Thursday, April 18, 2013

A trip to the birthplace of Bartolomeo, the earliest Spadoni in our family line

Marliana, Italy, in the province of Pistoia.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
I have little more than a week left in Italy, and as my return trip home nears, I marvel at how much I have discovered in only seven months—spread out over three years—of living in San Salvatore. I came knowing only the names of my dad’s grandparents—Pietro Spadoni and Maria Marchi, and Torello Seghieri and Ines Capocchi. Now I know the names of several hundred ancestors, with the Spadoni line extending into the early 1400s and the first-known Seghieri born around 1310. I have also met dozens of relatives and count a couple as friends.

I can only say that I have been extremely fortunate—blessed would be a better word—because it is not usual for a foreigner in Italy to have such success in ancestry research. I see many family trees on where a person’s grandparents are listed as being born in Italy, and that’s all. The grandchildren sometimes don’t even know where in Italy. If the American descendants are lucky enough to know the city of origin, the most they usually can accomplish is to visit the city and walk around. Maybe they are even more fortunate and still have relatives they can visit, but it is unlikely those relatives know much about the family’s history.
This photo is taken from Marliana looking down into valley. Considering that Bartolomeo was probably a farmer, it is more likely that he lived outside of the city center.
For me, who had never met a Seghieri in Italy, I ran into Fausto Seghieri, who just happened to have our joint history extended back more than 600 years, and then I found a local historian who gave me even more information. On the Spadoni side, it was not quite so easy, but I received plenty of help from Andrea in the parish archives, and once I reached back to the 1600s, I met cousin Carlo, who had already put in hundreds of hours of research on the Spadoni family from the 1400s to the 1600s.

Carlo Spadoni, in a photo taken in Colle di Buggiano with
Buggiano Castello in the background.

I am also fortunate that my Italian grandparents belonged to such stable families who had been part of the Valdinievole community for so long. If my ancestors had not been faithful Catholics or had moved a few times, divorced and remarried or had children out of wedlock, I would not have been able to trace the line. I am also in a different position because I was able to retire from teaching a few years early and travel to Italy for a few months in each of these last three years.

I reflect on all these circumstances when I am picked up this morning by Carlo, who takes me on a 40-minute drive to Marliana, which is where Bartomeo Spadoni lived before he moved to Stignano in the 1400s. We have no records of his time there; we know only that when he moved to Stignano, Marliana was recorded as his birthplace. The church records in Marliana for those early years no longer exist.

I have known Marliana only as a spot on the map. Since I have no car, I have not been able to go there previously. I considered riding my bike, but it looked to be too far, so when Carlo asked if there was anything I’d like to see before I went home, I immediately thought of Marliana. Once we passed through Montecatini, I laughed at my earlier consideration about riding my bike—we spent the last 20 minutes going up, far into the Alpi-Apuane mountain range. I don’t have a fancy bike, nor any kind of physical endurance, so I would have been walking the entire distance. I suppose that’s how Bartolomeo must have done it, but I’m not prepared to follow in his footsteps today.

I am in Buggiano Castello, with Stignano in the background.
We have a spectacular view of the entire Valdinievole, and as we drive deeper into the mountains, we see isolated farms and villages and hillsides of ancient olive groves tucked in among the forests of pine and chestnut trees. Marliana is an ordinary mountain town, as small Tuscan mountain towns go, which makes it spectacular in comparison with most comparably sized American towns. If Bartolomeo left any family behind, they are long gone. Carlo says he has found no traces of any Spadoni families in this area now, except for someone who has moved recently to a nearby town. We take a short walk through the quiet centro. I snap a few photos and then we are off to look at a few other interesting old villages that are on the way back: Cozzile, Massa, Colle di Buggiano and Buggiano Castello. Research does show that a few ancestors of Bartolomeo did move from Stignano to some of these towns, and seeing these places has been on my wish-list for a couple of years. I’m sorry that Lucy is not here to share this, but I consider this trip to be partly reconnaissance for another trip she and I will take someday when we have a car available.  

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