Thursday, May 5, 2016

What started as Seghieri Day extends into a week of family activities

Seghieri Day soon extended into Seghieri Week as the festas continued. I met with Jean-Paul and Marcel on Monday to share some genealogy information, and on Tuesday we enjoyed a scrumptious feast at the Poggio restaurant with Seghieri families from Italy and France, and, of course, we two Americans.
Elena offers a brindisi to the Seghieri families of the world while we dine at the Poggio.

Marcel offered a brindisi (toast) to me Tuesday evening, noting that my research had brought together Seghieri families from three countries, showing everyone how they were connected. It was only then that I fully realized how well my humble six-year-old dream to reconnect with my grandmother’s Seghieri roots had come to such grand results. I had truly found a group of relatives that shared my feelings about the importance of family history, connections and pride.
Marcel, Jean-Paul, Sergio, Elena at the state archives.

Then on Wednesday, Jean-Paul, Marcel, Hervé and I met with Montecarlo historian Sergio Nelli at his work in the Archivio di Stato di Lucca. He gave us a thorough tour of the facilities, and we looked at room after room of weathered books and parchments. The documents are divided into sections: diplomatic, concerning the Republic of Lucca, Napoleonic and notarial. The archives are the results of a 1804 decree that all of the papers from the governments of the suppressed Republic of Lucca be brought together at a single institution.
It was awesome to see so many old books and scrolls in one
place, and to be able to open them and look inside.

The documentary material in the diplomatic section includes 19,855 parchments ranging from the 8th to the 19th centuries. They are arranged in chronological order and by provenance: from monasteries, from families of the nobility and from the secret archives of the city-state. The documentary material on the Republic of Lucca, conserved organically from the beginning of the 14th century, includes statutes, the proceedings of the elders before the liberation, the proceedings of the elders after the liberation, public amendments of the papers of the general curia and the papers of the Guinigi government.
We must have looked inside at least a dozen rooms like this, filled from floor to ceiling with old documents.

From the archives of the Napoleonic government of Elisa Baciocchi Bonaparte and of the Bourbonic duchy come the civil list and property list of the princes, the senate, the council of state and council of ministers; ministries; secretaries of the governments; prefecture of Lucca; registry office; public health and hygiene; education, arts, industry, commerce and food office; water, roads and buildings; militia; police; the mint and public treasury; state property; register, mortgages and public debt; tax collectors. The notarial archives include the records of the nobility and private individuals, as well as special collections including documentation on congregations in the city and the territory, brotherhoods and hospitals.

The archive is impressive in its volume and depth, which speaks to the respect that Italians have for their history. However, it is also a bit overwhelming, because the texts are in Latin or old Italian script, both of which the average person can’t read. It’s great that all these documents are being preserved, but it would take a lifetime just to read through the books contained in a single room. And given that most of the documents are technical accounts of legal and political acts, one might die an early death from boredom. However, I’m thankful that there are people like Doctor Nelli, who have a passion for reading and noting the details of our shared past.

For my part, I came with the primary hope of discovering more about the family tree of the Seghieri family, but most of our time was spent on the tour. However, Doctor Nelli agreed to drop by the agriturismo where the French Seghieri families are staying to share more Seghieri genealogy, and he was true to his word.

Just a few of the fine cheeses we enjoyed.
That evening was our last in Montecarlo for this season, as we started on the return to the United States the next morning. But we left in high spirits, as the French Seghieris treated us and the Italian families to a dinner featuring champagne, wine, bread, meats, gelato, biscotti and a large assortment of fine French cheeses from various regions of the country. As each cheese was served, Jean-Paul explained where it was from and a little about its production and flavor. We started with the sweeter cheeses and moved to ones which were strong in both aroma and flavor.

France boasts from 350 to 450 distinct types of cheese, grouped into eight categories. There can be many varieties within each type of cheese, leading some to claim closer to 1,000 different types of French cheese. In 1962, French President Charles de Gaulle was famously quoted as saying “Comment voulez-vous gouverner un pays qui a deux cent quarante-six variétés de fromage?” (“How can you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?”) We didn’t have that many, but definitely enough to appreciate the variety and quality of the country’s choices.
A toast to Dr. Sergio Nelli, who was indispensable in bringing us together.

Doctor Nelli showed up with his Montecarlo genealogy books, and I took photographs of about 20 pages that provided partial or complete Seghieri family trees. This will give me days of work adding these names into the computer database that makes up our already huge family tree. Before I left, I offered a brindisi to Doctor Nelli for all the help he has provided this year and in previous meetings. I ended the toast by explaining that I wanted to find more members of the family, because the more Seghieris I find, the more festas we can have—an explanation that met with widespread expressions of approval.

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