our life in TUSCANY

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Digging into one’s roots helps put life into a new perspective

An America Family in Italy Living la dolce vita without permission Paul Spadoni

I may only be half Italian by heritage, but I always say that Italian blood is extra rich, and it’s thoroughly infected my other half, making me at least two-thirds Italian! For whatever reason, I’ve been an italophile for as long as I can remember; however, it’s only been in the past 10 years that I’ve really had an opportunity to discover my historical roots. Now I’ve built a family tree that extends back to the 1400s on my grandfather’s side, and to the early 1300s on my grandmother’s side.


It’s not easy for Americans to research their Italian roots, because at a certain point (often around 1900 to 1920), one must look in the Italian records, most of which are not available online. For me, it involved learning Italian (well, still working on that), finding the home town of one’s ancestors and then finding the proper places to search, such as the town hall and the church archives. And even then, it could take days—even weeks or months—of searching through old documents to find the right pages.


Officials at the town hall registry office (anagrafe) usually can’t help you if you don’t know the date of birth of your ancestor. The names aren’t on a searchable database, the documents aren’t open to public perusal and the officials aren’t going to spend hours searching hand-written books for a single name. Also, since Italy didn’t become a country until 1860, the city and state records only go back to that time, so you may be out of luck even if you go to Italy.

If you are lucky, as I was, someone will let you search through the parish archives that show dates of baptism, marriage and death. These may go back to as far as the 1400s. However, most towns had more than one church, and families sometimes moved from one neighborhood to another, so its not always easy to figure out where to start. In addition, the old Italian script that the priests used can be extremely difficult to decipher.


My advice is to go to the place where your ancestors came from, hire a bi-lingual local guide and have him or her do some searching for the best researcher in the town. You may also find a genealogy specialist by doing a web search. Some genealogists will work anywhere in Italy, but you may have to pay more for their travel costs, and they won’t be as familiar with the local resources as will someone who lives in the same town. If anyone is looking for a genealogist in the area between Lucca and Montecatini, by the way, I happen to know the very best and can refer you to him.

I, instead, did it the hard way, deciding not to pay a genealogist. I’ve probably spent well over 100 hours in churches and town halls putting together the Spadoni and Seghieri family trees. I’ve read books about the history of Italy and the locality where my ancestors lived, maybe another 100 hours worth. And I don’t regret a minute of it. Going back in time to find out their names and the conditions under which my ancestors lived has given me a great appreciation for the sacrifices that parents make for their children and grandchildren. It’s also fun to search and then put the pieces together—kind of like doing a jigsaw or crossword puzzle or sodaku game.


Perhaps the most rewarding has been meeting cousins that I never knew I had. I’ve discovered dozens of cousins in Italy, and more in France, Germany, Brazil and in a half dozen cities in the United States. Some I’ve only met online, but others have become good face-to-face friends. Here are a few of my stories about previously unknown relatives that I’ve met since I started doing genealogy:


Who were those Tacoma Spadonis?

Parties and music with lively Seghieri families from three countries

Finding a lost Seghieri and solving questions of mysterious visits

Lost cousin Donald Spadoni had strong ties to his grandfather

Mario Seghieri, World War 2, Montecarlo and the Gothic Line









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An America Family in Italy Living la dolce vita without permission Paul Spadoni