Grossi and Bacciarini family saga: Lavertezzo, Gudo and Vallejo

by Jay Grossi, United States

My first Grossi ancestor to come to America, Attilio Grossi, my grandfather Plinio’s uncle. My grandparents Plinio Grossi and Annetta Bacciarini were born in the village of Gudo in the Magadino Plain near Bellinzona in 1898 and 1901. They immigrated to Vallejo, California in the early 1920s, and they married in St Vincent’s in Vallejo in 1927. My grandfather worked as a milkman in the city of Vallejo for 40 years.


My grandparents had three children, William (1930), Elizabeth (1933), and James (1935): William married Natalie Cepollina in 1957, and they had no children; Betty never married; James married Evelyn Toland in 1957 and had two children: myself Jay and my sister Michele. My grandmother died in 1968 and my grandfather in 1972. My first Ticinese relative to immigrate in 1889 in California was my grandmother’s grandfather Antonio Bacciarini. A year later in 1890 his son Lorenzo immigrated. He traveled to California on the same ship with my grandfather’s uncle Attilio. Attilio eventually went to Hilo in the state of Hawaii where he married a woman of Portuguese ancestry and had four or five children. Around 1918 Attilio now a widower returned with his children to Vallejo on the mainland; he died in the late 1940s.

In 1891 Lorenzo’s sister Rosa also immigrated to California; she married Damiano (Dan) Mini in the mid 1890s. Damiano had already immigrated to California around 30 years earlier from Gudo and had started a ranch. This ranch was located between the cities of Vallejo and Napa. Many Ticinesi worked on this ranch upon their arrival in California before finding employment in the outside world. Rosa and Damiano had four boys and one girl. Just recently (April 2009) Damiano and Rosa’s grandson’s second wife Imelda died at the age of 104.

My great-grandfather Lorenzo came to California at least three times. He became a citizen in 1896. He wanted to bring the family to California, but my great-grandmother, Filomena, always refused! Lorenzo had married his third cousin Filomena Bacciarini in the 1890s.

Filomena had five siblings who immigrated to California in the 1890s and early 1900s. Her brother Vittore, the first of the siblings to arrive, changed the spelling of his surname to Baciarini with only one c. The other siblings who came to California were Celestino, Valente, Costantino, and Teresa.

My grandfather Plinio’s father Rodolfo married Teresa Bacciarini in the 1890s. Teresa was my grandmother Annetta’s father’s sister, her aunt. In other words, my grandparents were first cousins. In fact, if you look at the birth registration for my grandfather in 1898, you will find that his godfather is his uncle and future father-in-law Lorenzo Bacciarini!

In the 1920s three of my grandfather’s brothers also immigrated to Calfornia: Venanzio, Silverio, and Carlo.


His older brother Anselmo (Sam) had already come to California in 1912. My grandfather’s only sister Lucia married a Polish gentleman whom she had met during the Second World War, and they went to live in France; after her husband’s death in the 1980s she returned to Gudo. During the war there was a refugee camp near Gudo where many Poles spent the entire war. Adolfo, the youngest family member, was the only one in my grandfather’s immediate family to remain in the village, and he took over the family home.

My grandfather also had three Grossi first cousins (Lucia, Ines, and Igidio) who immigrated in California. There were the children of his uncle Ermenegildo.

My grandfather’s aunt Camilla who married a Zandotti had a few children who also came to California.

My grandmother had one sister, Florinda, who immigrated in the 1920s with her husband Dionigi (Dan) Morasci. My grandmother’s other six sisters (Olimpia, Maria Teresa, Isolina, Lucia and Virginia) remained in Ticino. One of her two brothers, Natale (Dolly) lived in Africa for many years. In the 1960s on account of political upheaval in that part of the world, he had to return with his family to Ticino. The youngest brother Giuseppe inherited the family home in Gudo.

My grandparents never returned to Ticino. In 1961 or 62 this photo was taken of my grandfather Plinio, just before he was going to retire, and me, Jay Grossi.  My grandmother Annetta had made me mini version of the milkman’s uniform for this photo!


Some of my grandparents’ siblings returned to visit the Ticino in the late 1940s in the 1950s and 1960s. My uncle Bill and his wife visited in the mid 1960s; my aunt Betty visited in the mid 1970s; I went for the first time in 1979 (my first of almost 20 visits), and my parents finally went there in 2001.

In the 1990s I met for the first time my cousin Tony Quinn who is an excellent genealogist! He has spent countless hours researching his Dodini and Morosoli families. He has been a great help to me in my quest to learn more about my Ticinese heritage! Tony has traced my Grossi family back to 1600s to the village of Lavertezzo in the Valley Verzasca; he proved that the Grossis of Gudo had originally come from Lavertezzo. Tony and I are cousins because my great, great grandmother was Caterina Dodini.

It was also during this period that Tony and I met Rae Codoni who had been during genealogical research since the 1970s on his family from the village of Corippo. Before, I had met Rae, he had made of family tree of the Bacciarini family for another Bacciarini family who lived near the town of Modesto, California; Rae had patiently traced my Bacciarini family back to the late 1500s!

Rae was really the first person in California to do serious genealogical research on the various Ticinese families living in California. He spent over twenty years reading the genealogical microfiche (with the birth, baptismal, marriage and death records of almost all the villages and towns in Ticino) at the Mormon genealogical center in Modesto. Unfortunately he passed away in 2006. He generously left me his vast collection of books dealing with Ticinese history, culture and genealogy!

My 1979 visit completely changed my life. After that visit I decided to major in Italian language and culture. I eventually went to graduate school and studied Italian literature at the University of California, Berkeley. Presently, I teach Italian language and culture at the University of California, Davis, and each summer I spend a month teaching in Rome, Italy; during this period I always find the time to spend a few weeks visiting my relatives in Ticino. In fact, this summer will be the 30th. Anniversary of my first trip to Ticino! I can honestly say that I am closer to my relatives in Ticino than those in California!

6 thoughts on “Grossi and Bacciarini family saga: Lavertezzo, Gudo and Vallejo

  1. E’ una storia intrigante e interessante. I matrimoni tra parenti erano abbastanza comuni nelle valli ticinesi e nelle storie di emigrazione; lo si nota nei registri parrocchiali e nelle relative dispense. Spesso complica la ricostruzione dell’albero genealogico.
    E’ bella la decisione di studiare la lingua degli antenati e farne la propria professione.
    Sarebbe interessante conoscere la bibliografia di quanto è stato pubblicato oltreoceano sull’emigrazione dalla Svizzera Italiana. Conosciamo “The Corippians” di Rae Codoni e lì c’è gia un’ampia bibliografia.
    Ci farebbe piacere incontrarla durante una sua prossima visita in Ticino

    Cordiali saluti

    Candida e Ronald Willemse

  2. Hi Jay,
    I was very interested to read your blog. My Great Grandparents on my Mother’s side were Verzasconi’s from Gudo. (Yes, both of them ) I can trace the family history back to about 1800 in Gudo, but before that I lose the trail in the Valley Verzasca.

    I have gotten quite a bit of informationfrom Ray Verzasconi in Oregon, but I would really like to compare notes. I believe we have a Mini Dairy connection. I guess everybody from Gudo worked there at one time or another!

    I hope to hear from you soon,

    Ron Senger

  3. Jay,
    Complimenti! I just discovered your family history posting. It is so impressive. As you may know, Rae Codoni and I had a correspondence for several years during which I provided him with genealogical information about my Brughelli and Luchessa ancestors from Lavertezzo. Recently, I have been inputting the information Rae sent me. I live in Sacramento and would welcome (treasure!) the opportunity to compare notes. My grandmother and parents were good friends of your Uncle Sam and his family, and the Minetti family in Vallejo. I see that the Willemse have been in touch with you. They have done a tremendous thing for the families of Sonogno and Frasco, where my other Martella and Genardini grandparents emigrated from. I wonder if you happened to be at the 90th anniversary picnic on Sept 5 of the Stanislaus County Swiss Club? I hope to hear from you. Grazie tanto, Linda Brughelli

  4. Jay,
    My name is Laura Boccarini, I’m Italian, from Rome and am currently living in Belgium. I had worked in US twice over the last 15 years and have been always intrigued by members of my family emigrated in US. Once I found in the Ellis Island data base the name of Luigi Boccarini emigrated from Gudo, Italy in 1905. Looking at the original document I could see he went to CA but I could not locate any Boccarini in US. After that, as my family is originary from Amelia, Umbria, i tried to search any relatives of mine in Gudo, now Switzerland, and found many Bacciarini instead. Do you know if that Luigi Boccarini was actually the mispelled version of your family name?
    Thanks a lot for your help.
    Laura Boccarini

  5. Laura,

    Unfortunately I do not know of any Bacciarinis who changed their surname to Boccarini. I did have a couple of uncles who dropped one of the c’s in the surname and went by Baciarini.
    I am really sorry I could not be of any help to you.
    You can always contact me at

  6. Jay, according to Family Tree DNA, you and are I are distant cousins. Are you familiar with (excuse the pun) the last name Gnesa, from Soledad and central coast areas?

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