Monday, April 18, 2016

I take on the challenge of a new and large Spadoni family puzzle

I had only meant to take a minute to drop off a family tree for Bruna Spadoni and her family, but I ended up with much more. I visited Bruna and her family two weeks ago (Back on the pleasant trail of distant cousins in Tuscany) to see if I could find out how I was related to Bruna. After finding the connection, I made up a family tree and drove over to drop it off yesterday afternoon.

Mario Nottoli, Bruna’s son-in-law, greeted me as I drove up, and he quickly explained that he had another Spadoni family that he’d like me to meet. Would I like him to take me there now? I had no camera, no notebook with family records, not even paper, but I’ve learned to seize the moment when a chance comes along, so I said, “Perchè no? Andiamo.” And we were off on a 10-minute drive from Chiesina to Ponte Buggianese to meet the large extended family of Ilio Spadoni.

Ilio lives on a farm on the edge of the Pescia River on the south side of Ponte Buggianese. Another eight members of the family gathered around the kitchen table to meet me. I didn’t even try to take down peoples’ names. I told them right away that I wanted to come back with my notebook and camera, and they said I would be welcome any time. Instead I borrowed some paper and began asking for information about family history.

Ilio thinks the farm has been in the family for a couple of hundred years. He said his family had moved from Stignano to Ponte Buggianese at some unknown time in the past. He also said (I think) that at one time his ancestors had been guards for a jail that had been located nearby. I did notice that his farm was located on Via Ponte alla Guardia, so that would fit with my understanding.

Ilio gave me information on the birth for his father and grandfather, including dates, months and years, which I found remarkable. My hobby is genealogy, and I can’t remember my grandfather’s date of birth (isn’t that why we have computers and notebooks?). He also provided the year of birth and name of his great grandfather. One of his granddaughters (I think that’s who it was) wrote out a detailed chart that included 40 family members, both living and dead, with dates of birth for many of them, also very impressive.

I promised to return with complete information on how we are related and with a family tree showing ancestors back to the 1400s, just as soon as I could check my records. Mario took me back to my car, and his wife Mara (Bruna’s daughter) thanked me for the family tree. I didn’t stay long, as it was nearly dinner time.

Back in the house, I met with some frustration when I found that my records didn’t include the birth of either Ilio’s grandfather Francesco, which Ilio had listed as Dec. 12, 1878, or his grandfather Virgilio in 1852. This morning I went to the city archives of both Buggiano and Ponte Buggianese, and they didn’t have them either. Prior to 1883, Ponte Buggianese didn’t have a city hall, so records were kept at Buggiano. I should have found Francesco’s birth there, and the clerk found a couple of Francesco Spadonis born around that time, but not a Francesco of Virgilio.

Virgilio’s birth would not be recorded in the city records because Toscana had only been part of the kingdom of Italy since 1861. However, I have meticulously copied all of the baptismal records from the church into my notebooks, and I found no Virgilio Spadoni born in 1852. I found one born in 1858, but he had a different wife, and his children didn’t match Ilio’s family at all.

I’ve met, either in person or online, nearly a dozen branches of the Valdinievole Spadoni family in the past few years, and I’ve always been able to place them in the family tree if they can give me family names and dates prior to 1900. Some people do crossword puzzles, sodaku, Words with Friends, geocaching and any number of mental exercises. My game is fitting together our family tree and finding new connections, and so I will dig into this. I have a new puzzle to solve, and that just makes the game more interesting. Hopefully I’ll have some results (and photos of new relatives) to show before we go back home in a few weeks.

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