Sunday, March 10, 2019

Pandora's Safe #17: Chasing Jean


History perhaps should be a dispassionate pursuit of truth, creating stories filled with documented data points that can be traced and retraced by other dispassionate researchers.

I myself am unapologetically ten miles past dispassionate on the story of Jean-John Soldani. 

The last fact I know for certain is that my father’s great-grandfather was Achilles Jean Soldani. Born in the middle of Union-occupied New Orleans in 1863, Achilles’ his birth records show his parents to be Jean Soldani and Christina Moti.

 Jean appears by all records to have been born in Switzerland and came to the US with a few brothers and an uncle.

 Christina seems to come from Transylvania. I fall into a hole for hours checking and rechecking and tracing keep coming back to that region. It is hard to be dispassionate about this data point; I want this to be right, I want it to be true that somehow a piece of me comes from Transylvania, I want to find an address and go visit whatever is left of where she and her family fled from, but I also want to be dispassionate enough to stick to collecting data that exists and can be easily found and verified.

But still.

 I wonder if they named him Achilles in hopes he would be a great warrior?

 Maybe it was after a family friend?

Perhaps after a statue or a story they both loved?

 I wonder if during their short time as a family they called him Akeel or Akeyyes or Akilleeees or something in between; the US census decades later shows orphaned Achilles living in Avoyelles Parrish going alternately by “Archie” and “AJ.”

Achilles was brought to St. Mary’s Orphanage in New Orleans as child after both of his parents are purported to have died by 1870.

 I do believe Christina Moti died, but I don’t believe Jean did; I believe Jean Soldani abandoned his New Orleans children to mercy of the nuns and also perhaps Christina’s family to return to his brothers and uncle near Kansas City, Missouri.  There is no gravestone, no obituary.  If there is, I missed it. 

The 1870 census shows pastry maker John Soldani in Kansas City living alone in a boarding house. 

His uncle Gaudenzio Soldani Rafaletti has died.

Documents (probate, census, death certificates) show Jean’s wife Matilda Soldani has sold all his property, married a guy named Simon and died. 

 By the time you are reading this I have traced data points in Sylvester/Anthony’s family tree over and over and and over asking if THIS person or THAT one could have been Osage, and the answer is no. 

Again, I could have missed something, but the data points connecting their ancestry right back to France and Switzerland says otherwise.

The data shows that Jean’s sons Sylvester Soldani and Anthony Godance Soldani grow up believing themselves to be Osage, and are educated in Kaw and Osage schools. 

I figure out which school they must’ve attended and bookmark their archive that indicates they have microfilm records that go back to 1860s which can be checked out by library loan. I’d like to see who checked them in and if they made some donation to the Jesuits or the Sisters or left some money on account for the boys. Remind me to go to the library this week and get this rolling. 

Sylvester and Anthony became Osages at the most auspicious time.  Over the next thirty years they will receive thousands of acres as government headright allotments given to all the Osage Indians, and then when oil is found they will receive oil lease payments from the government for thousands of dollars a year.  The census shows their race to be I - “Indian” - and that they are non-taxed.

They will both become leaders among the Oklahoma Osage, perhaps drowning out the concerns and voices of full-blooded Osage (exhausted from fifty years of accommodation and relocation) - at least from what I read in the newspapers.

Although newspaper articles called Sylvester Soldani “Chief,” I haven’t found Chief “Soldani” on a single Osage History sites, but I’m sure there are sources I haven’t found and perhaps I could have missed it.

 I’m not sure where John/Jean’s brother Joseph is in 1870, and I make a note to check later.

I don’t know where his brother Peter is – I think I remember reading once that he was captured in a battle and taken to Leavenworth but I let that bit of history float off into the sky for awhile and away from this story.  When I check around and see if I can find any data or articles about Peter Soldani from Switzerland. 

52 hints pop up.

One of them is an actual word.document that turns out to be a history of the family left by Peter’s descendants. 5 full pages of information about the three Soldani brothers who trained in “Hungary” as confectioners and left Switzerland with $10,000 each to seek their fortunes in America.

 I print it out and check the data in that document against mine.

 I am entranced.

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