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The MARTINI Families of Trentino – Origins, Connections, Nobility, and Challenges of Research

The MARTINI Families of Trentino. Origins Connections, Nobility, and Challenges of Research
Stemma of the noble Martini di Valle Aperta of Pieo.

Genealogist Lynn Serafinn discusses the origins of some of the Martini families of Trentino, including those in Val Giudicarie, Val di Sole, Val di Non and Vallagarina.

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Martini is one of many patronymic surnames derived from the male personal name Martino, which Bertoluzza says has the meaning ‘sacred, dedicated to the god Mars’.[1] However, the popularity of the personal name is surely an homage to Saint Martin of Tours, a 4th-century Roman soldier stationed in Gaul (modern-day France), who later became a Catholic Bishop. Amongst Catholics, he is most famous for a legend wherein, having been approached by a scantily-clad beggar, Martin cut his own cloak in half and gave the other half to the destitute man. According to the legend, Martin had a dream that night wherein Jesus came to him, wearing the half of the cloak he had given the beggar.  Thus, among his many patronages today, Martin is first and foremost he is the patron saint against poverty.

Like so many other patronymic surnames, Martini is extremely common, not just in Trentino, but throughout the Italian peninsula. As of this writing, There are reportedly over 9,300 Martini families living in just about every province of Italy, with only 191 of these living in Trentino.[2] In Trentino itself, the surname is widely dispersed; the Nati in Trentino website lists 2,762 Martini births in no fewer than 37 different Trentino parishes between the years 1815-1923, with the heaviest concentration in Revò in Val di Non, and a significant number also in parts of Val Giudicarie and Valsugana.[3] Bertoluzza also points out that there is a frazione called Martini In Vallarsa (Val di Leno), which indicates there was an ancient local concentration of the surname there.[4]

While time prevents me from discussing all the Martini families in Trentino, in this article, we will briefly explore the Martini of Ragoli and Santa Croce del Bleggio (Val Giudicarie), and Riva / Calliano (Vallagarina), and then take a more detailed look at the Martini of Peio (Val di Sole), and Revò (Val di Non), including certain lines that were ennobled.

The Martini of Ragoli in Val Giudicarie

When considering the present-day parish of Ragoli, you have to look also in records associated with the comune of Preore, the villages in the area may be associated with either Preore or Ragoli in earlier centuries. You also have to cross-reference events with the records from the parish of Tione di Trento, as Ragoli records can appear in either parish.

Early documents indicate the presence of the Martini family in Ragoli for at least the past 600 years. Priest-historian don Ivo Leonardi tells us of a ‘Martino of Bulzana (a frazione of Ragoli)’, whose name appears in the tithing records (‘decima’) for Preore in 1388, which is before surnames were widely in use. As the Martini family is later often associated with the frazione of Bulzana, he suggests this is an indication of a possible patriarch of the family later bearing the surname Martini.[5] Author Paolo Scalfi Baito tells us of a ‘Pietro, son of the late Martini’ cited in the Statute of Spinale e Manez (which was part of the comune of Preore) in 1410.[6] He further tells us the surname is found in the fragments of the Tione parish records in 1603.[7] Additionally, the surname Martini is included amongst those compiled by notary Orazio Bertelli of Preore, when he was recording the names of families who survived the plague of 1630, which had decimated much of that part of the province.[8] The surname is still present in Ragoli today.

In the journal Judicaria, author Paolo Gasperi has written a short biography of the multi-talented artisan, woodworker and musician, Domenico Martini, born in Ragoli on 19 September 1915, wherein he includes an excerpt of the family tree of the artist, dating back to the late 1500s.[9]

The Martini of Santa Croce del Bleggio in Val Giudicarie

The Martini of Santa Croce del Bleggio are a branch of the Martini of Ragoli. Their patriarch is one Giuseppe Martini of Vigo (a frazione of Ragoli), who moved to Cavrasto in Santa Croce parish sometime after marrying Maria Bertelli (also of Vigo) on 30 April 1764.[10] The couple had at least three sons. After Maria died, Giuseppe remarried Domenica Santoni of Ceniga (parish of Drò)[11], with whom he had at least one daughter, Cattarina Luigia, in 1773.

Not long after the birth of Cattarina Luigia, the Martini family moved from Cavrasto to settle in an area of the parish then called ‘Spiazzo’ (not to be confused with Spiazzo Rendena), which referred to the area near the parish church of Santa Croce, which is not part of a specific frazione. Most Martini in Bleggio continued to reside in ‘Spiazzo’ well into the 20th century.

The sons of Giuseppe and his first wife Maria grew up to have families of their own,[12] thus propagating the Martini surname in Santa Croce, where their descendants still flourish to this day.[13] From this lineage came the renowned vernacular poet Aldo Martini, who was born in Santa Croce on 11 September 1911, and died in 1979.[14]

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The Martini von Griengarten und Neuhof

This line is an ancient Trentino family, known at least since the mid-1500s, originally from Riva, Calliano (Vallagarina), and Mezzocorona.[15] I have not personally researched this family from a genealogical perspective, but I will share what I have gleaned from other historians about their noble titles.

In Innsbruck on 10 May 1566, Archduke and Emperor Ferdinando I conferred noble privileges on Baldassare, Giovanni Maria and Nicolò Martini of Calliano.[16] Later, the Prince-Bishop Domenico Antonio of the Counts of Thun extended these same privileges to the Martini of Riva.[17]

On 13 June 1559, Emperor Ferdinando granted a stemma (coat-of-arms) to a Pietro Martini of Calliano, who was serving as a chaplain in the court in Innsbruck, and extended this privilege also to Pietro’s brothers Cristiano, Melchiore, Giovanni Cristoforo, Valentino and Nicolò, all of Calliano.[18]

Original STEMMA (coat-of-arms) of the Martini von Griengarten und Neuhof of Calliano
Original STEMMA (coat-of-arms) of the Martini von Griengarten und Neuhof of Calliano

On 5 February 1746, Prince-Bishop Domenico Antonio Thun granted Giovanni Maria and Nicolò Martini permission to add the stemma of the extinct Zanardi family to their own.[19]

1746 STEMMA (coat-of-arms) of the Martini von Griengarten und Neuhof, combining their original stemma with that of the extinct Zanardi family.
1746 STEMMA (coat-of-arms) of the Martini von Griengarten und Neuhof, combining their original stemma with that of the extinct Zanardi family.

On 24 September 1790, brothers Carlo and Giovanni Martini were elevated to the rank of Counts of the Holy Roman Empire, with the predicate ‘von Griengarten und Neuhof’ (sometimes Italianised to ‘de Griengarten e Neuhof’) by the Imperial Vicar, Carol Teodoro. The family were again elevated to the rank of Counts as late as 18 January 1844, by Austrian Emperor, Franz Josef. [20]

The Martini di Valle Aperta of Peio (Val di Sole)

The Martini of Peio in Val di Sole have a long and well-documented history. Tabarelli de Fatis and Borelli tell us that the founding father was one Martino, who came to Peio in the late 1400s, probably from Valtellina in Lombardia, where there was a family of notaries of the same name.[21] Among his sons, we find the notary Giovanni Antonio Martini (cited in records as early as 1545), another notary Giovanni Battista Martini (cited as early as 1550), and the priest Fabiano Martini, who was curate of Peio until his death in 1564.[22], [23]

One of Martino’s later descendants, another Martino Martini (1614-1661),[24] was a Jesuit priest, who, in the 1500s, became the first missionary to go to China. During his extensive travels, he did a detailed study of the geography of the country, which he later published in a work entitled Atlas Cinensis.[25]

In 1559, the family were granted the right to use a stemma by Emperor Ferdinando I (via one Pietro Martini). They were later granted nobility of the Holy Roman Empire in 1566. [26]

The stemma contains a black eagle sitting on a five-peaked mountain in the upper half, and a silver lily (fleur-de-lis) on a blue background in the lower half.[27]

STEMMA (coat-of-arms) of the noble Martini di Valle Aperta family of Peio in Val di Sole, Trentino
STEMMA (coat-of-arms) of the noble Martini di Valle Aperta family of Peio in Val di Sole, Trentino

On 7 January 1580, Prince-Bishop Lodovico Madruzzo granted the use of a stemma to Giuseppe Martini, who was originally of Peio, but was living as a citizen of the city of Trento, where he served as a spice dealer for the principality. Two generations later, the family was granted the imperial predicate ‘di Valle Aperta’ by Maximilian, Prince of Dietrichstein (on the authority of Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III) on 27 November 1641.[28]

The priest, Antonio Martini di Valle Aperta (sometimes abbreviated V. A. in documents) of Peio, was parroco (pastor) of the parish of Revò in Val di Non from 17 December 1647[29] until his death on 5 April 1666.[30]

The notary Gerolamo Martini di Valle Aperta of Peio spent most of his long life in the city of Trento, where he served as the secretary to at least five Prince-Bishops until at least 1680. [31], [32]

A branch of the Martini di Valle Aperta of Peio moved to Salorno in South Tyrol. From this line, one Giovanni Antonio, a merchant, later transferred to the city Trento, where he was elevated to the rank of Knight of the Holy Roman Empire (Cavaliere del S.R.I.) on 30 September 1790 by Carlo Teodoro (Charles Theodore), Elector of Bavaria.[33]

At least until the late 20th century, a tomb of the Martini di Valle Aperta family, engraved with their stemma and dated 1652, was still visible facing the main altar in the parish church of Peio.

The Martini of Revò (Val di Non)

Nearly every historian I have consulted says the branch of Martini of Revò who later became the noble Martini de Wasserperg (also seen spelled ‘Wasserberg’) were originally a branch of the Martini di Valle Aperta of Peio, who settled in Val di Non at least by the late 1400s.[34] However, in none of these histories have I found any reference to documentative evidence specifying the name of the man who migrated to Revò from Peio, nor precisely when he did so.

The surname Martini has been part of the Revò landscape for as long as surviving records narrate. We surely find it in the earliest baptismal records of the parish register, which starts in 1619. Other records, such as the Revò tax register from 1620[35], and the census of 1624[36], tell us that there were four Martini households present in the first decades of the 17th century, with no indication that they (nor any of the elders who were born in the mid-1500s) were newcomers to the parish. Thus, if the Martini of Revò had indeed migrated from Peio, we might safely assume that they arrived by the beginning of the 1500s, which does fit with most historical estimates.

However, what is more difficult to ascertain is whether ALL of the Martini families living in Revò at the beginning of the 1600s were descendants of the said immigrants from Peio, or if there were pre-existing Martini families already living in Revò before their arrival.

Thus far, I have not found any evidence that can conclusively answer these questions. However, there may be some possible clues when we look closely at two particular households the 1624 census and the 1620 tax census:

  • The household of Margherita (age 52), the widow of the late dominus Domenico Martini. The record indicates the house once belonged to Domenico and Margherita’s son, Francesco, who is also deceased. Living with her is her daughter, also named Margherita, who is 25 years old, and also widowed. With them are the younger Margherita’s two children: Domenica (born 1622) and Antonio (born 1623). Her late husband, Antonio Vielmetti was a notary from Preghena in the parish of Livo. He died before the birth of their son Antonio, after which she returned to Revò to live with her mother.
  • The household of Giovanni de Martini, who was widowed shortly before the 1624 census, and is now living with 7 of his children (who range in age from 4 to 29), including his 29-year-old son Giovanni Francesco, who was a priest. Believe it or not, I have found more than one young priest living at home with his parents rather than at the church rectory.

There are two reasons why these stand out to me.

One is the use of honourifics when referring to members of these two households. The 1624 census refers to these families (along with one other) as ‘de Martini’. The prefix ‘de’ is generally reserved for noble lines. Also, Giovanni Martini as well as Margherita’s late husband Domenico are referred to as ‘dominus’ (but abbreviated), which is a general honourific used for a man of some social status. While this honourific alone does not always indicate nobility, it can sometimes infer it. Similarly, when his daughter Margherita Martini is a godmother in 1619, she is referred to as ‘Madonna’ (My Lady), which is generally only used in cases of nobility. [37]

The other reason is the apparent wealth of these two households, as per the tax census. Where the majority of households in the parish are reported to have perhaps around 10 bushels of grain (and many with none), the widowed Margherita is reported to have 150, and ‘dominus‘ Giovanni de Martini has 100.

This combination of honourifics and wealth makes me inclined to suspect these two families may have been nobility, and may also have been related. Perhaps Giovanni was the brother of Margherita’s late husband, for example. Perhaps, as they both had sons with the name Francesco, they were the sons of another Francesco. Of course, this is all speculation.

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Carlo Ferdinando Martini de Wasserperg

Aside from these questions of origins, one thing we can definitely prove through documentation is that the noble line known as ‘Martini de Wasserperg’ are descended from the wealthy Giovanni de Martini mentioned above.

Of his 7 children, 6 were male (albeit one was a priest). While I have not researched all of these children, his son Federico, born around 1616, had at least 7 sons, and Federico’s son Pietro had at least 6. In this way, the Martini surname flourish in Revò throughout the 17th century.

Pietro’s son, Carlo Ferdinando Martini, was born 20 May 1669. In his baptismal record we see that his godfather Carlo Ferdinando, one of the Counts of Thun. As this is the first time that we see this name ‘Carlo Ferdinando’ appear in the Martini lineage, I can only assume he was named after his noble and influential godfather. By age 26, when he marries Margherita Graiff of Romeno on 09 February 1695, Carlo Ferdinando is working as a notary.[38] By 1708, we begin to see him referred to as ‘noble’ in the parish records. [39]

IMPORTANT: I would like to stress that this is the FIRST time any Martini family is referred to as nobility in the Revò records, and this is the ONLY Martini family group consistently referred to as nobility, even amongst those who may also be descended from the wealthy dominus Giovanni de Martini we met in 1620. So, even if the entire line had an ancient noble origin (possibly via a connection to the Peio Martini), that connection was no longer recognised ‘across the board’ by the year 1700.

Carlo Ferdinando and Margherita Graiff had a son who was ALSO named Carlo Ferdinando. it is this younger Carlo Ferdinando who became the founding father of the Martini de Wasserperg line.

This younger Carlo Ferdinando was born in Revò on 09 December 1704. Most likely born ennobled, he followed his father’s profession as a notary.[40] At age twenty, he married Margherita de Pretis of Cagnò on 30 April 1724, who was herself descended from two different noble de Pretis lines.[41] Again, this couple had a large family, producing at least 5 sons and 6 daughters.

On 25 June 1765, Carlo Ferdinando and his eldest son, Carlo Antonio Martini, who was then a Professor and Director at the University of Vienna, were both elevated to the rank of Knights of the Holy Roman Empire (‘Cavalieri di S.R.I.’), when they were also granted the use of the predicate ‘de Wasserperg’ (also seen ‘von Wasserberg’).[42] Aside from the use of the fleur-de-lis, their stemma bears no resemblance to that of the Martini di Valle Aperta in Peio.

STEMMA (coat-of-arms) of the noble Martini de Wasserperg (von Wasserberg) of Revò in Val di Non, Trentino
STEMMA (coat-of-arms) of the noble Martini de Wasserperg (von Wasserberg) of Revò in Val di Non, Trentino

On 14 March 1771, Carlo Ferdinando also obtained ecclesiastical nobility from Prince-Bishop Cristoforo Sizzo de Noris.

Not long afterwards, he died from a sudden illness on 10 January 1774, shortly before his 70th birthday. He was buried in a family tomb inside the parish church of San Stefano. [43]

Carlo Antonio Martini de Wasserperg

Without a doubt, the most famous of all Trentino Martini is Carlo Ferdinando’s son, Carlo Antonio Martini de Wasserperg. 

Carlo Antonio Martini de Wasserperg (1726-1800)
Carlo Antonio Martini de Wasserperg (1726-1800)

Carlo Antonio Martini was born in Revò on 15 August 1726.[44] Historian Roberto Pancheri tells us that Carlo Antonio first embarked on an ecclesiastical career, attending the Jesuit College in Trento, and also studied theology and law in Innsbruck. As per his father’s wish, he took on the Capuchin robe, but later abandoned the order. [45], [46]

Pancheri further explains that, in 1747, against the wishes of his family, Carlo Antonio transferred to Vienna to dedicate himself to the study of philosophy and law, eventually obtaining a doctorate. Becoming the secretary of the court adviser of Count Friedrich von Haugwitz, and subsequently Chancellor of the State, he began his long career in the inner administration of the Hapsburgs.

In 1752, he went to Madrid, following the Ambassador of Austria, the future Cardinal Cristoforo Migazzi, who was also from Trentino. Upon returning from this important mission, he was assigned the desk of natural Law and Institutions at the University of Vienna.

Among his many high-ranking roles, he was President of the Supreme Court of Justice in Vienna, and was in charge of compiling the ‘Codex Theresianus’ for the Empress Maria Teresa.[47] Written in German, the Codex was an expression of the Empress’s personal mission to reform the legal system, specifically the Law of persons, the Law of property, and the Law of obligations. Although never officially put into place, many historians laud it as a major ideological step forward compared to other European legal systems of its time.[48]

In addition, the Empress also engaged Carlo Antonio to instruct her children, and especially her son, the Archduke Leopoldo, who later became Emperor in 1790, after having been Grand Duke in Tuscany. He also prepared the first projects of mass education for the subjects of the Empire, reorganising the elementary schools and the universities. Alongside, this, he also deepened the legal and penal system, and became a member of the court commissions for Censorship, for Studies, and for Ecclesiastical Affairs.[49]

On 1 December 1780, he was elevated to the rank of Baron of the Holy Roman Empire, with an elaboration of the stemma, by Emperor Giuseppe (Josef) II. The family was entered into the matriculation of noble Tirolesi in 1783. [50]

In 1792, he was put in charge of presiding over the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, the highest judiciary rank in the Empire. He improved the justice system in Lombardia, during the time of Hapsburg rule, and prepared the civil code of Galizia and modernised the penal codes of Austria. In 1797, three years before his death, for reasons of health, he resigned from the Court Commission on Legislation. [51]

He died in Vienna on 8 August 1800.[52] Although he had two sons, Massimiliano and Paolo, both died without offspring, which brought an end to the noble Martini de Wasserperg line. [53]

In the year 2000, the parish of Revò erected a memorial stone commemorating the bicentenary of his death.

Memorial stone placed by the comune of Revò in 2000, to honour their native son, the noble Carlo Antonio Martini de Wasserperg, on the bicentenary of his death in 1800. Photo courtesy of Chris Martin.
Memorial stone placed by the comune of Revò in 2000, to honour their native son, the noble Carlo Antonio Martini de Wasserperg, on the bicentenary of his death in 1800. Photo courtesy of Chris Martin.

Soprannomi, and the Many Martini in Revò

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, Revò is where you will still find the greatest number of Martini in Trentino today. And, from experience, I will tell you that wading through all those Martini lines can be a real challenge when you are doing genealogical research, especially if the priests are inconsistent (e.g., alternately calling a man Giovanni Antonio, Giovanni or Antonio), or incomplete (e.g., not including the names of fathers in marriage records, or the surnames of mothers in baptismal records, etc.).

One device the Martini themselves have implemented in an effort to keep all these lines straight are soprannomi, which I describe as ‘bolt on’ names, which Italian families use to distinguish one line from another with the same surname. If you are unfamiliar with soprannomi, you might wish to read my article on this subject entitled ‘Not Just a Nickname: Understanding Your Family Soprannome’. 

MORE READING:   Not Just a Nickname: Understanding Your Family Soprannome

With regards to the Martini, a group of Revò Martini descendants recently gave me a list of no fewer than 17 different Martini soprannomi, which of course, represent 17 different Martini lines. But sadly, while there are some Trentino parishes (Tione di Trento comes to mind) where soprannomi are meticulously recorded in nearly every record, Revò is just not one of those parishes, and soprannomi are recorded somewhat erratically. I have found many early soprannomi for other Revò families in the records (Rigatti, Geronimi, Magagna are three examples), but I have found hardly any soprannomi for the Martini prior to the 19th century.

Moreover, soprannomi are not as stable as surnames; they change with the times, and new soprannomi will crop up whenever the lines get too tangled again. Thus, soprannomi that may have been in use for the past century (or even two), may not have existed more than a handful of generations, and thus may not lead us very far back in tracing our ancestry.

Thus, there really is no other choice but to trawl meticulously through the parish records and, if necessary, to construct parallel lines of every family with your surname, comparing every tiny detail. Only through such exhaustive (and sometimes exhausting) research can you confirm (or at least make informed theories about) who is who.

But, as I pointed out earlier, one thing we DO know is that ALL of these Martini lines will inevitably lead back to one of the four households we ‘met’ in the 1624 census, for the simple reason that there were no other Martini in Revò. So, if you are a Martini of Revò, it is highly probable you are related to other Martinis, even if your lines have different soprannomi. 

And, of course, all four of these Martini lines may or may not take us back to a single Martini from Peio, who came to Revò sometime in the 1400s. If and when that can be proven either through documentation or Y-DNA, we might discover that all Martini from Val di Non and Val di Sole are ultimately cousins.

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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.

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Until next time!

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
26 January 2022

P.S. Sadly, due to personal health reasons (not COVID), I have had to cancel my previously arranged trip to Trento for February-March 2022. 

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. I am now taking bookings for April 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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REFERENCES

[1] BERTOLUZZA, Aldo. 1998. Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino, page 215.

[2] Cognomix website. ‘Martini’. Accessed 24 January 2022 from https://www.cognomix.it/mappe-dei-cognomi-italiani/MARTINI.

[3] Nati in Trentino website. Accessed 25 January 2022 from https://www.natitrentino.mondotrentino.net/

[4] BERTOLUZZA, Aldo. 1998. Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino, page 215.

[5] LEONARDI, Ivo (don). 1989. La Decima di Preore (Ragoli e Montagne). Trento: Grafiche Artigianelli.

[6] BAITO, Paolo Scalfi. 1987. Preore in Giudicarie: Altre Notizie e Toponomastica. Volume 2. Trento: La Grafica, page 156.

[7] BAITO, page 161.

[8] BAITO, page 162-163.

[9] GASPERI, Paolo. 2000. ‘Domenico Martini: Artigiano e artista in una famiglia dedita alla lavorazione del legno. Judicaria, n. 44, August 2000, pages 69-73.

[10] Ragoli parish records, marriages, volume 1 (LDS microfilm 1447996, part 4, Trento file 4256253_00233), no page number.

[11] Drò parish records, marriages, volume 2 (LDS microfilm 1448195, part 13), page 37. Trento file 4256291_01963.

[12] Especially prolific was Giuseppe’s son Giovanni Martini, who had at least 10 children with his wife, Maria Cattarina Maijerhof.

[13] This information is based on my own research, using the parish records for Santa Croce and Drò. I have not yet fully researched this family.

[14] BERTOLUZZA, Aldo. 1998. Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino, page 215.

[15] GUELFI, Adriano Camaiani. 1964. Famiglie nobili del Trentino, page 80-81.

[16] GUELFI, page 80-81.

[17] GUELFI, page 80-81.

[18] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano, page 189.

[19] Images of both versions of the stemma are taken from TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano, page 359.

[20] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano, page 189.

[21] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano. 2005. Stemmi e Notizie di Famiglie Trentine. Trento: Società di Studi Trentini di Scienze Storiche, page 188.

[22] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano, page 188.

[23] STENICO, P. Remo. 2000. Sacerdoti della Diocesi di Trento dalla sua Esistenza Fino all’Anno 2000, page 269.

[24] BERTOLUZZA, Aldo. 1998. Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino, page 215.

[25] SPRETI, Vittorio. 1928-36. Enciclopedia storico-nobiliare italiana: famiglie nobile e titolate viventi riconosciute del R. Governo d’Italia, compresi: città, comunità, mense vescovile, abazie, parrocchie ed enti nobili e titolati riconosciuti. Milano: Ed., volume IV, page 437. NOTE: the quote was copied and pasted by Pier Carlo Omero Bormida on the ‘I Nostri Avi’ website in 2004, which I accessed on 23 January 2022 at http://www.iagiforum.info/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=493

[26] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano, page 188. I

[27] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano, stemma from page 359.

[28] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano, page 188.

[29] Revò parish records, baptisms, volume 1 (LDS microfilm 1388681, part 6), page 1. There is a fragment of a record at the beginning of the baptismal register that lists the start dates of the parroci. The day and month are clear, but the year has been gleaned from context in other records.

[30] Revò parish records, deaths, volume 1 (LDS microfilm 1388682, part 3), no page number.

[31] TURRINI, Fortunato. 1996. Carte di Peio. Centro Studi per la Val di Sole, page 23.

[32] STENICO, P. Remo. 1999. Notai Che Operarono Nel Trentino dall’Anno 845. Trento: Biblioteca San Bernardino, page 228.

[33] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano, page 188.

[34] This opinion is shared by Tabarelli de Fatis/Borrelli, Bertoluzza, Spreti, and probably others.

[35] Capsa 9, 169 1620 Tax Census (Revò, Cloz, Dambel, Romeno, Fondo, Livo, Bozzana), page 1-4.

[36] Revò parish archives, anagraphs, pages 73, 74, 76, 84 (Revò, 28 July 1624).

[37] Revò parish records, baptisms, volume 1 (LDS microfilm 1388681, part 6), page 2-3.

[38] Carlo Ferdinando (the elder) is referred to as ‘spectabilis’ in his marriage 1695 record, and in later records. This is an honourific used specifically for notaries. Revò parish records, marriages, volume 1 (LDS microfilm 1388681, part 16), no page number.

[39] Carlo Ferdinando (the elder) is first referred to as nobility in the baptismal record of his son Giovanni Romedio, on 21 February 1708. Revò parish records, baptisms, volume 3 (LDS microfilm 1388681, part 8), page 6-7.

[40] P. Remo Stenico’s Notai Che Operarono Nel Trentino dall’Anno 845, page 227

[41] Revò parish records, marriages, volume 2 (LDS microfilm 1388681, part 17), page 39.  Marriage of Carlo Ferdinando Martini and Margherita de Pretis (30 April 1724). I have also traced both sides of Margherita’s family.

[42] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano, page 188. Stemma on page 359.

[43] Revò parish records, deaths, volume 3, page 112.

[44] Revò parish records, baptisms, volume 3 (LDS microfilm 1388681, part 8), page 216-217.

[45] PANCHERI, Roberto. 2000. Carlo Antonio Martini. Ritratto di un giurista al servizio dell’Impero. Trento: Edizioni U.C.T.

[46] A similar, if slightly more detailed, biography for Carlo Antonio can be found (in Italian) entitled ‘Carlo Antonio Martini de Wasserperg’ at  https://it.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlo_Antonio_Martini. The public domain portrait above, painted by an unknown artist, was also taken from that website.

[47] SPRETI, Vittorio. 1928-36. Enciclopedia storico-nobiliare italiana: famiglie nobile e titolate viventi riconosciute del R. Governo d’Italia, compresi: città, comunità, mense vescovile, abazie, parrocchie ed enti nobili e titolati riconosciuti. Milano: Ed., volume IV, page 437.

[48] Codex theresianus. Wikipedia (Italy). Accessed 25 January 2022 at https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex_theresianus.

[49] PANCHERI, Roberto. 2000. Carlo Antonio Martini. Ritratto di un giurista al servizio dell’Impero.

[50] TABARELLI DE FATIS, Gianmaria; BORRELLI, Luciano, page 188.

[51] PANCHERI, Roberto. 2000. Carlo Antonio Martini. Ritratto di un giurista al servizio dell’Impero.

[52] PANCHERI, Roberto. 2000. Carlo Antonio Martini. Ritratto di un giurista al servizio dell’Impero.

[53] SPRETI, Vittorio. 1928-36. Enciclopedia storico-nobiliare italiana: famiglie nobile e titolate viventi riconosciute del R. Governo d’Italia, compresi: città, comunità, mense vescovile, abazie, parrocchie ed enti nobili e titolati riconosciuti. Milano: Ed., volume IV, page 437.

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Parishes, Parish Records & Genealogy Resources for Trentino

Parishes, Parish Records & Genealogy Resources for Trentino
Postcard from 1910, written by parish priest Giovanni Battista Lenzi, with an artist’s rendition of the parish church of Santa Croce del Bleggio. Click image to see it larger.

Genealogist Lynn Serafinn tells what you can learn from church records, the role of the parish in Trentini life, and where to look for your ancestors’ records.  

Perhaps the biggest question people have when they want to create their family tree is, ‘How do I START?’ The task of researching your Trentino family history can seem daunting, especially if your Trentini ancestor is more than a generation away from you, i.e. a grandparent or great-grandparent.

In my opinion, the best starting point is to look at parish records. I’ll be talking a lot about the ‘how to’ of parish records in later articles, but today I want to lay the groundwork by explaining what they are, how parishes operated in our ancestors’ lives, and what available resources there are for the parish records of the Catholic Archdiocese of Trento (which covers all of the province of Trentino).

What Are Parish Records and When Did They Start?

Parish records (registri parrocchiali, in Italian) are books kept by the parish priests to record important events that took place in their parish, including (but not limited to) the ‘vital’ records of baptisms, marriages and deaths of all their parishioners. Some church records include confirmations, first communions and church census records, but these are generally only accessible if you go directly to the parish itself and view the original records.

The keeping of parish records was first mandated by the Catholic Church in 1563, at the Council of Trent (Trento), when all Catholic churches were directed to keep records of all baptisms, marriages and deaths within their parish. Some parishes, including Santa Croce del Bleggio where the majority of my Trentini ancestors lived at that time, was one of the early conformists to this new regulation, and you will see baptisms and marriages appearing as early as 1565. Many parishes were late to adopt the practice, although most kept records of births and marriages by 1595. In many parishes, the regular practice of keeping death records appeared slightly later.

Bearing in mind that civil records in Italy began around the time of the Napoleonic wars in the early 1800s (and, even more significantly, Trentino has only been part of Italy since the end of the First World War), Catholic parish records are vital to genealogical research in Trentino.

The Role of Parishes in Our Ancestors’ Lives

The more I research my ancestors, the more I come to respect the role of the parish in their everyday lives. A parish was (and still is) more than the place to go to church. This church was a portal of all rites of passage – coming into the world, unifying for the purpose of procreation and, ultimately, leaving the world. It was the place where people came together on a regular basis, and where everyone knew everyone else. It was also where families in need could find support. In fact, a progressive, rural cooperative movement – aimed at helping poor, farming families – was established in 1890 by the priest don Lorenzo Guetti (of Vigo Lomaso), assisted by don Giovanni Battista Lenzi (of Santa Croce).

Church records are not merely repositories of your ancestors’ vital information. Within them, you can also find evidence of friendships and long-standing alliances between families, as well as clues as to the occupations and reputations of various individuals within the community. Digging really deeply into them, you can see the heartache of loss, and both the fragility and the tenacity of human existence. Some parish records can even provide us with a microcosm of contemporary community life, and the concerns of its people. I read some heart-rending accounts penned by don Lenzi during the first decades of the 20th Century, where he shared his feelings on the tragedy of the First World War and his reflections on the trend of mass immigration to the Americas. I even read an account about a devastating fire that took place in 1916 in the house of my great-grandfather.

Parishes and Life Events – Where Did They Take Place?

Marriages normally took place in the parish church of the bride, or sometimes a smaller church in the bride’s frazione (village). As the vast majority of marriages took place between two people from the same parish (and sometimes even from the same frazione), you can often trace many generations of your Trentini ancestors within a single parish. If you cannot locate a marriage record for a couple, it is often an indication that the wife came from a different parish. In such a case, you might have luck looking at marriages that took place in parishes nearby that of the husband.

After a couple married, they normally went to live in the husband’s frazione of origin. This means any baptismal records of children born from that marriage would be born in their father’s parish. The fact that wives tended to move to their husband’s frazione means that over the generations, each frazione came to be associated with specific families. For example, if you say the surnames ‘Crosina’ or ‘Farina’ in the parish of Santa Croce del Bleggio where my ancestors came from, 99% of the time they will have been born in the frazione of Balbido. Knowing these kinds of trends can really expedite your research, especially because some priests organised baptismal records according to the frazione.

Burials, of course, would be registered in the parish in which the person was living at the time of death. Thus, a woman born in one parish will most likely have been buried in her husband’s parish.

Exceptions to the Rule

There are always exceptions to these patterns. Sometimes a bride is the last surviving child from her parents’ marriage, or is the eldest daughter, with no brothers. In such cases (and especially if the groom came from a family where there were many sons), the groom would likely move into the home of the bride and the couple would take ownership of the father’s property upon his demise. Occasionally, if an unmarried man married a widowed woman, he might move into the home in which she had lived with her late husband. Because such exceptions sometimes arise, if you are having difficulty finding the baptismal records for the children of this couple in the village of the father, the most likely place to look would be the village of origin of the wife.

Another exception is when the husband is a person of import – a notary or judge, for example. Such men might be assigned to an official post in another parish. In such cases, the whole family would move to this new parish, which might have no ancestral connection to either the husband or the wife. For example, my grandmother’s line, the Onorati, had several notaries in the family, going back many centuries. Although their ancestral village is in the frazione of Bono (Santa Croce del Bleggio parish), a few Onorati families lived in other parishes for short periods of time, when the heads of the families were posted at castles like Stenico (Tavodo parish) and Castel Campo (Vigo Lomaso parish). Thus, if you want to find the records for children born during those years, they may be in the parish of origin OR in the ‘adopted’ parish. Sometimes, you will find the records in both parishes. On the other hand, if you’re unlucky, they might be missing in both.

SIDE NOTE: All of these habits were the norm in Trentino prior to WW1. While these trends still exist today, the way many people live, marry and work has changed significantly over the past century, as people have become more mobile.

Changes in Parish ‘Boundaries’ Over Time

Parishes are not ‘fixed in stone’ entities. As populations rise and fall, some parishes will merge together, while others will split apart. Some very tiny frazioni have shifted around a lot over the centuries, appearing in one set of parish records for a period of time, and then in another later on. One example is the frazione of Saone, which was originally part of the Bleggio parish, but later became a parish of its own. Another is the frazione of Favrio in the current-day parish of Ragoli, the records of which over the centuries were constantly shifting back and forth between the parish of Ragoli and Thione. As a result, there are significant gaps in the early church records for these villages. Sometimes entire decades are missing.

If you cannot find the records you are looking for, don’t give up until you have exhausted all the most likely possibilities. Look on a map and see which parishes border your ancestors’ usual parish of origin, and check those records before resigning yourself to the fact they may no longer exist (if they ever did). For three years I believed I would never find the marriage record for my 7x Serafini great-grandparents. But a few months ago, I ‘stumbled’ upon the very record (from 1642) when I was searching for something else in a nearby parish.

Click on the image below to see it larger.

1642 marriage record of Antonio Serafini (son of Serafino) and Catharina Floriani, both of Favrio, in Ragoli.
1642 marriage record of Antonio Serafini (son of Serafino) and Catharina Floriani, both of Favrio, in Ragoli. This record was found in the THIONE parish records, although the baptismal records for their children were found in the RAGOLI parish records.

Where Can I Find and Search Trentini Parish Records?

We Trentini are particularly fortunate because we have three excellent resources to access the parish records of our ancestors:

  1. Nati Trentino – a free, searchable website containing basic information from the all baptismal records for the Archdiocese of Trento between 1815 – 1923
  2. Microfilms made by the Latter Day Saints (LDS) – rentable films of all available baptisms, marriages and death records from the Archdiocese of Trento between 1550s – 1923
  3. Archives of Archdiocese of Trento, in Trento, Italy – research facility of digital images of all available baptisms, marriages and death records from the Archdiocese of Trento between 1550s – 1923

While I work regularly with all three of these resources, my favourite is the Archives in Trento. Of course, utilising the Archives of the Archdiocese requires physically going to Trento (as these resources are not available online). This is impractical for many, especially those who live in North America and/or don’t speak Italian. Even if you do make the trip, knowing how to find and understand what you’re looking for is not something easily done if you’re just starting out in your genealogical quest.

That’s why, when someone is just starting out, I normally recommend they use the Nati Trentino website. They have a REALLY long link to get to the English research portal:

http://www.natitrentino.mondotrentino.net/portal/server.pt/community/indice_nati_in_trentino_-_inglese/837/search_database/23738

Coming Up Next Time…

In the next article on Trentino Genealogy, I’ll be giving you a quick tour of Nati Trentino. In that article, I’ll be looking at:

  • What the site can tell you (and what it cannot)
  • Technical limitations of the site and tips for working around them
  • What to do if you don’t know your ancestors’ parish
  • Tips on what to do if you’re not certain of your ancestors’ original name
  • Troubleshooting and strategies to use when you seem to be stuck

After that, I’ll be sharing my tips on finding and using LDS microfilms, working with the Trento Archives, and ways you can take your research beyond parish records.

I hope you’ll subscribe to this blog so you can read all future articles on this site. Desktop viewers can subscribe using the form at the right side at the top of your screen. If you are viewing on a mobile device and cannot see the form, you can subscribe by sending a blank email to trentinogenealogy@getresponse.net.

Also, if you’d like to talk to me about researching your family history, you are most welcome to drop me a line via the contact form on this site.

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn

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View My Santa Croce del Bleggio Family Tree on Ancestry:
https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/tree/161928829

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

LYNN SERAFINN is a bestselling author and genealogist specialising in the families of Trentino. She is also the author of the regularly featured column ‘Genealogy Corner’ for Filò Magazine: A Journal for Tyrolean Americans.

In addition to her work for clients, her personal research project is to transcribe all the parish records for the parish of Santa Croce del Bleggio (where her father was born) from the 1400s to the current era, as well as to connect as many living people as she can who were either born in Bleggio or whose ancestors came from there. She hopes this tree, which already contains tens of thousands of people, will serve as a visual and spiritual reminder of how we are all fundamentally connected.

View the Santa Croce del Bleggio Family Tree on Ancestry:
https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/tree/161928829

CLICK HERE to view a searchable database of Trentini SURNAMES.