Monday, April 27, 2015

Is the Tuscan surname Spadoni tied to wealthy Spada family of Lucca?

Was the first Spadoni actually from the family Spada? I first heard this idea proposed when I received a document from Alberto Spadoni of Ponte Buggianese in 2011. The document was prepared by an unnamed Italian heraldry company that researches the history of one’s family name for a fee. Alberto didn’t remember who gave his family the document.

I originally gave the document credence because it cited specific names and titles of famous ancestors, and their dates of birth. Also, since it was in Italian, that seemed to give it more authority. But I came to have some doubts when I realized that the famous ancestors cited were not of the family Spadoni but of the family Spada. The document didn’t exactly lie, but it was deceptive in what it omitted. It said that the surname Spadoni was a derivative of the Spada family, and then it listed the first name of famous ancestors without giving their surnames. It turns out that all the famous people listed had Spada for a surname, and absolutely no evidence is given that the Spadoni line is actually related to the Spada line. Maybe such evidence does exist, but the document makes no mention of it.
I came to believe that the research company made an assumption of connection based on the linguistic similarity of the names, and that the company just wanted to cash in on a client hoping to hear that his family had once been noble and notable—which seems to be what most people hope to discover. I even wrote an article about this that was published on my blog and later in a genealogical magazine.

Recently, however, I began to have some doubts about my doubts, if that makes any sense. I found some indirect evidence that the Spadoni family could indeed be a branch of the Spada family.

The first two items of evidence are not very strong. First is the claim of the heraldry agency, which is unconvincing, since it gives no sources or explanations. Second is the geographic proximity of the two lines. The Spada family has a long history in the province of Lucca, according to the web site, which cites documents found in archives of the city dating back to 1010. A man named Ildebrando or Brando had the nickname Spada, and he and his sons Gerardo and Gottifredo possessed considerable property in Picciorana, just outside the east walls of Lucca. They had more property in Colognora, about 18 miles north of Lucca. The family went on to become one of the most important in Lucca, with many civic leaders, scholars, lawyers and high officials in the church.

This great photo to the Torre was taken
by Andrea Traversa. The tower has
since been restored.
It is a third fact that I find most interesting. Just south of Lucca is a tower, said to be built around 1500, that is known locally as the Torre degli Spadoni. Significantly, though, it is located on Via dello Spada, which likely is named for the Spada family. Which family, then, built the tower, Spadoni or Spada? The Spada family, wealthy, noble and highly placed in the government of Lucca, seems to be the most likely choice. But it also seems plausible that the member of the Spada family could have been nicknamed “Big Spada,” either for his particular wealth and status, or for his physical size. Spada means sword. Spadoni means big swords, so it could be that one branch of the family changed its name prior to 1500. In Gubbio, according to Casatospada, Bernardo Spada of the 1200s became known as Spadalonga because of his unusual height, and his branch of the family continued to be known by that name.

Fairly accurate records of the Spada family line exist between 1010 and the mid-1300s. Casatospada notes, however, that many historical documents are missing and presumed to be destroyed from the era that Pisa ruled Lucca, 1342 to 1369. Sources also suggest that many families fled Lucca during those years, which could be the reason that Spadoni families are currently spread north of Lucca through the Garfagnana valley and also east in the Valdinievole. It is possible that after Lucca overthrew Pisan rule, the main branch of the Spadoni family returned to Lucca and built the tower, while other branches remained in the outlying areas.

Villa Spadoni, which unfortunately was destroyed in WW 2.
This could also explain the origin of an important branch of the family which settled in Reggio Emilia and built a large palazzo called Villa Spadoni. Alessandro Bondi, an Italian genealogist and descendant of this family, said that Spadonis have roots in Borzano di Albinea and Viano from at least the end of the 1500s. At one time, they owned as much as half of the land there, more than 860 acres. Bondi said he has come across some evidence in his research indicating that the family came to Emilia-Romagna from Tuscany, and only 100 miles separate Lucca from Borzano.

I am by no means convinced that the the Spadoni line from Lucca came from the Spada family of Lucca, but I recognize that it is a theory that should be considered. I wish I had more information about the history of the Torre degli Spadoni, because that could provide more evidence one way or the other. However, it is not easy to find 500-year-old documents, especially for someone who doesn’t live in Italy or speak Italian fluently. However, I have been lucky in the past, and maybe some day I will stumble upon the information.
Another way to show if there is a connection would be to compare DNA tests between members of the Spadoni and Spada families. However, DNA testing for genealogical purposes is still a relatively new concept, and as far as I know, only two people with the name Spadoni have been tested, and no one from the Spada family. In fact, we don’t even have enough evidence to know if all the Spadoni families around Lucca are connected. DNA testing is becoming more routine and less expensive, and a day may come when it will be possible to determine who is related to whom. Until then, well, it’s just fun to speculate the possibilities.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments welcome.