Giacinto and Caterina

I’m working on a genealogy book for my son-in-law. The first few generations were easy, but once I got into overseas records it became a lot more complicated. For instance, on his Italian side, documents are in Italian (duh), Latin, and, for a few years of Napoleon’s reign, French. And of course, all these records are not indexed, and handwritten, not always neatly. And don’t get me started on abbreviations! Hours of digging, days at a time, to unearth a single fact that may or may not get added to the book.

Here’s a recent dig into the records:

1822 marriage of Stephanus (Steffano) and Clara

Third great-grandmother Clara’s marriage record  (in Latin) says her parents were Giacinto Formento-Gianara and Caterina Minellano. It gives some of the grandparents’ names, too. I love documents that name extended family! I used a sample marriage document that helps me understand what I am reading, and guided me to the part of the marriage document that contains the names of the bride and groom, and to sort out parents, grandparents, and witnesses.

The first thing I had to learn was that not every Formento is worth investigating. In the Piedmont area of Italy (and perhaps elsewhere, but I have no experience there), families were distinguished from one another by hyphenated names. I can ignore Formento-Moleto. I am looking for only Formento-Gianara for now. At least there are only two variations. Another branch I’m researching has at least six.  (But I also need to check any “plain” Formento, since sometimes the priest or whomever didn’t bother writing the hyphenated part.)

From previous research, I know that their first child (of the six I know of) was born in 1801, so I was happy to find marriage records on that encompass the years before and after. They are not indexed, so I went through them page by page.

I found a marriage document for Giacinto 15 May 1799 – seems perfect. The father’s name and place matches, the date fits with a child born in 1801. But there’s a problem – the wife’s name is different. Not Caterina Minellano, but rather Domenica Camerano.

Paging through more marriage records, in case there was more than one Giacinto, I found the same Giacinto marrying again. This time, the record says he’s marrying a woman named Caterina Castellano, the last day of November 1800. Close, but I’m looking for a Caterina Minellano. It’s clearly the right guy – the record says he’s the widower of Domenica Camerano. These records are in Latin, so it’s a bit of a challenge reading them. Giacinto, for instance, becomes Hyacinthus in Latin. Caterina’s father is named Joannis Merlo (Menlo?). It took me quite awhile to puzzle out enough of the writing to translate, to learn that Caterina was also a widow, hence the different last name from her father. The fact that her father’s first name is Joannis (Gioanni on other records) and he is from Gauna (a nearby town) are matches to the other records. So Merlo is apparently an abbreviation, or priest’s misspelling or misunderstanding of Caterina’s maiden name Minellano. Just to be sure, I went through a few more years’ worth of marriage records in case Giacinto married a third time, but did not find any more for him.

1800 marriage record of Hiacinthus (Giacinto) and Catharina (Caterina)

I paged through the death records for 1799-1800 and discovered that Domenica died on November 13, 1800. Giacinto remarried just 17 days after his wife’s death.

I would love to know the story behind that. I know from scanning so many of the records, and seeing the same surnamed over and over, that the families of these small towns intermarried frequently. It’s likely that Giacinto and Caterina knew each other already. Perhaps Domenica died in childbirth, and Giacinto was left with an infant in need of a wet-nurse. (That’s speculation – I haven’t found any evidence of a child.) I can think of other scenarios as well. Maybe someday I’ll have a chance to go down this rabbit trail. It could be a neat story to add to the book. On the other hand, if I go down every rabbit trail, the book will never be finished.


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