My grandfather Frank never talked about his side of the family. My father said that no one knew much about the ancestors. I've found out quite a bit about them since then, and along the way I've met or exchanged email with many, many cousins and probable cousins.
For years, my casual hunt for ancestors was slowed by paying more attention to an old family "tale" than to evidence right in front of my nose. For instance, I was told that "great grandmother used to walk to Switzerland in the morning and trade bread for cheese, then walk back." Despite how improbable this now sounds, at the time it seemed possible. I had a post card from GGF Vincenzo, sent from Castiglione, Italy. There are three towns with that name in Italy, one of which was close to the Swiss border of the 19th century.
On my first trip to Europe, we went to that town, carrying along Vincenzo's passport. Everyone in the little town was very helpful, but also adamant that the passport was from Genoa. I assumed I knew better.
Well, it was issued in Genoa (and I wish I still had it), and the post card clearly says "Castiglione Chiavarese", or the Castiglione in the Chiavari district near Genoa. A few years ago, a friend did a search of the Italian phone book for me and discovered that 90 of 92 listings for Tassano are within a five mile radius of Casarza, the big town near Castiglione. In 150 years, the family hasn't moved more than five miles (if you exclude USA and Brazil!).
The name Tassano is documented briefly in volume 111 of the history of Italian royal families by Callalanza. The earliest mention of the name (Enrico Tassani) is in 1347, in Lago Maggiore. He was a prelate of an order established in 12th century Milan.
Any royal connections that may have existed have long since evaporated as Italian nobility passed only through the eldest son and that line was broken centuries ago.
I eventually found out that my grandfather's birth-name was Francesco Antonio Tassano and he was born in Italy, in the village of Castiglione Chiavarese near Genoa (and he was born in 1899, not in 1901 as I'm told he often said.) Francesco and his older brother Antonio came to Stockton with their mother Theresa Merciari in 1902. Her husband Vincenzo Andrea Tassano had come to America in 1900 with his brother Luigi Tassano.
- Genealogy Index page for Tassano
- Obituary: Vincenzo Andrea Tassano, 1932
- Attendees at Vincenzo's funeral
- Obituary: James L. Tassano
- A suicide listed in the Diablo Magazine, result of Enemy Alien Act
- Some records from "Italians to America".
- An article about Torquato Tasso, rumored to be an ancestor of ours
Antonio Tassano married Dominica Boschetto on November 29, 1895. He lived in the village of Castiglione near Genoa, in the Chiavari district. To see a map and a photo of the village, click here.
Antonio and Dominica were my great-great grandparents and to date, I can trace the family no farther into the past. I can guess a little though. His father was probably named Vincenzo and his grandfather was probably named Antonio.
Vincenzo Andrea Tassano
Vincenzo was born in Casarza Ligure, Genoa, Italy in 1862. He arrived in American on a ship called the Trave, landing at Ellis Island on 30 May 1900. From there he travelled west to join his brothers Giacomo and Giuseppe in Stockton, California.
His wife, Teresa Angela Merciari, brought their two sons Antonio and Francesco to Califonia two years later. Vincenzo was active in the Italian community, eventually helping to found the Italian Gardener's Society. Vincenzo died in a building fire on 21 April 1932.
Francesco Antonio Tassano
Born Francesco Antonio Tassano in Casarza Ligure, Genoa, Italy on February 2, 1899, "Frank" came to America in 1902 when his mother brought him and his older brother Antonio to Stockton, California to rejoin her husband Vincenzo.
The Italian community in Stockton was large. Farmers in Italy, the Tassano family (my branch of it anyway), continued the tradition in America.
Frank married Charlotte Marie Pennebaker on 24 January, 1924 and had two boys: Frank and Donald. He died in Arizona on 5 February 1981.
Frank Alvin Tassano
Frank was born in Stockton, California in 1925. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he married Rachel Anna Toensing (17 August 1947). Their son Michael was born in 1948, daughter Marcy in 1950. Rachel died on 25 May 1951. In January of 1956, he married Helene Julian and their daughter Teri Lee was born later that same year.
Throughout his life, Frank made things with his hands. It was always my impression that sculpture, painting, and working with wood and clay were as vital to him as air is to the rest of us. Frank died at home, surrounded by family and friends, on 24 August 2002.
Here's the descendent chart for my branch of the Tassano family:
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