Seeking info on Rotanzi family of Peccia

From Marilyn Longinotti Geary, United States

I am searching for information on the Rotanzi Family of Peccia. Three sons of father Luigi Rotanzi left in the mid-19th century. Francesco went to Australia in 1855 and became a manager of a gold mining operation.Virgilio left for the SF Bay Area in California in 1861, his brother Alessandro in 1862. Alessandro died a couple of years after arriving. Virgilio married a woman named Elisa and died in 1871 in San Francisco. Apparently they had no children. I greatly appreciate any information about Rotanzi family members in Peccia, California or Australia.

10 thoughts on “Seeking info on Rotanzi family of Peccia

  1. Some of the Rotanzi’s lived with my relatives, first in Petaluma in 1880, and then in San Diego. They worked at dairies like most of the Swiss from Vallemaggia. Like you mentioned, the Rotanzi’s hail from Peccia. One interesting note. My great grandfather was married in Ferndale, Ca in 1891, to Barbara Jecchi. The church then sent the document in Latin to Cimalmottto, where the Spaletta’s come from. The accepting priest who signed the document in Cimalmotto was Albert Rotanzi from Peccia, son of Gaetano and Isabelle Rotanzi. Albert had a brother, Eligio, who lived in Cayucos with his wife Carolina Giovanetti.
    I have a copy of the Rotanzi coat of arms if you would like. Bill

  2. HI Marilyn,
    Francesco Rotanzi was an important man and well respected. He worked hard for the Swiss Italian community here in those early days.
    The following information is from Clare Gervasoni’s “Research Directory & Bibliography of Swiss and Italian Pioneers in Australasia, 2002″ publisher, Ballarat Heritage Services.
    Rotanzi was born in Peccia sailed to Australia on the ‘Alster’. He was Secretary of the Hepburn Springs Italian Library in 1864. In 1865 Rotanzi applied for a quarrtz claim at White Hills, Spring Creek, and was naturalised in 1869. He was secretary of the Hepburn Mineral springs Committee in 1868. Rotanzi was Battista Borsa’s book keeper, as well as Secretary of the Daylesford Swiss-Italian Society in 1872, 1875. He served as secretary for the Shire of Franklin, and in 1872 was the permanent secretary of the Manchester Unity IOOF, Hepburn Lodge. IN 1872 Rotanzi was manager of the Great Tunnelling Gold MIning Company. He died in Hepburn Springs on 26 December 1880 and is buried at Daylesford (C of E Sect 7 Row D). A tombstone was erected by his numerous friends as a token of respect and esteem for his many virtues and faithful manner in which he discharged his duties as a public servant.”
    There was also a PG Rotanzi in Gervasoni’s directory, but it may have been the same man with the F mistaken for a P.
    To understand what some of the references mean, you can google them I’m sure.

  3. Hi Bill,

    Thank you so much for your reply.
    I am amazed and gratified at the responses I’ve received to my query.

    The 1880 US Census lists a Samuel Rotanzi, age 27, living in Petaluma, CA
    with a Gaspar Spaletta, age 33 and a couple of other single men: James Porta,
    Batista Martinelli and Marco Bonetti. Is this Gaspar Spaletta a part of the family you mention?

    Samuel Rotanzi later moved to San Diego and married a woman named Caterina. He may have worked for Charles Martin (Carlo Martinoia) on his San Ysidro ranch. I am looking to connect Samuel with the Rotanzi family I am researching (father Luigi, sons Virgilio, Alessandro and Francesco).

    Virgilio came to California in 1861 and died in 1871. He also worked with
    Carlo Martinoia in a commission brokerage business in San Francisco.
    Alessandro did not last more than a year or so. Francesco was the most successful, in Australia, as Barb has noted in her comments.

    Thanks for your offer on the coat of arms. I’m not sure of the origins,
    since I have understood that only nobility had coat of arms (which they used to identify themselves when going to war) whereas the Rotanzi’s were farmers in Ticino. I think the father Luigi was a teacher and possibly a judge, so perhaps that’s where the coat of arms comes in…. ???

    RE: the priest Albert in Peccia. his brother Eligio and his wife Carolina
    had a son Norman, who was the Head Gardener at Hearst’s Castle at San Simeon for many decades. There is quite a bit of information available on Norman Rotanzi including an oral history.

    I would like to tie these Rotanzi’s together and Peccia is clearly the source.

    Thanks again for your reply.

  4. Hi Marilyn (and others),

    Very interesting, my Great Grandfather Alessandro Mattei came out on the Agen Heinrich too with about 50 others, including one woman, from Cevio. He was 16 when he boarded in Hamburg. To learn more of the voyage out, see:

    -Pozzi, Leonardo: ‘We were transported to shore by the lice’. The Pozzi correspondence is taken from the two volumes on the migrations of Ticinesi to Australia (L’emigrazione ticinese in Australia) by historian Giorgio Cheda, and reprinted with his kind permission on, Jan 7, 2009. Accessed 21 Sept 2010.

    The question of name of the ship is not of significance to me but your links were very interesting – Tony Pagliari mentioned as an historian translating Cheda. I have had email contact with Tony and I don’t believe he translated all of Cheda, but he did translate some letters from his book, see:

    -Letters from Swiss Italian immigrants to Victoria in the 19th Century by Tony Pagliari in the Newsletter of the Italian Historical Society, COASIT, Victoria. Jan – Feb- Mar 1991. Vol 2 No 1.

    I doubt you would be able to access the journal in USA and I don’t think it is available online. The short article describes life for the immigrants using short extracts to illustrate the point.

    -If you wanted to research what it was like here then, we have an excellent source of data in newspapers available online through “Trove” You could search for your family name there… you never know what you would find!

    When my book gets written eventually (!) there will be a good bit about the journey here and those early years. They were very interesting.

    -One more reference. Bridget Carlson has a thesis published and available online. “IMMIGRANT PLACEMAKING IN COLONIAL AUSTRALIA: THE ITALIAN-SPEAKING SETTLERS OF DAYLESFORD”.
    I highly recommend Bridget’s work, she looks closely at a number of families who settled in the area.

    Now that’s enough work to keep you occupied for months to come!

    Good luck with it all,

  5. Barb,
    Thank you for this information.
    I love this comment, “‘We were transported to shore by the lice’.”
    What a long and difficult journey to Australia. Would love to see what the ships looked like inside…the steerage area.

    I have read Bridget Carlson’s thesis, Very interesting description of the immigrant’s lives.

    I have also found the National Library of Australia’s digitized newspapers: Yes, lots of info there (in very tiny print!)

    And the book Per L’Australia, by Julia Church is available in at least one US library which may be on inter-library loan.

    Interesting that the letter translations were published in the Italian Historical Society newsletter. Are there no Swiss-Italian heritage organizations in Australia?

    BTW: Alessandro Rotanzi came to the US with an Angelo Mattei in 1862.

    THANKS so much for your help,

  6. Barb,
    thanks for the lead.

    The Italian Historical Society has put its newsletters online.

    Here is the Tony Pagliari article based on the letters of Swiss-Italian immigrants.

    Click to access IHS%20Journal005.pdf

    Another article, Italians and Swiss-Italians in Victoria in the 1860s by Bette Leone Maiuto in the newsletter of September-November 1990 vol. 1 no. 4.

    There could be more!

  7. Hi Marilyn,

    Thanks for that link.

    Have you checked the LDS for Pecchia church records? I have looked at their film of the Cevio records last year. They are hard to read but a wealth of information.

    The Italian Historical society is well resourced and staffed and is sprobably the best umbrella for small publications. The Swiss Italian area here in Vic is Daylesford/Hepburn springs and there is an annual ‘fiesta’ but since the big ones of a few years ago, it seems to be not so big. The local history organisation is a bit moribund – nice people but not many invovled and not a celebration of Swiss Italian heritage. I think that because our people did have the same opportunity to become established and financially sound, our Swiss Italian heritage is a bit hidden.

    The Angelo MATTEI you mention is probably a cousin – but there were lots of Mattei’s in Cevio (7 families in the 1832 church Census). I am always on the lookout for my USA connections though. Constanza Maria Giovanna MATTEI (b. Jan 1872) died in Modesto Calif. Jul 1949, and Giovanna Maria MATTEI (b. Jul 1880) married Silvio VENTURINI of the USA. These two were daughters of my great great uncle Pietro MATTEI – he had two more grils and two boys also…. but they are illusive.

    Happy New Year!

  8. Wow ! I had no idea there were so many others interested in the Rotanzi family. My grandfather was Eligio and lived in Cayucos, California. He and my grandmother, Carolina Giovanetti, had 5 children: Delia, Alice, Albert( my father, not the priest), Guido, and Norman. I am going to Ticino in September and would be willing to interview our relatives regarding your questions.

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