Saturday, April 14, 2012

A few thoughts about Torello Seghieri

Saturday, April 14
I have several photos of great grandfather Torello Seghieri, but otherwise few details about his life have survived through the years. Piecing together his existence takes some research, some assumptions and a little guesswork.

Torello was born in 1847 into the farming family of Seghiero Andrea Seghieri and Maddelena del Tredici. Although poor by today’s standards, the Seghieris were not tenant farmers. The family likely was upper middle class at the time, owning large tracts of fertile land in the flatlands below the stately medieval hilltop city of Montecarlo, in a neighborhood named Marcucci, after an earlier ancestor named Marco Seghieri. Historical and legal records show that the family owned its own land since at least 1300 and probably continued to add to its holdings through the years.

Torello, the oldest of six children, likely grew up working the land with his father and cousins, and he could have inherited the land and watched as first his children and then his grandchildren worked the soil. But he chose a different route, making a sacrifice that enriched the lives of his children, though it ultimately deprived him of the opportunity to see the results of this enrichment.

According to family lore passed on by word of mouth, Torello taught, conducted and composed music. Several pieces of archival evidence support this story.

First, I find that in his father’s “stato di famiglia” document from the 1800s, Torello is listed as a member of the family who is not present in the household. State of family records commenced in 1866 and were periodically updated to reflect additions in the family. Younger brothers Luigi and Natale are still living in the house, along with their wives and children. Youngest brother Egisto is also listed, as are sisters Anna and Cesira. A later notation indicates that Egisto moved to Pescia in 1883.

Where was big brother Torello, age 19, in 1866? It is quite possible that he had left home to study music. Montecarlo is not large enough to house a university or school of music. However, fewer than 20 kilometers to the west is Lucca, birthplace of famous composer Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924). I read online that Puccini studied music under his uncle, the choir director and organist in a large Lucca church. When he was 21, he continued his education in the Milan conservatory of music, which today bears his name.

Torello could have moved to Lucca to study music. Another possibility would be Firenze and its university, which has a school of music, 60 kilometers to the east of Montecarlo.

The second document provides more definitive evidence. It is a copy of a certificate of award passed down through my family’s generations. It was granted to Torello in 1889, when he was 42. I can read most of it, but I have asked some Italian acquaintances to help with the interpretation. They tell me it signifies that Torello wrote a duet to be judged by a music society. It was graded superior and awarded a silver medallion, and “Maestro Signor Torello Seghieri” was named to the organization’s honor society. The group giving the award, the Society of Musical Artists, is located in Palermo, Sicily, and I am told it is likely Torello would have traveled there to direct the performance, or possibly to perform the work with another musician.
Just who is pictured in the upper left I don't know, but Torello Seghieri's name is handwritten a few lines below the word diploma, starting under the D.

Ines Capocchi
Wherever it was that Torello went for his education, he returned to Marcucci and married Ines Capocchi around 1880, and they had four children born from 1883 through 1896: Anita, Ruggero, Seghiero and Rosa. My aunt Lola says he taught music and directed for local concerts and plays. Could he have made a living solely through his music? Considering that he owned property and lived on a farm among relatives, it seems quite likely, since his expenses would have been minimal.

Anita, his eldest daughter, had the opportunity to become well educated and became a governess for a relative whose family had ties to the noble Bizzarri family of Pisa. The Seghieri-Bizzarri family so appreciated her work that they took Anita with them when the father received a government appointment to work in France. During her several years there, Anita not only enjoyed the privileges of living as a member of this wealthy family, but she also learned to speak French.

However, as sometimes happens when one’s children are given a taste of education and culture, their aspirations for the future can lead them far away. Economic times in Italy during the late 1800s and early 1900s were harsh, leading to an unprecedented Italian migration to the Americas. In all, nearly 25 million Italians left the country during a 100-year period, mostly between 1880 and 1910.

This must have been taken around 1909.
Back: Alfonso?, Ruggero, Torello.
Front: Egidio, Seghiero. Egidio was a nephew
of Torello and the grandfather of Don
Seghieri of California.

Ruggero at age 19 first ventured to the United States in 1905, living in Chicago for several years before returning to Italy. In 1908, Anita married a hard-working young man from a local family of farmers, Michele Spadoni. His family was poor, and he was the youngest child and thus not in line to inherit any property, but he was ambitious.

Michele had gone to America in 1903 and found steady work, and now he had come back to Italy with money in his pocket, ready to take a bride and start his own family. Two months after he married Anita, the couple boarded a ship to America. Also on board were Ruggero and 16-year-old brother Seghiero, leaving Torello and Ines with 13-year-old Rosina as their only child remaining in Italy.

One can imagine the mixed feelings of sadness, pride and hope that Torello and Ines must have felt in seeing their children depart. They sent letters and photos back and forth, but Ines passed away the next year without ever seeing them again. The three returned to visit Torello, and Anita even brought back her two youngest daughters for a short visit in 1912. She stayed long enough to give Torello the joy of being present for the birth of Anita’s third daughter, Lola.

Torello died Aug. 23, 1915, at age 58, one year after Anita gave birth to my father in America. Rosina stayed in Italy for a few more years before joining her brothers and sisters in Gig Harbor. I wish I could tell Torello and Ines how well their family has fared in America, how large we have grown and how Anita’s children started a family business that lasted for more than 50 years, supporting their families and improving the lives of their descendants. I wish I could tell them that I know it was hard to see their children leave, but we appreciate their sacrifice.

1 comment:

  1. 2 5 million Italians migrating - amazing



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