This is the first post in a miniseries that explores the personal military history of Jeffrey Storey, decedent of the conflict-laden regions of Auronzo di Cadore on the Austrian border in the Italian Alps.
Many people are interested in the history of their family, known as genealogy. However, when looking at their lineage many people often don’t think that family history and military history can be complimentary. In this paper I would like to explore one instance where this is the case, my family. Few people have a family history with a military tradition that extends as far back as the year 15 BCE and as recent as 1972.
My ancestors came from the town of Auronzo di Cadore in the Cadore district in the north Italian region of Veneto. Auronzo di Cadore is located 20 miles south of the Austrian border in the Italian Alps. The people of Auronzo di Cadore are not Italians but forcibly Italianized Ladins. The district of Cadore is part of the Ladin People and nation in the Alps of Northern Italy. The Euganei peoples lived in the Cadore district before the Veneti. My ancestral town of Auronzo di Cadore was founded in 500 BCE as a pagan cult site, most likely by the ancient Veneti People, whom many present day scholars think were a northern branch of the Latin peoples. The Latin peoples settled in the region of Latium in Central Italy, which is the present location for the city of Rome.
The town of Auronzo di Cadore was invaded 100 years after its formation by the Celtic Insubres tribe. By the time of the Roman conquest of the Alpine regions of northern Italy and Switzerland in 15 BCE, another ethnic group settled and mixed with the Latin Veneti, the Celtic Insubres, and the Euganei, who were already living in Auronzo di Cadore. The new inhabitants of Auronzo di Cadore were the Rhaetians. It’s most likely that the Rhaetian peoples were a northern branch of the ancient Etruscans. The Romans, under the brothers Drusus and the future Roman Emperor Tiberius, conquered the peoples who made up the Rhaetian confederation of tribes in 15 BCE, because the tribes who made up the Rhaetian confederation were raiding the Western European provinces of the Roman Empire. The brothers Drusus and the future Roman Emperor Tiberius were stepsons of the first Emperor of the Roman Empire, Augustus Caesar. Caesar dispatched his stepsons to militarily conquer the Alpine lands of the Rhaetian tribal confederation. Drusus and Tiberius were both talented generals. Drusus came from the south and Tiberius marched eastward from Gaul, now France and Belgium. Against the pincer moves of Drusus and Tiberius, the Rhaetian confederation of tribes was quickly conquered. After the Roman conquest of the Alpine areas of northern Italy and present day Switzerland, Caesar’s Roman legionnaires (soldiers) settled the areas as military colonists, both to keep the recently conquered tribes quiet and also to spread Roman civilization among the local tribes.
The Roman legionnaire military colonists were veterans of the Rhaetian Campaign. To this day, in the regions of the campaign, there is still a visible legacy of the conquest. That legacy is the Rhaeto-Romansch peoples of Switzerland and the Ladin peoples of Trentino Alto Adige, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Cadore, including my ancestral town of Auronzo di Cadore, Comelico, and the Friuli, or Furlan peoples in the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia in northern Italy. After the Roman legionnaires settled and became part of the local populations, physical and linguistic intermarriage resulted in the Ladin people and language of northern Italy and the Rhaeto-Romansch peoples and language of Switzerland. This history marks my personal ties to an ancestral military tradition that dates back to the time of the ancient Roman army.
My great-great-grandmother, Lucia Bombassei de Bona, who was from Auronzo di Cadore, had dark black hair and dark brown eyes to go along with consistent dark olive skin. I know about the physical features of Lucia Bombassei de Bona because my grandmother, Dorothy Andrus, told me she had these physical features and showed me in a photograph. Although my grandmother was ashamed of my great-great-grandmother’s skin, I am very proud.
When the western half of the Roman Empire fell to the German tribes in 476 CE under the command of the Scyrian German general Odoacer, or Odovacar, a new chapter in the military tradition of my family began, both on my paternal and my maternal side. On my paternal side I descend from the German tribes who conquered what is now England, known to contemporary historians as the Anglo-Saxons. On my maternal side I descend from the German Franks, Lombards, Alemanni, Burgundians, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Gepids, Heruli, Thuringians, Suebi who didn’t join the German Alemanni confederation of tribes, and the Huns. On my paternal side are the names Hudson and Knight. On my maternal side is the part of my ancestral lineage that comes from my ancestral town of Auronzo di Cadore. My great-great-grandparents, who immigrated to the United States in 1900 from Auronzo di Cadore, descended from the ancient Ladin peoples on their paternal side. My great-great-grandparents from Auronzo di Cadore were named Pietro Zandigiacomo Folletto and Lucia Bombassei de Bona. The names Bombassei and Zandigiacomo are Ladin surnames native to my ancestral town of Auronzo di Cadore.
On the maternal side of my great-great-grandparents from Auronzo di Cadore is a different story. Both of my great-great-grandparents from Auronzo di Cadore descended from the Vecellio family of Cadore through their maternal side. The Vecellio family of Cadore is an important non-Ladin family that contributed much to the district of Cadore. The Vecellio family of Cadore descended from the Lombard German da Camino family of Treviso. The da Camino family was Counts of both the city of Treviso and the district of Cadore. Most likely, on good evidence, the da Camino Family descends from the Lombard German Collalto family.
The Collalto family, according to reliable traditions, dates back to the year 570 CE, two years after the Lombard German tribe immigrated to Italy. Obviously, the Vecellio family of Cadore is Lombard German in origin. They started out in the district of Cadore as podestas, or mayors, of the communities of Cadore that represented the da Camino Counts of Treviso and Cadore. As already mentioned, the da Camino family governed their lands through honest and reliable representatives called podestas, or mayors, and the podestas who governed the da Camino family lands were usually members of the da Camino Family.
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