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Gerald Langston Fabian
(March 2003 -- San Francisco, CA)

From where did your family emigrate and when? Who emigrated (self, parents, grandparents) and what were their names?
My mother's family emigrated from Borgiallo (Borgial in Piemontese), a village in the Valle Sacra, Canavese, in the late 19th century. My maternal grandmother was Marietta Ardissone and her husband was Carlo Alberto Trucano. My granda's father was, I believe, the first of her family to come to America. He was known as Big John Ardisson in the Far West. Besides my grandmother, he had three sons who eventually followed him to America and worked with him here. At least two of those sons returned to Piemonte before World War I, one of them with an Italian-American wife and the other married in Borgial. My nóno's father was Giacomo Trucano who had come to America perhaps even earlier than Big John. He had married in Borgial to a lady who was known by the sobriquet (stranóm) of Teresa 'd Sinéivia. She apparently bore him an enormous family. The descendants are now scattered throughout the Dakotas, Montana, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The list is imposing. My grandparents met and married in Borgial, but for some reason they did not arrive in America together. Big John took his daughter to Paris where he bought her a trousseau and then they proceeded to Cherbourg where they embarked on the transatlantic liner Champlain for New York. That was in 1898. My grandmother had four children, only two of whom survived: my mother Teresa Louisa Trucano and my uncles James John Trucano. They each had only one child. My first cousin Teri Lou Patterson lives in Camarillo, California. She has two children and five grandchildren. I have been single all my life.

What led them to their destination (relatives already there, hopes of a job at a mill, mine, etc. Please explain)?
My male ancestors left Piedmont looking for opportunity certainly, but also I suspect were lured by the rugged adventure of the Far West. When they arrived in the Black Hills, veins of gold and silver had recently been struck, but also the Oglala Sioux were far from pacified. Oddly enough I never heard that Giacomo Trucano ever worked in any mines. He was a cattleman by profession and in Piemonte he was said to have sold cattle to Greece and he may have traveled there as well. Big John on the other hand, hung around mining camps. He knew the Black Hills, Butte, Washington State and finallyy, Christopher, Illinois.

Did they emigrate to another location before or after (Argentina, France, England, etc.)?
The Valle Sacra had always produced miners from before the Roman conquest. Veins of gold and copper were in the region and nuggets of gold washed down the Orco River. With the acquisition of Sardinia in the 18th century, Canavesan miners emigrated there. My grandmother recounted that her grandmother's husband had died of a fever, circa 1848, in Alghero, where he had been working in the copper mines.

Did they settle among other Piemontesi and were they members of a Piemontese society (fraternal, mutual aid, etc.)?
My grandparents left the Black Hills around 1900 and settled in the sizeable Canvesan colony of Meaderville, a suburb of Butte, Montana. My grandfather kept his ties to Italy and worked for the Italian consulate during World War I helping to round up draft dodgers. For this he was rewarded with the order of cavaliere. I have lived in San Francisco since 1941 with the exception of 1943-'45 (World War II) and 1970-'79, when I lived in New York City, Washington DC and traveled in Europe on a Grand Tour.

Did your family maintain Piemontesi traditions -- language, culture, history, cuisine, etc.?
Piemontese was spoken extensively in Meaderville. I arrived there when I was nine months old and I grew up bi-lingual. The area was full of boarding houses for miners where Piemontese specialties were served. There were also famous restaurants and speakeasies, since it was a time of prohibition. Nóna served us "supa, pan e cój," "polenta e merluss," in addition to "risót con pôlastr," "tajarin," "sabajon" and "torciéit." Meaderville also had two or three very good importers of specialty foods such as antipasto, chocolate and panettone.

Did your family return home to visit or to live after the initial emigration? Did they maintain contact with family back home?
Although Big John seemed to have traveled back and forth, the others did not. However, I believe his sons did all return. Charles Albert went back only once, to marry Marietta. But the most famous family member, Catlinin Temperino, widowed in 1900, returned to Turin with four children and they were such live wires that they began building automobiles and had a factory that competed with Fiat. The Temperino racer is still on exhibit at the Automobile Museum in Turin.

Do you identify yourself more as American, Italian or Piemontese?
I am a patriotic American, having served in combat areas with the U.S. Navy in World War II. I also have a strong cultural identity with the Piemontese from the "imprint" of my grandmother, who survived until 1958. I've always had an avid thirst for knowledge of Piemontese language, customs and history. By extension I have a penchant for all the so-called romance language, including English. Specifically, I have a degree in French, but I also have a good grasp of Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Catalan and Provençal.


Have you visited your family's town(s) in Piemonte? What was your experience like?
I have visited Piedmont and Borgial several times since 1978. The experience has always been edifying, not to say dramatic. I have had the great good fortune to become acquainted with many persons who are at the forefront of trying to teach and preserve the Piemontese language and its rich literary tradition. (Note: Mr. Fabian teaches Piemontese language classes in San Francisco.)

Have you studied your Piemontesi genealogy? Please explain why.

I have more or less pieced our genealogy together back to 1700. Following Plato's saying, "Know Thyself," I think it's important to find out as much as possible about one's background and history.

Do you belong to the Piemontesi nel Mondo, Famija Piemonteis or any other organization?

I do belong to the Piemontesi nel Mondo of Northern California. I also lead a cultural study group for them known as, "El Cit Sírcol dë Studi Piemontéis."

Il testo in italiano


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