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/.
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:
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):
Alternatively, you might have a group photo, where you have to decide whether to label everyone, or identify a head of household. For example:
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:
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 useone 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’.
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!
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!
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.
Genealogist Lynn Serafinn examines the valleys, villages and parishes in the Province of Trentino, and the people who lived there. Part 1 in series.
It seems at least once a week, whether I am speaking with a new client or a new member of our Trentino Genealogy group on Facebook, I find I myself having to explain many basics about Trentino geography and localities. But for some reason, despite the obvious need, I’ve never yet discussed the subject of geography in any detail on this website.
Now, if your immediate, involuntary response to the word ‘geography’ is to yawn, you’re not alone. For me, it conjures up recollections of my 7th grade geography class in Catholic school on Long Island, where we had to memorise all the local industries of Schenectady, New York, and so on.
Perhaps my own avoidance of the topic was due to those images of me struggling to stay awake at the back of Sister Rose Winifred’s classroom. Or, perhaps on an unconscious level, I was also worried my readers would find it a sleepy subject, even if it is crucial to our full understanding of our ancestors’ lives.
It seems my concerns were not completely unfounded. To find out whether I was being too subjective, I recently polled our Facebook group, asking them what they thought about my writing an article series on the topic of the geography of Trentino, but with a genealogical focus.
Of the 49 people who responded:
35 said they thought it was a great idea.
10 said it sounded good, but they weren’t sure the topic would sustain their interest (especially if it was spread across many articles).
4, including some experienced researchers, said they weren’t sure (possibly because they had no idea of how I would broach the subject)
Nobody said they thought it was a bad idea. Perhaps some were just being polite. 😉
So, while a clear majority liked the idea with some enthusiasm, I cannot ignore the fact that over a quarter of the responses expressed some doubt about the topic.
Therein lay my challenge:
How could I present the subject of the geography of Trentino in such a way that it could sustain the interest – and be useful to – beginners through advanced researchers?
I believe the key to that challenge lies in examining not just where places are on a map, but also WHO is in those places, and HOW people and places are connected.
MESSAGE TO ADVANCED RESEARCHERS: Article 1 in this series is, by necessity, going to cover some basics, which some of you with more experience and knowledge are likely to want to ‘skim’. But I promise you, as this series progresses, it will become far more detailed and specific, combining information from many different Italian resources. So, even if you want don’t read every word of this introductory article, I humbly ask that you to get a feeling for where I will be going from here. My sincere hope is that this series will ultimately become a valuable ‘go to’ reference for you and all my readers.
So, let’s begin…
The Four ‘Lenses’ of Geography
Geography is actually a multidimensional subject. It is not just about lumps and bumps on a map, but a complex set of interrelated factors. It isn’t just about where things are, but how they are divvied up, what they are called and who has ‘dominion’ over them.
Thus, in this series, I’d like to explore Trentino ‘geography’ through these different ‘lenses’:
Civil, i.e. the state
Ecclesiastical, i.e. the church
Geographic, i.e. the land itself
These lenses are inextricable intertwined. Only by considering them as a whole can we attempt to create an accurate, historical and cultural portrait of any land – and its people.
‘People’ are inevitably part of the geographic landscape. People create, respond to, adapt to and change everything within the other three lenses. Their surnames, language, customs, beliefs and behaviour cannot truly be understood in a vacuum, without the context of geography.
And none of these factors can be understood outside the dynamics of time. While changes in the lay of the land itself may not be as apparent to us (although rivers are frequently shifting their path), state and church boundaries are constantly in flux, and people have always moved from one place to another. Thus, ‘time’ is an overarching container in which these four lenses dwell and move.
Many family historians become disproportionately focused on the ‘people’ lens, often at a somewhat ‘micro’ level. That is to say, they tend to collect names, dates, and other facts about of specific families (usually their own) without giving a great deal of attention to the multidimensional context in when those people lived.
Conversely, so many ‘pure historians’ give a disproportionate amount of weight to the importance the state (governments, politics, wars, etc.), at the expense of the geographic or demographic lenses.
Both of these approaches to history can result in a somewhat myopic view, missing the richness of our ancestors’ experiences of life. Only by taking a multidimensional approach to family history can we begin to understand how people and their institutions are inevitably interdependent with the land.
CIVIL STRUCTURE: Italian Regions and Provinces
As discussed in my article Ethnicity Vs. Cultural Identity. Trentino, Tyrolean, Italian?, the province of Trentino has ‘belonged’ to many different political powers throughout the centuries. Although my discussion of ‘civil structure’ will be about Trentino within the CURRENT ‘nation’ we know as ‘Italy’ today, please understand that everything I write about Trentino is referring to the SAME place, regardless of whether it was then part of the Holy Roman Empire, Austria or Italy.
So, let’s have a look at this place called ‘Italy’ and how it is divided up at a civil/political level.
For the most part, Italy’s CIVIL structure is broken down like this:
Region –> Province –> Municipality –> Village
I say ‘for the most part’ because there are some places where provinces and comuni were replaced by other entities; but as this is the structure that applies to our current topic, we’ll stick to that as a guideline.
The Italian words for these terms are:
Regione –> Provincia –> Comune –> Frazione
In the present-day country of Italy, there are currently 20 regions, 110 provinces, nearly 8,000 comuni, and I have NO idea how many frazioni.
The region under discussion in this article series is Trentino-Alto-Adige, which is highlighted in RED in the map below:
In this map, we can see easily that Trentino-Alto Adige is the northernmost region in the country. It is situated the Dolomite mountain range, part of the Alpine system.
Regions generally have more than one province.
If we zoom in more closely, we can see that the region of Trentino-Alto Adige is divided into two provinces: Trentino and South Tyrol (synonymously called ‘Alto Adige’ or the ‘Province of Bolzano’):
Boundaries for the provinces have remained reasonably the stable over the past century, with some exceptions. For example, the area known as Valvestino (west of Lago del Garda) was historically part of Trentino, but was given to the province of Brescia (in the Region of Lombardia) in 1934.
Your will often see Trentino referred to as the ‘Province of Trento’ (Provincia di Trento). This can sometimes be confusing for someone unfamiliar with the area, as ‘Trento’ is also the name of the capital city. For that reason, I will always say ‘Trentino’ when referring to the province and use the word ‘Trento’ when referring to the city (unless I specify ‘Province of Trento’).
Similarly, you might see the Province of South Tyrol referred to as ‘Alto Adige’ as well as the ‘Province of Bolzano’. However, recently the shift towards its historic name of ‘South Tyrol’ has taken precedent.
Is Trentino the Same as Tyrol?
Today, it NOT technically correct to refer to Trentino as ‘Tyrol’ or ‘South Tyrol’, even though many descendants of Trentino immigrants who left the province before or shortly after it became part of Italy identified themselves as ‘Tyrolean’. I have lived in England for over 20 years, and if you say ‘South Tyrol’ to anyone here in the UK or in continental Europe, they will always assume you are referring to the South Tyrol as it appears on the map above, not Trentino. Again, cultural identity does not always match up with current political boundaries.
So, for this study, I will never refer to Trentino as Tyrol or South Tyrol, even though I know and agree that many readers might think of themselves as ‘Tyrolean’.
As a comune (plural comuni) is a local administrative entity, their boundaries are frequently in a state of flux, as populations shift. For example, for many centuries my father’s comune was Bleggio; within the past decade or so, his area became part of the comune of Comano.
Note that comuni are the keepers of local CIVIL records.
The word frazione (plural frazioni) literally means ‘fraction’, but a better translation would be ‘village’ or (in many cases) ‘hamlet’. Sometimes, instead of frazione, you might see the terms contrada, località (which be just a few houses in a rural area) or maso/mansu (a homestead for a single or extended family).
Unlike comuni, the boundaries of rural frazioni tend to withstand change over the centuries. This is because they aren’t really administrative entities, but simply inhabited places that have become a part of the landscape. Their names might change slightly (as is normal for anything linguistic over time), and they are also likely to have local dialect variants. My grandmother’s frazione of Bono, for instance, has been in existence by that name for at least 800 years, but local people (especially in the past) often called it ‘Boo’ (‘Boh’) in dialect.
LINKS: Resources for Italian Civil Entities
As civil structures are often confusing, here are two good websites for navigating through Italian civil architecture:
indettaglio.it – http://italia.indettaglio.it/eng/index.html. The link is for the English version of the site. On the left side of your screen, you will find links to the regions, provinces, towns and villages of Italy.
Comuni Italiani – http://www.comuni-italiani.it/. This site provides similar information to the one above. It’s not in English, but navigating is fairly intuitive, even if you don’t understand Italian.
ECCLESIASTICAL STRUCTURE: How the Catholic Church is Organised
While understanding the CIVIL structure of Italy is surely important, it is arguably even more important that a genealogist researching in Trentino (or anywhere on the Italian peninsula) understand the ECCLESIASTICAL structure of the Roman Catholic Church.
Like the State, the Church also has a hierarchical structure overseeing the administrative and spiritual needs of its congregations. While the Pope in Rome is at the top of this chain, for our purposes, we only need to consider the part of this hierarchy with ‘diocese’ at the top.
In English, this is:
Diocese –> Deanery –> Parish –> Curate
Or, in Italian:
Diocesi –> Decanato –> Parrocchia (Pieve) –> Curazia
As you can gather from this breakdown, a diocese oversees the operations of many parishes.
SOME dioceses are roughly analogous to a civil province or a region in Italy, but not all.
The (civil) Province of Trento is indeed covered by ONE diocese, also called ‘The Archdiocese of Trento’ (Arcidiocesi di Trento). The term ‘archdiocese’ does not mean it has jurisdiction over other dioceses. Rather, it refers to a diocese with a very large Catholic population, typically includinga large metropolitan area. It may not be as large in terms of square miles as other, less densely populated, dioceses.
The head of a diocese is the Bishop; similarly, the head of an archdiocese is the Archbishop.
The geographic boundaries of the diocese of Trento have remained mostly unchanged throughout the centuries, regardless of the civil political situation. Thus, the Diocese of Trento is the most stable and important source of historical information for the Trentino genealogist.
Called decanato in Italian, a deanery is a kind of ‘mother parish’ overseeing the operations of a group of parishes in the same geographic area.
For the genealogist, it can be useful to know the decanati overseeing your ancestors’ parishes, as they may sometimes contain duplicate records OR may have been the sole repository for another parish records during a certain era. Having this information can be especially useful when you reach a dead end in your research and have no idea of where to go next.
Like comuni, the boundaries of deaneries have sometimes shifted as populations have shifted, in order to ensure smooth administrative operations. Knowing when and how these changes occurred can also be helpful for the genealogist.
The parish (parrocchia or pieve) is the church entity with which most readers will be most familiar. A parish refers to the geographic parameters within which people of the same faith (in this case, Roman Catholic) attend the same church.
In Italian, the priest who is the head of a parish is called its parroco or pievano. Often translated as ‘parish priest’, many English speakers may be more familiar with the term ‘pastor’.
The geographic parameters of most large parishes in Trento have been fairly stable throughout the centuries, although they may have fallen under different deaneries over the years. Like the diocese, parishes really are cornerstones of genealogical research.
A curate church/parish (curazia) is a kind of ‘satellite’ parish, subordinate to the primary parish church.
Many rural areas will have curate churches that serve their local community because the main parish church is some distance away. These curate churches will often deliver Sunday Mass, and sometimes marriages and funerals; baptisms, however, will usually take place at the main parish church.
Curate churches to not normally keep their own parish records; rather, the main parish church will do that for them. Some curate churches become large enough to become independent parishes, offering baptisms, and maintaining their own records (but the main parish church is likely to keep duplicates).
In your research, you might see the records for a curate church suddenly stop. This is usually an indication you have reached the point in time before it had become entitled to keep its own records. For example, Romallo only started keeping its own records in the 20th century; before then, all its records were kept in the parish of Revò.
Thus, it is essential for a genealogist to know the connection between the main parishes and curate churches in their ancestors’ geographic area.
Article continues below…
The Diocese of Trento as Both Church and State
While many other dioceses in the world have shifted over the centuries, the parameters of the Archdiocese of Trento have remained pretty much unchanged for many centuries, despite many shifts on the civil landscape.
The first appointed Bishop of Trento was San Vigilio. Martyred on 26 June 405 C.E., his tomb is located (and viewable) in the crypt beneath the Duomo of San Vigilio in the city of Trento. He is the patron saint of both the city of Trento and all of Trentino. Throughout the province, you will find churches dedicated to him and frescoes depicting his life and death.
Under the order of Emperor Conrad II in the year 1027, this ecclesiastical diocese of Trento was further defined as the civil ‘Bishopric of Trento’. With this, the diocese became an official State of the Holy Roman Empire. In other words, the Bishop now became a state official, and was now called the ‘Prince-Bishop’ (Principe Vescovo). Thus, while still a priest bound by the orders of the Church, he was also minor royalty, with responsibilities to the Emperor as well.
This Bishopric of Trento remained in place for almost 800 years, until Napoleon dismantled the office, and indeed the entire Holy Roman Empire.
But, the DIOCESE of Trento itself still remains. The geographic parameters are unchanged; its bishops are still bishops of the Church.
In short, regardless of whether Trentino has been under control of the Rhaeti, Romans, Longobards, Holy Roman Emperors, French, Austrians or Italians, the PROVINCE and the DIOCESE have remained mostly unchanged (with a few exceptions)for the past 1,600 years.
When we consider this remarkable tenacity of both province and diocese, and the fact that these two administrative offices – both state and church – have always beenvirtually identical geographically –
We begin to understand why the people of Trentino and their descendants abroad identify so deeply with the PROVINCE over and above anything else.
And for the Trentino genealogist, ‘province’ in our case is synonymous with ‘diocese’ in terms of where we will want to look for vital records. Thus, we need to turn our attention now to how and where these records have been organised within the diocese.
Civil vs. Church Records
So many of us in the English-speaking world have grown up under a political ideology espousing the ‘separation of church and state’.
But in Trentino, and indeed throughout most of Europe, this concept simply didn’t exist until relatively recently. It wasn’t until around the time of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic invasions (at the end of the 1700s and early 1800s) that the office of the Prince Bishop in Trentino was abolished. Prior to then, church and state were inextricably intertwined.
So many of us are accustomed to think that ‘official’ documents for births, marriages and deaths are the domain of the state. And, yes, in Italy in you can obtain civil records from the registry office in your ancestors’ comuni – but only from the 19th century onwards. Prior to the early (and in some places, mid) 1800s, there simply WAS no such thing as a ‘civil’ vital record.
Vital records were NOT the domain of the state, but of the CHURCH.
It was, in fact, at the ‘Concilio di Trento’ (Latin: Concilium Tridentinum), which many English speakers may have seen written as ‘the Council of Trent’ in history classes, which took place between 1545 and 1563, that parishes were mandated to record all births, marriages and deaths within their congregation. Thus, while Italian civil records do not typically go beyond the beginning of the 1800s, CHURCH records (at least notionally) go back to the mid-1500s.
I say ‘notionally’ because not all records will have survived that far back, owing to damage from water, fire, wars and (sometimes) general neglect. That said, a remarkable number of volumes HAVE survived the centuries. Moreover, we of Trentino descent are extremely lucky because the Diocese of Trento is the ONLY diocese in the whole of Italy to have digitised ALL their parish records, and then some. The Archivio Provinciale of Bolzano appears to be in the process of doing the same.
Of course, aside from vital records, there have always been legal documents, such as Wills, land agreements, court disputes, etc., In Trentino, these were SOMETIMES kept by the comune, and SOMETIMES kept in the parish (admittedly, it is often confusing). But these are not the kinds of documents MOST genealogists are likely to consult, except those who are more advanced, and are seeking to deepen their understanding (or find evidence of) a specific event, era or person.
Thus, it is the body of work called the registri parrocchiali (‘parish registers’ or ‘parish records’) that is always the primary focus for anyone researching their Trentino ancestry.
These parish registers for Trentino are not owned by the state, but by the Diocese of Trento.
Catholic Deaneries and Parishes in the Diocese of Trento
There are over 400 parishes in the diocese of Trento, each falling under the ecclesiastical care of one designated deanery.
The 1,100+ page book Guida Storico – Archivistica del Trento by Dr Albino Casetti has been the ‘bible’ reference book on the archives of the province for almost 60 years. When he published this book in 1961, there were 25 deaneries in the diocese of Trento, which I have organised alphabetically below:
25 Deaneries of the Diocese of Trento
Some of these deaneries may have changed since Casetti’s publication, but as most genealogy projects go backwards in time (probably starting before 1961), these changes should not affect our genealogical research.
Hold this list in your mind’s eye, as we’ll come back to it shortly.
GEOGRAPHICAL STRUCTURE: The Valleys of the Province of Trentino
In this modern world, where we can get to just about anywhere by plane, train, bus or automobile, few of us consider geography as a factor in how and why communities are born and evolve.
A glance at the geographic landscape of Trentino is a great teacher in this regard. A rolling panorama of mountains, valleys and glacial rivers, it possesses a kind of ‘ready-made’ zoning of habitable lands. Before modern roads and motor vehicles, crossing these boundaries wasn’t impossible, but it was certainly not something you did every day.
In fact, marriages and migrations across these boundaries don’t show up frequently in parish records until the late 19th century. And when they do show up in earlier centuries, they are immediately noticeable to the genealogist as something unusual, and certainly significant.
Toponymy and Genealogy
One of the most useful books I have found on the study of Trentino valleys and the place names within them is Toponomastica Trentina: I Nomi delle Località Abitate (The Study of Trentino Place Names: The Names of the Inhabited Localities) by Giulia Mastrelli Anzilotti.
The word ‘toponymy’ (sometimes spelled ‘Toponomy’) means the study of place names, especially their linguistic origins and their evolution throughout history. While the word is rarely seen in the English language, toponomastica is an EXTREMELY common subject in books on Italian history.
For Trentino genealogists, the study of place names is often linked directly to genealogy. Many surnames – especially those in more remote rural areas – are derived from the names of places OR the other way around.
The Valleys of Trentino
Anzilotti has chosen a most useful – and highly visual – way to organise her study of place names: by looking at them within their respective valleys in the province. When I first found this book, I was immediate drawn to her minimalist presentation. I have seen many books with maps of Trentino valleys, but they are usually very cluttered, making it difficult to see the lines distinguishing one place from another.
Here is a map of the valleys of Trentino as it appears at the beginning of Anzilotti’s Toponomastica Trentina:
Click on image to see it larger
For the purposes of being able to make these 23 names searchable, here they are in text form.
She assigns the number ‘0’ for the greater metropolitan area of the CITY of Trento. Then, the valleys are numbered from 1-22:
Alta Val del Fersina
Altopiano di Folgaria con Le Valli del Leno
Altopiano di Lavarone e Luserna
Altopiano di Vigolo Vattaro
Alto Garda con la Valle di Ledro
Caldonazzo e Levico don Calceranica, Tenna e le Valli di Centa
Piana Rotaliana con la Paganella.
Primiero con le Valli del Vanoi
Val di Cembra
Val di Fassa
Val di Fiemme
Val di Non
Val di Sole
Valle dei Laghi
Valsugana e Tesino
Anzilotti then works through these areas, listing all the inhabited places found within each, down to the smallest homestead. Basically, if people have lived there and it has a name, she’s listed it and given some sort of linguistic interpretation of its origins. I feel like she may have missed a few (I’ll address those in future articles) but for the most part, it really is a gem of a work.
A few linguistic notes for those who don’t know Italian:
‘Val’ is the usual singular form for ‘valley’; the plural can be either ‘valli’ (masculine) or ‘valle’ (feminine).
‘Alto’ (‘alta’ in feminine) means ‘high’. The word ‘altopiano’ means ‘the high plain’.
‘Di’ means ‘of’; before a vowel, the ‘i’ is dropped and an apostrophe is inserted.
‘Del’ (singular) and ‘Dei’ (plural) mean ‘of the’.
‘E’ means ‘and’.
‘La’ (singular) and ‘le’ (plural) mean ‘the’ when it is before a feminine noun.
‘Con’ means ‘with’
A note before we continue…
Some of you might disagree with how she’s organised and labelled these valleys. For example, the city of Trento is usually included in ‘Val D’Adige’, and Val Rendena is often considered its own valley, whereas she has included it with Giudicarie Interiore.
Nonetheless, I feel her work is a good starting point, especially as the author has some extremely useful and easy-to-read maps of each valley later in the book, which I will share with you as we go along through this series.
Thus, I ask that you go with the flow with me, even if you disagree with Anzilotti’s designations.
TRENTINO VALLEYS: The Relationship Between Places and People
Something common amongst the people of Trentino is they nearly always refer to themselves as coming from a specific valley. This is because each valley is like a container of a unique subculture, illustrated by their local languages, names and customs.
Different valleys often have different dialects. My father, for example, spoke only the Giudicaresi dialect with his parents and siblings, not Italian. People from Val di Non speak Nones, an altogether different dialect.
Because of the insular nature of these valleys, many surnames will indigenous to one valley. And when you see one of these surnames suddenly appearing in a different valley, it is an immediate indication that a branch of the family has migrated.
Knowing which surnames are indigenous to specific valleys (if not specific parishes) is of vital importance to a Trentino genealogist. This knowledge can often help you identify anomalies and solve many mysteries quite quickly. For example, a new client recently came to me saying her family were named Flaim, and they came from Banale in Giudicarie Esteriore. Well, I knew well that the surname ‘Flaim’ was not native to the Giudicarie but was, rather, indigenous to the parish of Revò in Val di Non. This knowledge immediately led me to look for the point of entry at which a Flaim had migrated from Revò to Banale, as I knew I could trace the family further back from that point.
Valleys, Deaneries, Parishes and People
While a cursory glance over our two lists of valley vs. deaneries, we can see many names (e.g. Cembra, Civezzano, Fiemme, Garda, Pergine, Primiero, Lagarina and the city of Trento) that would seem to indicate they are referring to roughly the same part of the province. But other areas are less obvious to those unfamiliar with the geographic layout of Trentino. So, how do we make sense of what is where?
At this point, a curious genealogist will certainly be asking:
Which parishes are in each valley?
What are the deaneries for my ancestors’ parishes?
Which parishes share the same name as their comuni (or NOT)?
What are the names of the frazioni in these parishes/comuni?
Who lived in these parishes? What were the most common surnames?
Where might I find my own ancestors’ surnames?
While I don’t have the ability to answer every question every reader will have, over the course of the next (several) articles in this series, I will do my very best to share with you what I have learned about these subjects, by dint of my study and my own research.
Coming Up In This Series…
Now that we’ve oriented ourselves with the ‘meta’ structures of Trentino at a civil, ecclesiastical and geographical level, we’re ready to explore them in more detail.
In the next article in this series, I would like to start our investigation by looking at the greater area of the CITY of Trento – its neighbourhoods, suburbs, parishes and a bit about the surnames. As part of that, I’ll be sharing some very interesting (and little known) information from a book called Libro della Cittadinanza di Trento by Aldo Bertoluzza. You can find it here:
After exploring the city of Trento, I’m going to shake things up a bit. I’m NOT going to go through Mastrelli’s valleys in order, but discuss them somewhat at random, to keep you surprised.
(Psst! The next article after Trento
will be about Val di Non.
But don’t tell anyone!).
For each valley we explore, I will be listing its comuni and parishes, and the deaneries overseeing the parishes. Whenever I have some experience researching in a particular area, I will share some of the main surnames I have found there. If I am aware of parishes changing boundaries or status at different points in history, I will again share what I know.
To be honest, I can’t predict exactly what it’s all going to look like. But I promise it will be relevant to Trentino family historians…
…and I will do my best not to make it as sleepy as Sister Rose Winifred’s geography class.
I do hope you’ll subscribe, so you can receive the rest of this special series delivered to your inbox. You can do so via the form at the bottom of this article.
If this article has sparked your interest to keep reading about this topic, it would mean so much to me if you could take a moment to leave a few commentsbelow, sharing what you found most helpful or interesting about the article, or asking whatever questions I may not have answered.
Until next time!
23 Jan 2020
P.S. My next trip to Trento is coming up in March 2020. 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, 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.
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.
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:
A shortening/adaptation of a person’s personal name (such as ‘Charly’ for ‘Charles’ or ‘Peggy’ for ‘Margaret’) OR
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:
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. ‘dto’ for detto, or ‘dti’ for dicti. Here’s one example from a 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.
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):
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:
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.
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:
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’.
Article continues below…
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
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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…
Article continues below…
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:
Quotation marks (AKA inverted commas)
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:
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.
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 commentsbelow, sharing what you found most helpful or interesting about the article, or asking whatever questions I may not have answered.
Until next time!
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.
Genealogist Lynn Serafinn talks about how our ancestors named their children, and gives tips for making sense of names in their often-confusing parish records.
Last time, we took a whirlwind tour around the many idiosyncrasies of the surnames of Trentino. I really just scratched the surface in that article, aiming simply to provide some rules of thumb when researching Trentini family names. Now, as promised at the end of that article, we’re now going to take a look at our ancestors’ FIRST and MIDDLE names. We’ll be looking at how our ancestors’ names changed when they migrated across the ocean, how and why parents chose names for their children, and crucial things to remember when working with old parish records (1500s – 1800s).
SIDENOTE: While I will be referring to my own research (with specific examples from Bleggio in Val Giudicarie), the basic principles I will share here are useful for ANYONE constructing their family history within countries that utilise parish records to record baptisms, marriages and deaths.
Name Changes After Migration
Most of you reading this probably have a family member who changed his/her first name after leaving Trentino for the Americas. If your grandfather was known as ‘Joe’ in America, chances are his birth name was the Italian equivalent, Giuseppe. Antonio would become Anthony or Tony, and Giovanni would become John. In my family, my grandfather was born Luigi, but he changed it to the English equivalent ‘Louis’ about ten years after he migrated (he also changed our surname from Serafini to Serafinn, as I discussed in the previous article).
While many first names were easily translatable into English, some names had no real English equivalent. When that was the case, people often changed their name to something that sounded like their Italian name, rather than a translation of it. That means your Uncle Ned and Auntie Mabel might actually have been Zio Nerino and Zia Amabile.
There are also cases where a person’s name bears hardly any resemblance to the original at all. For example, my father’s first name at birth was ‘Romeo’ – hardly a good name for an immigrant boy in early 20th century USA where ‘men were men’. So, he changed his name to something unquestionably masculine and ‘rugged’ – Ralph. Except for the first letter, it has nothing in common with his original name.
Some people changed their name simply because they didn’t LIKE their birth name. My great-aunt Rustica Fausta Onorati changed her name to ‘Lena’, solely because she hated the name Rustica! Unless you happened to know her birth name was actually Rustica (fortunately, I did), you would never find her in the parish records, as the two names bear no similarity to each other whatsoever.
TIP: I often come across family trees where a person is listed under their ‘adopted’ name rather than their birth name. Personally, I find this very confusing, and I think it can lead a researcher down many dark alleys. I believe it is always best practice to use the name a person was given at birth, and cite any aliases or name changes in your notes about that person. On Ancestry.com, for example, you can write these aliases in a field called ‘also known as’. You can also put them in the ‘person notes’ in software programmes like Family Tree Maker.
Keeping Names in the Family
These days, many parents go out of their way to find unusual names for their children. But most of our ancestors were named after elders – parents, grandparents and great-grandparents on both sides of the family. Knowing this can often help you identify family groups more easily when searching through old records. Just this week, my brain was going into a twist when I was trying to figure out which of two men named Eleuterio Parisi (born about the same time in the same village) was my 9x great-grandfather. The definitive clue was in the names of his children: his eldest son and daughter were named after his parents, Pietro and Maria.
This practice of keeping names in the family can even help you identify the order of children, as the first son was frequently named after their paternal (and, in some cases, maternal) grandfather.
Another common practice was to name a child after a family member had recently died. Sometimes this person was a wife of the father who may have died shortly after childbirth. I have seen many instances where the first daughter of a second marriage is named after the deceased first wife.
The deceased person could also be an older sibling. If you see a couple with three daughters named Margarita, it means the first two died in infancy or early childhood. My 2x great-grandfather was the fourth Matteo in his family, having had three older brothers, all called Matteo, who died shortly after they were born. In fact, of their 14 children, no more than 6 (and possibly only 3) of them lived long enough to have children of their own.
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This brings up another important tip: if you find a birth record with the right name and parents, don’t immediately assume it is your ancestor. Keep looking ahead to locate the births of all children of that family, to see if there is a later child with the same name.
Something you might find amusing is that you occasionally see names that indicate which number this child was in the family. For example, boys’ names like Primo, Secondo, Ottavio and Decimo would indicate they were the first, second, eight and tenth born, respectively. While you might find these names less than ‘inspired’, they can be great clues in your research.
Spelling? There’s NO Such Thing!
In the previous article on surnames, I already mentioned that the concept of standardized spelling did not exist in Trentino until relatively recently. While surnames are affected greatly by this, first names are even MORE variable. Here are a few common examples (but the list is almost endless):
IMPORTANT: Always remember that variations in spelling do NOT indicate different people. The same woman might appear as ‘Isabetta Rochi’ in her birth record, but as ‘Elisabetha Rocche’ in her marriage record.
Brush Up Your LATIN!
If you work with parish records, you will discover that nearly ALL first and middle names tended to appear in their Latin forms until the 19th century. What’s interesting is that many Latin names actually look like English. You’ll see Joseph (for Giuseppe), Anthony (for Antonio) and Jacob or Jacobi (for Giacomo). Some Latin first names resemble German names, such as Johannes or Johann (for Giovanni) or Joachim (for Gioacchino). You’ll also see some fabulous old names like Hieronymus (for Girolamo) and Aloysius (for Luigi).
When looking at 19th century records, you might start to see the shift from Latin to Italianised spelling. For example, I’ve seen many an ‘Aloisio’ in early 19th century baptismal records who was later listed as ‘Luigi’ on his marriage record. If you’re not aware that this could be the SAME name (and same person), you might miss the record altogether.
Middle Names Are VERY Important
Before the 18th century, middle names were not commonly used, except in the case of noble families (which were more common than you might imagine). Later, especially from the 19th century onwards, giving a child one or more middle names became a more widespread practice. While the shift towards using middle names was probably seen as a practical means of distinguishing one person from another, it’s my belief that it was also a reflection of the shift in worldview spreading throughout Europe from the end of the 18th century, when beliefs about the importance of the individual and personal expressiveness were becoming increasingly popular.
In our modern, English-speaking culture, middle names are often seen as ‘extra’ names. But for the Trentini genealogist, middle names are extremely important when constructing your family tree, because some people come to be known exclusively by one of his/her middle names. For example, everyone in my family knew my great-grandmother as Europa. If you look at her marriage record, she is called Europa. If you look at her children’s birth records, she is called Europa. But if you try to look up Europa Parisi in the birth records, you won’t find her. Why? Because her birth name was Domenica Filomena Europa Parisi. That’s a mouthful!
Sometimes, you might know the name of the parent of a child, but you cannot find the parent’s birth record anywhere. A few weeks ago, I spent four hours looking for a man named Pietro, who was the father of about 10 children. After trawling through every possible baptismal record, I concluded that his birth name was Giovanni Pietro.
I’ve also seen many instances where a child’s baptism was registered in more than one parish, and the first and middle names were recorded in a completely different order in each of them. When such a thing happens, how can you possibly know which one is THE name of the child? The truth is, you can’t. Sometimes the priest will give you a clue by UNDERLINING the name by which the child will be known. But unless he was insightful enough to do this, you’ll find yourself without a clue of how this child came to be known until you dig further down the line to find their descendants. Also, if you are using transcriptions for your research, instead of images of the original parish records, you will never even be aware the priest underlined the preferred name (unless the transcriber was very thorough).
BOTTOM LINE: Using a middle name as one’s primary name is extremely common in Trentino. So, if the father of one of your ancestors is supposedly Luigi, but you cannot find a Luigi in the birth records, try looking for someone with the middle name of Luigi. (Incidentally, the ‘Matteo Luigi Serafini’ in the family tree above, WAS known as ‘Luigi’ throughout life, not Matteo.)
ABBREVIATIONS are Everywhere!
If you work with parish records, you will also encounter many abbreviations of first names. Sometimes these are just shortened versions of the name, such as Bortolo for Bortolomeo, or Gianbatta for Giovanni Battista. But other times, you will see actual abbreviations. You will frequently find Francesco and Domenico written as Fraco and Domco (‘co’ in superscript), and Francesca and Domenica as Fraca and Domca (‘ca’ in superscript). Similarly, Antonio will be abbreviated as Anto (superscript ‘o’) and Antonia as Anta (superscript ‘a’). Needless to say, you have to read very carefully to make sure you’re looking at the record for a male or a female.
One very common (but rather odd-looking) abbreviation is ‘Gua’, which stands for Giovanni. To make things even more confusing, you’ll see Latinized names abbreviated, such as Jo. Bapt for Giovanni Battista, or Domcus (‘cus’ in superscript) for ‘Domenicus’ instead of Domenico.
TIP: The words ‘figlio’ / ‘filius’ (meaning ‘son’) and ‘figlia’ / ‘filia’ (daughter) are almost always abbreviated as figo / figa, fils / fila or simply fo / fa.
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The Link Between Names and WHERE Your Ancestors Lived
Being familiar with the names of the various frazioni (the tiny hamlets) in which your ancestors lived is also crucial to building your Trentini family tree. In a later article, I’ll talk more about frazioni and how they are tied to our ancestral roots. But for now, as we’re talking about first names, it’s relevant to mention that all parishes – and most frazioni – have their own church, and every church has its own patron saint.
It is not uncommon to see many people in a particular frazione or parish with the same first name because they are named after their local patron. For example, you’ll see a lot of boys named Felice in the frazione of Bono in Bleggio, where their patron is Saint Felice. Giustina is a common girls’ name in the frazione of Balbido (also in Bleggio), where Saint Giustina is the patron. On a parish-wide level, the boys’ name Eleuterio was extremely common in Bleggio during the 1500s, as St. Eleuterio was one of the patron saints of the parish at that time (the parish was not known as Santa Croce until after 1624). In the parish of Saone, I recently discovered a glut of boys named Brutius (Latin for Brizio), as their local patron is Saint Brizio.
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Proximity to Patron Saints’ Feast Days
Aside from village patrons, there are also patron saints for specific days. I came across a record for a Giorgio (George) who was born on April 23rd – the feast day of Saint George. I have seen more than one Giuseppe Maria (Joseph Mary) born during Christmas week. I also found a girl named Epifania born on the day of the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6th) and many baby girls named Pasqua around Easter time (Pasqua means Easter). Being aware of the various patron saints can help you understand why your ancestors may have been given their specific names.
If you really want to find out who you are, it all starts with the names of your ancestors. Far more than simple designations, these names are drenched in meaning, culture and history. If you’re like me, sometimes you’ll find a particular name that draws you in and gets you really curious. Sometimes, you’ll find yourself loving this great-great-great-grandparent because of their wonderful name. These emotions are what give genealogy the power to connect us with our past and transport our ancestors into the present. If you haven’t yet started to trace your Trentini ancestry (and all the other ancestral roots you might have), I encourage you to make a start.
Coming Up Next Time…
Next time, I’ll be giving you tips on finding your FEMALE ancestors from Trentino. Finding your great-great-great-great-grandmother is not always as straight-forward as you might think! Drawing upon my own research for the ‘One Tree’ project, I’ll be sharing some of my very best ‘genealogical detective’ strategies for finding all the wonderful women who contributed to your DNA through the centuries.
I do hope you’ll subscribe to Trentino Genealogy blog (see the form on the top-right side of this page), to receive that and all future articles on this site.
Until then, I look forward to reading your comments or questions about this article below. And if you have any comments OR questions about Trentini genealogy, I cordially invite you to drop me a line via the contact form on this site.
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.