52 Ancestors: Three Brothers from the Tyrol, a Family Legend

Posted by: Eileen A. Souza

I remembered reading about the myths and legends that exist in genealogy, and it reminded me of the story of the three brothers. There is common folklore that tells of three brothers who emigrated from the Old Country. One stayed in the New World base, where they landed, one went west, and the other south. The brothers, of course, usually did no such thing, if the individuals even existed at all.

And then it hit me! I have a “three brothers’ story.” Giovanni Battista Furlani, born 8 Feb 1858 and Maria Dallabrida, born 1 Aug 1858, were married about 1882 and had three sons. All of this occurred in Vigolo Vattaro, Trentino-South Tyrol, Italy.

The Church of Saint George or Chiesa San Giorgio in Vigolo Vattaro

The Church of Saint George or Chiesa San Giorgio in Vigolo Vattaro


According to baptismal records, the first son, Giovanni Valentino Furlani, was born 18 Feb 1884; the second son, Guglielmo Giulo Furlani, was born 12 Mar 1886; and the third son, my grandfather, Candido Luigi Furlani, was born 26 Mar 1888.

The Family Story

My father’s namesake, Guglielmo [William], supposedly arrived in New York, with his two brothers. He then went to South America, either directly from New York or Mount Carmel, PA and was never heard from again. My father seems to think he stayed in New York for several months and then went to South America.

The Reality

Guglielmo left Antwerp on 14 May 1907, arriving in New York. His brothers did not travel with him. Candido arrived next, leaving the Havre, 28 Nov 1907 and arriving in New York 2 Dec 1907. I have a copy of a postcard dated 30 Dec [no year] sent from Vigolo Vattaro to Mount Carmel, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania addressed to Guglielmo with a greeting of “Dear nephews.” Because it said nephews, plural, I believe it arrived 30 Dec 1907, 1908 or 1909, when both men were still living in Mount Carmel.

The 1910 US census finds Guglielmo in a coal mining camp in Tercio, Las Animas County, Colorado with other men who had emigrated from Vigolo Vattaro. So, this brother went west. He may then have gone south to South America because he does not appear in any later US censuses. I have been unable to find him in South America.

Candido marries Anna Bianchi, my grandmother, 20 Sep 1911 and they remain in Mount Carmel until their deaths. Candido was a coal miner. They had three children, my father being the eldest.

Giovanni arrives in New York 20 Oct 1912, departing Southampton, England. His WWI Draft registration lists him living in Mount Carmel on 12 Sep 1918. I never found him in the 1920 US census but, in the 1930 US census, he is a coal miner in West Virginia, which is toward the west. He remains there the rest of his life until his death in 1963.

About fifty residents of Vigolo Vattaro, Tyrol, which before 1919 was part of the Austrian Empire, immigrated to the US from about 1880 through 1915 and settled in Mount Carmel, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania to mine for anthracite coal. In 1919, after the end of WWI, the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye divided the Tyrol, with North and East Tyrol belonging to Austria and the region of Trentino-South Tyrol being absorbed into Italy eventually becoming the province of Trentino. One map of Italy names this province as Trentino-Alto Adige, while Wikipedia states that it is officially the Autonomous Province of Trento.


The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The prompt takes care of the guesswork of “who I should write about.” This week’s theme is Family Legend.

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10 Responses to 52 Ancestors: Three Brothers from the Tyrol, a Family Legend

  1. I had not heard of the “three brothers” repeating legend, but sure enough, I have a three brothers legend in my background. I have not been able to find any verification for it, but you’ve done a great job of tracking the bread crumbs on your three brothers!

  2. I hadn’t heard of the three brothers legend either! It was very interesting to see how the legend played out in your family.

  3. Teresa says:

    Cool legend and how neat that you have one that corresponds – great work uncovering the truth of it!!

  4. Nancy says:

    I remember hearing about the Three Brothers legend early on in my family history research. I think a fellow family historian for one of my ancestors families heard it, too, because he repeated something similar to me putting in the names of my great-grandfather and his brothers. As far as I can tell it was totally untrue.

    It’s interesting that you found the truth of the legend in your own family. It may be more common than we think but it’s important to do the research to prove/disprove it, just as you have done.

  5. It’s great you can support your three brothers legend. My legend is for five brothers. They (earlier generations of cousins who have done family history) say my 5th great-grandfather or his father came to America with four brothers near the end of the Revolutionary War. All records show my 5ggf was born in Virginia and was 9-12 years old at the end of the RW. It was more likely his father who is to date unknown. You’d think the story would be helpful in opening the door in this brick wall but I’m still searching for the key.

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