Uncle Dave's book

Thursday, July 3, 2014

52 Ancestors # 22: Giovanni Luigi Stefani

     Giovanni Luigi Stefani was my Great Grandfather Frank Stefani's father.  Frank hated him. Frank was named after his father, Giovanni Francesco Stefani is what his birth record says. But his school final report card and all records after say, "Francesco Giovanni Stefani" so I think he switched the order and called himself Francesco and Frank so that he would NOT be called Giovanni like his father. Frank told his children that his father was a drunk who used to beat Frank.  His father was a peddlar who made Frank push the cart and go with him to the various surrounding villages. Giovanni would spend the money he made on booze so Frank used to hide as much of it as he could.  He would then give this to his mother in secret so that she could buy food.  I have memories of Frank from three of his children and they all say pretty much the same about his father.

    So, I am researching the family tree and I looked up his father as part of it, naturally.  Here's what I found.  Giovanni Luigi Stefani was born on 23 Mar 1821 in Sporminore, Tyrol, Austria. His father was Ferdinando Stefani, born in Sporminore, and his mother was Maria Domenica Maddalena Conci, born in the nearby town of Torra. Reading on we find that his father died on 19 Oct 1822, age 29, of a malignant fever ("febre maligna"). Giovanni was only 19 months old when his father died! His mother remarried Giuseppe Weber on 10 Feb 1824 and they went to live in Mezzolombardo, not far south of Sporminore. So we have a boy whose father died when he was very young, whose mother remarried and then is raised by a stepfather. Chances are that Giuseppe preferred his own sons to Giovanni, quite possibly they did not get along. I don't know this, however, Giovanni did not stay in Mezzolombardo but returned to Sporminore as a young man.

     In Sporminore he married on 20 Oct 1849, Elisabetta Maria Cattarina Wegher.  She came from a prosperous family of blacksmiths and owned the house they lived in. So quite possibly he felt embarrassed that she had more assets than he did. His mother was already dead when he married Maria, although Giovanni was only 28. He and Maria had 7 children.  The oldest son died at the age of 11. Three of his daughters died very young and his second son died at the age of 12. Only one daughter and his youngest son, Francesco, lived to adulthood. Imagine the loss of these children! I think by the time Francesco came along Giovanni probably didn't want to care for him as he likely felt he would just die like the others. I think he must have felt that life had treated him very badly and drink was his only consolation. It is a common enough story.

     Giovanni died on 1 Jun 1881, age 60. It says "marasma" or decline but I can't read the second word. Perhaps if he had lived longer and Frank had stayed in Sporminore they may have been able to reconcile. Since that didn't happen he is forever known as the drunkard, no good father. I think having the facts of his life I can find room in my heart, anyway, for understanding and a more compassionate view.

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