11    Mar 20093 comments

Searching your Swiss roots?

Put tooltip hereIf your ancestors came from the Italian-speaking region of Ticino and the valleys of south Graubunden, there's a great new resource here. I also strongly recommend the site to researchers of any ethnicity who wish to understand the lives of our ancestors. While the locations and language may change, the realities of a hard life and the desire for a better life are universal.

Ticino is the red-highlighted area in the map above right, while Graubunden is the dark green area immediately adjacent on the right.

Swiss-Italian Migrations is a richly detailed multimedia networking site for this geographic area. It offers a detailed comprehensive view in English and in Italian.

In the 19th-early 20th centuries, tens of thousands of people emigrated to other countries from the region. They established new lives in Australia, the US, in South America and in other European countries.

Put tooltip hereThe article - with videos, slideshows, songs and many links for additional information - explain historical reasons behind the migration. There are interviews with experts on migration and genealogy, while background information, interviews and videos provide an intimate look at southern Switzerland then and now, as well as the descendants of those immigrants.

The slideshows are fascinating. View the collection - Rural Ticino as it once was - by pioneer local photographer Roberto Donetta (1865-1932) whose images capture daily life: weddings, holidays, children, school, cutting hay, sheep shearing, woodsmen, butcher, the hot springs, musicians, a carousel, a movie projectionist, soldiers, clergy and funerals,

There are four sections: Land of Emigranti, Journey into the Unknown, New World and Homecoming.

Land of Emigranti offers an article on 19th century rural life and three preserved rural houses moved stone by stone and plank by plank and reconstructed at Switzerland's open-air museum, Ballenberg.

There are more fascinating photos of the Cugnasco house, which dates from the 1740s, the Malvaglia house from the early 16th century, and the Novazzano house, which was part of an estate dating to the 14th century.

An expert on rural Ticino, Giovanni Buzzi, says that the first wave of mass migrations began around 1850, and describes the monotonous diet of polenta (boiled cornmeal), rye bread, potatoes and chestnuts. Sometimes the people had nothing but chestnuts to eat for months.

Other "witnesses to history" articles offer a doctor's words on childbirth, memories of boys sent to Italian areas to work as chimney sweeps, rural poverty and the words of a priest on the region's inhabitants.

"Journey into the Unknown" includes a very detailed six-part interview with expert Giorgio Cheda on the economic crisis that was the impetus for immigration, life in Australia, and an article on the women who remained and took control of their lives after their husbands and sons emigrated.

Put tooltip here"New World" articles include emigration facts, Australia, California, US ranchers, London, and a wonderful gallery of letters, postcards, advertisements, menus, travel documents, old maps, musical instruments and more. There were so many Swiss immigrants in San Francisco that they had their own newspaper, La Colonia Svizzera, which may prove valuable to researchers.

"Homecoming" includes what the Ticino immigrants did for their hometowns raising the standards of living, building homes and more. There is a very important article on Ticinese genealogical records and the man trying to preserve them.

Ronald Willemse is researching two villages: Sonogno (at 909 meters and 85 residents) and neighboring Frasco. Four years ago, he put the genealogy database online. Currently, it has 3,000 family sheets totaling 11,000 individuals. Family names for Sonogno are Cattori, Fratessa, Garatti, Genardini, Gianettoni, Macciantelli, Martella, Matasci, Pagnamenta, Pata, Pelucca, Perozzi, Pinana, Sonanini, Sonognini and Tamo; for Frasco, Badasci, Bernardasci, Danini, Delubini, Dughi, Ferrasci, Ferrini, Franchini, Giottonini, Jop, Lanini, Lesnini and Marci.

The site is part of SRG SSR idee suisse, Switzerland's public service radio and television provider, whose mission is to inform Swiss citizens in other countries as to what is happening at home and to raise awareness about Switzerland in others. It offers news and information in nine languages.

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Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  2. Very nice post. Thanks.

    Jean-Fran´┐Żois de Buren
  3. I am curious about the Genardini house that is now the museum in Sognogno. That was my grandfather's house (Clemente Pelucca). I have visited there and there are many photos of my grandfather's family in the house. When we visited 10 years ago, it was still considered the Pelucca family homestead that was turned into a museum. Our family has wondered how and when it became the Genardini house. Does anyone know?

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