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The BORZAGA of Cavareno. Origins, Genealogy, Famous People

The Borzaga of Cavareno

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

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Introduction

Cavareno – An Overview

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

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

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

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

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

Sarnonico: The State of its Parish Records

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

Baptismal records

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

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

Marriage records

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

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

Death records

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

Origins

Linguistic Origins – Unsatisfactory Theories

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

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

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

Outliers – Pellizzano and Condino

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

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

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

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

Geographic Origins of the Borzaga – Tuenno

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

MAP: Val di Non with Tuenno and Cavareno highlighted

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

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

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

First Appearance of the Surname

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

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

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

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

Borzaga ancient lineage as illustrated by historian Paolo Odorizzi

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

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

The Early Borzaga in Cavareno

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

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

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

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

Early Patriarchs: Simone and Giovanni Borzaga

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

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

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

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

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

Patriarch 1: Simone Borzaga (Senior), Notary

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

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

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

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

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

Patriarch 2: Giovanni Borzaga

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Outliers

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Noble Borzaga

Noble Title and Stemma – 1615

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

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

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

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

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

Variants on the Stemma

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

Variant on Borzaga stemma
Click on image to see it larger

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

Variant on Borzaga stemma
Click on image to see it larger

Authentication and Extension of Title – 1626

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

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

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

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

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

About the title

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

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

About the recipients

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

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

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

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

My theory

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

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

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

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

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


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Six Generations of Borzaga Notaries

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

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

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

Generation 2: Antonio, son of Simone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expansion: Beyond Cavareno

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

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

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

Borzaga in Ronzone

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

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

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

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

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

Borzaga in Brez

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

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

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

Wave 1: Family of Andrea Borzaga and Maria Cattarina Bertoldi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Borzaga in Amblar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Distinguished Borzaga from the 20th Century

Gustavo Borzaga – Painter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giovanna Borzaga – Storyteller and Poetess

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

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

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

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

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

Below is a partial bibliography of her published works:

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

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

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

Francesco Borzaga – Environmentalist

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

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

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

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

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

Fr. Mario Borzaga – Martyr of Laos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biographer Gianpiero Petteti adds:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mario Borzaga was only 27 years old.

Frank Borzage – Hollywood Film Director

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

Frank Borzage, film director
Frank Borzage, film director

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

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

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

Film posted: A Farewell to Arms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time!

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
8 August 2022

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ENDNOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[clxxv] IMDB and Wikipedia, as above.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

INTRODUCTION

Premise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Researching Malosco Families

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

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

Where to Look for Malosco Births, Marriages and Deaths

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

Overview of Sarnonico Parish Records

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where to View the Records

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

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

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

PART 1: Overview of the Surname ‘Rigos’

Geographic and Linguistic Origins

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

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

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

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

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

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

Variant Spellings in Early Records

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

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

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

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

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

Click on image to see it larger

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

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

Click on image to see it larger

Two Overall Lines

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

one that was ennobled, and one that was not.

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

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

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

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

Evolution, Expansion and Extinction

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

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

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

Article continued below…

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PART 2: The Noble Rigos of Malosco

Early Stemma (Coat-of-Arms)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imperial Nobility and Predicate

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

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

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

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

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

Challenges of Identification

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

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

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

Confirmation of Titles

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

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

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

Click on image to see it larger

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

Overview of First Five Generations of Imperial Noble Line

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

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

Click on image to see it larger

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

Extinction of the Noble Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continuation of ‘Gene Pool’ via Female Lines

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

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

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

Click on image to see it larger

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

Conclusions and Closing Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
3 May 2022

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

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 NOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The STANCHINA of Trentino. Origins, Nobility, Genealogy.

The Stanchina of Trentino. Origins, Nobility, Genealogy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Aims of this Article, and the Sources Used

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

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

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

Geographic Origins and Expansion of the Stanchina

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

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

MAP_Tassullo-Livo-Terzolas-Carciato

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

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

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

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

Unconvincing Linguistic theories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The First ‘Stanchina’ and His Possible Ancestry

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

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

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

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

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

Possible Links to the Thun Family?

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

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

Investiture at Mostizzolo

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

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

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

Terrain map from Google Maps showing location of Mostizzolo

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

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

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

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The Five Sons of Ser Nicolò of Livo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overview of Early Stanchina Generations

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

Descendant Chart for Belvesino of Tassullo (5 generations)

Click on the image to see it larger.

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

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

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

Stanchina of Livo (1510-1600)

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

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

Nicolò and Antonio, Sons of Leonardo

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

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

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

Rural Nobility (1529)

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

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

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

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

The Descendants of Giovanni, son of Nicolò

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

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

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

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

Click on image to see it larger.

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

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

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

Knighthood – The Stanchina de Leiffenburg (1624-1661)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Who Exactly Was Knighted?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DESCENDANTS - Giovanni Stanchina of Livo (4 generations)

Click on chart to see it larger.

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

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

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

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

Stanchina de Turri de Pegnana (1723)

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

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

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

Click on image to see it larger.

Matteo Alessandro’s Paternal Ancestry

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

Click on image to see it larger.

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

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

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

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

Another Knighthood. Another Predicate (1764)

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

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

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

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

Click on image to see it larger.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Changes to the Family Stemma

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marriages With Other Noble Families

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stanchina of Terzolas (1478-1529)

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

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

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

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

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

Rural Nobility (1529)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overview of First Two Generations

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

MALE Descendants of Antonio Stanchina of Terzolas, 2 generations

Click on image to see it larger.

Stanchina of Terzolas (1530 to early 1600s)

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

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

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

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

Economic decline, but increasing numbers

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

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

Overview of Descendants through Early 1600s

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

MALE Descendants of Nicolò Stanchina of Terzolas, 4 generations.

Click on image to see it larger.

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

MALE Descendants of Michele Stanchina of Terzolas, 4 generations

Click on image to see it larger.

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

Stanchina of Carciato

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

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

Click on image to see it larger.

Ancestry of Giovanni Domenico, Founding father of Carciato Stanchina

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

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

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

The Expansion of the Stanchina in Carciato

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

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

The Stanchina Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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Until next time!

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
11 March 2022

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 NOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[37] GUELFI, Adriano Camaiani, page 160.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The COMINI of Val di Sole – Ancestry, Nobility, and Challenges of Research

Comini of Val di Sole - Ancestry, Nobility, and Challenges of ResearchTheories and evidence on the origins of the Comini of Val di Sole, and fascinating tales of the noble Comini de Sonnenberg. By genealogist Lynn Serafinn.

If you read this blog regularly, you know I am always fascinated by the origins of Trentino surnames. I get especially curious when I encounter a surname that seems to be associated with one particular village, or that is said to have originated from outside the province.

One such surname that popped up while researching the families of a few of my clients was ‘Comini’. Initially, I was curious because it wasn’t all that common, and also because I had also seen a surname ‘Comina’, and I wasn’t sure whether the two were variants of the same surname or were unrelated. Some of books I consulted seemed to ‘lump’ the two names together, but the more I investigated, the more I felt this was incorrect. Then, when I dug more deeply into the Comini themselves, I started seeing evidence of two completely different lines, living in the same village of Cassana in Val di Sole, but who arrived there at different points in time.

In this article, we will first explore the various origin theories for these two surnames in Val di Sole, from both a linguistic and geographical perspective. Then, we will investigate how and where these surnames appear in documentation from the 1500s, with inferences to the 1400s. After this, we will focus our examination on the Comini in Cassana from a genealogical perspective, to see how two different family lines bearing this surname arose in that village in the 1600s. Focusing then on one of these lines – the Comini de Sera – we will follow it through to one specific family known as ‘Comini de Sonnenberg’, who were ennobled in 1799. Finally, we will take a look at the lives of a few of the famous personalities from that family, who made significant contributions to the fields of science, art, religion, and local history.

Possible Linguistic Origins of the Surname

According to linguistic historian Aldo Bertoluzza, the surnames Comini and Comina are patronymics, derived from ‘Giacomino’, which a nickname of the male personal name ‘Giacomo’ (equivalent to ‘James’ in English), having the meaning ‘God has protected him’.1 If this is correct, the surnames would have the meaning ‘[the family] of Giacomo’.

As we’ll see shortly when we look at some research done by Giovanni Ciccolini, the personal name ‘Comino’ (sometimes Latinised to ‘Cominus’) also appears in earlier documents, and there does seem to be some evidence that these surnames are more directly derived from that name. However, Bertoluzza’s theory may still be accurate, as ‘Comino’ could be a shortened form of the name Giacomino, in much the same way as ‘Dorigo’ is sometimes seen as a shortened from of the name Odorico or Odorigo.

Possible Geographic Origins of the Surnames

Although Guelfi states that the Comini were indigenous to Trentino2, in Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine, authors Tabarelli de Fatis and Borelli say the Comini probably came from Valtellina in the present-day province of Sondrio, Lombardia.3 I don’t know where they obtained that information (unless it is part of the Comini family lore), but let’s explore the possibility that the Comini had Lombardian origins.

Looking at the Cognomix website, there are currently about 683 families in Italy bearing the surname Comini. Of these, 425 of these families (over 62%) live in the region of Lombardia, with the lion’s share of them (179 families) in the eastern province of Brescia, which borders Trentino. Only two Comini families currently live in the province of Sondrio. In sharp contrast to Lombardia, the region of Trentino-Alto Adige has only 23 Comini families, with only 15 of them in the province of Trento (only about 2% of the total figure). About half of these are in various comuni in Val di Sole.4

That same website tells us there are far fewer families (only about 123) with the surname Comina in Italy today. In this case, Lombardia is second on the list, with 23 families compared to 26 in Piemonte. The surname in Lombardia is sparsely distributed, with no well-defined ‘epicentre’. In Trentino-Alto Adige, there are 17 Comina families, 13 of which are in the province of Trento. Of these, the greatest number of families (albeit only 6 of them) live in the comune of Peio.5

I cannot attest to the accuracy of these figures; nor do present-day statistics always give us an accurate picture of the past. But when we consider the overall population of the region of Lombardia is currently an estimated 10 times more than that of the region of Trentino-Alto Adige,6 there appear to be almost twice as many Comini per million in Lombardia as Trentino-Alto Adige (about 42.5 compared to 23), and nearly 5 times as many Comini per million in the province of Brescia compared to the province of Trento (141 compared to 30).7 To me, these figures make a strong case for the theory of the surname’s Lombardian origins.

Do we have evidence of Lombardian immigration into Trentino occurring prior to the year 1600?

In a fascinating article from 1935,8 historian Giovanni Ciccolini shares his research into the influx of workers, craftsmen, and professionals from Lombardia into Val di Sole in Trentino from the 1301 to the end of the 1500s, arriving during an era of great economic growth owing to the burgeoning industry in iron mining.

Amongst the 155 men identified by Ciccolini, we find five referred to by the first name ‘Comino’ or its Latin equivalent ‘Cominus’, showing us the personal name was not completely uncommon in Lombardia in that era.

However, only one actually bears a surname resembling Comini or Comina, namely one ‘Cominus, son of the late Pietro de Cominis of Precasai (i.e., Prescaglio in Val Camonica)’, whose name appears in a document drafted in Peio on 24 September 1565, where he is cited as a witness.9 But we would be wrong to leap to the conclusion that this ‘Cominus’ was the patriarch of the Comina line in Peio, as other evidence shows the Comina were already living in Peio at least half a century earlier.

Thus, as interesting as Ciccolini’s research is, the records he cites neither confirm nor disprove that the Comini or Comina came from Lombardia. But if they did, some of these families HAD to have settled in Trentino no later than the late 1400s, as we can find them (but not always in an obvious way) in documents in Val di Sole by the early 1500s, with no reference to any non-Trentino place of origin.

Comini and Comina – Are they Variants of the Same Surname?

Several historians seem to make no distinction between these two surnames, but I believe this can lead to confusion. Bertoluzza puts them under the same heading in his Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino,10 but he is looking at them through the ‘lens’ of linguistics only. While these surnames may share a common linguistic root, all the evidence I have found indicates they are not genealogically related – or at least not within the past six centuries or so.

These surnames get repeatedly muddled in other sources, especially when the focus is only on one family or the other. For example, Tabarelli de Fatis and Borelli say the Comini (who were later ennobled) are documented in Ossana and Fucine in the early 1600s.11 Aside from the fact that both the Comini and the Comina were already present in Val di Sole at least a century earlier, I am fairly certain the family in Ossana and Fucine were the Comina, not the Comini.

Such confusion is probably understandable, as these surnames are often vague in early documentation. With the exception of higher nobility, surnames in general are not really used until the 1400s, and even then, they always going to be somewhat ‘fluid’ for the next few centuries. In the case of the Comini / Comina, early records will often have the truncated form ‘Comin’ or the Latinised versions ‘Cominis’ or ‘Cominus’. But by the year 1700 or so, most surnames take on a more permanent form, similar (if not identical) to how they will appear today. By this time, the distinction between Comini and Comina in Val di Sole becomes clearer:

  • Comini is found predominantly in Cassana in the parish of San Giacomo.
  • Comina is found predominantly in Peio, with some in nearby Ossana.

Of course, over the centuries, you will see branches of these families spreading out into other parts of the province (and beyond), but our discussion of their ‘origins’ in the province will focus mainly on these two places.

Restored fresco in the Church of San Tommaso in Cassana. Photo from the Trentino Cultura website
Restored fresco in the Church of San Tommaso in Cassana. Photo from the Trentino Cultura website at https://www.cultura.trentino.it/Rubriche/Restauri-in-evidenza-fra-pubblico-e-privato/Gli-affreschi-ritrovati-nella-chiesa-di-S.-Tommaso-a-Cassana

The Comina of Peio in the 1500s

Called ‘Pellium’ in Latin, Peio is a curate parish of Celledizzo, part of the decanato (deanery) of Ossana. Although there has been a church there since at least 1380, the baptismal records for Peio do not go beyond the year 1653. Peio’s death records start a few years later in 1669, and its marriages do not begin until 1811,12 although these may have been recorded in Celledizzo, where the marriages begin in 1686.13 There are some fragments of ‘urbari’ (inventories of assets, income, etc.) from first half of the 1500s and later years. One of the curates of Peio, don Giuseppe Baggia, who served there for nearly half a century, exhaustively compiled family trees and a local history of Peio. Starting his project in 1888 and continuing it until his death in 1906, he drew his information from what remained of the parish archives, after numerous fires had destroyed the bulk of its earliest records.14 Unfortunately, I have not been able to consult these trees for this current investigation.

As we have no parish registers to fall back on, we can only interpolate the history of the Comina in Peio by piecing together these fragments. This is largely what Fortunato Turrini has done in his excellent book, Carte di Peio. The first reference to a ‘Comina’ he cites is from a legal parchment dated 30 September 1516, which refers to a ‘Martino, son of Francesco Nones’.15 Parenthetically, he tells us that ‘Nones’ is actually referring to a branch of the Comina family, who presumably used ‘Nones’ as their soprannome (this is most likely drawn from the observations by don Giuseppe Baggia). If Martino is a legal adult with a father who was still alive in 1516, it would place his father Francesco’s birth date somewhere in the mid-1400s.

Drafted just few years later in 1522, we are fortunate enough to have a surviving copy of the Carta di Regola (‘Charter of Rules’) for Peio. In that document, we find the names of 38 men, representing 16 households, who have the right to participate in the meeting. Among those present, but not included among the electors, we find one ‘Martino, son of the late Francesco Nones’, as well as a ‘Pietro, called “Ganza”, son of the late Leonardo dei Nones’. Again, Turrini tells us these ‘Nones’ men are actually ‘Comina’. Later, the document does mention a ‘Martino Comina’, so it is difficult to know whether the two Martinos are the same person or two different individuals.16

Assessing the information from these documents – and trusting the accuracy of don Baggia’s assessment that ‘Nones’ is a soprannome for the family later known as Comina – we find ourselves faced with several questions:

  • Were the ‘Comina’ men present at the meeting not included as electors because they were not yet full ‘citizens’ of the community?
  • If so, could this indicate they had settled there within the past generation?
  • If so, is there any link between these ‘Comina’ and the ‘Comino, son of the late Pietro de Cominis’ from Val Camonica we see later in the 1565 document cited by Ciccolini?
  • If so, could ‘Pietro, called Ganza’ in the 1522 Carta be the father of Comino?
  • Why is one Martino called ‘Comina’ and the other is not? The use of a soprannome does indicate we are dealing with more than one branch of the family, even in this early era. Do they share a common origin?
  • Where did this soprannome ‘Nones’ come from? Normally this word would refer to someone from Val di Non, not Lombardia.

By the end of the 1500s, roughly two generations later, we finally find the surname ‘Comina’ firmly established in Peio. A parchment from 1580 refers to an ‘Antonio, son of the late Martino Comina’ as well as ‘Francesco, son of the late Pietro Comina’.17 Another parish in the Peio archives from 1597 mentions a ‘Francesco and Maria Comina’.18

The ‘Comin’ and Comini of Malé in the 1500s

During my research, I stumbled upon a baptismal record in the parish of Malé, dated 13 April 1595, for an ‘Antonio, son of Pietro Comina of Peio in the parish of Ossana, living in Malé’.19 However, this Comina line does not seem to have continued in Malé. They are also not to be confused with Comin/Comini families who already were living in Malé before this date.

1595. Baptism of Antonio, son of Pietro Comina of Peio, living in Male'.
Click on image to see it larger

In Malé, the surname ‘Comin’ appears amongst its earliest surviving baptismal records, the first being on 4 August 1554 for a Barbara, daughter of Bartolomeo Comin of Malé and his wife, Maria20

1554. Baptism of Barbara, daughter of Bartolomeo Comin of Male'.
Click on image to see it larger

The wording of the document infers Bartolomeo was native to Malé. As Barbara is the only child of this couple in the register, it is possible her parents were already in their 40s, which could push the birth date of Bartolomeo to around 1510, but most likely not after 1525.

In a later Malé baptismal record for a Cristoforo Comin dated 11 February 1571, we learn his father is another Bartolomeo, son of a Giovanni, who was then deceased.21 This places the late paternal grandfather Giovanni in the same generation as the Bartolomeo seen in the previous 1554 record, meaning he was also born sometime near the beginning of that century.

1571. Baptism of Cristoforo, son of Giovanni, son of Bartolomeo Comin of Male'.
Click on image to see it larger

Later in Malé, on 18 November 1603, we find a ‘Giovanni, son of the late Cristoforo Comini of Malé’ cited as a witness at the signing of a legal document.22 Again, we can assume Giovanni was at least 25 years of age, hence he would have been born around the same time as the Cristoforo above (so his father would have been an earlier Cristoforo). Curiously, on the same day, and written by the same notary, we find another document referring to a dom. Melchiore Comin (without the ‘i’ at the end).23

The surname seems to fade away in in Malé in the early 1600s, as the last birth I have found there is for a Domenica Comini, born 2 June 1616.24 This record gives the name of her paternal grandfather, Simone Comini, who appears to be still alive (although I cannot find a death record for him after this date). Again, the inference is Simone was native to Malé, which means he would have been born there in the mid-1500s. But apart from this baptism, I cannot find any records for this family in Malé at all (at least not in the index), nor any death records for Comini in later years.

1616. Baptism of Domenica, daughter of Bartolomeo, son of Simone Comini of Malé.
Click on image to see it larger

Bartolomeo, son of Baldassare ‘Comin’ of Caldes (1551)

A legal document drafted in Terzolas (a frazione in the parish of Malé) dated 6 December 1551 mentions a ‘Bartolomeo, son of the late Baldassare “Comin” of Caldes’, who grants the use of some grazing and farming land he owns in Cassana to a Domenico Claser of Almazzago.25 Assuming Bartolomeo was a legal adult (at least 25 years old), whose father Baldassare passed away at a ‘typical’ age for this era, Baldassare was most likely born no later than the 1480s. The fact the wording says ‘of Caldes’ rather than ‘living in Caldes’, also infers Baldassare was born there. The contract is also said to have been drafted in the ‘kitchen of the home of Comini, a cobbler’; it does not give his first name, nor does it say whether he was originally from Terzolas or someplace else.

Aside from these few examples, I have found no other documents for any Comini living in Malé or Caldes in the 1500s or 1600s. Moreover, the Comini mentioned in these documents do not appear in the death records for Malé or Caldes.

However, this 1551 land agreement contains a vital clue to what happened next in the story of this particular family: the mention of the village of Cassana. From this point forward, Cassana is the place with which the Comini would become most commonly associated. Although evidence indicates that the Comini were already present in Cassana by the early decades of the 1500s, it is possible the ‘vanishing’ Comin/Comini of Malé and Caldes were part of a larger family who settled in Cassana over the next few generations.

Fresco of the Last Supper in the Church of San Tommaso in Cassana.
Fresco of the Last Supper in the Church of San Tommaso in Cassana. Photo from the Trentino Cultura website at https://www.cultura.trentino.it/Rubriche/Restauri-in-evidenza-fra-pubblico-e-privato/Gli-affreschi-ritrovati-nella-chiesa-di-S.-Tommaso-a-Cassana

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The Village of Cassana in San Giacomo: Challenges of Research

Before we look specifically at the Comini, I want to explain a few things about the vital records for the village of Cassana.

These days, Cassana is part of the civil comune of Caldes; but for genealogical research, our attention will always focus on parish registers and church archives. Like most villages, Cassana has its own church, namely the little church of San Tommaso, which has long served the citizens of Cassana for Sunday Mass. However, their parish registers (births, marriages, deaths, etc.) have always been maintained by the parish of San Giacomo – originally known as ‘Solasna’, a name you will frequently see in older records.

The parish registers for Solasna/San Giacomo date back to December 1668. We know there was an earlier register that has been lost with time, from which only four pages still exist. These four pages, numbered 61, 62, 69 and 70, which have never been microfilmed or digitised, are dated between 14 May 1660 and 5 May 1668, just before the beginning of the surviving register. Given the fact these fragments start on page 61, we can imagine the lost register may have taken us back another at least 30 years, or possibly to the beginning of that century, but it’s difficult to say with certainty, as the page fragments are said to be from a book in a format smaller than the other registers.

I also checked the Livo parish records, as Livo is the ‘mother’ parish of San Giacomo, but I found no evidence of Cassana families there within that crucial timeframe.

Thus, sadly, we have to accept the fact we will not find vital records for the Comini of Cassana before 1668, which makes it difficult to construct a precise genealogical history from them. While some information can be gleaned by piecing together evidence legal parchments (pergamene) and charters (carte), these can only provide a patchwork of clues, leaving things open to much conjecture.

Despite these challenges, as I will explain shortly, I believe there is enough evidence to demonstrate there were at least two different Comini lines in Cassana, one of which arrived no later than the early 1500s, possibly directly from Lombardia as some historians have suggested. While I have excluded a connection between them and the ‘Comina’ of Peio, I am leaving an open mind as to a possible connection between the one of both of these Comini of Cassana and the early Comin / Comini of Malé and Caldes.

The Arrival of the Comini in Cassana

One thing we know with certainty is that two Comini men obtained the ‘diritto di vicinia’ of Cassana on 18 December 1603.26 The word ‘diritto’ means ‘the right’ or privilege. Cognate with our English word ‘vicinity’, the word ‘vicinia’ referred a community of people who were entitled to share in local natural resources, such as forests, water, grazing land, etc., for a specific village. Members of that community were called ‘vicini’. Only ‘vicini’ were entitled to participate in the decision-making process for the regulatory laws for the village. (Side note: the noun ‘vicini’ in modern Italian has lost this meaning; today it simply means ‘neighbours’).

The men who became vicini on this occasion were brothers Michele and Baldassare Comini, sons of the late Baldassare. Typically, residents had to have lived in a village for at least a generation before they were granted the privileges of vicini. However, this document says Michele and Baldassare were ‘living in Cassana’, implying they had moved there from someplace else.

Of course, we have no way of knowing where this ‘someplace else’ was, but we did see earlier there was a different Baldassare Comini (deceased before 1551), whose son Bartolomeo was living in Caldes, and who owned land in Cassana. Given the recurrence of the name ‘Baldassare’ (as men tended to name their eldest son after their father) and the connection to the village of Cassana, it is possible these new vicini Michele and Baldassare had an ancestral connection to the family who had previously lived in Caldes. Perhaps their father was the brother or the son of the Bartolomeo in the 1551 document.

If this was the case, it would mean the ancestors of Michele and Baldassare would have owned property in Cassana for at least half a century by 1603. This could explain why they were granted the ‘diritto di vicinia’ without having been born in Cassana. It could also explain why the Comini lines we saw in Malé and Caldes seem to have ‘vanished’ around the same time.

However, this document is NOT an indication of the Comini’s arrival in Cassana, as some historians suggest. There was, in fact, an earlier branch of the Comini already in Cassana nearly a century earlier. And, just as some historians have muddled Comina and Comini, some have also overlooked the distinction between these two Comini lines.

The key to unlocking the distinction between these Comini lines is to be found in the use of the soprannome ‘de Sera’, as we will explore next.

Fresco of San Salvatore in the Church of San Tommaso in Cassana.
Fresco of San Salvatore in the Church of San Tommaso in Cassana. Photo from the Trentino Cultura website at https://www.cultura.trentino.it/Rubriche/Restauri-in-evidenza-fra-pubblico-e-privato/Gli-affreschi-ritrovati-nella-chiesa-di-S.-Tommaso-a-Cassana

The Soprannome ‘de Sera’/ ‘a Sera’

Further down the page of the very same document in which Michele and Baldassare Comini receive their title of ‘vicini’ of Cassana in 1603, we find amongst the jurists one ‘Giacomo, son of Baldassare a Serra’. What would not be obvious to the casual reader is that ‘Giacomo a Serra’ is ALSO a Comini, a fact that only becomes evident when you construct a Comini family history using the parish records. But before we look at that, let’s see how ‘a Serra’ appears in documents that predate the surviving San Giacomo registers.

‘A Serra’ (more commonly seen written ‘de Sera’ or ‘a Sera’) is a soprannome. A soprannome is a kind of ‘bolt on’ name used in conjunction with (or, sometimes, instead of) the surname to distinguish one family line from others who share the surname. If you are unfamiliar with the use of soprannomi, you might wish to read an earlier article I published on this subject entitled ‘Not Just a Nickname: Understanding Your Family Soprannome’.

MORE READING:   Not Just a Nickname: Understanding Your Family Soprannome

This particular soprannome appears in Cassana as early as 25 February 1517, with a ‘Pietro de Sera’, who is listed in a legal document as one of several ‘giurati’ (jurists) representing the village of Cassana.27 A few years later, on 17 February 1528, we see a ‘Giacomo de Sera’ mentioned as owning some property in Cassana.28

A generation later, in a legal document dated 26 March 1556, we find a ‘Marco Antonio a Sera’ referred to as the sindaco (mayor) of Cassana.29. We find this same Marco Antonio a Sera mentioned in several other documents from that same time period, 30, 31 one of which refers to him as the ‘son of the late Giacomo Dalla Sera of Cassana’, whom we might presume is the same Giacomo mentioned in 1528.32 Moving forward a decade to 3 March 1566, Marco Antonio appears to have passed away, as we find a ‘Battista, son of the late Marcantonio of Cassana’. 33

Based on these documents, we see the family who were known by the soprannome ‘de Sera’ (in whatever spelling variation) were already firmly rooted as property owners and respected vicini in Cassana by the early 1500s. In none of these documents is there any suggestion that the ‘de Sera’ had come from someplace else; moreover, to have attained the roles of giurati and sindaco in the first half of that century, they would surely have already been vicini of Cassana for a generation or more. Thus, I think it not unreasonable to hypothesise that the ‘de Sera’ were living in Cassana no later than the second half of the 1400s.

Possible Origins of the Soprannome

I am always intrigued by soprannomi, as they can often tell us something interesting about the history of a particular family line. As the soprannome ‘de Sera’ is so old, I cannot pinpoint its origins, but I do have a few theories.

My first theory is that ‘a sera’ or ‘de sera’ may be a reference to a farmland of that name in Cassana. In the document from 1566 mentioned above that mentions ‘Battista, son of the late Marcantonio of Cassana’, we see the name of a campo (a field, in this case for growing grain) called ‘a sera’.34 A century later, on 27 September 1664, we find what appears to be the same field (although this time it is called an ‘orto’, which means a vegetable garden), again called ‘a sera’.35 Thus, ‘a sera’ could have been adopted as soprannome by the family who owned and/or lived adjacent to this field.

Another possibility is that ‘Sera’ (or ‘Serra’) may be a reference to Monte Serra in Valtellina in the province of Sondrio, Lombardia. I say this mainly because Valtellina was suggested by Tabarelli de Fatis and Borelli as the place of origin of the noble Comini line, whom we will discuss shortly.36 If this is the case, the campo called ‘a sera’ may have been named after their ancestral homeland.

I can think of two other possibilities. ‘Sera’ could refer to ‘Serra’ in Val di Rabbi, or to ‘Val Seriana’ in Bergamo, Lombardia. I feel these explanations are less likely, however, as I have found no suggestion in any of my resources that the Comini had an ancestral connection to either of these places.37

The Comini de Sera of Cassana

So how do we KNOW the family known as ‘de Sera’ were actually Comini?

While the legal documents we have just discussed use the soprannome ‘de Sera’ without a surname, when you consult the births, marriages, and death records in the parish registers, you will nearly always find people in this line referred to as ‘Comini de Sera’.

Although the surviving San Giacomo registers do not begin until 1668, I found a baptismal record dated 15 December 1633 in the parish of CALDES for a Marino, son of Baldassare Comini de Sera, who was living in Samoclevo.38

1633. Baptism of Marino, son of Baldassare Comini de Sera of Cassana, living in Samoclevo.
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Notice that the priest originally wrote ‘de Sera’ without the surname, and either he or another priest wrote ‘Comini’ above it afterwards. All of the subsequent records for Marino’s siblings say ‘Comini’ without the soprannome. From the baptismal record of his brother Bartolomeo (born 21 February 1640), we learn that Baldassare Comini de Sera was originally from Cassana, and Baldassare’s father (who was still alive at the time) was named Giacomo. We also learn that his wife was Domenica Pancheri; she born in Samoclevo on 3 September 1601, the daughter of Bartolomeo Pancheri of Samoclevo:39, 40

Screenshot of family of Baldassare Comini of Cassana, taken from a family tree I have constructed using Family Tree Maker software.
Click on image to see it larger

I am fairly confident the father of this Baldassare is the same ‘‘Giacomo, son of (the living) Baldassare a Serra’ we saw mentioned as a jurist in Cassana in the 1603 document that granted the rights of vicinia to Michele and Baldassare Comini, who were sons of the late Baldassare.

This clearly shows us there were two distinct Comini lines present in Cassana by the year 1603:

  1. The older ‘Comini de Sera’ line, who were present in Cassana at least since the beginning of the 1500s.
  2. The more recently arrived Comini line, who did NOT use or adopt this

Whether these two lines had a common origin BEFORE the early 1500s, I cannot say. But at least from this point forward, we need to consider these as two separate families, who will nearly always be differentiated by being called either ‘Comini de Sera’ or simply ‘Comini’. This soprannome starts to disappear from legal documents around the mid-1600s, but we continue to see it in church records well into the 1700s.

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The Comini de Sonnenberg (Comini von Sonnenberg)

Descended from the ‘Comini de Sera’ are the noble ‘Comini de Sonnenberg’, whose fame extend well beyond the province of Trentino.

We know from several sources that Michele Udalrico Comini, originally from Cassana, who was then serving as the Bishop’s Advisor and medical doctor at Bressanone, was granted imperial nobility on 27 December 1799 by Francesco II, Holy Roman Emperor.41 With this diploma, the Emperor gave Michele Udalrico the right to use the predicate ‘de Sonnenberg’, which is sometimes seen in its German equivalents ‘von Sonnenberg’ or ‘von Comini zu Sonnenberg’. Mosca says this predicate is a nod to their place of origin,42 but it surely refers to the County of Sonnenberg in the present-day state of Vorarlberg in Austria (I assume this is where they were living at the time), and not their ancient ancestral home.

Shown here is an image of the stemma (coat-of-arms) awarded to Michele Udalrico when he was granted his noble title, as found at the Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum in Innsbruck.43 Guelfi describes stemma thusly: its shield is divided into two halves. In the top half is an eagle. In the bottom, is a dog going over a mountain; the dog is walking to the left, but his head facing to the right [his description seems to be the inverse of what is shown in the image]. This half also contains the trunk of an oak tree, bearing nuts and leaves. The crest above the shield contains two six-pointed stars.44

Stemma (coat-of-arms) of the noble Comini de Sonnenberg family
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The Comini de Sonnenberg appear in the matriculation of Tirolesi nobility in 1827, but Tabarelli de Fatis and Borelli tell us that the line went extinct in 1877.45 I should clarify that when these authors say a line has gone extinct, they generally mean the direct male line; there may still be descendants via daughters, as females can inherit noble titles, but they cannot pass them on to their children.

Possible Discrepancy over Michele Udalrico’s Date of Birth

Just about any resource I have consulted says that Michele Udalrico was born in Cassana on 25 February 1766, the son of Antonio Comini ‘a Sera’ and his wife Maria Domenica Pellegrini of Caldes. Named after both grandfathers (Michele Comini ‘a Sera’ and Udalrico Pellegrini), Michele Udalrico was the third of at least 7 children born to his parents, who married in Caldes on 05 June 1758. Here is that baptismal record from the parish register of San Giacomo:46

1766. Baptism of Michele Udalrico Comini ‘a Sera’ of Cassana.
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I would have had no issue with this information had I not stumbled across this baffling document:

1783. Death record of Michele Udalrico Comini a Serra, who drowned at age 17.
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Dated 28 November 1783, this is a death record for what appears to be the same Michele Udalrico Comini a Serra, son of Antonio.47 Said to be about 17 years old (which puts his year of birth in 1766), the record says he fell off a bridge crossing a river and drowned in the river below. The boy’s body was retrieved, and he was buried in the parish cemetery. Sadly, it seems his father Antonio (actually born Giovanni Antonio) died less than a year later, on 12 August 1784, at the age of 52.48

So, now we have a problem. How could the Michele Udalrico who was born in 1766 be the man who received the noble title in 1799 if he died in 1783 when he was still in his teens? As there ARE no other boys named Michele Udalrico Comini born in this timeframe, I can only think of two explanations:

  • We know Michele Udalrico had a younger brother named Udalrico who was born 18 October 1769. Perhaps the priest got the two boys mixed up in the death record, and the boy who died was actually Udalrico (who would have been only 14, not 17). There is a cross next to his name in his baptismal record, but no death record for him in infancy, so this could feasibly be the case.
  • Alternatively, perhaps Michele Udalrico born in 1766 did die in 1783, and after his father died the following year, his younger brother Udalrico ‘adopted’ the name ‘Michele Udalrico’. This is a bit more far-fetched, but not impossible.

Whatever the explanation, somebody has made a mistake somewhere.

Michele Udalrico Comini de Sonnenberg

Setting aside this possible discrepancy about his date of birth, we have many documented facts about Michele Udalrico’s admirable achievements.

In his book on Caldes, historian Alberto Mosca tells us that, after completing his secondary school studies in Merano (South Tyrol), Michele Udalrico Comini first studied philosophy at Innsbruck, and then medicine at the University of Padova in Pavia, where he earned his degree in 1789. After a brief sojourn in Milan, he transferred first to Predazzo (Val di Fiemme) and then, from 1797, he was in Bressanone in the capacity of a medical doctor to the Bishop, and a student of natural philosophy. During his stay in Val di Fiemme, he published two writings, which are now conserved at the ‘Muratori’ library (library of masons) in Cavalese, on the topics of medical surgeries (1795) and on bovine epidemics in Val di Fiemme (1796).49 It was in recognition for this work that he received his noble title.

Mosca eloquently continues (my English translation from the Italian):

‘In the first years of the 19th century, Dr Michele carried out his professional activities in various parts of South Tyrol, and he published two texts in Latin on infectious diseases. He distinguished himself for the fight against epidemic illnesses; his principal merit is that of having first reported and masterfully described the disease pellagra50 in Trentino.

Before 1811, he became the Provincial Advisor of Health in Innsbruck, where he was distinguished for his administration of the hospital during the period of the Napoleonic Wars (1812-1813). In those years, in fact, the city was continually being occupied by troops, and a great many were wounded and exhausted soldiers in need of healing.

Dr Comini died in Innsbruck on 12 March 1842, after having left – in a Will drafted just one week earlier – a legacy of 200 Florins to the Church of San Tommaso in Cassana.

His ancestral house still exists, pointed out also by don Giuseppe Arvedi in 1888, in his book Illustrazione della Val di Sole, where he says, ‘In the little village of Cassana you find the lovely palazzo of the noble and celebrated Comini family’.

The Tirolrer Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum in Innsbruck has conserved a drawing that depicts Michele on his death bed.

In 2000, on the occasion of the drafting of the new road map, the administration of the comune of Caldes decided to name a street after the medico Comini in his birth village (of Cassana).’ 51

Ludwig Comini de Sonnenberg

ca. 1860. Photo of Ludwig Comini de Sonnenberg
ca. 1860. Photo of Ludwig Comini de Sonnenberg

In 1799, the same year in which he was ennobled, Michele Udalrico married the noble lady Maria Teresa Prev (I’ve also see it written ‘Prey’). Among their seven children is the celebrated scientist, Ludwig Comini de Sonnenberg.

Ludwig born in Innsbruck. Mosca says he was born in 1814, but another researcher gives us a date of 19 June 1812. 52, 53

In 1851, a blight of powdery mildew had attacked crops in South Tyrol, creating serious problems in food and wine production. Ludwig, then a pharmacist and landowner, began experimenting with sulphur, and found it to be effective in combatting this mould. After publishing his findings first in German, and then in Italian, he earned the nickname ‘Schefelapostel’, which means ‘Sulphur Apostle’.54 Many of his strategies are still widely used in farming today.

Ludwig is said to have died in Bolzano on 18 January 1869, at the age of 56.55 This photo of him was taken by an unknown photographer around 1860.56

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Two Uncles and an Aunt: People of Interest in Michele Udalrico’s Family

In doing research for this article, I discovered many interesting facts about some of the siblings of Giovanni Antonio Comini de Sera (aka ‘Antonio’), the father of Michele Udalrico Comini de Sonnenberg.

Of these, I would like to share the stories of three of Antonio’s siblings, namely:

  • Giovanni Michele Comini: born 16 November 1723, died 1753.
  • Maria Cattarina Comini: born 15 December 1734, died 17 October 1799.
  • Giovanni Andrea Comini: born 18 February 1741, died 29 July 1822.

Rev. Michele Comini – Priest and Artist

Born Giovanni Michele on 16 November 1723, ‘Michele’ was the eldest child of Michele Comini de Sera and Maria Cattarina Sparapani, and thus the paternal uncle of Michele Udalrico Comini de Sonnenberg.

Weber and Rasmo tell us that don Michele was a ‘very erudite man’ who studied theology in Innsbruck and became a ‘learned and pious priest’.57 During his studies, he first learned the art of making miniatures, and then he studied oil painting from Giuseppe Giorgio Grassmayr. One of Michele’s oil landscapes is in the Museum of Innsbruck. Author Quirino Bezzi tells us Michele was also a luthier (lute maker).58

A prodigy of many skills, Michele certainly accomplished a great deal within a very short time; he died in 1753, when he was not quite 30 years old. As I cannot find his death record in San Giacomo, I assume he died in Austria (most likely in Innsbruck).

The Murder of Maria Cattarina Comini de Sera

Born 15 October 1734, Antonio’s younger sister (and paternal aunt of Michele Udalrico), Maria Cattarina Comini de Sera was the sixth child of Michele Comini de Sera and Maria Cattarina Sparapani.59 When I read her baptismal record, I was shocked by a note scribbled in the upper left corner that said she was ‘killed by an assassin on 17 October 1799’:

1734. Baptism of Maria Cattarina Comini a Sera, with note about her murder in upper left corner.
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NOTE: the priest erroneously calls her father ‘Giovanni Michele’ (it is actually just Michele) and her mother ‘Anna Cattarina’ (it is actually Maria Cattarina).

After that bombshell, I immediately looked for Maria Cattarina’s death record to see if I had read that note correctly, and also to see if it contained more details. Sadly, it was no mistake. Her death record60 explained that Maria Cattarina, age 65 and unmarried, was STRANGLED by an attacker in her own home on the night of the 17th, and then buried on the 20th:

1799. Death record of Maria Cattarina Comini de Sera, who was strangled in her own home.
Click on image to see it larger

I have not yet found any information about a trial regarding this shocking murder. Perhaps the attacker was never identified. It is a horrific thought that someone would enter the home of a 65-year-old woman (presumably alone in her bedroom, as she was unmarried) and fatally strangle her, while the rest of the village slept. What could possibly have been the provocation? Surely, there is a story here.

It is curious (although probably unrelated) that she was killed just two months before her nephew Michele Udalrico would be awarded his noble title. I cannot help but feel the award would have been bittersweet.

Rev. Giovanni Andrea Comini, parroco and deacon of Tione

Yet another uncle of Michele Udalrico Comini de Sonnenberg was Giovanni Andrea (known mainly as Andrea), born 18 February 1741. The ninth child of Michele Comini de Sera and Maria Cattarina Sparapani, he also grew up to become a Catholic priest.

At the age of 40 in 1781, he became parroco (pastor) of the parish of Tione in Val Giudicarie, where he also served as deacon/dean of its sprawling decanato (deanery) until he retired from his post in 1808.

Historian Guido Boni61 tells us that Rev. Parroco Andrea Comini contributed greatly to the local history of the parish of Tione by keeping personal manuscripts of local events, fragments of which are still held in the parish archives today. These precious manuscripts also help us learn a great deal about who Andrea was as a priest and a person. By all accounts, he seems to have been a true representative of the so-called ‘Age of Enlightenment’ into which he was born. Rational, free-thinking, progressive, and perhaps a bit of a social activist.

The Kiss of Judas. One of 14 stations of the cross in the parish church of Tione di Trento, commissioned by Rev. Andrea Comini de Sera.
The Kiss of Judas. One of 14 stations of the cross in the parish church of Tione di Trento, commissioned by Rev. Andrea Comini de Sera.

Rev. Parroco Andrea commissioned the 14 paintings of the Via Crucis (Stations of the Cross) which still adorn the parish church at Tione. Not satisfied with the prospect of these paintings depicting the traditional scenes with which most worshippers are familiar, don Andrea wanted them to illustrate the ‘painful’ moments before Jesus’s ascent up Calvary. His vision helped direct a set of paintings (the first seven of which are attributed to Prospero Schiavi of Verona) that are renowned for their uniqueness and uncommon ‘take’ on the subject of the Crucifixion.62 Boni tells us that don Andrea also wrote a booklet of prayers to be said at each of these stations, but he did not obtain the approval of the Curia to publish them.63 Perhaps they were considered too progressive or emotive, rather than humble and reverential?

Early in his time as parroco, Andrea Comini was involved in a ‘clamorous incident’ with a spinster named Domenica Benvenuti, who claimed to live without eating, and who had managed to gather a large following of people who venerated her as saint. And if that were not bad enough, her devotees would also give her money. Boni tells us that don Andrea ‘bravely faced the popular fanaticism that had taken possession of even the men of science’ and unmasked the woman as a fraud. Furious at her defeat and disgraced in the public eye, the woman withdrew to a hospital in the city of Trento, where she died in 1785. 64

His service to his community extended beyond the boundaries of theology, however. Boni tells us that don Andrea had a waterwheel built, and also had a well dug (but they failed to find any water due to the local terrain). He surrounded the rectory with walls and built a ‘roccolo’, which is a kind of structure once used in the mountains for catching birds (the practice is no longer permitted). The locality where it stood, at least during Boni’s time in the 1930s, was still called ‘The rocol of the Archpriest’ by locals.

During the Festival of the Rosary in 1787, don Andrea had a nasty surprise when the beautifully crafted silver lamp from the altar was stolen, along with some other objects. The thieves had used tools to break into the northern door of the church, which faced the countryside, making it possible for them to rob the church without anyone seeing them in the act. In his manuscript, Rev. Comini advises his successors not to spare the expense of getting maintaining a good watchdog!

In the autumn of 1808, when he was 66 years of age, don Andrea gave up his job as parroco and deacon, presumably to retire and live a more peaceful life. At some point, he returned to his native parish of San Giacomo, where he died on 29 July 1822, at the age of 81. The cause of death is said to be ‘marasmo senile’, which was, in those days, a catch-all term for ‘old age’, rather than any specific illness. In the record, he is still referred to as ‘the Parroco of Tione’, despite having retired some 14 years earlier.65

1822. Death of Rev Giovanni Andrea Comini, former parroco of Tione.
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Conclusions and Closing Thoughts

I began this article with a discussion of the linguistic and geographical origins of the surname Comini, and the similar surname Comina. Although I have found no documented evidence that the Comini of Cassana came from Lombardia as some have suggested, we do see the surname being most prominent in the region of Lombardia today. And, although I have found no patriarch bearing the name ‘Giacomino’ as Bertoluzza suggests, we did see that the personal name ‘Comino’ was apparently in use, at least in Lombardia, in the 1400s. As an historian, I can only conclude at this point that it is ‘feasible’ the Comini may have from Lombardia at some point, and that the identity of the specific patriarch from whom their surname was originally derived has been lost in antiquity.

Using early legal documents and some available parish records, I then demonstrated that the Comina and Comini are not the same surname, and that these families are unrelated (or at least not within traceable history). We also looked at some earlier appearances of the surname in the parishes of Malé and Caldes.

Next, we moved on to discuss the Comini of Cassana, noting how there were actually two separate Comini families:

  • the older line (in Cassana from at least the 1400s), known by the soprannome ‘de Sera’ / ‘a Sera’, from which arose the famed ‘Comini de Sonnenberg’ family, and
  • the Comini who were granted the right of vicinia in 1603, who did not use this

While it is certainly possible these two lines had an ancient familial connection before the arrival of the ‘de Sera’ line in Cassana, as family historians, we must take care not to confound these two lines in our research.

After discussing the noble title of Michel Udalrico Comini de Sonnenberg, I shared a few short biographies of members of the ‘de Sera’ and ‘de Sonnenberg’ lines, which I felt were either historically significant or simply interesting. Genealogy becomes merely an academic exercise without at least a few personal stories from the past.

Like any other family, branches of the Comini migrated beyond their ‘home base’ over the centuries. If you search for the surname ‘Comini’ on the Nati in Trentino website, which shows births in Trentino between 1815-1923, you will find Comini living in other parishes besides San Giacomo. But when you dig more deeply, you will find many (if not most) of these lines will eventually lead back to the Comini of Cassana.66 Thus, becoming well-acquainted with the available records, surnames and soprannomi of the parish of San Giacomo are paramount when researching this family.

Lack of early parish records (including a lost register from the early 1600s), and the patchiness of available legal documents, are two of the unavoidable handicaps that genealogists and local historians must work around when researching the Comini. In light of these handicaps, I wish to stress that I am prepared to say ‘I don’t know the answer’ to some of the questions presented in this article. Too many mistakes persist when historians simply accept ‘facts’ from past research as ‘true’ without cross-checking the evidence. I believe it is the responsibility of any good historian to accept ambiguity as part of the picture, rather than try to make things ‘fit’ because we are uncomfortable with the unknown.

No history, including family history, is ever completely and indisputably ‘true’. While some things may be provable enough to accept them as ‘probably true’, most will be open to some degree of interpretation. Thus, all we can do is keep looking, learning, and trying to understand the distant echoes of the past, through whatever fragments of evidence our ancestors may have left behind.

======

This research is part of a book in progress entitled Guide to Trentino Surnames for Genealogists and Family Historians. I hope you follow me on the journey as I research and write this book; it will probably be a few years before it comes out, and it is likely to end up being a multi-volume set.

If you liked this article and would like to receive future articles from Trentino Genealogy, be sure to subscribe to this blog using the form below.

Until next time!

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
30 October 2021

P.S. I have finally booked a trip to Trento for February-March 2022, but my client roster filled up for that trip in less than 8 hours! 

THE GOOD NEWS IS: I have MANY resources for research here in my home library, and I am able to do research for many clients without having to travel to Trento. My client roster is fully booked through the January 2022, but I am now taking bookings for spring 2022.

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

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REFERENCES

    1. BERTOLUZZA, Aldo. 1998. Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino. Trento: Società Iniziative Editoriali (S.R.L.)., page 95.
    2. GUELFI, Adriano Camaiani. 1964. Famiglie nobili del Trentino. Genova: Studio Araldico di Genova, page 39.
    3. TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. 2005. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine. Trento: Società di Studi Trentini di Scienze Storiche, page 93.
    4. Comini. Accessed 21 October 2021 from https://www.cognomix.it/mappe-dei-cognomi-italiani/COMINI.
    5. Comina. Accessed 21 October 2021 from https://www.cognomix.it/mappe-dei-cognomi-italiani/COMINA.
    6. CITY POPULATION. Population for regions of Lombardia and Trentino-Alto Adige. Accessed 29 October 2021 from https://www.citypopulation.de/en/italy/admin/03__lombardia/ and https://www.citypopulation.de/en/italy/trentinoaltoadige/
    7. ‘Province of Brescia’. Reported population of the province of Brescia was 1,265,964 as of January 2019. ‘Trentino’. Reported population of province of Trentino of 541,098 in 2019. Accessed 26 October 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Province_of_Brescia and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trentino.
    8. CICCOLINI, Giovanni. 1935. ‘Immigrati lombardi in Val di Sole nei secoli XIV, XV e XVI’. Archivio Storico Lombardo: Giornale della società storica lombarda (1935 dic, Serie 7, Fascicolo 2- 3 e 4), pages 376-432. Accessed 20 October 2021 from http://emeroteca.braidense.it/eva/sfoglia_articolo.php?IDTestata=26&CodScheda=113&CodVolume=801&CodFascicolo=2148&CodArticolo=61692 .
    9. CICCOLINI, Giovanni, ‘Immigrati’, page 428. ‘Precasai’ refers to Precasaglio, which is a frazione in the comune of Ponte di Legno, in upper Val Camonica, in the province of Brescia.
    10. BERTOLUZZA, Aldo. 1998, page 95.
    11. TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. 2005, page 93.
    12. CASETTI, Albino. 1951. Guida Storico – Archivistica del Trento. Trento: Tipografia Editrice Temi (S.R.L.). page 524.
    13. CASETTI, Albino. 1951, page 200.
    14. COOPERATIVA KOINÈ. 2004. Parrocchia di San Giorgio in Peio. Inventario dell’archivio storico (1409 – 1953) e degli archivi aggregati (1458 – 1973). Provincia autonoma di Trento. Soprintendenza per i Beni librari e archivistici. Page 6, 34.
    15. TURRINI, Fortunato. 1996. Carte di Peio. Centro Studi per la Val di Sole. Pergamena number 646 dated 30 September 1516, cited on page 153.
    16. TURRINI, Fortunato, pages 157-162. In the Section on the Carta di Regola of 1522.
    17. TURRINI, Fortunato, page 155. Pergamena n. 199 in Peio on 9 January 1580.
    18. TURRINI, Fortunato, page 157. Pergamena n. 209 in Peio on 10 September 1597.
    19. Malé parish records, baptisms, volume 2, page 10. 13 April 1595: Baptism of Antonio, son of Pietro Comina of Peio in the parish of Ossana, living in Malé.
    20. Malé parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 15. 4 August 1554: Baptism of Barbara, daughter of Bartolomeo Comin of Malé.
    21. Malé parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 115. 11 February 1571: Baptism of Cristoforo, son Bartolomeo, son of Giovanni Comin of Malé.
    22. CICCOLINI, Giovanni. 1939. Inventari e Regesti degli Archivi Parrocchiali della Val di Sole. Volume 2: La pieve di Malé. Trento: Temi-Tipografia Editrice. Page 185, regesto: n. 180.
    23. CICCOLINI, Giovanni. 1939. Volume 2, Malé, page 186, regesto: n. 181.
    24. Malé parish records, baptisms, volume 2, page 132. 2 June 1616: Baptism of Domenica, daughter of Bartolomeo, son of Simone Comini of Malé.
    25. PROVINCIA AUTONOMA DI TRENTO. ‘Costituzione di senso, 6 December 1551, Terzolas’. Bartolomeo, son of the late Baldassare “Comin” of Caldes’ grants the use of some grazing and farming land he owns in Cassana to a Domenico Claser of Almazzago. Archivi Storici del Trentino. Accessed 9 October 2021 from https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/50274.
    26. CICCOLINI, Giovanni. 1965 (reprint). Inventari e Regesti degli Archivi Parrocchiali della Val di Sole. Volume 3: La Pieve di Livo. Page 92, pergamena 184.
    27. CICCOLINI, Giovanni. 1965. Volume 3, Livo, page 75, pergamena 134.
    28. CICCOLINI, Giovanni. 1965. Volume 3, Livo, page 76-77, pergamena 140. The document does not directly deal with Giacomo, but it mentions his property as being adjacent to another under discussion.
    29. CICCOLINI, Giovanni. 1965. Volume 3, Livo, page 81, pergamena 151.
    30. CICCOLINI, Giovanni. 1965. Volume 3, Livo, page 81, pergamena 152. Cites Marco Antonio a Sera when he provides an estimate for a piece of land in Cassana, 5 December 1557.
    31. CICCOLINI, Giovanni. 1965. Volume 3, Livo, page 82-83, pergamena 156. Marco Antonio a Sera mentioned as owning property adjacent to another being sold on 29 January 1559.
    32. CICCOLINI, Giovanni. 1965. Volume 3, Livo, page 82, pergamena 154. Marco Antonio, son of the late Giacomo Dalla Sera of Cassana shown as paying a debt on 18 April 1558.
    33. CICCOLINI, Giovanni. 1965. Volume 3, Livo, page 84, pergamena 161.
    34. CICCOLINI, Giovanni. 1965. Volume 3, Livo, page 84, pergamena 161.
    35. CICCOLINI, Giovanni. 1965. Volume 3, Livo, page 95, pergamena 193.
    36. TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. 2005, page 93.
    37. PROVINCIA AUTONOMA DI TRENTO. ‘Cessione a soluzione di debito, 16 October 1542, Castel Caldes’. In this document, there is a blacksmith Mag. Giovanni Antonio, son of the late Giacomo, originally from Val Seriana in the bishopric of Bergamo, living in Cassana, selling a house. One could go out on a limb and conjecture that said ‘Giacomo’ becomes ‘Giacomini’ and then ‘Comini’, but the timing is off, as the ‘a Sera’ line was already in Cassana for at least 40 years by this point. Archivi Storici del Trentino. Accessed 22 October 2021 from https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/49984 .
    38. Caldes parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 80-81. 15 December 1633. Baptism of Marino, son of Baldassare Comini de Sera (living in) Samoclevo.
    39. Malé parish records, baptisms, volume 2, page 54. 3 September 1601, baptism of Domenica Pancheri of Samoclevo, daughter of Bartolomeo and Cattarina.
    40. This is a screenshot from a family tree I have constructed using Family Tree Maker software.
    41. TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. 2005, page 93. Tabarelli de Fatis, page 93] Note that the initials ‘S.R.I.’ are often used to indicate imperial nobility. The initials stand for ‘Sacro Romano Impero’, i.e., Holy Roman Empire.
    42. MOSCA, Alberto. 2015. Caldes: Storia di Una Nobile Comunità. Pergine Valsugana (Trentino, Italy): Nitida Immagine Editrice. Page 271.
    43. TYROLEAN COAT OF ARMS. The Fischnal coat of arms index. ‘Comini.’  Innsbruck: Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum. Accessed 24 October 2021 at https://wappen.tiroler-landesmuseen.at/index34a.php?id=&do=&wappen_id=7185
    44. GUELFI, Adriano Camaiani. 1964, page 39.
    45. TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. 2005, page 93.
    46. San Giacomo parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 106. 25 February 1766. Baptism of Michele Udalrico Comini ‘a Sera’ of Cassana.
    47. San Giacomo parish records, deaths, volume 1, no page number. 28 Nov 1783. Death record of Michele Udalrico Comini a Serra, who drowned at age 17.
    48. San Giacomo parish records, deaths, volume 1, no page number. 12 Aug 1784, death record of Antonio Comini de Serra.
    49. MOSCA, Alberto. 2015, page 271-272.
    50. Pellagra was an often-fatal disease running rampant in Trentino in the 18th and 19th Arising from a severe niacin deficiency, it was typically caused by a diet lacking in diversity, which was too dependent upon corn (corn that is not first cut with lime can leach niacin from the body). For more information on this disease, I recommend the book A Plague of Corn by Daphne Roe.
    51. MOSCA, Alberto. 2015, page 271-272.
    52. MOSCA, Alberto. 2015, page 271-272.
    53. CASSIGOLI, Andrea. ‘Ludwig von Comini zu Sonnenberg’. Geni website. Accessed 18 October 2021 from https://www.geni.com/people/Ludwig-von-Comini-zu-Sonnenberg/6000000090531034210.
    54. ‘Ludwig von Comini’. Accessed 18 October 2021 from https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_von_Comini
    55. CASSIGOLI, Andrea. ‘Ludwig von Comini zu Sonnenberg’.
    56. Photo of Ludwig Comini von Sonnenberg taken around 1860 by an unknown photographer. Public domain. Accessed 18 October 2021 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30588371
    57. WEBER, Simone; RASMO, Nicolò. 1977. Artisti Trentini e Artisti Che Operarono Nel Trentino. Trento: Monauni. Originally published in 1933, this is the 2nd edition. Page 104.
    58. BEZZI, Quirino. 1975. La Val di Sole. Malè (Trentino): Centro Studi per la Val di Sole. Page 271.
    59. San Giacomo parish records, baptisms, volume 1, page 82. 15 October 1734. Baptismal record of Maria Cattarina Comini de Sera. Note that the record erroneously calls her father ‘Giovanni Michele’ and her mother ‘Anna Cattarina’. The note about her murder is written in the upper left corner.
    60. San Giacomo parish records, deaths, volume 1, no page number. 20 October 1799. Death record of Maria Cattarina Comini de Sera, who was strangled in her own home.
    61. BONI, Guido. 1937. ‘Origini e memorie della chiesa plebana di Tione’. Studi Trentini di Scienze Storiche, 1937-1938. Boni’s paper is spread out across four issues of the magazine. Part 3 accessed 20 October 2021 from http://pressviewpat.immanens.com/it/pvPageH5B.asp?skin=pvw&puc=002017&pa=306&nu=1938#292 and Part 4 from http://pressviewpat.immanens.com/it/pvPageH5B.asp?skin=pvw&puc=002017&pa=306&nu=1938#292
    62. PARROCCHIA TIONE DI TRENTO. ‘La Nostra Storia e del Nostro Paese’. Accessed 25 October 2021 from http://www.parrocchiationeditrento.it/2013/12/la-nostra-storia-e-del-nostro-paese.html
    63. BONI, Guido. 1937. Part 3, page 193.
    64. BONI, Guido. 1937. Part 4, page 263-264. All of the following anecdotes are from these pages.
    65. San Giacomo parish records, deaths, volume 2, no page number. 29 July 1822. Death of Rev Giovanni Andrea Comini, former parroco of Tione.
    66. For example, Vigilio Antonio Comini, who was born in Cis on 26 July 1841 was the son of Antonio Comini from Cassana (Cis parish records, baptisms, volume 3, page 39); Grazioso Tommaso Comini born in Livo on 10 December 1907 was the son of Silvio Comini of Cassana (Livo parish records, baptisms, volume 5, page 144).

RESOURCES

NOTE: In addition to the resources listed below, I also utilised the parish registers for San Giacomo, Malé, Caldes, Livo, and Cis.

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

BEZZI, Quirino. 1975. La Val di Sole. Malè (Trentino): Centro Studi per la Val di Sole.

BONI, Guido. 1937. ‘Origini e memorie della chiesa plebana di Tione’. Studi Trentini di Scienze Storiche, 1937-1938. Boni’s paper is spread out across four issues of the magazine. Part 3 accessed 20 October 2021 from http://pressviewpat.immanens.com/it/pvPageH5B.asp?skin=pvw&puc=002017&pa=306&nu=1938#292 and Part 4 from http://pressviewpat.immanens.com/it/pvPageH5B.asp?skin=pvw&puc=002017&pa=306&nu=1938#292

CASETTI, Albino. 1951. Guida Storico – Archivistica del Trento. Trento: Tipografia Editrice Temi (S.R.L.).

CASSIGOLI, Andrea. ‘Ludwig von Comini zu Sonnenberg’. Geni website. Accessed 18 October 2021 from https://www.geni.com/people/Ludwig-von-Comini-zu-Sonnenberg/6000000090531034210.

COGNOMIX. Comina. Accessed 21 October 2021 from https://www.cognomix.it/mappe-dei-cognomi-italiani/COMINA.

COGNOMIX. Comini. Accessed 21 October 2021 from https://www.cognomix.it/mappe-dei-cognomi-italiani/COMINI.

CICCOLINI, Giovanni. 1935. ‘Immigrati lombardi in Val di Sole nei secoli XIV, XV e XVI’. Archivio Storico Lombardo: Giornale della società storica lombarda (1935 dic, Serie 7, Fascicolo 2- 3 e 4), pages 378-432. Accessed 20 October 2021 from http://emeroteca.braidense.it/eva/sfoglia_articolo.php?IDTestata=26&CodScheda=113&CodVolume=801&CodFascicolo=2148&CodArticolo=61692 .

CICCOLINI, Giovanni. 1939. Inventari e Regesti degli Archivi Parrocchiali della Val di Sole. Volume 2: La pieve di Malé. Trento: Temi-Tipografia Editrice.

CICCOLINI, Giovanni. 1965 (reprint). Inventari e Regesti degli Archivi Parrocchiali della Val di Sole. Volume 3: La Pieve di Livo. Trento: Temi-Tipografia Editrice.

COOPERATIVA KOINÈ. 2004. Parrocchia di San Giorgio in Peio. Inventario dell’archivio storico (1409 – 1953) e degli archivi aggregati (1458 – 1973). Provincia autonoma di Trento. Soprintendenza per i Beni librari e archivistici.

CULTURA TRENTINO. ‘Gli affreschi ritrovati nella chiesa di S. Tommaso a Cassana.’ Photos of restored frescos in the Church of San Tommaso in Cassana. Accessed 20 October 2021 from https://www.cultura.trentino.it/Rubriche/Restauri-in-evidenza-fra-pubblico-e-privato/Gli-affreschi-ritrovati-nella-chiesa-di-S.-Tommaso-a-Cassana

GUELFI, Adriano Camaiani. 1964. Famiglie nobili del Trentino. Genova: Studio Araldico di Genova.

MOSCA, Alberto. 2015. Caldes: Storia di Una Nobile Comunità. Pergine Valsugana (Trentino, Italy): Nitida Immagine Editrice.

PARROCCHIA TIONE DI TRENTO. ‘La Nostra Storia e del Nostro Paese’. Accessed 25 October 2021 from http://www.parrocchiationeditrento.it/2013/12/la-nostra-storia-e-del-nostro-paese.html

PROVINCIA AUTONOMA DI TRENTO. ‘Cessione a soluzione di debito, 16 October 1542, Castel Caldes’. Accessed 22 October 2021 from https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/49984 .

PROVINCIA AUTONOMA DI TRENTO. ‘Costituzione di senso, 6 December 1551, Terzolas’. Archivi Storici del Trentino. Accessed 9 October 2021 from https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/50274.

PROVINCIA AUTONOMA DI TRENTO. ‘Nati in Trentino’. Online database of Trentino births between 1815-1923. Accessed from https://www.natitrentino.mondotrentino.net/

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

STENICO, P. Remo. 2000. Sacerdoti della Diocesi di Trento dalla sua Esistenza Fino all’Anno 2000.

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

TRENTINO CULTURA. ‘Gli affreschi ritrovati nella chiesa di S. Tommaso a Cassana’. Accessed 12 October 2021 from https://www.cultura.trentino.it/Rubriche/Restauri-in-evidenza-fra-pubblico-e-privato/Gli-affreschi-ritrovati-nella-chiesa-di-S.-Tommaso-a-Cassana

TURRINI, Fortunato. 1996. Carte di Peio. Centro Studi per la Val di Sole.

TYROLEAN COAT OF ARMS. The Fischnal coat of arms index. ‘Comini.’  Innsbruck: Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum. Accessed 24 October 2021 at https://wappen.tiroler-landesmuseen.at/index34a.php?id=&do=&wappen_id=7185

WEBER, Simone; RASMO, Nicolò. 1977. Artisti Trentini e Artisti Che Operarono Nel Trentino. Trento: Monauni. Originally published in 1933, this is the 2nd edition.

WIKIMEDIA. Photo of Ludwig Comini von Sonnenberg taken around 1860 by an unknown photographer. Public domain. Accessed 18 October 2021 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30588371

WIKIPEDIA. ‘Province of Brescia’. Accessed 26 October 2021 at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Province_of_Brescia.

WIKIPEDIA. ‘Trentino’. Accessed 26 October 2021 at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trentino.

Origins of the Many MAFFEI Families of Trentino – Theories and Evidence

Origins of the Many MAFFEI Families of TrentinoGenealogist Lynn Serafinn explores the fascinating and diverse origins theories of the Maffei families of Trentino, balancing documented evidence against family lore.

I am endlessly fascinated with Trentino surnames and their intricate histories. I see them as windows into the past, and into the lives our ancestors many centuries ago. Some Trentino surnames have a unique point of origin, in that we can identify clearly when and where they first appeared in the province, either within a family already living in Trentino, or when a specific family migrated into a parish or the province from elsewhere. But some Trentino surnames have multiple histories, in that they appear in our province in different places, at different times, and from different ancestral lines. One of those surnames is Maffei, which is the subject of today’s article.

The history of the Maffei surname is difficult to pin down, as it appears in so many parts of the province, and indeed in other parts of the Italian peninsula. In fact, it is far more commonly found outside Trentino, especially in Toscana (Tuscany), Lombardia (Lombardy), and even to the south in Campagna. Trying to form a ‘unified theory’ linking all these Maffei families together is not only an exercise in futility, but pointless (as there is no single history), as I aim to illustrate in this article.

Moreover, so many of these lines have their own ‘family lore’, rendering their own versions of their histories, which often conflict with the lore of other families and/or documented evidence. Sifting through all these conflicting ‘histories’ isn’t easy, especially if you are dealing with Latin or Italian sources that may be many hundreds of years old.

In this article, we will explore a range of ‘origin stories’ for many of the Maffei families of Trentino, with particular focus on the families of Val di Sole, Val Rendena, Val Giudicarie, Val D’Adige, Val di Cembra, and finally, Val di Non. In all cases, I have drawn upon the writings of various authors, the pergamene (legal parchments) held in the archives of various towns and parishes in Trentino, and my own research using the parish registers of the parishes I will discuss. Please bear in mind that NONE the sources I have consulted are in English, and I have translated and paraphrased them for this article, without citing the original text, for the sake of making the text flow more naturally to my readers. I have listed the sources at the end of this article, and I have linked to them as I have cited them throughout.

Linguistic Origins of the Surname Maffei

In his Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino1, linguistic historian Aldo Bertoluzza tells us that the surname Maffei is a patronymic (i.e., a surname based on the personal name of the family’s patriarch), derived from the man’s name ‘Maffeo’, a variant of ‘Matteo’, and the equivalent of the name ‘Matthew’ in English.

While many other surnames share this linguistic root (such as Mafezzoli, Meffezzoni, Maffi, Maffini, Maffioletti, Maffioli, et. al.), they are not historically/ancestrally connected to Maffei, nor to each other.

Patronymics are typically based upon the Latin root of the personal name. In this case, the Latin version of ‘Maffeo’ is ‘Mapheus’, which is a ‘2nd declension’ masculine noun. In early documents, you are likely to see the surname written in its Latin form, i.e., ‘Maphea’, ‘Maphei’, ‘Maphé, ‘Mapheus’, or another variant. Later, the root evolved into its Italian form ‘Maffe-‘, as the consonant blend ‘ph’ is not used in Italian.

The root of Mapheus is Maphe- (or Maffe- in Italian), i.e., without the final ‘-us’. If you then add the letter ‘i’ to the end of this root, it becomes the genitive form of the noun, taking on the meaning ‘of Maffeo’ or ‘belonging to Maffeo’ or, more simply, ‘Maffeo’s’. This is one reason why you see so many Italian surnames ending in the letter ‘i’.

Thus, the surname Maffei essentially means ‘[the family] belonging to [a man named] Maffeo’.

Dispersion of the Surname in Trentino

Because patronymic surnames are based upon personal names, it is not uncommon to see identical patronymics appear in different parts of the province (and indeed in other parts of Italy), and the surname Maffei is no exception.

Over the past half-millennium, the Maffei surname has appeared in numerous places in Trentino including Aldeno, Arco, Brez, Calliano, Cembra, Cles, Cloz, Denno, Fondo, Garniga, Isera, Lavis, Molina di Ledro, Mori, Nomi, Peio, Pinzolo, Pomarolo, Revò, Romallo, Rovereto, Santa Croce del Bleggio, Stenico, Tassullo, Termenago, Villa Lagarina, and the city of Trento.

In the book on Trentino nobility entitled Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine2, historians Tabarelli de Fatis and Borelli state, ‘it is not easy to establish whether [the Maffei families of Trentino] all come from the same origins.’ Based on my own research, I can state definitively that, while some Maffei lines are ancestrally connected, many others appear to be independent of the others, with possibly only remote historical connection, if any.

Family Origins – Many Tales, Many Theories

It is generally accepted that all Maffei families of Trentino were not originally from that province, but they had migrated there from someplace else on the Italian peninsula. Beyond this general idea, however, many different ‘origin myths’ have been passed down via family stories throughout the centuries. And once a family has ‘adopted’ a specific version of their ancestry, it is difficult for them to accept a different story, even if it is provable through documentation.

The overarching ‘family story’ common to many of the more ancient Maffei of Trentino – and one that is also shared by Aldo Bertoluzza3  – is that they were forced to flee their native homeland someplace in Toscana (Tuscany), during the conflicts between the Guelphs and Ghibellines, sometime between 1075-1122.

As to the point of origin in Toscana, historian Roberto Pancheri (I Maffei: Una Storia Ritrovata4 ) says many believe it to be Pistoia, which is about 25 miles northwest of Firenze (Florence) in Toscana. However, in his Dizionario Storico-Blasonico delle Famiglie Nobili E Notabili Italiane Estinte E Fiorenti5 , nineteenth-century historian G.B. Crollalanza tells us of a noble Maffei family of Volterra (an ancient walled town about 53 miles southwest of Firenze), who fled their homeland during the conflicts of the Guelphs and Ghibellines (although does not say where they are supposed to have gone). He does not mention this flight in any of his other entries for Maffei.

Regarding where they fled, the majority of these stories say the ultimate destination was in or near Valtellina, in the present-day region of Lombardia, but there are varying accounts of how they got there. While some say they fled directly to Lombardia, Bertoluzza and others say the Maffei first took refuge in Verona. After a few centuries, they reportedly participated in the battle of Agnadello in 1509 under the flag of the Republic of Venice, only to be forced to emigrate once again to the provinces of Como and Valtellina in Lombardia, after the Venetians fell in that battle. Other lines claim they either left Toscana to, or originated from, various points in Emilia-Romagna, including Bologna and Ferrara, before emigrating to Lombardia.

I personally believe that the presence of so many conflicting ‘origin stories’ comes down to one simple fact: there is no single history for all the Maffei families in Trentino, for the simple reason that they are not all ancestrally connected. Or, if they do share a common history, that connection is so remote, we would be hard-pressed to find documented evidence to prove it.

‘Maffeus of ‘Milan’– Early Indications of Maffei in Northwest Trentino

In Notai Che Operarono Nel Trentino dall’Anno 845, which is a list of notaries who worked in Trentino throughout the centuries, historian and priest P. Remo Stenico cites a document from 1364 that mentions a ‘Maffeus quondam Georgii de Mediolano notarius’, i.e., ‘Maffeo, son of the late Giorgio of Milano, notary’.6 Surely Stenico is referring to the same man mentioned a document from Villa Rendena, dated 4 December 1364, which describes a ‘Maffeo, son of Giorgio of Bernareggio (Milano)’.7 Although the name ‘Maffeo’ here is not used as a surname, it may be a reference to a member (and possibly the original patriarch) of the family who would later be known as ‘Maffei’.

The word ‘Mediolano’ (also ‘Mediolanensis’) refers to Milano (Milan) in the region of Lombardia. These days, Bernareggio is a comune in the Province of Monza e Brianza in Lombardia; but here, we see it was considered part of ‘Milano’ during this era. It is essential to understand that ‘Milano’ in the past would not necessarily have referred to the city of Milan, nor to the present-city province of Milan, but to what was then an official ‘district’ known by that name, or perhaps even to the wider Duchy of Milan, which covered a massive geographical area during the medieval era. Alternatively, in church documents, the word might sometimes refer to the diocese of Milan, rather than the civil state.

Half a century or so later, in a document dated 21 March 1404 in the Celledizzo in Peio in Val di Sole, a man referred to as ‘Romedio, son of the late Maffei called ‘Targe’ of Valtellina from the district of ‘Mediolanensis’ is cited as a witness to the drafting of a legal document.8 Today, Valtellina is in the province of Sondrio in Lombardia, be we can see clearly from this document that Valtellina was also considered part of the greater district of Milano during this era.

The next witness in the document is a blacksmith named Martino, from ‘the said valley’ (i.e., Valtellina), ‘now living in the village of Cogolo, a frazione (hamlet) in the comune (municipality or town) of Peio’. The words are abbreviated, but it seems to suggest that Romedio also lived in Cogolo.

Admittedly, the wording of this document makes it unclear as to whether ‘Maffei’ is Romedio’s surname and ‘Targe’ is his soprannome (family clan nickname), or his father’s name was Maffeo, and the surname was Targe. But given the fact that it is widely believed that so many Maffei families have their origins from somewhere in Lombardia, and given the fact that we find families using the surname Maffei established in both Val Rendena and nearby Termenago in Val di Sole a century or so later (as we will discuss presently), I feel these documents suggest that some of the founding fathers of the Maffei lines in this part of Trentino were already present in the province by the late 1300s.

Maffei of Termenago

Termenago is in Val di Sole (highlighted in yellow below), the northwestern-most valley the province of Trentino. The western borders of Val di Sole and Giudicarie Interiore (which includes Val Rendena), as well as part of Alto Gardo with Valle di Ledro, touch the eastern border of the region of Lombardia.

MAP - Val di Sol in the province of Trentino

click on image to see it larger

NOTE: All maps in this article were taken from the book Toponomastica Trentina: I Nomi delle Località Abitate by Giulia Mastrelli Anzilotti (2003),9 with my highlighting added.

Termenago is both the name of a frazione and a curazia.

A frazione is a ‘hamlet’, which is part of a comune (town or municipality). Today, Termenago is a frazione of the comune of Pellizzano. The map belong shows the position of the comune of Pellizzano (highlighted in yellow) within Val di Sole. I have also highlighted Peio (in pink), which I mentioned in the previous section of this article:

MAP: Val di Sole in Trentino, with Pellizzano and Peio highlighted

click on image to see it larger

A curate church/parish (curazia) is a kind of ‘satellite’ parish, subordinate to the primary ‘mother’ parish church. In this case, Termenago is the curazia of the parish of Ossana, which you can see just to the west of the comune of Pellizzano on this map.

Although the surviving birth and marriage registers for the curate of Termenago do not go beyond the year 1609, we know from other archived materials that the Maffei were well established as citizens of Termenago by the late 1500s.

The earliest reference to the Maffei amongst the archives for that parish is for a Zanino Maffei of Termenago in a parchment dated 11 December 1600, in which he is referred to as a ‘giurato’ (juror),10 indicating he was on the panel of men who collectively formed and approved the local laws for the community. Later, a parchment dated 9 June 1675, we see reference to a Salvatore Maffei, who is referred to as a ‘regolano’ (a higher rank than giurato)11, indicating he was on the panel of men who drafted and enforced the local rules. This level of prestige continued into the 18th century, with a Fabiano Maffei also cited as a regolano of Termenago in a parchment from 10 July 1759.12

So far, the only time I have seen reference to nobility for the Maffei of Termenago is in a document dated 19 November 1705, which mentions ‘the noble Giovanni Maffei’13, who practised as a notary at least between the years 1695-170514.

We see the Maffei in Termenago at least through the end of the 1800s, but it appears the name died out there sometime towards the beginning of the 20th century.

Fabiano Maffei – Curate of Termenago

In the archives for Termenago, the name of one particular Maffei recurs repeatedly in documents from the latter half of the 1600s: the Reverend Fabiano Maffei, who served as the curate (equivalent of a pastor) of Pellizzano (ca. 1667), and then of Termenago from 1673 until his death on 3 April 1705.15

During his more than three decades of service, he compiled a book of legacies (gifts of some kind) that had been granted to the curate of Termenago in people’s Wills, which his successors continued after his death.16

Upon his passing, the Noble Giovanni Maffei, notary, who was the paternal nephew of Rev. Fabiano, set up a legacy in the name of his late uncle that would provide marriage dowries for girls in the curate whose families were too poor to provide them with one.17

Maffei of Pinzolo

Pinzolo is at the northernmost tip of Val Rendena (often considered part of Val Giudicarie Interiore), just on the border of Val di Sole, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of Termenago. In the map below, I have highlighted Pinzolo in yellow, with its southern neighbour of Caderzone (which I will discuss shortly) highlighted in pink:

MAP: Val Giudicarie Interiore, with Pinzolo and Caderzone highlighted

click on image to see it larger

The parish records for Pinzolo date back to the year 1630, and earlier records (back to 1562) can be found in those for Spiazzo Rendena. While I have not worked much with those records, we know from parchments in that parish that families with the surname Maffei were well established there at least by the early 1500s, as evidenced by a document dated 25 June 1556, which refers to a Bartolomeo, son of the late Giovanni Maffei, sindaco (mayor) of the villages of Pinzolo and Baldino.18 To have attained enough local status to have be chosen as sindaco, the family surely would have been in Pinzolo by the beginning of that century.

My colleague James Caola, who has done extensive research of the families of Pinzolo, sent me this baptismal record for a Cattarina Maffei19, born in the frazione of Baldino in the parish of Pinzolo, and baptised on 21 March 1635, whose father Pietro used the soprannome ‘Bergamasco’ (alternatively ‘Bergamaschi’):

21 March 1635. Baptismal record of Cattarina, daughter of Pietro Maffei of Baldino di Pinzolo, called ‘Bergamaschi’, and his legitimate wife, Rosa.click on image to see it larger

Interestingly, Crollalanza tells us there was a noble family in Verona called ‘Mafei-Bergamascha’20, but the only information he provides is a description of their stemma, and any online research I have done on this family has only resulted in references to this same sparse entry in Crollalanza’s Dizionario. In his book on nobility from the provinces of Veneto published in 1803, author Francesco Schröder discusses three different Maffei lines of Verona – one of which were already ennobled before 1405 and had attained the rank of Marquis in the year 1650. He mentions two other noble Maffei families of Verona, one of which was awarded the title of Count in 1423, and the other in 1618. 21 In none of these cases does he mention the predicate ‘Bergamascha’.

Surely, this same combination of names in Pinzolo makes it tempting to draw the conclusion that the family had a connection to this noble family of Verona. But, without any indication of nobility or place of origin in the Pinzolo records, it could just as easily be a ‘red herring’, and ‘Bergamaschi’ could be a soprannome indicating some sort of connection to Bergamo, which is both a province and a city in the region of Lombardia. James Caola further points out this could be an indirect link, rather than an indication of place of origin. He suggests, ‘It might mean someone in the family had married [a woman] from Bergamo, or had business there, or did seasonal emigration for work there’. Hopefully, further research can tell us more.

James also tells me that even by this time, there were at least four other major groups of Maffei families in Pinzolo and Carisolo, the largest being the ‘Bagionel’ line, from which a great many of today’s branches in Pinzolo descend.

In his list of Maffei personages of note, Aldo Bertoluzza mentions an Angelo Francesco Maffei of Pinzolo (1844-1899), who was a Jesuit missionary in India and Albania, and the author of a dictionary and a grammar of the Albanian language.22

Stenico list two Pinzolo Maffei notaries, both of Baldino, the elder being Giacomo Maffei, son of Giovanni, who was active in his trade at least between 1687-1730.23

Maffei of Caderzone

Southwest of and adjacent to Pinzolo lies the comune of Caderzone (see pink highlighted section in map above).

In the archives for this comune, we find a parchment dated 17 May 1492 that mentions a ‘Pasotto, son of the late Martino Maffei of Caderzone, mayor (sindaco) of the community of Caderzone’.24

Again, Pasotto or his late father Martino been new arrivals in Caderzone, the record would say ‘of such-and-such place, living in Caderzone’. The fact that this does not say this, and the fact that Pasotto is the sindaco of the community, would surely indicate this Maffei line were present in Caderzone at least by the middle of the 1400s.

SPECULATION: Given the dates of these documents, and the proximity of these locations, I would be tempted to guess that there is some sort of historical connection between the Maffei families of Termenago, Caderzone and Pinzolo, which would then possibly also link them to ‘Romedio, son of Maffei’ who was in Peio in 1404, but I need to stress that this is just my personal speculation at this point.

Maffei of Santa Croce del Bleggio

The parish of Santa Croce del Bleggio is in Val Giudicarie, but in the half of that valley known as ‘Giudicarie Esteriore’ (exterior) and is quite a way south (and on the other side of a mountain) from Caderzone and Pinzolo.

The parish is comprised of frazioni contained within the comune of Bleggio Superiore (Bivedo, Larido, Marazzone, Balbido, Rango, Cavrasto, Madice, Cavaione, Gallio, and Marcè), highlighted in pink in the map below, and the lower part of the former comune of Bleggio Inferiore (Santa Croce, Duvredo, Vergonzo, Tignerone, Cillà, Villa, Sesto, Biè, Comighello, Bono, Cares, and Ponte Arche), highlighted in yellow:

Map: Val Giudicarie Esteriore, with Bleggio highlighted (made in 2003, so it is slightly different today)Click on image to see it larger

On January 1, 2010, Bleggio Inferiore was merged with Lomaso to create a new municipality of Comano Terme, which is not shown on this map, as Anzilotti’s book (from which I have scanned these images) was published in 2003. The area which the parish serves, however, has not changed. In fact, with the exception of the fact that a small frazione called Saone was included as part of the parish up to the 1600s (but has since been an independent curate), the parish has remained the same for at least the past 600 years.

I am most familiar with Santa Croce, as this is where my father’s family came from, and I have been indexing those parish records now for many years.

The history of the Maffei in Santa Croce is much less ancient than, and completely separate from, the Maffei in the other parts of the province.

The surname does not appear at all in that parish until the latter decades of the 1700s.

We see a couple of random marriages in the late 1700s of Maffei from Pinzolo. One of these is Giuseppe Maffei of Pinzolo, who married Maria Baroni of the frazione of Balbido in Bleggio on 14 September 1779, and then settled in his wife’s village. A generation later, another Maffei from Pinzolo, a Giovanni Battista, married a Margherita Bombarda on 4 May 1791, and settled in Margherita’s frazione of Cares in that parish. Both couples had at least one son to carry on the family surname, but neither of these branches appears to have lasted long, as I have not been able to find any Maffei born in Santa Croce to these families in the 19th century.

from a Vincenzo Maffei, (son of Domenico), who born around 1755 in Armo in Valvestino, who married Cattarina Brocchetti from Cavrasto (daughter of Giuseppe) on 11 September 178225:

1782 marriage record of Vincenzo Maffei of Armo and Cattarina Brocchetti of Cavrasto.

Click on image to see it larger

Today, the beautiful and rugged Valvestino, which lies west of Lago di Garda, is part of the province of Brescia in Lombardia, but during this era it was considered part of the province (and diocese) of Trento. Raising their family in Cattarina’s home village, the couple had at least two sons, Giovanni Domenico (born 13 September 1784) and Giacomo Antonio (born 28 April 1787), both of whom had many children. Everyone Maffei birth in Bleggio from 1815 onwards can be traced back to this family. Some of their descendants also migrated to the coal mines of Pennsylvania in the United States in the early 20th century. I have met a few American descendants of those Maffei, and discovered they are distant cousins of mine.

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Maffei of Lavis

Lavis is a comune just north of the city of Trento in Val d’Adige, at the junction of Val di Cembra, in the central part of the province:

MAP: Comune of Val d'Adige in Trentino, with Lavis highlighted

Click on image to see it larger

Tabarelli de Fatis and Borelli tell us that the family tradition of the Maffei of Lavis holds that they originally came from Valmalenco in Lombardia26. However, they also point out that there is a document dated 1613 referring to a Giovanni Maffei in Lavis (son of Antonio, son of the late Giovanni), in which the younger Giovanni is called ‘Zuan de Voltolina’, i.e., Giovanni of Valtellina. Roberto Pancheri infers that Valmalenco was considered part of the greater area of Valtellina during this era27; they are about 25 kilometres (15 miles) away from each other.

The fact Giovanni is referred to as ‘of Valtellina’ tells us he was born there, and not in Lavis. So here we again have a reference to Valtellina, but the date of arrival (early 1600s) would indicate he was not related (or at least not identifiably) to the families of Val di Sole and Val Rendena we looked at earlier.

I have not researched this Maffei line personally, but it seems they may already have been ennobled when they arrived in Lavis, as Tabarelli de Fatis and Borelli also report that a Giovanni Giacomo Maffei of Lavis was the chief court physician and intimate adviser of Emperor Ferdinando III from 1648, and that his brother Antonio Maffei, a Doctor of Law, was the intimate adviser of the Archduke Ferdinando Carlo of Austria. These two brothers were later made Knights (Cavalieri) of the Holy Roman Empire and Conti Palatini (Palatine Counts), with the right of transmission (i.e., they could pass the title on to their heirs) on 10 February 1656.28

Maffei of Cembra

The comune of Cembra in Val di Cembra lies northeast of the city of Trento:

MAP: Val di Cembra in Trentino, with the comune of Cembra highlighted

Click on image to see it larger

Cembra really is on the opposite side of the province from the places we have looked at so far, as well as those we will explore shortly. It should come as no surprise, then, when we learn that their ‘family origin story’ says they came from a completely different place from the other Maffei families.

According to Tabarelli de Fatis and Borelli, the Maffei of Cembra claim to be descended from the Maffei of Ferrara in Emilia-Romagna, who, after the battle of Agnadello in 1509, are said to have fled their homeland to take refuges in the comune of Zogno, roughly 50 kilometres northeast of Milano in the province of Bergamo in Lombardia29. A member of this line (identified as a Bartolomeo by historian C. Giuliani30), then transferred to Cembra sometime in 1600s, thus establishing the lineage of the Cembra Maffei.

I do not yet have any additional information on this line, other than the fact that they must have been ennobled, as they are mentioned in Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine. The surname appears to have gone extinct in Cembra towards the end of the 19th century, although it is possible some Cembra Maffei migrated out of the province around that time.

Maffei of Val di Non – Overview

The last group of Maffei families we will explore are those of Val di Non, which lies east of Val di Sole and stretches northward to the border of South Tyrol (province of Bolzano). Specifically, we will be looking at three comuni: Revò (highlighted in yellow), Cles (highlighted in pink), and Fondo (highlighted in blue), as family lore (and at least some of the evidence) suggests they may all be historically connected.

MAP: Val di Non in Trentino, with Revo', Cles, and Fondo highlighted

Click on image to see it larger

Maffei of Revò

Family Origins – A Case of Chinese Whispers

Of all the Maffei family stories I have tried to piece together to date, the one for the Maffei of Revò makes my head spin, as it sometimes contradicts other historical accounts, and it frequently drives me to the limit of my willingness to suspend my disbelief.

In his book I Maffei: Una Storia Ritrovata, Roberto Pancheri tells us about a family tree manuscript held in the Maffei family archives in Revò, which claims their line is descended from an ‘Alphonsus Mediolanensis’, who had settled in Bologna in Emilia-Romagna by the year 103631. This manuscript was made in 1832 – less than 200 years ago, and some 800 years after the reputed arrival of said Alphonsus. The name ‘Alphonsus Mediolanensis’ means ‘Alfonso of Milano’. But as we have already discussed, the term ‘Milano’ in the past could have referred to a broad geographical area in what we now call the region of Lombardia, including places like Valtellina and Valmalenco, and possibly also Bergamo.

I am always naturally sceptical when I read such accounts of lineages stretching back 1,000 years or more, but the Italian Wikipedia entry for the Maffei family is even more of a stretch to credibility. The authors there (who provide a bibliography of four Italian sources dating from 1679 to 1876, but never say where they got what) claim the Maffei were an ancient house of Greece during the time of Emperor Constantine (306-337 AD). 32

Setting aside the ‘ancient Greece’ claim, if we take the Revò manuscript at its word, we are told that some man named Alfonso who lived in the early 11th century, came from somewhere in Lombardia and went to Bologna by 1036. If you have been following the other family tales in this article, you might notice that this direction seems to be against the ‘flow of traffic’ reported by other Maffei origin stories, in which the Maffei are said to have fled from interior parts of the peninsula around the end of the 1,100s, and moving to various points in Lombardia.

Are there other historical accounts that can support the story of Alfonso in the Revò manuscript? Aside from the manuscript, is there any documentation that a man, who would later be the patriarch of the Maffei line, arrived in Bologna from Lombardia sometime around 1038? Sadly, Crollalanza offers no information on any Maffei families in Emilia-Romagna, but the Wiki authors do, albeit in most confusingly. First they say the Maffei, believed to be a branch of Frankish ‘Geremia’ (or ‘Geremei’) family, settled in Bologna in the year 715. Then, a few sentences later, they say the Maffei of Bologna were descended from the ancient Maffei family of Volterra in Toscana, fleeing there around 1274 due to the conflicts between Guelphs and Ghibellines, and then later taking refuge in Verona. But then they also say they were in Bergamo by the 1200s. And never once do they say precisely where they obtained this information.

Is your head starting to spin now, too?

I am not yet sold on the story of Alfonso, but one thing we do know with certainty is that there was at least one Maffei family living in Bologna in the 1500s, as there is documented evidence of an engineer named Francesco Maffei of Bologna, who was paid by Cristoforo Madruzzo, Prince-Bishop of Trento, to level some of the streets in the city of Trento in 155033. He was again commissioned to build a bridge in 1578. But whether his family was connected to the line from which Revò Maffei claim to have come, who knows?

The Maffei manuscript in Revò further states that various illustrious personalities arose from this Bologna line, amongst whom were Antonio de Maffei, governor of the Province of Bologna, and three cardinals of the Catholic Church, namely Bernardino, Marcantonio, and Orazio Maffei, who (Crollalanza tells us) were elevated to the rank of cardinal in 1549, 1570, and 1606, respectively. However, according to Crollalanza, these three eminent cardinals were not from Bologna at all, but from the noble Maffei of Rome – a branch of the Maffei of Volterra. Crollalanza elaborates by explain that the Roman line was founded by one Benedetto Maffei, who had moved from Volterra to Rome around 1488, as evidenced by a document in which they are cited as patricians of that city.34

Setting aside any alleged ‘history’ from more than 700 years or so, I am willing to give the Revò manuscript the benefit of the doubt and accept that it probably contains at least some elements of truth. But, like a game of Chinese whispers, these truths have, over time, become a ‘mishmash’ of names, places, and chronologies.

Nonetheless, when you piece together all these fragmented and often conflicting versions of history, one persistent question seems to emerge (at least in my mind):

Is there an historical connection between the Maffei of Volterra (and/or the Maffei of Rome) and the Maffei of Bologna, and ultimately the Maffei of Val di Non?

We will return to this important question when we discuss the so-called ‘old arma’ of the Maffei of Revò, as it appears in their family archives.

The Six Sons of Maffeo Maffei

Roberto Pancheri also tells us about a detailed Maffei family tree from the 18th century, painted in oil, in the Maffei collection at Casa Campia in Revò. The painting depicts a visual history of the descendants of a ‘Maffeus de Maffeis a Ganda Vallis Malenci, oriundus Bononiae’, i.e., ‘Maffeo Maffei of Ganda in Valmalenco, [but] originally from Bologna’, who was apparently near the end of his life in 1558.35

Again, the chronology here is a bit challenging, especially when combined with the information about ‘Alfonso’ in the manuscript we just discussed. First, we heard that Alfonso came from Lombardia and went to Bologna around 1036; now we are being told a descendant of that same family left Bologna and went to Lombardia sometime before 1558.

But setting that aside, the more significant message in the painting is that, on 21 July 1558, this Maffeo Maffei is said to divided his goods amongst his six sons, who subsequently (presumably after their father’s death) went their separate ways. These sons, and their destinations, were:

  1. ANDREA: Who is said to have stayed in Valmalenco.
  2. GIACOMO: Whose descendants are said to have settled in Fondo in Val di Non.
  3. TOMMASO: Whose descendants are said to have settled in Salorno in Val d’Adige, where they went extinct after two generations.
  4. GIOVANNI: Whose descendants are said to have settled in Maiano in Cles in Val di Non, but also went extinct after two generations.
  5. ANTONIO: Whose descendants are said to have settled in Val di Cembra.
  6. PIETRO: The first born of Maffeo Maffei, who is said to be the founder of the Revò line (which went extinct in the 19th century), as well as the Cles line (which is still flourishing today).

While this is surely very colourful and makes for a great story, it does again verge on the mythic, sounding a bit like the 12 Lost Tribes of Israel to me. But, again, I am willing to accept that it may be at least partially true, at least with regards to the Val di Non families.

Trying to test the validity of this story against the surviving evidence is certainly challenging, with varying degrees of success. I cannot comment on Andrea’s line (the one that remained in Lombardia), nor on those of Tommaso and Giovanni, which are said to have gone extinct after two generations. But Antonio’s line, said to have settled in Val di Cembra, surely does not match the family lore of the Cembra families we discussed earlier (unless they are two unrelated families).

With regards to Revò (we will briefly address Cles and Fondo later), the surviving baptismal records there do not go beyond 1619, although some entries in the death records do help support the story.

One observation: If there indeed was a Maffeo Maffei, and he actually did divide his assets amongst his six sons, who later had the financial wherewithal to emigrate and set up new lives hundreds of miles from their homeland, he certainly must have had a sizeable fortune.

The Descendants of Pietro the Elder in Revò

I cannot say where Pietro’s name came from, as there does not appear to be any evidence of him in the Revò records, presumably because he was deceased before the surviving records begin. The Maffei archives, however, tell us he had a son named Andrea, whose name we do find in the parish records.

Andrea, who (according to Pancheri) was a trade merchant, died in in his own home in Revò on 18 June 1632, when he was believed to be a nonagenarian.36 This means he may have been born sometime around 1542, when his grandfather Maffeo was still alive.

18 June 1632 death record of Andrea Maffei of Revo' (Trentino)

Click image to see it larger

Pancheri tells us that Andrea’s son Jacopo (an antiquated form of ‘Giacomo’) carried on the commercial trade, eventually amassing a veritable fortune, and acquiring many farmlands, especially around Romallo. An example of one of his transactions is in a parchment dated 29 October 1626, in which Jacopo Maffei buys a plot of arable land called ‘al Pozzolino’ from a Simone Salazer (called ‘Santo Lazaro’ in the record).37 Pancheri reflects that this document demonstrates the origins of a ‘patrimonial expansion which, in a little more than two centuries, will lead the Maffei to acquire the best agricultural land in the paese.’ 38

Jacopo’s son Pietro was born in Revò on 28 April 1621. This is the first birth of a Maffei in the Revò register, as the surviving baptismal records do not go past the year 1619. In that record, it refers to Jacopo as ‘living in Revò’, inferring he had been born elsewhere.39

1621 - Baptismal record of Pietro Maffei of Revò, Trentino.

Click image to see it larger

Jacopo, who was later ennobled, died on 26 December 1668, when he was said to be 77 years old, estimating his year of birth around 1591. By this time, he is simply referred to as being ‘of Revò’.40

26 Dec 1668: Death record of the noble Jacopo (Giacomo) Maffei of Revò, Trentino.

Click image to see it larger

Diverging from the family mercantile trade, Jacopo’s son Pietro started his career as a notary by 1649.41 Pancheri tells us that, by 1669, Pietro and his family moved to into a grand house known as ‘Casa Campia’, which is so-named because tradition says it used to belong to the noble Campi family of Cles. 42 Today, this house holds the Maffei family archives, which contains Wills, dowries, division of good, legal documents, family trees, passports, autobiographical memoirs, notes about the weather, and many letters.

Nobility – The Maffei of Revò and Cles

We know with certainty that Ferdinando Maria, Imperial Vicar and Duke of Bavaria, conferred nobility of the Holy Roman Empire on the above-mentioned Jacopo Maffei of Revò, along with Giovanni Andrea and Tommaso Maffei of Cles, on 20 November 1657.43 From this point forward, the word ‘noble’ appears in most of the references to these lines in the parish registers.

Given the fact that these men were all ennobled in the same document, I can only assume they were related, although this is only inferred in Pancheri’s book. As mentioned, family lore holds that these two branches are descended from Pietro, the eldest son of Maffeo of Valtellina, but whether they were brothers, cousins, fathers/sons, or uncles/nephews, I cannot yet say. If conclusive evidence is there, it will definitely not be found in the parish registers alone.

When these Maffei men were ennobled in 1657, they were granted new stemma. It is comprised of a two-part shield. The lower half is blue with three silver roses, buttoned with gold. The upper half is a double-headed eagle, the symbol of the province of Trento, distinguishing them from the Maffei of other provinces. The quirkiest part of this new stemma is the crest at the top, which is an ‘armless gnome’, adorned with the same three silver roses found on the shield.

A painting of the ‘arma nova’, along with the date the title was granted and the names of all relevant parties, is in the Maffei family archives in Revò:

New stemma of the noble Maffei families of Revò and Cles, who were ennobled in 1657, as depicted in the Maffei archives in Revò, Val di Non, Trentino, Italy Click image to see it larger

IMPORTANT NOTE: All the images of the Maffei stemmi in this article are scans from the aforementioned book by Roberto Pancheri. Pancheri says there were three men from Cles, namely Giovanni, Andrea, and Tommaso, but after having looked closely at the punctuation in the stemma and having examined the parish register for Cles during this era, I suspect ‘Giovanni’ and ‘Andrea’ may actually one man named ‘Giovanni Andrea’.

The descendants of these men were entered into the matriculation of Tirolean nobility in 1779, and they were even recognised as nobles by the Kingdom of Italy on 4 August 1927, long after ‘nobility’ had officially been toppled in Trentino during the Napoleonic era a good century earlier.44

The ‘Old Arma’ and the Questions it Raises

In the Maffei family archives in Revò, you will also find this painting of the ‘arma vecchia’ (old coat-of-arms), purportedly the stemma the family used before they were granted imperial nobility in 1657:

Arma vecchia (old coat-of-arms) in the Maffei archives in Revò, Trentino, Italy

Click image to see it larger

The single-headed eagle at the top is the symbol of the Principality of Trento, which was then ruled by the Prince-Bishop; today, the single-headed eagle continues to be used as the emblem of the autonomous province of Trento. In contrast, the double-headed eagle in the ‘new stemma’ is the symbol of the empire, i.e., the Holy Roman Empire, Austrian Empire, or Austro-Hungarian Empire, depending on the era.

Also in the archives, you will find this painting of two Maffei stemmi, side-by-side, labelled ‘new and old’. Note how the ‘old’ stemma here does not contain the section with the eagle at the top:

Maffei of Revò stemma new and old, as seen in family archives in Revò, Trentino, ItalyClick image to see it larger

The old stemma in this side-by-side rendition is certainly intriguing, as it is identical to the stemma of Maffei of Rome as described by Crollalanza, and nearly identical to that of the ancient Maffei of Volterra, from whom the Roman line had descended. Crollalanza says the Volterra stemma has seven bands of blue and gold instead of six, but otherwise they are exactly the same. 45 This, of course, brings us back to the question we posed earlier as to whether there is an historical connection between the Maffei of Revò and those of medieval Toscana.

As we have learned, the Maffei of Revò say they came from Bologna, making no mention of an earlier connection to Volterra or Rome. Crollalanza, who published his Dizionario in 1886, makes no mention of noble Maffei family in Bologna at all, but we know do there were indeed Maffei in Bologna by the 1500s. But were they nobility, and were they connected in some way to the Toscana line? Could the Bologna line have been an extension of the Roman branch? If so, this could possibly explain why the Revò family claim they are from the same lineage as the three famous Catholic cardinals.

OR… could it all just be ‘family lore’?

Could the Maffei in Revò (or an overly ambitious artist hired by them) simply have ‘adopted’ the Toscana/Roman stemma when the other genealogical materials were created in the 18th century, possibly for the prestige of being descended from ‘ancient’ nobility?

On this issue, Pancheri points out something curious that certainly gives us pause to wonder. In the church of Santa Maria in Revò, there is a Maffei family tomb that was built in 1653, a few years before they were awarded Imperial nobility. Apparently, the tomb has an inscription that explicitly refers to the family’s Valtellina origins. But what the tomb does NOT contain is the family stemma.46 So, if this truly were the ‘vecchia arma’ of the Maffei who arrived in Val di Non only a generation or two earlier, why would they not have had this stemma engraved on their tomb?

So many questions.

The Maffei of Cles and Fondo – Brief Summary

As the Cles baptismal records begin in 1585, and the Fondo records in 1596, I cannot add much to what has already been said about the possible origins of these two lines, drawing mostly upon the traditional history suggested in the Maffei archives in Revò.

The oldest reference to the Maffei in Cles I have found are two parchments from 1599 and 1600 referring to a ‘Ser Cipriano, son of Giovanni Maffei of Valtellina, living in Cles’.47, 48 Tracing the descendants of this Cipriano in the parish registers for Cles, it becomes clear that this is the Maiano line that Roberto Pancheri says died out after two generations.

The earliest Maffei birth in the Cles register is for a girl named Alessandra, the daughter of yet another Giacomo Maffei, born on 25 May 1608. While it makes no mention of a ‘foreign’ origin for her father, others around this same era still say ‘living in Cles’.

I have found references to a Giovanni Andrea and a Tommaso Maffei, but I cannot yet be sure these are the men who were ennobled with Jacopo of Revò.

As to Fondo, the earliest baptismal record for a Maffei I have found in Fondo is for a Nicolò, son of Giovanni Maffei, born on 14 June 1599. No father is mentioned for Giovanni, and there is no inference that he came from anyplace other than Fondo.

The Question of Origins – Closing Thoughts

It seems clear to me that there is no ‘one size fits all’ history of the Maffei in Trentino. There are many different lines, some with ancestral connections to each other, and others whose connection (if there is one) would be so remote it would be next to impossible to identify. Even a large-scale Y-DNA project might not generate all the answers we seek, as there is so much conflicting information about patterns of migration, and about which branches are descended from which.

The proliferation of family lore certainly does not make our task any easier, as these tales can often conflict with other versions of history, and they sometimes even contradict themselves. And, of course, human beings sometimes just make things up, or ‘borrow’ things from other family histories, because they make their own family lore more interesting or prestigious. I have seen this happen many times, both in my own family, and in those of my clients.

But despite all the ‘fuzziness’ that inevitably arise when trying to answer questions about of our origins – whether we are talking about the origins of the Maffei family, of the human race, or of the universe itself – it really all boils down to what we feel most drawn to believe, at an individual level.

History – including family history – is never ‘etched in stone’. Far less concrete than most people imagine, historical research is always a matter of looking at as much available evidence as we can and formulating educated theories by comparing and analysing everything we have managed to find.

That said, there are at least TWO things we can definitively say are common to ALL the Maffei families of Trentino:

  1. They all came from somewhere outside the province.
  2. At some point in the distant past, they all had a patriarch named Maffeo.

This research is part of a book in progress entitled Guide to Trentino Surnames for Genealogists and Family Historians. I hope you follow me on the journey as I research and write this book; it will probably be a few years before it comes out, and it is likely to end up being a multi-volume set.

If you liked this article and would like to receive future articles from Trentino Genealogy, be sure to subscribe to this blog using the form below.

Until next time!

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
17 May 2021

P.S. Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, I am still not sure when I will be able to go back in Trento, as the international travel situation keeps changing. Fingers crossed, I will be able to go there by the end of the summer, but there really is no way of knowing for sure at the moment.   

However, I do have resources to do a fair bit of research for many clients from home, and I now have some openings for a few new client projects starting in July 2021.

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

Join our Trentino Genealogy Group on Facebook: http://facebook.com/groups/TrentinoGenealogy

Lynn on Twitter: http://twitter.com/LynnSerafinn

View my Santa Croce del Bleggio Family Tree on Ancestry:
https://trentinogenealogy.com/my-tree/

REFERENCES

  1. BERTOLUZZA, Aldo. 1998. Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino. Trento: Società Iniziative Editoriali (S.R.L.). Entry for Maffei. Pages 204-205.
  2. TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine. Trento: Società di Studi Trentini di Scienze Storiche. Entry for Maffei. Pages 177-178.
  3. BERTOLUZZA, Aldo. Pages 204-205.
  4. PANCHERI, Roberto. I Maffei: Una Storia Ritrovata. Guida alla Casa Campia e all’Archivio Maffei di Revò. Comune di Revò e Provincia Autonoma di Trento. Page 4.
  5. DI CROLLALANZA, G.B. Dizionario Storico-Blasonico delle Famiglie Nobili E Notabili Italiane Estinte E Fiorenti. Bologna: Arnaldo Forni Editore. Entries for Maffei families, Volume 2 of 3. Pages 44-45.
  6. STENICO, P. Remo. Notai Che Operarono Nel Trentino dall’Anno 845. Trento: Biblioteca San Bernardino. Page 215.
  7. Amministrazione Separata Usi Civici – Asuc Di Fisto. Schedatura delle pergamene (1305 – 1609). 4 December 1364. Villa Rendena. ‘ Copia autentica di Giovanni di Ambrogio da Giustino, Maffeo di Giorgio da Bernareggio (Milano), Domenico di Bontempo da Dasindo, Boninsegna di Frugerio da Comighello, Giovanni di Bartolomeo da Iavrè, di data 1364 dicembre 4, Villa Rendena, atto notarile; latino’. Accessed 15 May 2021 from https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/5738163.
  8. CICCOLINI, Giovanni. Inventari e Regesti degli Archivi Parrocchiali della Val di Sole. Volume 1: La Pieve di Ossana. Trento: Libreria Moderna Editrice A. Ardesi. Page 468.
  9. ANZILOTTI, Giulia Mastrelli. Toponomastica Trentina: I Nomi delle Località Abitate. Trento: Provincia Autonoma di Trento, Servizio Beni librari e archivistici. PLEASE NOTE: All maps in this article are scans from this book, with my colour highlights added. I have not put reference number for each map.
  10. CICCOLINI, Giovanni. Pages 444-445.
  11. CICCOLINI, Giovanni. Page 485.
  12. CICCOLINI, Giovanni. Page 467.
  13. CICCOLINI, Giovanni. Page 489.
  14. STENICO, P. Remo. Page 215.
  15. Termenago Parish Records. 3 April 1705. Death record of Rev. Fabiano Maffei. Termenago parish records, deaths, volume 2 (LDS microfilm 1388644, part 33), page 14-15. The beginning of that volume of death records has a list of the starting years of all the curate priests of Termenago from 1602-1883.
  16. CICCOLINI, Giovanni. Page 474.
  17. CICCOLINI, Giovanni. Page 489.
  18. Comune Di Fisto. 25 June 1556. Inventario dell’archivio e degli archivi aggregati. 13. Compravendita del piano di Nambino. ‘Bartolomeo fu Giovanni Maffei sindaci di dette ville’ (i.e. Baldino and Pinzolo). Accessed 13 May 2021 from https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/1703871.
  19. Pinzolo parish records. 21 March 1635. Baptismal record of Cattarina, daughter of Pietro Maffei, called ‘Bergamaschi’. Pinzolo parish records, baptisms, volume 1 (LDS microfilm 1388956, part 17) no page number.
  20. DI CROLLALANZA, G.B., Pages 44-45.
  21. SCHRÖDER, Francesco. Repertorio Genealogico delle Famiglie Confermate Nobili e dei Titolati Nobili Esistenti nelle Provincie Venete. Venezia: Tipografica di Alvisopoli. Entry for Maffei. Pages 458-460.
  22. BERTOLUZZA, Aldo. Pages 204-205.
  23. STENICO, P. Remo. Page 215.
  24. Comune Di Caderzone. Inventario dell’archivio. 17 May 1492. Caderzone. ‘Pasotto fu Martino Maffei’. Accessed 13 May 2021 from https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/1217803.
  25. Santa Croce Parish Records. 11 September 1782. Marriage record of Vincenzo Maffei of Armo (Valvestino) and Cattarina Brocchetti of Cavrasto. Santa Croce parish records, marriages, volume 3 (LDS microfilm 1448051, part 7), no page number. Archivio Diocesano di Trento file 4256260_01103.
  26. TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. Pages 177-178.
  27. PANCHERI, Roberto. Page 4.
  28. TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. Pages 177-178.
  29. TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. Pages 177-178.
  30. GIULIANI, C. I fuorusciti veneziani dalla battaglia di Agnadello al congresso di Bologna (1509-1529), in ‘Archivio Trentino’, a. 14 (1898), pages 65-82.
  31. PANCHERI, Roberto. Page 4.
  32. Maffei (famiglia). Wikipedia entry. Accessed 16 May 2021 from https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maffei_(famiglia).
  33. WEBER, Simone; RASMO, Nicolò. 1977. Artisti Trentini e Artisti Che Operarono Nel Trentino. Trento: Monauni.  Originally published in 1933, this is the 2nd edition. Entry for Francesco Maffei, engineer of Bologna, page 219.
  34. DI CROLLALANZA, G.B., Pages 44-45.
  35. PANCHERI, Roberto. Page 4.
  36. Revò parish records. 18 June 1632. Death of dom. Andrea Mapheus (Maffei) of Revò, about 90 years old. Revò parish records, deaths, volume 1 (LDS microfilm 1388682, part 3), no page number.
  37. Comune di Revò. Inventario dell’archivio storico. 15, Compravendita. 29 October 1626. Land sale agreement between Giacomo Maffei by Simone Salazer (Santo Lazaro) of Revò. Accessed 13 May 2021 from https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/2217729 .
  38. PANCHERI, Roberto. Page 6.
  39. Revò parish records. 28 Apr 1621. Baptism of Pietro Maffei of Revò, son of Jacopo and Domenica. Revò parish records, baptisms, volume 1 (LDS microfilm 1388681, part 6), page 14-15.
  40. Revò parish records. 26 Dec 1668. Death of the noble Giacomo Maffei of Revò, about 77 years old. Revò parish records, deaths, volume 1 (LDS microfilm 1388682, part 3), no page number.
  41. STENICO, P. Remo. Page 215.
  42. PANCHERI, Roberto. Page 8.
  43. PANCHERI, Roberto. Page 12.
  44. TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. Pages 177-178.
  45. DI CROLLALANZA, G.B., Pages 44-45.
  46. PANCHERI, Roberto. Page 12.
  47. Parrocchia di Santa Maria Assunta in Cles, Inventario dell’archivio storico. 262. 5 March 1599, Castel Cles. ‘Cipriano figlio di Giovanni Maffei dalla Valtellina’. Accessed 14 May 2021 from https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/1620806.
  48. Archivio Storico della Parrocchia di Cles. Dazione in pagamento. 3 January 1600, Cles. Ser Cipriano, son of Giovanni Maffei of Valtellina, living in Cles, gave in payment to dom. Cristoforo Campo… Accessed 14 May 2021 from https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/1621420.

CALDES in Val di Sole. Family Trees, History of Ancient Surnames

CALDES in Val di Sole. Family Trees and History of Ancient Surnames.

A Treasure Trove of Family Trees of the Ancient Families of Caldes. Part 6 of ‘Trentino Valleys, Parishes & People: Guide for Genealogists’ by Lynn Serafinn.

These past few weeks I was working on a tree for a client whose ancestry in the 1600s took me on a journey through the historic parish of Caldes in Val di Sole. I found this research so interesting, I decided to feature Caldes as the topic for my last ‘Filò Friday’ podcast (5 February 2021). I also decided, while it was fresh in my mind, to make Caldes the feature of the next part in my blog article series on ‘Trentino Valley, Parishes and People’.

WHAT WE’LL EXPLORE TODAY

Called ‘a noble community’ by author and historian Alberto Mosca, many of the families of Caldes are well documented back to the medieval era. But Caldes also has a true ‘genealogical treasure’ in its parish registry: a collection of family trees of the ancient families of Caldes made by Father Tommaso Bottea in the 19th century.

In this article, I will discuss:

  1. Where Caldes is in the province, and its connection with other nearby parishes.
  2. The state of the surviving parish records for Caldes.
  3. Who Father Tommaso Bottea was.
  4. Details of the Caldes family trees made by Father Bottea: what families they cover, what the trees contain (and what they don’t), how they are organised, and how to use them in your research.
  5. Surnames and history of the ancient families of Caldes, including their linguistic and geographical origins, as well as the titles of nobility conferred on some of these families.

So, while some of you might have been expecting another article on Val di Non, I hope you enjoy our excursion today to Val di Sole. Even if you don’t think you have ancestors from Caldes, I am sure you will find this to be a fascinating journey into our Trentino culture and history.

VIDEO PODCAST

If you wish, you can also watch the Filò Friday podcast on Caldes below:

SIDE NOTE: Apologies to those looking for Filò Friday podcasts from Oct 2020 through Jan 2021. I just haven’t had time to edit them for YouTube yet! You can see them ‘on demand’ (but unedited) in our Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/TrentinoGenealogy, in ‘Guide 1: Video Podcasts’.

CALDES: Where It Is in the Province

To get oriented, here is a map I shared with you back in the first article in this series, showing the various valleys of Trentino. I have highlighted Val di Sole (number 19) in YELLOW. Notice how Val di Non (number 18) lies on its eastern border, and Giudicarie Interiore (number 9) – but more specifically Val Rendena which is included in the Giudicarie on this map – runs along its southern border.

MAP - Val di Sol in the province of Trentino

click on image to see it larger

Now, if we zoom into Val di Sole, we see Caldes (highlighted in yellow) sitting right on the eastern tip of the valley, just on the border of Val di Non:

MAP - Caldes in Val di Sole, province of Trentino, Italy

click on image to see it larger

These maps were taken from the book Toponomastica Trentina: I Nomi delle Località Abitate by Giulia Mastrelli Anzilotti (2003).

The Frazioni of Caldes

One of the limitations with the maps from Anzilotti’s book is that they show the civil comuni (municipalities), which frequently change. Also, they don’t show all the frazioni (villages/hamlets) contained within each comune, although she discusses them in detail in her book.

Within the comune of Caldes are seven frazioni:

  1. Bordiana
  2. Bozzana
  3. Cassana
  4. Molini (i.e. the mills)
  5. Samoclevo
  6. San Giacomo
  7. Tozzaga

Anzilotti tells us that all of these frazioni, with the exception of Samoclevo, are collectively known as ‘le Cappelle’, which was a term used in Val di Sole to refer to inhabited areas that were part of the community that had ‘non-curate’ churches (at least in the past).

The Decanato of Malé and its Curate Parishes

As a reminder, back when I started this series, I explained how Catholic parishes are organised in a hierarchical fashion: In English, this hierarchy is:

Diocese (or Archdiocese) –> Deanery –> Parish –> Curate

Or, in Italian:

Diocesi (Arcidiocesi) –> Decanato –> Parrocchia (Pieve) –> Curazia

All the parishes I discuss in this series are in the Archdiocese of Trento.

Caldes is a curate parish of the decanato of Malé, which includes the curate parishes of: S. Bernardo (Rabbi), Caldes, Dimaro, Monclassico, Bolentina, Piazzola, Terzolas, Samoclevo, Cavizzana, Magras and Pracorno. I’ve highlighted these on the map below, but remember the map shows comuni, not parishes, and some of the parishes are contained within these comuni:

MAP - Decanato of Male' and curate parishes in Val di Sole, Trentino, Italy

click on image to see it larger

The Parish Registers for Caldes

Below is a summary of the surviving parish registers for Caldes, with some observations I have made in my own research. I include the number of the LDS microfilms, as this is the medium most familiar to many of you. However, the LDS Family History Centres have stopped making their microfilms available to the public, as they gradually transfer their libraries into digital format. After they are digitised, you will only be able to view them at a local Family History Centre, not online. ALL of these records were digitised by the Diocese of Trento more than a decade ago, and they are viewable at their archives in the city of Trento (again, not online).

SIDE NOTE: I feel most fortunate to have collected tens of thousands of Trentino parish records over the years, which has enabled me to work from home on many (but not all) projects. This has proved especially valuable for me and my clients during the recent COVID lockdowns and travel restrictions.

PARISH REGISTERLDS MICROFILM NO.MICROFILM ITEMCONTENTS
Baptismal INDEX1388646Part 31Contains index (page numbers) of volume 1 of baptisms for surnames A-F; L, M. These pertain to records that appear on the NEXT microfilm (1388647). There are no Caldes records on this film.
Baptisms vol 1-51388647Parts 1-5Baptisms: 1605-1702; 1703-1784; 1784-1817; 1818-1862; 1863-1922
Marriages vol 1-31388647Parts 6-8Marriages: 1618-1815; 1820-1919; 1874-1923
Deaths vol 1-31388647Parts 9-11Deaths: 1629-1818; 1816-1865; 1866-1923
BOTTEA TREES1388647Part 3These appear at the very END of volume 3 of the baptismal register (part 3 of microfilm)

NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:

  • All of the volumes are indexed, with page numbers. I have no idea why there are a handful of pages from the first baptismal index on a separate microfilm (1388646).
  • GAP in Caldes baptismal records: 1663-1672; there is a note in the book that says where to look for them, but I haven’t found this in any of the photographed volumes.
  • GAPS in marriage records: June 1659-Feb 1663; March 1700-Dec 1705; Dec 1738-April 1743. The dates of the marriage records leap around a lot, especially around the beginning of the 1800s.
  • GAPS in the death records: Dec 1658-Jan 1663. There may be more, but I haven’t worked as much with the death records as with baptisms and marriages.

RESEARCH TIPS:

  • CHECK MALÉ. Knowing that Caldes is part of the deanery of Malé is crucial because early records for Caldes (if they have survived) will most likely be found in Malé. The Malé baptismal records are particularly of importance, as they go back to 1554.
  • CHECK ADJACENT PARISHES, ESPECIALLY FOR MARRIAGE RECORDS. Being familiar with the adjacent parishes is also important, as you might find relevant records for Caldes ancestors there, such as marriage records between a man from Caldes and a woman from a nearby parish.
  • CHECK THE BOTTEA TREES. The Bottea trees (which I will discuss shortly) can be found at the very end of volume 3 of the baptismal register. They contain a wealth of information.

The Curious Case of Samoclevo

Before I move on to the Bottea trees, I’d briefly like to mention Samoclevo, as it can sometimes be a challenging parish to research. As we see above, Samoclevo is a frazione of Caldes, and a curate parish of Malé. While Samoclevo started keeping its own baptismal records in 1733, its marriage records don’t start until towards the end of that century (1771) and its death records start even later (1818).

As a rule of thumb, if you cannot find a record for Samoclevo, or you are looking for a record before these dates, your first resource should be the records for Caldes. If you cannot find it there, look in Malé. There’s actually no ‘straight line’ of logic for where you will find the record, as they often seem to jump around. There are also several small gaps in the Samoclevo records (possibly because of this administrative ambiguity).

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About Father Tommaso Bottea

One of the most wonderful treasures contained in the Caldes parish registers are the family trees of the ancient families of Caldes researched, constructed, and beautifully ILLUSTRATED BY priest, author, historian (and apparently an artist) Rev. Tommaso Vigilio Bottea of Monclassico.

Tommaso Bottea was born in Monclassico on 30 December 1819, and died in Malé on 13 February 1895, where he had served as parroco, as well as the deacon of the deanery of Malé (see above for a list of parishes this included). During the course of his life, he wrote many books, including a history of Val di Sole published in 1890.

But he also left behind two invaluable treasures for genealogists and family historians who are researching the families of Val di Sole: family trees of the historic families of Caldes and Malé.

We’ll look at the Malé trees in a future article, but today we’ll look at the trees he made for Caldes.

Families Included in Father Bottea’s Caldes Trees

In alphabetical order, the families included in Father Bottea’s Caldes trees are:

  • Antonietti
  • Bonomi
  • Cova
  • Fattarsi
  • Lorenzo
  • Malanotti
  • Manfroni
  • Rizzi
  • Rosani
  • Scaramella

Note, these are ONLY the Caldes lines of these families, as some also exist in other parishes.

There are also trees for the Guarnieri and Leita families (as well as an extension of the Rizzi family), but these were made by someone in the 20th century (not signed) and they don’t go back as far.

Content of the Bottea Family Trees

When working with the Bottea trees, it is crucial to understand what they contain – and what they don’t!

Father Bottea drew his information from the records from both Caldes AND Malé. Remember, as he was the head of the decanato, he would have had easy access to all of these registers.

As he made these trees as genealogical studies of the surnames, the trees contain only the MALE lines, i.e., sons of sons with that surname. Moreover, they do not include sons who died young or who had no children. The only exceptions are PRIESTS, and the rare instances of men whose names happened to appear in older documents that pre-date the registers.

The SINGLE exception of a daughter is in the Antonietti tree, where a daughter was the last heir of the family name, and whose husband adopted the surname after it died out via the male lines (more on this later in this article).

He did NOT make trees of families who were recent migrants to the parish, or who died out shortly after the records began (such as the Dalle Caneve, whom we will examine shortly).

Several of the trees contain elaborate illustrations of the stemmi (coats-of-arms) of those families who were nobility, with details about when, to whom and by whom these titles were granted. These beautiful drawings (and the information they contain) make these trees especially wonderful to study.

Be aware that some of the pre-registry information Bottea gives has been gleaned via other kinds of documentation, such as ‘pergamene’ (parchments) of legal documents, etc., which are in the archives for those parishes or comuni.

Organisation of the Bottea Family Trees

When working with the Bottea trees, it is also important to know which information is included, and how he chose to organise it.

He did not put any birth dates in his trees; rather, he recorded the MARRIAGE DATE of each couple, or an estimated YEAR of marriage in cases where it would have occurred before the beginning of the records.

When he knew the surname of the wife, he included it in the tree; if not, then only her first name will be in the tree.

In the case of early marriages where the children were born before the beginning of the surviving registers, you will see only the patriarch’s name, with no wife.

In some cases, he recorded a person’s DEATH DATE (or year of death). You will recognise these by a cross (+) before the date/year.

If a man served in the military, he often includes those details, especially if he was an officer and/or someone who died in battle.

If a branch of the family migrated to another parish and/or outside the province, he also recorded what he knew about them.

Close up of part of Manfroni tree by Tommaso Bottea (Caldes)
Above: close-up of part of the Manfroni tree by Father Bottea. Notice how the first two marriages in the bottom row and the marriage in the top row have surnames of the wives, as well as a specific year of marriage. This tells us he located the marriage records in the register for either Caldes or Malé. In the lower right, we have a surname of the wife, but only an estimated marriage year, while in the middle row, we have only the first name of the wives, and an estimated marriage year. This means these marriages took place outside Caldes or Malé, and Bottea had not been able to identify them.

A few caveats:

  • A few dates have been scribbled over. As I have not seen the original books (and digital images are all in greyscale, so I cannot tell if there are different colour inks), I cannot say which (if any) of these corrections were most likely made by don Bottea himself or by some else, after the fact. This can sometimes result in ambiguity in some of the trees.
  • At least one tree (Manfroni) contains some speculation about early medieval origins (circa 1200), resulting in information that seems to leap over several generations.

How to Use the Bottea Trees in Your Research

If you have these surnames in your family tree, and you’ve been able to identify your nearest male ancestor with the surname in one of the Bottea trees, that’s great. Now, you can use the Bottea tree as a starting point for that surname, and try to find the marriage, birth and possibly death records to support what Bottea has outlined.

But let’s say the first ancestor with that surname you’ve discovered is not male, but female. Well, obviously, you’re not going to see her name on the tree itself, as he only recorded male lines. But you can still use these trees to identify her ancestry by working through the following steps:

  1. FIND OUT HER FATHER’S NAME. The first task would be to find out her father’s name; this is first done via her marriage record. As already mentioned, the marriage records for Caldes go back to 1618 (although there are occasional gaps). Hopefully, you’ve found that record, and you know at least her father’s name (it is rare for marriage records before the 1800s to have a mother’s name). If you cannot find a marriage record, you can estimate the date by finding all the children for that couple, and then estimating the marriage about one year before the birth of the first child.
  2. CREATE AN ESTIMATE FOR DATE OF BIRTH. Once you found a marriage date (or created a marriage estimate) you can estimate the date of birth for that woman either by the date of marriage, or by the date of the youngest known child. Before the 20th century, Trentino women tended to marry between the age of 19 and 22, although you will occasionally see them marry younger or older. Of course, if she (or her husband is widowed), she is likely to be older at the time of marriage. Typically, a healthy woman would continue to have children until she was about 42-44 years old, so finding as many children as you can for her will really help you zero in on a good estimate for her date of birth.
  3. LOCATE BIRTH RECORD (if it exists). Once you know her father’s name and you’ve created a good birth estimate, the next thing to do would be to find her actual birth record, if she was born within the range of the surviving baptismal records for Caldes (1605 and after).
  4. FIND HER SIBLINGS’ BAPTISMAL RECORDS. Spending some time finding the baptismal records of all the siblings of your female ancestor can help you estimate the marriage date of her parents, and thus identify which of the possible couples on the Bottea tree are YOUR ancestors (especially in the case when there is more than one man with the same name). They also may contain information your ancestor’s baptismal record does not have.
  5. LOCATE YOUR ANCESTORS ON BOTTEA’S TREE. Once you’ve gone through all those steps, you should be able to find your ancestors on Bottea’s tree for that surname. From that point, it’s just a matter of plugging in the information he has on his tree, and then looking for the documents to support his dates.

IMPORTANT: If you haven’t personally located the documents for a marriage, birth or death, but are simply inserting Bottea’s information into your tree, be sure to cite HIM as your ‘source’ of information. This way, you can go back to the tree and look it up, and try to follow it up another day. Never, ever enter information without saying WHERE you got it.

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Histories of Eight Ancient Families of Caldes

As promised, I’d now like to share a few short histories of some of the most ancient families of Caldes. All of these families – with the exception of Dalle Caneve – are represented in Father Bottea’s family trees in the Caldes registry.

Dalle Caneve

Originally seen in records as ‘Canipis’ or ‘Canepis’, the Dalle Caneve appear in documents back to the 1300s. Historian Alberto Mosca tells us that the first citing of the name is from 1386, when a Bartolomeo is indicated as a settler in Val di Rabbi. Mosca also tells us that this family were in the service of the Counts of Flavon, and that in that capacity, they start to be seen present in Caldes on feudal properties of their Lords by the end of the 1400s. He also says a Bartolomeo and Bonomo Dalle Caneve participated in the Guerra Rustica (‘Rustic War’) of 1525. Later, in 1559, a ‘Peter da le Caneve’ of Caldes is cited as being in the service of the Counts of Thun.

In my own research, I first stumbled upon this surname in Caldes with the 1635 marriage record of Matteo Malanotti (son of Giovanni) and Margherita Dalle Caneve. Although the record says she is the daughter of Marino/Martino, I suspect this is an error, and that she was actually the daughter of Michele (as per a baptismal record dated 8 Feb 1616).
1635 marriage record of Matteo Malanotti and Margherita Dalle Caneve, both of Caldes, Trentino, Italy

click on image to see it larger

There are a handful of Dalle Caneve baptisms in Caldes in the early years of the 1600s, after which they appear to have ‘daughtered out’ and gone extinct before the middle of the century. A branch of the family who transferred to Val di Rabbi, however, survived there until the end of the 1800s.

Father Bottea didn’t create a tree for the Dalle Caneve, most likely because they had been extinct in Caldes for at least 250 years by the time he did his research. However, they are an important family to remember because, according to historian Alberto Mosca, they may have an ancestral connection to at least two of the other historic families of Caldes: the Bonomi and the Manfroni.

Bonomi

Bonomi is a patronymic from the man’s name ‘Bonomo’, from the Latin ‘bon + homo’, meaning ‘good man’ or ‘good human being’.

Alberto Mosca tells us that the name ‘Bonomo’ was a recurring name in the Dalle Caneve family through the end of the 1500s, which he feels adds weight to the hypothesis of an ancient ancestral connection between the Bonomi and the Dalle Caneve.

Mosca also reports that the first known diploma of nobility for the family was for a ‘Pietro Bonhomo’, who was ennobled in 1370 by Emperor Carlo IV (as per an epigraph from the 1600s).

Stemma (coat-of-arms) of the noble Bonomi family of Caldes, as drawn by Father Tommaso Bottea in 1881.
Stemma (coat-of-arms) of the noble Bonomi family of Caldes, as drawn by Father Tommaso Bottea in 1881.

We know from surviving records that the Caldes Bonomi originated in nearby Cavizzana. For example, the earliest surviving baptismal record for a Bonomi in Caldes is for an Anna Maria, daughter of Francesco Bonomi and Massenza (Manfroni), dated 27 April 1606:

1606 baptismal record from Caldes for Anna Maria Bonomi

click on image to see it larger

Admittedly difficult to read, her father is referred to here as ‘Francesco Buon Homo, now living (nunc incola) in Caldes’, implying that is not where he was originally from.

In this baptismal record from the following year, we find a ‘Blasio (Biagio), son of Stefano Bonhom’ and Marina, born 4 April 1607. Here the priest specifies that Stefano came from Cavizzana:

1607 baptismal record from Caldes for Biagio Bonomi

click on image to see it larger

Thus, it would appear that the Bonomi arrived in Caldes sometime toward the end of the 1500s, and that they are an extension of the original Cavizzana family. Bottea identifies the patriarch of this line as a man named Bonomo (son of Martino, of Cavizzana), who was most likely born in the mid-1400s. Thus, all Caldes Bonomi are ancestrally related to the Cavizzana Bonomi.

The family’s diploma of nobility, as sculpted on the historic Bonomi house in Caldes, was later confirmed by the Emperor Ferdinando III (reigned 1637-1657) to the Caldes notary, Aurelio Bonomi. Aurelio, who was the son of the same Francesco Bonomi and Maria Malanotti in the above record, married a Lucia Manfroni around the year 1616. These are all noble families of Caldes. Mosca says there are two doors (dated 1608 and 1638) on the present-day street ‘via Manfroni Prati’ in Caldes that depict the Bonomi stemma.

While this surname appears in many other parts of the province, it would be wrong to assume they are all related. You will find it in various parts of the Giudicarie, Arco and especially in Pinzolo in Val Rendena. Tabarelli de Fatis mentions a noble Bonomi family from Pinzolo, who were living in Trento. An Antonio from this family was granted a stemma by Prince-Bishop Carlo Gaudenzio Madruzzo on 25 July 1615.

Manfroni

Manfroni is a patronymic surname, derived from a patriarch named ‘Manfrone’ (or ‘Manfrono’) of Caldes, whose name appears in a record dated 1480. In that document, he is said to be the son of the late Pietro, and grandson of the late Girardino. As with the Bonomi, Alberto Mosca believes the Manfroni were originally a branch of the now extinct the Dalle Caneve family. Like the Dalle Caneve, he has found evidence they were in the service of the Counts of Flavon.

Alberto Mosca tells us that the Manfroni are documented well into the 1400s, and that they are the only family among the ancient nobility of Caldes who are still in existence.

By the 1600s, there were at least six branches of the Manfroni family present in Caldes, all of which are represented in the Manfroni tree by Father Bottea.

Another noble family of Caldes, the first known title and stemma of nobility for them was awarded on 25 April 1554 to captain Giovanni Giacomo Manfroni (captain of the cavalry) of Caldes and his brothers Bernardino and Baldassare ‘and their legitimate descendants’ by Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor.

Stemma (coat-of-arms) from 1554 for Giovanni Giacomo Manfroni of Caldes, as drawn by Rev. Tommaso Bottea (1881)
Stemma (coat-of-arms) from 1554 for Giovanni Giacomo Manfroni of Caldes, as drawn by Rev. Tommaso Bottea (1881)

On 23 May 1726, H.R. Emperor Carlo VI awarded the predicate ‘de Manfort’ (also see Monfort and Montfort), and the rank of Knights (cavalieri) of the Holy Roman Empire to the relatives of Bernardino, Giovanni Giacomo, Giovanni Federico and Giovanni Antonio. On 28 Oct 1766, Antonio Manfroni of Caldes was granted an embellishment of his coat-of-arms by Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinando I.

During his short but tyrannical reign in Trentino at the end of the 1700s, Napoleon managed to dissolve both the Holy Roman Empire and the office of the Prince-Bishop of Trento, as well as nullify all noble titles. However, after he was ousted, and the Austrian empire took his place (which later became the Austro-Hungarian empire), some of the higher-ranking noble families managed to regain their titles and noble privileges.

One of these families was the Manfroni of Caldes. Not only did they regain their noble privilege, they were elevated to the rank of Knights of the Austrian Empire by Francesco Giuseppe on 30 March 1855. Later, Maurizio Manfroni, ship captain, was elevated to the rank of BARON of the Austrian Empire on 23 Jan 1874, and they were added to the list of ‘noble Tirolese’ in 1886.

Antonietti

This family’s surname was originally ‘Dalla Piazza’, also seen ‘de Platea’ or ‘De Plateis’ in Latin sources.

In his Caldes trees, don Bottea shows us a Domenico dalla Piazza, born sometime before 1500, and his son Antonio who appears in records around 1524. This Antonio had the nickname ‘Toniet’. This Antonio ‘Toniet’ had a son named Domenico, and it is from his descendants, that the surname Antonietti starts to appear around the year 1600.

Although it seems the family were already ennobled in some way before the year 1500, this Domenico, who was probably born around 1570, was elevated to the rank of ‘Conte Palatino’ (Palatine Count) in 1645. This title was originally associated with one of the most illustrious positions of the early Middle Ages in the kingdoms of the Franks, but it gradually lost importance over the centuries. They were also granted various titles from the Prince-Bishops in the 1700s.

Stemma of the ancient noble Antonietti family of Caldes, as drawn by a priest-historian Rev. Tommaso Bottea in the parish register in Caldes.
Stemma of the ancient noble Antonietti family of Caldes, as drawn by a priest-historian Rev. Tommaso Bottea in the parish register in Caldes.

A branch of the family, headed by Giovanni Battista Antonietti, settled in Malé around 1655.

Both the Caldes and Malé lines are now extinct. If you look on Nati in Trentino, there are no Antonietti (sometimes entered ‘de Antonietti’) born in Caldes after 1825, and none at all in Malé. Apparently around the middle of the 1700s, a Chiara Antonietti married a Cristoforo Caretta, and because there were no male heirs to the noble title in that line, their son Michele Caretta (who married a Francesca Manfroni in 1777) was granted the right to append the name Antonietti to the surname Caretta, resulting in the new surname ‘Caretta-Antonietti’.

There are a few Antonietti in the city of Trento and in Ledro in the early 20th century, but I currently have no idea where these lines originated.

Malanotti

‘Malanotti’ is a conjunction of the word ‘mala’ for ‘bad’ and ‘notte’ or ‘nocte’ for ‘night’. Thus, it means somebody in the past had a ‘bad night’. Alberto Mosca says the surname is found in numerous Italian places in the medieval era, as well as in the parish of Ossana in 1281.

In the specific case of Caldes, this surname came from a soprannome given sometime in the 1400s to someone whose original surname was ‘Arpolini’. The surname ‘Arpolini’ or ‘de Arpolini’ is a patronymic, derived from the man’s name Arpolino. Alberto Mosca says the name Arpolino (which was recurring name in the noble families of Flavon and Caldes) is probably a variant of a German name, such as Arpo, or Aribo, so, perhaps this family has some Germanic roots.

The family appear to have already been ennobled by the late 1300s, as per the decima (record of tithes) of Terzolas in 1385, where we find cited a Nicolò, son of the late ‘Sir’ Arpolino of Caldes.

While Father Bottea’s tree traces the ‘de Arpolini’ back to the late 1300s, the name ‘Malanotti’ starts to appear as a soprannome – a personal nickname – sometime in the mid-1400s with an Antonio, who was the son of the Nicolò I just mentioned.

The oldest known stemma for the family is in the ceiling of the church of San Rocco in Caldes, painted in 1512, for a ‘Sir’ Bernardino Arpolino, ‘vulgo Malanot’. Apparently, this church was built by Bernardino and other benefactors in thanks for surviving an outbreak of the plague in 1510 (San Rocco is the patron saint for plague victims).

Bernardino Malanotti’s stemma appears above the altar in the church, at the far right. To its left is the stemma of the Emperor Massimiliano, followed by the stemma of Prince-Bishop of Trento Giorgio Neideck. At the far left is an allegorical depiction of Death personified.

Stemmi, dated 1512, above the altar of the Church of San Rocco in Caldes. Photo by Alberto Mosca.
Stemmi, dated 1512, above the altar of the Church of San Rocco in Caldes. Photo by Alberto Mosca.

The stemma depicts two bears grabbing either side of a tree. I’m not sure if the bear on top is still part of the stemma, or just an illustration of the story behind the stemma. Alberto Mosca calls this a ‘talking’ coat of arms, showing us the kind of ‘bad night’ the family member spent: a certain member of the family sheltered in a tree. Although he doesn’t delve any deeper, my friend, client, and colleague, Gene Pancheri, shared a local legend about the origin of this nickname. The story goes that, after having been chased by a brown bear, a man took refuge at the top of a tree, because he knew brown bears cannot climb trees. However, the bear was persistent, and would not leave, causing the man to spend the entire night up in the tree before the bear finally gave up and moved on. From this point on, this man was nicknamed ‘malanot’ or ‘malanotti’, i.e., the man who once had an infamously ‘bad night’.

Close-up of stemma of Bernardino Malanotti, dated 1512, in the church of San Rocco in Caldes, Trentino, Italy
Close-up of stemma of Bernardino Malanotti, dated 1512, in the church of San Rocco in Caldes, Trentino, Italy

Who was this original ‘Malanotti’ who spent his night up a tree? The evidence suggests it was probably Antonio Arpolino, sometime in the mid-1400s.

Mosca gives a wealth of additional information about illustrious Malanotti throughout the centuries. While I don’t have room to mention them all, one that stands out is another Bernardino Malanotti, most likely the grandson of Bernardino whose stemma appears in the little church of San Rocco. This Bernardino is documented in 1598 as being an imperial advisor, and secretary of the Archduchess Anna Cattarina in the Courts at Innsbruck and Vienna. Apparently, he also accompanied the then Princess Cecilia Renata (daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II, of the House of Habsburg) to Poland, where she would be crowned Queen of Poland.

At least two Malanotti lines emigrated from Caldes to Ceresé in Val di Rabbi in the 1500s, where the surname mutated to ‘Breton’ and Marinolli. Other lines were in Terzolas, where it went extinct in 1742.

Fattarsi

Fattarsi is a toponymic surname, i.e., a surname derived from the name of a place. It is of Germanic origin, and it took some time before it fully developed into the surname as it appears today.

According to Rev. Tommaso Bottea, the name ‘Fattarsi’ is a contraction of the words ‘Pfarre Tartsch’ (sometimes written Tarschg), meaning ‘(of) the parish of Tartsch’, which is in Val Venosta in South Tyrol (aka province of Bolzano). He estimates the surname was in use in Caldes by around 1590, although I see only very early (and not quite ‘fully baked’) versions of the surname during that era.

The founding father of the Fattarsi family of Caldes was a Federico Fattarsi, who arrived in Caldes from South Tyrol sometime by 1590, after marrying a woman named Brigida from Castelfondo. They had at least five children together. Thus, all of the present-day Fattarsi of Caldes are related, as they are descended from this same couple.

The 1594 baptismal record of their son Giovanni Giacomo refers to Federico as ‘Federico Fortag, a German living in Caldes’. In the baptismal record of their son Michele (4 Aug 1591), the priest refers to Federico as ‘Federico Fortach, teutonico chellero’ (Teutonic/German Keller), employed by the Most Distinguished dom. Filippo Thun of Castel Caldes’.

1591 baptismal record of Michele Fattarsi of Caldes, Trentino, Italy
1591 baptismal record of Michele Fattarsi of Caldes, Trentino, Italy

click on image to see it larger

A ‘Keller’ is the keeper of the wine cellar/cold food cellar. As there is no ‘K’ in the Italian vocabulary, it is often spelled ‘Cheller’. For this reason, some of the early baptismal records are recorded under the surname ‘Cheller/Keller’, and we also see ‘Cheller/Keller’ used as a soprannome for this family some subsequent generations. Don Bottea also mentions this occupation in his research.

The family produced many priests who worked in the curate churches in Caldes and Val di Rabbi, especially during the mid-1700s to early 1800s.

Rosani

Rosani is another patronymic, based on the man’s name ‘Rosano’ or ‘Rochesano’. Father Bottea says this family can be traced back to a ‘Rosano of Caldes’ who allegedly lived sometime in the 1200s. However, in working with the Bottea tree for Rosani, the dates don’t quite work, and they seem to leap over several generations in the very early years. Also, someone (I don’t know if it was Father Bottea or a later researcher) wrote the name ‘Rochesano’ over the name ‘Rosano’ in two places in the tree.

Alberto Mosca’s research might clear up some of the ambiguity of this ‘very ancient’ family. He tells us that a ‘Rochesano, son of the late Michele’ is cited in records dated 1393 and 1399, and another ‘Rochesano, son of the late Michele’ is found two generations later in 1465. This younger Rochesano is cited as being a ‘muln’, i.e., a miller (mugnaio), an occupation which seems to have continued for many generations (note I mentioned earlier there is an area in Caldes known as Molino, which means ‘mill’). We then find a ‘Michel Rosan of Caldes’ at the end of the 1400s and again in the early 1500s, where he is included in a list of people who were obligated to pay for public education to the Count Valentino Spaur.

In comparing these two sources of information, we can interpolate how these men fit into Father Bottea’s tree. Just from naming conventions, I would have presumed the youngest Michele mentioned was the son of Rochesano/Rosano, and Bottea’s tree does show this to be the case. However, from his tree, it seems Michele’s line died out, and the line that survived to carry on the surname was via a different son, named Antonio:

Most ancient generations of the Rosani family of Caldes, as researched by Father Tommaso Bottea (1881)
Most ancient generations of the Rosani family of Caldes, as researched by Father Tommaso Bottea (1881)

click on image to see it larger

Mosca tells us that a Bartolomeo Rosani of Caldes, son of Paolo, was living in Livo in 1541, and that some members of this branch emigrated to Brescia (in Lombardia) in the 1800s, where they set up an award-winning business as engravers.

Scaramella

This family were originally from Valtellina in the region of Lombardia. The patriarch of the Scaramella line was a Domenico who came to Caldes sometime before the beginning of 1600. He had at least two sons (most likely born in Lombardia) Antonio and Giovanni, but according to Father Bottea’s tree Antonio’s line appears to have died out by the end of the 1600s. Thus, all Scaramella of Caldes today are descended from Domenico’s son Giovanni and his wife Cattarina. Alberto Mosca tells us that the family were active in local commerce by the year 1633.

Regarding the linguistic origins of the name, Aldo Bertoluzza says it may be a variant of the word ‘scaramuccia’, which means a ‘skirmish’.

Although the surname is still present in Caldes today, only a handful of Scaramella families remain there. It is much more common in its region of origin, Lombardia, especially in the provinces of Sondrio and Brescia.

Closing Thoughts

For those of you with Caldes ancestors, I hope this article has been informative and useful. And to those of you who do not, I do hope you found it interesting. Speaking for myself, I am always fascinated by the histories of Trentino families.

As mentioned, there are several other ancient surnames of Caldes that were researched by Father Bottea, which I have not covered in this article. There are also many other Caldes families who arrived in the parish later, many of which are covered by Alberto Mosca in his book on Caldes, which you will find in the references below.

All of these surnames (including those I have not mentioned here) will be covered in my book in progress entitled Guide to Trentino Surnames for Genealogists and Family Historians. I hope you follow me on the journey as I research and write this book; it will probably be a few years before it comes out, and it is likely to end up being a multi-volume set.

If you enjoyed this article, and would like to receive future articles from Trentino Genealogy,  be sure to subscribe to this blog using the form below.

Until next time!

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
8 February 2021

P.S. As you probably know, all my 2020 trips to Trento were cancelled due to COVID-19 lockdowns. I am still not sure when I will be able to go back in Trento, as we are still in lockdown here in the UK, and the government is still advising against making any travel plans.  Fingers crossed, I will be able to go there by the summer, but there really is no way of knowing for sure at the moment.   

However, I do have resources to do a fair bit of research for many clients from home, and I now have some openings for a few new client projects starting in April 2021.

If you would like to book a time to discuss having me do research for you, I invite you to read my ‘Genealogy Services’ page, and then drop me a line using the Contact form on this site. Then, we can set up a free 30-minute chat to discuss your project.

Join our Trentino Genealogy Group on Facebook: http://facebook.com/groups/TrentinoGenealogy

Lynn on Twitter: http://twitter.com/LynnSerafinn

View my Santa Croce del Bleggio Family Tree on Ancestry:
https://trentinogenealogy.com/my-tree/

REFERENCES AND RESOURCES

ANZILOTTI, Giulia Mastrelli. 2003. Toponomastica Trentina: I Nomi delle Località Abitate. Trento: Provincia Autonoma di Trento, Servizio Beni librari e archivistici.

BERTOLUZZA, Aldo. 1998. Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino. Trento: Società Iniziative Editoriali (S.R.L.).

CASETTI, Albino (dottore). 1951. Guida Storico – Archivistica del Trento. Trento: Tipografia Editrice Temi (S.R.L.).

MOSCA, Alberto. 2015. Caldes: Storia di Una Nobile Comunità. Pergine Valsugana (Trentino, Italy): Nitida Immagine Editrice.

STENICO, P. Remo. 1999. Notai Che Operarono Nel Trentino dall’Anno 845. Trento: Biblioteca San Bernardino. Can be downloaded for free in PDF format from http://www.db.ofmtn.pcn.net/ofmtn/files/biblioteca/Notai.pdf

STENICO, P. Remo. 2000. Sacerdoti della Diocesi di Trento dalla sua Esistenza Fino all’Anno 2000. Can be downloaded for free in PDF format from http://www.db.ofmtn.pcn.net/ofmtn/files/biblioteca/Preti-Indice-Preti.pdf

TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. 2005. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine. Trento: Società di Studi Trentini di Scienze Storiche.

Surname Spotlight: BETTA. Ancient Nobles of the Roman Empire?

Surname: BETTA. Ancient Nobles of the Roman Empire?Genealogist Lynn Serafinn explores the history of the noble Betta family of Trentino, including its claims to Spanish origins, and ancient ‘patrician’ nobility from time of the Roman Empire.

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that I said I would write the next article on the parish of Revò in Val di Non, as part of my continuing series on Trentino Valleys.

Well, I decided to take a short detour. One of my ongoing projects is a book (more likely a multi-volume set) on the surnames of Trentino, which I’ve been working on for a few years, and which I’ve called Guide to Trentino Surnames for Genealogists and Family Historians. With any luck, I’ll have at least the first volume of it out in a few years. In the meantime, I’ve created a ‘surname database’ on this website, with many (but not all) shortened versions of the entries I’ve written for the book.

Anyway, when doing some research for the Revò article this weekend, I started writing up some histories of some of the local surnames. The history for one particular surname – Betta – became so substantial, I thought it deserved to be shared in a blog post, especially as this surname crosses over into many other parts of the province. Also, the family has a unique ‘claim to fame’, which I think many of you might find interesting.

Linguistic Origins of the Surname

In his Guida ai Cognome del Trentino, linguistic historian Aldo Bertoluzza says this surname is either derived from the male name ‘Betto’, which is a short form of the name ‘Benedetto’, coming from the Latin word Benedictus, which means a person who is blessed. Alternatively, he says it may also come from the female name ‘Elisabetta’ (although the original form of the name was ‘Elisheba’), which he says means ‘my God is fullness’.

As with most patronymic/matronymic surnames (i.e. based on the name of a patriarch or matriarch), there are many other surnames based on this root ‘Bett-’. But for this article, we will focus solely on the form that appears as ‘Betta’, although occasionally you might also see it spelled with only one ‘t’ (Beta).

Geographic Origins of the Family

While all historians seem to agree the Betta came from outside the province of Trentino, and were most likely of ancient nobility, there is much disagreement regarding their precise origins, the nature of their nobility and their movements prior to the 1400s.

In his 3-volume work, Dizionario Storico-Blasonico delle Famiglie Nobili E Notabili Italiane Estinte E Fiorenti, historian Giovanni Battista di Crollalanza says the Betta of Trentino were originally from Spain, but relocated to Trentino sometime in the last decades of 11th century. The story goes that the Betta were loyal to Prince Garcia, who claimed the title of King of Galicia and Portugal in 1071. Just a year later, two of Garcia’s brothers attacked him, ultimately resulting in Garcia’s imprisonment until his death in 1090. Upon Garcia’s imprisonment, fearing they would be tried as traitors (and probably executed) by the new leaders, the Betta fled their native homeland taking refuge in Trentino.

This tale has been the Betta family lore for many centuries. Colourful as it is, many historians do not believe it is true. Tabarelli de Fatis (Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine) says the link to Spain is not documented (although few things are that far back), and they were more likely to have come from either Lombardia or the province of Verona. Author Gian Maria Rauzi (Araldica Tridentina) cites historian Quintillo Perini (1865-1942), who believes the Betta came to Trentino from Milan (in Lombardia). However, none of these authors cite any documentation or suggest any concrete evidence for these theories either.

Arrival, Migration and Branching Out

Precisely where the Betta entered the province, and the path they took when they settled there is also disputed. Essentially, the only thing historians seem to agree on is that the Betta came from someplace outside the province of Trentino, arriving somewhere in the province no later than the mid-1300s, and then spreading out to diverse places in the province.

Crollalanza says they originally took refuge in Val Lagarina. Although he doesn’t specify, the evidence indicates they were in Tierno, which is a frazione in Mori in that valley. In support of this theory, Bertoluzza cites a record that mentions an Antonio son of Guglielmo Betta in Val Lagarina in 1344 (the earliest mention I’ve seen cited for a Betta).

Tabarelli de Fatis and Rauzi believe the Betta first arrived in Arco, where their surname appears in records from the beginning of the 1400s, and that they expanded to Val Lagarina – specifically Tierno – from there. Bertoluzza cites a record dated 1411 that mentions a Guglielmo Betta of Tierno. From Tierno, they believe, various branches of the family then expanded outwards to other parts of Val Lagarina, such as Brentonico, Chizzola (a frazione of Ala), and Rovereto. Although they don’t mention it, based on notary records, at least one Betta family from this area settled in Riva del Garda (which is near Arco) by the early 1500s.

Regardless of whether the starting point in Trentino was Tierno or Arco, what is less disputed by historians is that, by the late 1400s, one of the Arco branches moved north, to various points in Val di Non, namely Cles and Revò, and eventually to Castel Malgolo. Apparently, there was a Stefano Betta of Cloz (near Revò) whose name appeared in the catalogue of noble gentry of Valli di Non and di Sole in 1529, but haven’t seen any other mention of the Betta living in Cloz.

Based on this, most historians today see the Betta as being split into two primary lines: one in Val di Non and one in Val Lagarina, especially in the area around Rovereto. The Arco line itself continued throughout the centuries, but not as prolifically as in these other places, and seems to have died out by the end of the 19th century. If you look on Nati in Trentino, you will find 1,349 Betta babies born in Trentino between the years 1815-1923, in most of the above-mentioned places as well as in Aldeno, Arco, Baselga, Bresimo, Caldes, Cavalese, Cis, Meano, Mezzocorona, Castello-Molina di Fiemme, Pergine, Preghena, Fondo, Stenico, Storo, Tenno, Tione, Vervò, and the city of Trento. I will briefly mention the Betta of Stenico in Val Giudicarie later in this article. In my own research, I have also found the surname Betta in Vezzano back to the mid-1600s, as well as in Tenno (again, near Arco) in the mid-1700s.

Below is a map where I have highlighted:

  • Alto Garda (number 5) in green, which is where places like Arco, Riva and Tenno are located.
  • Val Lagarina (number 20) in blue, which is where places like Tierno in Mori, Rovereto, Brentonico and Ala are located.
  • Val di Non (number 18) in yellow, which is where places like Revò, Cles and Castel Malgolo are located, as well as Marcena in Val di Rumo, which I will discuss shortly.
MAP: Trentino, with Val di Non, Val Lagarina, and Alta Garda highlighted
Original map (without highlighting) from the book ‘Toponomastica Trentina’ by Giulia Mastrelli Anzilotti.

Click on image to see it larger

Looking at this map, it seems most likely that all the Betta who are in the southern part of the province are from the original Val Lagarina and/or Arco lines, whilst those in the north are probably descended from the branch that shifted to Revò. But I’ve learned over the years that ‘most likely’ isn’t always ‘true’.

Regarding the dispute over whether the Betta started out in Tierno in Val Lagarina or in Arco, I think the documentation seems to lean to the former. Notary documents and names of priests with the Betta surname seem to go back at least a century earlier in Val Lagarina than those in Arco. Of course, that is not ‘proof’ on its own, as it may just be that more records from Tierno have survived than those from Arco.

Betta Notaries

Traditionally, the Betta were a family of notaries. In Trentino (and indeed all of Italy), a notary is kind of like a contract lawyer. He was responsible for writing every legal document for the comune – Last Wills and Testaments, land sale agreements, legal disputes, dowry agreements, court cases, ‘Carte di Regola’ (charters of local laws), etc. They were educated, highly prestigious and essential to the functioning of the community. If you are unfamiliar with this occupation, you might wish to read my article ‘Was One of Your Trentino Ancestors a Notary?’.

Priest and historian P. Remo Stenico has compiled a PDF book of Trentino notaries throughout the centuries. Among them, he lists over 30 Betta notaries, a substantial number for any single family. His research is based on surviving documents, so it is certainly likely there were more notaries before the dates he cites.

The earliest Betta notary he lists is Antonio Betta of Tierno in Val Lagarina, who appears in records as early as 1460, where he is described as ‘Antonio, son of the late Giovanni, son of the late Guglielmo Betta of Tierno’. This would place his grandfather’s birth sometime in the late 1300s. Looking at the family names, I would hazard a guess that they are descended form the ‘Antonio, son of Guglielmo’ cited by Bertoluzza (see above).

Less than a generation later, we find a notary named Giovanni Betta of Arco, whose name appears in records as early as 1475. Giovanni had a son name Bonifacio who followed in his father’s professional footsteps, appearing in notary documents as early as 1504. This Bonifacio is a significant figure, as he is actually the founder of the Betta line in Val di Non.

Brief Mention – Betta of Val di Fiemme

Before we move on to the Betta of Val di Non, I would like to briefly mention that we find Betta notaries present in Val di Fiemme at the beginning of the 1600s. The earliest I have found is the notary named Pietro Betta, son of Giovanni Betta, who was active at least between the years 1604-1625. Originally from Varena but living in Cavalese, Pietro also served as the Vicario of Castello di Fiemme (n.b.: ‘vicario’ refers to a secular role, not a priest). Pietro’s son, Orazio Betta of Cavalese, followed in his father’s footsteps and was active as a notary at least between 1622-1636.

The surname still flourishes in Fiemme today, mainly in Cavalese, Castello and Molina. I do not yet know if or how they may be related to the other lines I will discuss in this article.

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Bonifacio Betta – From Arco to Val di Non

Author Pietro Micheli tells us that the name Bonifacio Betta appears in diploma of nobility in Marcena archives, dated 13 July 1495. Later, in 1525, this same Bonifacio was granted a title of rural nobility for his loyalty to the bishop of Trento, Bernardo Cles, during the Guerra Rustica (although, apparently, he didn’t engage in any of the military action).

This man is the same Bonifacio Betta of Arco who was cited as a notary twenty years earlier. By comparing various documents, it seems that Bonifacio maintained his home base in Arco, but was simultaneously busy acquiring a lot of land in Revò and Val di Rumo. Micheli lists a number of legal disputes over the rights to various resources and land borders, especially with the municipality of Rumo.

Ancient Nobility and ‘Caesarean Privilege’

We see these disputes continued into the next generation, when the comune of Rumo claimed that Signore Giovanni Betta of Revò (not Bonifacio’s son Giovanni) possessed most of the assets/land in municipality of Rumo, but that he was not paying any of the collections for said lands that were due to the Bishop of Trento. Giovanni Betta responded that he was ‘not obligated’ to pay those collections, because he was not ordinary ‘rural nobility’, but rather ‘superior’ or ‘ancient’ nobility, going back to time immemorial. In a document dated 1576 (found in the Marcena archives), he claimed he had ancient privileges from his ancestors, whereby his predecessors, successors and heirs and he himself were – and will always be – exempt from paying collections/taxes.

Half a century later, a similar dispute took place between a Bartolomeo Betta and the community of Revò. But this time, Bartolomeo appealed directly to the Bishop, and on 13 January 1637, he presented the leaders in Revò with a document from the Castello del Buonconsiglio stating that the family were granted the privilege of immunity from payments due to the Bishops of Trento, by virtue of their ‘Caesarean privilege’.

‘Caesarean privilege’ is a term indicating the family were believed to be ‘ancient’ nobility, allegedly (or at least ‘officially’) dating back to the time of the Roman empire.

Just as their claim to Spanish origins cannot be documented, there is also no ‘paper trail’ to confirm the nobility of the Betta family dated back to the time of the Caesars. True or not, they certainly were successful in persuading Bishops and Emperors of their veracity. Indeed, the Betta of Revò acquired the Bishop’s Palazzo – adorned with the stemma of Cardinal Cles – which still stands in the western part of the village, albeit in disrepair.

The Sons of Bonifacio Betta

We know Bonifacio had at least two sons, both of whom are historically important.

Born in Arco in 1499, Bonifacio’s son Giovanni Betta was a medical doctor who went on to become the Bishop of Trieste from 1560, until his death on 15 April 1565.

Another son named Pantaleone became the patriarch of another branch of the family called ‘Betta di Malgolo’, which I will discuss next.

Pantaleone Betta, Founder of the Betta di Malgolo

In 1555, Pantaleone Betta, son of Bonifacio, married Bona Concini of Casez. His new bride was the heiress of Castel Malgolo, and the couple settled there. Built sometime before 1342, and originally owned by the Lords of Coredo, the castle is in the locality of Malgolo, which is part of the municipality of Romeno. Today it is a private home.

From this couple came the ‘Betta di Malgolo’ line, upon whom many noble titles were conferred in the subsequent centuries. On 11 June 1645, Emperor Carlo V granted nobility of the Holy Roman Empire to Giovanni Betta di Castel Malgolo, a medical doctor. Two Prince-Bishops – Carlo Emanuele Madruzzo and Giovanni Michele Spaur – confirmed the family’s noble titles in 1637 and 1697, respectively.

In keeping with the family profession, the line produced many notaries, at least three of which are listed in P. Remo Stenico’s book of notaries.

Here is the stemma (coat-of-arms) for the Betta di Castel Malgolo as it appears in the book Araldica Tridentina by Gian Maria Rauzi:

Stemma (coat of arms) of the Betta di Castel Malgolo
Stemma (coat of arms) of the Betta di Castel Malgolo

ROVERETO – Betta della Beta

Tabarelli de Fatis says this line came to Rovereto (from Tierno, via Brentonico), where their title of ancient ‘patrician’ nobility was recorded in 1517. He tells us this line went extinct with Ferdinando Vincenzo Betta in 1878. Their stemma is found at the University School of Bologna, for Felice Leonardo, laureate in 1653.

ROVERETO – Betta del Toldo

Tabarelli de Fatis says this line may have started in Folgaria (not far from Rovereto). We do know that, in 1537, they were awarded feudal lands by the Prince-Bishop in Rovereto, Lizzan and Lizzanella.

On 18 Jan 1556, their ancient stemma was confirmed by Emperor Ferdinand I to Luigi Betta. This stemma also appears on the façade of the palazzo in Rovereto that bears their name (see title image at the top of this article). Later, the stemma was embellished (see below), but the main part of the stemma remained the same.

On 27 March 1564, this same emperor (Ferdinando I) also awarded Luigi the title of Tyrolean Nobility.  Rauzi says this Betta line was elevated to the rank of Barons of the Holy Roman Empire by the Duke of Bavaria in 1790.

Here is the embellished stemma of the Betta del Toldo family as it appears in the book Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine (Tabarelli de Fatis; Borrelli):

Stemma (coat-of-arms) of Betta del Toldo family
Stemma (coat-of-arms) of Betta del Toldo family

VAL GIUDICARIE – Betta of Stenico

In his 1993 article ‘Le famiglie nobili e notabili delle Giudicarie Esteriori’, historian Carlo Alberto Onorati includes the Betta of Stenico in his discussion of noble families. He admits that he didn’t know whether the Betta of Stenico came from the Betta of Rovereto, or one the Nones families. I have yet to find any other author even mention this line.

The clearest evidence we have of this family in Stenico is their presence as notaries. P. Remo Stenico lists five of them, the earliest being a Francesco Betta of Stenico, who appears in documents as far back as 1656.

Onorati offers no information about the specifics of their nobility, but says the Betta of Stenico retained the rank of Lords until the end of the 1800s, whereas most lesser nobility lost their titles and privileges as a result of the Napoleonic invasions.

Betta Artisans

In their book Artisti Trentini e Artisti Che Operarono Nel Trentino, authors Weber and Rasmo mention two Betta artisans:

  • Giovanni Maria Betta of Cavalese (1702-1775). Carver/engraver. In 1758, he gilded four reliquaries for the church of Panchià in Val di Fiemme, and also engraved the sacristy cabinets for the church in Valfloriana (also Val di Fiemme), signing them ‘Giovanni Maria Betta fecit anno 1772’.
  • Giuseppe Betta of Cavalese (died 1773). In 1730, he made a tabernacle in the church of Sanzeno to contain the relics of the Holy Cross. He engraved another tabernacle for the church at Tesero, and a third one for the main altar of the church of the Franciscans in Cavalese.

Betta Priests

Similar to his book on notaries, P. Remo Stenico book Sacerdoti della Diocesi di Trento dalla sua Esistenza Fino all’Anno 2000, is a compilation of names of priests who served in the Diocese of Trento throughout the centuries. In that book, he lists more than 50 priests with the Betta surname.

I’ve already mentioned Bonifacio Betta’s son Giovanni (1499-1565), who served as the Bishop of Trieste. While he was born in Arco, the earliest Betta priests Stenico mentions are all from Tierno, most likely born a century before Giovanni in the late 1300s or early 1400s.

Other Betta of Note

Bertoluzza lists many people (well…actually all men) of note who had the surname Betta. Here are a few he mentions:

  • Lodovico Betta of Arco (1500s). Latin poet.
  • Francesco Betta dal Toldo of Rovereto (1526-1599). Legal consultant, expert.
  • Felice Giuseppe Betta of Rovereto (ca 1701-1765). Historian and scholar.
  • Ferdinando Betta of Brentonico (1700s-1800s). Lawyer and translator.
  • Edoardo Francesco de Betta (1822-1896) of Malgolo, politician, zoologist, natural sciences.
  • Nino Beta of Rovereto (1909-1991). Writer, professor, recipient of gold medal for culture.
  • Bruno Betta of Rovereto (1908-1997). Antifascist, writer, professor.

Closing thoughts

We all like a little bit of ‘glamour’ in our family history. This is why tales of ‘exotic’ Spanish origins, dramatic flights from one’s homeland 1,000 years ago, and ancient nobility dating back to the Roman Empire can be awfully alluring – and enduring – when we construct our family histories. But as a genealogist, I feel it is my responsibility to present these to you as theories for your consideration, but not ironclad facts. Somehow, when reading the accounts of all the legal disputes back in the 1500s, I get the impression those Betta notaries were pretty good ‘talkers’ (not unlike courtroom lawyers today), and they were able to convince people of influence (such as the Prince-Bishops) of their ancestral lineage, which may or may not have been true.

Just because a certain version of a story has been repeated many times over, does not prove its veracity. But equally, a lack of tangible proof does not necessarily make something untrue.

But one thing is absolutely true: The Betta family has a colourful story. And, in truth, the story itself (even if it’s completely made up) is also part of their history, as it has become part of the family identity.

And if it’s part of YOUR family story, it really is up to you to choose the version you wish to own, and pass on to future generations.

Coming Up…

Next time, as promised, we’ll move on to the parish of REVÒ in Val di Non, the home parish of so many of my clients’ ancestors, and a place I have researched extensively over my years as a genealogist.

In that article (or perhaps in the subsequent one, if it gets too long!), I’ll also touch upon Romallo, Cagnò, Tregiovo, and Marcena di Rumo, which historically were part of the parish of Revò.

I hope you’ll join me for that.  To be sure to receive the next article in this series ‘Trentino Valleys, Parishes and People: A Guide for Genealogists’ – and ALL future articles from Trentino Genealogy –  just subscribe to this blog using the form below.

Until then…

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
26 October  2020

P.S. As you probably know, my spring and summer trips to Trento was cancelled due to COVID-19 lockdowns. I am also not sure when I will be back in Trento. I was hoping to go in November 2020, but now it might be a bit later, after the New Year. There  is no way to know for sure right now.  

However, I do have  resources to do a fair bit of research for many clients from home, and I will have some openings for a few new client projects starting in December 2020.

If you would like to book a time to discuss having me do research for you, I invite you to read my ‘Genealogy Services’ page, and then drop me a line using the Contact form on this site. Then, we can set up a free 30-minute chat to discuss your project.

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REFERENCES

ANZILOTTI, Giulia Mastrelli. 2003. Toponomastica Trentina: I Nomi delle Località Abitate. Trento: Provincia Autonoma di Trento, Servizio Beni librari e archivistici.

BERTOLUZZA, Aldo. 1998. Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino. Trento: Società Iniziative Editoriali (S.R.L.).

CROLLALANZA (di), G.B. 1886. Dizionario Storico-Blasonico delle Famiglie Nobili E Notabili Italiane Estinte E Fiorenti. 3 volumes. Bologna: Arnaldo Forni Editore.

MICHELI, Pietro. 1985. Carta della Regola della Magnifica Comunità di Revò. Trento: Grafiche Artigianelli.

ONORATI, Carlo Alberto. 1993. ‘Le famiglie nobili e notabili delle Giudicarie Esteriori’. Judicaria, January-April 1993, n. 22. p 8-46. Tione: Centro Studi Judicaria.

RAUZI, Gian Maria. Araldica Tridentina: stemmi e famiglie del Trentino. 1987. Trento: Grafiche Artigianelli.

SERAFINN, Lynn. 2018. ‘Was One of Your Trentino Ancestors a Notary?’ Published on 26 May 2018 at https://trentinogenealogy.com/2018/05/trentino-ancestor-notary/

STENICO, P. Remo. 1999. Notai Che Operarono Nel Trentino dall’Anno 845. Trento: Biblioteca San Bernardino. Can be downloaded for free in PDF format from http://www.db.ofmtn.pcn.net/ofmtn/files/biblioteca/Notai.pdf

STENICO, P. Remo. 2000. Sacerdoti della Diocesi di Trento dalla sua Esistenza Fino all’Anno 2000. Can be downloaded for free in PDF format from http://www.db.ofmtn.pcn.net/ofmtn/files/biblioteca/Preti-Indice-Preti.pdf

TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. 2005. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine. Trento: Società di Studi Trentini di Scienze Storiche.

WEBER, Simone; RASMO, Nicolò. 1977. Artisti Trentini e Artisti Che Operarono Nel Trentino. Trento: Monauni.  Originally published in 1933, this is the 2nd edition.