The Oneda/Massari Odyssey

The Oneda/Massari Family Journey – an Italian Odyssey

Lucia MASSARI, born 3 May 1854 in Barco, Province of Brescia, LOMBARDY and Battista ONEDA, born 18 April 1854 in Rudiano, Province of Brescia, LOMBARDY, left Italy for Brazil, South America some time prior to March 1877.  Whether Anna Maria and Giovanni MASSARI, Lucia’s parents, travelled with them at this time isn’t known.  There is a family story that Battista was deserting from the Army and hid under Lucia’s skirts until they were out of Port.  Most of the following information is from either translated documents found in a shoe box stored under a bed in a grand-daughter’s home in 1995, the passenger lists of the “James Paterson” or the Australian National Archives.

17 March 1877, Lucia and Battista married in Brusque, Santa Caterina, Brazil.  Their daughter Albina Maria was born 7 April 1879.

It appears that Lucia and Battista returned to Italy sometime after Albina’s birth.  From October 1879 onwards they then proceeded to obtain documents to allow them to leave Italy again but not before applications were made for a civil marriage ceremony; it is assumed that the marriage in South America was not recognised by the Italian authorities.

A document dated 21 June 1880 shows Lucia and Albina living with Anna Maria and Giovanni Massari at No. 104, via Mulino, Orzinuovi in the province of Lombardy.  Battista’s whereabouts, at this time, is not known.  Sometime later another daughter was born.

There was a lot of unrest in Italy at this time and after reading cleverly worded advertisements 50 families from the Veneto region decided to join the Marquis de Ray’s third expedition to Port Breton in New Ireland, Papua New Guinea.  The Oneda and Massari families, from Lombardy, were among these expeditioners.

On July 9 1880 the contingent of 340 left Barcelona on board the “India” bound for the “Promised Land”.  On arrival in New Ireland they found the two previous expeditions had failed and conditions extremely bad with fever and starvation and many more deaths.  The “India” stayed about 3 months and eventually, the surviving Italians persuaded the captain to take them to Noumea, they left 15 February 1881.  On arrival in Noumea they found things not much better as it was a penal settlement.  The ship was then declared unseaworthy by authorities.  More had died on that voyage and, in Noumea.  It appears that the Italian Consul in Noumea contacted his counterpart in New South Wales who in turn contacted the Premier, Sir Henry Parkes.  They were offered refuge and the “James Paterson” was charted to bring them to Sydney, New South Wales.  They arrived in Sydney 7 April 1881.

The passenger list compiled at the time shows Battista and Lucia Oneda and Maria Massari (widow).  The family were told two girls died on the voyage out and apparently Giovanni must have also died during the voyage.  Subsequent Birth Certificates confirm 2 females deceased.

On arrival in Sydney the refugees were given temporary shelter.  From Lucia’s Naturalisation application it appears that Lucia, Battista and Anna Maria spent 7 months in Sydney before going to Bourke for 11 months.  It would be interesting to find out how they were employed.  Battista had been in the cavalry so one could assume he was working on a property.  The contrast of their previous experiences, to the outback of New South Wales must have been enormous.

After their employment finished in Bourke, they must have commenced the return to Sydney.  Their son, John was born 3 November 1882 in a little town called Girilambone, half way between Bourke and Nyngan.  Maria Bonardi (Massari) was witness and the birth was registered in Dubbo by Battista on 4 December 1882.  As the train line hadn’t been built at this time, one can only assume they were travelling by Cobb and Co coach with a heavily pregnant Lucia when labour commenced so stayed in Girilambone until it was safe to continue.

Their long journey ended in Sydney.  They settled in the Liverpool area and then finally St. Johns Park.  With quite a number of Italian families already in this area it is probable that they chose to stay here, rather than join the other Marquis de Rays survivors commencing the settlement of New Italy, south of Ballina, New South Wales.

On reflection, I can imagine that Lucia and Battista had had enough of new settlements and preferred to stay in an established area.

Battista became a market gardener and seven daughters were born at St. Johns Park.  John disappeared around 20 years of age and it seems, from the family story handed down, he wanted to go to South Africa to fight the Boers but his father wouldn’t allow him.  Whether he did actually join under an assumed name is not known.

From many stories told by the daughters, it appears they had a good life, although spartan. Time spent making pasta and hanging it from the rafters to dry, another of treading the grapes to make grappa.  There were plenty of get-togethers with other Italian families in the area during the weekends.

Battista became an Australian citizen 21 June 1901 and Lucia, 23 August 1909.

Battista and Lucia died in 1910 and Anna Maria (Nonna) in 1911.  All three are buried in the Catholic Section of Liverpool Cemetery, Battista and Lucia in a marked plot, Maria’s is unmarked.

The remarkable thing about this story is that no one knew of their ordeal.  It was only after the “shoe box” documents were translated and further research done, was the truth finally uncovered.  What stories they could have told, or just maybe, the ordeal was so great they put it behind them didn’t want to speak of it again.

Postscript

.  Subsequent information from “Turmoil-Tragedy to Triumph” indicates Albina died in Noumea 30 March 1881

.  John was listed as a Missing Person by Battista 15 May 1907 in Dubbo.  Apparently John intended heading to Queensland but    was in ill health, no further record has been found at this point.  (December 2012) 

This information was supplied by, and published with the permission of, Maureen MATTINSON, a great granddaughter of Lucia and Battista Oneda.

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