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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.
CLICK HERE to buy this article in the ‘Digital Shop’, where you can also browse for other genealogy articles.

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.

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.

CLOZ in Val di Non: History, Parish Records, Local Surnames

CLOZ in Val di Non: History, Parish Records, Local Surnames

History, Inventory of Parish Records, Surnames of Cloz. Part 5 of ‘Trentino Valleys, Parishes and People Guide for Genealogists’ by Lynn Serafinn.

In the first article of this special series on the valleys, parishes and parish registers for the province of Trento, we looked how the province of Trento (aka Trentino) and the diocese of Trento were organised, and how those levels of organisation differ. In articles 2-4, we looked specifically at the decanato (deanery) of the city of Trento, i.e. its history, frazioni, parishes, surnames, and local occupations.

Today, we move on to the first of a series of articles I will be writing on VAL DI NON, in the northern part of the province. As a reminder, 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 Non (number 18) in YELLOW. You can see its relative position to the city of Trento, which is ‘0’ on the map.

Val di Non in the Province of Trento (Trentino)

 

Click on image to see it larger

This map was taken from the book Toponomastica Trentina: I Nomi delle Località Abitate by Giulia Mastrelli Anzilotti (2003). If you wish to review my earlier article about Trentino valleys, you can find it here:

MORE READING:   Trentino Valleys, Parishes and People. A Guide for Genealogists.

TODAY’S SPOTLIGHT: CLOZ

Val di Non covers a very large area and contains many parishes. It would be impossible to discuss all these parishes all in a single article in any detail. Thus, I have decided to spotlight these parishes in separate articles.

Today’s spotlight is the village/parish of Cloz. I chose to start with Cloz only because I just finished working on project for one of my clients, where most of the families came from Cloz, and this parish is fresh in my mind.

In today’s article, I will cover:

  • The geographical location of Cloz within the province, and in relation to other parishes/comuni.
  • A brief history of the village/parish, including a look at the Carta di Regola of 1550.
  • My own commentary on the state of the parish records for Cloz, including start years, how they are organised, where you will find gaps, etc.
  • An exploration of the most common surnames of the parish, i.e. their linguistic and historic origins in the parish, including some that no longer exist.

Armed with this information, my hope is you will have a practical toolkit to help you along with your genealogical research, when looking for ancestors in the parish of Cloz.

RESEARCH RESOURCES

My primary resource are the parish registers for Cloz. These have been digitised by the archdiocese of Trento, and were also microfilmed by the Church of Latter Day Saints. I will discuss these in detail later in the article.

Secondary sources, of which there are many, including research by other historians, are listed under ‘REFERENCES’ at the end of this article.

ALL of these sources are written in either Latin or Italian, so anything you read here will be my own translations of the original texts.

VIDEO PODCAST

After you finish reading this article, you might also wish to watch this video podcast I made on 4 Sept 2020, where I expand on some of the topics covered in this article, and discuss additional research tips and insights:

WHERE CLOZ IS LOCATED IN VAL DI NON

At an elevation of 791 metres above sea level, Cloz is located near the Novella River, a few miles northeast of Lago di Santa Giustina, at the base of a kind of ‘land fjord’ (my word) in Val di Non, where a sliver of the province of Bolzano/South Tyrol juts into Trentino.

I have highlighted Cloz in YELLOW in the map below (again, the original map, without highlighting, was taken from the book by Giulia Mastrelli Anzilotti):
MAP: Cloz in Val di Non, province of Trentino in northern Italy.

Click on image to see it larger

According to historian Enzo Leonardi on page 370 of his book Anaunia: Storia della Valle di Non, Cloz covers a territory of 833 hectares, which is only about 3.2 square miles. At the time he wrote that book in 1985, he says the village then had 731 inhabitants; he adds that Cloz had 1,002 in 1915, and 883 in 1837. Thus, the population rose towards the end of the 19th century, but then dropped by 30% after World War 1, surely due to emigration (including to the US). The latest population statistics for Cloz from December 2019 show there are only 654 people living there.

Because of downward population trends (especially in rural areas), civil municipalities in Trentino are frequently changing, so as to make them more practical.

Leonardi says the municipalities of Cloz and Castelfondo were aggregated into the pre-existing comune of Brez in 1928, but it was later reconstituted into an autonomous municipality in 1946. Just this year, however (on 1 January 2020), Cloz, Brez, Cagnò, Revò and Romallo were all merged to form the new municipality of Novella, one of the twenty-nine mergers of municipalities in Trentino-Alto Adige.

TIP: Focus on Parishes, not Municipalities

Because civil jurisdictions are so ‘fluid’ in Trentino (and indeed throughout all of Italy), a Trentino genealogist needs to focus on PARISHES rather than comuni, as they change far less frequently, and often remain the same (or more or less the same) for many centuries.

TIP: Pay Attention to Adjacent Parishes

If you are tracing ancestors from Cloz, you might discover many marriages where the spouses came from adjacent parishes, especially Revò (including Romallo), Dambel, Arsio e Brez, Rumo, and Cavareno, as these parishes ‘embrace’ Cloz on all sides.

Conversely, if you are tracing ancestors from one of these other parishes, and you cannot find a marriage record for them, you might wish to check the Cloz records, especially if you know the spouse has a typical Cloz surname, which we will explore later.

Also, it was not uncommon for spouses of Cloz residents to come from places like Lauregno and Proves, which are today part of the province of Bolzano/South Tyrol, as these places used to be part of the greater parish of Revò in the distant past.

HISTORIC OVERVIEW AND ORIGIN OF THE NAME ‘CLOZ’

Cloz has been inhabited for many thousands of years, as evidenced by a multitude of archaeological artefacts, some dating back to the Neolithic period and Bronze age. Findings include roman urns, knives, coins, various bronze and silver artifacts, gold rings, necklaces and earrings, and many tombs, some dating back to the Roman era of years.

The name of the village is at least 1200 years old. According to Leonardi, Mastrelli and Giangrisostomo Tovazzi (Parochiale Tridentinum published in 1785), the name ‘Cloz’ can be found in various forms in records dating back to Middle Ages, with the earliest version de Clauze appearing in a legal document from the year 845. The spellings ‘Cloz’ and ‘Clauz’ appear in legal documents in the 1180s. Tovazzi says other spellings include Clotz, Clozzo, and Chioz.

Apparently, the spelling of the name was even problematic for German speakers, an investiture of tithes from Prince Bishop Giorgio Hack, 15 May 1447, spells it ‘Glawcz’!

In Latin texts, the most common form of the name is ‘Clautium’, but it can also be found written as Clodium, Clotienses, and Clotium. Linguistically, Mastrelli believes the name is derived from ‘Claudius’ (the Latin form of the male personal name ‘Claudio’), saying also that ‘Brez’ is derived from Braetius, ‘Spor’ from Spurius, and ‘Mori’ from Marius.

Leonardi tells us there were once two castles in Cloz. Castel Fava, the ruins of which still stand, dates back to the 1100s and was so-called for the family of the same name. Leonardi says there was once a castle named Castel Cloz, but that we know nothing about it.

The village is divided into two districts: Santa Maria and San Stefano, the names of their respective churches; in terms of record-keeping, however, Cloz is a single parish, not two.

The church of San Stefano is mentioned in documents as far back as 1183, but the original structure was completely rebuilt around 1440. It was later restored and renovated in 1575, and then expanded in 1772 and again in 1873.

The church of Santa Maria (possibly Maria Maddalena) is mentioned in records dating back to 1485. It was restored in 1616 and again in 1889.

According to Dr Albino Casetti in his Guida Storico – Archivistica del Trento, the parish archives contains several legal documents that can add to our understanding of the local history. For example, there is a series of documents in the years 1412-1415 in which the village of Cloz is engaged in disputes over boundaries issues and resource usage (including a the ‘malghe’, i.e. the dairies) with the villages of Rumo, Cagnò, Revò Romallo, Tregiovo and Lauregno. They seem to have resolved their disputes in 1415.

1550 CARTA DI REGOLA FOR CLOZ

In the past, many (if not most) Trentino communities would create a ‘Carta di Regola’ (‘charter of rules’) for their parish or village, which defined many rules regarding tithing, resource use, calendar of events, etc.

The earliest surviving Carta di Regola for the village of Cloz was drafted on 8 February 1550. Its transcription appears in the 3-volume set by Fabio Giacomoni called Carte di Regola e Statuti delle Comunità Rurali Trentine (1991). What is of special interest to genealogists when studying the Carte de Regola (‘Carte’ = plural form) is that many of the heads of households of the community will be present at the drafting of the document, and their names will have been recorded. Thus, the opening lines of most Carte di Regola can often give us a snapshot of the local population during that era, telling us what surnames were present in the village at the time. They can also sometimes help us identify ancestors whose name may not appear in the parish registers, because the Carta will often mention the names of the fathers of those who were present.

In the case of Cloz, here is a summary of the names of the men who were present on 8 February 1550 (rarely will you see the names of women, unless they were heiresses or land-owning widows):

Where the document was drafted:

  • It took place in the house of Francesco Cat
  • In the presence of Antonio, son of the late Francesco Cat of Cloz

Witnesses from the district of Santa Maria:

  • Bartolomeo, son of the late Angelo Bugnata
  • Romedio, son of the late Nicolo’ Zembrin (Gembrini)
  • Bartolomeo, son of the late Giacomo Cat
  • Dorigho, son of the late Pietro Rauzi.

Witnesses from the district of Santo Stefano:

  • Melchiore Calovino
  • […] son of the late Simone Franco (Franch)
  • Simone, son of the late Pietro Zanon
  • Stefano Carolet

From this information, we can see the following surnames as representing ‘citizens’ of Cloz in 1500: Bugnata, Calovino, Carolet (although I believe this is actually Casolet), Cat, Franch, Zembrin (more commonly spelled Gembrin or Gembrini), Rauzi and Zanon. This is useful information, as it predates the beginning of the surviving parish registers.

TIP: Carta di Regola

If you want to know more about Carte di Regola, with some interesting historical examples of how they were used, you might wish to check out my podcast from 7 April 2020 when I spoke about this topic.  You can find it on the PODCASTS page on this website, or on YouTube at  https://youtu.be/BVEADrtNeI4

RESEARCH: THE PARISH REGISTERS FOR CLOZ

The table below displays the surviving parish registers for Cloz, as per the original books, as well as how they are divided in the LDS microfilms:

PARISH REGISTERLDS MICROFILM NO.MICROFILM ITEMCONTENTS
Baptisms vol 1-61388654Parts 12-17Baptisms: 1565; 1599-1923
Marriages vol 1-61388654Parts 18-23Marriages: 1672-1923
Deaths vol 1-41388654Parts 24-27Deaths: 1662-1923
All'Estero vol 11388654Part 28All'estero (outside of province) births, marriages and deaths: 1845-1923

Sadly, there are many gaps in the Cloz parish records, as well as several cases where the records not organised chronologically. These factors have made the research particularly challenging. Recent research has also led me to conclude that some records are DEFINITELY missing.

Below is an overview of what I discovered about the state of the records for the parish of Cloz, while working on a recent project.

BAPTISMAL RECORDS

  • Although Casetti says the parish of Cloz has 7 volumes of baptisms starting in 1565, on LDS microfilm (and digital format in Trento) there are actually 6 registers, plus an additional BDM from ‘all’estero’ (abroad).
  • In volume 1, there are only 2 baptismal records for 1565, one for 1566 (surnames Catt and Zanon), and then they leap forward 33 years to 1599, which is the year they effectively begin.
  • In 1628, the baptismal records suddenly switch from straight chronological to sections organised by FIRST NAME. This means you pretty much have to look through all of the records if you want to find anyone, as you have no way of knowing whether they used a middle name as their primary name later in life.
  • After 1674, the baptismal records resume chronological order.
  • The baptismal records toward the end of volume 2 (late 1700s into early 1800s) are a MESS. There are many DUPLICATE records, sometimes with conflicting information, and the records are not always in chronological order.
  • Early 19th century baptisms are VERY scanty on information, often only giving the parents’ names and nothing else.
  • Volume 3 of baptisms has a note saying the record of births between 1811-1815 are in the ‘new book’ because that was when it was under the government of Italy, and then it went back to Austria. On the cover of volume 3, it says you will find the baptisms from 1811-1816 in the marriage protocol. This does NOT refer to the marriage records, but to the “Protocollo dei consensi prestato al matrimonio dal padre di sposi minorenni” (a book containing all the consent protocols given by fathers of spouses who were of minority age). This book has NOT yet been photographed; hence the following baptisms are currently NOT available in digital or microfilm format: one record from 16 November 1805; one record from 18 December 1808, and all baptisms between 6 January 1811 and 26 December 1815. This might attribute for the discrepancy between Casetti’s figure of 7 volumes and the 6 volumes that were photographed.

MARRIAGE RECORDS

  • There are 6 volumes of marriage records starting in 1672.
  • Marriages between 1811-1815 are not in volume 3 where they should be, but at the end of volume 2, after 1803. This is also indicated by a notice in volume 3, at the point where the 1811 marriages would normally be expected.
  • There is a short gap in the marriages between July 1803-Dec 1804.
  • Although there is no mention of additional missing records, I am certain several records are also missing circa 1800-1802.

DEATH RECORDS

  • There are 4 volumes of deaths starting in 1662.
  • There do not appear to be ANY death records for infants/children in most of the 1700s.
  • There are very few records between 1780-1798, and I suspect many are missing.
  • As with the baptismal records, some of the death records have not yet been photographed, and thus they are not yet available in digital or microfilm format. The gaps in the death records goes from 4 January 1805 (although I think it actually starts in 1804) and 23 January 1811, and again between 4 January 1816 and 9 November 1825.

ABOUT THE MISSING VOLUMES

I wrote to the archives in Trento about the missing volumes, and they told me that they HOPE to be able to get hold of those registers and photograph them, but they haven’t given me a timeframe for when that might happen. Until then, be aware that you will not find every Cloz record you might wish to find, especially during the Napoleonic era.

SIDE NOTE: Although I mention the LDS microfilms, 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. However, 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). Over the years, I have managed to collect many thousands of Trentino parish records, which has enabled me to work from home on many (but not all) projects. This has proved especially fortunate – for me and my clients – during the recent COVID lockdowns and travel restrictions.

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SURNAMES IN THE PARISH OF CLOZ

What I find so interesting (and wonderful) about Trentino surnames is that the names themselves contain stories about our ancestors. They can tell us things like the name of an ancient patriarch, a family occupation, a physical characteristic, or a place from which the family may have come.

Moreover, surnames are often associated with specific parishes, municipalities, or even hamlets (frazioni).

Below is an alphabetical list of surnames I’ve found in the records for Cloz, along with a bit about their meaning and history. While some of these surnames will appear in other parishes, a few of these are unique to Cloz, or are at least most commonly found there.

PLEASE NOTE:

  1. You will notice I use the word ‘patronymic’ in connection to many surnames. This term refers to a surname that has been derived from the personal name of a male head of family (i.e. a ‘patriarch’).
  2. Please note that there ARE other surnames in the parish, but I haven’t included surnames that appear to have been ‘imported’ from other parishes (especially Brez and Revò) sometime after the beginning of Cloz records. The surnames I have NOT mentioned here include (but are not limited to) Clauser, Dalpiaz, Gentilini, Leonardi, Luchi, Ongher, Menghini, Vielmi and Zuech.
  3. There is also a name ‘Taialargo’ that appears frequently in the early Cloz records, but then went extinct. I am still trying to ascertain if this was a proper surname or a For now, I have omitted that name as well, as I just don’t know enough about it.

Angeli

Variants: Agnol; Agnoi; dell’Agnol; (also spelled Anzelini, but NOT in Cloz)

The surname Angeli is generally believed to be a patronymic (derived from the first name of a patriarch/male head of the family) name Angelo, which can also be found spelled ‘Agnol’ in older records.

The personal name Angelo means ‘angel’ in Italian, but its original Greek meaning is ‘messenger’ or ‘messenger or God’. Like many other patriarchal surnames, it appears in various parts of the province, and is not necessarily historically connected to the others. The spelling ‘Anzelini’, is never found in Cloz, for example; rather, it is seen primarily in Brez.

It is interesting to note that Angeli does not appear in the 1500 Carta di Regola for Cloz.

My research has led me to speculate that the Cloz surname may have arisen from a branch of the Bugnati family, possibly descended from a patriarch named Angelo (emphasis on the word ‘speculate’ here!). Indeed, I have found many Angeli boys baptised with the name Angelo in the 17th-century records in Cloz. There are several baptismal records from the first decade of the 1600s,   the earliest being the baptism of Angelo on 20 October 1602, where the surname is ‘dell’Agnol detto or di Bugnati’ (side note: earlier I mentioned the elusive name ‘Taialargo’; Notice the godfather is ‘Pietro Taialargo di Franch’): 

1602 baptismal record of Angelo Angeli of Cloz

Click  on image to see it larger

Normally, such wording would mean the surname was ‘dell’Agnol’ and the soprannome was Bugnati; but as Bugnati appears to predate Angeli as a surname in Cloz, it might indicate that they were a branch of the Bugnati, who were now calling themselves ‘dell’Agnol’. By the end of the 1600s, the surname nearly always appears as ‘Angeli’.

In his book Sacerdoti della Diocesi di Trento dalla sua Esistenza Fino all’Anno 2000, P. Remo Stenico lists dozens of priests with the surname Angeli, hailing from various parts of the province. The earliest of those from Cloz is Giacomo Angeli (spelled ‘del’Agnol’ in his baptismal record), who was born in Cloz on 15 March 1659, and died on 9 November 1724 at the age of 65.

Bugnata

Variant: Bugnati

As already mentioned, this surname was already present in Cloz at the time of the drafting of the 1550 Carta di Regola.

In his book Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino, linguistic historian Aldo Bertoluzza does not mention the surname Bugnata or Bugnati. He does, however, discuss the root ‘Bugna’ (which is also a surname, but not in Cloz), saying it might be derived from a dialect word meaning a pimple or a boil, or any kind of swelling caused by an injury. I suppose it’s like the English word ‘bunion’. He also says it there was an ancient personal name ‘Bugna’ (perhaps with the same meaning?) from which the surname might be derived.

This surname appears to have gone extinct sometime in the 1700s. The most recent baptismal record I found with this surname is a Maddalena Bugnata, who was born 29 April 1699, although I haven’t studied the registers in enough detail to say she was definitely the last of them.

Calovini

Variants: Calovino; Callovini; Calovin

As mentioned, this surname was already present in Cloz at the time of the drafting of the 1550 Carta di Regola; I have found it in Cloz records at least through the end of the 1600s. The earliest surviving parish record I have found with this surname is the baptismal record of Maddalena, daughter of Giovanni Pietro ‘Calovino’ and his wife Cattarina, dated 31 March 1599.

1599 baptismal record of Maddalena Calovini of Cloz, Trentino.

Click on image to see it larger

Despite its ancient connection with Cloz, Leonardi cites it as being a surname associated with Fondo, not Cloz. Indeed, none of the variant forms appear in Cloz in the 19th century records on the Nati in Trentino website, so it appears to have gone extinct  there sometime before the early 1800s.

Bertoluzza offers little about the history or meaning of this surname, saying only that its origins are uncertain. It is tempting to speculate a connection with the village of Calavino, but as ‘Calo-‘ and ‘Cala-‘ are not pronounced the same in Italian, and Calavino is on the other side of the province in Valle di Cavedine, I would be hesitant to jump to that conclusion without some concrete evidence.

Canestrini

Variant: Canestrin; Chenistrino

Bertoluzza says this surname originated in Val di Non, and is derived from the word canestro or canestra, which meansbasket’, and that it probably started as a soprannome referring to artisans who made cesti, cestelli, corbe e panieri (various kinds of baskets). It appears not only in Cloz (I have found it in Cloz records throughout most of the 1600s) but also in Revò. By the 19th century, it also appears in Rovereto.

Leonardi seems to indicate the surname was not native to Cloz came there via a Vincenzo Canestrini of Romallo around 1645, but I have found evidence their arrival in Cloz is further back, and their place of origin is from much farther away.  

Admittedly, it’s a bit tricky to trace them because the surname doesn’t actually APPEAR in the earliest records in Cloz, and you have to cross-reference many records a bit to figure out who they are.

It all starts with a man referred to many times as ‘Maestro Vincenzo Murador/Murator’ (muratore), whose children start appearing in the baptismal records in the early 1600s. The first of these, dated 4 November 1602, was a Maria. In that record, her father Maestro Vincenzo is said to come from ‘Valcamonega’ (Valcamonica) but is living in Cloz.

1602 baptismal record of Maria Canestrini of Cloz, daughter of Vincenzo of Valcamonica

Click on image to see it larger

The alpine valley of Valcamonica is not in Trentino at all; rather, it straddles to provinces of Bergamo and Brescia in eastern Lombardia. The word ‘muratore’ means ‘mason’ and the fact he is referred to as ‘Maestro’ indicates these two men were master masons (a highly respected craft), and not merely a lowly bricklayers.

As we progress through the records, we finally see the surname Canestrini in 1619, with the birth of a Maddalena, daughter of Domenico ‘Chinestrin’, murador (I believe he was an elder son of Vincenzo). From this point on, we see the surname Canestrini always connected to this same family of master builders. In the death record of Vincenzo’s son Giovanni on 7 October 1662, he is referred to as ‘Giovanni Canestrini, ‘faber cementarius’, which again means a master builder/mason. In the 1630s up to 1670, there are numerous baby boys called ‘Vincenzo Canestrini’ born to men who are apparently sons (or grandsons) of the original Vincenzo of Valcamonica.

So, if you are descended from the Canestrini of Cloz, know that you have Lombardian roots. When working with the records, if the surname seems to disappear, look for references to their occupation as builders, and you should be able to trace them.

Stenico lists many Cloz priests with this surname, the earliest being Guglielmo Canestrini (probably the Guglielmo who was born 25 January 1684), who appears in parish records between 1715-1742. Bertoluzza also mentions an Antonio Canestrini of Cloz (1743-1807), who was a prominent biologist.

The name is still extant in Cloz today, although it is actually more commonly found outside the province, especially in Emilia-Romagna.

Casolet

Variants: Casoletti; Carolet

Giacomini says the surname ‘Carolet’ appears in the 1550 Carta di Regola, but I believe this was a mistake in transcription, as the surname is quite clearly ‘Casolet’ in the Cloz parish records, from the early 1600s. We also find it amongst the archives of the Thun family, in a legal document dated 14 December 1517 referring to two brothers named Bartolomeo and Stefano Casolet of Cloz.

Bertoluzza says that the words Casol, Casolin and Casolet were once the names of a type of cheese that was typical in Val di Sole, and that from these words we get various surnames.

Again, this surname appears to have gone extinct, although I haven’t researched it in enough detail to say when it disappeared or if it morphed into something else.

Catt

Variants: Cat; Catti

As seen, the surname Catt appears as far back as the 1550 Carta di Regola. It is also the surname of the child (Cattarina) in the earliest of the surviving baptismal records for Cloz, dated 20 December 1565.

1565. Baptismal record of Cattarina Catt, the earliest surviving baptismal record for the parish of Cloz in Trentino, northern Italy.

Click on image to  see it larger

Now extinct, the surname Catt appears in Cloz records at least through the 1630s, but I haven’t researched it in enough depth to say whether it was replaced by another name or simply died out. I can find no information about the origin or meaning of the surname in any of my resources.

Cescolini

Variant: Cescolin

Bertoluzza says Cescolini is cognate with the surname Ceschi, and that they were both derived from the name ‘Cesco’, which is an affectionate nickname for Francesco. Thus, it is a patronymic surname, indicating an ancient patriarch named Francesco.

The earliest baptismal record in Cloz I have found with this surname is dated 13 March 1648 (Giovanni, son of Francesco), but I haven’t yet done an exhaustive search to determine whether there are earlier records with this surname.

1648 baptismal record for Giovanni Cescolini of Cloz

Click on image to see it larger

Cescolini is still in existence in Cloz today, with a few branches having settled in other nearby parishes in Val di Non.

Dorighin

Variant: Dorighini

Bertoluzza says this is one of dozens of surnames derived from the personal name Rigo, which comes from Old German Od-Rik, and evolved into the Italian personal names Odorico, Odorigo, and Udalrico. He doesn’t address its origins or use in Cloz, but I have seen in pretty much back to the beginning of the surviving Cloz baptismal records, with the earliest appearing 1603.

The variant ‘Dorighini’ is also appears in Molveno, but the more common spelling in Cloz is Dorighin (without the final vowel). The surname appears in Cloz baptismal records through the 1880s.

SIDE NOTE: In the Carta di Regola from 1550, there is mention of a Dorigo Rauzi. This personal name is so unusual it did make me wonder if he was the patriarch of the family later known as Dorighin, but that is merely my personal musing and I have no evidence for this.

Flor

Bertoluzza says this is one of several surnames derived from the personal names like Floriano (male) or Flora/Fiore (female), indicating a patriarch or matriarch in the past with one of these names. He says it is derived from the Latin word ‘florus’, which means ‘bright’, but surely it could equally come from the word flos/flor for flower.

I haven’t done extensive research on this surname, but it does appear in parchments for Brez and Castelfondo from the mid-1500s, and in early Cloz parish registers. It is still in existence, appearing most commonly in these places.

Floretta

Variants: Fioretta; Floreta

Leonardi says this surname is a diminutive form of the surname Flor, but I do not know if there is any historical connection between the two surnames. The earliest reference to surname I have found so far is in a Last Will and Testament of Guglielmo ‘called ‘Floreta’ of Cloz, dated 1 March 1458, in which he leaves a legacy to the churches of San Stefano and Santa Maria.

While the surname is always spelled with an ‘L’ when it appears in Cloz records, the variant ‘Fioretta’ is more commonly used in Mezzolombardo and Malè. I do not know if the Fioretta link back to the Cloz families.

Stenico lists three Cloz priests with this surname (although he enters them under ‘Fioretta’), the most recent being Arcangelo Raffaele Floretta, who was born 8 Dec 1867, and died 10 September 1947.

The surname is still extant in Cloz today.

Franch

Variants: Franc; Franchi; Franco; Frang

We know this surname was present in Cloz at time of the signing of the 1550 Carta di Regola. Tabarelli de Fatis also tells us that the Franch appear on the lists of the noble gentry of Cloz in the years 1529, 1636 and 1730. Leonardi says there were 10 Franch families on the 1529 list. He also says there was a Stefano Franch of Cloz who was exiled following the Guerra Rustica (Rustic War, or Peasant War) of 1525. The earliest reference to a Franch I have found in the Cloz parish records is to a Giorgio Franch, who was most likely born sometime around 1560, and whose grandchildren were born in 1620s, although there are several Franch births (often spelled ‘Frang’) in the first decade of the 1600s

As to the origin of the surname, I have read two contrasting theories, so I will share both.

Bertoluzza says this is a patronymic surname derived from the male personal name Franco (a short form of Francesco), which has the meaning ‘courageous’, ‘ardent’, or ‘free’. This would indicate that the surname is a patronymic indicating an original patriarch with the name ‘Franco’. Evidence that could support this theory is a legal document dated 9 June 1415 where a ‘Giovanni, son of the late Franco of Cloz’ is cited as the mayor (sindaco) of parish of Cloz. If this refers to the Franch family, this might indicate the surname was not yet in use, and evolved into a surname sometime in the 15th century.

Bertoluzza and Leonardi both add that the word ‘franco’ was also used to refer to someone from the Frankish people, i.e. the Germanic tribes from which Charlemagne came, and who later occupied much of France (and from whom we get the name ‘France’). Leonardi specifies that franco referred to a ‘free contadino’, i.e. a farmer who was not a serf subjected to feudal law. One researcher suggests they were once part of the Carolingian court in France; but romantic as they might seem, drawing such a conclusion without supporting documentation is not something I can endorse.

Linguistically, the ‘ch’ at the end, along with the fact it is often spelled ‘Frang’ in early records, suggests Germanic origins (at least it does to me). Surely a Frankish connection one possibility; but given Cloz’s proximity to German-speaking province of Bolzano (aka South Tyrol), and the fact that it can also be found in that province, I would tend to look closer to home. So, for me, the ‘jury is out’ with regards to origins.

Historian P. Remo Stenico lists a good 20 Franch priests who came from Cloz, the earliest being an Antonio Franch (soprannome Taialargo), born in 1622 or 1623. He lists one Franch notary, namely Giacomo Franch of Cloz, who received his notary license on 19 May 1790. In my own research, I have found many members of the Franch family were surgeons, the earliest being Adamo Franch (son of Antonio), who was born 6 Oct 1662, and died sometime before April 1732.

The name still thrives in Cloz today, and it also shows up in other parts of the province (mostly in the north) and in the province of Bolzano.

TIP: Soprannomi

If you are unfamiliar with the term soprannome (plural = soprannomi), you may wish to read my article from 2019 entitled Not Just a Nickname: Understanding Your Family Soprannome’.

Gembrin

Variants: Gembrini; Zembrin; Zembrini; Zembrino; Zambrin

For those who may be less familiar with Italian linguistic idiosyncrasies, the letter ‘Z’ is often used interchangeably with a soft ‘G’ that appears before the vowels ‘I’ or ‘E’. It’s my guess that ‘Z’ used to be a much softer sound in Italian and Italian dialects than it is today, and it was probably very close to the soft ‘G’ in sound. For this reason, while the modern surname is always spelled ‘Gembrini’, you will frequently see it spelled with a ‘Z’ in older records.

As to the origins of this surname, Bertoluzza says it came from a soprannome referring to a locality, but says it is ‘not well defined’. There is a place called ‘Pian di Gembro’ (also known as Passo di Piatolta) in the province of Sondrio in Lombardia, but whether this has any connection to the surname is anyone’s guess. Leonardi suggests the name may have been derived from the word ‘Dicembrino’, which means ‘of/from/in the month of December’.

Whatever its origins, the name dates back at least half a millennium in Cloz. We have already mentioned that this surname appears in the 1550 Carta di Regola for Cloz. Both Leonardi and Bertoluzza mention a Zambrin (or Zombrin) of Cloz who was apparently exiled after the Guerra Rustica in 1525.

The earliest surviving parish record in Cloz with this surname is for the baptism of a Michele Zembrino, son of Romedio and Pasqua, dated 17 July 1599:

1599 baptismal record for Michele Gembrin of Cloz

Click on image to see it larger

We see children of the same couple in later years, where the surname is also found spelled ‘Zembrin’.

Then name appears in Cloz records (spelled both Gembrin and Gembrini) well into the 20th century.

Parolari

Variant: Parolar

‘Parolari’ was the old dialect word for craftsmen who made ‘paioli’, or copper cooking vessels, typically associated with making polenta. Additionally, the word ‘paroloti’ referred to coppersmiths and those who repaired paioli.

Bertoluzza says the surname arose in both Val di Non and Val Giudicarie.

In Cloz, the earliest example of the surname I have found is the baptism of Domenico, son of Giovanni Parolari and his wife Flor, dated 26 September 1599. Apparently, only one Parolari family remains in Cloz today.

Outside of Cloz, I have found the name in Premione back to the late 1600s, in Seo back to the early 1700s (both Seo and Premione are in the parish of Tavodo in the Giudicarie), and in Cloz in Val di Non, back to the late 1500s. A colleague has also reported seeing the surname in Pomarolo (Vallagarina) in the 1500s.

Bertoluzza says the surname appears in the city of Trento as early as 1441 (‘Antonius Parolarius’) and cites evidence of an Ambrogio Parolari(s) of Tione in 1537. Stenico lists several Parolari notaries (none from Cloz), the earliest being a Bartolomeo Parolari from Brevine in Tione, who practiced between 1671-1722.

There was also a noble Parolari family in Campo Lomaso, who owned an historic pharmacy until the line of heirs ran out, passing the business on to another family.

Within the province of Trentino, the surname it is most commonly found in Tione and Arco. Outside Trentino, it is equally common (actually slightly more) in Lombardia, especially in the province of Brescia.

I do know if there is any historical connection between all these Parolari families, or if the Parolari of Cloz originated from any of these other places.

Paternoster

The word Paternoster is Latin for ‘Our Father’, and it is also the Latin name for the Lord’s Prayer.

When I saw this surname in Cloz, I suspected it as an ‘import’ from the nearby village of Romallo (in the parish of Revò) and I was correct. The surname appears to have come to Cloz when a Giovanni Battista Paternoster (son of Domenico) of Romallo settled in Cloz, and then married into the Franch family (Anna Maria, daughter of Guglielmo) on 31 January 1673:

1673 marriage record of Giovanni Battista Paternoster of Romallo and Anna Maria Franch of Cloz

Click on  image to see it larger

IMPORTANT: I have not yet traced the Paternoster in enough detail to say with certainty that  Giovanni Battista was the  original (or only) source of the surname in Cloz, but as I came across this, and the surname is still so prominent in Cloz, I thought I would give this surname a brief mention in this article.

Perazza

Bertoluzza says this is one of many dozens of names derived from the root ‘Per/Ped’, which is from the name Pietro/Pero (Petrus in Latin; Peter in English).

Now extinct in Cloz (although I did find ONE family with this surname currently in Rovereto), the surname appears in the Cloz records in the early 1620s. Apparently some families with this surname settled in Michigan and Pennsylvania in the US.

Rauzi

Variants: Rauz; Rauti; Rauta; Rauzer; Raota

Another ancient surname in Cloz, we have seen that it appears in the 1550 Carta di Regola with a Dorigo Rauzi, son of the late Pietro.

Bertoluzza says Raota is the original form of the surname, but I have never seen it written that way in the Cloz registers. He says it is either derived from the German word ‘raot’, meaning a cleared land, or from the personal name ‘Ruzo’. Either way, the sound of the name certainly leads me to think it has a Germanic origin.

While Bertoluzza says the name ‘Rauta’ came from Valsugana in the 1400s, he says it also appears in Cloz at least by the late 1400s. There may be no historical connection between the two surnames, despite some linguistic similarities. In my own research for Cloz, I have found the surname as early as 1599, among the parish’s earliest surviving baptismal records. The surname also appears within a set of judicial documents drafted between 1531-1542. Spellings will vary widely, but ‘Rauzi’ is pretty much the only spelling used today.

In my research, I have identified these Rauzi whose occupations were of particular interest.

RAUZI PRIESTS:

  • Giovanni Antonio Rauzi (I don’t know his father’s name), born circa 1550, and died 16 Dec 1637. He was the pievano (pastor) of Cloz for many years, and it is assumed he was very old when he died.
  • Guglielmo Rauzi, son of Simone, born 9 Nov 1632 and died 14 Oct 1771 at the age of 78.
  • Adamo Rauzi, son of Pietro, born 3 June 1683, and died 16 May 1762, nearly 79 years old.

RAUZI SURGEONS

  • Pietro Rauzi (son of Bartolomeo) – born circa 1640, died 27 Feb 1711.
  • Bartolomeo Rauzi (son of the above Pietro). Born 10 Nov 1676. Died after 1741.
  • Adamo Rauzi, son of the above Bartolomeo. Born 13 May 1711 and died sometime after 1768.
  • Stefano Rauzi (son of Giovanni Pietro), born 17 Feb 1678, died 8 Jan 1721.
  • Giovanni Pietro Melchiore, son of the above Stefano, born 8 Sept 1709 and died at the young age of 26 on 10 Dec 1735.

RAUZI BLACKSMITH

  • Giovanni Antonio Rauzi (son of another Giovanni Antonio), born 13 Aug 1663, died 7 April 1730.

Rizzi

Variants: Riz; Rizz; Ricci; Ritzi; Ricz

The surname Rizzi is found in many parts of Trentino (not just in Val di Non), as well as in many other parts of the Italian peninsula. Bertoluzza says it first appears as a nickname as early as 1188. Because it is so old and so common, trying to draw a straight line to its point of origin is probably next to impossible.

For example, many linguistic historians believe the surname comes directly from the Italian word ‘rizzi’, which means ‘curly-haired’, and that it started as a nickname for someone who curly hair. If that is the origin of the surname, it’s not dissimilar to how the people here in England might call someone ‘Ginger’ if they have red hair. Really, the nickname could apply to anyone, anywhere.

Other historians (including Leonardi) believe it is a patronymic surname, derived from a name such as Riccio, Riccardo, Rizzo or Odorico. Again, I have seen identical patronymic surnames crop in different places, without any historic connection to each other.

In the case of the Rizzi from Cloz, however, we at least know their point of entry. The surname first came to Cloz by way of Cavizzana in Val di Sole. The first indication I have found of this is the baptismal record of Nicolò Rizzi, born in Cloz 16 October 1609, where his father is referred to as ‘Magistri Francesco Ricz of Cavizzana, living in Cloz’:

1609 baptismal record of Nicolo' Rizzi of Cloz.

Click on image to see it larger

NOTE: I have found earlier records for this family, back to 1599, but they do not mention Francesco’s village of origin.

Thus, the surname Rizzi would have ‘arrived’ in Cloz around the end of the 1500s; it thrives there still to this day.

Seppi

Variants: Sep; Sepp; Seppo

Derived from the name ‘Isepo’ or ‘Josep’ (Joseph or Giuseppe), I normally associate this surname with the village of Ruffré, which was long part of the parish of Sarnonico. However, the surname appears in Cloz back to the earliest surviving records.

The earliest Seppi in Cloz I have identified so far are Nicolò and Isepo, who (based on the birth dates of their children) would have been born circa 1575-1585. None of the records in which they are mentioned suggest they came from someplace else, which seems to indicate the surname was present in Cloz by the end of the 1500s.

We do not see them in the 1550 Carta di Regola, however, which might  mean they hadn’t yet arrived in Cloz, or they had arrived recently, but were not yet considered full ‘citizens’ of the village. Again, this is just speculation, as I don’t have enough evidence at this time.

Wegher

Variants: Beger; Begher; Bregher; Weger

Another surname of Germanic origin, we find it amongst the earliest surviving records in Cloz, the earliest baptismal appearing in November 1599.

In early records, it often written ‘Beger’ or ‘Begher’. Because there is no ‘W’ in the Italian language, Italian speakers will often change the letter W to B when recording names of people and places.

The German root of the name is ‘weg’ which means ‘way’ (as in a path or road). The suffix ‘-er’ indicates an action or an attribute of the person being described, much like ‘baker’ in English means ‘someone who bakes’, and ‘New Yorker’ means ‘someone from New York’. Thus, the word ‘Wegher’ (the ‘h’ is added to preserve the hard ‘g’) could mean ‘someone how lives by or who comes from the path/road’. Bertoluzza likens it in meaning to the Italian surname ‘Dallavia’.

Appearing (as ‘Wegher’) in Cloz records up to the 1890s, it appears not to be in that parish anymore, but can still be found in many other Trentino parishes, as well as in the province of Bolzano/South Tyrol.

Zaffon

Variant: Zaffoni

Bertoluzza offers two possible origins for this surname. He says it may be a soprannome given to someone who came from the eponymous locality called Zaffon that exists near Noriglio in the comune of Rovereto). Alternatively, he says it could be an expansion of the word ‘zaf’, a dialect term to indicate a ‘birro’, which referred to a guard who protected public order).

Whatever the linguistic origin, the surname is extremely old, appearing in notary records as far back as 1289. Based on these, the earliest identifiable place of origin of the name is Cagnò (also in Val di Non), which was part of the parish of Revò.

‘Zaffon’ appears amongst the earliest surviving parish registers for Cloz, with the first Zaffon baptism appearing on 2 July 1601. The following year, in the baptism of Maria Seppi mentioned earlier, we see her godfather is ‘Zen (Giovanni), son of the late Sisinio Zaffon, placing the birth of the late Sisinio sometime in the mid-1500s. The name Sisinio was a recurring personal name in the Zaffon family during this era. We continue to see it in the parish records for Cloz through the 1880s.

Zanoni

Variant: Zanon

Zanoni belonging to the series of surnames (including Zanini, Zanolini, Zanotelli, Zanol, etc.) which are all are derived from the root ‘Zan’, which is a short from of the personal name Giovanni. It is an extremely common name (think ‘Johnson’), not just in Trentino, but in many other parts of Italy, especially Lombardia and Veneto.

We have already mention that the name appears in the 1550 Carta di Regola for Cloz. We also see it in one of the rare very early surviving baptismal records for Cloz, with the birth of a Domenica, daughter of Cristoforo Zanon and Cattarina, born 22 December 1565:

1565 baptismal record of Domenica Zanoni of Cloz, Trentino.Click on image to see it larger

This surname is still extant in Cloz today.

CLOSING THOUGHTS AND COMING UP NEXT TIME…

I hope this article has given you some insight into the history, surnames, and available genealogical research materials for the parish of Cloz in Val di Non. If you have any questions, feedback, or you have any information from your own research, I would love to hear from you. Please do share your thoughts in the comments belong.

Again, to supplement what you’ve just read,  you might also wish to watch this video podcast I made on 4 Sept 2020 called ‘Diving Deeper into Cloz’, where I expand on some of the topics covered in this article, and discuss additional research tips and insights:

Next time, 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 next time!

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
3 September  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 now have some openings for a few new client projects starting in October 2020.

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

Join our Trentino Genealogy Group on Facebook: http://facebook.com/groups/TrentinoGenealogy

Lynn on Twitter: http://twitter.com/LynnSerafinn

View my Santa Croce del Bleggio Family Tree on Ancestry:
https://trentinogenealogy.com/my-tree/

REFERENCES

ANZILOTTI, Giulia Mastrelli. 2003. Toponomastica Trentina: I Nomi delle Località Abitate. Trento: Provincia Autonoma di Trento, Servizio Beni librari e archivistici.

ARCHIVI STORICI DEL TRENTINO website. III, 401, Constituzione di Censo, 1517 dicember 14, Cloz. Accessed 2 September 2020 from https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/3562058.

ARCHIVI STORICI DEL TRENTINO website. 5. Testamento, 1458 marzo 1. Accessed 2 September 2020 from  https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/1483883.

ARCHIVI STORICI DEL TRENTINO website. 4. Elezioni di arbitri. 1415 giugno 9. Accessed 2 September 2020 from  https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/1483873.

ARCHIVI STORICI DEL TRENTINO website. 203. Atti giudiziari 1531 febbraio 7- 1542 settembre 1. Accessed 2 September 2020 from https://www.cultura.trentino.it/archivistorici/unita/49780

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.).

GIACOMONI, Fabio. 1991. Carte di Regola e Statuti delle Comunità Rurali Trentine. 3 volume set. Milano: Edizioni Universitarie Jaca.

LEONARDI, Enzo. 1985. Anaunia: Storia della Valle di Non. Trento: TEMI Editrice.

SERAFINN, Lynn. 2019. ‘Not Just a Nickname: Understanding Your Family Soprannome’. Published 6 October 2019 at https://trentinogenealogy.com/2019/10/nickname-soprannome-soprannomi/

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.

TAVOZZI, P. Giangrisostomo. 1970. Parochiale Tridentinum. Originally published in 1785. 1970 version edited by P. Remo Stenico. Trento: Edizioni Biblioteca PP. Francescani.

TRENTINO DOT COM website. ‘Cloz’. Accessed 31 August 2020 from https://www.trentino.com/en/trentino/val-di-non/novella/cloz/

TUTTI ITALIA website. ‘Popolazione Cloz 2001-2019’. Accessed 1 September 2020 from https://www.tuttitalia.it/trentino-alto-adige/34-cloz/statistiche/popolazione-andamento-demografico/

Trento in the 1800s. Frazioni, Occupations, Surnames

Trento in 1800s. Frazioni, Occupations, Surnames.

Surnames and occupations in the city of Trento in 1800s, and frazioni of Trento today. Part 3 of ‘Trentino Valleys, Parishes and People: A Guide for Genealogists’ by Lynn Serafinn.

Last time in this special series on Trentino valleys, we looked at the CITY of Trento before the year 1600, including an examination of the fascinating Libro della Cittadinanza of 1577. We also looked dozens of surnames from that era, and considered how their spelling has changed over the centuries.

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

MORE READING:   Trento - The City and Surnames Before the Year 1600

What I Will Discuss in this Article

Today, I’d like to continue our exploration of the city of Trento by leaping forward a few centuries to the 1800s.

In this article, we will explore:

  1. The various FRAZIONI (hamlets/villages) that are now part of the civil municipality of Trento.
  2. A demographic overview of the city of Trento in 19th century, including POPULATION, LANGUAGES, LITERACY and OCCUPATIONS.
  3. A list of SURNAMES in the city at that time, as per the 1890 survey.

My reason for choosing this era is twofold. First, there was a detailed SURVEY of the city of Trento made in 1890, which provides us with a fascinating snapshot of life in the city at that time. And secondly, as this was the era when so many of our ancestors started to emigrate from the province, this information helps put some historical context about what life was like at that time (in the city, at least).

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

The Municipality of Trento TODAY

Courtesy of Google Maps, the image below will give you a rough idea of how the greater municipality of Trento is laid out TODAY.

Please note that I couldn’t manage to get Meano (which is north of the visible area of this map) or Villazzano (which is south of the visible area) to show up without the labels of many of the others disappearing.

MAP - Municipality of Trento in 2020

Frazioni of the Municipality of Trento

Below is a list of frazioni and their subdivisions, which are currently part of the municipality of Trento.

I have organised most of these frazioni according to how they appear in the book Toponomastica Trentina: I Nomi delle Località Abitate by Giulia Maistrelli Anzilotti; I’ve added a few that she did not include in her book.

Note that, in the 19th century, many of these were classed as independent comuni; the villages Cadine, Cognola, Gardolo, Mattarello, Meano, Povo, Romagnano, Ravina, Sardagna and Villazzano, for example, were not aggregated into the municipality of Trento until 1926. Moreover, some of these were classes as frazioni of some of these former comuni. Gabbiolo, for example, was once considered part of the comune of Povo.

FRAZIONESUB-FRAZIONI AND NEIGHBOURHOODS
BolleriBolleri vecchia; Bolleri nuova
Cadine
Campotrentino
Candriai
Centochiavi
Cimirlo
CognolaMaderno; Martignano; Tavernaro; Villamontagna
Cristo Re
GabbioloGionghi
GardoloPalazzine; Spini; Steffene
Lamar
Man
MattarelloMattarello di Sopra; Mattarelli di Sotto; Acquaviva; Novaline; Palazzi; Ronchi; Valsorda
MeanoVigo Meano; Camparta Bassa; Cirocolo; Cortesano; Gorghe; Gazzadina; San Lazzaro
Moia
Montevaccino
Piedicastello
PovoCasotti di Povo; Celva; Dosso Moronari; Mesiano; Oltrecastello; Pante'; Ponte Alto; Sale'; Spre'
RavinaBelvedere
Romagnano
San Martino
San Nicolò
Sardagna
Settefontane
Solteri
SopramontePra della Fava
Spalliera
Valle
Vela
Vigolo Baselga
VillazzanoCastello; Negrano

Trento in the First Half of the 19th Century

You might recall that, in the last article, I spoke about a book by Aldo Bertoluzza called Libro della Cittadinanza di Trento: Storia e tradizione del cognome Trentino, which he published in 1975. In that article, we looked at Bertoluzza’s analysis of the 1577 document called ‘Libro della Cittadinanza di Trento’. Today, we move forward in the book (and in time) to pages 46-58, where Bertoluzza discusses various surveys that were carried out by the civil authorities of Trento in the 19th century.

It’s worth remembering that the taking of censuses or demographic surveys was not a regular practice prior to the beginning of the 19th century. Surely these surveys existed, but they were inconsistent and certainly not standardised. From 1809, after Napoleon invaded the province and abolished the office of the Prince Bishop, we start to see some regularity to such records. While Napoleon’s personal political victories were short-lived, the maintaining of a civil registry is still practised throughout the province.

As civil records were still in their infancy in the early 1800s, the parameters for their body of statistics are often unclear and inconsistent. A demographic survey of the city of ‘Trento’ might not always include the same areas, which often makes it difficult to compare one set of statistics to another.

Trento in 1809

To illustrate that point, a survey of Trento taken in 1809 included not just the area within the city walls, but also the frazioni of Cognola, Povo, Ravina and Sardagna, resulting in a total population of 15,204 people.

Trento in 1821

In contrast, in 1821, in addition to Trento, Cognola, Povo, Ravina and Sardagna, the survey included statistics from FIVE MORE frazioni: Mattarello, Gardolo, Romagnano, Montevaccino and Villamontagna.

Despite these additions, the population seems to have declined since the earlier survey, now showing only 10,863 residents. I don’t know if this reflects a true decrease, or the parameters of who they decided to count had changed (I am inclined to think the latter).

Trento in 1842

By the year 1842, the greater municipality had grown by more than 14% to 12,408, with 8,556 of these living within the city walls.

Although Bertoluzza does not say which frazioni were included in that survey, he does provide us with some interesting statistics regarding possidenti – property owners – both within the city and in its outlying, rural areas. According to the 1842 survey, there were 437 possidenti who owned property within the city walls that year, whose total real estate include 2,200 urban properties and houses. But now, we also learn that there were 201 contadini (farmers) who owned property, spread across 700 units of land – presumably, this included farmland, pastures, and meadow land.

Aside from the possidenti, the survey counts 2,100 ‘mercenary individuals’ (presumably referring to military in residence there) and an additional 2,656 people who were either part of the Church (priests, nuns, etc.) or merchants. (I have no idea why they decided to lump those two categories together!)

What I found most interesting about this survey is how it shows the number of family homes within each of these areas. Below is a table showing them in descending order:

PLACENO. OF FAMILY HOMES
Trento (presumably, within the city walls)1,118
Cognola212
Mattarello179
Gardolo175
Ravina105
Sardagna94
Romagnano63
Montevaccino46
Villamontagna42

This brings the total number of family homes to 2,034 in that year. Using this data, Bertoluzza calculates the average size of the family household was between 6-7 people in that era.

I find it interesting to see how small some of these frazioni were, even though they were part of a ‘city’. Even the population within the city walls itself is surely not exceptionally large.

1890 Survey of the City of Trento

Finally, in the year 1890, we begin to see some more rigorous statistics – and useful information for genealogical research. I am sure this is why, on pages 48-58 of Libro della Cittadinanza di Trento, Bertoluzza provides us with a COMPLETE transcription of the population survey made by the municipality of Trento in the year 1890, followed by many pages of his own and demographic analysis of the same.

Bertoluzza presents most of the findings in paragraph format, which can sometimes make it difficult to assess and compare the key data. Below, I’ve compiled some of the demographics into tables for your perusal.

1890 Demographic Overview

According to the 1890 survey, in less than 50 years, the population seems to have exploded to 21,486 residents – and increase of 9,078 people (over 73%). Unfortunately, I cannot say for sure that this covers exactly the same geographic area as the 1842 survey, as Bertoluzza doesn’t specify; perhaps it isn’t even specified in the survey, as the information was presumed to be known. Again, this means we cannot do a precise comparison between this survey and those of previous years, but it does give us a general picture of overall urban growth.

Here are some general statistics about who was living in Trento at the time:

TOTAL POPULATION OF THE CITY21,486
NUMBER OF FAMILIES3,313
FULLY LITERATE12,327
SEMI-LITERATE960
ITALIAN SPEAKERS18,957
GERMAN SPEAKERS2,350
SPEAKERS OF OTHER LANGUAGES169

Two details especially stand out to me:

  • Nearly 60% of the urban population was fully literate. I would be willing to guess the literacy rate here is significantly higher than in the rural parishes during the same era, most likely due to the kinds of occupations urban citizens tend to have compared to the valley dwellers (we’ll look at these in a minute).
  • Over 88% of the population said Italian was their first language (but we can surely assume many native Italian speakers could speak German, and vice versa). As all the records I have ever seen from the province during this era are written in Italian, I am not particularly surprised at this, but I find it interesting considering how many people who emigrated from the province (which was steadily increasing around this time) identified themselves as ‘Austrians’.

Occupations in Trento in the Year 1890

Bertoluzza goes on to give a full breakdown of the professions of the people of the city of Trento in that year. He puts them in a paragraph in alphabetical order, which is a bit hard to wade through, so I’ve copied in some of the highest figures along with some of the more interesting professions on the list, and organised them according to their number, in descending order. I haven’t included every single profession he listed, but I did end up listing most.

PROFESSIONNO. OF PEOPLEPROFESSIONNO. OF PEOPLE
MILITARY1,821RUGMAKERS36
DOMESTIC SERVANTS1,511MECHANICS31
FOREIGN STUDENTS1,081CAFÉ OWNERS27
AGRICULTURAL/ FARMING1,070JEWELLERS26
TAILORS676HOTELIERS26
DAY WORKERS (odd jobs, etc.)627WEAVERS19
PRIESTS/ NUNS, etc.455CLOCK/ WATCHMAKERS18
MASONS/ BRICKLAYERS333SADDLE MAKERS17
PUBLIC OFFICIALS AND SERVICES321CARVERS/ ENGRAVERS16
CARPENTERS318LITHOGRAPHERS14
STONECUTTERS269ARTISTS13
COBLERS / SHOEMAKERS261SALAMI MAKERS13
POOR (so, no job listed)215UMBRELLA MAKERS12
PERSONAL TEACHERS198WOODCUTTERS/ SAWYERS9
RETIRED176CHAIRMAKERS6
HOSTS (at tavern or hotel)163CHIMNEYSWEEPS6
BLACKSMITHS149ENTREPRENEURS6
SEAMSTRESS/ NEEDLEWORK132GLASSMAKERS/ GLAZIERS5
SILK WEAVERS123WOOL WEAVERS5
BAKERS108CEMENT MAKERS4
HEALTHCARE PERSONNEL96GOLD AND SILVERSMITHS4
BUTCHERS58STRING/ TWINE MAKER4
WINE MAKERS58KNITTERS4
BOOKSELLERS48GLOVE MAKERS3
PAINTERS (house/ buildings)47HARMONICA AND ORGAN MAKERS3
BARBERS46PASTA MAKERS3
LAWYERS AND NOTARIES46SOAP MAKERS3
RAILWAY WORKERS45MATCHSTICK MAKERS3
ENGINEERS AND SURVEYORS42BRICKMAKER1
COPPERSMITHS39BROOM MAKERS1

Some Comments and Context

  • MILITARY: I do find it interesting that the profession with the highest number is the various military personnel. There are no details given about who they were, but we know they would have been from the Austro-Hungarian Army, and possibly originating from outside the province.
  • DOMESTIC SERVANTS: During this era, it was extremely common for young WOMEN to become domestic servants prior to marriage. Sometimes their duties included being governesses to young children; my grandmother and her sister were governesses when they were in their late teens. Sadly, there are many accounts of abuse of young women when they were in service in the 19th century – a topic I will address in a later article.
  • FOREIGN STUDENTS: While not a paid occupation, I include this number on the list, as students constitute a significant percentage of the population counted. While compulsory education was already in effect in the Austro-Hungarian Empire during this era, ‘students’ here is surely referring to adult students, not children. This would most likely include seminary students. Here, they are recorded as ‘foreign’, but it doesn’t specify if this means they were from outside the city, outside the province, or from another country (perhaps it was a combination of all three). Also, no mention is made regarding local students.
  • AGRICULTURAL: The number given is a cumulative one, including agricultural landowners, farmers, tenants, and agricultural labourers/assistants. Thus, it is hard to know how many of these were actual farmers. We can presume that the bulk of these were from the frazioni on the periphery of the city.
  • ECCLESIASTICAL: Of those in ecclesiastical professions, 343 were priests, and 112 were nuns.

Comparison to Rural Communities

Clearly, the demographic profile of the city of Trento is significantly different from what we see when we look at the parish records for our Trentini ancestors in rural parishes. In those places, when professions are listed, they nearly always say ‘contadino’ (feminine = contadina), meaning a subsistence farmer. While I have no official statistics, based solely on my own observations, I would hazard a guess that a good 90% of the population would have described themselves a ‘contadini’ until the 20th century, even if they did other jobs to provide additional income (especially during the winter).

Poverty Level

One thing I find remarkable about this breakdown is that 215 people of the total number are described as ‘poor’ (and thus have no profession listed).

If we are to take this figure at face value, only 1% of the population of the city was living in poverty in 1890, a figure that most modern cities have never come close to attaining. For example, New York City – a place where so many Trentini immigrants settled only a generation after this survey of Trento was taken – released its annual report on poverty in May 2019, saying their poverty level had ‘dropped’ to from 20.6% (in 2014) to 19% in 2017.

It certainly makes me wonder as to the accuracy of the statistics and, if they are indeed accurate, as to the reasons for such a stark difference between poverty levels then and today.

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Some Surnames in the City of Trento in 1890

There is no way I could possibly list all the surnames on the 1890 survey, as there are just so many, but to give you a TASTE of some of the surnames in the survey, I’ve gleaned some from the list that I think might be recognisable to many of my readers. Please note that the original list contains no surnames starting in E, Q, X or Y. Also, Bertoluzza stresses that he has not ‘fixed’ any spelling errors, so the surname might again be spelled somewhat differently from how you might usually see it (I’ve tried my best to catch any typos of my own):

  • A: Altemburger, Ambrosi, Andreatta, Andreis, Andreotti, Anesi, Angeli, Avancini.
  • B: Baldessari, Beltrami, Benedetti, Benigni, Benuzzi, Berlanda, Bernardelli, Bertini, Bertoldi, Bertolini, Bonazza, Bonenti, Bortolotti, Bresciani.
  • C: Cagliari (Caliari), Callegari, Cappelletti, Carli, Cattoni, Catturani, Cesarini, Ceschi, Chiappani, Chistè, Chiusole, Ciani, Cognola, Conci, Corradini, Covi.
  • D: Dallago, Dallachiesa, Dallapiccola, Dalrì, Dante, Decarli, Degasperi, Depaoli, Donati, Dorigatti, Dorigoni, Dossi.
  • F: Fachinelli, Faes, Falzolgher, Fedrizzi, Felin (Fellin), Ferrari, Filippi, Fogarolli, Folghereiter, Fondo, Formenti, Fracalossi, Franceschini, Frizzera, Frizzi, Fronza, Furlani.
  • G: Garavaglia, Garbari, Gennari, Gentilini, Giacomelli, Giongo, Giordani, Giovannini, Girardi, Giuliani, Gius, Gnesetti, Gottardini, Gressel, Grossi.
  • H: Hamberger, Hochner, Hoffer, Huber.
  • I/J: Innocenti, Joriatti, Juffmann.
  • K: Kaiser, Kargruber, Kettmajer, Kein, Knoll, Koch, Kofler, Krautner.
  • L: Laner, Larcher, Largaiolli, Lazzeri, Lenzi, Leonardelli, Liberi, Lisimberti, Lodron (specifically Count Carlo), Longhi, Lorenzi, Lucci, Lunelli, Lutterotti.
  • M: Maestranzi, Maffei, Magnago, Maistrelli, Majer, Malfatti, Manara, Manazzali, Manci, Marchetti, Marconi, Margoni, Marietti, Martignoni, Mattasoni, Mattivi, Matuzzi, Mazzi, Menapace, Menestrina, Menghin (Menghini?), Mensa, Massenza, Michelloni, Monauni, Monegaglia, Moratti, Moser, Mosna.
  • N: Nadalini, Nardelli, Nardoni, de Negri, de Negri Pietro, Negri, Negriolli, Nichellatti, Nicolussi, Nones.
  • O: Oberzzauch, Oberziner, Olivieri, Olneider, Onestinghel, Ongari, Oss.
  • P: Palla, Panato, Panizza, Paoli, Paor, Paris, Parisi, Parolari, Pasolli, Pedroni, Pedrotti, Pegoretti, Peisser, Penner, Perghem, Pergher, Permer, Pernetti, Perzolli, Peterlongo, Petrolli, Piccinini, Piccoli, Piffer, Pintarelli, Pisetta, Pisoni, Planchel, Pligher, Podetti, Pollini, Pollo, Postinghel, Proch, Pruner, Puecher.
  • R: Ranzi, Ravanelli, Recla, Redi, Rella, Rigatti, Rohr, Rossi, Rizzieri, Rungg.
  • S: Salvadori, Salvotti, Sandri, Santoni, Sardagna, Sartori, Schmalz, Schreck, Scotoni, Secchi, Segatta, Sforzellini, Sicher, Sidoli, Sironi, Sizzo, Sluca, Stanchina, Stenico, Stolziz.
  • T: Tabarelli de Fatis, Tagini, Tamanini, Tambosi, Taxis, Tecilla, Thun, Toller, Tommasi, Tommasoni, Tonioni, Tononi, Torrelli, Torresani, Tranquillini, Travioni, Trentini, Turrini.
  • U: Untervegher (that’s the ONLY letter ‘U’).
  • V: Vais, Valentini, Vanzetta, Veronesi, Viero, Visintainer, Vitti, Volpi, Voltolini.
  • W: Waldhart, Webber, Widessot, Wolkenstein, Wolff.
  • Z: Zambelli, Zambra, Zamboni, Zampedri, Zanella, Zanini, Zanolini, Zanolli, Zanollo, Zanotti, Zanzotti, Zatelli, Zeni, Zippel, Zottele, Zotti, Zucchelli.

As you read through this list, please bear in mind:

  • Although the survey counted all the residents, the NAMES in the survey are only of the property owners.
  • If you do see your surname here, it does not necessarily mean these specific individuals are related to you.
  • Seeing your surname here also does not necessarily indicate an ancestral link to the city of Trento. Many (if not most) city dwellers have their origins in other parts of the province (or beyond).
  • ALL names containing the letters ‘K’ or ‘W’ are Germanic in origin, as these letters are not used in the Italian language.

Bertoluzza’s Study of the History of Trentino Surnames

As I’ve drawn the information for this article primarily from Bertoluzza’s Libro della Cittadinanza di Trento: Storia e tradizione del cognome Trentino, it would be remiss of me not to mention what constitutes the lion’s share of the book, even though it is not directly connected to today’s topic.

Bertoluzza’s forte is as a linguistic historian of names. Indeed, on pages 31-41 of Libro della Cittadinanza, he illustrates how different surnames have their origins in personal names, nicknames, place names, animal names, occupations, etc. Then, from pages 63-211, he gives a detailed study of the history of specific Trentino surnames. Interestingly, virtually none of these surnames appear either in the 1577 Libro della Cittadinanza or in the 1890 survey of the city of Trento. In fact, the majority of these surnames appear in various valleys around the province, and not in the city at all.

It does make me scratch my head a bit because it is difficult to understand why all these disparate pieces of work appear in the same book. But I’ve found this kind of ‘patchwork’ approach to be the case in several other Trentino histories, to be fair.

I cannot help but feel that this 1975 publication was a precursor to Bertoluzza’s ‘bible’ of surnames, Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino, which he published in 1998. That book has long been my ‘go to’ source of information on the history and evolution of Trentino surnames. Still, Bertoluzza’s study of surnames in his (perhaps misleadingly titled) Libro della Cittadinanza di Trento has some details that appear to have been edited out and streamlined for his more well-known Guida; I think it really is a goldmine of information.

If you can read Italian and you’re a serious researcher, I do recommend trying to find a copy of this now out-of-print gem of a book.

Coming Up Next Time: The DEANERY of Trento

This article has focused on looking at the city of Trento since the beginning of the 19th century through the lens of its nature as a municipality, governed by a civil administration.

But while this information is surely useful in helping us understand everyday lives of the citizens of Trento and its frazioni, for us as genealogists, it is far more important to understand the ecclesiastical organisation of the deanery of Trento.

So, next time, we will look in detail at:

  • The CATHOLIC PARISHES that come under the DECANATO (deanery) of Trento.
  • The CURAZIE (curate parishes) within each of these parishes.
  • FRAZIONI that are part of the municipality of Trento , but NOT part of the deanery of Trento (e.g. Meano).
  • The SURVIVING PARISH REGISTERS that are available for research in each of the above.

Once we’ve finished our genealogical tour of the city of Trento, we’ll move on to our tour of the rest of the province – starting with an exploration of VAL DI NON.

I hope you’ll join me for the upcoming instalments in this series ‘Trentino Valleys, Parishes and People: A Guide for Genealogists’. To be sure to receive these and all future articles from Trentino Genealogy, simply subscribe to the blog using the form below.

Until next time!

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
22 May 2020

P.S. As you probably know, my spring trip to Trento was cancelled due to COVID-19 lockdowns. However, I do have the resources to do a fair bit of research for many clients from home, and will have some openings for new clients from 15 June 2020.  If you would like to book a time to discuss having me do research for you, I invite you to read my ‘Genealogy Services’ page, and then drop me a line using the Contact form on this site. Then, we can set up a free 30-minute chat to discuss your project.

Join our Trentino Genealogy Group on Facebook: http://facebook.com/groups/TrentinoGenealogy

Lynn on Twitter: http://twitter.com/LynnSerafinn

View my Santa Croce del Bleggio Family Tree on Ancestry:
https://trentinogenealogy.com/my-tree/

REFERENCES

ANZILOTTI, Giulia Maistrelli. 2003. Toponomastica Trentina: I Nomi delle Località Abitate. Trento: Provincia Autonoma di Trento, Servizio Beni librari e archivistici.

BERTOLUZZA, Aldo. 1975. Libro della Cittadinanza di Trento: Storia e tradizione del cognome Trentino. Trento: Dossi Editore.

And Google Maps. 

Trento – The City and Surnames Before the Year 1600

Trentino Valleys, Parish and People: A Guide for Genealogists. Part 2: Trento before 1600..

The people and surnames of the city of Trento before the year 1600. Part 2 of ‘Trentino Valleys, Parishes and People: A Guide for Genealogists’ by Lynn Serafinn.

Last time, in Part 1 in this special series on Trentino valleys, I gave you an overview of the CIVIL and CHURCH structures in Italy, as well as the VALLEYS in the Province of Trentino (sometimes called the Province of Trento). We also explored the political history of the province, looked at the former office of the PRINCE BISHOP of Trento, and discussed how the Catholic Church has been the most stable institution in Trentino throughout the centuries.

If you haven’t read that article, or if you are unfamiliar with these topics, I invite you to check it out at https://trentinogenealogy.com/2020/01/trentino-valley-parishes-guide/

MORE READING:   Trentino Valleys, Parishes and People. A Guide for Genealogists.

What We’ll Look at Today

Today, I want to start a detailed discussion on the CITY of Trento. As there is a lot of material to cover, I have split the subject into 3 different articles:

  1. In TODAY’S ARTICLE, we’ll look at Trento before the year 1600, including a bit of history and an interesting examination of the SURNAMES present in the city up to that year.
  2. In the next article, we’ll look at Trento in the 19th century, including its population, surnames, occupations and other demographics. We’ll also look at how the city is divided into various municipalities (comuni).
  3. Then, in the article to follow, we’ll look at the PARISHES that come under the DECANATO (deanery) of Trento, and the records that are available for research in each.

Getting Oriented – Trentino vs Trento

Last time, I shared a map with you from the book Toponomastica Trentina: I Nomi delle Località Abitate by Giulia Maistrelli Anzilotti, in which she organised the province of Trentino into 23 areas, largely defined by their valleys:

 

MAP: Valleys of the Province of Trentino (Trento)

Click on map to see it larger

If you look closely at the map, you’ll see there’s a big ZERO in the centre, which refers to the greater metropolitan area of the CITY OF TRENTO:

I’ve chosen the city of Trento as our starting point as we explore the province for these important reasons:

  1. Many beginning researchers CONFUSE the city itself with the PROVINCE; I would like to highlight how it is different.
  2. Many descendants of Trentino emigrants are LESS FAMILIAR with the city of Trento than with their specific ancestral parishes. This is surely because the vast majority of those who immigrated from the province in the late 19th and early 20th centuries came from RURAL valleys.
  3. The city of Trento was a HUGELY important religious, political and cultural influence in our ancestors’ lives – even those who lived in the most rural parts of the province.

A Snapshot of Trento Before 1600

Situated on the River Adige in Val D’Adige, the area we know as Trento has been settled for thousands of years. Originally home of the Rhaetian people and other tribes, the ROMANS also loved Trento, calling it ‘Tridentum’, meaning ‘three teeth’, referring to the three mountain peaks within which the city is situated. In fact, beneath the present-day city can visit the ruins of the ancient streets and homes dating back to the Roman era.

During the medieval era, Trento blossomed into a cathedral city – the seat of the Bishopric of Trento. There was once a quarry on the north side of the city, which was the source of the distinctive pink and white stone that was used for pavement and flooring in every part of that medieval city. From the floors in the Duomo of San Vigilio, to those in the magnificent Castello del Buonconsiglio, to the city streets themselves, to the ‘Tre Portoni’ archways leading to Palazzo delle Albere, you will see these pink and white stones everywhere. If you look closely at this stone, you will notice the fossils of ammonites, indicating this entire area had been under the sea many millions of year ago.

When I first started looking at old maps of Trento (such as the one in the image at the top of this page), I was baffled because the River Adige seemed to curve around and ‘embrace’ the city in such a way that it does not do today. I also knew from historical source that the 12th century Badia di San Lorenzo (Abbey of Saint Anthony) – which is now just a short walk from Trento railway station – was originally built on the opposite bank of the River Adige, away from the rest of the city. But according to an article published in Journal of Maps in 2018, ‘the Adige River was subjected to massive channelisation works during the nineteenth century, to ensure flood protection, to reclaim agricultural land, and to facilitate navigation and terrestrial transportation.’ Thus, the layout of the city today is not exactly how most of our ancestors would have seen in it the past.

Historically, Trento is perhaps most famous as the site of the Concilio di Trento (Council of Trento), which took place in the mid-1500s. The Council of Trento was an especially significant event to us as genealogists, as it was here that the keeping of parish registers was mandated by the Catholic Church.

If you want to find out more about the Concilio di Trento, I refer you to this video of one my past ‘Filò Friday’ podcasts, where I talk about the council in some detail – including how the managed to fit thousands of delegates and their servants into a relatively small urban centre:

CIVIL RECORDS – Libro della Cittadinanza di Trento (1577)

One of the first things many family historians do when starting their family tree is look for census records. From these, we can get a snapshot of family groups and their neighbourhoods, often learning names, ages, places of birth, occupation, date of immigration (especially in US docs), etc.

Early forms of census records (although they weren’t called this) existed in Trentino, but rarely did they look like the kind of census records with which we are familiar today. With specific reference to the city of Trento, one good example is the Libro della Cittadinanza (Citizenship Book of Trento), written in 1577 – only a few years after the Concilio di Trento (Council of Trento).

Below is an image of the original cover, with its metal cornices:

Frontspiece of 'Libro della Cittadinanza' (Citizenship Book of Trento), from 1577.NOTE: Before I continue, I should mention that all the images and information I have gleaned about the 1577 Libro della Cittadinanza has been taken Aldo Bertoluzza’s work Libro della Cittadinanza di Trento: Storia e tradizione del cognome Trentino (Citizenship Book of Trento: History and tradition of the surnames of Trentino), published in 1975.

Compiled by a specially selected panel consuls, the purpose of the 1577 Libro della Cittadinanza was to create an official register of the ‘citizens’ of the city of Trento.

Page 1 of the book, printed on parchment, and decorated in gold, is a fascinating piece of art showing the stemmi (crests / coats-of-arms) of these 10 consuls. In the centre is the famous L‘Aquila di S. Venceslao (Eagle of San Wenceslaus), which has been the stemma, and indeed the symbol, of the province of Trento since 1339:

Cover of 1577 Libro della Cittadinanza di Trento, showing the coat-of-arms of the 10 consuls.

For the sake of the artwork, the names of the 10 consuls are abbreviated, but they are spelled out on page 2 of the book. Here they are from top to bottom and left to right:

    1. NIC : BAL = His Excellency Dr Nicolo’ Balduino
    2. ODO : PAU = His Excellency Dr Odorico Paurenfaint
    3. GUI : SAR = Guglielmo Saracino
    4. THO : CA = Thomio Cazuffo
    5. EVA : FIG = Evangelista Figino
    6. GIO : REN = His Excellency Dr Giovanni Rener
    7. HIL : PI = Hiliprando Piber
    8. VIC : CON = Vincenzo Consola, Attorney
    9. HIE : BALD = Hieronimo Baldirone, Collector
    10. IOB : IOB = Iob de Iob, Councillor

The Idea of ‘Citizenship’

The consuls expressed the desire to bring back the original concept of ‘citizenship’ as it had been perceived by the ancient Romans, i.e. that it was not a title given to anyone who decided to live in the city, but to those who actively contributed to the welfare of the city in some way. Thus, criminals or vagrants (they mention murders, etc.) could not be ‘citizens’; nor could people who had only recently moved to the city or who were just passing through.

They also said ‘stranieri’ (foreigners) could not qualify as citizens, a word that makes me raise my eyebrows. ‘Stranieri’ could be a long-term label, linked to ethnicity. In other words, a family of a race/ethnic group who were socially deemed as ‘outsiders’ could have been living in the city for centuries, but never given the privilege of citizenship. I haven’t looked into what this definition meant specifically in Trento (so I don’t want to make any suggestions), but it certainly makes me curious.

With those guidelines in mind, the Council decided to collate and organise data from earlier documents (one from 1528 and others from the 1400s), that listed the families who had owned property in the city of Trento, and then combine this information with the names of those who had purchased property in the city since those dates. The idea was that any time someone bought property (including ‘tavernas’ or other places where guests could stay) they would be added organically to the list, thus keeping an ongoing picture of the so-called ‘citizens’ of the city.

Once the initial book was completed, they declared this ‘Citizenship Book’ would forever be faithfully guarded by the City Council, and that anyone who was not listed in the book would not be entitled to any benefit or privilege of the city.

Thus, while historically fascinating, from a genealogical perspective, the Libro della Cittadinanza cannot be seen as a ‘census’ in the true sense of the word, as it doesn’t give us the full picture of the population of the city.

Some Trento Surnames Before 1577

On pages 16-23 of Bertoluzza’s book from 1975, he lists ALL the names from the 1577 Libro della Cittadinanza di Trento. As there are hundreds of names, I cannot possibly list them here; moreover, it is difficult to ‘scan’ through them, as they were entered as and when new landowners were recorded.

Here’s a random sampling of some of the surnames that were obviously entered from pre-1577 entries:

Alberti, Alessandrina, Approvina, Balduino, Banali, Berlina, Betta of Arco, Bomporta, Bona, Brunora, Caleppina, Calvetto, Cazuffa, Chiusola, Colomba, Del Libera, Galla, Gaudenta, Gelpha, Gentilotta, Gratiadea, Guarienta of Rallo, Hibinger, Hilipranda, Hilti, Ianona, Lodron, (the family of Casa) Marazzona, Marchetti of Cadene, Mathioli, Mazzola, Micheletta, Mirana, Morella, Mozzatti, Nigra called ‘Usbalda’, The Family of Paho, Paurinfaint, Ponchina, Pratta, Pronsteter, Raino, Rochabruna, Romagnana, Rovereta, Saracina, Serena, Sizza, Sratimpergera, Tabarella, Ticina, Tiler, Tonello of Vezzano, Toner, Trilacha, Worema, Zello.

It is important to bear in mind that standardised spelling was simply NOT a consideration until the 20th century. And, when you also consider the fact that formal surnames really had only come into common practice around the 1400s, we might begin to understand why these surnames might look so unfamiliar to us. Names were usually written phonetically, according to how the person recording the record heard it, which surely explains why so many Germanic names are spelled weirdly by Italian-speaking priests.

But even when working solely within Italianate surnames, there are a number of permutations you are likely to see from one record to another:

    • Final vowels might differ.
    • Internal vowels might differ.
    • Double/single consonants might differ.

These permutations in older records do NOT signify a different surname as they might today. Some of the names in the above list might look more familiar if we apply these permutations ‘rules’ to find its more modern form. For example:

    • Balduino = Balduini
    • Calvetto = Calvetti
    • Cazuffa = Cazzuffi
    • Chiusola = Chiusole
    • Colomba = Colombini (maybe)
    • Guarienta = Guarienti
    • Micheletta = Micheletti or Micheletto
    • Mirana = Marana
    • Morella = Morelli
    • Nigra = Negra
    • Tabarella = Tabarelli
    • Ticina = Tecini
    • Pratta = Prati

Moreover, certain consonants were more or less interchangeable in the past. A ‘z’, for example could be replaced by a ‘ci’, ‘gi’ or ‘ti’ (and vice versa) depending on the preference of the writer. For example, these names on the list might be more commonly seen thusly (although I must stress that I am only hypothesising here):

    • Gaudenta = Gaudenzi
    • Gratiadea = Graziadei
    • Zello = Celli

Lastly, some people appear not to have be recorded by a surname at all; rather, they are identified by their place of origin. For example:

    • ‘(The family of the Casa) Marazzona’ surely refers to the frazione of Marazzone in Bleggio (Val Giudicarie). There really is only a handful of families living in this village during that era. I haven’t yet tried to figure out who this might be referring to, but I am sure this is what it means.
    • ‘Rovereta’ is most likely referring to someone who came from Rovereto.
    • ‘Raino’ is most likely referring to someone from that frazione of Raina in the parish of Castelfondo (Val di Non). It is the ancestral home for families like the Genetti.
    • ‘Chiusola’ (Chiusole) is both a surname and a place name in Villa Lagarina. The place is the indigenous home of that family. It’s impossible to know from this document alone if it was already used as a formal surname in the early 1500s.
    • ‘Paho’ is an early form of the name of a comune now called ‘Povo’, which is in the south-eastern part of the present-day city. A curate parish in existence at last as far back as the year 1131, it was well beyond the city walls when this record was made. The entry refers to them as ‘the family or house(hold) of Paho’. Thus, this label appears to be referring to a property owner in that village.

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Some Trento Surnames Between 1577-1600

As we progress through the list chronologically, names become slightly more familiar to those of us who had worked with Trentino records. Here’s a random sampling of some of the surnames that were entered later, between 1577-1600. I’ve omitted names that were also in the earlier batch, even if they were spelled a bit differently:

Baldessar, Baldino, Baldiron, Basso, Belotto, Bennasu’, Bertello, Bevilacqua, Bonmartino, Brissiani, Busetto, Capri of Vigol Vatta, Cestar of Cognola, Chalianer, Crosino, Cusano, Dori of Oltracastel de Poho, Figino, Galliciolo, Gerardi, Giordani, Gottardo, Guidottino, Iob, Luchio, Malacarne, Martini of Terlago, Migazzi, Montagna, Nassimbeni of the Zudigaria, Novello, Particella, Piber, Ropelle, Sarafin of Villaza de Poho, Tessadri, Torre, Trentini, Vida of Zuzà di Tion, Voltolino.

These names start to ‘feel’ more familiar to me, as they resemble more closely (and in some cases are the same as) the forms of these surnames as I have seen them in the parish records, which started not long before this in the 1560s.

Surnames in the above list that are identical to how I’ve typically seen them written include:

    • Bevilacqua
    • Dori
    • Gerardi
    • Giordani
    • Iob
    • Malacarne
    • Martini
    • Montagna
    • Tessadri
    • Torre
    • Trentini

Many others need only a slight tweak to see their more well-known forms. If we apply the same ‘permutation rules’ we used for the previous batch to some of these names, we see can see:

    • Baldessar = Baldessari
    • Belotto = Belotti / Bellotti
    • Bennasu’ = Benassuti (see more below)
    • Bertello = Bertolli
    • Busetto = Busetti
    • Cestar = Cestari
    • Crosino = Crosina (see more below)
    • Gottardo = Gottardi
    • Guidottino = Guidottini
    • Luchio = Luchi (perhaps)
    • Ropelle = Ropele
    • Voltolino = Voltolini

One linguistic permutation we did not see on the earlier list is the interchangeability between ‘ss’ and ‘sc’, if followed by the letter ‘i’. If we apply this along with other needed shifts, we see:

    • Brissiani = Bresciani / Bressiani
    • Nassimbeni = Nascimbeni

In modern Italian, the combination ‘sci’ is pronounced like ‘shi’; a double ‘s’ makes the consonant soft, like the last letters in the word ‘hiss’. It seems likely, these two consonant combinations were pronounced much the same when they appeared before the letter ‘i’ the middle of a word.

Notable Citizens from the Rural Valleys

What I find exciting about this later batch of ‘citizens’ is that I actually recognise a few of the individuals, as they cross into my own family history (although not as direct ancestors). Specifically:

  • Messer Thomio Bennasu’ (the accent is part of the name), entered into the book in 1576, refers to Tommaso Benassuti, who came from the noble Benassuti family of Tignerone in Bleggio (Val Giudicarie). Although the record does not give his village of origin, I know it from several other sources, where Tommaso has been cited as a notary who worked in Trento throughout his adult life.
  • His Excellency Messer Thomio Crosino, ‘phisico’, who was entered into the in 1585 refers to Dr Tommaso Crosina, a medical doctor from the noble Crosina family of Balbido (also in Bleggio). Again, his village of origin is not mentioned in the book, but his life and ancestry are well documented by many historians and descendants, going back to the 1200s when the Crosinas fled Padova to take refuge in Val Giudicarie.

I am distantly related to both of these men, via lines of their families that stayed behind in Bleggio in rural Val Giudicarie, which is the primary focus of my personal research. As such, I’ve done a fair bit of research on both of these families, albeit not so much after these migrations to the city of Trento.

People and Places

As they started to enter the names of more recent citizens in the Liber, the Consuls became more precise about recording places of residence and/or origin.

Three on the above list are specifically said to come from villages that lie on the outskirts of the city of Trento, and which are today included as part of the greater municipality of the city. I think it’s worth looking at them, as we’ll be talking more about these places in the next article. These are:

    • Dori of Oltracastel de Poho. ‘Poho’ is another antiquated spelling for the comune (town) of ‘Povo’. ‘Oltracastel’ is a variant spelling for ‘Oltrecastello’, which is a frazione (hamlet) of Povo.
    • Sarafin of Villaza de Poho. Here we see the comune of Povo again, but this time the person is from a different frazione: Villaza, which is an antiquated spelling for Villazzano. Villazzano was originally considered to be part of Povo, but it has now been its own comune for some time.
    • Cestar of Cognola. Cognola is another comune of the city of Trento. It is a bit north of Povo, on the eastern side of the city.

Other people on this list who are said to have come from places outside the city include:

    • Capri of Vigol Vatta, i.e. Vigolo Vattaro, a comune east of Trento, about midway between Mattarello and Lago Caldonazzo.
    • Martini of Terlago, a comune in Valle dei Laghi.
    • Gerardo Nassimbeni (Nascimbeni) of the ‘Zudigaria’, which is an antiquated spelling for (Val) Giudicarie. This surname does appear in Val Giudicarie during this era, but it’s a pretty big valley, and I wouldn’t be able to guess at where he was from. He is described as a ‘host’ which means he owned a taverna or some other kind of accommodation for travellers and pilgrims. As this list of citizens refers to property owners, it is possible he owned the property in the city but kept his home in the rural valley.
    • Vida of Zuzà di Tion. ‘Zuzà’ is an antiquated spelling for the comune of ‘Giugia’ in Tione (Val Giudicarie). Although ‘Vida’ is a surname, it’s not one I’ve seen in Tione. My hunch is this man’s surname may actually have been Bonavida, which was present in the villages around Preore and Tione during this era.
    • A word about Francesco Brissiani (i.e. ‘Bresciani’) who appears in the book in 1577: Although no place of origin is mentioned for him, we can infer from the name itself that his family originally came from the province of Brescia in Lombardia. This surname appears in many parts of the province, especially those areas in the southwest, which are adjacent to the border with the Brescia. It’s a very old name in Trentino, so how long Francesco’s family had been in Trentino at this time is not something I could possibly guess.

The Fate of the ‘Liber’

In Bertoluzza’s rendition, there is a cross in the left margin next to the names of families that have since gone extinct, which appears to include just about everyone. But, while Bertoluzza doesn’t specify, it seems clear he means the descendants of these families are no longer property owners in the city of Trento, and not necessarily that these families have gone ‘extinct’ altogether.

Sadly, the original intention of the book itself appears to have had a limited impact, as it was not used as fastidiously as the Consuls had mandated. By the 1800s, we see only a handful of names listed, which certainly do not represent all the property owners of the city in that century. Bertoluzza says the Liber appears to have devolved into a register of ‘honorary’ citizens than a true, comprehensive list, even if only of property owners.

Thus, as a source for genealogists, the Liber might be useful to those whose families lived or owned property in the city in the 1500s and early 1600s, but for those whose families were farmers and/or stayed in other parts of the province, it may only hold some historical interest.

Coming Up Next Time

In the next article, we’ll move forward in time, and examine the 1890 Survey of the City of Trento, which is a goldmine of information about the city during the era when many of our ancestors will have migrated from the province.

In that article, we’ll look at the population, surnames, occupations, languages and other demographics of the people living in the city at in the late 19th century. We’ll also explore the civil comuni and neighbourhoods within the municipality of Trento.

Click HERE to read that article now:

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

After that, we’ll conclude our discussion on the city of Trento with a discussion on the parishes that come under the DECANATO (deanery) of Trento, with details about the records that are available for research in each.

Once we’ve finished our genealogical tour of the city of Trento, we’ll start to move on to our tour of the rest of the province – moving first to an exploration of Val di Non.

I hope you’ll join me in the upcoming stops on the tour of the province in this series ‘Trentino Valleys, Parishes and People: A Guide for Genealogists’. To be sure to receive these and all future articles from Trentino Genealogy, simply subscribe to the blog using the form below.

Until next time!

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
28 April 2020

P.S. As you probably know, my spring trip to Trento was cancelled due to COVID-19 lockdowns. However, I do have the resources to do a fair bit of research for many clients from home, and will have some openings for new clients from 1 June 2020.  If you would like to book a time to discuss having me do research for you, I invite you to read my ‘Genealogy Services’ page, and then drop me a line using the Contact form on this site. Then, we can set up a free 30-minute chat to discuss your project.

Join our Trentino Genealogy Group on Facebook: http://facebook.com/groups/TrentinoGenealogy

Lynn on Twitter: http://twitter.com/LynnSerafinn

View my Santa Croce del Bleggio Family Tree on Ancestry:
https://trentinogenealogy.com/my-tree/

REFERENCES

ANZILOTTI, Giulia Maistrelli. 2003. Toponomastica Trentina: I Nomi delle Località Abitate. Trento: Provincia Autonoma di Trento, Servizio Beni librari e archivistici.

BERTOLUZZA, Aldo. 1975. Libro della Cittadinanza di Trento: Storia e tradizione del cognome Trentino. Trento: Dossi Editore.

SCORPIO, Vittoria; SURIAN, Nicola; CUCATO, Maurizio; DAI PRÁ, Elena; ZOLEZZI, Guido; COMITI, Francesco. ‘Channel changes of the Adige River (Eastern Italian Alps) over the last 1000 years and identification of the historical fluvial corridor’. Journal of Maps. Volume 14, 2018, Issue 2. Published 19 Nov 2018.  Accessed 27 April 2020 from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17445647.2018.1531074

Trentino Valleys, Parishes and People. A Guide for Genealogists.

Trentino Valleys, Parishes and People. A Guide for Genealogists.Genealogist Lynn Serafinn examines the valleys, villages and parishes in the Province of Trentino, and the people who lived there. Part 1 in series.

It seems at least once a week, whether I am speaking with a new client or a new member of our Trentino Genealogy group on Facebook, I find I myself having to explain many basics about Trentino geography and localities. But for some reason, despite the obvious need, I’ve never yet discussed the subject of geography in any detail on this website.

Now, if your immediate, involuntary response to the word ‘geography’ is to yawn, you’re not alone. For me, it conjures up recollections of my 7th grade geography class in Catholic school on Long Island, where we had to memorise all the local industries of Schenectady, New York, and so on.

YAWN indeed!

Perhaps my own avoidance of the topic was due to those images of me struggling to stay awake at the back of Sister Rose Winifred’s classroom. Or, perhaps on an unconscious level, I was also worried my readers would find it a sleepy subject, even if it is crucial to our full understanding of our ancestors’ lives.

It seems my concerns were not completely unfounded. To find out whether I was being too subjective, I recently polled our Facebook group, asking them what they thought about my writing an article series on the topic of the geography of Trentino, but with a genealogical focus.

Of the 49 people who responded:

    • 35 said they thought it was a great idea.
    • 10 said it sounded good, but they weren’t sure the topic would sustain their interest (especially if it was spread across many articles).
    • 4, including some experienced researchers, said they weren’t sure (possibly because they had no idea of how I would broach the subject)
    • Nobody said they thought it was a bad idea. Perhaps some were just being polite. 😉

So, while a clear majority liked the idea with some enthusiasm, I cannot ignore the fact that over a quarter of the responses expressed some doubt about the topic.

Therein lay my challenge:

How could I present the subject of the geography of Trentino in such a way that it could sustain the interest – and be useful to – beginners through advanced researchers?

I believe the key to that challenge lies in examining not just where places are on a map, but also WHO is in those places, and HOW people and places are connected.

MESSAGE TO ADVANCED RESEARCHERS: Article 1 in this series is, by necessity, going to cover some basics, which some of you with more experience and knowledge are likely to want to ‘skim’. But I promise you, as this series progresses, it will become far more detailed and specific, combining information from many different Italian resources. So, even if you want don’t read every word of this introductory article, I humbly ask that you to get a feeling for where I will be going from here. My sincere hope is that this series will ultimately become a valuable ‘go to’ reference for you and all my readers.

So, let’s begin…

The Four ‘Lenses’ of Geography

Geography is actually a multidimensional subject. It is not just about lumps and bumps on a map, but a complex set of interrelated factors. It isn’t just about where things are, but how they are divvied up, what they are called and who has ‘dominion’ over them.

Thus, in this series, I’d like to explore Trentino ‘geography’ through these different ‘lenses’:

    1. Civil, i.e. the state
    2. Ecclesiastical, i.e. the church
    3. Geographic, i.e. the land itself
    4. People

These lenses are inextricable intertwined. Only by considering them as a whole can we attempt to create an accurate, historical and cultural portrait of any land – and its people.

‘People’ are inevitably part of the geographic landscape. People create, respond to, adapt to and change everything within the other three lenses. Their surnames, language, customs, beliefs and behaviour cannot truly be understood in a vacuum, without the context of geography.

And none of these factors can be understood outside the dynamics of time. While changes in the lay of the land itself may not be as apparent to us (although rivers are frequently shifting their path), state and church boundaries are constantly in flux, and people have always moved from one place to another. Thus, ‘time’ is an overarching container in which these four lenses dwell and move.

Many family historians become disproportionately focused on the ‘people’ lens, often at a somewhat ‘micro’ level. That is to say, they tend to collect names, dates, and other facts about of specific families (usually their own) without giving a great deal of attention to the multidimensional context in when those people lived.

Conversely, so many ‘pure historians’ give a disproportionate amount of weight to the importance the state (governments, politics, wars, etc.), at the expense of the geographic or demographic lenses.

Both of these approaches to history can result in a somewhat myopic view, missing the richness of our ancestors’ experiences of life. Only by taking a multidimensional approach to family history can we begin to understand how people and their institutions are inevitably interdependent with the land.

CIVIL STRUCTURE: Italian Regions and Provinces

As discussed in my article Ethnicity Vs. Cultural Identity. Trentino, Tyrolean, Italian?, the province of Trentino has ‘belonged’ to many different political powers throughout the centuries. Although my discussion of ‘civil structure’ will be about Trentino within the CURRENT ‘nation’ we know as ‘Italy’ today, please understand that everything I write about Trentino is referring to the SAME place, regardless of whether it was then part of the Holy Roman Empire, Austria or Italy.

So, let’s have a look at this place called ‘Italy’ and how it is divided up at a civil/political level.

For the most part, Italy’s CIVIL structure is broken down like this:

Region –> Province –> Municipality –> Village

I say ‘for the most part’ because there are some places where provinces and comuni were replaced by other entities; but as this is the structure that applies to our current topic, we’ll stick to that as a guideline.

The Italian words for these terms are:

Regione –> Provincia –> Comune –> Frazione

In the present-day country of Italy, there are currently 20 regions, 110 provinces, nearly 8,000 comuni, and I have NO idea how many frazioni.

Region

The region under discussion in this article series is Trentino-Alto-Adige, which is highlighted in RED in the map below:

trentino-alto-adige-location-on-the-italy-map
Downloaded 18 Jan 2020 from http://ontheworldmap.com/italy/region/trentino-alto-adige/trentino-alto-adige-location-on-the-italy-map.html. Note that many of these are the English spellings. Lombardy, for example, is Lombardia in Italian.

In this map, we can see easily that Trentino-Alto Adige is the northernmost region in the country. It is situated the Dolomite mountain range, part of the Alpine system.

Province

Regions generally have more than one province.

If we zoom in more closely, we can see that the region of Trentino-Alto Adige is divided into two provinces: Trentino and South Tyrol (synonymously called ‘Alto Adige’ or the ‘Province of Bolzano’):

trentino-alto-adige_hotels
Downloaded 18 Jan 2020 from http://www.hotelstravel.com/italy-ta.html

Boundaries for the provinces have remained reasonably the stable over the past century, with some exceptions. For example, the area known as Valvestino (west of Lago del Garda) was historically part of Trentino, but was given to the province of Brescia (in the Region of Lombardia) in 1934.

Your will often see Trentino referred to as the ‘Province of Trento’ (Provincia di Trento). This can sometimes be confusing for someone unfamiliar with the area, as ‘Trento’ is also the name of the capital city. For that reason, I will always say ‘Trentino’ when referring to the province and use the word ‘Trento’ when referring to the city (unless I specify ‘Province of Trento’).

Similarly, you might see the Province of South Tyrol referred to as ‘Alto Adige’ as well as the ‘Province of Bolzano’. However, recently the shift towards its historic name of ‘South Tyrol’ has taken precedent.

Is Trentino the Same as Tyrol?

Today, it NOT technically correct to refer to Trentino as ‘Tyrol’ or ‘South Tyrol’, even though many descendants of Trentino immigrants who left the province before or shortly after it became part of Italy identified themselves as ‘Tyrolean’. I have lived in England for over 20 years, and if you say ‘South Tyrol’ to anyone here in the UK or in continental Europe, they will always assume you are referring to the South Tyrol as it appears on the map above, not Trentino. Again, cultural identity does not always match up with current political boundaries.

So, for this study, I will never refer to Trentino as Tyrol or South Tyrol, even though I know and agree that many readers might think of themselves as ‘Tyrolean’.

Comuni

As a comune (plural comuni) is a local administrative entity, their boundaries are frequently in a state of flux, as populations shift. For example, for many centuries my father’s comune was Bleggio; within the past decade or so, his area became part of the comune of Comano.

Note that comuni are the keepers of local CIVIL records.

Frazioni

The word frazione (plural frazioni) literally means ‘fraction’, but a better translation would be ‘village’ or (in many cases) ‘hamlet’. Sometimes, instead of frazione, you might see the terms contrada, località (which be just a few houses in a rural area) or maso/mansu (a homestead for a single or extended family).

Unlike comuni, the boundaries of rural frazioni tend to withstand change over the centuries. This is because they aren’t really administrative entities, but simply inhabited places that have become a part of the landscape. Their names might change slightly (as is normal for anything linguistic over time), and they are also likely to have local dialect variants. My grandmother’s frazione of Bono, for instance, has been in existence by that name for at least 800 years, but local people (especially in the past) often called it ‘Boo’ (‘Boh’) in dialect.

LINKS: Resources for Italian Civil Entities

As civil structures are often confusing, here are two good websites for navigating through Italian civil architecture:

    • indettaglio.ithttp://italia.indettaglio.it/eng/index.html. The link is for the English version of the site. On the left side of your screen, you will find links to the regions, provinces, towns and villages of Italy.
    • Comuni Italiani – http://www.comuni-italiani.it/. This site provides similar information to the one above. It’s not in English, but navigating is fairly intuitive, even if you don’t understand Italian.

ECCLESIASTICAL STRUCTURE: How the Catholic Church is Organised

While understanding the CIVIL structure of Italy is surely important, it is arguably even more important that a genealogist researching in Trentino (or anywhere on the Italian peninsula) understand the ECCLESIASTICAL structure of the Roman Catholic Church.

Like the State, the Church also has a hierarchical structure overseeing the administrative and spiritual needs of its congregations. While the Pope in Rome is at the top of this chain, for our purposes, we only need to consider the part of this hierarchy with ‘diocese’ at the top.

In English, this is:

Diocese –> Deanery –> Parish –> Curate

Or, in Italian:

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

Diocese

As you can gather from this breakdown, a diocese oversees the operations of many parishes.

SOME dioceses are roughly analogous to a civil province or a region in Italy, but not all.

The (civil) Province of Trento is indeed covered by ONE diocese, also called ‘The Archdiocese of Trento’ (Arcidiocesi di Trento). The term ‘archdiocese’ does not mean it has jurisdiction over other dioceses. Rather, it refers to a diocese with a very large Catholic population, typically including a large metropolitan area. It may not be as large in terms of square miles as other, less densely populated, dioceses.

The head of a diocese is the Bishop; similarly, the head of an archdiocese is the Archbishop.

The geographic boundaries of the diocese of Trento have remained mostly unchanged throughout the centuries, regardless of the civil political situation. Thus, the Diocese of Trento is the most stable and important source of historical information for the Trentino genealogist.

Deanery

Called decanato in Italian, a deanery is a kind of ‘mother parish’ overseeing the operations of a group of parishes in the same geographic area.

For the genealogist, it can be useful to know the decanati overseeing your ancestors’ parishes, as they may sometimes contain duplicate records OR may have been the sole repository for another parish records during a certain era. Having this information can be especially useful when you reach a dead end in your research and have no idea of where to go next.

Like comuni, the boundaries of deaneries have sometimes shifted as populations have shifted, in order to ensure smooth administrative operations. Knowing when and how these changes occurred can also be helpful for the genealogist.

Parish

The parish (parrocchia or pieve) is the church entity with which most readers will be most familiar. A parish refers to the geographic parameters within which people of the same faith (in this case, Roman Catholic) attend the same church.

In Italian, the priest who is the head of a parish is called its parroco or pievano. Often translated as ‘parish priest’, many English speakers may be more familiar with the term ‘pastor’.

The geographic parameters of most large parishes in Trento have been fairly stable throughout the centuries, although they may have fallen under different deaneries over the years. Like the diocese, parishes really are cornerstones of genealogical research.

Curate

A curate church/parish (curazia) is a kind of ‘satellite’ parish, subordinate to the primary parish church.

Many rural areas will have curate churches that serve their local community because the main parish church is some distance away. These curate churches will often deliver Sunday Mass, and sometimes marriages and funerals; baptisms, however, will usually take place at the main parish church.

Curate churches to not normally keep their own parish records; rather, the main parish church will do that for them. Some curate churches become large enough to become independent parishes, offering baptisms, and maintaining their own records (but the main parish church is likely to keep duplicates).

In your research, you might see the records for a curate church suddenly stop. This is usually an indication you have reached the point in time before it had become entitled to keep its own records. For example, Romallo only started keeping its own records in the 20th century; before then, all its records were kept in the parish of Revò.

Thus, it is essential for a genealogist to know the connection between the main parishes and curate churches in their ancestors’ geographic area.

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The Diocese of Trento as Both Church and State

While many other dioceses in the world have shifted over the centuries, the parameters of the Archdiocese of Trento have remained pretty much unchanged for many centuries, despite many shifts on the civil landscape.

The first appointed Bishop of Trento was San Vigilio. Martyred on 26 June 405 C.E., his tomb is located (and viewable) in the crypt beneath the Duomo of San Vigilio in the city of Trento. He is the patron saint of both the city of Trento and all of Trentino. Throughout the province, you will find churches dedicated to him and frescoes depicting his life and death.

Under the order of Emperor Conrad II in the year 1027, this ecclesiastical diocese of Trento was further defined as the civil ‘Bishopric of Trento’. With this, the diocese became an official State of the Holy Roman Empire. In other words, the Bishop now became a state official, and was now called the ‘Prince-Bishop’ (Principe Vescovo). Thus, while still a priest bound by the orders of the Church, he was also minor royalty, with responsibilities to the Emperor as well.

This Bishopric of Trento remained in place for almost 800 years, until Napoleon dismantled the office, and indeed the entire Holy Roman Empire.

But, the DIOCESE of Trento itself still remains. The geographic parameters are unchanged; its bishops are still bishops of the Church.

In short, regardless of whether Trentino has been under control of the Rhaeti, Romans, Longobards, Holy Roman Emperors, French, Austrians or Italians, the PROVINCE and the DIOCESE have remained mostly unchanged (with a few exceptions) for the past 1,600 years.

When we consider this remarkable tenacity of both province and diocese, and the fact that these two administrative offices – both state and church – have always been virtually identical geographically –

We begin to understand why the people of Trentino and their descendants abroad identify so deeply with the PROVINCE over and above anything else.

And for the Trentino genealogist, ‘province’ in our case is synonymous with ‘diocese’ in terms of where we will want to look for vital records. Thus, we need to turn our attention now to how and where these records have been organised within the diocese.

Civil vs. Church Records

So many of us in the English-speaking world have grown up under a political ideology espousing the ‘separation of church and state’.

But in Trentino, and indeed throughout most of Europe, this concept simply didn’t exist until relatively recently. It wasn’t until around the time of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic invasions (at the end of the 1700s and early 1800s) that the office of the Prince Bishop in Trentino was abolished. Prior to then, church and state were inextricably intertwined.

So many of us are accustomed to think that ‘official’ documents for births, marriages and deaths are the domain of the state. And, yes, in Italy in you can obtain civil records from the registry office in your ancestors’ comuni but only from the 19th century onwards. Prior to the early (and in some places, mid) 1800s, there simply WAS no such thing as a ‘civil’ vital record.

Rather:

Vital records were NOT the domain of the state, but of the CHURCH.

It was, in fact, at the ‘Concilio di Trento’ (Latin: Concilium Tridentinum), which many English speakers may have seen written as ‘the Council of Trent’ in history classes, which took place between 1545 and 1563, that parishes were mandated to record all births, marriages and deaths within their congregation. Thus, while Italian civil records do not typically go beyond the beginning of the 1800s, CHURCH records (at least notionally) go back to the mid-1500s.

I say ‘notionally’ because not all records will have survived that far back, owing to damage from water, fire, wars and (sometimes) general neglect. That said, a remarkable number of volumes HAVE survived the centuries. Moreover, we of Trentino descent are extremely lucky because the Diocese of Trento is the ONLY diocese in the whole of Italy to have digitised ALL their parish records, and then some. The Archivio Provinciale of Bolzano appears to be in the process of doing the same.

Of course, aside from vital records, there have always been legal documents, such as Wills, land agreements, court disputes, etc., In Trentino, these were SOMETIMES kept by the comune, and SOMETIMES kept in the parish (admittedly, it is often confusing). But these are not the kinds of documents MOST genealogists are likely to consult, except those who are more advanced, and are seeking to deepen their understanding (or find evidence of) a specific event, era or person.

Thus, it is the body of work called the registri parrocchiali (‘parish registers’ or ‘parish records’) that is always the primary focus for anyone researching their Trentino ancestry.

These parish registers for Trentino are not owned by the state, but by the Diocese of Trento.

Catholic Deaneries and Parishes in the Diocese of Trento

There are over 400 parishes in the diocese of Trento, each falling under the ecclesiastical care of one designated deanery.

Book - Casetti_Guida-Storico-Archivistica-Trento

The 1,100+ page book Guida Storico – Archivistica del Trento by Dr Albino Casetti has been the ‘bible’ reference book on the archives of the province for almost 60 years. When he published this book in 1961, there were 25 deaneries in the diocese of Trento, which I have organised alphabetically below:

25 Deaneries of the Diocese of Trento

    1. Ala
    2. Arco
    3. Banale
    4. Borgo
    5. Calavino
    6. Cembra
    7. Civezzano
    8. Cles
    9. Condino
    10. Fassa
    11. Fiemme (Cavalese)
    12. Fondo
    13. Levico
    14. Malè
    15. Mezzolombardo
    16. Mori
    17. Pergine
    18. Primiero
    19. Riva
    20. Rovereto
    21. Strigno
    22. Taio
    23. Tione
    24. Trento
    25. Villa Lagarina

Some of these deaneries may have changed since Casetti’s publication, but as most genealogy projects go backwards in time (probably starting before 1961), these changes should not affect our genealogical research.

Hold this list in your mind’s eye, as we’ll come back to it shortly.

GEOGRAPHICAL STRUCTURE: The Valleys of the Province of Trentino

In this modern world, where we can get to just about anywhere by plane, train, bus or automobile, few of us consider geography as a factor in how and why communities are born and evolve.

A glance at the geographic landscape of Trentino is a great teacher in this regard. A rolling panorama of mountains, valleys and glacial rivers, it possesses a kind of ‘ready-made’ zoning of habitable lands. Before modern roads and motor vehicles, crossing these boundaries wasn’t impossible, but it was certainly not something you did every day.

In fact, marriages and migrations across these boundaries don’t show up frequently in parish records until the late 19th century. And when they do show up in earlier centuries, they are immediately noticeable to the genealogist as something unusual, and certainly significant.

Toponymy and Genealogy

One of the most useful books I have found on the study of Trentino valleys and the place names within them is Toponomastica Trentina: I Nomi delle Località Abitate (The Study of Trentino Place Names: The Names of the Inhabited Localities) by Giulia Mastrelli Anzilotti.

BOOK - Anzilotti_Toponomastica-Trentina

The word ‘toponymy’ (sometimes spelled ‘Toponomy’) means the study of place names, especially their linguistic origins and their evolution throughout history. While the word is rarely seen in the English language, toponomastica is an EXTREMELY common subject in books on Italian history.

For Trentino genealogists, the study of place names is often linked directly to genealogy. Many surnames – especially those in more remote rural areas – are derived from the names of places OR the other way around.

The Valleys of Trentino

Anzilotti has chosen a most useful – and highly visual – way to organise her study of place names: by looking at them within their respective valleys in the province. When I first found this book, I was immediate drawn to her minimalist presentation. I have seen many books with maps of Trentino valleys, but they are usually very cluttered, making it difficult to see the lines distinguishing one place from another.

Here is a map of the valleys of Trentino as it appears at the beginning of Anzilotti’s Toponomastica Trentina:

MAP: Valleys of the Province of Trentino (Trento)Click on  image to see it larger

For the purposes of being able to make these 23 names searchable, here they are in text form.

She assigns the number ‘0’ for the greater metropolitan area of the CITY of Trento. Then, the valleys are numbered from 1-22:

    1. Alta Val del Fersina
    2. Altopiano di Folgaria con Le Valli del Leno
    3. Altopiano di Lavarone e Luserna
    4. Altopiano di Vigolo Vattaro
    5. Alto Garda con la Valle di Ledro
    6. Caldonazzo e Levico don Calceranica, Tenna e le Valli di Centa
    7. Civezzanese
    8. Giudicarie Esteriori
    9. Giudicarie Interiori
    10. Perginese
    11. Piana Rotaliana con la Paganella.
    12. Pinetano
    13. Primiero con le Valli del Vanoi
    14. Val d’Adige
    15. Val di Cembra
    16. Val di Fassa
    17. Val di Fiemme
    18. Val di Non
    19. Val di Sole
    20. Vallagarina
    21. Valle dei Laghi
    22. Valsugana e Tesino

Anzilotti then works through these areas, listing all the inhabited places found within each, down to the smallest homestead. Basically, if people have lived there and it has a name, she’s listed it and given some sort of linguistic interpretation of its origins. I feel like she may have missed a few (I’ll address those in future articles) but for the most part, it really is a gem of a work.

A few linguistic notes for those who don’t know Italian:

    • Val’ is the usual singular form for ‘valley’; the plural can be either ‘valli’ (masculine) or ‘valle’ (feminine).
    • Alto’ (‘alta’ in feminine) means ‘high’. The word ‘altopiano’ means ‘the high plain’.
    • ‘Di’ means ‘of’; before a vowel, the ‘i’ is dropped and an apostrophe is inserted.
    • ‘Del’ (singular) and ‘Dei’ (plural) mean ‘of the’.
    • E’ means ‘and’.
    • ‘La’ (singular) and ‘le’ (plural) mean ‘the’ when it is before a feminine noun.
    • Con’ means ‘with’

A note before we continue…

Some of you might disagree with how she’s organised and labelled these valleys. For example, the city of Trento is usually included in ‘Val D’Adige’, and Val Rendena is often considered its own valley, whereas she has included it with Giudicarie Interiore.

Nonetheless, I feel her work is a good starting point, especially as the author has some extremely useful and easy-to-read maps of each valley later in the book, which I will share with you as we go along through this series.

Thus, I ask that you go with the flow with me, even if you disagree with Anzilotti’s designations.

TRENTINO VALLEYS: The Relationship Between Places and People

Something common amongst the people of Trentino is they nearly always refer to themselves as coming from a specific valley. This is because each valley is like a container of a unique subculture, illustrated by their local languages, names and customs.

Different valleys often have different dialects. My father, for example, spoke only the Giudicaresi dialect with his parents and siblings, not Italian. People from Val di Non speak Nones, an altogether different dialect.

Because of the insular nature of these valleys, many surnames will indigenous to one valley. And when you see one of these surnames suddenly appearing in a different valley, it is an immediate indication that a branch of the family has migrated.

Knowing which surnames are indigenous to specific valleys (if not specific parishes) is of vital importance to a Trentino genealogist. This knowledge can often help you identify anomalies and solve many mysteries quite quickly. For example, a new client recently came to me saying her family were named Flaim, and they came from Banale in Giudicarie Esteriore. Well, I knew well that the surname ‘Flaim’ was not native to the Giudicarie but was, rather, indigenous to the parish of Revò in Val di Non. This knowledge immediately led me to look for the point of entry at which a Flaim had migrated from Revò to Banale, as I knew I could trace the family further back from that point.

Valleys, Deaneries, Parishes and People

While a cursory glance over our two lists of valley vs. deaneries, we can see many names (e.g. Cembra, Civezzano, Fiemme, Garda, Pergine, Primiero, Lagarina and the city of Trento) that would seem to indicate they are referring to roughly the same part of the province. But other areas are less obvious to those unfamiliar with the geographic layout of Trentino. So, how do we make sense of what is where?

At this point, a curious genealogist will certainly be asking:

    • Which parishes are in each valley?
    • What are the deaneries for my ancestors’ parishes?
    • Which parishes share the same name as their comuni (or NOT)?
    • What are the names of the frazioni in these parishes/comuni?
    • Who lived in these parishes? What were the most common surnames?
    • Where might I find my own ancestors’ surnames?

While I don’t have the ability to answer every question every reader will have, over the course of the next (several) articles in this series, I will do my very best to share with you what I have learned about these subjects,  by dint of my study and my own research.

Coming Up In This Series…

Now that we’ve oriented ourselves with the ‘meta’ structures of Trentino at a civil, ecclesiastical and geographical level, we’re ready to explore them in more detail.

In the next article in this series, I would like to start our investigation by looking at the greater area of the CITY of Trento – its neighbourhoods, suburbs, parishes and a bit about the surnames. As part of that, I’ll be sharing some very interesting (and little known) information from a book called Libro della Cittadinanza di Trento by Aldo Bertoluzza. You can find it here:

MORE READING:   Trento - The City and Surnames Before the Year 1600

After exploring the city of Trento, I’m going to shake things up a bit. I’m NOT going to go through Mastrelli’s valleys in order, but discuss them somewhat at random, to keep you surprised.

(Psst! The next article after Trento
will be about Val di Non.
But don’t tell anyone!).

For each valley we explore, I will be listing its comuni and parishes, and the deaneries overseeing the parishes. Whenever I have some experience researching in a particular area, I will share some of the main surnames I have found there. If I am aware of parishes changing boundaries or status at different points in history, I will again share what I know.

To be honest, I can’t predict exactly what it’s all going to look like. But I promise it will be relevant to Trentino family historians…

…and I will do my best not to make it as sleepy as Sister Rose Winifred’s geography class.

I do hope you’ll subscribe, so you can receive the rest of this special series delivered to your inbox. You can do so via the form at the bottom of this article.

If this article has sparked your interest to keep reading about this topic, it would mean so much to me if you could take a moment to leave a few comments below, sharing what you found most helpful or interesting about the article, or asking whatever questions I may not have answered.

Until next time!

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
23 Jan 2020

P.S. My next trip to Trento is coming up in March 2020. My client roster for that trip is already full, but if you would like to book a time to discuss having me do research for you on a future trip, I invite you to read my ‘Genealogy Services’ page, and then drop me a line using the Contact form on this site. Then, we can set up a free 30-minute chat to discuss your project.

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

ANZILOTTI, Giulia Mastrelli. 2003. Toponomastica Trentina: I Nomi delle Località Abitate. Trento: Provincia Autonoma di Trento, Servizio Beni librari e archivistici.

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

SERAFINN, Lynn. 2019. Ethnicity Vs. Cultural Identity. Trentino, Tyrolean, Italian?

Not Just a Nickname: Understanding Your Family Soprannome

Not Just a Nickname: Understanding Your Family Soprannome

Genealogist Lynn Serafinn explains the role of the soprannome in Trentino and other parts of Italy and shows how to recognise them in genealogical records.

Sooner or later, anyone working with Italian genealogy will encounter something called a soprannome’ (plural: soprannomi).

And if you’re working specifically on Trentino family history, you might also hear or read the word scutum’, which is the Trentino dialect word for soprannome.

Despite the fact that EVERY family of Italian origin has a soprannome, many people researching their Trentino (or other Italian) ancestry either don’t know anything about them or fail to recognise them when they see them. And of those who DO know something about them, they often misunderstand the meaning and ‘behaviour’ of their family’s soprannome over time.

I’ve mentioned soprannomi within the context of other articles on this website but have never spoken about them in detail. As this subject is such an important part of Trentino genealogy, I thought it would be helpful to devote an entire article to the subject.

In this article, I will discuss:

  • What soprannomi are and why they are used
  • Why I think the word ‘nickname’ is not an appropriate term for them.
  • The various ways soprannomi are recorded in parish registers
  • How soprannomi are ‘born’, change, and what they might mean
  • Why soprannomi can be both a blessing and a curse for genealogists
  • How to record soprannomi in your family tree

Recording Data – The Computer as an Analogy

Think back to the days when you first started using a computer. Imagine you’ve just created your first Word document.  You probably just saved it to the default ‘Documents’ folder without thinking about it. You might not even have given it a title, just calling it something like ‘Document 1.’

But over time, you made lots and lots of Word documents. Perhaps some were business letters. Perhaps others were letters to the family, stories you wrote or genealogy research notes. After a while, it became difficult to find the documents you had written in the past because they weren’t labelled clearly, and they were all in one big folder called ‘Documents’.

So, what did you do? Well, first of all, you probably started renaming the documents, so you knew what was what. But then, you might also have started creating folders inside the main ‘Documents’ folder. Perhaps one folder was called ‘Business Letters’, and another ‘My Research’, etc.

But soon, you created still MORE documents. For example, perhaps your research diversified, and now you wanted to separate your notes for different branches of the family. So, you started to create subfolders inside the folder called ‘My Research’.

By labelling your files clearly and creating a system of folders and subfolders, it became easier for you to identify and find the correct files when you needed them.

In simple terms, we can say that creating a structure is fundamental to being able to identify things and to distinguish one thing from another.

Name, Surname, Soprannome – An Increasing Need for Accuracy

If you think about it, names, surnames and soprannomi serve much the same purpose as the filing system on our computer:

  • Our personal names are like the documents, in that each document is an individual entity.
  • Our surnames are like the folders in which our documents are stored, in that they group many individuals into different categories.
  • And, in the case of Trentino and other Italian ancestry, our soprannomi are like the subfolders within those folders, in that they create sub-groups within the group.

Just as your system for naming files was less complex when you started out using your computer, naming people was also less complex in the past, when the population was smaller, and most people were living in small, rural hamlets or homesteads.

Indeed, in the beginning, people were known mainly by their personal names along with their father’s name and/or their village of origin. Thus, in early records (and sometime even after surnames were already in use), you will see things like ‘Sebastiano of Sesto’, or ‘Nicolo’ son of Sebastiano of Sesto’.

But just like when you created folders because you had created so many documents you could no longer find what you were looking for, people started using surnames.

The Italian word for surname is ‘cognome’ (plural = cognomi):

Con = with

Nome = name

When the words are joined together, the ‘n’ in ‘con’ is changed to a ‘g’, which creates the sound ‘nya’ (like the ‘gn’ ‘lasagne’).

Thus, cognome means ‘with the name’, implying it is a kind of partner to the name.

While some surnames on the Italian peninsula appear in records as early as the 1200s or so, you don’t really see them becoming the norm until around the 1400s, and even then, they are often a bit ‘fluid’ and still in the state of change/clarification.

The ‘Black Death’ (1346-53) dealt a severe blow to the European population, wiping out an estimated 50% of the population. But gradually, and additional outbreaks of plague notwithstanding, the population not only restored itself, but eventually expanded by the 1600s.

Then, we see a situation where there was a limited number of cognomi within a small community, but lots of sons were being born, all naming their sons after their fathers. Just like your research documents, things started to get confusing.  This is when soprannomi became necessary.  

Like cognome, the word soprannome is also comprised of two Italian words:

‘Sopra’ = above or ‘on top of’

‘Nome’ = name

When the words are joined together, the ‘n’ is doubled.

Thus, together, the term means ‘on top of the name’.

What are Soprannomi and Why Are They Used?

As you might have already surmised:

A soprannome is an additional name used that is used to distinguish one branch of a family from others who share the same surname.

I think it is useful to think of a soprannome as a kind of ‘bolt on’ family surname, an idea that is also consistent with literal meaning of the word (‘on top of the name’).

Just as creating subfolders can be extremely helping in helping organise and identify individual files on our computer, soprannomi can be extremely useful in identifying the correct people – both during their own lifetimes, and in our family trees – especially when many people seem to have the same name and surname.

And, although I have NOT seen this mentioned in any of my research resources, I would assume that soprannomi might also have been considered useful (if not necessary) tools in helping ensure close bloodlines didn’t intermarry. As I mentioned in an earlier article (see link below), marriages between 3rd cousins or closer were only permitted via a special church dispensation.

MORE READING:   Kissing Cousins: Marital Dispensations, Consanguinity, Affinity

Why I Think ‘Nickname’ is a Misleading Term

I have frequently seen the word soprannome translated into English as ‘nickname’. However, I believe this is a misleading term, and it doesn’t really reflect the true purpose and behaviour of a soprannome.

When we use the term ‘nickname’ in English, we usually mean:

  1. A shortening/adaptation of a person’s personal name (such as ‘Charly’ for ‘Charles’ or ‘Peggy’ for ‘Margaret’) OR
  2. An individual ‘pet name’ given to someone reflecting a personal trait or characteristic; alternatively, it may be associated with an achievement or event unique to them. Almost everyone will have had at least one ‘pet name’ in their lives, if not various ones from parents, schoolmates, spouse, friends, etc., according to their relationship with them.

While a soprannome might share some obvious similarities with one of these criteria, its historical origins might be so obscure that even the families who ‘inherited’ it may no longer know where it came from or what it means. Moreover, the original significance of the soprannome may have no relevance whatsoever to the family in the present day. This is quite different from what we associate with the term ‘nickname’, which is usually something intentionally given to someone to create a sense of intimacy and familiarity.

The function of a soprannome is also quite different from a nickname, as its purpose is to identify a specific lineage of people within a larger group, rather than one particular person. Perhaps the English word ‘clan’ might be a bit closer in meaning, but I don’t know enough about clans in other cultures to make a true comparison.

How Soprannomi Are Recorded in Parish Registers (or not!)

After analysing hundreds of thousands of Italian parish records from at least five different provinces, I can conclude:

There is NO consistently used system for recording soprannomi.

Soprannomi appear in all manner of ways in the records, depending on the era, the parish and the individual style of the priest. You can sometimes read decades worth of records in some parishes, and never stumble across a single soprannome. In fact, I have NEVER seen the soprannome for the branch of our Serafini family in any record, despite the fact it has most likely been around since the beginning of the 19th century. I only know the soprannome anecdotally, via my cousins in Trentino.

That said, there are some common practices for recording soprannomi, including:

‘Detto’ or ‘Dicti’

Perhaps the most commonly seen way of recording a soprannome is with the word detto’ (if the record is in Italian, usually after 1800) or the word dicti’ (if the record is in Latin, as is almost always the case before 1800). Without going into the grammar too much, these words are derived from the verb ‘to say’. You will often see them in documents with the meaning of ‘the aforesaid’, but in the context of surname/soprannome, they can loosely be translated as ‘called’ or ‘otherwise known as’.

For example, consider this baptismal record from 1705:

1705 Baptismal record for Antonio Buschetti, soprannome 'Caserini'

Click on image to see it larger

Here we see the name of the baptised child is Antonio, and his father is referred to as ‘Giovanni, son of Francesco Buschetti, called (dicti) Caserini. In other words, the surname is Buschetti, and the soprannome for that branch of the family is Caserini.

Be aware, however, that these words are FREQUENTLY abbreviated, e.g. ‘dtofor detto, or ‘dtifor dicti. Here’s one example from a 1768 marriage record from Tione di Trento:

1768 marriage record from Tione di Trento.

Click on image to see it larger

Here, we see the groom is referred to as ‘Antonio son of the late Francesco Salvaterra called Borella’ (i.e. surname Salvaterra, soprannome Borella), and the bride is ‘Cattarina, daughter of Giuseppe Salvaterra called Serafin’ (i.e. the surname is again Salvaterra, and the soprannome is Serafin or Serafini). In both cases, the soprannome is indicated by the word dicti in its abbreviated from.

‘Vulgo’

Recently when I did some research in Valvestino in the province of Brescia (Lombardia), I encountered another method of recording in soprannomi in Latin records, using the word ‘vulgo’. This word loosely means ‘commonly’, but in this context can be translated as ‘commonly known as’.

Consider this baptismal record from 1839 (during an era when I would have expected to see the record written in Italian):

1839 marriage record from Valvestino in the province of Brescia, Lombardia, Italy

Click on image to see it larger

Here, the child’s father is referred to as ‘Giovanni Grandi, vulgo Ecclesia’ (the priest had actually omitted the surname at first and inserted it above the line). Thus, the surname is Grandi, and the soprannome is ‘Ecclesia’. However, in this particular case, the family’s soprannome is actually Chiesa (which means ‘church’ in English), as the priest has used the Latin word for church (Ecclesia).

Surname Followed by Soprannome

Some priests don’t bother to use an indicator such as detto, etc. for the soprannome, preferring simply to write the two names one after the other. Consider this baptismal record from 1760, again from the parish of Tione di Trento:

1760 baptismal record for Francesca Failoni of Tione di Trento.

Click on image to see it larger

Here the priest refers to the father of the child as ‘Felice, son of Francesco Failoni Battaia’. It is understood from this context that the surname is Failoni, and the soprannome is Battaia – at least we HOPE that is what he means.

I say ‘hope’ because, in my experience, priests will occasionally REVERSE the surname and soprannome, making it difficult to know which is which. A perfect example is this same document, in the name of the godmother. She is described here as ‘Maria, widow of the late Vittorio Seraphin (Serafin or Serafini) Salvaterra’.

Having done a fair amount of research on the families of Tione, I am fairly certain the Vittorio’s surname was Salvaterra, and his soprannome was Serafin(i), not the other way around (in fact, we saw an example of this combination in a previous record in this article). I couldn’t say that this was definitely the case, however, without future research.

‘Equal’ sign

Sometimes soprannome is preceded by an ‘equal’ sign (=). I have seen this system used most frequently in 19th century records. Usually, this sign will be between the surname and the soprannome, but not always. Consider this 1838 death record from the parish of Cavedago in Val di Non:

1838 death record for Tommaso Viola of Cavedago

Click on image to see it larger

Here, this 86-year-old deceased man is called ‘Tommaso Viola, son of the late Giovanni = Rodar’. In other words, his surname was Viola, and his soprannome was ‘Rodar’.

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Where Do Soprannomi Come From?

Much like Italian surnames, many (but not all) soprannomi may be derived from:

  • The personal name of a patriarch or matriarch
  • A place of origin of either a patriarch or matriarch
  • An historic profession of the family
  • A personal characteristic or attribute of a family or individual

Personal names

Some examples soprannomi I’ve encountered which mostly likely came from patriarchal personal names include: Stefani (from Stefano), Battianel (from Giovanni Battista), Vigiolot (from Vigilio), Gianon (from Giovanni), Tondon (probably from Antonio), and many others too numerous to count.

Sal Romano of the ‘Trentino Heritage’ blog told me that one of the soprannome for his Iob family was ‘Sicher’, which he theorises may have come from the personal name of a man named Sichero (Sicherius in Latin) in the 1670s.

Occasionally, you will see a soprannome that is derived from the name of a female ancestor, especially if the name is not so common. For example, one of my clients’ trees had the soprannome ‘Massenza’ because that was the name of one of the matriarchs for that line back in the 1700s.

Notice how I am expressing different levels of certainty here. That is because, of the above soprannomi, the only one for which I have definitely identified the origin is ‘Massenza’. The origins of the others are only hypothetical until research proves (or disproves) the theory.

Place of Origin

Some soprannomi indicate a connection with another place somewhere in the ancestral line. My friend and client Gene Pancheri, author of Pancheri: Our Story, told me that one of the Pancheri soprannomi is ‘Rumeri’, which means ‘a person from the village of Rumo’. He traced the origins of that soprannome to one of the female ancestors (who married a Pancheri of Romallo) who had come from Rumo.

Similarly, my own Serafini branch has the soprannome ‘Cenighi’ because my 4X great-grandmother, Margherita Giuliani (married to a Serafini in Santa Croce parish), came from the frazione of Ceniga in the parish of Drò (near Arco).

When making a tree for a client last year whose ancestors came from Tione di Trento, I noticed one of the soprannomi for the surname Salvaterra was ‘Ragol’. While I haven’t yet traced it back to its source, it is highly likely to have originated with female who came from the nearby village of Ragoli, which was often included within the parish of Tione in the past.

Notice how all of the examples above are linked to matriarchal lines. In my observation, most soprannomi that are linked to a place of origin tend to come from a female line. This is because women tended to move to the village/parish of their husbands (unless the woman was wealthy or had inherited property from her father).

There are exceptions, of course. On a list I recently received for Villa Banale in Val Giudicarie via Daniel Caliari at Giudicarie Storia, one of the soprannome for the surname Flaim was ‘Nonesi’, which means, ‘from Val di Non’. I found this interesting because Flaim is not indigenous to Villa Banale, and ALL the Flaim from that parish are descended from one man (named Bartolomeo Flaim) who came from Revò in Val di Non, who migrated there in the 1700s. Thus, all the Flaim there are technically ‘Nonesi’; it made me wonder how they figured out which branch got to ‘keep’ this soprannome as a memory of their origins.

Family Profession

Most soprannomi I have found that relate back to profession will refer to a ‘family’ profession rather than one for an individual. In this regard, the many variants on the word for ‘blacksmith’ spring to mind: Ferrari, Frerotti, Frieri, Fabro, Fabroferrari, etc. While most of these are also surnames in their own right, you will also see them crop up as soprannomi, telling you that, at least at some point in your family’s history, the blacksmithing was the family occupation.

Perhaps one of the most curious soprannomi I have ever encountered was when I was researching the Etro family of the Bassano del Grappa area of the province of Vicenza (Veneto), who migrated to the mountains of Madonna di Campiglio near Pinzolo in Trentino in the 1860s.

Their soprannome was ‘Rollo dei Mori’, which means ‘Rollo of the Moors’. In this era, the term ‘Moor’ referred to dark-skinned people from the Iberian Peninsula who were of north African descent, and usually Muslim.

It his book Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino, Aldo Bertoluzza stressed that the surnames/soprannomi derived from this word were most likely used to describe someone with black hair or very dark complexion, NOT someone who had Moorish background.

Bearing that in mind, there was something about the Etro family that MIGHT explain this curious soprannome: THEY WERE CHARCOAL MAKERS (carbonai).

Charcoal making was a ‘whole family’ operation, requiring the family to spend many months of the year in the woods, away from their main village. Children learned the skills of the profession from a young age, and sons often followed in their fathers’ footsteps, also becoming carbonai when they grew up.

In my mind, I imagine the family would often have been seen with blackened hands and faces as a result of their occupation. Perhaps ‘Rollo dei Mori’ was an affectionate or teasing term given to (or adopted by) the family because they were charcoal makers.

Of course, this is JUST my own theory.

Moorish style chandelier at Castel Stenico, Val Giudicarie

SIDE NOTE: Interestingly, Moorish themes and motifs were very popular in Trentino, and indeed throughout Italy between the 17th and 19th centuries. Consider this amazing ‘Moorish’ chandelier in Castel Stenico in Val Giudicarie. I’ve seen many such artefacts in many places in the province. It also brings to mind the ‘Dance of the Moors’ in Verdi’s opera Aida.

Character or Attribute of Family or Individual

Recently I stumbled across the soprannome ‘Piccolo Vigiloti’, which suddenly cropped up after several generations of seeing ‘Vigilot’. This is an example of a patriarchal soprannome differentiating to reflect an attribute of either a branch of the family or an individual. We can safely assume that the ‘Vigiloti’ branch got too big for the soprannome to be useful, and rather than create a new soprannome, they called one of them ‘Piccolo’, meaning ‘small’. As this branch was not the main focus of my research at that time, I didn’t trace it back to its roots, but my guess would be it either means ‘the smaller branch of descendants of Vigilio’, or ‘the descendants of the YOUNGER Vigilio’ (which I think is more likely).

Another soprannome I encountered that might be connected to a personal attribute (although, again, I haven’t yet excluded other possibilities) is Papi, which I have seen in connection with the surname Rigotti in San Lorenzo in Banale in the 19th century. The word ‘papi’ is the plural of the word for ‘pope’ (papa), not to be confused with the word papà, which means ‘father’. Both Papa and Papi are surnames in other parts of the province, but the soprannome MIGHT have no connection with these. Rather, as Aldo Bertoluzza theorises in Guida ai Cognomi del Trentino, it might have been used as a nickname for a man (again, perhaps in an affectionate way) who was said to have the demeanour or ‘presence’ of a pope.

There are a lot of ‘mights’ here, of course, and I prefer NOT to speculate too much, lest it blind me to the truth later. I think soprannomi that are derived from attributes are often the most difficult to identify with confidence, as we have no way of knowing much, if anything, about the personality of the people or families in question.

Soprannomi Taken from the Surname of a Matriarch

I’ve put this topic under its own header because I didn’t want it to get lost amongst the other categories.

Some soprannomi are actually other SURNAMES. Some examples I’ve personally encountered include:

  • Serafini/Serafin (a common surname in Ragoli and Santa Croce) was a soprannome for a branch of the Salvaterra in Tione in the 19th century (as we saw earlier).
  • Armanini (a common surname in Premione) was a soprannome for a branch of the Scandolari in Tione in the 19th century.
  • Conti (a surname in many parts of the province, but it also means ‘Counts’), was a soprannome for the Pancheri of Romallo in the 20th century.
  • Bondi (a common surname in Saone, and later in Santa Croce) was is a soprannome for a branch of the Devilli of Cavrasto in the 1600-1700s.
  • Bleggi (a common surname of Tignerone/Cilla’) was a soprannome for a branch of the Duchi in Sesto in the 1500-1600s.

Now, while I cannot say categorically this is true across the board, my ‘educated guess’ is that most of these surname-derived soprannomi are the surnames of a matriarch in the ancestral line.

In the case of the older lines, I probably will never be able to prove this theory, as the records won’t go back far enough to find the origins. Moreover, the further back you go in time, information about women in general becomes increasingly scant.

The fact that some soprannomi are identical to surnames can be a real bother – especially if a priest writes the soprannome before the surname in the record, as you have no way of knowing which is which without cross-referencing lots of other records.

Even worse is when a priest suddenly decides to use the soprannome INSTEAD of the surname, leaving the surname out altogether. That is definitely NOT fun.

When Soprannomi Become a Nightmare

On that note, consider this 1708 marriage record, where the groom is clearly identified as Giovanni Battista, son of the late Vigilio Bondi:

1708 marriage of Giovanni Battisa 'Bondi' Devilli and Domenica Farina

Click on image to see it larger

As Giovanni Battista is also called Bondi in his 1690 baptismal record, I originally took this at face value, and assumed ‘Bondi’ was the family surname.

However, for the longest time I couldn’t figure out who this Bondi family were or how they connected to the rest of the tree. They just sort of ‘popped up’ out of nowhere, like time travellers.

Then, and only by a great stroke of fortune where the priest made a correction in the records, I saw another marriage record for the same Giovanni Battista (he had been widowed twice at this point), where the priest had ORIGINALLY written ‘Bondi’, and then crossed it out and wrote ‘Villi’ (one of many spelling variants for the surname ‘Devilli’) above it:

1730 marriage record for Giovanni Battista Devilli and Margherita Caliari

Click on image to see it larger

Only then did I realise that the ‘Bondi’ family and the ‘Devilli’ family were one and the same – which was really handy, as Giovanni Battista Devilli happened to be my 6X great-grandfather.

Now consider this record of a double marriage in 1583, in which two siblings married two other siblings:

1583 Reversi Ballina double wedding, Santa Croce del Bleggio.

Click on image to see it larger

Now, I know many of you will find this challenging to read, so let me just identify the key people:

  • Benedetto REVERSI (son of the late Antonio) married Lucia BALLINA (daughter of Vincenzo)
  • Silvestro BALLINA (son of Vincenzo, hence brother of Lucia) married and Maddalena REVERSI (daughter of the late Antonio, hence sister of Benedetto)

In this record, the priest (don Alberto Farina) has apparently recorded the surnames for the couples, without and mention of soprannome.

But now have a look at this baptismal record from 1588, written by a different priest (Nicolo’ Arnoldo) of the same parish:

1588 baptismal record for Antonio 'Tacchel' Reversi, Santa Croce del Bleggio

Click on image to see it larger

The child’s first name is Antonio, and his surname (or so we assume) is underlined in the first sentence. It looks like ‘Tacchel’, but I have also seen it spelled ‘Tachelli’ in other records. I also found a record for Antonio’s elder sister, ‘Margherita Tacchel’, born in 1568.

Like the ‘Bondi’ family, this ‘Tacchel/Tachelli’ family were kind of floating in space on my tree for the longest time because I just couldn’t figure out who they were. But the answer was staring me right in the face (you can probably already guess it, as I’ve already shown you the document with the answer).

As you can see in Antonio’s baptismal record, his parents’ names are ‘Benedetto’ and Lucia’, and they lived in Cavaione. Now, remember we are talking about tiny hamlets, especially back in 1588. Only a handful of extended families would have been living in each frazione.

Add to that, the name ‘Benedetto’ is not a super common. But the combination of Benedetto AND Lucia in Cavaione in the 1580s? What are the chances of there being more than one such couple?

The answer is: none. There was indeed only one couple with those names in that village at that time.

As my tree is pretty large, I ran a few filters in my Family Tree Maker programme to find a ‘Benedetto’ living in Cavaione in this era and found Benedetto Reversi and Lucia Ballina, whose marriage I had already entered into the tree. What’s more, I knew that Benedetto’s father’s name was Antonio, and it was the usual practice back then to name the first son after the paternal grandfather.

All this made a very strong case for concluding that these were one and the same couple, and that ‘Tachel/Tachelli’ was a soprannome for this branch of the Reversi family (a surname that is still in use to this day in that parish).

MAIN ‘TAKEWAY’: If you see a surname that just sort of ‘appears’ in the records, and no mention is made that the family came from someplace else, consider the possibility that you are looking at a soprannome and that this family may already exist in your tree.

SIDE NOTE: The surname for the ‘Ballina’ family here eventually become ‘Fusari’. But I digress…

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The Ever-Changing Nature of Soprannomi

While the linguistic conventions for creating soprannomi might be similar to those for surnames, there is one BIG difference between them:

While surnames tend to stay the more or less the same for a long time (often for centuries), soprannomi will CHANGE whenever they need to, sometimes from one generation to the next.

Whenever a branch of a family gets very large, with lots of male descendants carrying the family surname, new soprannomi will suddenly spring up to differentiate these various male lines. This is why you might sometimes see a father with one soprannome, and his son with another.

So, if a relative tells you that your family’s soprannome is such-and-such, don’t just accept it something ‘cast in stone’. It might be so, but then again it might not. It’s essential to know WHEN they are talking about. If that person saw that soprannome in a book or in some parish records from the 1600s …well… it is highly unlikely this will be your family soprannome TODAY. Many soprannomi will be used only three or four generations (sometimes less) before they morph into something else.

Remember, it’s just like creating subfolders (and sub-subfolders) on your computer. There is no way to keep everything straight without continual, dynamic change to adapt to new situations and needs.

And sometimes, but less frequently, these adaptations may result in a more radical change, where a soprannome will replace the surname altogether. In my father’s parish of Santa Croce, for example, the family now known as ‘Martinelli’ used to be called ‘Giumenta’ before the 1630s, adopting their soprannome (apparently derived from a patriarch named Martino who was born around 1515) as their surname. Similarly, the present-day surname ‘Tosi’ in the same parish came from the soprannome of a branch of the noble Crosina family of Balbido.

Unless you are aware of these shifts from soprannome to surname, it can seem like your ancestral family has vanished into dust when you are trying to trace them backwards.

Tracing the Origins of Your Family’s Soprannomi

As you can see, origins and behaviour of soprannomi are highly varied, often unclear, and constantly changing.  As such, tracing the origin and meaning of a soprannome can range from really obvious to doggedly elusive.

But if we are to have even the slightest chance of understanding them, and to using them as genealogical tools, we must make it a practice to keep a record our family soprannomi whenever we encounter them. They are not just colourful names, but important clues as to our ancestral lines, which can help us identify specific people, places and/or occupations of the past.

If you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend that you start keeping a list of soprannomi, taking care to record: 

  • The SURNAMES they are connected to
  • The VILLAGES in which they appear
  • The DATES (both the earliest AND the most recent) you have seen them in a record

I keep an ongoing list of soprannomi for my father’s parish, mostly from the 1500-1700s. I keep it as a ‘general task’ in my Family Tree Maker programme, and refer to it frequently. For me, those years are the most crucial to record, because (as already illustrated) there are so many instances of the priests using soprannomi instead of surnames. Without this ‘road map’ I could easily get lost.

Recording Soprannomi in Your Family Tree

I believe it is important to record soprannomi in your family tree, not only because they are an important part of your family history, but also because doing so will also help you keep track of your ancestral lines.

So, what is the ‘best’ way of doing this? I think it ultimately comes down to personal choice. I’ve used a variety of methods in different trees,all with their own advantages/disadvantages. Below are a few options you might consider.

TIP: Whichever method you choose, BE CONSISTENT. Try to use the same method throughout the same tree. My oldest tree (now around 26,000 people) has a patchwork of styles, which I am gradually trying to standardise.

OPTION 1: Soprannome as a MIDDLE NAME

Sometimes I put soprannomi in ALL CAPS as a middle name just before the surname.

This has the advantage of making things visible for me to find them quickly in the index when using a programme like Family Tree Maker or searching for that person on Ancestry.

However, it can also be confusing, as I also use the same method with middle names that are used as the primary name by which the person was known.

OPTION 2: Using ‘Also Known As’

Both Ancestry and Family Tree Maker have an option for ‘also known as’ (AKA).

This might seem like a good choice for a soprannome, but I feel that is better used for when someone is known by one of their middle names OR an actual NICKNAME as we think of it in English.

OPTION 3: The ‘Double-Barrelled’ Surname-Soprannome

In some parishes, the surnames are SO repetitive, and the priests CONSISTENTLY used soprannomi in just about every record, I have occasionally opted to HYPHENATED the surname with the soprannome. This was a method I used when making a tree for someone with family from the parish of Tione di Trento, as the soprannome in that parish are almost always see in conjunction with the surname.

The advantage of this method is it immediately organised everyone with the same surname-soprannome combination alphabetically in the person index for the tree, which is actually very useful.

The disadvantage is that, if you don’t know a person’s soprannome because it wasn’t recorded in the record, they might look like they are disconnected from their branch of the family.

OPTION 4: Create a Custom Fact or Event Called ‘Soprannome

Although sites like Ancestry and programmes like Family Tree Maker don’t have a ‘soprannome’ in their default settings, it is possible to create a ‘custom fact’ (in Family Tree Maker) or ‘custom event’ (in Ancestry) and label it ‘soprannome’.

Personally, I believe this the BEST option, as it makes it absolutely CLEAR that this name is a soprannome and not something else. When using Family Tree Maker, it gives you the additional advantage of being able to create filtered lists or custom reports for specific soprannomi (which can be really informative). Equally important, you can also write NOTES about the soprannome ‘fact/event’, where you can discuss how it was derived, when it started, where it was recorded, or any other relevant information.

UNBREAKABLE RULE: Record WHERE You Found It

Regardless of which method you choose or devise to record your family’s soprannomi, there is one ‘unbreakable rule’ I strongly advise you include in your research practice:

After the soprannome, make a note of where you found it – preferably the earliest record.

For example, if a soprannome is in Giovanni’s baptismal record, put down ‘as per Giovanni’s baptismal record’ or something to that effect.

But what if it’s NOT in the baptismal record for Giovanni, but in the baptismal records of two of his children? Then, write ‘as per the baptismal records of his children, Antonio and Maria,’ etc. This helps you remember that the soprannome MIGHT have started with that generation, and not earlier. Later, if you find an earlier record, change the notation to reflect that.

Please trust me on this point. In the past, I neglected this important ‘rule’, which resulted in me not being able to identify where the soprannome first entered the tree, which can potentially create some confusion as you move backwards in time.

How NOT to Record Soprannomi (or Nicknames) in Your Tree

Two things you should NEVER (ever!) use in the name field for people in your tree are:

  1. Quotation marks (AKA inverted commas)
  2. Parentheses (AKA brackets)

I’ve seen these on so many trees on Ancestry, I’ve lost count. They are especially common in trees where people changed their names after immigration.

SIDE NOTE: While not on the subject of soprannomi, I really want to stress that married surnames should NEVER be part of a woman’s name – neither in the name field, and not in the ‘also known as. It is already understood that she would possibly have been known by her husband’s surname if she lived in the US or UK. Besides, when we are talking about Italian women, many, if not most, retain their maiden names throughout life.

So, let’s have a look at what a MESS all these variables can create. I’ll use my father’s eldest sister as an example (both she and my dad are deceased):

  • My dad’s sister was born Pierina Luigina Serafini,
  • She was known as Jean Serafinn in America.
  • She was sometimes called ‘Gina’ in the family and ‘Jeannie’ by American friends.
  • She was married to a man whose surname was Graiff who died young.
  • Later she remarried a man with the surname Watson (he is also deceased).
  • Oh, and just for the heck of it, let’s go ahead and throw in our family soprannome, ‘Cenighi’.

Using the ‘quotation mark’ and ‘parentheses’ methods, and inserting her married surnames, my poor aunt’s name might end up looking like this:

Pierina Luigia “Gina” (Jean Serafinn) “Jeannie” Serafini “Cenighi” Graiff Watson

Please DON’T do this!!

Not only is this only horribly confusing to as to what her name actually IS, but all those quotation marks and brackets can cause errors in software programmes.

The best policy is to record the person’s name AT BIRTH in the name field, and then put alternative names in the ‘also known as’ field. And, as mentioned, the husbands’ surnames stay with the husbands, not the wife.

Thus, here is how my aunt SHOULD be entered into the tree:

  • NAME: Pierina Luigina Serafini
  • ALSO KNOWN AS: Jean Serafinn
  • SOPRANNOME: Cenighi (not in records, but via verbal info from Serafini cousins)
  • HUSBAND 1: Albino Graiff
  • HUSBAND 2: Gary Watson

If you really wanted, you could put additional ‘also known as’ to put her nicknames ‘Gina’ and ‘Jeannie’, but I think those are unnecessary, as we already know she was known as ‘Jean’.

Also, if you wanted (and if you knew enough information), you could write some notes about the historical origins of the soprannome in the notes for that fact in Family Tree Marker…. something I am again only just starting to integrate into my own trees. Here are some notes I’ve entered about the Cenighi soprannome:

The soprannome ‘Cenighi’ originates with Margherita Giuliani, who married Alberto Serafini in 1803, as she came from the frazione of Ceniga in the parish of Drò (near Arco). Their descendants are thus known as the ‘Cenighi Serafini’. I have not yet seen this soprannome in any records; rather, I was told the soprannome by Luigina Serafini (daughter of Luigi Paolo Serafini and Gemma Gasperini). Apparently, the family were unaware of the origin of the soprannome prior to my researching the family history.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks so much for taking time to read this article on soprannomi. I do hope you enjoyed it, and found it informative and useful to your research. It’s an article I’ve been wanting to write for some time now. It’s a complex topic – in many ways more complex that surnames.

I also hope I have presented a convincing argument AGAINST the word ‘nickname’ as a translation for the word soprannome. It really doesn’t do the term justice, nor does it reflect its important social function.  Perhaps we can all agree to stick to using the original word – soprannome. 

I would mean so much to me (and you would really help me know if these articles are explaining things clearly enough), if you could take a moment to leave a few comments below, sharing what you found most helpful or interesting about the article, or asking whatever questions I may not have answered.

Until next time!

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn
6 Oct 2019

P.S. My next trip to Trento is coming up in November 2019. My client roster for that trip is already full, but if you would like to book a time to discuss having me do research for you on a future trip in 2020, I invite you to read my ‘Genealogy Services’ page, and then drop me a line using the Contact form on this site. Then, we can set up a free 30-minute chat to discuss your project.

P.P.S.: As I’ve had so many other projects lately, I have still not finished the edits for the PDF eBook on DNA tests, which I will be offering for FREE to my blog subscribers. I will send you a link to download it when it is done. Please be patient, as it will take a month or so to edit the articles and put them into the eBook format. If you are not yet subscribed, you can do so using the subscription form at the end of this article below.

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How the WRONG Information Ends Up in Your Family Tree

How the WRONG Information Ends Up in Your Family Tree
Baptismal record from 1567 where priest has omitted the father’s surname, Onorati.

Genealogist Lynn Serafinn discusses 15 common ways we make mistakes in genealogy, and offers tips on how to separate fact from fiction in your family history.

It’s easy to get hooked on the act of discovery when researching our family histories. We love finding new people and adding them to our tree, and can often feel disappointed if our tree hasn’t grown after a hard day of research. But sometimes, our desire for growth can make us careless. Lack of rigour in our research can bring many errors into our precious family trees – from incorrect dates to the wrong people. This is especially the case when we are just starting out and less experienced, both in the subject matter (our ancestors) and the process of research itself.

Even when we are experienced, genealogy can be an informational nightmare. It’s bad enough trying to make sense of foreign, inaccurate or missing primary sources, but we must also contend with imperfect personal memories and simple human error. Then – with our trees and the trees of millions of others being freely available online – one mistake can become multiplied thousands of times over.

That’s why I wanted to write an article about how we family historians can get it very WRONG, if we’re not as meticulous as possible in our work. While some of this article will cover things specific to Trentini genealogy, most of the concepts I will share are applicable to ANY family history research, regardless of origin.

15 Ways We Make Mistakes in Genealogy

Mistakes are inevitable in genealogy, but they DO need to be addressed. The first step in dealing with them is to know where and how they most commonly happen. Here are some of the most common ways mistakes enter our family trees:

1.      Relying solely upon people’s memories or family hearsay.

When we first start doing our family history, we typically begin with what we (and other family members) already know. The problem is, what we THINK we know may not actually be true, especially if we are talking about the past. Some examples:

  • One of my father’s sisters wrote a very sweet love story about her parents’ early marital life (many years before she was born). In the story, she said they lived in Merano. The problem is, this is pure fiction. My grandparents never lived anywhere near Merano. My aunt made it up (probably because she had been born in the US, and had never actually visited Trentino). This colourful myth is still in circulation within the family, and it’s really difficult to get people to ‘unbelieve’ something after they’ve believed it so long.
  • One of my clients gave me a death date for her great-granduncle. But the more I researched him, I could find no evidence to back up this date. When I asked where she had gotten this date, she told me someone in her family had given it to her, but she had no documentation for it. So, assuming this date was incorrect, I started my search from scratch. Eventually, I found the correct record – a good 20 years earlier than the date her relative had told her! To this day, we have no idea how the fictitious date was even conjured.

2.      Copying or merging information from someone else’s tree.

Websites like Ancestry and MyHeritage are very enthusiastic about giving you ‘hints’ for your ancestors. Often these hints come from information in other members’ trees. The problem is, unless you know the person who made the tree, and have complete faith in their competence as a researcher, it’s a REALLY (really, really!) bad idea to copy that information onto your tree – especially if they have not cited any sources or provided any images of original documents. Furthermore, even if the information they have is 100% correct for THEIR ancestor, it doesn’t necessarily mean the ‘hint’ you’ve received is for YOUR ancestor. Merging people into your tree via these online hints is one of the fastest ways to compromise the quality of your work and turn your tree into a complete fiction. If you believe you’ve found the right person, manually copy the information into your tree, with accurate notes about who you got the information from, so you can verify it later.

3.      Typos.

Research is always a case of taking information from one source and writing it down in another place. For example, if you find a birth date, you have to enter it into your tree. It’s easy for a slip of the finger to result in a misspelled name or incorrect date, so careful proofreading before uploading your information is always the best policy. Reviewing your work regularly (an idea we’ll come back to in the next article) is another good habit to develop, as you’re bound to find typos lurking in places you may not have checked.

4.      Lack of familiarity with the language.

If you’re unfamiliar with the language in which a record is written, it’s easy to get it wrong when you are trying to translate it. In Trentino, virtually all official documents before the mid-19th century (whether church or secular) are written in Latin. Later, they start to shift into Italian. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a Latin scholar or be fluent in Italian to make sense of most of the relevant details, but you do need at least some understanding of the language.

5.      Lack of familiarity with the date conventions.

I’m not sure about the rest of Italy, but Trentino priests (especially in the 17th and 18th centuries) had a quirky method of writing dates that can confuse those who are unfamiliar. Have a look at these two baptismal records from 1669 and 1670, respectively, and try to make out the MONTHS in which they occurred:

Baptismal record from 1669, Santa Croce del Bleggio, Trentino
Figure 1: Baptismal record from 1669 – CLICK IMAGE to see it larger.

CLICK IMAGE to see it larger.

1670 baptismal record of Giovanni Parisi of Bono, Santa Croce del Bleggio, diocese of Trento.
Figure 2: 1670 baptismal record of Giovanni Parisi of Bono, Santa Croce del Bleggio, diocese of Trento.

CLICK IMAGE to see it larger.

In Figure 1, you’ll see the priest wrote ‘Xbre’ for the name of the month. If you remember Roman numerals, ‘X’ represents the number 10. So, you MIGHT assume ‘Xbre’ means October, the 10th month, yes? Well, you’d be wrong. ‘Xbre’ stands for DECEMBER, the 12th month. Why? Because the Italian word for ‘10’ is dieci. Although dieci MEANS ‘10’, it SOUNDS like the Italian word for December – dicembre. So, when you see ‘Xbre’ it is shorthand for December.

Figure 2 gives a similar example. The month is written ‘7bre’. This time the priest did not use a Roman numeral, but the regular (Arabic) number ‘7’. Again, you might thing this refers to the 7th month, i.e. July, but it doesn’t. In Italian, ‘7’ is pronounced sette, so ‘7bre’ is shorthand for the month of SEPTEMBER.

The last four months of the year are frequently abbreviated in this way (October is ‘8bre’ and November is ‘9bre’). The reason might have something to do with the fact that these months were originally the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth months of the year; but given the fact that the current calendar was introduced much before the 17th century, I think it’s just the way the priests heard the words in their heads. But, if you’re looking at the words as numbers rather than hearing them as sounds, you could easily record the wrong month for your ancestor’s birthday.

6.      Lack of familiarity with toponymy/geography.

Knowing the names of local parishes and villages (frazioni), as well as the names of contingent and more distance places in the region, is also an essential skill if we are to avoid mistakes in our family trees. I once saw a tree in which every child in the family was born in a different village, some of which were hundreds of miles from each other. While we in the 21st century may be accustomed to moving around frequently, this was less common in the past. This error happened because the man who made the tree was unfamiliar with Trentino and had no idea where places were on the map. Using an online database, he entered all the names he believed matched his search, but it was almost entirely incorrect. Good genealogists don’t just look up names and dates; they also take the time to learn about the places they are researching.

7.      Lack of familiarity with the local surnames (and how they evolved over time).

When we start our research, we tend to look for information solely about our own family. This can cause us to develop ‘tunnel-vision’: we might find a record with something that somewhat resembles our family’s surname and assume it is our surname because we don’t know of any other surname like it. Here are some examples from my own research into a branch of my family with the surname ‘Gusmerotti’:

  1. The name ‘Gusmerotti’ was originally derived from the first name ‘Gosmero’ (the suffix ‘-otti’ meaning ‘big’). Thus, some very early records that say ‘Gosmero’ or ‘Gosmeri’ are typically predecessors of those who later called themselves Gusmerotti. When I first started my research, I failed to notice many of my early Gusmerotti ancestors’ records because the surname didn’t have the ‘-otti’ ending.
  2. Several years ago, when I knew little about surnames in my father’s parish, I found a record written in very small, tight handwriting, in which the surname started with a ‘G’, had ‘u’, ‘m’ and ‘t’ in the middle, and ended in a vowel (but I wasn’t sure if it was an ‘i’ or an ‘a’). At the time, the only name I knew that fit these parameters was Gusmerotti, and I thusly assumed it to be so. Later, I realised it actually said ‘Giumenta’ (which means ‘mare’), a surname that became obsolete sometime in 17th century, having evolved into the name ‘Martinelli’, and then ‘Martini’. In fact, Martinelli is more than likely a soprannome that ‘stuck’ over time (we’ll look at soprannomi next).

8.      Not recognising a soprannome when you see it.

I’ve mentioned the use of soprannomi in other articles on this site. Soprannomi (plural of soprannome), are specific to Italian genealogy, including Trentino, and unless you get a handle on them, you can sometimes fail to recognise an entire branch of your family. A soprannome is used as a kind of ‘bolt on’ to a surname, to distinguish one branch of the family from another. Here’s a sample of a few soprannomi from my father’s parish of Santa Croce del Bleggio during the 16th-18th centuries, and the surnames of the families to which I have seen them attached:

SOPRANNOME RELATED SURNAME(S)
Ballina, Balini Fusari
Bella Caresani, Duchi
Bellotti (var. of Bella) Caresani
Berlingoni Duchi
Bertagnini Crosina
Blasiola Farina
Bleggi Duchi
Bondi, Bont Devilli
Cimador Devilli
Ferrari, Fabriferrari, Frerotti Briosi
Jakobi Gusmerotti
Martini, Martinelli Giumenta
Ottolini Panada
Rizza Devilli
Solandri Beltrami
Tosi Crosina
Trentini Devilli

While soprannomi can tell us a lot about who is related to whom, they can also cause many inexperienced researchers to make mistakes. This is because:

  • Rarely do soprannomi bear ANY resemblance to the surnames.
  • Soprannomi change frequently, typically lasting only one to three generations before they morph into something else.
  • A priest will often use a person’s soprannome INSTEAD of the surname, when he records an event.
  • Sometimes a soprannome will permanently replace the surname, which can make it seem like a family has fallen off the face of the earth.
  • Many soprannomi are also surnames – but of OTHER families!

All these idiosyncrasies can cause you to miss one of your ancestors, attach someone to the wrong family, or assume you are looking at completely unrelated families. Unfortunately, the ONLY way to master the changes of soprannomi is to study the images of the original records of your family’s parish METICULOUSLY. There simply is no other way.

9.      Misreading the handwriting.

Trying to understand handwritten documents can be a challenge even for the experienced genealogist, but it is especially difficult when you are new to research. Aside from the unpredictable spelling of names and places, and the frequent use of short-hand, sometimes the handwriting in the document is just plain MESSY! The only way to minimise mistakes caused by misreading handwriting is continual practice with images of original documents.

10.  Overlooking the details.

Parish records often contain a lot of subtle information, which can be easy to miss if you read too quickly or not carefully enough. You might fail to notice ONE word indicating the fact that someone’s father was deceased, or that someone was a widow/widower when they married. A single word might indicate someone was NOT originally from the place they later lived, or that a godfather at a baptism was the brother of the mother of the child. Sometimes that single word is the only piece of information that will save you from months of fruitless – or inaccurate – research. Squeeze every bit of evidence out of your documents, and record every minute detail that tells the story of your family.

11.  Drawing conclusions based on only ONE source.

Major mistakes can creep into our tree if we base our assumptions on information we’ve gathered from only one source (i.e. a baptismal, marriage or death record) without cross-referencing it to anything else. This happened to me when I was just starting out. I stumbled upon the death record for one of my 2X great-grandfathers, Bernardino Luigi Onorati. The record listed his date of marriage to my 2X great-grandmother, Margarita Elisabetta Gusmerotti. I knew from the baptismal record of my great-grandfather (their son) that Margarita’s father’s name was Lorenzo. I looked on the Nati in Trentino website and quickly found a Margarita Elisabetta Gusmerotti, daughter of Lorenzo, born in 1818. Happy I had found the right woman, and knowing the date of their marriage, I proceeded to research my new Gusmerotti line, spending many weeks on microfilm at my local Family History Centre. A few years later, I was in Trento and I suddenly realised I had never actually looked for the original marriage record of my Onorati 2X great-grandparents. As I now had access to digital images and my research abilities were vastly improved, I found the marriage record within minutes, rather than weeks. But when I read the document, my jaw dropped and I got a horrible sinking feeling in my stomach. The name of Margarita’s MOTHER was not what I had on my tree. Evidently, there were TWO different Margarita Elisabetta Gusmerottis, daughters of two different Lorenzos, and two different mothers, born around the same times. I had spent weeks (if not months) researching the WRONG families.

After I stopped kicking myself for not having checked earlier, I went to work. I found my TRUE 2X great-grandmother – Margarita Elisabetta Rosa Gusmerotti, born four years earlier in 1814. Then, I got to work building her lineage – with the new Lorenzo and my newly-found 3X great-grandmother. Happily, however, as I have been researching the entire parish for the past several years, I was able to link her lines to many other people I already had on the tree, and I quickly traced many of her lines back to the early 1600s.

12.  Searching solely for your ancestor, instead of your ancestor’s FAMILY.

Have you ever taken a good look at your family tree, and think something along these lines?

‘Maria got married at 45 and her last child was born when she was 65 years old…hmmm…that doesn’t seem quite right….’

If not, you’re either really GOOD at catching mistakes, or you haven’t been careful ENOUGH in your research. Mistakes like these commonly happen when we find a record we believe to be our ancestor’s, and then STOP looking for anything else. Often, after we dig a little deeper, we might discover that the record we found was actually that of an older sibling who died when he/she was very young, for example. But because we want to feel like we’ve accomplished something after a day of research, it’s often tempting to tick off items on our ‘to do’ lists and move on to something else.

Fastidious researchers don’t just look for their ancestors – they look for their ancestors’ families. I think of it as ‘building families’ – births, marriages and deaths of everyone in the nuclear family of my ancestor. This gives me a much more accurate picture of who everyone is, and the relationships between them. It also minimises the chances that I will connect someone to the wrong spouse at another generational level.

13.  Not recognising when the PRIEST has made a mistake.

It’s natural to want to believe parish records are 100% accurate, but unfortunately that is NOT the case. Parish priests may be dedicated to their spiritual duties, but they are also human. And like any other human being, they are prone to errors. Perhaps they miswrote a name because they heard it incorrectly, or they came from outside the parish and were unfamiliar with the local families. Maybe they didn’t have time to write it down carefully. Or, perhaps they felt it was unnecessary to specify every detail, as they assumed anyone reading the document would know who they were talking about. An example of this can be seen in the image of the baptismal record I used in title of this article, where the priest wrote ‘Matteo of Bono, notary’, omitting the surname ‘Onorati’. To him, it was obvious he was talking about Matteo Onorati; but to someone in the 21st century, it may not be immediately apparent, unless you are intimately acquainted with the records for that era.

Or (and this might surprise you), perhaps they simply couldn’t be bothered. While most priests are fastidious record-keepers, I get the distinct impression that some of them really couldn’t stand the obligation of having to write everything down. That’s when they got messy, took short cuts, left out information – and made mistakes. The only way to evaluate documents you suspect contain errors is to complete the architecture for a family as thoroughly as possible (as discussed in the previous point). That way, you can recognise inconsistencies and anomalies more easily, and make sure one person’s error doesn’t steer you off course.

14.  Depending too much on transcriptions.

While parish priests might make their share of errors, it’s nothing compared to errors made when documents are transcribed by someone completely unfamiliar with the culture of the person whose information they are recording. Some perfect examples are US census records, ship manifests and Ellis Island immigration documents. In these, you have TWO levels of possible transcription error:

  • First, when the government official writes the information into the document
  • Then, when the website transcribes/indexes the document

For example, the Ellis Island immigration documentation for my grandfather lists his village of origin as ‘Dunendo’. One of my cousins put ‘Dunendo’ on his tree, and wrote to me asking where it was because he couldn’t find it on the map. The problem is, ‘Dunendo’ doesn’t exist; the name of the village is Duvredo. The transcriber misread the handwriting, and the mistake then became ‘fact’.

Census records are also notorious for incorrectly spelled names and incorrect ages. If you are depending upon these kinds of ‘official’ documents for information, use them with a pinch of salt, and NEVER assume transcriptions are accurate.

15.  Depending too much on ‘Nati in Trentino’ or other online databases.

In this digital era, we are used to ‘Googling’ everything. We want to do quick searches and find information right away. The problem is, to make things searchable, they must first be transcribed from other sources, and then filtered to respond to specific search parameters.

We’ve already looked at the problems transcriptions can bring with them. Fortunately, the database on the Nati in Trentino website (see my previous article ‘Searching Online for 19th & 20th Century Trentini Ancestors’ about this site) is very WELL transcribed, making it fairly reliable for 19th century searches. However, you still have the limitations of what it DOESN’T show because it’s not included in its search parameters. For example, you cannot see the names of grandparents or godparents. You cannot see if a priest has made a notation that the child died shortly after baptism. Many people use Nati in Trentino when they first get started researching their Trentini ancestors, but it is a mistake to rely upon it as your sole source of information, because it will likely create errors in your tree.

Errors are also likely to occur if you depend too much on the Family Search website. There, many Italian parish records have been transcribed by volunteers. These volunteers can only choose which parishes Family Search happens to be currently working on. Thus, it is highly likely the volunteers will be unfamiliar with the parishes whose records they are transcribing. There are many rules on how Family Search want the documents transcribed, which I found frustrating when I gave it a shot a few years ago. I stopped volunteering because I strongly felt these limitations create problems for the people using the database.

Closing Thoughts

The main difference between a good genealogist and a mediocre one is not how many mistakes they make, but how rigorously they stay on top of them. A good genealogist develops a research routine and standards that help ensure mistakes get FIXED quickly, and that all information can be verified by some form of documentation. To do this, you need to cultivate two essential habits:

  1. CONTINUOUSLY REVIEW YOUR WORK. No matter how long you have been doing genealogy, it’s unwise to take anything for granted. Your earlier work may contain errors you never noticed, or never addressed. Over the years, you may have inadvertently compounded these by assuming one thing to be true that wasn’t. Look for gaps, inconsistencies and conflicting information. Check, check and triple check. Next year, check it all again.
  • ALWAYS CITE YOUR SOURCES. Source citations are like genealogical ‘breadcrumbs’. They enable you to trace back to where you found information and verify whether your conclusions are true. They also give other people confidence that your information is correct. Lastly, they give clues that point you in the right direction to find records or other family members. Even if your only source is a specific titbit is family hearsay, a phone call or a personal letter, always cite who gave you the information, and how/when you received it.

In my next article, we’ll look specifically at citing sources – how to do it, why to do it, and how to use citations to back up HYPOTHESES you can formulate, even when the precise information may be missing. I hope you’ll subscribe to Trentino Genealogy to receive that and all upcoming articles. You can subscribe using the form at the right side at the top of your screen. If you are viewing the site on a mobile device and cannot see the form, you can subscribe by sending a blank email to trentinogenealogy@getresponse.net.

I hope this article has given you some useful information that can help bring more accuracy into your work, and more confidence as a researcher. I would welcome any comments or questions on this, or any other topic to do with Trentino Genealogy. Please feel free to express yourself by leaving a comment in the box below, or drop me a line using the contact form on this site.

Until next time, enjoy the journey.

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn

P.S.: I am going back to Trento to do research in August 2017. If you would like me to try to look for something while I am there, please first read my ‘Genealogy Services’ page, and then drop me a line using the Contact form on this site. I look forward to hearing from you!

Subscribe to receive all upcoming articles from Trentino Genealogy! Desktop viewers can subscribe using the form at the right side at the top of your screen. If you are viewing on a mobile device and cannot see the form, you can subscribe by sending a blank email to trentinogenealogy@getresponse.net.

Lynn on Twitter: http://twitter.com/LynnSerafinn

Join our Trentino Genealogy Group on Facebook: http://facebook.com/groups/TrentinoGenealogy

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

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

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

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

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

CLICK HERE to view a searchable database of Trentini SURNAMES.

What’s in a Name? A Short Tutorial on Trentini Surnames

1937 - Romeo Fedele Serafini (aka Ralph R. Serafinn), age 17
Born Romeo Fedele Serafini in 1919, my dad’s name changed to Ralph Serafinn around the time this shot was taken in 1937.

Genealogist Lynn Serafinn shares tips for researching your Trentino family history, and tells what you need to know about your ancestors’ surnames.

When it comes to family history, all research springs from one thing: a NAME.

Our Trentini ancestors had wonderful names – rich in meaning, culture and history. Having a solid understanding of the names of Trentino is crucial to constructing an accurate picture of your family history. That’s why, over the next few articles on this blog, I’ll be looking at some of the idiosyncrasies of our ancestral names so you can more easily identify your ancestors in historical records, and have a better understanding our colourful heritage. In today’s article, we’ll be taking a look at cognomisurnames.

SIDE NOTE:  I’ve made a searchable database of Trentini surnames on this site. CLICK HERE to view it and see if your surname is currently on our “One Tree” project family tree. 

Changes to Surnames after Immigration

The first thing to remember is that many of our ancestors who immigrated to the Americas changed their surnames to make them sound less “foreign”. Surprisingly, some descendants might not even be aware this change occurred. Such was the case with me. When I was growing up, neither I nor many of my cousins knew our family name was actually Serafini. But after my dad died, I discovered our original name when I started digging into our family history. I even found the official change of name request my grandfather had filed in the 1930s. This meant that my dad had been known by the surname Serafini until he was in his late teens, but (for reasons unknown) he chose not to tell me. It was a bit of a shock to discover that something I had been told since childhood was an untruth. Be prepared for the possibility of unearthing a few of your own skeletons as you do your research!

Natural Evolution of Surnames Over Time

Prior to the 18th century, surnames were still in a state of evolution, and your surname will probably look very different the further back you go in time. One example is the surname Gusmerotti. This name is likely to be written as Gosmero or Gosmeri in records from the 1500s and early 1600s. This is because Gusmerotti comes from the masculine first name Gosmero plus the suffix -otti (meaning large).

Click on the image below to see it larger.

Santa Croce del Bleggio - Example of surname Gusmerotti spelled as Gosmeri in parish records
Santa Croce del Bleggio – Example of surname Gusmerotti spelled as Gosmeri in parish records

Another example is the surname Devilli. Prior to the 19th century, you will typically find it written as either “de Vigili” or simply Vigili. The term “vigili” refers to someone who keeps guard. As a name, it was first used to refer to specific branches of the military during the reign of the Prince Bishops. Thus, knowing the origins of your surname can sometimes give you a clue as to what some of your ancestors did for a living.

Latin Version of Names in Parish Records

Until the late 18th century, Latin was the language used in Trentini parish records, rather than Italian. While this practice was nearly always used in the spelling of first and middle names (which we’ll explore next time), it could occasionally also alter the spelling of surnames. One example is the surname Onorati, which was frequently written in its Latin forms, Honoraty, Honorati or Honorato.

Click on the image below to see it larger.

1596. Baptismal record of Francesco Onorati, son of Valerio and Giustina. The surname is spelled "Honorato".
8 Feb 1596. Baptismal record of Francesco, son of the noble Valerio Honorato (Onorati) of Bono and the lady Giustina. Santa Croce del Bleggio parish records.

Forget About Spelling!

Even after modern surnames began to “stick”, there was no concept of standardised spelling until relatively recently. For example, the surname Caliari can also appear as Calliari, Cagliari or Caliary.

Along the same lines as the Devilli example above, any kind of “conjunct surname” (one that was originally two separate words) could appear either as a single word or two separate words. For example, the name Daldos might show up as Dal Dos or Dal Doss.

Generally speaking:

  • Consonants in between vowels might be doubled or left single (Benassuti, Bennasuti, Bennassuti)
  • The letter “a” is often interchangeable with the letter “o” (Bonomi, Bonami)
  • The letter “e” is often interchangeable with the letter “i” (Rocche, Rocchi, Roche, Rochi)
  • A “g” can sometimes appear before an “ni” or “li” (Cagliari, Caliari, Benini, Benigni)

This flexibility means it is not uncommon to see different surname spellings in the birth, marriage and death records for members of the same family (or even for the same individual). So, it’s important to remember that variations in spelling do not normally indicate the person is from different family, as it would in modern English-speaking culture.

SIDE NOTE: Research become even more complex when you add to this the plethora of variations you will see in first and middle names (which we’ll look at next time)!

Surnames of Women in Trentino

When researching your female ancestors, you need to remember that women in Trentino do not take their husbands’ name when they marry, but retain their fathers’ surnames throughout their lives. So, when researching your female lines, don’t try to find them under their husbands’ names, as you won’t find them. Also, if you use software for your family tree, make sure it is set so it doesn’t automatically change the women’s surnames to their husbands’.

Soprannomi – A Blessing or a Curse for Family Historians

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning “soprannomi” (plural). A soprannome (singular) is an add-on or nickname sometimes given to one branch of a family to distinguish it from other branches. While saying “Giovanni son of Giovanni” can help distinguish that person from “Giovanni son of Pietro”, sometimes there are just too many Giovannis to know who is who. That is where a soprannome can be useful. For example, the branch of the Serafini family from which I am descended was given the soprannome “Cenighi”. This soprannome was chosen because Margherita Giuliani, the wife of my 4x great-grandfather Alberto Serafini, came from the village of Ceniga in Drò parish.

For the genealogist, a soprannome can be a blessing OR a curse. You might come across a baptismal, marriage or death record where the priest used ONLY the soprannome, omitting the person’s surname completely. When that happens, if you don’t know the soprannome (or you’re not paying attention) you might accidentally gloss over the record you’re looking for.

Coming Up Next…

BOOK: Guida cognomi del Trentino, by Aldo BertoluzzaI hope this article has got you interested in knowing more about all the wonderful Trentini surnames that make up your heritage. If you’d like to dive more deeply into the subject, there are many excellent books available in Italian. One I use almost on a daily basis is Guida Cognomi del Trentino by Aldo Bertoluzza.

Next time, we’ll be looking at things every family historian needs to know about our ancestors’ first and middle names. If you subscribe to Trentino Genealogy blog (see the form on the top-right side of this page), you’ll be sure to receive that article via email, along with all upcoming articles.

Until then, I look forward to reading your comments or questions below. And if you have any comments or questions, I cordially invite you to drop me a line with me via the contact form on this site.

Warm wishes,
Lynn Serafinn

Subscribe to receive all upcoming articles from Trentino Genealogy! Desktop viewers can subscribe using the form at the right side at the top of your screen. If you are viewing on a mobile device and cannot see the form, you can subscribe by sending a blank email to trentinogenealogy@getresponse.net.

Lynn on Twitter: http://twitter.com/LynnSerafinn

Join our Trentino Genealogy Group on Facebook: http://facebook.com/groups/TrentinoGenealogy

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

Lynn Serafinn, genealogist at Trentino Genealogy

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

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

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

CLICK HERE to view a searchable database of Trentini SURNAMES.