Research request concerning a “Russi”

by Richard P. Simpson, United States

I am commencing to seek information on the Ticino origins of Antone Russi, born in Ticino in 1845. He was my late wife’s great grandfather who emigrated to El Dorado County, California sometime in the 1860s.  I am not directly related to him; I am seeking this information on behalf of my two children, Antone Russi’s great-great grandchildren.

All I know about Antone Russi is that he was born in 1845, in or near the village of Airolo, or in the Bedretto Valley in northern Ticino.

My late wife and I were in Switzerland for just two days about 15 years ago and didn’t have a car and as it was a holiday, government offices were closed, making access to public records impossible.

We entrained in Bellinzona for a scheduled trip to Lucerne and as we went north through the village of Airolo, I noticed a hotel near the railroad station called “Albergo Forni,” a well-known name in that part of Ticino as well as El Dorado County here in California. Many Italian Swiss emigrated to this county in the mid-19th Century.

Seeing the Forni name in Airolo gave me hope that, someday if I have the time, Airolo might be the place to seek the origins of Antone Russi, since the Italian-Swiss immigrants sought each other out and tended to colonize together when they came here. I also checked Ticino telephone directories and found abundant listings for “Russi” rather than the more common Italian “Rossi.”

Could anyone make any suggestions as to how I might expand my search? After I get better information it is my plan to return to Ticino with my son and research public and church records and perhaps establish contacts with other Russi descendants.

I am motivated to honor Antone Russi’s memory with this research not just for the family but for the circumstances of his short life in California. He became a large dairy farmer in El Dorado County with considerable land holdings in the county and north Lake Tahoe. At the age of 46, in August, 1891, he mysteriously died while on Tahoe summer range. Only two other people were with him at the time–his wife and a hired milker. Cause of death was never disclosed, and within a year his widow married the hired man and in less than nine months after that the newlyweds had their first child. Rumors of foul play (i.e., murder) were always gracefully put to rest by Russi’s surviving five children, all of whom I knew in the 1950s when they were in their 70s and 80s. They were wonderful people who never complained of being disinherited, but became successful on their own.

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