Wednesday, April 11, 2012

In which I find the missing link . . .

Wednesday, April 11

Part of me feels like giving this account in chronological order, but that would go against my journalistic training, and besides it might be so boring that nobody would read to the end. So I’ll just come out with it from the start: I have discovered a link between our family tree and the family tree of some Spadoni families who live in Italy, and this jumps our tree back another seven generations, spanning 160 years without any effort on my part. It also adds more than 120 names of family members who branch out in different directions.

This continues the research I did exactly a week ago at the parish archives in Pescia, but today went much differently than last time. My helpful superstar researcher Andrea Mandroni, who found four members of my family last time, was busy almost the entire time helping other people, so I had to do the searching myself this time. While he read through maybe three ledgers of infant baptisms in an hour last week, I take two and a half hours today to make it four-fifths of the way through one ledger. The writing is painfully difficult to read, but my skills gradually improve as the minutes tick by.

I am fortunate that the Spadoni surname has been established for so long, because many of the people had no surnames. A typical entry, translated, might read: “Giovanni, of Giuseppe, of Andrea, of Michele, mother Luisa, of Federico, was baptised.” So now you would have the baptism and birth date of Giovanni, and then you would have to guess the birthdate of his father Giuseppe, who could have been anywhere between age 20 and about 45, and look through numerous ledgers for Giuseppe to find his baptism record. But there are hundreds of Giuseppes, so you have to find the one who had a father named Andrea and a grandfather named Michele. At this point, you may find out who was the father of Michele, and you can continue back in this painstaking way.

For me, though, I just have to look in the first two lines of each paragraph to see if I find the name Spadoni. At first I don’t realize this and take too long trying to read the whole of each paragraph. Many of the words are indecipherable, but I have to skip them because at least I know they don’t look like Spadoni. An Italian lady across from me is looking in the same archives, Ponte Buggianese, but in the ledger from another time. I overhear her say she is looking for Buonamici, and I find four of these in my ledger and call her attention to them. She copies down the relevant information and thanks me.
This paragraph signifies the baptism of Lionardo. See
the name Spadoni in the line below Lionardo?

I almost come up empty on the Spadoni line—but with about 15 minutes before closing time, I call Andrea over when I find an entry that refers to the baptism of Lionardo Spadoni in 1677, the son of Lorenzo, the son of Lionardo. Andrea looks at the family tree he has on file and announces that I have found the link. Lorenzo was born in 1628 in Stignano, about 3 miles away from Ponte Buggianese. All his known ancestors can be found in the files of Stignano, but then Lorenzo disappeared from the Stignano records because he moved somewhere else--which turns out to be Ponte Buggianese. There, he and wife Uliva (last name not given) gave birth to Lionardo. The only thing that might call this theory into question is his age, which would be 49 when his son was born. That’s old, says Andrea, but not all that unusual. Older men sometimes (and still do) take young wives. It could even have been a second wife, Andrea suggests. Both files identify the father of Lorenzo as (another) Lionardo, so the evidence is strong in favor of this connection.

Andrea takes but a few minutes to peruse the rest of the ledger and quickly finds a brother of Lionardo, born three years later, in 1680, yet another Lorenzo. This is unusual, because the father and son would share the same name, not something commonly done during this era. But the office is closing, so I can’t question Andrea about this now. I will have one more opportunity to come back and double check my facts, either Friday or next Wednesday, but my time here is running short, as we leave Tuscany in about 10 days for Sardegna and then a short trip on a cruise line before returning to the states.

If our findings hold up under additional scrutiny, this would be the list of my ancestors, starting with my dad: (Julius) Giulio, Michele, Pietro, Pellegrino, Francesco, Lorenzo, Lionardo, Lorenzo, Lionardo, Lorenzo, Giuliano Romolo, Bartolomeo, Francesco, Bartolomeo. I also have the names of many brothers and sisters and spouses.

In a way, this brings me to closure on both the Seghieri and Spadoni family lines, because the families here have used all their resources to get us back to Bartolomeo Spadoni, around 1430, and Giunta Seghieri, 1310. If the crack local historians can’t get back any farther, then I am finished moving in this direction.

I could, if I choose, try to trace the lines of my great grandmothers, Maria Marchi on the Spadoni side, and Ines Capocchi on the Seghieri side. I could also branch out and continue down some of the more recent lines, such as finding out what happened to the descendants of great grandfather Pietro Spadoni’s brothers and sisters. I also still haven’t found the connection between the two predominant Seghieri lines in our neighborhood here. Well, if I decide to continue coming here in future years, I will still have plenty to do. But all those are decisions for another day, because today is a day to savor and celebrate.

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