Genealogy of the Cagetti family

My paternal family, Cagetti, comes from Montignoso, a little town just west of Massa, in northern Tuscany, close to the border with Liguria, and a couple of miles from the sea on a hill at the feet of the mountains. A check on Italian phonebooks shows that the surname is present almost only in the area, and predominantly in Montignoso, which suggests that there is only one Cagetti lineage, and that it originated in Montignoso. (But curiously, genetically the lineage belongs to not-so-typically-Italian Y-haplogroup L2).

The surname Cagetti has been documented in Montignoso at least since the XV century. Giuseppe Cagetti, a relative (here is a picture of Giuseppe at work), together with my father Silvio, has done extensive and detailed archival research in Montignoso and has uncovered several pieces of information on past Cagettis.

If you are a Cagetti, or want to share information about the family or the area, feel free to contact me

History of the Massa area

To provide some background, I will briefly discuss the history of the Massa area. A few archaeological findings in the mountains of Lunigiana (north of Massa), in particular the bas-relief statues (the so called statue stele), some dating to the third millennium b.C., document the presence of people in the Neolithic. But the origin or affiliation of this population is unclear: late statues display a Celtic-type of dagger, but they may relate to a later occupation of the valley. In the first millennium b.C., the area of Massa was at the border between the Etruscans, who inhabited most of Tuscany, and the Ligurians and Celts, who inhabited Northern Italy. There seems to have been a strong Etruscan presence, whether they were traders or comprised most of the population. This presence later diminished when Celts from North of the Alps invaded the north of Italy (the same wave that brought the Gauls to Rome) and pushed the Etruscans back south to Tuscany.

In the last couple of centuries of the millennium, the area was inhabited by a Ligurian tribe called Apuani, documented in Latin histories (such as Livy). We do not know whether they inhabited the area also before the period, or whether they came in after the Etruscans retreated. And we don't know the relation between Ligurian and Celts, or between various Ligurian tribes. On the coast near modern-day Carrara, the Romans founded a colony called Luna and defeated the Apuans, many of which (thousands according to Livy) were relocated to Central Italy. Luna became a center for the trade of the marble excavated from the nearby mountains (the Apuan alps), an industry still fluorishing. Some of the colonists were perhaps from Rome itself, and many inhabitants must have been traders, possibly from all over the empire.

With the fall of the Roman empire, the town of Luna became the seat of a bishop and survived somehow into the middle age. But the age after the fall of the Roman empire was a period of crisis; Byzantines and Lombards fought in the peninsula, and the Massa area fell under both powers. The town of Luna was progressively deserted, for many reasons including the receding coast (it is now a mile or so further out), the swampy and unhealthy environment, and the raids of Vikings and Arabs. Ultimately, the bishop seat itself was moved from a possibly already deserted town to the town of Sarzana, a few miles inland, and Luna completely disappeared. However, during the Middle Age the mountainous part of the province (called Lunigiana) was however along the so called via Francigena, that is, the road that pilgrims from the north used to get to Rome, and must have thus seen some trade and a minimum of activity.

During the Middle Age, towns develop more towards the mountains, often around a castle, for protection. Probably, this was also the origin of Massa and of Carrara, two towns that, despite being now the largest in the area, do not date to the Roman times. And similar must have been the origin of the village of Montignoso. Massa is dominated by the Malaspina castle, built on a hill overlooking the coast; perhaps, the earliest aggregation was around this castle. Montignoso is also dominated by a castle, now mostly in ruins, named castello Aghinolfi - a Lombard name; the name actually appears in the copy of a (probably authentic) VIII century document. It is not clear, though, whether a village already existed back then, though it is likely, given that a castle must have needed a local workforce.

The history of Massa and Montignoso from the late Middle Age is well documented, with various families taking control of Massa, adn Montignoso being, at least early on, under Lucca's dominion (hence the earliest Montignoso archives are in Lucca).

This long introduction shows that the area has a complex history, which makes it difficult to establish the origin of its population. Over time, there have been contacts with the rest of the Mediterranean, which may have left their imprint in the area. This can also explain the presence in the area of haplogroups like that of the Cagetti family, haplogroup L, which has a clear Anatolian or levantine origin.

Archival sources

The main source of information on the family are the baptismal records kept at the local parish of San Vito. Baptismal records were started in the parish around 1550, and they still exist. The name Cagetti is found throughout the period, and Giuseppe has created a family tree based on these baptismal records. The records display the name of the father of the baptized, and sometimes of the grandfather, and this is what allows us to trace lineages. The task is difficult, though, because there is no index. One must browse all the records to find the names. The handwriting is typically bad and difficult to read; moreover, there are many people with the same name, sometimes within the same family (for instance, if a child died, a newborn would sometimes get the name of the deceased), and of course, if a person was baptized somewhere else, he will not be found in the records. The spellings are also quite varied, as the dialectal pronunciation did not necessarily correspond to the standard Italian or Latin one (and of course, the name itself may have changed over time). For instance, the name Cagetti was often spelled Cacetti (as well as Cazetti and the like).

As an example, this is the baptismal record of Bartolomeo Cagetti, born in 1574 (and most likely the first direct ancestor recorded). I read something like: addi' 7 febbraio 1574. Bartolomeo di Giovannino di Giorgio Caggetto (with a very unclear spelling, perhaps Cassetto) fu battizato adi et anno ? et fu compare Alexandro di (? Jacopo) Orlandi et fu comara Lucia di Vincenzo di (Luconi?) di Montignoso. (on the day 7 february 1574. Bartolomeo of Giovannino of Giorgio Cagetti -with some strange spelling- was baptized this day and was godfather Alessandro of Jacopo (?) Orlandi and was godmother Lucia of Vincenzo of ? of Montignoso). The mother here is not recorded, but the names of the father (Giovannino) and of the grandfather (Giorgio) are.

The parish also keeps some records of weddings and of deaths, but these are less complete and exist only for a smaller time period.

In addition to the baptismal records, there are also various other documents (contracts, estates, trials, council deliberations), kept in Lucca's archives.

There are also two useful books on the history of Montignoso. They mention of the name Cagetti here and there:

Family tree

The tree recovered by Giuseppe (and by my father Silvio) from baptismal records can be viewed in the following files:

In the following description, I follow Giuseppe's work. The earliest Cagetti in the baptismal records is Piera di Giorgio di Giovannino, september 20, 1556. The entry allows us to go back two generations, to a Giovannino born maybe around 1500, and to his son Giorgio, born presumably around 1525. From other entries, one can also document a Eustachio, also born around 1500 and possibly, but not necessarily, brother of Giovannino. Eustachio's male line, however, is extinguished (at least in Montignoso) around 1600, so the currently living Cagettis go back to Giorgio. As we shall see, this is not the only bottleneck in the Cagetti lineage. Mortality was quite high during the period, and the town of Montignoso seems to have experienced a drop in population in the XVII century, possibly related to high morbidity. Historians have talked about malaria brought by the marshes between the town and the sea. I haven't been able to verify this, but clearly, the population shrank and in general moved towards the hills and the mountains, away from the plain.

The baptismal records cannot document anybody before the XVI century. The book Memorie storiche di Montignoso by Giovanni Sforza, on page 218, cites the civil acts of the podesta' (mayor) of Montignoso, kept in the Lucca archives. In 1461, there is the name Francesco Cacetti; in 1469, there is the name Giorgio Cacetti. Names were often passed down to grandchildren (not from father to child, as in the US), and the name Giorgio, as we have seen, appears later in the baptismal records as well.

Among previous historical documents, there are two estimi (land records), one in the XIV century and one in 1400. None of the two records shows any Cagetti. This doesn't necessarily mean that the family arrived later. It is also possible that they had another name (surnames were not yet fixed), or that they were not included in the estimo (for instance, because they did not own land, though this is strange, given the rural economy of the times). Still, this may as well indicate that the family arrived in Montignoso after 1400. Cagettis are apparently recorded in the estimo of 1500, which again confirms the presence of the family at that time.

Back to the baptismal records. Giovannino has two documented sons, Giorgio and Vincenzo. Vincenzo's lineage disappears from the records in the XVIII century. Giorgio has 5 children: Giovannino, Francesco, Piera (cited above), Maddalena and Caterina. Giovannino in turn, married to a Bartolomea, has Francesca, Bartolomeo (4 feb 1574), Francesca (presumably the first Francesca had died), Piera, and Giorgio. The image of Bartolomeo's record was shown above as well. Bartolomeo (as well as another Cagetti, a descendant of Vincenzo) is also recorded in a 1617 parish census, and lived in the town quarter of Gabbiano (a part of the town on the slope of the mountain - not a bad thing if the plain was really malarial).
The estimo of 1600 (?) records Bartolomeo's properties: una casa con seccatoio, pergola con gelsi, canapaio e orto a Gabbiano (confinante con il fosso), porcile con loco sempre a Gabbiano, capanne con sito e aia alle Capanne, terreno al frantoio da Imo, oliveto alla Pieve, prato alla Renella, due selve a Colle Piano , vigna in Palatina, that is: a house with drying room, a pergola with mulberry trees, hemp field (? or lab room?), and vegetable garden in Gabbiano (bordering the ditch), a pigsty, huts with place (?) in Capanne (since Capanne means huts, the sentence says, almost ironically, huts with a place in Huts), piece of land at the frantoio (= oil press) at Imo (Imo doesn't mean anything, so perhaps that's shorthand for something), field at Renella, two woods at Colle Piano, vineyard in Palatina.
Bartolomeo, with Domenica, has 4 children: Giovanni (5 nov 1615), Giovanna, Caterina and Domenica. The parliament acts provide an anecdote about the wife Giovanna and the children. In 1628, the widow Domenica was accused by the relative Vincenzo Cagetti (the neighbor cited also in the parish census) of keeping manure in one of his pergolas. Various witnesses are called and testify about the right-of-way of the Barolomeo family. We haven't found out how the controversy was resolved. Later, in 1636, the family is accused of having taken wood (for broomsticks) from somebody's property.

The family continues with Giovanni, Bartolomeo (born 1642), and Giovanni again (1665), continuing thus with the traditional names. Giovanni interrupts the tradition and calls his son Filippo Antonio. The son (and the other daughter Maria Giovanna) were born presumably quite late, the son in 1709 (that is, at age 44 or so. In any case, I was born when my father was 44 too). Filippo Antonio is camerlengo, estimatore, and sergeant of the town (estimatore means that he estimated damages in case of a dispute). He has 9 children, but only one male, Giovanni Matteo (born in 1731) continues the line (another son, Angelo, becomes a priest, another one, Bartolomeo Vincenzo, has 12 children but most die and his male line is extinguished). We thus have another bottleneck, and all the Montignoso Cagettis apparently descend from Giovanni Matteo.
Giovanni Matteo (or presumably referred to just as Matteo) is also very prolific -10 children - many, as usual, dying young. But wo males survive, Giovanni and Vincenzo, the last child (born at an even later age, 48, in 1779 - on May 13, just one day shy of my own birthday, May 14). Giovanni's son Lorenzo, in the first half of the XIX century, has 3 wifes, 17 kids, and lots of descendants. My line, however, goes back to Vincenzo.

Vincenzo has six kids, only one male surviving, Giovanni Matteo, born in 1813 (back to the alternate name tradition, but it seems to be the end of it). In turn, Giovanni has six children, one of whom is Tommaso Biagio (1839). Tommaso participated in various wars, including some against Austria in the Risorgimento.

Next in line is Costantino (1871), grandfather of my father Silvio and g-grandfather of Giuseppe. Costantino has five male children, one of whom is my grandfather Bernardo. Bernardo marries my grandmother Adorna Giusti and has three male children (Mario, Antonio, and my father Silvio). Unfortunately, Bernardo dies in 1932, in a train accident at work.

Giuseppe has written down the whole Cagetti family tree, including the lateral branches. If you are a Cagetti, feel free to