52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 15: Giacomo DeGrandis

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

I thought I’d explain in my next few posts why the rest of my 52 ancestors challenge might end up being heavy on the French Canadian information. This is because the French Canadians left a magnificent paper trail in their wake in the form of Catholic church records. Tracing my other ethnicities, particularily from the comfort of my own home on a computer has it’s limitations. So next up: some of my (current) dead ends.

Giacomo DeGrandis was born circa the year 1845 near the modern comune of Castelfranco Veneto, within the province of Treviso, region of Veneto, Italy. Castelfranco is a medieval town, complete with town walls and a castle, both of which are well preserved to this day. At the time of Giacomo’s (Italian for “Jacob”) birth, the region of Veneto was part of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, a kingdom within the Austrian Empire. Venetia had long been it’s own self-governing republic (697-1797) with it’s own unique culture and language. Residents considered themselves Venetians and continue to do so to this day. They spoke Venetian, similar to Italian but definitely unique. During Giacomo’s youth, he would see Venetia and Italy’s wars of Independence (Risorgimento), culminating in 1866 when Veneto became unified with the Kingdom of Italy.

Giacomo was quite likely an agricultural worker, either on a farm or (of course, in Italy) a vineyard. Veneto is known as the birthplace of Prosecco wine (and tiramisu!) and still produces some of the most expensive wines in the world. However Castelfranco Veneto is also at the junction of three railways, and a railway station was opened in 1877, so it is also possible he was a railway worker of some kind.

Giacomo married Santa Ambrosi on February 15, 1876. Their daughter, my great great grandmother Maddalena was born June 22, 1886 in the frazione of Campigo, comune di Castelfranco Veneto. Of course, they likely had more children in between, in the 10 years of marriage before Maddalena’s birth. Typically, especially for a Catholic majority society, I’d expect parish records of Baptisms, marriages and burials to be the first place to begin my genealogical search. But in Italy a more readily available, albeit less detailed source of information is civil registration records – births, marriages, and deaths. SOME… and I stress SOME civil registration records are available digitally online through FamilySearch.org, but another way to access a larger archive of these is to write to the stato civile office in the comune in which you are searching, which is the route I went -however I got the bare minimum of Maddalena’s birth, Giacomo and Santa’s marriage, and both of their deaths.

I do know of one other child of Giacomo and Santa, his name is Giovanni, born in 1880 and he served in the Italian military (a link to search that database HERE). He apparently immigrated to Germany and the U.S. in the early 1900’s, but I can find no further documentation on him. I am also told Maddalena had a sister named Josephine (Giuseppina). I DID find records for a Josephine De Grandis born in 1901, she married a man named Edward Barduca/Bardina. But on her marriage record, she lists her parents as Angela Dario and Valentino DeGrandis. The records indicate she was related somehow, and indeed there are many DeGrandis and Dario families in the Castelfranco area at the time, but perhaps she was a niece of Giacomo’s rather than a daughter. Maybe some records were fudged at some time to gain passage to Canada by declaring a closer relation than was real, I can’t be sure.

Giacomo lived to be 74 years old – he died February 13, 1920, just two days shy of his 44th wedding anniversary. 74 years is quite good when you consider that he lived through some major wars (Risorgimento and WWI) and was likely quite poor. His widow Santa lived another 12 years without him, and without their daughter Maddalena and her family as well, since she immigrated to Canada in 1923.

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