Archived Posts

In the blog format, older posts and writings often “disappear” into the past.  In order to make it easier to locate posts that may be of interest, I have added a page to the menu above (“List of Posts”) where older posts can be accessed.  The listing is by post title.  I will soon be rewriting some of the older posts to add new material and expand on what was previously written (example — Iob surname, Cunevo, Flavon, emigration to the US, working in the mines, are all in the works – well, at least in the back of my mind).  Hope this makes it easier to navigate this site.

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A Son of Tret

Over the many years I have been researching my ancestry, I have met others with similar interests.  Some have become online friends with whom I correspond and with whom I exchange information.  Others I have lost contact with over the years.  I recently reconnected with a fellow researcher of family from Trentino – Allen Rizzi.  Allen’s roots in Trentino are the villages of Tret, Cloz, and Fondo, all of which are in Trentino’s Val di Non (Non Valley), as are my roots.  Allen though, took his research and heritage one step further — he moved to Tret, and has lived there many years.

Tret street scene

Tret street scene — source: Google Earth

With a writing background, Allen authored a few books — one of which “Our First Year – Sketches of an Alpine Village” is a must-read for those of us interested in learning more about our heritage and the way our ancestors lived in Val di Non.  Allen tells of his move to Tret, meeting the young and elderly residents in this village of less than 300 souls, and the languages and customs he found.  Tidbits include: notes about buildings still standing after 400 years, gravestones with photographs of the deceased, a 91-year-old woman who still negotiates ancient steps each day to walk about the village, the quirks of on-again/off-again utilities, and of course the wonderful homemade grappa!

As of right now, Allen’s book is available only in a digital ebook version at Amazon.  Allen also provides research and translation services.   Please note that I do NOT have any financial or other ties to Allen’s book or his services.  As I mentioned above, I have made many contacts over the years.  Many have been online friends for over a decade.  The benefit of making these contacts is that I have been able to help some of them in their research, and received assistance from others in mine.  This exchange of information has not only provided very useful leads and links to others, but also leads, documents, and photographs for me.  In some instances I have led others to discovering a “missing link” or information they never had.  Years later, some remembered me and the information I was looking for, and surprised me with some very useful information or documentation. Don’t be shy about helping others in their research — the old saying “what goes around, comes around” is true.

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Trentino soldiers in Ethiopia

The Italo-Ethiopian War of 1935-1936 is sometimes seen as one of the lead-ins to World War II.  Italy had previously tried to conquer Ethiopia in the 1890’s, without success.  Citing a border dispute between Ethiopia and Italian Somaliland, Italy invaded Ethiopia in October 1935.

Since Trentino was annexed to Italy as a result of World War I, many Trentini men were conscripted into the Italian army for service in Ethiopia.  The 11th Alpini Regiment was one of the units formed in late 1935 and sent to Ethiopia to take part in the fight.

Trentino soldiers in Africa 1935-37

Trentino soldiers in Africa 1935-37, including one of my uncles (standing 2nd left)

Due to nationalistic feelings in Trentino, there was quite a bit of resentment toward this service.  An example of this resentment can be seen in the November 20, 1935 edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune, in which an article with the following headline appeared on page 2:  “Italy Accused of Sacrificing Tyrol Soldiers –
Bare High Casualty Rate in Africa

According to the article, some factions suspected that the Italian high command was deliberatel sacrificing Tyrolese troops in the Ethiopian War.  Letters to relatives back home in the Trentino villages from the war front show that the small Tyrolean villages suffered thousands of war dead.  An exaggeration?  possiblly, although it was noted that Bolzano, a village of 600, suffered 30 soldiers dead due to fighting or disease.  The article also states that hundreds of young men from the villages are fleeing into the mountains to escape being drafted for duty in Africa.

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Val di Non Storica

I previously mentioned the Facebook page Val di Non Storica as a potential source of information about our ancestral culture and heritage. I revisited the group recently and the activity has greatly increased. Val di Non Storica is actually a special interest group devoted to the Val di Non (Non Valley) in Trentino. This valley happens to contain my ancestral villages, which is why I visit the group frequently. Most recently, photographs, postcards, and documents included villages such as Fondo, Cavareno, Flavon, Ruffre, and Malosco. You are required to join Facebook and the group (both free) in order to make use of the resources.

Flavon churchThe most useful and exciting part of the group are the more than 800 (and growing daily) photographs and picture postcards of the villages and people of Val di Non. These items cover years from the late 1800s to the present day, providing insight into not only what the villages looked like during the years our ancestors lived there, but also their everyday lives. Many of the contributors have posted photographs from family albums showing people within the village, their grandparents and great-grandparents, and villagers working the fields, etc. The photo on the left is a depiction of the village church in Flavon, and dates to c. 1900.

Although most of the comments and descriptions are in Italian, there are many members who can provide translation assistance. If your family ties are within Val di Non, be sure to make use of this resource — you may even be able to make a contact in the village.

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Trento and Austrian archives

We have all used or heard of many online resources (FamilySearch, Ancestry, etc) and the availability of microfilmed records of the towns and villages in Trentino.  One source that may not be often thought of is the archives in the city of Trento, Italy, and the one in Vienna, Austria (we should all be aware that prior to 1919 Trentino was under Austrian control).  These archives have hundreds of years of documents that have not been digitized or otherwise made available for remote or online research.  Depending upon the period involved, the documents can be written in Italian, Latin, German, or Old German, and must be translated to be of any use.  The most difficult to translate is the Old German since the script and wordage is generally not in use in these modern times, thus requiring the services of scholars or historians for translation.  Even with these difficulties, the archives should not be overlooked.

I was able to locate two documents at the archives.

IMG_0089The first was a 1604 document written in Old German depicting the coat of arms (family crest) of a Job (Iob) family from the village of Cunevo.  It is multi-page and contains drawings.  I could not locate someone able to translate it, but was fortunate enough to find a transcription and a translation into Italian in a book about Cunevo.  I had heard about this document and sent an inquiry to the archives in Vienna.  I wrote the inquiry in English since I figured that there would be many learned archivists with knowledge of commonly used languages.  The staff there was kind enough to locate it, and mail a copy to me.


IMG_0088The second document (see left for one of the pages) was the military service record of an ancestor conscripted in 1901 and who served in the Austrian army.  As we are aware,although culturally Italian, the people from Trentino were Austrian subjects and required to serve in that country’s armed forces.  The military record was six pages, written partially in Italian and partially in German.  It provided information with regard to my ancestor’s entry into the army, the unit with which he served, awards and decorations, personal description, fitness, reassignments, and discharge.  This document was located at the Trento archive, and I enlisted the help of a researcher to locate the document and provide translations.

The archives have an online presence which can be used to make inquiries.  Normally, the archives will not undertake extensive research for you, but may be able to tell you if certain documents exist.  They may also be able to refer you to a researcher who would be able to undertake the research and locate relevant documents for you (if so, you should agree on rates and time since there could be extensive research involved).  The archive sites are:

Trento State Archives — Archivio di Stato di Trento

Tirol Regional Archives — Tiroler Landesarchiv

Each of the sites has an e-mail address.  If you know of the possible existence of official records (military, cultural, etc) for an ancestor from Trentino, try contacting either or both of the archives.  Good luck.

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Trentino War Casualties

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Marksmanship badge

The province of Trentino recently released an online database of World War I casualties. The database is basically a listing of soldiers from Trentino who entered the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I and were killed in action or otherwise became casualties. The database can be accessed and searched at “Ricerca caduti trentini della I guerra mondiale” (will open in a new window). If you heard family stories or rumors that an ancestor or relative died in World War I, this is the place to try and verify that information.

Once you access the site, click on Cerca nella banca dati.  A series of boxes will appear.  The boxes are:  Cognome e nome (last and first names), Luogo di nascita (place born), Luogo di residenza (place lived), Luogo di morte (place died), Luogo di sepoltua (place buried).  You can search by any or all of the fields.  Sometimes it is easier to simply search by last name or village (if not a large city).

More than 11,000 persons died as a result of military service.  The information contained in the database can be as little as a name and year, or can contain information such as date of birth, date of death, parents’ names, place died, place buried, occupation, military specialty, military rank, and possibly a photo of the person.

Example — I entered the village of Cunevo in the luogo di nascita field, with 11 persons listed.  Information about a Carlo Iob was shown, including the fact that he was born in Cunevo in 1894, was single, died in Vienna in 1917.  Information about an Angelo Zanon stated he was born in Cunevo April 11, 1893 to Giuseppe Zanon and Maria Zadra.  He was single, a student at the time conscripted, and died December 13, 1916 at Tonale due to an avalanche.  He was a sergeant, and awarded the Iron Cross of Valor.  I did the same for the village of Flavon, producing 24 persons from the village who died during the war.  Information for an Ottavio Iob contained his photograph and stated he was missing in action. Some of the information showed that a few of them died in prisioner of war camps in Russia.

The database can be of use in filling in blanks in your family or siblings of grandparents and great-grandparents.  Good hunting.



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Rouse coal camps

rouse1906Many times, wandering around the internet searching for resources to help me in my research, I come across a site that may be of interest to many of us researching our Trentino heritage. One such site is Rouse1906.  This site is a resource that strives to document and share the heritage of the men and women who worked the Colorado coal fields in the early 1900’s. Although the majority of the site is dedicated to the coal fields at the Rouse coal camp, the stories and experiences of those miners are very comparable to the stories and experiences of our ancestors who worked the coal mines in other parts of Colorado.  Due to the mobility of the workers, many names in the author’s database can be found in several different mines in Huerfano/Las Animas. The purpose of the website is to be a platform to collect information from descendants and make that information available to others.

The author’s great-grandfather emigrated from the Trentino village of Tenna, and travelled to Walsenburg, CO to work at the nearby coal mines. He worked, as did many of our grandparents and great-grandparents at coal mines operated by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. The author, through stories, documents, and photos, details the history of the CF&I, the coal camps, and the people who lived and worked at the mines. Many of the comments he makes are similar to the stories I heard of my grandparents’ experiences at the CF&I coal mines at Hastings (Las Animas County).

Rouse1906 represents a project to collect the common memories of thousands of immigrants who worked the southern Colorado fields in the early 1900’s.  It is open to suggestions and contribution of everyone with a story to tell, a picture to share, a memory to preserve. Rouse1906 is well worth visiting and may trigger some of your memories or ideas for research.

Related posts:
Miners in Hastings, Colorado
Colorado Coal Mine Dangers
Our Ancestors at the Colorado Mines


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Colorado city directories

Many of our ancestors from Trentino emigrated to southeastern Colorado during the late 1890’s and early 1900’s to work in the coal mines.  I have previously written about some of the mines and dangers these early emigrants experienced:

Miners in Hastings, Colorado ; Colorado Coal Mine Dangers
Our Ancestors at the Colorado Mines ; Our Ancestors from Trentino to the Colorado Mines

There is a resource to find names and other information about actual persons working and trinidad1910-1911living in southern Colorado during the 1890’s to 1920’s.  The city of Trinidad, Colorado, which was a major stopping point for our ancestors on the way to the coal mines, has placed city directories online for those years and more.  These directories, which can be more than 200 pages for each year, are available for download in pdf format can be found at Trinidad City Directories.  Of particular interest are those for the years 1899 – 1916, which were the years during which large numbers of emigrants from Trentino went to Colorado.

The directories list almost all persons living in the city of Trinidad during specific each year, and gives information as to their address and occupation.  The directories are broken down into first, residents and businesses in the city of Trinidad, then listings at each of the nearby towns and mine camps (for example, Hastings, Ludlow, Primero, Segundo, Sopris, Starkville, etc).  The directories for the earlier years lists laborers at the camps.   This is followed by a listing of landowners and their holdings, and then a listing of businesses and their owners.  Some of the information I found (depending on the directory year) includes:

Emigrants bearing names of Bacca, Casagrande, Dalsass, Fedrizzi, Fellin, Flaim,  Franch, Melchior,Menapace,  Moser, Yob, Zanolini, Zanon, and more.  Not all emigrants are listed.  Although I found my grandfather’s brother, sadly my grandparents are not listed.

Specific persons include:  Peter (Pietro) Bacca from Flavon, who owned several businesses, including a wine dealership, and hundreds of acres of land. He emigrated to Colorado in 1884, first appeared in an 1895 Hastings directory, and operated a dry goods store there in 1918.  Persons bearing the surnames of Dalvit, Franch, Pedron, Ruffini, and Tretter were laborers at various mines.  During 1903, Abramo Menapace was a laborer at the Victor Fuel Company coal mine in Hastings.  As were Emanuelle, Modesto, and Frank Yob.  Frank Menapace was a saloonkeeper in Segundo, as was Arturo Menapace.  Abramo Menapace also owned property in Ludlow, assessed at $1025, while Frank Yob owned 267 acres in Segundo assessed at $1105.

Reviewing all these directories can lead to new information about our ancestors who worked, lived, and died in those coal mines so long ago.  It will take a while to go through all the pages of each directory, but the time spent will give us some insight to those times.

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Calendar Months in Trentino Records

A large portion of Italian genealogical records write dates numerically rather than spelling out the calendar months. For example, we will see a date written ” 4-8-1826″. Interpreting this to our way of thinking in the US, we happily enter April 8, 1826 as the date of the birth, death, marriage, etc. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Most European records are written day-month-year rather than month-day-year. Thus, “4-8-1826” is actually 4 August 1826.

Many of us have come across the Italian and (in older records) Latin names for the months of the year (April = aprile = aprilus).  Civil records in Trentino during the early 1800s and prior generally use the Latin version of months and events.  One thing that can cause confusion in reading dates is the use of a combination of numbers and letters to record months.  Not very common, but still often found.  I will not go into why or how the use came to be, but you may see months written as “7bre”, “8bre”, “Xbre”.  Notations such as these are for the months of September through December.  Following are what you may find —

     7bre or VIIbre = September

     8bre or VIIIbre = October

     9bre or IXbre = November

     10bre or Xbre = December

If you do see these references for dates, then congratulations — you have found records that are likely a few hundred years old.  Hopefully they are of your family heritage.

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A Courageous People From the Dolomites now online

It has been quite a while since I last posted – I guess getting out in the sunshine and enjoying the fresh air and scenery takes precedence over sitting in front of a screen.

Some of my previous posts suggested using published books to learn about our culture and heritage — Researching Ancestors Through Published Books. I suggested reading “A Courageous People From the Dolomites”, by the late Bonifacio Bolognani. This book is considered the definitive treatise on emigration from Trentino to the United Courageous People from the DolomitesStates. It discusses why our ancestors left Trentino, how they traveled, where they went, their lives in their new country, working in the mines of Colorado, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere. Of particular interest is the mention of many hundreds of names of emigrants to the US.

I also mentioned at times that the book was out of print and sometimes difficult to find. Well, not any more!!!! Thanks to the efforts of many people, and of the Emigration Office of the Province of Trentino, the full text of this book is now online at Courageous People book
Upon clicking to read the book, you will be presented with a small version of the pages — click on the page to see a larger readable version. Additionally, you can print pages of interest, or entire book (if you have about 500 sheets of paper available) or download it to your computer for later reading and reference. Again, I cannot emphasize enough the importance and usefulness of this book in understanding what our ancestors went through. Many many thanks to the Department of Emigration for making this book available to everyone.

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