NEWS » The Anglo Italian Family History Society

The Anglo Italian Family History Society

The Anglo-Italian family history society

Many of us experienced in our life the pleasure of being told our ancestors’ history. When I was a child my Italian grandma used to narrate events and stories from her family’s past. All those people I had never met populated my fantasy. The only tangible proof of their existence were old black and white pictures and all that was left in my grandma’s memories. I can still recall the vivid impact of my grandma’s words on my imagination, although the actual facts, the names, the births, deaths and what those people felt as human beings faded away together with my childhood.

For those who want to know more about their Italian origins The Anglo-Italian family history society, founded in 2002, helps anyone who wants to trace their Italian ancestry in the United Kingdom and in Italy. The society works on a mutual help base. 

The Anglo-Italian family history society can help you by pointing you in the right direction to research UK and Italian records, suggesting books, websites, providing shortcuts and sometimes even putting you in touch with someone who is researching the same family name.

By joining the society you will gain access to, among other things, the society’s library of books and CDs and to the members’ area where there are plenty of transcriptions from censuses and birth, death, and marriage records.  As a member you will also receive four issues of the society’s journal, Italian Roots and other services.

For more information on how to join the society and on the services provided visit the The Anglo-Italian family history society’s web site http://www.anglo-italianfhs.org.uk/

Daphne Dashfield,  Librarian of the society, told us that she was able to meet up with relatives through the society (some 3rd cousins in England and some more distant cousins both in England and Italy) and to inform them about their origins. She also kindly explained to us her personal motivations for joining the society and told us the compelling story of her Italian ancestor’s research.

Daphne’s father, Thomas Geradine, was a successful professional violinist, he also played for 15 years in the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He was sure his musical abilities came from his Italian genes as his father (mandolin player), grandfather and great grandfather (accordion players) had been musicians. He also had relatives who were musicians (e.g. Tassi cousins in Coldbath Square). Thomas Geradine  knew that the original family name was Ghirardani, anglicised to Geradine by the time Daphne’s grandfather was born in 1890. As Daphne told us, she grew up with romantic family stories and a rather odd surname that she always had to spell.

Her great grandfather, Giuseppe Ghirardani, came over the Alps to settle in London and later went back to Italy to see if he could take posses of some land, taking two of his sons with him, but returned to London because a cousin had legally taken over the land. Daphne’s father couldn’t remember where his great grandfather came from in Italy but remembered Piacenza being mentioned.

 

Her father’s cousin had found some English parish records in the Royal Sardinian Chapel in London which mentioned the marriage of Giuseppe to Elizabeth Wilson in 1851. This gave his parents’ names, Luigi Ghirardani and Luigia Lovati.

Fortunately the Ghirardani surname is rare, and on a holiday in Italy in the 1960s Daphne could narrowed down her surname origins to some small hamlet: Villora, Varsi, Parma. Daphne spent a lovely afternoon with some Ghirardani in Parma but she felt she was a generation too late to establish their relationship.

Encouraged by the newly formed AIFHS, she ordered microfilmed parish records of Villora through the Latter Day Saints family history centre. She searched through some documents  handwritten in Latin and found Giuseppe’s baptism and many other related records which helped to establish what Daphne’s relationship was to other people with the Ghirardani surname. When she visited Villora, a resident told her that the original parish records had been destroyed, so she was very pleased that they had first been microfilmed.

Through the transcription efforts of the AIFHS Daphne discovered additional records at St. Peters for her family until they moved north to Barnet and Wood Green.

However  Daphne hasn’t found yet any relatives in Italy who are professional musicians.

Giulia Lombardo

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