Three reflections on migration

This blog offers three different perspectives of migration.

 Remembering Mary Tonellato nee Zoanetti

Albert Tonellato, Mary Zoanetti, Engagement, 1946

We remember Mary Tonellato nee Zoanetti who died on 16th September 2020, the day before her 96th birthday. Mary had arrived in Adelaide with her mother, Metilde, in 1931. They were reunited with her father, Giosue Zoanetti who had migrated from Zuclo in the province of Trentino in 1927. After Giosue’s death in 1943, Metilde and Mary worked glasshouses together. Mary married Albert Tonellato in 1947 and they worked together for many years in their market garden, starting first on Frogmore Road and then on Findon Road. Mary and Albert had four children, Linda, Raymond, Janet and Diana.

When Mary was interviewed in 2008, she reflected on her life in the market gardens:
I used to enjoy the family and just being together. Work never worried me at all, never had the thought “Oh, gee, how much I’ve got to do and whatever.” Just used to carry on … I really enjoyed life, to be with the family …

You can read the interviews with Mary and Albert Tonellato on the Tonellato page:click here.

Interview with Nevea Antonello
Nevea Antonello’s transcript has been added to the website this week. I interviewed Nevea when I was in Castelfranco Veneto in 2018. Here is a brief overview of her parent’s story based on Nevea’s interview.

Antonello family – Mariano, Sandrina holding Deana, Nevea and Phyllis. Goodwood, 1965

Nevea’s parents migrated from San Martino di Lupari, in the province of Padova in the Veneto region after the Second World War. In the early 1950s Italy was recovering from the war and there was not much work.  Nevea’s father, Mariano Antonello knew some family friends who had emigrated to Australia and one of them sponsored him in 1952. Mariano was 20 years old and he left with the hope of a better future. Nevea’s father kept in touch with his future wife, Sandrina Bertoncello. Sandrina joined Mariano in 1954 and they married in Adelaide. In the first years they both worked and bought a house in Goodwood and had three daughters, Nevea, Phyllis and Deana. They made many Italian friends in Adelaide.

In 1971 the family returned to live in Italy and began a new life in Castelfranco Veneto.

You can listen to the interview with Nevea or read the transcript of the interview. Click here for the transcript.

Another story of migration from the province of Treviso – video
In this short video Angelina and Angelo De Rossi, tell the story of arriving in Griffith, New South Wales in the early 1950s. Angelina speaks about the challenges of migration especially in the first years and she remembers the achievement of owning their own first house.

Agricultural scene in the province of Treviso, 2018

The video is part of the ABC series about Australian History that was produced for Year 10 students in 2010. It is 2 minutes 40 seconds. Click here

Madeleine Regan
18 October 2020


Finding nonna – Part 2

In the previous blog, Cathy Crenna wrote about the first steps in her search to find her information about her nonna’s  family who were born in
Caselle di Altivoli, provincia di Treviso. Here, Cathy provides more details about how to start researching for family history.

DNA Testing
DNA testing is one of the most effective tools to build your family tree. DNA testing was a tremendous asset, particularly in finding relatives in North America and Australia. It is not as popular in Europe and many countries do not permit DNA testing so it is limited in scope.

Angelina, Vincenzo and daughter Guelphina, (Cathy’s nonna, nonno and mother), Ontario, 1964

A DNA test will match you with other members of the same genetic family lines, from all around the world.  Most matches will be very distant going back  4 or more generations – and not all matches will want to communicate with you. It is important to respect this choice.

My DNA testing (I used both Ancestry DNA and 23andMe) connected me with matches from everywhere! Once I had a few surnames to research I began to weave the story backwards in time.

A few of those surnames led me to the Veneto.  Two founding family names of Tonellato and Piovesan were showing up in DNA matches and in family trees from coast to coast in Canada, throughout the USA and in Australia and Brazil.  A Google search of the names brought me to the Veneto market gardeners 1927 website!  I was beyond excited to find this site.  It is what I was hoping for, a connection to ancestors from the same area of the Veneto – in my case, Treviso.

When I read the stories of the Veneto families, I immediately felt the familiarity of the family traditions, and customs.  These original families brought with them their love of family, culture, food and their ethic of hard work and saving. These were very traits that helped them be successful in their new homes here in Canada, in Australia and around the world.

The oral histories of the descendants of the Veneto Market Gardens are keeping their memories alive, not only for their families in Australia and Italy, but also for others, like me, who are searching for those very connections.

Vincenzo and Angelina, Guelph, Ontario, June 1951 (Photo taken on Cathy’s parents’ wedding day)

With the more recent popularity of Ancestry research, there are many more research tools available to us.

The FamilySearch Research Wiki for Italy is a free, online genealogical guide created and maintained by FamilySearch, a non-profit organization. It contains links to genealogy databases, websites, other resources, research strategies, and genealogical guidance to assist in the search for your ancestors. Articles included are locality pages for countries around the world and topic pages that include pertinent genealogy record types explaining how to use the record, what it contains, and how to find it: Click here to view the genealogy site.

This is also a useful Public Broadcasting Service (USA) episode specific to researching Italian Genealogy:

The Italian State Archives house many of the available digital records of births, deaths and marriages in Italy.  Not all church records are available, you may need to go directly to the church records for information. You will need to know exactly where your relative was born to request records.  (The Family Search Wiki will show you how to do this and provides samples of request letters). Click here to access the Italian State Archives.

If you are like me and have lost the ability to communicate in Italian, you can refresh your reading and writing skills by learning the language! Its free on the Duolingo application. To access the Duolingo site click here.

Immigrant Italian families are a testament to the grit, determination and love of family that sustained them.  Their loyalty, ethics of hard work, saving, and owning land that can be passed down to the future generations made them assets in their new land.  These traits established the Italian family that was a well- known and respected unit of labour.

While the early immigrants may have been fully participating in a new life in a new country, their hearts were always anchored in Italy. We the descendants of Italian immigrants who are scattered across the globe may not have the same intimate connection with our extended families that those who remained in Italy enjoy.  Many of us are searching for that connection.

It is important to remember and honour the sacrifices, traditions and courage of our ancestors.   I didn’t find Zia Amalia in my ancestry journey but I gained a better understanding of the depth and breadth of Italian family.  I found a family that spans centuries, crosses continents and nourishes my soul.  I found nonna.

Angelina Botter and Vincenzo Giovanditto, wedding, Guelph-Ontario, July 9 1927 (Witnesses: Nicola and Carmelina Finamore)

Thank you nonna for having the courage to and strength to make your journey.

Cathy Crenna
4 October 2020











Finding nonna

Guest blogger, Cathy Crenna, writes about her family history research and creating a  family tree for her nonna who was born in Caselle di Altivole, provincia di Treviso, Veneto, Italia. Part 2 will be posted on 4 October.

Catherine Crenna, summer garden, Belleville, Ontario, September 2020

My name is Catherine Crenna. I am Canadian, born in 1953 to an Italian mother Guelphina Giovanditto, and an Austrian-Hungarian/German father, Peter Fischbach.  I live in a lovely part of Ontario where I spend my time gardening, cooking, sewing and researching family history!

My nonna, Angelina Botter, born in 1900 in Caselle di Altivole, Treviso, Veneto, Italia arrived in Canada in 1927 at the age of 27. She landed at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia and travelled to Guelph, Ontario to a marriage arranged by her older sister Onorina who had arrived in Canada in 1926.  The man who was to become her husband, and our nonno, was Vincenzo Giovanditto, born in 1892 in Sannicandro Garganico, Foggia.

Bortolo Botter & Carolina Dametto, Caselle di Altivole, c 1900

Nonna had very few stories to share about her childhood growing up in Caselle.  It was arranged for her to go to Venice at the age of 16 to work creating fine needlework and embroidery for a wealthy Venetian family.  Her two elder sisters Amalia and Onorina also went into service at the age of 16, sending their wages back home to support the family. The poverty and lack of opportunity in the Veneto forced many to leave their home in search of a better life, a common immigrant story.  Some went very far, crossing oceans to the North American, South American, and Australian continents.   Sister Amalia remained behind.  We lost touch with her and her family. Old letters and postcards didn’t provide enough information to find her.  I wanted to find out more about Amalia.  I went searching for zia.

Amalia Botter – Milan, date unknown

Family Tree
The first step I used in researching family history was to create a family tree.  I would recommend you start by gathering information on your family using what you already know.  Look at family records, pictures, old birth and death notices and family albums. Check the newspaper archives in your country and in the country of your ancestor’s birth. Visit  a free service to locate family resting places. Click here to visit

Ask relatives to help fill in the blanks.  Visit grandparents, aunts and uncles and ask about their family stories. Tap into that wealth of information.  Once you have gathered your information, put it together in a tree. The Family Tree will help visualize your family and its connections to other families.

Angelina and Vincenzo wedding, Guelph-Ontario, July 9 1927
Bortolo Botter & Carolina Dametto - family tree screenshot
Bortolo Botter & Carolina Dametto – family tree screenshot

There are many online tools to help build a Family Tree. The largest and most comprehensive free website is Family Search . You can create your family tree and view the family trees of others. and are two of the largest commercial databases for building family trees.  They allow you to create your tree at no charge, but you cannot view other trees or do research on stored records without paying a fee. Also click here for a European focus.

However, your local library may have a subscription to the Library Version of Ancestry that will give you access to all the records for no charge. Some libraries will also help you create your family tree and advise you on where the best research resources are located.

Love of Italian language and cooking
I combine my fascination with Italian cooking and with the Italian language by watching cooking videos in Italian.  Two of my favourites are “The Pasta Grannies” and “Fatto in Casa di Benedetta”

They are fun to watch as well as being educational!

Cathy Crenna
20 September 2020

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