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Ernesta Maddalena Bergamasco
Northern Italian Ancestors

One of the techniques many genealogists use in working on brick walls or research questions is a technique called sideways searching or digging into the FAN Club (friends, associates, and neighbors). This means looking at collateral and other relationships to see if they might answer your questions. In 2021, my research focus is on my maternal Italian ancestors, the Galfré and Bergamasco families.

My Galfré ancestors came from Cuneo and maybe Spinetta before that, and then France another generation or two prior. My Bergamasco ancestors came from Moneglia, Cogoleto, and Cairo Montenotte.

Galfré

My great-great grandfather was Bartolomeo Giovanni Michele Galfré, born 22 January 1869 in Cuneo, Piedmont, Italy according to his Certificato di Nascita. He married Ernesta Maddalena Pedemonte Bergamasco on 24 October 1896 in Sanremo, Imperia, Liguria, Italy.

Bartolomeo had only one sibling, a brother named Giovanni Battista Galfré, born in 1868. Giovanni remained in Italy, while Bartolomeo emigrated to the United States. Bartolomeo died in Lakeville, Plymouth, Massachusetts on 5 October 1952.

Giovanni married Carolina Chialva and they had 8 children. He died 20 March 1948 in Cuneo.

His parents were Michele Galfré and Francesca Manassero. At this time, records for Cuneo and the other places associated with the family aren’t yet digitized, which means I haven’t found anything online. I’m not sure if the places and dates of birth I have for Michele and Francesca are correct, so I have not yet reached out to the Stato Civile to inquire.

I have supposed birthdates of 20 June 1836 for Michele and July 1839 for Francesca Manassero, both in Spinetta, Alessandria, Piedmont, Italy.

Michele’s parents were Giovanni Battista Bartolomeo Galfré and Teresa Dematteis. Francesca’s parents were Giovanni Manassero and Teresa Cavallo. I have no other information, except for their son Giovanni’s family in Italy. I am even in touch with Giovanni’s descendants, and what little information I have that isn’t proven by records comes from them through my aunt, who once visited with them.

Bergamasco

Ernesta Maddalena Pedemonte Bergamasco was born 18 May 1871 in Moneglia, Genoa, Liguria, Italy. I’ve had better luck researching her family because records for Moneglia are digitized and browsable via the Family Search catalog.

Though Ernesta’s surname in her birth record is Pedemonte, her surname in her marriage is given as Bergamasco. Her mother, Caterina, was married twice, though the surnames of her children differed.

Caterina Santina Pedemonte was born 18 December 1842 in Cogoleto, Genora, Liguria, Italy. She first married Giacomo Spiazzi, of Verona, around 1864. I will continue searching for their marriage record. Caterina had 3 children with Giacomo:

  1. Bartolomeo Spiazzi, born 13 Jun 1865 in Finale Pia, Savona, Liguria, Italy. He married Anna Teresa Maria Costa on 27 January 1910 in Moneglia, and had at least 2 children.

His sons were Aurelio Spiazzi, who later became known as Raimondo Spiazzi, the Catholic theologian (1918-2004), and Enrico Giacomo Attilio Spiazzi (1920-?), about whom I know nothing more.

2. Emilia Spiazzi, born about 1866. She married Alessandro Zanetti about 1887, and they had at least 4 children. They were:

Alfredo Zanetti (abt 1887-1944), who emigrated to Chile and married Rosa Zúñiga Gonzalez in Santiago in 1919; Ida Luigia Zanetti (1889-1969) who married Bartolomeo Angelo Carlo Bado; Arturo Giovanni Zanetti (1891-?); and Adelina Giulia Maria Zanetti (1895-?) who married Luogo Giovanni Del Pio.

3. Angela Spiazzi, born 24 June 1868 in Cogoleto, Genoa, Liguria, Italy, and died 14 January 1936 in Moneglia. She married Natale Giuseppe Chiapponi and had at least 3 children. They were:

Anna Santina Domenica Chiapponi (1890-1907); Ernesta Pierina Beatrice Chiapponi (1892-1895); and Natale Giuseppe Chiapponi (1922-?). The gap between children is interesting and I wonder if Angela and Natale lived elsewhere for some time between 1907 and 1920, before returning to Moneglia.

Giacomo Spiazzi went to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and died of cholera there in February of 1869. Caterina then went on to have many more children, and their birth records name either their mother or their father, but not both. These were probably the children of Giuseppe Bergamasco, who was born about 1837 in Cairo Montenotte, Savona, Liguria, Italy.

These children were as follows:

4. Possibly Theresa Adelaide Bergamasco, born about 1869 and died 8 October 1881 in Moneglia. Her death record names her father as Giuseppe Bergamasco.

5. Giovanni Battista Pedemonte, or Uncle John, took the name of Bergamasco later, born 21 December 1870 in Vado Ligure, Savona, Liguria, Italy. He came to the United States with his half-brother, Bartolomeo Spiazzi, and stayed briefly. The family story is that he returned to Italy to deal with some health problems in his 50s, got married, and died within 6 months of his marriage, before March of 1925. According to family lore, his death was considered suspicious.

6. Ernesta Maddalena Pedemonte, took the name of Bergamasco later, born 18 May 1873 in Moneglia. My great-great grandmother. When she and Bartolomeo emigrated to the United States, she never saw her mother or sisters again, but she did have visits from her brothers.

7. Enrico Dante Alessandro Bergamasco, born 13 February 1881 and died 16 February 1881 in Moneglia.

8. Pietro Bergamasco, born 7 March 1882 in Moneglia and died sometime after 15 December 1925, probably in Chile. Pietro had a clothing manufacturing company located at Casilla 147, Los Andes, Chile, known as: Fabrica Italiana de Fideos “La Estrella Polar” de Moltedo, Bergamasco y Cia.

9. Alessandro Bergamasco, born 7 March 1882 in Moneglia, died 2 June 1882. Twins ran in the family, as Ernesta also had twins for her first pregnancy. Unfortunately, both also died in infancy.

10. Aurelio Archimede Bergamasco, born 9 December 1885 in Moneglia. My Nana and her siblings all referred to him as Uncle Archie. I don’t know any more about him. Also, he has another name from what I can tell from his birth record, but I can’t read it!

11. Adele Bergamasco, born 11 November 1886 in Moneglia. I don’t know any more about her.

Caterina also had a brother, Giovanni Carlo Pedemonte (abt 1837-1887), who married Maria Luigia Porchetto, and had at least 10 children, all of whom I have been able to document to some extent.

Caterina’s parents were Tomaso Pedemonte and Angela Giusto. Angela is my most distant known mtDNA ancestor at this time, and I hope to learn more about her with focused research.

Giuseppe Bergamasco’s parents were Antonio Bergamasco and Maddalena Bozzolasco, and he had 3 siblings – Agnes, Maria, and Caterina. Giuseppe certainly knew Giacomo Spiazzi and Caterina Pedemonte, because Giuseppe their son Bartolomeo’s godfather.

That is what I know about my northern Italian ancestors at this time, but I hope to learn more soon!

DNA Confirmation | Our Prairie Nest
DNA Confirmation of Ancestry

One of the most exciting things happened to me in December of 2019 – I finally resolved a 26-year-old brick wall! During 2020, I poked at my new research questions here and there, which included delving into the ancestry of my great-great grandmother Emma’s father, Francis Wallace (1838-1892).

At first, I didn’t find much beyond my great-great grandmother’s baptism naming him as her father and a Nova Scotia directory listing for him in Port Mulgrave, employed as a clerk. Not much to go on, but I persevered during 2020 and put together a family group for Francis.

There weren’t many Wallaces in Nova Scotia, so I looked at all of them, particularly those in the same area as Francis. Little by little, I found that Francis was the brother of Vincent J. Wallace (1835-1878), who married Margaret Mahoney and worked as a customs agent. Vincent and Margaret had at least 3 children together.

This find was thanks to locating the baptisms of both Vincent and Francis, whose parents were listed as James Wallace and Rebecca Elizabeth Smith. Their father, James, also worked as a customs agent. Even more interesting to me was the fact that James and Rebecca’s marriage told me not only the names of their parents, but also that James was from County Wexford.

As it turned out, my great-great grandmother’s maternal grandparents are also from County Wexford. Since so many people emigrated in groups or stuck with people from known communities, this makes sense. I wonder if the Murphys and Wallaces knew each other in Ireland, or if they were from different parishes (seems more likely).

I found that Francis Wallace came to Boston and died there in 1892. While his death record and probate offer no further details about him, it’s interesting to know he followed his illegitimate daughter to Massachusetts.

Of course, I still couldn’t be absolutely sure that Francis was Emma’s father with only a baptismal record. However, it was nice to have a paper trail that added 2 to 3 generations to an ancestor who’d given me so much genealogical trouble for my entire adult life.

You can probably imagine my excitement when a DNA match who confirmed Wallace ancestors showed up in my Ancestry matches last week. When I receive new matches, I always keep an eye out for certain surnames. This particular match was a Wallace, but because the match was female, I didn’t assume this was her maiden/birth name.

However, as soon as I built out her family tree, I found that she descended from James Wallace and Rebecca Elizabeth Smith through a third son – Edward William Wallace! I did a happy dance to celebrate having a DNA match who shared this ancestral couple with me.

Someone asked how I made the connections between Francis and Vincent, and got to this point with the Wallace family. I ultimately accomplished this research with a combination of methods – DNA, indexed records, and unindexed browseable records. These records included directories, baptisms, marriages, probates, and Canadian censuses, as I tried to pinpoint which Wallaces were mine.

There are, I’m sure, even more records that are not digitized that have additional facts about my Wallace, Smith, Murphy, and Fraser ancestors in Nova Scotia, and certainly back in Ireland and Scotland.

Now that I feel this lineage is proven, thinking about Vincent and James Wallace brings me back to a family story: my great-great grandma Emma used to show one of my great-uncles pictures of ships she said were owned by wealthy ancestors. My great-uncle thought those ancestors were in trade or had a route from Nova Scotia, Canada to the Boston area.

Once I made the connection to the Wallaces who worked as customs agents, this story made sense. I doubt my Irish ancestors owned ships, but Vincent and James certainly inspected cargo coming into Nova Scotia. And how would that cargo have arrived in the early and mid-1800s but on a ship?

Genealogy Goals for 2021 | Our Prairie Nest
Genealogy Goals in 2021

It’s time to decide what my genealogy goals are in the new year. This is more difficult than previous years, because I had the same goal from year to year. Ever since I broke through my nearest brick wall, I spent 2020 a little “scattered,” for lack of a better term. However, I did make excellent progress with my maternal Italian ancestors and correcting a family story that stated my great-great grandmother had an uncle who was a bishop (2020 correction: she had a nephew who was a theologian and advisor to a pope).

So it’s time to focus on some SMART goals for 2021.

My Ancestors

Even though I finally determined who my great-great grandmother Emma’s parents (and grandparents!) were, I still don’t know who her first husband, Mr. Reagan, was. I’d like to find this first name, their date of marriage, and what ultimately happened to him (divorce or death).

The first wife of Edward Curtis of Dudley, Massachusetts was Esther (born circa 1747 and died in 1840), and her maiden name remains unknown. I have a network of DNA matches who I am sure share her unknown parents as ancestors. I’d like to solve that mystery this year.

I would like to get a look at the probate record of Elisha Benson (1731-1813) found in Vermont to verify that he and his wife, Sarah Steward (1732-1790), are the parents of Levi Benson (circa 1765 – 1815) of Wareham, Massachusetts.

My Galfre ancestors in Italy come from France a generation or two prior, and I’d like to find that connection.

I would also like to focus on my mitochondrial lineage. Our mtDNA haplogroup is H1aj1, which seems to indicate Jewish ancestry. My most distant known maternal ancestor is Angela Giusto of Cogoleto, Genoa, Liguria, Italy. I’m giving her an estimated birth year of about 1815 or so, since her two known children were born in 1837 and 1842.

Other Ancestors 

My ex-husband’s paternal ancestors are still a mystery that I would love to solve. His third great-grandfather was John Goodwin Hawksley, born iN Fredericton, York County, New Brunswick, Canada in 1810. He had three sisters. Their parents were an unknown Hawksley and Mary Goodwin, the daughter of New Jersey loyalists whose names also remain unknown.

Online trees that give the unknown Hawksley man a name go with either Guy or William, both of which I believe are incorrect. My hypothesis based on research and DNA points to a British man who was stationed at Fredericton during the time frame that John and his sisters were conceived and born. That man returned to his family in Ireland and England after his service, and that was that. Is my hypothesis correct? I don’t know, but I hope to find out as I enter my 28th year of researching that family.

Wish me luck!

2020 In Review | Our Prairie Nest
2020 In Review

I think every year-end blog post or card or family newsletter is going to start with, “What a year!” We say that every year, though, don’t we? At the end of most years, I tend to be optimistic and set goals for the new year. Last year, however, I said, “Same shit, different year.” So I guess I’d better go back to optimism, because look how 2020 turned out!

We are among the fortunate people who haven’t gotten sick yet. However, several people we know and love did get sick, and that has been pretty scary. There’s no telling how Covid will affect anyone, which is what makes it so daunting.

When I heard the news about the first vaccine being administered in the UK, I cried with happiness. Here’s hoping that the roll-out of vaccines in the U.S. goes smoothly and we can all look forward to a slow return to something approaching normalcy.

Of course, we’re happy with the way the election turned out this year. It was another positive aspect of 2020. It took me a few days to feel safe opening a bottle of victory wine, but when I finally went for it, it couldn’t have been a sweeter moment.

Remote schooling for some of the year was difficult, but we felt it was necessary. It was hard for the kids to not see other people face to face. However, we felt it was the most responsible choice over the holidays, considering the uncertainty around other people choosing to gather with large groups, have family get-togethers, etc. We did our best to keep joy in the household with new books, games, music, and TV shows. It wasn’t always easy, but I think extra hugs and talking frankly about everything going on in the world went a long way.

At some point in the year, I also realized I was just done with certain projects and let them go, full stop. I had no drive to move forward. I thought my interest in and excitement for those projects might return, but no. So far, nothing.

It’s disappointing, because these projects have been a big part of “me” for 4 years. They’ve also given many other people a lot of joy. However, as Charlotte once said in “Sex & the City,” I think I’m done here.

What’s next? I’m still figuring that out. I still love my job and the teaching I’ve been doing, so that isn’t changing. But I need to figure out what’s next as far as other aspects of my life.

This post is already rambly, but there you have it. 2020 was, for us, challenging but we made it. Here we are. Where we’re going from here, though, I have no idea. At least, though, I’m feeling far more optimistic at this point in the year than I felt going into 2020!