is deceased (signified by the word ‘fu’ in the record)
  • The name of the priest who baptised her
  • The names of the godparents
  • That the godparents were contadini –

As you can see, there is a lot more to be gleaned from parish records than can be discovered through the Nati in Trentino database. I am not pointing these things out to discourage you from using it, but to ensure you are clear on what to expect when you use it, and also to give you something to look forward to when you progress to the stage where you are ready to study the parish records for yourself.

Technical Limitations of the Site

When you begin a search on the site, you’ll see this input form:

Screenshot of search form on 'Nati in Trentino' websiteClick on the image to see it larger.

There are a few technical limitations of this search, namely:

  • Surname is a required field. Let’s say you are trying to find out more information about your great-grandfather’s sister. To do that, you’d have to be able to search by the mother’s surname. But on Nati in Trentino, you are required to enter the child’s surname (ie. the surname of the father). So unless you know the surname of your great-great-aunt’s husband, you’re stuck.
  • The surname MUST be spelled completely and EXACTLY as it is in the record. While this isn’t immediately apparent from this form, unfortunately, you cannot use ‘wild card’ searches on the Nati in Trentino website. This means you need to know the exact spelling of your ancestors’ surname as it appeared in the record, and you will have to try all the variations of it you can think of. For example, while 9 times out of 10 my paternal surname is spelled ‘Serafini’, some priests spelled it ‘Seraffini’. Because there is no flexibility with regards to surname in their search engine, if I search for ‘Serafini’ on the site, I will NOT see any of the ‘Seraffini’ records.
  • Gender is a required field. This means, if you are working on a family, you’ll have to search for brothers and sisters separately. It’s not unworkable, but it can slow down your research.
  • Each search is restricted to a 10-year range. This can also slow down your research, but it’s not so bad once you get the hang of it (TIP: don’t forget, a range from 1900 – 1910 is actually 11 years).
  • You will NOT see the names of parents if the child was born less than 103 years ago. This is pretty much standard privacy policy on any genealogy site. I’ve got a trick below that can help you work around this in many cases.

Tips and Tricks to Get the Most from Your Searches

I’ve worked enough now with the Nati in Trentino site that I no longer worry about these limitations, as I know (to some degree) how to work around them. Here are some of my personal tips and tricks.

CHILD’S (AND FATHER’S) SURNAME

Because the site has no search flexibility with the primary surname, and because different priests may have spelled your surname differently over the years, you will need to search using all the alternative spellings you can think of for your family’s surnames. So, as you’re searching, write down all the alternative spellings of that surname you can think of, so you can check all of the options.

Some surnames have LOTS of different variations. If you click here, you can see a table I made of some Trentino surnames with some of their spelling variations. Look to see if your surname is on the table and take note of any variations it might have. Please note that this table is FAR from complete, so if you know of any variations I might not have included, please let me know via the contact form on this website.

MOTHER’S SURNAME

The field for the mother’s surname is an OPTIONAL field, which means you don’t have to enter it. However, if you already know her surname OR you are trying to find siblings of your ancestor (which you SHOULD), you can enter this information here.

To get the most out of this, I recommend NOT putting in the full surname, but rather that you should enter only 1-3 letters.

For example, a surname like ‘Caliari’, can also be spelled ‘Cagliari’, so I would just put ‘Ca’ in the mother’s surname field. For ‘Serafini’ I would just put in ‘Ser’. You might even enter a few MIDDLE letters of a surname if they are the least variable.

PERSONAL NAMES

Similarly, I find it the site works best if you use ONLY 1 – 3 letters of the personal names: child’s name, father’s name, mother’s name.  THESE fields have much more flexibility when you do your search. In fact, I normally enter only a few letters of a name (or even ONE letter), in these fields, so that I don’t inadvertently miss a record that might be spelled slightly differently.

For example:

  • if you know the mother’s or child’s name is Domenica, it might be written ‘Dominica’. So, just put ‘Dom’ in the mother’s first name field.
  • For a name like ‘Cattarina’, it is spelled SO many different ways, so just enter ‘Cat’.
  • If the father’s or child’s name is something like ‘Bartolomeo’, it could also be spelled ‘Bortolo’. So, I would put ONLY the letter ‘B’ in the search field for the father’s name.

GETTING AROUND THE 103-YEAR PRIVACY ISSUE

If you cannot see the names of the parents of a child because he/she was born less than 103 years ago, try finding siblings who may have been born earlier. This process can often help you work out who the parents are, by a process of elimination.

Process of Elimination Method
    • First, search for any children born with the child’s surname during the five years preceding that child’s birth (presuming that this will take you before the 103-year threshold). If you know the name of the parish, this can really help narrow it down.
    • Write down the parents’ names of all of those children.
    • Then, perform your search AGAIN for the child you are seeking, but this time enter the first few letters of the name of a father and mother of one of the other children.
    • If you choose the RIGHT couple, the child you’re looking for will appear in the search results, even though the names of the parents won’t be visible. If you haven’t entered the right parents, the child you are looking for won’t appear in the results.
What if that doesn’t work? 

If the parents didn’t HAVE any children before the 103-year threshold, you’ll need to use a more ‘trial and error’ method.  This method takes a bit more time, and requires that you have some experience/knowledge of local names.

First, choose one of the parents’ optional fields to work with, i.e. father’s first name, mother’s first name or mother’s surname. Then, go through each letter of the alphabet ONE letter at a time in that field. For example, if I am trying to figure out the father’s first name, I would enter ‘a’. Then, if the search comes up showing my ancestor, it means the father’s first name has at least one a in it. Write down ‘a’ in your notepad. Then go on to b, c, d, etc. until you’ve tested all the letters in the alphabet. If you ended up with something like ‘e, i, g, p, s, u’, his name is probably ‘Giuseppe’. Try the full name (or a portion of it) in the name field to so if that works.

Continue using this method until you have identified the father’s first name, mother’s first name and mother’s surname individually. Then, test all of them in the fields at the same time and see if they show your ancestor. If they do, then you’ve revealed his/her parents’ names.

Finding SIBLINGS of Your Ancestors on Nati in Trentino

Finding siblings is something I do ALL the time on Nati in Trentino. ‘Building’ a family group is the best way to formulate an estimate for the parents’ marriage date, and it can also help you estimate their ages.

This is especially true with women. If the mother of your ancestor had lots of children for many years, you can often get an upper/lower year of birth for her. For example, if the couple’s oldest child was born in 1826, and the youngest in 1846, the mother would surely have been born between 1800-1808; and within that range, she is more likely to have been born between 1804-1806. This is because most women would have married between the ages of 20-22, and they usually are between 42-44 when their youngest child was born (provided she or her husband didn’t die young).

Finding siblings can also help you ‘guess’ at the names of the grandparents, at least on the paternal side. Traditionally, the first son would have been named after one or both of the grandfathers, and the first daughter would have been named after one or both of the grandmothers. This tradition starts to fall OUT of practice the later you go in the 19th century however, as people started to use more ‘creative’ names, rather than the same ones over and over.

So, once you’ve found your ancestor on Nati in Trentino, start finding his/her siblings by SHIFTING your 10-year search period backwards or forward, using ALL the tips and tricks I’ve discussed in this article. KEEP on shifting this 10-year period in both directions until there are no more children using those search settings.

Once you feel you’ve exhausted the possibilities, look over the siblings you’ve found. Do you see GAPS of more than 2 years between siblings? If so, there might be a sibling whose surname was entered under a different spelling. So, this time, plug in an ALTERNATIVE spelling for your surname (if there is one) and run the same search process again.

TIP: The exception to the 2-year guideline would be if it were during World War 1, or you know your ancestor(s) had emigrated temporarily out of the province.

Closing Thoughts…

I hope this article has given you some useful information about how to use the Nati in Trentino website, and has inspired you to use it to work on your family tree. If you have any questions or comments about what I’ve discussed, please feel free to reach out to me via the contact form on this website.

As I showed in this article, there is much more that can be learned about your ancestors if you study the original parish records. So over the next few articles, we’ll be looking at how to find and use the microfilms of those records through your local Family History Centre. Then, in later articles, we’ll explore working at the Archives of the Archdiocese in Trento, and different ways you can take your research beyond parish records.

I do hope you’ll subscribe to this blog so you can follow along on this genealogical journey, and read all future articles on this site. Desktop viewers can subscribe using the form at the right side at the top of your screen. If you are viewing on a mobile device and cannot see the form, you can subscribe by sending a blank email to trentinogenealogy@getresponse.net.

As always, if you’d like to talk to me about researching your family history, you are most welcome to drop me a line via the contact form on this site.

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn

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Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

LYNN SERAFINN is a bestselling author and genealogist specialising in the families of Trentino. She is also the author of the regularly featured column ‘Genealogy Corner’ for Filò Magazine: A Journal for Tyrolean Americans.

In addition to her work for clients, her personal research project is to transcribe all the parish records for the parish of Santa Croce del Bleggio (where her father was born) from the 1400s to the current era, as well as to connect as many living people as she can who were either born in Bleggio or whose ancestors came from there. She hopes this tree, which already contains tens of thousands of people, will serve as a visual and spiritual reminder of how we are all fundamentally connected.

View the Santa Croce del Bleggio Family Tree on Ancestry:
https://trentinogenealogy.com/my-tree

CLICK HERE to view a searchable database of Trentino SURNAMES.