The 12 Mattei children

barb_mullen2By Barb Mullen, Australia

Alessandro and Catherine who were probably married early Nov 1865, didn’t have too long together before Catherine became pregnant. Their first born Alex was conceived sometime in the winter in 1866.

For the next 22 years, Catherine was either breastfeeding or pregnant, with little of a break in between. The last child, named Patrick Francis, was born late winter in 1887.

The Mattei house was full of children all through the lives of Alessandro and Catherine.

While all the 12 children lived to adulthood, three daughters and one son are believed to have no descendants living today.

What were their names?

All parents give special thought to the naming of their children. Alessandro and Catherine carefully considered the families they left behind when selecting names. However, the names on the register of their birth, did not necessarily reflect the names they were known by.

Typically, their children had anglicized names for their registration of birth, but were formally known throughout their lives by their Swiss Italian names. On a day to day basis, they were called often by a diminution of their name. For example, Ann, who was Anesia, was known as Easie.

Large families

To have a large family would have been important to the young couple. Not only was it a part of their religion, but it was also because the family was the basic economic unit.

Cevio was a remote and isolated village even for Switzerland. The family needed to be self sufficient in order to withstand the rigours of a geographically harsh environment. A family had to provide all the food staples, clothes, shoe repairs, furniture making and repairs, house maintenance and so on. In this regard the Ticinese were well prepared for the challenging environment of the goldfields.

Catherine similarly lived in a remote part of Ireland, her house was not even in the village. So, in Catherine’s farming family, she would have learnt the important aspects of self sufficiency, especially food production.

It would have been a matter of real celebration when the firstborn was a boy. Alex would be able to help his father in the heavy work as soon as he was able. Mary, who was born next would assist her mother with family duties, especially with the younger children.

When Joe was born, the married couple would have felt a sense of relief: now there would be two healthy lads to help the family with work.

Then, the next 6 children were girls. In order there was Nellie, Hannah, Kit, Easie, Sophia and Taresa, all born within ten years.

By this time, Catherine would have been exhausted. Young Alex would have been working with his father, Joe at the age of 12, probably helped his father out also. There were many mouths to feed.

The final three children were boys: Quill, Peter and Frank. Perhaps these three would be able to care for their family when their parents aged and could no longer work.

The twelve children spanned twenty years. This was a burdensome family size in Australia. The way of surviving here was not the same as in the village of Cevio. The circumstances were very different.

The older boys

Alex was registered as Alessandro by his mother. He was born on 10 February, the summer of 1867, in Monkey Gully, to two proud parents. The couple had probably left the Daylesford area by 1866 because a depression had struck by Dec 1865. It was in Monkey Gully that Alessandro took up work as splitting timber. This would have meant he was sub contracting to local timber merchants and timber mills.

Alex as an older man

alexasolderman
Joe, named after his grandfather, was born 8 Sept 1869, in the heavily forested area south of Daylesford, in the district of Gordon. His father was still involved in the timber industry, this time as a labourer.

Both boys grew up to work with their father in the timber industry in their early adult years, work that Alex continued in for much of his life. Joe however, left the path determined for him and took to hotel work after he married.

The older girls-part one

Mary’s name was registered as Maria Dolorata, she was born in Monkey Gully. Nellie’s birth was registered at the State Forest where Alessandro was working as a labourer, probably at the timber mill. Perhaps it was because the authorities had difficulty with non anglicized names, that Nellie was registered as Ellen. Her formal name in the family was Jacomina Ellen – after her aunt in Cevio.

Catherine, who had by now been married for about five years, probably wanted a different life for her daughters. Alessandro brought his village with him in his mind and he would have been the undisputed head of the household. Furthermore he worked long and hard for little reward. It would have been no accident that Catherine’s daughters became businesswomen.

Denbigh House: Nellie’s boarding house.

denbigh

Two special girls

On 24 September 1973, Hannah was born in the Band of Hope Mill where Alessandro was working as a labourer. Her registration certificate names her as Johanna Morea, but she was formally known as Johanna Marion. Hannah was probably a special child from birth. She did not advance as quickly as the others at school and she did not handle the rough and tumble of life as easily.

Hannah Mattei at about 23 yrs.

hannah1

Hannah was looked after by her family, as an adult, she acquired a property thanks to her family. At the age of 40 she married and on the certificate she says she is 38. She signed this in perfect copperplate handwriting. Hannah spent a number of occasions in mental health institutions throughout her life. She never had any children of her own.

Sophia was born on the 27 June 1879 . By now however, Alessandro had returned to work as a splitter, working for various timber merchants and mills. By this time, timber work was becoming more difficult due to over logging. In 1904 when Sophia married she had been living in Matlock where her older sister Kit and her husband had opened a café/restaurant. She was already ill by this time, with tuberculosis. Within two years she had given birth to a child who died soon after. Not too long later, she also was dead. Her death certificate records her name as Sophia Augusta.

Sophia, dressed for work in Matlock

sophie1

The other three girls

Kit’s registration of birth is yet to be found, as is her baptism-that she lived is indisputable. Kit, also known as Catherine Myrtle and even Caterina, was born in 1875. An independent woman, she and her husband opened restaurants, cafes and hotels in Matlock, Woods Point and Wonthaggi. When her husband died, Kit continued on to become a very successful businesswoman.

Anesia was registered as Ann, she was born on the 8th August 1877. Easie seems to have lived an exceptional life. Different in temperament to her ambitious sisters, she did seem to be suited to her name. She lived in the old family home in Blackwood before moving to Clifton Hill and devoted her life to her family, friends and neighbours.

Taresa was the last of the girls to be born to Catherine, on the 27 March 1881-probably in the same house at Bolwarrah as the others. Taresa and her husband spent their early years operating the Kevington Hotel until the first of a series of misfortunes disrupted their life. When she moved to St Kilda she operated a lollie shop while she nursed her dying husband. Taresa had learnt her mother’s lesson, she was also a businesswoman.

Taresa Dare nee Mattei with Kit Monighetti nee Mattei

kit

The three young boys

Quill was named after his uncle Tranqillino in Cevio. He was born on 11th Feb 1883. The family had now moved to Blakeville Road, but were still in the same area, Alessandro was now a timber feller. Quill worked in the family mill when they moved to Toolangi. Then, as a husband and father, he moved to Melbourne.

Peter James was born 23 October 1884. He was shorter than the other men in the family and had a jolly predisposition. He left the timber industry, worked as a stevedore before entering the hotel industry. He had unhappy relationships and at the age of 57 died at the Ballarat Benevolent Home.

The three young boys

Quill was named after his uncle Tranqillino in Cevio. He was born on 11th Feb 1883. The family had now moved to Blakeville Road, but were still in the same area, Alessandro was now a timber feller. Quill worked in the family mill when they moved to Toolangi. Then, as a husband and father, he moved to Melbourne.

Peter James was born 23 October 1884. He was shorter than the other men in the family and had a jolly predisposition. He left the timber industry, worked as a stevedore before entering the hotel industry. He had unhappy relationships and at the age of 57 died at the Ballarat Benevolent Home.

Frank Mattei

frank

2 thoughts on “The 12 Mattei children

  1. Hi Barb,
    In Monte Carasso, a village on the right bank of the Ticino River between Bellinzona and Locarno, live several Monighetti and Giudotti families who are not related to the Monighettis and Guidottis from Biasca.
    Congratulations on the research and the diaries.
    Antonio Guidotti

  2. Hi Antonio,

    Thank you for clearing that up. I thought that was so, but then when I look at these Monighetti’s it can get confusing for me… Our famous marathon runner Steve Monighetti is from Monte Carasso.
    I think my great aunt Kit wasn’t too discretionary when she ‘claimed’ relatives at times. She claimed a Mattei who was a surgeon here in the 1930s, but he wasn’t from Ticino I believe.
    When we read historical documents, it helps to read them in context eh?
    Meanwhile I am trying to trace Alessandro Monighetti born Biasca 1829 or 1832, who arrived with my great uncle to be, Carlo Monighetti. Alessandro made a name for himself running hotels in the Daylesford area, one of which he bought off Leonardo Pozzi…
    Cheers,
    Barb

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