Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Finding a lost Seghieri and solving questions of mysterious visits

My older Gig Harbor cousins can remember hearing stories about trips our grandparents took to San Francisco to visit cousins. One trip was taken perhaps in the 1920s, when our parents were relatively young, and there was another trip in the 1940s when our Nonno—Michele Spadoni—and my dad and some of his siblings went to San Francisco to visit cousins.

With everyone from my dad’s generation now gone, no one from my generation could tell me who these California cousins were, and it has been a mystery for many years.  Since there are numerous Spadonis in California, some cousins think maybe Nonno went to see a Spadoni family that only he knew about, but other cousins think they remember that the trip was to see Nonna’s cousins, in which case it would either be a Seghieri family or possibly even a Capocchi family, as the mother of our Nonna, Anita Seghieri, was Ines Capocchi before she married Torello Seghieri. Anita passed away in 1941, so she didn’t make the trip in the 1940s.

Donald Seghieri
This mystery has recently been solved. It started with a letter that came to my sister-in-law Rosemary’s ancestry account on March 28 of this year: “My name is Donald Seghieri. My father was Tristano Seghieri and grandfather was Egidio Seghieri whom I believe was Torello's nephew. Our side of the family lived in San Francisco, CA. I'm researching the family name and would appreciate any info or photos you may have.

This message opened up a correspondence, followed by a visit and now a friendship between Donald and me, and it has solved the mystery about those visits to San Francisco. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Egidio Seghieri
In checking ship records, we found that Don’s grandfather Egidio came to the states in 1905, two years after Michele came here. On the same boat with Egidio were his cousins Ruggero Seghieri and Alfonso Seghieri. It is known that Michele was well acquainted with the Seghieri family back in San Salvatore, Italy, prior to his coming to America.  Initially, Michele and the Seghieri cousins all went to Chicago, but Egidio eventually made his way to Washington state, where he worked for a railroad company in Easton on the east side of Snoqualmie Pass. Don was told that Egidio came to Washington because he had family there, and indeed he did: records show that by 1909, Ruggero and his brother Seghiero are living in the Tacoma area, and their sister Anita and her new husband Michele Spadoni—my grandparents—are as well. There is also a record of a Francesco Seghieri in the 1910 census, though just how he is related is another mystery to explore. It is not clear when Egidio came to Washington, but he shows up in the 1910 census in Easton. It is unknown who came to Washington first, but undoubtedly family ties were involved in making this a popular destination for both Seghieris and Spadonis.

And it was family ties that brought Don Seghieri back to Washington for a visit this August. I invited him to attend a Spadoni-Seghieri family reunion at my brother Roger’s house on August 4, and he not only accepted but came a few days early to get in some extra visiting time. My sister hosted him at her house, and he turned out to be a delightful guest. We all concurred that we were proud to call Don our cousin.

“He was easy to talk to and he had such interesting life stories to share,” Linda said. “The thing I enjoyed most about meeting and talking with Don was finding out that the cousin Nonna Anita and some of my aunts and uncles drove down to San Francisco to visit long ago was Don’s grandfather and his family, and that those visits were part of Don’s family history lore, too.”

Not only is Don a great guy, but he is a cousin who shares my enthusiasm for family history. We spent an evening together delightfully sharing stories, photos and genealogical information. I confess to being a little jealous because Don grew up in a close-knit Italian community. Don’s grandfather moved to San Francisco around 1920. When my grandparents moved to Gig Harbor around 1915, they were one of the only Italian families around, and it became a priority for them to learn English and blend in as Americans. Their Gig Harbor friends were immigrants from Croatia, Scandinavia and various European locations. Every one of their seven children married non-Italians, whereas in Don’s San Francisco neighborhood, his dad married an Italian and many of Don’s friends and relatives were Italian-Americans.

Back: Alfonso, Ruggero, Torello.
Front: Egidio, Seghiero.
Egidio Seghieri, according to my research in Italy, indeed was a first cousin to Anita and her brothers Ruggero and Seghiero and sister Rosina. I found an old picture taken in Italy that shows Ruggero and Seghiero together with their father Torello. Also in the photo are two previously unknown persons about the same age as Ruggero and Seghiero. One is no longer unknown, though. Don compared him to photos he has of his grandfather and positively identified him as Egidio. The other person is very likely cousin Alfonso Seghieri, who went to Chicago on the same ship with Ruggero and Egidio in 1905. Probably it was a group photo showing the four cousins who were planning to leave for America soon. I have since discovered that Alfonso spent some time in Chicago, but then he returned to live out the rest of his life in Italy. He married Ida Carmignani and they had two daughters. His sister, Quinta, also came to America, and she married Ferruccio Di Vita, and they made their family in the San Francisco area.

Don verifies that our family came to visit his family. After the reunion, he wrote me: “I spoke with my Mom this week about last weekend’s Washington trip. She said that several Spadonis came down in the 1940s (after the war) to visit with the Seghieris in San Francisco. She said that she and dad were married (1939) and that my brother (1940) and I (1943) were already born. She also told me that Alfonso Seghieri had contacted the family in San Francisco several times and was coming out from Chicago to visit, but he never made the trip.” Don also said he remembers his Uncle Fiory (known to friends as Bud), who was a professional musician, giving our family an impromptu accordion concert.

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