Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Spadoni family secrets uncovered
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
I had planned to see American cousins Colleen and her daughter Monica today, but they e-mailed that they were deeply engaged in una cosa d’amore for Monica. Okay, they didn’t really put it that way, and I am exaggerating a little, but probably not much. They are negotiating for the purchase of a cello for Monica in Firenze. She is an accomplished cellist and is quite taken with a particular cello made by the Florentine craftsman Paolo Vittori. Hopefully they will be successful.
I decide to use the unexpected free time to do some family history research. But before that, I am taken to Pescia by my bi-lingual friend Ari, and this time we are successful in obtaining my codice fiscale, the document I will need if I ever want to open an Italian bank account, buy a vehicle or get a job here. All we needed was a form filled out by Luca from the Casolare dei Fiori stating that he is providing us hospitality. Ari has already talked to the clerk here twice, so once we have the proper form, she says “perfetto” and the whole meeting is done in less than three minutes. All I am lacking now is enough money to actually buy a vehicle or piece of property.
After Ari drops me off, I am ready to hit the road again. I plan to take the 11 a.m. train to Pescia because on a previous trip to the parochial office there, I noted that the hours of opening are 10-12:30 p.m. Then I remember that there is no train at 11 a.m., and not even one at 12:00. The next train won’t come until 1 p.m., so I ride my bike for the first time to Pescia, which takes about half an hour. Once at the office, I am told that the archives are in a different building, and the hours there are 4-6:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday. I am also told that the office is not clearly marked but is the third door down on that yellow building down the street. I am now used to this routine, going to a place at a certain time and finding out that I must go to a different place that has different hours, so I am unfazed and I ride back home for lunch.
There is a train at 4 p.m., so after a ten-minute ride to San Salvatore, a five-minute train ride to Pescia station, and another ten-minute ride to the Archivio delle Parrocchie, I fill out a form stating what I want. Four other people, all Italians, are quietly reading historical documents at a large table. I am given an old book filled with hand-written records from the 1800s, but I am also given personal and professional assistance from one of the clerks, Andrea. Without his help, I would have been lost, because though I can comprehend textbook Italian well enough, all the writing is in old Italian script, which is nearly impossible for me to decipher. It takes me a minute to scan one page to see if it has any information I need. Andrea, though, can run his hand over the same page in ten seconds and still find something I have missed.
Oh, and the information he discovers! The Italian relatives we know here, to put it mildly, are not very interested in family history, and neither were their fathers and mothers. My grandfather Michele left Italy in 1903, and his brother Enrico paid Michele’s fare, according to the ship records. We know all the descendants of Enrico, but all they can tell us of Enrico and Michele’s father and mother are their names, Pietro Spadoni and Maria Marchi. Where did they come from? No lo so. When were they born? Non lo so. Did they have brothers and sisters? Non lo so. When and where were they married? A mystery. Were there other children besides Enrico and Michele? Only one, I am told, Eugenio, who did not marry. However, my Aunt Lola told me numerous times that Michele was the youngest of many children, as many as eleven, she thought. I am skeptical, though, because how would it be that Lola, who grew up in America, would know this, while the offspring of Enrico here in Italy said otherwise.
Well, guess what? It turns out that Lola was closer to the truth. Andrea and I discover three other children of Pietro and Maria. One I had uncovered myself on an earlier trip to the Pescia Comune, Zelinda, who died at age seven, but I had found only her death certificate. Today I discover her date of birth, July 9, 1880. I also find that Michele had a brother Domenico, born in 1870, six years before Michele, and a sister Maria Luisa Zelinda, born in 1864. What happened to Maria and Domenico is a mystery for another day, and how many more siblings were there really? Hopefully I will find more, but now we switch to another track.
We find the date that Pietro and Maria married—Oct. 17, 1863—and to my thrill, the record also shows their parents’ names. And their parents’ parents’ names as well! Pietro was preceded by Pellegrino, whose father was Francesco, whose father was Lorenzo. Maria’s father was Guiseppe and her mother was Luisa Vita. There are a few more names, and I am getting overwhelmed with information. It is almost closing time, so I thank Andrea heartily and leave feeling both euphoric and dazed. We have found little information on the Marchi side, so I will come back either Friday or next week.
I had sent a letter to this office in 2008 and never received a reply. Now I have received an hour and half of personal assistance, plus everyone in the archives took a break together and they gave me coffee and pastries. What a difference a personal visit makes!
Hard-to-read Italian script which shows Pietro's name at the bottom when he was two months old.
Post script: Later while looking up info on the Internet, I came across this family crest of the Seghieri family of Pisa. We are about 25 miles from Pisa here, so there is probably a connection to our Seghieri family. I also read that there is a different family crest for the Seghieri family of Pistoia, but I couldn't find an image of it. Pistoia is in the opposite direction and about 15 miles away.
In the written description, it says that the ribbon-like object in front of the lion is a band saw, which makes sense, considering that the name derives from sega, saw in English.