Pancheri family and Castel Altaguardia

Castle Altaguardia

Castel Altaguardia - Photo courtesy of Gene Pancheri

Castel (castle) Altaguardia was built c. 13th century in the northwestern portion of Val di Non near its intersection with Val di Sole.  The castle was sacked during the Peasant Rebellion of 1407, and placed under seige during the Peaseant Revolt (“Rustic War”) of 1525.   Both revolts were by contadini (farmers and sharecroppers), who were on the lowest ends of the social scale, and bore the burden of taxes and payments of tribute imposed by the nobles (the Prince-Bishop, his vassals, and valvasori).  Adding fuel to the reasons for the revolts, was the fact that nobles had many privileges, powers and exemption from those taxes. 

The castle was owned by members of the noble Thun dynasty, and since the Pancheri’s remained at the castle throughout the 1525 revolt and after, this leads to the conclusion that the Pancheri’s were loyal to the Thuns.  Castel Altaguardia was continuously inhabited until sustantially destroyed by a deliberately set fire in 1639.  Rebuilt, it was used until c. 1780, and subsequently abandoned after being severely damaged in storms.  During its years of use, members of the Pancheri families served as overseers (“captains”) and managers of the castle for almost two centuries.  The first Pancheri documented as a “captain” of the castle was Michele Pancheri (born abt 1492 – died 1586) – my 11th great-grandfather.

The Pancheri families have a long history in Trentino, especially in the area of a cluster of tiny villages known as Bresimo (e.g. Samoclevo, Baselga).  I have been told that the earliest local record documenting the Pancheri name dates to 1412.  These villages were home to generations of the Pancheri’s, especially after the abandonment of Castel Altaguardia.   Many of the male Pancheri’s were notaries (“notaio“) during the 15th-17th centuries.  Unlike the notary in the US, a “notaio” was similar to a lawyer, and oversaw all wills, land transfers, and governmental procedures.  Although not actually of the noble class, they were addressed as if they were of that class.

After abandonment of Castel Altaguardia, it appears that the Pancheri’s lost much of their wealth.  Coupled with the economic hardships of the late 1800’s, this factor was a leading cause for migration of large numbers of Pancheri’s to the US began in the late 1880’s.  Many of them emigrated to the area of Vulcan, Michigan where descendents are still present today.  There is a listing of a few Pancheri’s on my post “Emigrants from Bresimo to the United States “.   In addition to viewing the microfilmed records for Bresimo, more information about Pancheri ancestry can be obtained on the FamilySearch website, which has listings for about 1400 individuals.

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