Italian Surnames: Uncovering the Rich Heritage of the Zeppetelli Family

Italian Surnames: Uncovering the Rich Heritage of the Zeppetelli Family

Paolo Zeppetelli, from the UK, became a MyHeritage member in December 2017 with a quest to learn more about Italian surnames. The Zeppetelli surname is not a particularly common one in Italy and he was curious to know its origins. As he began collecting information, he realized that researching his family name, Zeppetelli, and uncovering the history behind it would make the ideal gift for his father’s upcoming 60th birthday.

Italian Historical Records

Paolo began by building his family tree with MyHeritage and discovering relevant historical records in MyHeritage SuperSearch™. The Italian record collections that proved extremely helpful were Italy, Births and Baptisms, 1806-1900; Italy, Marriages, 1809-1900, and Italy, Deaths and Burials, 1809-1900. See also MyHeritage Italian records collections.

Stories that circulated among the Zeppetelli family indicated there was a branch who were wealthy landowners in the region of Caserta in southern Italy, from the village of Alife. There was supposedly even a road named Via Zeppetelli about 20 minutes from Alife and Paolo was curious to find out if this road may have something to do with his family.

Via Zeppetelli

Zeppetelli family tomb in the Alife cemetery [Courtesy Zeppetelli Family]

His direct ancestors had owned land, a restaurant, hotel and a post office until some unfortunate circumstances caused the family to lose their status and wealth. Branches left Italy and crossed the Atlantic to Canada, while others went to South America and the UK and the families gradually lost touch.

Paolo wanted to dive into his family history and learn more about his great-grandfather Mario Zeppetelli and his wife, Anna Ferrazza. Fortunately, there were many readily available records for Alife, and much information was found about the family without personally visiting Alife.

ITALIAN RESEARCH TIP: Town names are very important for Italian research. Records are kept on a town level for civil registration records and in the parish for church records.

Mario was 23 and a landowner when he married Anna Ferrazza, 21. Both sets of their parents were also landowners, confirming the family story of his ancestor’s occupation. Mario’s father, Mariano Sisto Zeppetelli, was born in Alife in 1861, a pivotal year in Italian history. He was born shortly after the Italian peninsula became unified as the Kingdom of Italy, minus the Papal States of Rome and Venetia. Prior to the unification declaration, in March 1861, Alife was part of the Kingdom of Naples. In 1860 and 1861, General Giuseppe Garibaldi marched his armies through the Kingdom of Naples, conquering cities as he went. The Caserta province, where the Zeppetelli family resided, had endured violence and political upheaval during this time. Mariano was born exactly one week after the fall of the Kingdom of Naples.

Alife Cathedral. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Alife Cathedral [Wikipedia Commons]

Mariano Zeppetelli was recorded as the son of Francesco Zeppetelli and Maria Vittoria Ruzza. Both Francesco and his wife received titles of honor – Don and Donna – preceding their names, indicating wealth and prominence in the Alife community.

An aerial photo of Alife surrounded by the old fortified Roman wall [Courtesy Zeppetelli family]

An aerial view of Alife surrounded by the old fortified Roman wall. [Courtesy Zeppetelli Family]

As later records attested, Francesco was a pharmacist, responsible for creating and providing the community with such medicines, tonics, poultices, and other treatments as were available in the 19th century. Mariano’s grandfather was an attorney for Alife in the early 1800s when the family lived on Via Napoli-Roma, a street still in use today.

Via Napoli-Roma, Alife, Caserta, Italy, where the Zeppetelli family resided in 1812. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

Via Napoli-Roma, Alife, Caserta, Italy, where the Zeppetelli family resided in 1812. [Google Maps]

ITALIAN RESEARCH TIP: When researching Italian records, note that civil registration records are in Italian and church records are in Latin.

The 1841 processetti packet – the documents that a bride and groom were required to present to the priest or mayor in preparation for their upcoming marriage – contained even richer biographical details regarding the Zeppetelli line. Francesco’s mother was widowed when Francesco was just 10, leaving him and his siblings fatherless. Francesco’s grandfather was a notary, with the responsibility of recording all property transactions, debts, loans, and wills created in their locality, and likely helped the family after his son’s premature death. The Zeppetelli family and those families they married, were occupied in prominent occupations including musicians, a pharmacist, lawyer, notary, landowners, a fabric salesman, and a carpenter. Because of the completeness and accessibility of the records, the Zeppetelli family tree was successfully extended into the late 1600s.

Building the Family Legacy

Using all of the records, stories and information, Paolo was able to build the Zeppetelli family tree with MyHeritage that incorporated everything he had learned and collected along the way. Since the completion of the research project earlier this year, Paolo and his father have traveled to Alife and explored the town where their family played such a prominent role.

Paolo's father on the Via Zeppetelli

Paolo’s father on the Via Zeppetelli [Courtesy Zeppetelli Family]

While in Alife, they met a local historian who is publishing a book of all residents that have ever lived in Alife, including the Zeppetelli family. The historian shared additional documents from the Caserta archives with Paolo and his father – those documents extended the family back an additional generation. He also said that one of their Zeppetelli ancestors was asked to govern Alife during the 1700s. One document, from the early 1700s, was photographed by the local Alife historian in the Caserta archives. It mentions the Zeppetelli family originating in the small town of Santa Croce, some 30 minutes from Alife. They were asked to govern Alife and moved there in the late-1600s/early-1700s.

Photo of a document from the early-1700s, taken by the local Alife historian in the Caserta archives. It mentions the Zeppetelli family originating in the small town of Santa Croce some 30 minutes from Alife. They were asked to govern Alife and moved to Alife in the late-1600s/early-1700s

The early-1700s document, photographed by the local Alife historian, Filiberto Sasso, in the Caserta archives.[Courtesy Filiberto Sasso]

The Zeppetelli family was influential in the daily life of the town’s residential population. They left a varied and interesting legacy for their descendants, which is now preserved for generations to come.

Are you searching for an Italian surname? Let us know in the comments below.

This post was written by Legacy Tree Genealogists, who have been instrumental in helping Paolo Zeppetelli discover his Italian heritage. Legacy Tree Genealogists is experienced at tracking down all kinds of family history records in a variety of locations and can help you learn more about your ancestry. Visit to request a free consultation and find out about exclusive offers for MyHeritage users.


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