Surnames in Trentino

Surnames did not arise in Trentino until sometime during the early to mid 1500’s — moreso after the 1564 Council of Trent which ordered use of surnames for each individual.  Until the use of surnames, a person was generally known by his first name and a reference to his father (I am not sure if this was true for females as well).   For example, “Giuseppe, di Francesco” or “Giuseppe, son of Francesco”. 

Given the fact that there were not very many first names in use, this method of identification proved very awkward as village populations increased.  As an extension of the above father-son method of assigning surnames, early surnames were often developed by using a combination of the person’ s first name and father’s first name.  Thus, in this example, Giuseppe would become known as Giuseppe Difrancesco.

Surnames also developed based on first names only, which were often based on early Latin versions, e.g.
Pinamontus —> Pinamonti
Endrigi —> Endrizzi
Petrus/Pietro —> Pedri, Pedron
Matteus —> Mattevi

Surnames were also developed based on a personal characteristic, residence, occupation, etc.  Examples:

Rossi = a person with red hair
Rizzi = a person with curly hair
Torresani and Dallatorre = a person who owned, lived, worked, etc in a tower (“torre“)
Sartori = person who was a tailor

Name Changes in America
Often, when emigrating to the US, a person’s name was “Americanized” – sometimes by choice, sometimes due to handwriting, sometimes due to pronunciation (for example, the letter “i” is pronounced “eee” in Italian, the combination “ch” is pronounced like the English “K” which is very rarely found in Italian writings).  Because of the pronunciation by immigrants upon their boarding a ship in Europe or arriving at Ellis Island, it was common for immigration officials to write surnames phonetically as pronounced by the immigrant.  Most of the manifests were written at the departure point (for emigrants from Trentino one of the main departure points was Le Havre, France).  This practice has been a stumbling block to many researchers trying to find their ancestors’ ship arrival manifests.

Name changes I have seen include:
Covi —-> Covey
Chini —-> Kinney, Keenay
Ferrari —-> Ferrary
Iob or Job —-> Yob, Jobe
Stancher —-> Stanker
Bertagnolli —-> Berry (apparently a voluntary change)
Battocletti —-> Bartley
Franch —-> Frank, Franks
Vielmetti —-> Wilmetti

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9 Responses to Surnames in Trentino

  1. Robert Joseph Gironimi says:

    What a wonderful publication. Looking for the initial findings for Gironimi from Revo and is the name connected to Geronimi?

  2. Mary Ann Jones says:

    Part of Endrizzi family fron Fondo Erspamer, Anna (1843 – 1915) b. 31 Jul 1843 d. 1 May 1915 in Fondo,Trento,Trentino,Italy
    father: Erspamer, Giuseppe Michele (1803 – 1868)
    mother: Erspamer, Maria Elisabetta (1804 – 1854)
    spouse: Bertagnolli, Bartolomeo (1842 – 1922)
    – m. 17 Apr 1869 in Fondo,Trento,Trentino,Italy
    ———-child: Bertagnolli, Catarina Violante (1871 – 1941)
    ———-child: Bertagnolli, Carolina Dominica (1873 – 1952)
    ———-child: Bertagnolli, Emilia Anna (1875 – 1927)
    ———-child: Bertagnolli, Luigia Virginia (1878 – 1952)
    ———-child: Bertagnolli, Emma Maria (1882 – 1882)
    ———-child: Bertagnolli, Maria Emma (1883 – 1883)
    ———-child: Bertagnolli, Emanuele Giuseppe (1884 -1963 ) MY GRANDFATHER Changed his name to Joseph E. BERRY Of Gallitzin Pa USA Married Margaret Susanne Shanton
    seven sons, David, Everin, Bruno, Joseph, William, Charles and Emilio Berry; and five daughters, Dolores, Elda Lacovitch, Esther Bowmaster, Stella Jones, Lena Kent, Violet Berry and Mary Berry. STELLA was my mother

  3. Rochelle says:

    I love your website, thank you so much for sharing all of this great information with all of us. My Great Grandmother’s maiden name was Bertagnolli – very interesting in the Americanized version, Berry.

    • Mary Ann Jones says:

      Bertagnolli, Emanuele Giuseppe (1884 -1963 ) MY GRANDFATHER Changed his name to Joseph E. BERRY Of Gallitzin Pa USA Married Margaret Susanne Shanton
      seven sons, David, Everin, Bruno, Joseph, William, Charles and Emilio Berry; and five daughters, Dolores, Elda Lacovitch, Esther Bowmaster, Stella Jones, Lena Kent, Violet Berry and Mary Berry.

  4. Sandra Osti says:

    I enjoyed reading your website. As my husbands family comes from Sporemaggiore, Val di Non and we recently visited the area, I have taken an extra interest in all things related to the area. It is a beautiful place and full of history. Husband is Osti, father Augusto, mother Maria Endrizzi from Cavedago.

  5. Thomas Agosti says:

    I enjoy your web site immensely. I am learning as much as I can concerning my ancestors and their home village of Livo.
    Any ideas on how my surname “Agosti” came into being?
    I have heard guesses that it referred to Augustinian monasteries? Or could it simply refer to the month of “Agosto”?

    • I took a look at one of my reference books. It stated that Agosti is derived from the name Augusto (Augustus). I will see if I can find a reference for Augustus. The earliest refe nce in Livo was in 1579 where mention was made of “Baptista de Augustis” from the village of Scana. Scana is a frazione or hamlet of Livo.

  6. Ted Rousses says:

    Enjoyed reading you website. Very good.

  7. MicZ says:

    Filippi –> Philippi

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