Your ideas, comments and advice
In February 2010 you featured a Reader Story about how I discovered that my 3x great grandfather was an Italian fencing-master in Edinburgh in the late 18th century, and how in the process I had reconnected with a cousin, Rachel, who was also descended from the fencingmaster Francis Rossignoli. My cousin and I met for the first time in Edinburgh for the photo shoot, and have kept in contact.
Francis had a number of children, but his daughter Josephine is our direct ancestor. She married James Adams and had two children, James my great grandfather, born in 1842, and William born three years later. My great grandfather had three children, among them James, Rachel’s great grandfather, and Sarah my grandmother. William had 11 children and we often wondered what had happened to them. Our James Adams was a soldier and left Edinburgh when he was 18, finally making his home in Netley near Southampton. So we imagine he lost touch with his family.
Imagine my delight then when I received a hint from Ancestry about Francis Rossignoli which had been posted by someone called Kath. I was able to contact her and discovered that she was the great great granddaughter of the brother William Adams, and was still living in Edinburgh.
She had lots more information about
Francis and his sister Teresa who was a dancing mistress. Not only that – Teresa had been a prima ballerina, who had performed in her home town of Parma, Italy, and in Dublin. She appears to have been very well connected. She taught dancing to the illegitimate son of the Comte d’Artois, later to become Charles X, when he and his mistress were in exile in Holyrood Palace during the French Revolution, and she also taught the three daughters of the Duke of Gordon among many others of the elite in Edinburgh society.
So in April this year, we decided on a gathering of the clan in Edinburgh. My husband and I travelled up from Manchester, and Rachel and her mother, Ruth, flew up from London. We met on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile in a restaurant in Bailie Fyfe’s Close where Francis had given fencing lessons, and where many of his family had lived. Bailie Fyfe’s Close is next door to Paisley Close which collapsed in 1861, throwing William Adams into the street where he miraculously survived although others were
not so fortunate and 35 people were killed.
We all got on splendidly, and Kath was a mine of information. She brought a huge file of facts about Francis and his sister Teresa. In June Kath and her son are going to Parma to visit the archives to see if she can discover any more about the Rossignolis. My brother and I plan to visit Parma in the autumn.
The Edinburgh City Archives where Rachel and I were photographed looking at the Registers of Aliens of 1794 and 1798 was closed on our visit, but we were able to see the original minutes of the Edinburgh Academy or Riding School in the Central Library which include a couple of direct references to Francis Rossignoli.
I marvel at the way that in seeking my ancestors, I have discovered living relatives in the process, lovely people with whom I know I shall stay in touch all my life. I think Francis would be delighted about that.
Erica Moores, by email
Editor replies: What great discoveries. I’m delighted you and Rachel stayed in touch.
Erica, Ruth, Rachel and Kath visit a restaurant on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile where Erica’s Italian 3x great grandfather used to give fencing lessons
Erica’s cousin Rachel looks at old minutes with her mother Ruth