Why do Mattei’s matter….?

from Barb Mullen, Australia

Descendants of Alessandro Mattei and his wife Catherine Mulcahy understand very well why Mattei’s matter! It’s self evident.


Alessandro Mattei, Born: 31 August 1838

But, the need for a regular publication linking Mattei people interested in their families has become apparent. And so, here is what we did.

For a few months now, some Mattei cousins have been collaborating on research into the Mattei family. Building on their work over many years, this effort is going towards the production of the story of the life of Alessandro Mattei and the family he and Catherine had.

This newsletter is to link the current Mattei descendants, to share the work of all researchers and hopefully to enrich the research already undertaken with contributions from other cousins.

In this edition the focus is on the beautiful village of Cevio where Alessandro was born.

If you have any Mattei information you would like to share, please let us know.
Written contributions for this newsletter should be no more than 200 words in length. Please reference all sources of information, including oral histories.
Photographs or documents are eagerly encouraged.

If you wish to be put on the mailing list, contact me through this website.


cevio-postcardCevio is a picturesque little village in the Swiss Alps. It is in the centre of the Valle Maggia, a narrow valley surrounded by the steep mountains on all sides except where it opens onto Lake Maggia. The people of Cevio speak Italian as their first language. In Ticino the first language is Italian. One other Canton, Grigioni has native Italian speakers, but most of Switzerland is German and French speaking. The people of Cevio are Italian by culture and have close links with the north of Italy, but they are proud to be Swiss.

The family in the mid 1700’s-the fifth generation.

The earliest records of the Mattei family show that Antonio MATTEI(5) would have been born in Cevio in the mid 1700s, as was his cousin Giovanni Batista MATTEI(5). Antonio(5) we know was married and had at least two sons. Giovanni Batista(5) was the father of at least one daughter.

Meanwhile, a neighbour, Martino CHRISTOPHINI(5), had at least one daughter. We will meet his family again later.

They all lived in interesting times. At the start of the 1600s, the population was about 700, and by the time of the next census of 1801, the population had dropped to about 490. This massive drop in inhabitants of Cevio is an indication of traumatic times. The Mattei’s that are written of here lived through invasions, wars, famines, civil unrest and political upheaval.

These three great, great grandfathers of Alessandro MATTEI(1) were born into this world.

Cousins Giuseppe and Antonia marry: the fourth generation.

Domenica MATTEI(4), daughter of Giovanni Batista MATTEI(5) and her cousin, Giuseppe MATTEI(4), son of Antonio MATTEI(5), married in the later 1700s.

Change was in the air, this Mattei family, including Antonio MATTEI(4), Giuseppe(4)’s brother, were a part of that change. Antonio(4) married Antonia CHRISTOPHINI(4) daughter of Martino CHRISTOPHINI(5). Antonio(4) and Antonia(4) had at least one daughter of whom we will learn more.

Meanwhile, a neighbour, Carlo TRONI(4) was the proud father of at least one daughter who will become important to this family.

The Guiseppe(4) and Domenica(4) family would have felt the future was promising. A notary is a person of some significance, Giuseppe(4) held a position of authority. The Mattei’s were doing well.


In the times we are speaking of, cousins marrying cousins was not unusual.
Giuseppe Mattei(4) was a notary. This was an important position in society. He was a man of education and wealth. He would have wanted to consolidate his position for his family and his choices were limited. It made sense to marry his cousin. He and his wife, Domenica would have had significant status in the small community.

In this period of time, the later 1700s was a time of upheaval. There were revolutions throughout Europe and Napoleon was walking his army across the continent. Marrying cousins was a way to keep the family intact and wealth within the family.

4 thoughts on “Why do Mattei’s matter….?

  1. Hello, Ms. Mullen.

    I happened upon Dale Bechtel on-line who, after a couple of e-mail exchanges, encouraged me to post here. I’m a California native of Swiss Italian descent from Cevio. My family knows the Mattei family; my paternal grandmother’s name was Filippini; and my father is a Tomasini.

    The Point Reyes Light, a local Marin County newspaper, might be a valuable source since it periodically devotes an issue to Swiss Italians in the area. Also, the Nicasio (where my mom lives) Historical Society might be a source of useful information: http://www.nicasio.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=42&Itemid=59
    Also, regarding the Mattei family, Jim Mattei works in his clothing store (“Mattei’s”) in Petaluma.

  2. Hi Lisa, thank you for your information. I have checked out the Nicasio website and it looks interesting.
    My ‘problem’ with the MATTEI’s is that there were so many of them! When my Mattie’s left Cevio, there were at least 5 Mattei families there (census figures). But I do know something of the California Mattei’s that are directly related – keeping in mind that if they were from Cevio, then almost all of Cevio was family anyway!

    So, here is what I know of my great grandfather’s big brother Pietro.
    Pietro (born 14 Oct 1835, Cevio) married Marietta Luigia Respini (born 11 May 1843, Cevio) on 12 April 1871.
    They had 6 children:
    Constanza Maria Giovanna (born 12 Jan 1872 in Cardiff) – I think she died in Modesto, California in 1949.
    Pia Rosa Stephano Giovanna Maria (born 25 January 1876 in Cardiff) – she was I think an unmarried mother of a daughter.
    Pietro Carlo (24 January 1879 in Orselina). Giuseppe and Giovanna Maria, were twins, (born 16 July 1880 in Orselina) – Giovanna married a VENTURINI, perhaps his first name was Silvio.
    Maria Guglielmina (born 11 August 1882, in Muralto). She was also probably a single mother to a daughter.

    When my great aunt Kit MONIGHETTI visited the family home in Cevio in 1930. It was reported to her that the three surviving daughters mortgaged the family home to go to California.

    Now, my great grandfather, Alessandro also had two sisters and two other brothers who lived to adulthood. They were:
    Maria Giocomina (born 1833, Cevio)
    Marianna Tranquillina (born 1841, Cevio) Giuseppe Cesare Giuliano (born 1845, Cevio) Tranquillino (born 1848) Of this brothers and sisters, I know nothing…yet

    I know also that the generation above Alessandro had people who went to California also but exactly how many of my 7 great, great aunts and uncles, I don’t know.
    They included:
    Maria Domenica (born 1811) she was married to Giuseppe DOLCINI (born 1812, died destitute in Sydney 1856) Pietro (born 1818) Maria Agatha (born 1820) married to Giovanni RESPINI who travelled to Aust with my great grandfather Alessandro in 1855. They had 5 children I believe.
    Margarita (born 1822)
    Maria Assumpta (born 1824)
    Giuliano (born 1828)
    Constanza (born 1830)

    Now, have I gone and complicated the story? Well, that’s family history eh? I do love the way we can connect and share our stories.

  3. Hello Barb,
    Not sure where you reside but I just stumbled upon this blog site.

    I am a HAMMOND and this line married a DARE. James DARE married Teresa Jane MATTEI (born 1881 Bungaree, Victoria) in 1905 in Victoria. Teresa is the daughter of Alessandro MATTEI and Catherine MULCAHY.

    Do you have a website of your genealogy research. Maybe I can fill in gaps in the DARE branch for you??

    John Hammond
    Brisbane, Australia

  4. Hey cousin!

    Descedant of Rebecca am I right? What great luck to find you. The Dare genealogy is wonderful and I may have some stuff for you too…. but the Dare work I have was collated before the internet explosion, so you may know most of it. Some very interesrting stuff therre too.

    I am in Port Melbourne, email: barbara_mullen@iprimus.com.au

    I would love to share stuff with you – although these darn Mattei’s do take up all my time these days.

    cheers to you too!

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