Mendrisio

We arrived in darkness and eventually found our hotel. After getting off the train we started looking at the maps we had with us, as well as google maps, also checking the notice boards at the train station to figure out where our hotel was, after he saying this way, and she saying no it’s that way, we looked up from our maps and directly across the road from the train station was our hotel staring us in the face!!! Well, that was easy.

As we had had a bite to eat in Milan we decided an early night was in order ready for a day of exploring. The next morning we headed down stairs to have breakfast in the hotel, although adequate, it was nothing to write home about so we made the decision to find our breakfasts elsewhere. Our first port of call today was to visit the Catholic Cathedral here in Mendrisio as we knew this was where Roy’s GGrandfather had been baptised.

Here in the canton (region) of Ticino, a ticket/voucher is issued by your accommodation provider which entitles you to free bus and train travel within the region plus a discount on other forms of transport and special tourist attractions plus free access to museums and the like. This is a brilliant scheme that we took full advantage of by catching buses into town and exploring the region via train.

Top map has Mendrisio marked by blue dot, the bottom picture is a closer version with Mendrisio marked in red.

We found the Catholic Church on top of a hill in the centre of Mendrisio. I have to add here that everything around here is either at the top or the bottom of a a bloody steep hill. You definitely need to have mountain goat genes to live here.

We went into the church for a quick look around. This church was replaced between 1863 and 1875 therefore Damiano would not have known this building. After wandering around the outside of the church we went inside for a look.

the church – La Chiesa dei SS. Cosma e Damiano Di Mendrisio

There was no one in sight anywhere so we had resigned ourselves to not having any luck today.

Just as we were about to leave a gentleman came in, through our limited Italian and his non existent English, we finally worked out that this was Father Claudio, the senior priest of the parish. Roy had written a bit of an intro and a list of names we were looking for and had used google translate which he had saved to his iPad which he showed to Claudio. With a flurry of oohs and ahhs, Father Claudio said follow me.

the Rectory

We ended up in the rectory next to the Church where he went and found another priest, this one spoke reasonable English and was very helpful. With more “follow me”, both men led us down two stories to the archive room where low and behold all the original Church registers are held.

With appropriate dates given, they found the right books for the baptismal records and we started to troll through the entries, how amazing to be able to handle and search through books over 300 years old (and no, we did not have to wear white gloves). Lo and behold we found Roy’s GGrandfather, however his name was registered as Santinus Damianus Vanini (note the one ‘n’ in the middle of the surname) but the details for his parents matched perfectly. We photographed the entry and then started looking for his siblings, we found just the one entry, for his sister Maria but the other two brothers who were born later were nowhere to be found. They could well have moved to another parish or even town by this stage.

Once we had exhausted all the options by searching the appropriate books, it was time for us to go, but not before Claudio disappeared for a moment or two to reappear with two books in hand as gifts for us! One book is on the Church and it’s history and the other on it’s Madonna. Now we just have to get our Italian up to scratch to read them, but the pictures are great!!

The priests would not accept anything in exchange for the books and we left feeling very lucky to have had such a welcome and such great assistance. Before we left the men suggested that we visit the local municipal building to check out records. They informed us that however were closed from 12 – 2pm so we had plenty of time for some lunch before we went.

We found a charming looking small bistro in the backstreets away from the main centre which was being frequented by both office workers and workmen alike. We were very warmly greeted, and sat down at a table for a drink to start with. We ascertained from the menu that today’s special was a chicken dish, we watched as others were brought the dish and it looked delicious. So that was my choice, Roy went with a pasta dish.

It was a great meal, so much so that all was required for dinner that evening was a snack!

Soon it was time to head to the municipal building to see what we could find. Unfortunately, we had no luck as they had no records prior to 1850 or 1860 as there was no central registry requirement in Switzerland at that time.  In fact, registry came in over a period of about 25 years Canton by Canton.  They did however suggest that we go to Bellinzona which is the Capital of Ticino Canton. We shall go there tomorrow.

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2 Responses to “Mendrisio”

  1. Stuartinnz Says:

    How great to have made it to Mendrisio, and found Damiano’s baptism entry. Well done you. I’ve been in touch by email about my deciphering of the handwritten Latin, which continues as my understanding grows.

  2. Trip to Kaitaia | The Vanninis' Manoeuvres Says:

    […] cousin Stuart, books that were given to us when we were researching family connections in Mendrisio Switzerland. And it was a very quick stop, sorry Stuart, but we hope you enjoy browsing the books, […]

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