Sunday, February 13, 2011

Looking backwards

Saturday, February 12
In previous trips here, I have obtained certificati di nascita, birth certificates, for my nonno and nonna, as well as their certificato di matrimonio. I also have certificati di morto, death, for my bisnonni, great-grandparents. Now I want to get certificati di nascita for my nonna’s brothers and sisters, and two of my nonno’s nephews, all of whom came to America shortly after my grandparents did. This requires a trip to the municipo in Montecarlo, about two miles away, at least half of it uphill. Lucy decides to take a much needed rest, as we have been biking and hiking a lot lately. The last mile is too steep for me to ride, so I arrive in the city huffing and puffing and pushing my bike.

I have written out the names and dates of birth for the people whose documents I am seeking, and I obtain four out of five of what I am after. My nonna, Anita Seghieri, had two brothers and a sister, and I get certificates for her sister Rosa and one brother, Seghiero. In America, Rosa was known to all as Rosina, and Seghiero as Uncle Jim, because there is no English equivalent for Seghiero. His middle name was Giacondo, which perhaps could be loosely translated into Jim. Uncle Roger, whose given name was either Ruggero or Ruggiero, is not to be found here in Montecarlo, and the clerk suggests I try nearby Altopascio.

I also find certificates for Adolfo and Alfredo Spadoni, but with a surprising twist for Adolfo. I had already suspected something unusual was up about his real name because when he came to America in 1913, the ship’s log listed him as Giovanni Spadoni. When I told his son Roland about this, Roland said, “They must have written his name down wrong.” But now I have in my hand Adolfo’s official birth certificate, stamped by the Comune where he was born, and it says his name was Giovanni Alfredo Adolfo Spadoni. Many Italians of this era only have first and last names, so it highly unusual to have three names in addition to the surname. Maybe because he was the first-born male, his parents thought they should use all their favorite names at once, just in case they didn’t have any more male children. But then, two years later, his parents had another boy, and they named him simply Alfredo, with no middle name. In any event, when Giovanni Alfredo Adolfo came to America in 1913, he was simply Adolfo or later Adolf, and not even his own son knew he had two other names.

I have less success trying to run down some other family information. I am trying to find some Seghieri descendent here that I can officially tie to my own family tree. This is not easy, because all of my nonna’s siblings went to America, and I have to find descendents of her parents’ brothers and sisters. I know my great grandfather was named Torello Seghieri and my great grandmother was Ines Capocchi. I have met six Seghieris about my age or older, but so far only Libero Seghieri knows the name of his great grandfather, and he was not one of Torello’s brothers. It seems that the extended Seghieri family has been in this area so long that some of them don’t know how they are related to their own neighbors, even though they share the same surname. In fact, other than Libero, I seem to be the only one who cares to find out.

I give the clerk the name of Torello’s brothers and ask if she has any way to look up their descendents. That isn’t the way the Municipio works, though. If I can give her a name and date of birth or death, she can look up a certificate, but there is not a way to look up a person and see a list of children. Well, there is a possibility, because the Municipio has copied documents from the local church that do show offspring, but not every family has their records listed with the church. She looks up the names I give her and finds nothing. That’s all I can do for today, unless I can give her more information. Theoretically, she could look in her indexes for every year and find every Seghieri that was born in Montecarlo, but she doesn’t volunteer to do this, and I think it is too much to ask, so I leave.

On the way out of town, I decide to take a different road, and I find the town cemetery. I can’t find the grave markers for Torello or Ines, but I find some other Seghieris, including a very elaborate marker inside the chapel for Cavaliere Avvocato Simone Seghieri-Bizzarri, 1811-1880. I do an internet search later and find a Francesco Seghieri-Bizzarri, who is listed in the book Enciclopedia Storico-Nobiliare Italiana as from a nobile family of nearby Pescia, only a few miles east of here.

After this, I zip down the hill and pass through Marginone, where I find another cemetery. This one has a couple of Spadonis and Seghieris, and I do a double-take when I see a marker, with photo, for Ines Capocchi, my great-grandmother. But on closer examination, it is not her. The date of birth is 30 years too late, and she was married to someone else, not Torello Seghieri. This only serves to point out how difficult it will be to track down anyone I can truly prove is a cousin. These families have all been here so long, and they all like to use the same first names. When I was looking at the Ellis Island records, I found four different people named Guido Spadoni, all from this region and all about the same age, who emigrated to America from 1906 to
1911. And that doesn’t include the Guido Spadonis of the same era who stayed in this locale.

I know I should probably just adopt the attitude of Alberto Spadoni, a real estate agent I met here a few years ago.

“We’re all related in some distant way,” he said about the local Spadonis, “but there are so many of us, it’s impossible to keep track of how.”


  1. Happy valentine's day to my favorite parents!

  2. You should be doing a video documentary about your searches and funny stories.

  3. Your are becoming quite the detective!


Comments welcome.