The Californian letters of Silvio DeBernardi

From Natasha De Bernardi, Ticino

Between 1880 and 1914, 27,000 young people from Ticino emigrated to California. Silvio Debernardi (14.1.1873 -13.7.1954) was one of them. This book ( contains 61 letters written and received by my great grandfather Silvio during his years in California, from 1891 to 1901.


The book is in English with the original Italian transcription printed at the end of each letter. Sixty-one images are included in the publication.

One thought on “The Californian letters of Silvio DeBernardi

  1. Natasha’s book Silvio’s Letters, is a wonderful account of the immigration from Ticino to California. The book is his personal account, but applies to all of us who are the descendants of the Ticinesse. The book speaks to the longing for the journey, the voyage to the new land and what they found after they arrived. The land described as “milk and honey” was not always that, but the Ticinesse took these situations and made them theirs. Natasha has diligently translated these letters in chronological order and added historical accounts to enhance the readers experience.

    By reading Silvio’s Letters, the reader experiences what these immigrants were thinking, feeling and experiencing. They tried to support their families as much as they could back in the old country, while trying to make a life in the new. The book shows how the immigrants banded together making new communities of their fellow countrymen, and assimilating into their new culture. This is illustrated as the years and letters pass you begin to notice the blend of Italian and English words in the letters.

    The interesting fact for anyone reading Silvio’s story is that if you are a descendent of a Ticinesse immigrant, you could almost replace the names of Silivo’s family and friends with your own family. As, a lot of what Silvio experienced is what each of our family members experienced as well. Adjusting to the new land, finding work, being alone in a foreign country, longing for home, welcoming fellow countrymen into the community, and awaiting news from home – all this would be difficult, as you could imagine. As the title of SwissInfo’s special report on the Ticinesi “We shall not stay long”, it was always a desire to return home, and each immigrate had to determine what was best for them and their families.

    Another great call out, about the book is it is in English with photos of the original letters throughout. It is truly a rare find to have a history of the Ticinesse in California written in English. Wonderful job Natasha and thank you for preserving the history and past of Ticino and California.

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