Saturday, June 26, 2010

Il buon dottore Bigatti

Dr. Ottaviano Bigatti and his wife Laura Pane came to Giusvalla near the end of the 19th century from Piemonte. For a tiny village like Giusvalla, it was a rare blessing to have an experienced doctor like Dr. Bigatti in their midst. The Bigatti family settled into their new home at No. 30 Via Montenotte, right along the modest Piazza Anselmi. The property included a private garden and a separate kitchen and cold shed, and the first floor of the two story house was used as the office and examination room of Dr. Bigatti. The house was one room deep, so as you entered the small central foyer on the first floor there was a room on either side, and a winding staircase that led to a second floor landing, with a bedroom on each side. It was considered an extremely comfortable home in comparison to the rustic farms and shacks that dotted the countryside.

In spite of his reported enthusiasm for vino rosso, Dr. Bigatti was said to be a first rate doctor and surgeon. His services were highly sought throughout Giusvalla and the surrounding towns, it is said he would travel through the worst snow storm to call on his patients who required medical attention. Dr. Bigatti’s wife, “ra Madama” Laura, became the maestra at the little schoolhouse in Giusvalla. The Bigattis had two children: son, Gino, who became a chemist and daughter, Giovanna, who took her mother’s place as the maestra at the school in Giusvalla – a career that she held for almost her entire life and whose students still remember her fondly. Both the Bigatti children lived as adults with their parents and never married. The Bigatti household also included the girls that the doctor employed to help with the housework and cooking – Marì dei Ninoni and Carmelina della Casùrera. Marì worked for the Bigatti family until she married her husband Gianèn and moved to Taranco and Carmelina remained in the services of the family right up until the doctor’s death.

After the death of Dr. Bigatti, his house was purchased by the family of my cousin Enzo – the old examination room was converted to a kitchen and his office was made into a living room. Dr. Bigatti bequeathed his beloved maid Carmelina a small apartment that adjoined the main house. Her daughter Emma continues to live in the apartment today, with her daughter Giovanna and granddaughter Simona.

The Bigatti family – Dr. Ottaviano, Madama Laura, Gino the chemist and Maestra Giovanna – are all now just another memory in Giusvalla lore. They rest together in the little cemetery in Giusvalla.

In the photo: il dottore Ottaviano Bigatti and his house

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ra feshta d’ur papà

One of my earliest memories is walking out of a restaurant with my father - I was perhaps three or four years old at the time - and Dad hoisting me into his arms to show me a map of Italy that hung on the wall. I remember Dad’s finger tracing up the coastline on the map, “Giusvalla is …. here. This is where we came from” was his simple explanation.

It was always the same with Dad, there was always some family story, a memory from his own childhood …. and he often spoke of his grandparents’ hometown …. Giusvalla. Perhaps without him even realizing it, his own love for the place inspired the same in his son.

I proudly carry my Giusvalla surname, not just because of a personal affinity for the town and our history there, but moreover out of deep admiration for those who carried it before me. It was Dad who taught me to be proud of these things. More than anything I am just proud to be his son.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad …. at vüj tanc bèn … turnumma a Gişvàla prash!

In the picture: ur papà e pcit Franceschèn, July 4, 1975.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Giusvalla godparents …. through the generations

Like many others from an Italian-American household, I grew up in a family where godparents were a very important part of our lives, we were all proud of our godparents and family conversations often included godparent acknowledgements such as “Aunt So-and-So was such a special lady. She was my godmother you know ….” My godparents were my Uncle Frank and my Aunt Marina (both siblings of my father). Aunt Marina has always referred to me as her “Nephew-Godson,” growing up I had a special bond with her because she is my godmother.

The selection of the godparents was always a serious and deliberate matter, whom do we deem most worthy to bequeath the spiritual well-being of our children? The christening day was a time of great celebration and tradition. In my family, it has become a great honor to pass down the christening gown that has now been worn by grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. On the day of my son's christening, his godfather (my cousin Enzo) resurrected the old Giusvalla tradition of the father's and godfather's shave (with the obligatory straight razor). It was Enzo's grandfather Bastianèn who was responsible for performing this rite on all the new fathers and godfathers in Giusvalla. We were proud to carry this tradition into the next generation.

Our godparents can perhaps be considered our “spiritual” ancestors, certainly they played an important role in our families throughout the generations. In my genealogical research, whenever possible I always try to document the names of the godparents. This is accomplished by consulting ecclesiastical records, where godparents’ names are listed (on the baptismal acts, for example). Following is my “Godparent Tree,” showing the godparents for several generations of my direct paternal family line.

My Son
Godfather: Cousin Enzo
Godmother: Aunt Angela
Me (Frank)
Godfather: Frank Rosaio
Godmother: Marina Rosaio
My father (Michael)
Godfather: Ernest Camoirano
Godmother: Gloria (Faenza) Malatesta
My grandfather (Frank)
Godfather: Giuseppe Camoirano
Godmother: Elsie Perrone
My great-grandfather (Francesco)
Godfather: Gaspare Perrone
Godmother: Maria Teresa Manzino
My great-great grandfather (Giacomo Antonio)
Godfather: Giacomo Beltrame
Godmother: Gioanna (Verdino) Baccino
My gr-gr-gr grandfather (Gioanni Antonio)
Godfather: Giovanni Antonio Bonifacino
Godmother: Angela (wife of Giovanni Antonio Bonifacino)

In the picture: Christening Day, May 16, 1974, with godparents Uncle Frank & Aunt Marina

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

On This Day in 1939.

On this day back in 1939 (it was a Thursday that year), Marian Theresa Ghione took Ernest Salvo to be her lawfully-wedded husband, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, till death did they part.

Their Honeymoon took them to New York, where the infamous World’s Fair was underway. While up in that part of the Country, they visited the Fair, and made other stops as well, one being at Niagra Falls.

A year later, they would have their first child together, a son (Ernest J.). And shortly after that, 2 more children followed (Paul and Marianne). Their family of 5 shared many years of happiness together.

Today would be their 71st wedding anniversary, which comes just after a weekend-honorarium to both them, and their families, at the Winterthur museum in DE.

Although both of them have since passed on (Marian on April 8, 1968, Ernest on June 12, 1982), we have faith that they were re-joined after death and are now together in Heaven.

Felice Anniversario, Grandmom e Grandpop……………………………

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Celebrate Being Italian With Winterthur on Sunday, June 13th

This coming Sunday, June 13th, Winterthur will be having a "Celebrate Being Italian" day from 10AM until 5PM. Frank Rosaio and I will be on-site to share our knowledge and family histories, some special Italian items will be offered on the Winterthur café menu and many other surprises await as well! And don't forget, the Lost Gardens of the Brandywine exhibit is still on display (through July 25th).

For more information, click on the image attached with this post, or visit