Friday, April 11, 2014

I finally have a talk with cousin Leino



Miranda Spicciani and Silvano "Leino" Celli, who recently celebrated their 50th anniversary, in their home in San Salvatore.

Friday, April 11
This morning I met another third cousin, Silvano Celli. Actually, I had met him two years ago, but at the time we met, we didn’t know we were related. Lucy’s bike tire had gone flat, and I located an elderly retired bicycle and motorcycle repairman in San Salvatore. His name was Silvano Celli, but everybody in town called him Leino (pronounced Lay-ino, with the accent on the first syllable). He fixed the flat without removing the wheel while I held the bike, saving me a train trip to Pescia to have the flat repaired at Francesca Seghieri’s bike shop.

Then a few days later, I discovered that Gioconda Spadoni, the sister of my great grandfather Pietro, had married a Cesare Celli in 1866 and had three sons, one of whom had married a woman from Montecarlo. I had a suspicion that one of these sons might have been the grandfather of Leino, but when I saw him in town a few days later, he had no interest in exploring the possible connection. Since then, I have wondered if I said something wrong or somehow aroused some suspicion in him by asking questions about his family. I had mentioned this to Elena, and she offered to go with me to talk to him when she had an opportunity, and that chance came today.

She had bumped into Leino yesterday and asked if she could come and visit him with her American friend who was researching his family history. He invited us to come to his house at 10 a.m., and so we paid a short but pleasant visit. My fears that I had said something wrong were unfounded; it’s just that Leino actually didn’t know the name of his nonno. The archives said the three sons of Cesare and Gioconda were named Giuseppe, Luigi and Lei (also written once as Leo). I suspected that Silvano’s grandfather had been Lei/Leo, because the nicknames Leo, Lei and Leino occurred regularly in that branch. Leino said his father had been named Luigi but he had the nickname Leo.

Miranda, Leino’s wife, brought us all cups of espresso, and she also fetched Emo, Leino’s brother, who lives upstairs. He confirmed that their grandfather had been named Leo. Neither Emo nor Leino had any idea who their great grandfather had been, but I assured them I had already found the rest of the data from the archives, and now I was sure that we shared the same trisavolo, great grandfather.

With our kinship now established, I asked Leino to tell me about himself. He is 78 years old and he has always repaired and sold biciclete and motorini, he said. He has had his own shop in San Salvatore for 60 years. Though he is retired now, he still has his shop and does a little repair work for people he knows.
Their wedding photo

He started learning his trade in the afternoons while still attending school, and for many years he worked with Ghirardengo Seghieri, the late brother of Mario and the father of Francesca. He also complained that the young people of today don’t have the patience to learn traditional but essential skills such as machine repair. Now they want to be paid every week while they learn, he said, whereas he had served an apprenticeship with a very small monthly salary for the opportunity to receive his training.


Now that we have become acquainted, I will no longer have any hesitation about approaching Leino in the future when I see him around, and if I meet other Cellis in town, Ill know that they are also distant cousins.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Guido’s Italian children were left behind with their grandparents



Thursday, April 10
I have to admit I had some doubts that Guido “Frank” Spadoni was telling the whole truth when he filed for divorce from Armida Giuntoli (Who were those Tacoma Spadonis?) in Pierce County, Washington, in 1919. Armida was in Italy and Guido in Tacoma, so she would not have been able to contradict his claim.

Guido, the eldest of nine children, had come to America in 1906, leaving behind Armida and four children but sending money to Italy regularly for their support. In the divorce papers, Guido said that his wife had left him after their last child had been born and he had not seen her since 1906. He said his parents were raising the children, but the court filing doesn’t mention that Armida, his parents and the children were not in America. The divorce was granted, and Guido married Iva Bisbee in the same year. They divorced two years later, and Guido, who by then was going by the name Frank, married a third time and had two children in the Tacoma area.

Today I found a state of the family document in Ponte Buggianese for Guido’s parents Agostino and Vittoria. Dated June 11, 1911, it lists four children in the home as nipoti, grandchildren. Guido is named as father and Armida as mother. There are other children of Agostino and Vittoria living in the house as well, two of whom were approximately the same age as Guido’s children. But there is no Armida Guintoli on the page—and one can only assume that she had departed of her own accord, leaving the children in the care of Guido’s parents.

Children: Evelina, Alessandro, Ferruccio, Giulia. Mother: Armida Giuntoli.
The records also showed me the date of birth for each child. The first, Giulia, was born March 6, 1899, when Guido and Armida were only 19 years old. Next was Alessandro on Oct. 7, 1901. This is also the same year that civic records list Guido and Armida’s official marriage, although they could have had a church wedding earlier. Evelina followed Jan. 2, 1904, and Ferruccio on April 2, 1906. By the end of 1906, Guido had left for the United States, and there is no record that he ever returned to Italy for even a visit.

From one of Guido’s American granddaughters, I received a photo of Armida and the four children that had been sent from Italy. The photo is not dated, but Ferruccio looks to be less than 2 years old, so that would date the photo to around 1908. Apparently sometime between 1908 and 1911, Armida left, as Guido had said in his divorce papers.

I had wondered if perhaps Guido had abandoned Armida, because it seems he never returned to Italy, but it appears his version is accurate. In defense of both, Italy was in the midst of a severe depression, and families had to make tough choices. Armida had been left to raise four children without a husband, but Guido had felt the need to find more stable employment to help his family survive amidst difficult times. With Armida gone, Guido would not have been able to care for the children had he wished to bring them to Tacoma—thus they grew up without parents but under the care of their grandparents, who were still relatively young.

I am trying to find out what became of the four children left in Italy, but I had little success today. I found out that Alessandro married Amelia Ragghianti on Sept. 30, 1922, but the office closed for the day before I could determine what happened to the others or if Alessandro or Amelia had any children. The Ponte Buggianese archives are only open two days a month, and they might be closed for the Easter holidays April 24, so today may have been my last chance this year. Well, now I have a reason to come back to Italy next year.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Family ties to Severino Seghieri found

Monday, April 7
I had heard from cousin Don Seghieri that there were some Seghieris in San Francisco who partnered in a cement and mosaic business in the early 1900s. Don had contacted one of the descendants some years ago, and they couldn’t determine how they were related, although both families had roots in Montecarlo. Since then, I have tried off and on to see if I could make the connection, and it finally happened today.

I found the Italian state of the family certificate that lists Severino Seghieri, one of the men who worked in the construction business. With that, I was able to tie him into the family tree, because his family was fairly closely connected to the late Mario Seghieri. Mario was an important historian in Montecarlo and had constructed a very complete family tree—thus I now have more details on Severino’s historical family than I have on my own.


Severino’s grandfather Giuseppe and great uncle Adamo are listed as muratori (brick or stone layers) who apparently left Montecarlo for a period of time in the mid-1800s to work on some jobs south of Pisa. While there, Giuseppe met and married Luisa Benvenuti of Massa Marittima, and Alex’s father Edoardo was born in Suvereto, a small town near Massa Marittima. However, when the work was finished, Giuseppe and his family relocated to Montecarlo, and Edoardo married Cesira Marini of Altopascio, just a few minutes from Montecarlo.


Records in both Italy and the United States show that Severino was born July 27, 1889. In 1906, he made his way to San Francisco. The ship’s log says that he and his uncle Dante Seghieri were going to visit their cousin Alex Seghieri.

I am working now to get more information on the origins of the family’s business. Besides Alex, Severino and Dante, there was also an Adolfo Seghieri listed as associated with the business. When I find out more, I will post an update. If by chance anyone from that family reads this blog, please contact me and I will give you a big pile of ancestry facts that have taken untold hours to track down. You can have them for free, but you did miss out on the pleasure of the hunt here in the bel paese.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Noble Seghieri family traced to 1600s, split from my line around 1500



Saturday, April 5
Thanks to Doctor Sergio Nelli, the question about where the noble branch of the Seghieri family splits off the family tree from us plain and simple Seghieris has been resolved—though questions about their family tree still remain. Elena and I met with Dott. Nelli one more time this afternoon to discuss this issue.
Dott. Nelli hands Elena my flash drive, which he has loaded
with historical references to Seghieris from his files--
some light reading to keep me busy in my spare time.


Robieri Seghieri, born around 1444, had three sons: Mariano, Leonardo and Simone. The former is the ancestor of all the Seghieris now living on Via Mattonaia, including me and my Gig Harbor cousins. Leonardo, nicknamed Narduccio, is the ancestor of the late Mario Seghieri, a well-known Montecarlo historian who was a colleague and friend of Dott. Nelli—not the same Mario who lives on Via Mattonaia. Simone, with the dubious nickname Molester, was the head of the noble and wealthy line, though it wasn’t until his great grandson that the noble title began to be used.

Molester’s son was Rubieri or Rubiero, and he had a son Simone, who apparently married a wealthy heiress of Pisa with the surname Bizzarri, because one of their sons took the name Robieri Seghieri Bizzarri. This Robieri, born around 1635, was the first of many in the family to become a Cavaliero di Santo Stefano, founded by Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1561 to protect ships against Saracen piracy in the Mediterranean. In order to become a knight, Robieri had to live in Pisa, but he also had to be a property owner, so he maintained his holdings in Altopascio, Montecarlo and San Salvatore. While Robieri is not in my family line, he must have maintained close contact with my ancestors, because I have found a contract between his heirs and Giuseppe Seghieri, the grandfather of Torello Seghieri, Anita’s father. The contract allows Giuseppe and his brother Giuliano to farm the Seghieri Bizzarri land and use and maintain their buildings, in return for cash and specified amounts of wine, oil and other items. Among other things, my ancestors had to provide the Seghieri Bizzarri family two hens at Carnevale and two capons at Christmas.

This wealthy branch of the family gathered many honors and produced numerous knights, lawyers, doctors, professors, mayors, priests, bishops, and nuns—including the descendants who financed construction of an altar that bears the family coat of arms in the Montecarlo church of San’Andrea. Leopoldo Seghieri, a doctor, volunteered his services in the army of King Vittorio Emmanuele in 1860 during the war to unite Italy. The order of Saint Stefano was abolished in 1859, and since the Seghieri Bizzarri heirs had been marrying commoners, they dropped the second part of their name.

I have tried to construct a Seghieri Bizzarri family tree from early information given me by Dott. Nelli, along with an online article about noble families of Italy and some state of the family documents from the late 1800s I received in Montecarlo. Every time I try, it becomes an exercise in frustration and futility, because so few of the names are tied to dates of birth, and the same names are repeated so many times. Imagine how confusing it would be if one’s brothers and every male cousin all gave their children the same names. Many of the early names that I have obtained came not from birth or baptism records but from legal contracts or acts. It is hard to judge when a person was born or what generation he was in from these records. I still maintain the hope that an accurate tree may be possible if I can find just a little more information or I discover some details I had previously overlooked or misunderstood.