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Decanato of Trento: Parishes, Curates and Parish Registers

Decanato of Trento: Parishes, Curates and Parish Registers

Inventory of the parish registers in the parishes and curates of the decanato (deanery) of the city of Trento. Part 4 of ‘Trentino Valleys, Parishes and People: A Guide for Genealogists’ by Lynn Serafinn.

LAST TIME in this special series on the valleys, parishes and genealogical records (parish registers) for the province of Trento, we looked at the various frazioni of the municipality of the city of Trento, as well as demographics (population, languages, occupations) and surnames of the people in that city in the year 1890.

If you haven’t yet read that article (or you would like to read it again), I invite you to check it out at https://trentinogenealogy.com/2020/04/trento-city-surnames-1600/ .

As you read today’s article, you might also find it useful to refer to the MAP of the frazioni of Trento I shared with you last time.

MORE READING:   Trento in the 1800s. Frazioni, Occupations, Surnames

WHAT I WILL DISCUSS IN THIS ARTICLE

TODAY, I want to shift away from looking at the city of Trento as a civil entity, and consider how it is organised into PARISHES.

As we do so, I will also give you an INVENTORY of the currently surviving parish registers for each PARISH, to help guide you in your genealogical research.

My primary resource for this information is the book Guida Storico – Archivistica del Trento by Dott. Albino Casetti (published 1961), which has been the ‘bible’ reference book for Trentino historians of all kinds (including family historians) for nearly 60 years.

This monumental work (over 1,100 pages), published only in Italian, is an inventory of ALL the archived materials in every comune and parish in the province of Trentino. As the focus of this blog is specifically Trentino Genealogy, I will be summarising ONLY the information that is most relevant to genealogists and family historians.

In this way, over the course of this series, I aim to provide you with a ‘go to guide’ of the available parish registers in all of the parishes in the diocese, adding my own insights when I happen to have worked with that parish.

ABOUT the PARISH RECORDS

  • Nearly all of the baptisms, marriages and death records for the entire DIOCESE of Trento were photographed by the LDS church (Latter Day Saints) and put on microfilm. Because of this, I have included the microfilm numbers/contents below (although they are in the process of digitising these).
  • The diocese of Trento digitised all these records about 10 years ago, and they are freely viewable at their Diocesan Archives in Trento. Most of the records that the LDS church missed have also since been digitised by the diocese (the parish of Andalo is one example); these are also available at the Diocesan Archives in Trento.
  • Confirmation is a Catholic sacrament, which can be delivered only by a Bishop. As such, ceremonies tended to be done in large groups, often for many parishes at once. The Italian word for ‘Confirmation’ is ‘cresima’ (plural = cresime). You may sometimes see the word ‘cresima’ and a date scribbled next to someone’s name in their baptismal record. Confirmation in the past was often combined with the sacrament of First Communion, and could sometimes take place when a child was quite young.
  • An ‘anagraph’ is a record for a family group, listing the head of household, wife (or wives), and their children. Typically it will include all birth, marriage and death dates of everyone in the family group, and sometimes Confirmation dates.
  • Although I have listed anagraphs and Confirmation records in the charts below, NEITHER of these is normally included in the LDS microfilms or digital images at the Trento Archives. However, in the case of the Duomo, being the seat of the bishopric, I did find many Confirmation records mixed in with the baptismal records in the 1500s (more about this shortly).
  • Most parishes also contain many other kinds of archived materials, such as pergamene (parchments, often of legal documents), taxes, inventory of goods, visits from the bishop, etc. I have not included those in these lists, as there are just too many of them, and they are not usually of much interest to family historians (except possibly some of the more experienced researchers).

REMINDER: This article is only about the CITY of Trento, NOT the rural parts of the province of Trento (also called ‘Trentino’). After we finish our discussion of the city, we’ll start our exploration of the many rural valleys and parishes of the province in detail, spread across at least 20 upcoming articles in this special series.

The DECANATO of TRENTO

As a reminder, the Catholic Church organises its churches hierarchically like this:

Diocese –> Deanery –> Parish –> Curate

Or, in Italian:

Diocesi –> Decanato –> Parrocchia (Pieve) –> Curazia

All of the parishes we will explore in this series are in the DIOCESE of Trento. Technically, Trento is an ‘archdiocese’, which just means it covers a large area, including one urban centre, i.e. the city of Trento.

There are 25 decanati (deaneries) in the archdiocese of Trento. One of these deaneries is the CITY OF TRENTO itself.

Within the decanato of Trento, there are different parishes, and within each parish there are several ‘curates’ (curazie). Curates are like ‘satellite’ parishes, which are subordinate to the ‘mother’ parish church. Curates do not always have the authority to hold their own baptisms or maintain their own records. 

Presently, there are FIVE ‘mother’ parishes in the DECANATO of Trento, most with one or more curate parishes dependent upon them. According to Casetti (page 820), these are:

MOTHER PARISHCURATE PARISHES
Cathedral of San VigilioVillazzano
Santa Maria MaggioreMattarello; Sardagna; Vela
Santi Pietro e PaoloSanta Maria Maddalena; Gardolo, Cognola, Villa Montagna, Montevaccino, Garniga (see notes)
PiedicastelloRavina; Romagnano
Povo(None listed by Casetti)

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

Some of these parishes have changed their status over time.   For example, some curates have become parishes in their own right, while others have been  ‘incorporated’ into other parishes or deaneries.  I will point these variables out as we go along.

PARISH of TRENTO: Cathedral of San Vigilio (Duomo)

A ‘cathedral’ is not just a large church; it is a church associated with a resident bishop. Moreover, in ecclesiastical terms, for a place to be called a ‘city’ it had to have a cathedral.

This medieval Cathedral – or ‘duomo’ – of San Vigilio has long been the symbol of the bishopric of Trento, if not an icon of the province itself. San Vigilio (d. ca. 397 AD) was not only an early Christian martyr but the first bishop of the province. His tomb can be visited in the underground crypt beneath the Cathedral.

INVENTORY of Parish Registers for San Vigilio

REGISTERNO. OF VOLUMESSTARTING YEAR
BAPTISMS271565
MARRIAGES191565
DEATHS161620
CONFIRMATION8 (see notes)1759
ANAGRAPHS?1830; 1840

LDS Microfilms for Duomo of San Vigilio

MICROFILM NO.ITEMSCONTENTS
144830016-20Baptisms 1564-1685 (the start date they list is slightly from Casetti’s).
1448301entire filmBaptisms 1685-1824; Index of baptisms 1824-1879; Baptisms 1824-1883; Index of baptisms 1880-1921; Baptisms 1884-1886.
1448302entire filmBaptisms 1886-1923; Marriages 1565-1780; Index of marriages; 1813-1872; Marriages 1816-1923; Deaths 1620-1701.
14483241-15Deaths 1701-1780; Index of Deaths 1793-1828; Deaths 1780-1813; Index of Deaths 1810-1873; Deaths 1810-1887; Index of Deaths 1886-1921; Deaths 1887-1923.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

Here are a few things I noticed on the occasions I have worked with the records for this parish:

  • CONFIRMATION RECORDS. Although Casetti says the register of Confirmations starts in the year 1759, in my own research I discovered that many pages of CONFIRMATION records from the mid to late 1500s are mixed in with volume 1 of the baptisms (1564-1577). As the Duomo in Trento was the home parish of the Bishop, some parents sent their children to be confirmed there, rather than waiting for the Bishop to come to their local parish/deanery. For example, I found several children from families who lived in my father’s PARISH of Bleggio in Val Giudicarie were confirmed at the Duomo in 1596. You might wish to check volume 1 of the baptisms to see if anyone in your own family tree had travelled to Trento to have their children confirmed at the Duomo, rather than wait for the bishop to come to their local parish/deanery.
  • BAPTISMAL REGISTERS VOLUMES 2 and 3 (and possibly others) are organised according to FIRST NAME of the child. For me, this is the WORST and most frustrating system of organisation because, unless you know exactually what you are looking for, it can be very difficult to find a particular record. For example, you might be looking for someone named ‘Antonio’, but he was actually baptised ‘Tommaso Giovanni Battista Antonio’; how would you KNOW to look under ‘T’?
  • SURNAMES IN EARLY BAPTISMAL RECORDS ARE OFTEN MISSING. I would estimate a good 60% of the baptismal records in Volume 2 at the Duomo don’t have a surname at all.  Instead, you’ll find things like   ‘Barbara, daughter of Valentino of Val di Sole’, ‘Gregorio of Rovereto’ or ‘Lorenzo of Arco’ (these are all examples I wrote down in my notes the last time I was perusing those records).
  • BUT…YOU MIGHT BE PLEASANTLY SURPRISED.  Despite the other frustrations,  if you are really patient (and a bit lucky), you just might stumble across random baptismal records for families from rural parishes who either had relocated to the city, or who were staying there temporarily. For example, amongst these registers, I found the baptismal records for many children of the noble Tommaso Crosina, a renowned medical doctor who had relocated from Balbido (in Val Giudicarie) to the city, as well as baptismal records for children of the Buratti family of Comano, and the Girardi family of Vigo Lomaso (both in Val Giudicarie).

CURATE of VILLAZZANO

Located in the southern part of the city of Trento, Villazzano is the site of two churches: a small church dedicated to San Stefano, already in existence by the year 1567, and a much older church dedicated to San Bartolomeo, which appears in documents as far back as 1183. Indeed, this whole neighbourhood of South Trento is called ‘San Bartolomeo’, and there is also a train station of the same name not far from Villazzano.

After many demolitions and reconstructions, the present curate church is San Stefano, and the old church of San Bartolomeo is solely a cemetery church.

Despite its long history, Villazzano was not elevated to the position of a parish until 1907.

INVENTORY of Parish Registers for Villazzano

REGISTERNO. OF VOLUMESSTARTING YEAR
BAPTISMS71804
MARRIAGES81620
DEATHS71714
CONFIRMATION?1827
ANAGRAPHS?1895

LDS Microfilms for Villazzano

MICROFILM NO.ITEMSCONTENTS
144829930Baptisms 1825-1852.
14483001-15Baptisms 1852-1923; Marriages 1620-1923; Deaths 1714-1923.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

  • I cannot explain the disparity between the start year of the baptisms (1804) as cited by Casetti and the start year cited on the Family Search website, as I haven’t personally worked with this parish. I know there are some volumes (in various parishes) that the LDS didn’t photograph when they made their microfilms; most of these have since been digitised by the diocese of Trento, and are thus viewable only through their archives, not through the Family History Centres.
  • Casetti doesn’t specify the number volumes of for Confirmation records or anagraphs; I assume  there is a single volume of each, but I have put a ‘?’ as I don’t know.
  • While I have not done research in this parish, I would PRESUME earlier records for Villazzano will be found in its ‘mother parish’ of the Duomo of San Vigilio.

PARISH of TRENTO: Santa Maria Maggiore

Not far from the Duomo is the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, a parish which has been documented back to the year 1147. In the 19th century, Monsignor Giovanni Battista Zanella (the parroco at the time) put the archives for the parish in order and created an inventory for them. But due to events sustained during the First World War, the archives were again put in disarray. Casetti says the current parroco is again putting the archives in order; I would assume progress has been made since he made this comment some years ago.

INVENTORY of Parish Registers for Santa Maria Maggiore

REGISTERNO. OF VOLUMESSTARTING YEAR
BAPTISMS271548
MARRIAGES161581
DEATHS171620
CONFIRMATION131825
ANAGRAPHS31828; 1857; 1951

LDS MICROFILMS for Santa Maria Maggiore

MICROFILM NO.ITEMSCONTENTS
144832416-22Baptisms 1548-1630.
1448325entire filmBaptisms 1630-1832.
1448326entire filmBaptisms 1833-1923; Marriages 1581-1836.
1448327entire filmMarriages 1836-1923; Deaths 1620-1847.
14483281-4Deaths 1847-1923.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

Casetti says the parish archives also contain many ‘urbari’ (collection of taxes) from the 1600s onwards, as well as many diplomas of doctorates and diplomas of nobility, but I have no details on these.

CURATE of MATTARELLO

Located about 4 miles south of the city centre, the curate church of Mattarello, dedicated to San Lorenzo, was built in 1454. After centuries of being a curate parish under Santa Maria Maggiore, it was elevated to the status of a parish on 21 November 1906.

INVENTORY of Parish Registers for Mattarello

REGISTERNO. OF VOLUMESSTARTING YEAR
BAPTISMS111657
MARRIAGES91657
DEATHS51657
CONFIRMATION11840
ANAGRAPHS1?

LDS MICROFILMS for Mattarello

MICROFILM NO.ITEMSCONTENTS
144825936-37Index of Baptisms 1657-1805; Baptisms 1657-1665.
14482601-22Baptisms 1665-1923; Marriages 1657-1923; Deaths 1657-1805, 1845-1923.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

  • Apparently, there are some additional marriages and deaths from between the years 1682-1684 amongst the first volume of baptisms.
  • Casetti says there are ‘recent anagraphs’ but gives no date.
  • Casetti actually says the marriage records start in 1748, with the exception of a few from the 1680s; the LDS index says the marriages start in 1657, however. I asked the archivist in Trento , and they confirmed they do indeed start  in 1657.
  • There is a gap in the death records between 1806-1844.

CURATE of SARDAGNA

Across the River Adige directly west of Trent city centre,  Sardagna is a tiny village perched on top of Monte Bondone. Dedicated to Saints Filippo and Giacomo, the curate church of Sardagna was opened on 10 November 1679. It was elevated to the status of a parish on 11 February 1910, under the deanery of Trento.

INVENTORY of Parish Registers for Sardagna

REGISTERNO. OF VOLUMESSTARTING YEAR
BAPTISMS61788
MARRIAGES71742
DEATHS61742
CONFIRMATION21859
ANAGRAPHS?1747
BIRTHS, MARRIAGES AND DEATHS ALL'ESTERO?1892-1926

LDS MICROFILM for Sardagna

MICROFILM NO.ITEMSCONTENTS
144836812-33Index of Baptisms 1788-1922; Baptisms 1788-1923; Index of Marriages 1742-1921; Marriages 1742-1923; Index of Deaths 1742-1923; Death 1742-1923.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

  • Sadly, Casetti tells us that all of Sardagna’s older documents were destroyed by a fire caused by lightning that hit the church in 1724. I do not know if any duplicates were kept in the mother parish of Santa Maria Maggiore.
  • Note that there is a register of births, marriages and deaths ‘all’estero’, i.e. events that occurred outside the parish, particularly those of families who emigrated outside the province (such as to the Americas, etc.). LDS does NOT list them on the inventory for their microfilms. As of this writing, I do not know if they have since been digitised at the Diocesan Archives in Trento.

CURATE of VELA

North of Sardagna, and northwest of  the city centre, is the curate of Vela. Dedicated to Saints Cosma and Damiano, the church at Vela is relatively new compared to many others in Trento (1794), and it did not have permission to perform baptisms until 1833. Before then, all events would have been recorded in the registry of its mother parish of Santa Maria Maggiore. It was elevated to the rank of parish on 24 Sept 1942, under the deanery of Trento.

INVENTORY of Parish Registers for Vela

REGISTERNO. OF VOLUMESSTARTING YEAR
BAPTISMS41834
MARRIAGES21904
DEATHS31844
CONFIRMATION11924
ANAGRAPHS?1884; 1905

LDS MICROFILMS for Vela

MICROFILM NO.ITEMSCONTENTS
14483682-7Baptisms 1834-1923; Marriages 1904-1923; Deaths 1834-1923.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

I haven’t worked personally with these records, so I cannot comment on the discrepancy in the dates of the death records (LDS says they start in 1834, while Casetti says 1844).

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PARISH of TRENTO: Santi Pietro e Paolo

Located in the heart of the city centre, this church is dedicated to the Apostles Peter and Paul. Although its records go back to the mid-1500s, Santi Pietro e Paolo  is relatively ‘new’ a parish,  as it was originally a curate of the Cathedral of San Vigilio.

INVENTORY of Parish Registers for Santi Pietro e Paolo

REGISTERNO. OF VOLUMESSTARTING YEAR
BAPTISMS251548
MARRIAGES171630
DEATHS121598
CONFIRMATION41825
BAPTISMS ALL'ESTERO31883
MARRIAGES ALL'ESTERO21883
DEATHS ALL'ESTERO21883
ANAGRAPHS?"Recent"

LDS MICROFILMS for Santi Pietro e Paolo

MICROFILM NO.ITEMSCONTENTS
144832815-16Baptisms 1548-1617.
1448353entire film1617-1871
1448354entire filmBaptisms 1872-1923; Marriages 1630-1843.
1448355entire filmMarriages 1843-1923; Deaths 1598-1893.
14483561-5Deaths 1894-1923; ALL'ESTERO: Baptisms 1883-1895; Deaths 1883-1918; Marriages 1883-1916; Baptisms 1858-1923; Deaths 1890-1918; Marriages 1891-1923; Baptisms 1871-1923.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

Again, the term ‘all’estero’ refers to events that took place outside the province, typically referring to families who emigrated outside the province at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century. Casetti does not say what years are covered for these records, but we find them listed in the catalogue for the LDS microfilms (which, happily, means they HAVE been photographed/digitised, which is not always the case).

Casetti does not give the years for the anagraphs, saying only they are ‘recent’.

CURATE of Santa Maria Maddalena

Operating since 1500S, the curate parish of Santa Maria Maddalena was incorporated into the parish of Santi Pietro e Paolo in 1808. Thus, the mother parish of Santi Pietro e Paolo will have all records for Santa Maria Maddalena since that date.

INVENTORY of Parish Registers for Santa Maria Maddalena

REGISTERNO. OF VOLUMESYEARS
BAPTISMS41580-1798
MARRIAGES31581-1808
DEATHS21650-1808

LDS MICROFILM for Santa Maria Maddalena

MICROFILM NO.ITEMSCONTENTS
1448328Items 5-14Baptisms; 1580-1808; Marriages; 1581-1807; Deaths 1650-1808

ADDITIONAL NOTES

I cannot explain why Casetti says the baptisms end in 1798, whereas the LDS catalogue says they go to 1808, as I am unfamiliar with the records for this parish.

CURATE of GARDOLO

Situated north of the main city, and dedicated to the Visitation of the Virgin Mary by Saint Elisabeth, the present-day church at Gardolo, was opened in 1722. The curate was elevated to the status of a parish in 1897.

INVENTORY of Parish Registers for Gardolo

REGISTERNO. OF VOLUMESSTARTING YEAR
BAPTISMS111722
MARRIAGES101704
DEATHS81704
CONFIRMATION11837
ANAGRAPHS219th century

LDS MICROFILMS for Gardolo

MICROFILM NO.ITEMSCONTENTS
14483566-28Baptisms 1722-1923; Marriages 1704-1923; Deaths 1805-1909.
14483671Deaths 1909-1923.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

Earlier records for this curate should be found in the ‘mother’ parish of Santi Pietro e Paolo. Regarding anagraphs, Casetti simply says they are from the 19th and 20th centuries, without any specific years.

CURATE of COGNOLA

Built in 1633 and dedicated to Saints Vito, Modesto e Crescenzia, the curate of Cognola, northeast of the main city centre, was granted permission to have its own baptismal font on 29 January 1677.

INVENTORY of Parish Registers for Cognola

REGISTERNO. OF VOLUMESSTARTING YEAR
BAPTISMS101659; 1677
MARRIAGES71637
DEATHS71654
CONFIRMATION11850
ANAGRAPHS11852

LDS MICROFILMS for Cognola

MICROFILM NO.ITEMSCONTENTS
144829819-23Baptisms 1659-1838 (see notes)
14482991-17Baptisms 1838-1923; Marriages 1637-1923; Deaths 1704-1923.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

Regarding the baptismal records, Casetti says there are only 4 records from the year 1659; otherwise, they start in the year 1677.

CURATE of VILLA MONTAGNA

About 3 miles northeast of the city centre, this curate was founded in 1672, but only started keeping its own registers in 1775. The church is dedicated to Saints Fabiano and Sebastiano. It was elevated to the status of parish in 1919. It is sometimes seen written as a single word, i.e. ‘Villamontagna’ or even ‘Vilamontanja’.

INVENTORY of Parish Registers for Villa Montagna

REGISTERNO. OF VOLUMESSTARTING YEAR
BAPTISMS41775
MARRIAGES31775
DEATHS41775
CONFIRMATION11833
ANAGRAPHS21885; 1911

LDS MICROFILM for Villa Montagna

MICROFILM NO.ITEMSCONTENTS
144829921-29Baptism 1775-1923; Marriages 1775-1923; Deaths 1775-1923

ADDITIONAL NOTES

I would presume that records prior to 1775 would be found in the mother church of Santi Pietro e Paolo.

CURATE of MONTEVACCINO

In the north-eastern outskirts of the city, the frazione of Montevaccino was incorporated into the comune of Cognola in 1900. The church, dedicated to San Leonardo, was erected in 1742 (although the baptismal records appear to have started a bit earlier). The curate of Montevaccino was elevated to the status of parish in 1919.

INVENTORY of Parish Registers for Montevaccino

REGISTERNO. OF VOLUMESSTARTING YEAR
BAPTISMS41740
MARRIAGES41743
DEATHS41742
CONFIRMATION11894
ANAGRAPHS11900

LDS MICROFILM for Montevaccino

MICROFILM NO.ITEMSCONTENTS
144829918-20Baptisms 1741-1821; Deaths 1742-1822; Marriages 1743-1822; Baptisms 1821-1870; Deaths 1821-1870; Marriages 1821-1870; Baptisms 1871-1923; Marriages 1872-1922; Deaths 1871-1923.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

Again, I would presume that records prior to 1740 would be found in the mother church of Santi Pietro e Paolo. I cannot comment on the slight discrepancy in the start dates between Casetti’s inventory and the LDS catalogue.

CURATE of GARNIGA

West of Mattarello, well south of the city centre, is the curate of Garniga. An ancient parish dedicated to Sant’Osvaldo, it had a long history as a curate under the mother parish of Santa Maria Maddalena. A century ago, on 26 January 1920, it was finally elevated to the rank of parish, from which point it was transferred to the decanato of Villa Lagarina (which we explore in a future article).

As it came under the banner of the decanato of Trento for most of its history, I will list its inventory here.

INVENTORY of Parish Registers for Garniga

REGISTERNO. OF VOLUMESSTARTING YEAR
BAPTISMS61614
MARRIAGES51615
DEATHS41635
CONFIRMATION11827

LDS MICROFILMS for Garniga

MICROFILM NO.ITEMSCONTENTS
144827020-23Baptisms 1614-1824; Index of Baptisms 1817-1886; Baptisms 1817-1854.
14482711-11Baptisms 1854-1923; Marriages 1615-1822; Index of Marriages 1817-1873; Marriages 1818-1923; Deaths 1817-1890; Index of Deaths 1635-1890; Deaths 1891-1923.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

Casetti says there are also ‘legati pii’ (i.e. ‘legacy’ gifts donated to the parish as part of someone’s Last Will and Testament) from the year 1646. He also mentions the Confraternity of the Most Holy Sacrament from 1792, but he doesn’t say what specifically this includes (minutes of their meetings, lists of members, etc).

PARISH of TRENTO: Piedicastello (Sant’Apollinare)

Dedicated to Sant’Apollinare, the ancient parish of Piedicastello is mentioned in documents back to the year 1183. If I understand Casetti properly, he says it was traditionally used as the residence of the parish priest of the Cathedral (not the Bishop). Located just across the bridge from the city centre on the opposite bank of the River Adige, Piedicastello was occasionally used as a place to quarantine plague victims during outbreaks, so as to isolate the disease from the main part of the city.

INVENTORY of Parish Registers for Piedicastello

REGISTERNO. OF VOLUMESSTARTING YEAR
BAPTISMS121577
MARRIAGES51586
DEATHS71639
CONFIRMATION21825

LDS MICROFILMS for Piedicastello

MICROFILM NO.ITEMSCONTENTS
14483672-24Baptisms 1577-1923; Marriages 1586-1923; Deaths 1639-1895.
14483681Deaths 1895-1923.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

Again, Casetti says there are also ‘legati pii’ (i.e. ‘legacy’ gifts donated to the parish as part of someone’s Last Will and Testament) from the years 1833 and 1877, and reportedly another from 1769.

CURATE of RAVINA

Erected in 1794, and dedicated to Santa Marina, the curate of Ravina was a curate of the parish of Piedicastello until it was elevated to the rank of parish in 1944. It is situated on the western side of the River Adige, southwest of the city centre.

INVENTORY of Parish Registers for Ravina

REGISTERNO. OF VOLUMESSTARTING YEAR
BAPTISMS51795
MARRIAGES51819
DEATHS21819
CONFIRMATION11850
ANAGRAPHS11882

LDS MICROFILMS for Ravina

MICROFILM NO.ITEMSCONTENTS
144827112-18Baptisms 1795-1923; Marriages 1819-1923; Deaths 1819-1923.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

As these records start quite late, I would assume earlier documents will be found in Piedicastello. As with some of the previously mentioned parishes, Casetti says some ‘legacy gifts’ via Last Wills and Testaments can before here from the year 1700.

CURATE of ROMAGNANO

South of Ravina lies the curate of Romagnano. Its church, dedicated to Saint Brigid of Scotland, was built in 1711. Historically a curate of Piedicastello, it was granted permission to perform baptisms in 1728 (when its baptismal registers begin) and was eventually elevated to the position of a parish in 1920.

INVENTORY of Parish Registers for Romagnano

REGISTERNO. OF VOLUMESSTARTING YEAR
BAPTISMS51728
MARRIAGES41819
DEATHS41756
CONFIRMATION21874
ANAGRAPHS11850

LDS MICROFILMS for Romagnano

MICROFILM NO.ITEMSCONTENTS
425654719-25Baptisms 1728-1923; Marriages 1819-1923; Deaths 1756-1781.
14482721-3Deaths 1781-1823, 1854-1923.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

Again, for earlier records, I would assume they will be found in Piedicastello.

Note there is apparently a GAP in the death records 1824-1853.

PARISH of POVO

East of Trento city centre, the sprawling suburban comune of Povo, which includes many frazioni mentioned in the last article, is also an ancient parish whose name appears in records dating back to the year 1131. Often seen written as ‘Paho’ in older records, the parish church here is dedicated to Saints Peter and Andrea (Santi Pietro e Andrea).

INVENTORY of Parish Registers for Povo

REGISTERNO. OF VOLUMESSTARTING YEAR
BAPTISMS111612
MARRIAGES81629
DEATHS71723
CONFIRMATION31832
BAPTISMS ALL'ESTERO?1785-1913
MARRIAGES ALL'ESTERO?1862-1915
DEATHS ALL'ESTERO?1877-1916

LDS MICROFILMS for Povo

MICROFILM NO.ITEMSCONTENTS
1448273Aug-16Baptisms 1612-1869
1448298Jan-18Baptisms 1869-1923; Marriages 1629-1923; Deaths 1723-1923; Baptisms (all'estero) 1785-1913; Marriages (all'estero) 1862-1915; Deaths (all'estero) 1877-1916.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

Casetti does not mention the ‘all’estero’ registers (i.e. those that took place outside the province); I have gleaned the information from the LDS inventory, but I don’t know how many volumes these registers span.

Note that the baptisms abroad start very early, in the year 1785. I haven’t studied those registers, but I am sure they would make for some very interesting reading.

Sadly, Casetti tells us that the Povo registers are fraught with irregularities, with many gaps and duplicates. Apparently, many of the marriage were copied over from earlier registers.

NEWER PARISHES IN THE CITY OF TRENTO

Additionally, there are many newer parishes in Trento, all established in the 20th century. I mention them here only for the sake of thoroughness, but they are less likely to be relevant to the genealogical research of most readers:

  • Trento: San Giuseppe – founded in 1943.
  • Trento: Cristo Re –founded in 1953.
  • Trento: S. Antonio da Padova – in Bolghera, founded in 1955.
  • Trento: Sacratissimo Cuore di Gesù – in San Bartolomeo, founded in 1957.
  • Trento: Santi Martiri Anauniesi Sisinio, Martirio e Alessandro (The Holy Martyrs Sisinio, Martirio e Alessandro of Val di Non) in Solteri, founded in 1955.
  • Trento: Sposalizio di Maria Vergine – founded in 1960.

About the PARISH of MEANO

Although part of the civil municipality of the city of Trento since 1926, the PARISH of Meano has never been part of the decanato of Trento. Rather, it has part of the decanato of LAVIS since 1901, and before that date it was part of the decanato of CIVEZZANO. Thus, I will discuss Meano in a later article when I look at the deanery of Civezzano.

CLOSING THOUGHTS AND COMING UP NEXT TIME…

I hope those of you who have ancestors who came from within the municipality of the city of Trento found this article useful to your research.

I much confess, of ALL the parishes in the province I have researched, those within the city of Trento are probably the LEAST familiar to me. This is because the majority of my clients are descended from families from the rural valleys, not the city. For that reason, I not been able to offer much in the way of personal commentary in this particular article.

I hope to change next time, when we shift directions and move our eyes northwards, when we begin our exploration of…

VAL DI NON!

A significant percentage of my clients came from Val di Non families, so I have had the opportunity to work with many of its parishes. Thus, I hope to go a bit deeper into the subject, sharing what I have learned from using those records.

Over the next few articles, we will explore:

  • The physical layout of the comuni in Val di Non
  • The frazioni within each comune
  • The deaneries, parishes and curates in the valley
  • The inventory of the parish registers in these parishes
  • Some of the most common surnames appearing in the various parishes.

I hope you are as excited as I am to get going on this rather substantial ‘stop’ on our tour of the province.

To be sure to receive the next article in this series ‘Trentino Valleys, Parishes and People: A Guide for Genealogists’ – and ALL future articles from Trentino Genealogy –  just subscribe to this blog using the form below.

Until next time!

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
11 July 2020

P.S. As you probably know, my spring trip to Trento was cancelled due to COVID-19 lockdowns. I am also not sure when I will be back in Trento (hopefully by October 2020, but who knows?). 

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 around the end of August  2020.

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

CASETTI, Albino. 1961. Guida Storico – Archivistica del Trento.

FAMILY SEARCH.  List of all Trento parishes available  on microfilm via LDS Family History Centres:  https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/results?count=20&query=%2Bauthor_id%3A858191

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How Cemeteries Can Help Grow Your Family Tree

How Cemeteries Can Help Grow Your Family Tree
Panoramic view of a section of Trento Monumental Cemetery (Cimitero Monumentale di Trento), Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy.

Trentino Genealogist Lynn Serafinn discusses cemeteries in Italy, and shares tips on how gravestones can help you discover more about your ancestors.

Like so many other genealogists and family historians, I love walking through cemeteries. I don’t see them as morbid or spooky, as so much of our popular culture portrays them. I see them as profound expressions of love, admiration, community and social values.

But cemeteries can also be rich sources of historical information, and catalysts that can help us discover many things we might not have known about our families. Sometimes, a random gravestone can turn out to belong to an ancestor, a distant cousin, or a family member of someone else you may not have met yet.

In this article, I want to give you a taste for how cemeteries can help you in your quest for constructing your family history, so you can start to discover and unlock the treasures they may hold. We will look at:

  • The Pros and Cons of Working with ‘Virtual’ Cemeteries
  • The Limitations and Inaccuracies on Gravestones of Immigrants
  • Why There Are No Ancient Graves in Italian Cemeteries
  • Parish Cemeteries vs. Frazioni Cemeteries
  • How Women Are Recorded on Trentino Gravestones
  • Gleaning Information and Identifying People You Don’t Know
  • Family Groups on Trentino Gravestones
  • How Gravestones Can Reveal More Than Just Dates
  • Expanding Your Research and Leaving a Legacy

The Pros and Cons of Working with ‘Virtual’ Cemeteries

I’ve observed that descendants of Italian immigrants often want to jump right into finding their ancestors in Italy before taking ample time to gather as much documentation as they can in their ‘adopted’ country. When we talk about Trentini descendants, those countries are typically either the US or somewhere in South America. I recently had a client who lived in England but, like me, had moved here from the US about 20 years ago. This client’s ancestors were not actually from Trentino, but from Genova. Since moving away from her birth place of Chicago, and since the passing away of her parents and other elders of the family, she had lost her connection to the family lore and had little information that could help us get to the point where we could start researching her family’s ancestor in the Italian records.

When I took on the project, the first thing I wanted to do was fill in the blanks of her family AFTER they had emigrated from Italy. For that, one of the most valuable resources was Find-A-Grave, a website containing millions of memorials from cemeteries around the world, all submitted by volunteers. It is, if you will, a collection of ‘virtual’ cemeteries viewable to anyone with Internet access.

Using Find-A-Grave immediately opened a floodgate of information for my client’s family tree. Not only did I find death dates, but many people are linked together, showing connections between spouses, children, siblings, etc. This information enabled me to construct entire families, which I later cross-checked with other online sources like Ancestry and Family Search.

Additionally, some of the memorials contained obituaries from local newspapers, which gave me even more information – including information about when my client’s ancestors first came over from Genova. This led me to find immigration documents. Using what I found in these virtual cemeteries, I was able to glean enough information about her family’s Italian origins to make me confident I could start tackling the Italian records. From there, things became much easier for me, and I quickly managed to take her family tree back to the mid-1700s with a day’s work.

*** FREE RESOURCE ***

Click HERE to download a PDF list of cemeteries in North and South America known to have the graves of many Trentini (aka Tyrolean) immigrants, with links to their pages on Find-A-Grave. No sign-up or email address is required.

But while using Find-A-Grave was a great success on this project, the site does have its limitations.

  • All content on the site is provided solely by its users, so the data is as accurate or inaccurate as the people who enter it. TIP: If you see a mistake on a memorial in Find-A-Grave, you can (and should) send a suggested correction to the moderator of that page.
  • Not all cemeteries are listed. TIP: You CAN add a cemetery if it is missing (and I encourage you to do so), but be sure to check it isn’t already listed under a slightly different name.
  • Most cemeteries listed are in the United States. In fact, there are only a handful of cemeteries listed on Find-A-Grave from the province of Trento (CLICK HERE to see what they are). TIP: Again, I encourage you to add cemeteries you know in Trentino, but if you do, it is wise to enter them under their Italian name. Also, you MUST put ‘Provincia di Trento’ after the name of the comune, as that is how Find-A-Grave refers to and recognises locations in the province.

Limitations and Inaccuracies on Gravestones of Immigrants

While cemeteries can provide us with vital pieces of our ancestral puzzle, my observation of gravestones in our ancestors’ adopted countries (especially the US) is that:

  • They often lack detail. Frequently they only have the death date (sometimes only the year), without a date of birth (or at least the year). Even more rarely do they contain much information about who the person was in life, or about his/her relationship within the family.
  • They are full of mistakes. Information on gravestones is supplied by a surviving member of the family. Family members – especially children of immigrants – can be inaccurate about dates, names, etc. Back in their ‘old country’, the family would have had access to the original documents via their local parish priest. But without that historic connection to their place of birth, the family has no such stream of information. People who emigrated at a young age (or were BORN in their adopted country) will often mishear, misunderstand, mix up or COMBINE two places, names or events. This results in a muddle of mis-information and false beliefs that will always be some variation on the truth. My cousins, aunts, uncles – even my own parents – were all prone to these kinds of false beliefs. I had to do a LOT of unlearning, relearning and re-educating when I embarked on this genealogical journey.

Equally (and possibly MORE) prone to errors are the obituaries that may have been published in local newspapers. The original information is provided to the newspaper by the surviving family who, as I’ve already said, can frequently get things wrong. Then the newspapers themselves can (and often DO) compound the errors, especially when it comes to the spelling of names and places unfamiliar to them. Birth, marriage and arrival dates will often be wrong, as well. Hopefully they at least get the death date right!

Why There Are No Ancient Graves in Italian Cemeteries

Now, let’s cross the ocean and go back to the patria to have a look at cemeteries in Trentino (or anywhere in Italy).

One of the first things people comment on when they visit an Italian cemetery for the first time is the practice of putting photographs of the deceased on the gravestones. This can be an exciting discovery for the family historian, as they can finally put faces to some of the names they have been researching.

But once they get over that novelty, the next thing they notice – often with some amount of confusion and disappointment – is the ABSENCE of old gravestones. I mean, some of these parish churches go back over 700 years or more; surely we are going to find plenty of fascinating, ancient gravestones in their cemeteries, right?

Well…no.

Yes, you are likely to find old tombs of priests and patron families inside the church dating back many centuries, and you might also find a few older headstones for priests or patrons (perhaps from the 18th century) affixed to the outer walls of the church or perimeter wall of the cemetery. But other than these:

most gravestones are likely to be no older than about 80 years.

This is because, in many European countries, a coffin is exhumed at some point after burial and the skeletal remains are removed from the grave and placed in an ossuary – typically a box, building, well or wall. Then, the same grave is used to bury someone more recently deceased.

This removal of bones has nothing to do with religious practice, but with practical necessity: if everyone who ever died in the parish were put into a coffin and buried under their headstone forever, the space required for the dead would soon take over the land needed for the living.

Just what ‘at some point’ means seems vary in different parts of Italy. I recently read an account where a person’s grandfather’s remains were exhumed only 10 years after he died (the writer expressed some understandable distress). In my father’s parish, however, they appear to wait a couple generations before transferring the bones. That way, the spouse and children of the deceased (and probably most of the people who once knew the deceased in life) are also likely to have passed away. Certainly, this is a more sensitive arrangement.

SIDE STORY: Once when I was showing the underground crypt in Santa Croce to some American cousins, the lady who had unlocked the church for us found a small piece of (very old-looking) jawbone that had fallen out of the wall in a small alcove. She sheepishly whispered a request for us not to say anything about it to anyone, and she respectfully put the bone back into the wall. At the time, I thought she might have been worried teams of archaeologists would descend upon the church and tear it apart. Later, I realised this was probably the site of an ancient ossuary, and she may have wished to avoid upsetting anyone. The crypt itself is at least 1,000 years old, and it was built on the site of an older, Longobard (Lombard) church.

Parish Cemeteries vs. Frazioni Cemeteries

In larger parishes with many frazioni (hamlets) spread out over a wide area, you will often find small satellite churches serving these communities, some of which might have cemeteries of their own. In these cemeteries, you might get lucky and find a few older graves, especially if the family was prominent in that frazione.

For example, when I first went to the main parish cemetery for Santa Croce del Bleggio, I was disappointed not to find the graves of my Serafini great-grandparents, who died in the 1930s.  But when I visited the cemetery adjacent the little church of San Felice in the frazione of Bono, where my grandmother’s Onorati family had lived for many centuries, I found the graves of my Onorati great-grandparents who had died earlier, in the 1920s. I believe the reason may be partially due to the Onoratis’ historical prominence in Bono; but the frazione is also tiny, and the cemetery is not nearly as crowded as the main parish cemetery. Some frazioni cemeteries are even larger than the main parish cemetery.

Remember also that married women are most likely buried in the parish (or frazione) in which they lived with their husband. Unmarried women will most likely be buried in the parish (or frazione) in which they were raised. So, when you make your trip to Trentino, be sure to ask whether there is more than one cemetery in the parish. You might discover your ancestors in a place different from where you had expected.

How Women’s Names Are Recorded on Trentino Gravestones

Identifying women on gravestones can often be more challenging than identifying men, as the way they appear will vary according to culture.

For example, because women in the US, Britain and many other countries take the surname of their husband when they marry, they are nearly always referred to by their married names on their headstones when they die in their adopted homeland. In such a scenario, a woman’s gravestone might not be very useful for research, as it doesn’t offer much information about her origins.

In contrast, Italian women retain their maiden names throughout life, even if they have been married for decades. Thus, MOST of the time, a gravestone will give some sort of reference to both her maiden and married name.

There are three common conventions for recording a woman’s name on a headstone. Let’s look at each in turn.

‘Nata’ or ‘N.’ (indicating birth name)

Typically, if a woman is buried in the same plot as her married husband and/or children, she will be referred to by her married name, BUT it will usually have the word nata’ (or its abbreviation ‘N.’), which means ‘born’ (feminine gender).

Here is an example from the frazione of Balbido in Santa Croce del Bleggio. The family name is Riccadonna, and you can tell from the photo and the layout of the stone that we are looking at the grave of a husband (Cesare), wife (Colomba) and one of their children (a son named Danielle, born in 1926, although the date is hard to see behind the flowers). Below Colomba’s name it says ‘N. Brunelli’ (nata Brunelli); thus, her birth name is Colomba Brunelli.

Gravestone of Cesare Riccadonna and his wife Colomba Brunelli, Balbido cemetery, Santa Croce del Bleggio, Trento, Trentino, Italy
Gravestone of Cesare Riccadonna and his wife Colomba Brunelli, Balbido cemetery, Santa Croce del Bleggio, Trento, Trentino, Italy

Below is another clear example of ‘N.’, from the frazione cemetery in Tignerone in Santa Croce del Bleggio. This is the grave of Ersilia Bleggi, who was born Ersilia Gusmerotti in 1879:

1952: Grave of Ersilia Gusmerotti (married name Bleggi), Tignerone cemetery, Santa Croce del Bleggio, Trento, Trentino, Italy
1952: Grave of Ersilia Gusmerotti (married name Bleggi), Tignerone cemetery, Santa Croce del Bleggio, Trento, Trentino, Italy

Lastly, here is another example of ‘N.’ on an older, more weather-worn stone from the parish of Saone. On this stone, they have written the surname before the personal name, i.e. ‘Bondi, Catterina, nata Buganza,’ who ‘died on 20 February 1903 at the age of 60’:

1903 grave of Catterina Buganza (married name Bondi), Saone cemetery, Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy
1903 grave of Catterina Buganza (married name Bondi), Saone cemetery, Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy
‘In’ (indicating married name)

Sometimes a woman’s birth name is given first, followed by her married surname prefixed by the word ‘in’. I have noticed this is most frequently used if the woman happened to be buried in the grave or tomb of her birth family (which could be in a different parish or frazione from her husband’s).

For example, the BIRTH name of the woman in the gravestone below is ‘Giustina Parisi’. But if you look beneath her name, it says ‘in Gasperini’. It’s a little worn, so the ‘I’ is a bit hard to see, but it is definitely ‘in’, not ‘n’. The surname is also partially worn off, but it is definitely Gasperini:

1974 grave of Giustina Parisi (born 1894), married name Gasperini, Tignerone cemetery, Santa Croce del Bleggio, Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy
1974 grave of Giustina Parisi (born 1894), married name Gasperini, Tignerone cemetery, Santa Croce del Bleggio, Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy

Here is a clearer example of ‘in’ from an ossuary in the Cimitero Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery) in the City of Trento:

1958 Gravestone for Maria Parisi (born 1920), married name Pisetta, Trento Municipal (aka Monumental) Cemetery, Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy
1958 Gravestone for Maria Parisi (born 1920), married name Pisetta, Trento Municipal (aka Monumental) Cemetery, Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy

VIDEO: See a video I took at the Cimitero Monumentale di Trento when I visited it in July 2018 (second on page).

‘Vedova’ ‘ved’ or ‘v.’ (indicating she was widowed)

If a woman’s husband predeceased her, she will be referred to as his widow (vedova in Italian) in records and on her headstone. In this case, the stone will give her birth name, followed by the word ‘vedova’, ‘ved.’ or simply ‘v.’, which is then followed by her late husband’s surname.

For example, this placard for Libera Bondi, widow of (someone named) Marchiori, was attached to the top of the family headstone in the parish of Saone in Val Giudicarie (I took this shot in 2016; it may have since been engraved):

2012 grave of Libera Bondi (born 1919), widow of Marchiori, Saone cemetery, Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy
2012 grave of Libera Bondi (born 1919), widow of Marchiori, Saone cemetery, Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy

The question, of course, is WHO is the late Mr. Marchiori? We’ll come back to that question in a moment.

This next stone is from Cimitero Monumentale in the City of Trento. In this case, the woman’s birth name was Anna Pegoretti and she was married to Giovanni Casotti, whose name is right above hers. You can see he predeceased her by more than three decades. The fact that Anna is cited as his widow indicates she never remarried (and was already almost 60 when her husband passed away):

1995 grave of Anna Pegoretti, widow of Giovanni Casotti, Trento Monumental cemetery, Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy
1995 grave of Anna Pegoretti, widow of Giovanni Casotti, Trento Monumental cemetery, Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy

Gleaning Information and Identifying People You Don’t Know

None of the people whose gravestones I shared above are ancestors of mine. In fact, I took those photos out of a sense of curiosity rather than any specific investigative motive.

But as a genealogist, my natural curiosity often leads me to seek out details about a person I find on a gravestone, even if I don’t know them. When I do, I often discover I am connected to them in some unexpected way.

Let’s take Colomba Riccadonna, born Brunelli, from the first gravestone I showed you above. The stone says she was born in 1893.

As she was born between 1815 and 1923, I used the online database created by the Archivio di Trento called Nati in Trentino to find out who Colomba was. All I had to do is plug in her name and year of birth. Luckily, there was only one Colomba Brunelli born that year:

1893 baptismal record listing for Colomba Maria Brunelli, from Nati in Trentino online database.
1893 baptismal record listing for Colomba Maria Brunelli, from Nati in Trentino online database.

I also used Nati in Trentino to try to identify Cesare, but there were actually two Cesares born in 1887, so I needed to find their marriage record to learn which one he was. I also searched for additional children for the couple and found a daughter born in 1923. They probably had other children, but the online database doesn’t go past 1923.

When I entered Colomba into my tree, I discovered she was a distant cousin (7th cousin 1X removed). Not exactly a close relation, but you never know what such a connection might lead to later.

I used the same process to discover the birth information for Ersilia Gusmerotti, Giustina Parisi and Catterina Buganza, and discovered:

  • ERSILIA was my 7th cousin 2X removed.
  • GIUSTINA was my 3rd cousin 2X removed.
  • CATTERINA was the great-grandmother of one of my clients. I hadn’t planned it that way; I just happened to have taken the photo when I was in Saone on a previous trip. Las month, when I was working on that client’s tree, I looked through my photo archive and discovered I had a picture of her great-grandmother’s grave.

You never really know who or what you will discover when you start taking photos of random gravestones. I could never have predicted a photo I took a couple of years ago would end up being the great-grandmother of one of my future clients. But my client was thrilled to see the photo, as she’s never been to Saone, and this took her closer to her roots.

Family Groups on Trentino Gravestones

Many gravestones in Trentino will contain names from an entire family group. To demonstrate this, let’s go back to the widowed Libera Bondi and look at the full image of the stone on which she appears:

Grave for the family of Modesto Marchiori and Elisabetta Bondi, Saone, Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy
Grave for the family of Modesto Marchiori and Elisabetta Bondi, Saone, Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy

The primary surname on this stone is MARCHIORI, and the patriarch is Modesto, on the left. To his right, we see ‘Elisabetta Marchiori, born Bondi’. Looking at the dates, we can ASSUME Elisabetta was Modesto’s wife. Of course, we would need to verify that with documentation (I already have, and they were indeed husband and wife).

Moving down the stone, we come to Giuseppe (born 1910) and Antonio (born 1912), with no surname mentioned. The omission of a surname implies they share the same family surname, i.e. Marchiori. Again, looking at the dates, we might guess that Giuseppe and Antonio were the sons of Modesto and Elisabetta. To verify this theory, I looked them up on Nati in Trentino. Sure enough, I found them listed amongst Modesto’s and Elisabetta’s children, along with several other siblings.

But now we have the question of the two women: Emilia (born Biancotto) and Libera (born Bondi). We can assume they were probably married to these two sons. But who was married to whom?

While there is no online resource to answer this question, I was fortunate enough to have access to the family anagraphs for Saone for this era when I was doing research in Trento recently, where I found this entry for Modesto’s family:

Anagraph for the family of Modesto Marchiori (born 1867), Saone parish records, Archivio Diocesano di Trento, Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy.
Anagraph for the family of Modesto Marchiori (born 1867), Saone parish records, Archivio Diocesano di Trento, Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy.

Anagraphs (called ‘Stato delle Anime’, or ‘State of Souls’ when they appear in the parish records) are records of family groups and contain a wealth of information, including dates of birth, confirmation, marriage and death. They can also include the names of the spouses in the annotations column at the right. In most places, anagraphs were started in the mid to late 19th century. The various comuni also started recording them in the 19th century, maintaining them at the registry of anagraphs; but so far, I have only dealt with those kept by the church.

In the ‘Annotazioni’ (annotations) column in the anagraph above, the priest has recorded that Giuseppe was married to Libera Bondi and Antonio was married to Emilia Biancotto, with dates of their respective marriages (I know it’s difficult to read here, but I have a larger, full-colour image on my computer that shows it more clearly).

So, while the gravestone didn’t give us all the information we needed, it certainly pointed us in the right direction, giving us clues about what we should look for next. Thus, it was a crucial part of our research.

As it turns out, this family group are ALSO related to my afore-mentioned client, as Elisabetta (Elisa) Bondi was the daughter of her great-grandmother Catterina Buganza, and sister of her grandfather. In other words, Elisa was her great-aunt. Tracing this family helped me identify many of her close cousins.

How Gravestones Can Reveal More Than Just Dates

If you analyse every aspect of a gravestone, you will often find it contains a lot more information than dates alone. Sometimes you can discover a person’s occupation, gain insight into their personal character, or get a feeling for their relationship with their family and community.

On a recent visit to Cimitero Monumentale in the City of Trento, I took dozens of photos of graves, many of which contained clues about the kinds of people who had been laid to rest. Here are two highlights:

1933 ossuary gravestone for Secondo Bertoldi, pharmacist, Trento Monumental cemetery, Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy
1933 ossuary gravestone for Secondo Bertoldi, pharmacist, Trento Monumental cemetery, Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy

This photo is of the ossuary memorial for a man named Secondo Bertoldi. The stone tells us he was born in Lavarone on 20 Aug 1872 and died in Trento on 20 Feb 1933 (Roman numerals are used for the months). But it also tells us he was a chemist/pharmacist (here in England, pharmacists are also called chemists, but the term is not generally used in the US). Additionally, it says he was a ‘fervent patriot’, and that he lived his life in a loving way and by doing good. It also says that his wife, Anna Maria Bosetti, arranged for this stone to be laid as a ‘loving and tearful memory’ of Secondo. All these words give us a much richer picture of who Secondo was than what we might have learned from documents alone.

Sometimes even the most minimal of headstones can lead to a potentially interesting story. Here’s another photo I took in the ossuary at the Trento cemetery:

Ossuary gravestone for sisters Maria and Giuseppina Vitti of Trento, who died in 1968 and 1974. Cimitero Monumentale di Trento, Trento, Trentino Alto-Adige, Italy
Ossuary gravestone for sisters Maria and Giuseppina Vitti of Trento, who died in 1968 and 1974. Cimitero Monumentale di Trento, Trento, Trentino Alto-Adige, Italy

The stone merely says ‘Vitti Sisters’, and then gives their first names and years of birth/death. A quick search on Nati in Trentino told me that Giuseppina (born 27 Aug 1888) and her sister Maria (born 15 Oct 1890) were both born in the city of Trento in the parish of Santi Pietro e Paolo (Saints Peter and Paul), and were the only two daughters of Andrea Vitti and Santa Tommasi. The sisters also had two brothers, but I don’t know anything other than their dates of birth.

Apart from this, I know nothing at all about this family. But the fact that these two sisters – both of advanced age (78 and 86) – were laid to rest in the same grave AND they were referred to by their birth names leads me to theorise that neither sister married. It also leads me to think they were probably very close throughout their lives. While these are just my own guesses based solely on what I am seeing in the stone, these guesses might help point me in the right direction if I were to research this family in depth.

Expanding Your Research and Leaving a Legacy

Whether you are planning a visit to a local cemetery, or you are hoping to visit some cemeteries when you are in Trentino, be sure to bring a camera and photograph as many graves as you can, even if you have no clue WHO the people are. If the cemetery is very large – or if the thought of dealing with all those photos is a bit overwhelming – focus on photographing stones containing one or two specific surnames.

And remember, when in Trentino, don’t just visit the main parish cemetery; ask if there are other cemeteries in the frazioni where your ancestors may have lived.

Don’t worry about trying to make sense of who is who when you are taking your photos. That will only slow you down and make it less enjoyable. Look at your trip as a kind of ‘treasure hunt’ where your mission is to get as many good photos as you can. Be sure to get the WHOLE stone in your photo, so you can see all the words in context. They may not mean anything to you now, but they may mean something important later.

And don’t forget that graves in Italy don’t stay around forever. A few years from now…

your photo might end up being the only tangible evidence of a person’s grave,
as the remains and headstone for that person may soon be moved – or removed altogether.

Consider SHARING your images on your tree on Ancestry, as well as on Find-A-Grave. That way, you are not only helping yourself, but also making it easier for OTHER Trentini descendants to find the graves of their own family members. Your photo might mean the world to a complete stranger many years from now.

BRIGHT IDEA: Perhaps we could create a ‘virtual party’ for the purpose of creating all the Trentini cemeteries on Find-A-Grave and entering our family’s memorials on there. We could use our Trentino Genealogy Facebook group to coordinate it. What do you think?

I hope this article has helped you understand more about interpreting gravestones in Trentino, and has also inspired you to go out and start recording as many Trentino graves as you can – as soon as possible, before they disappear.

I look forward to your comments. Please feel free to share your own research discoveries in the comments box below. 

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn

P.S. My next trip to Trento is from 21 Oct 2018 to 15 Nov 2018.
If are considering asking me to do some research for you while I am there, please first read my ‘Genealogy Services’ page, and then drop me a line using the Contact form on this site.
Then, can set up a free 30-minute chat to discuss your project.

P.P.S.: Whether you are a beginner or an advanced researcher, if you have Trentino ancestry, I invite you to come join the conversation in our Trentino Genealogy group on Facebook.

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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.