Roque Leonardi’s Surname and His Point of Origin

The Leonardi / Leonardy family arrived in Florida in 1768 with the Andrew Turnbull Expedition. Their destination was New Smyrna, a colony south of the Spanish port city of St. Augustine. Roque Leonardi, a native of Italy, was the bearer of the surname and the first of that name to settle in Florida.

The Surname

In church and civil documents, in Italy, Menorca, and in Florida, the Leonardi name can be found with a variety of spellings: Leonardi, Leonardy, Lionardi, Lleonardi, Lleonard, Lunardi, and other variants.

The surname appears most often as Lunardi in Catholic Church documents from Gragnanella, Italy. Prior to the 1800s, the name is usually Leonardi or Lunardi on church and civil documents, and sometimes both spellings appear even within a single document.

Roque and his siblings were baptized in Gragnanella, in the parish in which the family lived, San Bartolomeo, where the spelling of the surname is typically recorded as Lunardi. However, the 1713 baptismal document of Roque’s aunt gives her name as Maria Magdalena Leonardi (Gragnanella Baptisms). That same spelling variation occurs for many of Roque’s extended family (aunts, uncles, and cousins). It appears that all or most of Roque’s siblings’ surnames were recorded as Lunardi on their respective baptismal records. One child, Rocco Pelligrino Lunardi (Roque Leonardi), is the Italian who sailed to New Smyrna with the Andrew Turnbull Expedition. His name is recorded on his baptismal certificate as Rocchus Peregrinus Lunardi (Gragnanella Baptisms). The record of his 1768 marriage, in Menorca, to Esperanza Balle lists him in Latin as Rochus Lionardi (Menorcan Archive Films, 1768, entry 47). After he arrived in Florida, he signed his name (or his signature appears) several times in the Escrituras (notarized instruments) of 1784-1821 as Rocco Leonardy. His signature appears once as Roque Leonardy in the same documents, but is in a different handwriting.

Thus the combination of different languages and their respective dialects (Italian, Catalan, Latin, and later Spanish and English), different ways of pronouncing the surname, lack of codified spelling, and different ways of translating into Latin produced many spelling variants.

The Family

The first Leonardi / Leonardy for whom we have documentary evidence is Roque Lunardi who married Maria Nardini in 1701. This Roque’s place of birth has not been positively determined, although from his marriage record, it appears likely that he was from Gragnanella, Italy; Maria was from Fosciandora, Italy.

One of the children of Roque Lunardi and Maria Nardini was Giovanni Lunardi who was baptized in Gragnanella in 1710. He married Giacoma Biagoini of Castelnuovo in 1736.

Roque Lunardi, son of Giovanni Lunardi and Giacoma Biagoini, and grandson of the first Roque Lunardi, was born in the town of Gragnanella in 1741 and was baptized there in the Catholic Church of San Bartolomeo. This Roque joined the Andrew Turnbull Expedition in 1768. The travelers stopped first in Menorca where Roque married Esperanza Balla that same year.

N.B. Many researchers have identified Roque’s point of origin as the city of Modena, Italy or in the current region of Modena, Italy. While there are many Churches of San Bartolome in the Modena Region, and one or two in the city of Modena itself, this essay establishes that neither the current region of Modena nor the city of Modena is the proper point of origin for Roque Leonardi.

Locating Roque Leonardi in Italy

Census and Catholic Church Sacramental records were essential in determining Roque Leonardi’s actual place of origin. Clearly, as indicated in many of the records, he was a native of Italy, probably from the Modena province. (As to why he was not specifically from the Modena Province, see “The Duchy of Modena” below.) It is possible to pinpoint his place of birth even more precisely by examining the 1784 Spanish Census of Florida, the 1786 baptismal record for Roque’s daughter Jacoba Antonia, and the 1788 baptismal record for his daughter Maria Margarita. These three records, discussed below, are among the most important documents that define Roque’s origins in Italy.

The 1784 Spanish Census of Florida (Census microfilm, St Augustine Historical Society Research Library, St. Augustine, Florida, see also Rasico) is the earliest record located thus far that indicates a more specific location for Roque’s birth. The entry for Roque Leonardi describes him as “Natural del Ducado del Granela en Italia,” i.e., “Native of Dukedom of Granela in Italy” (Jarvis, Translation of 1784 Census). On this 1784 census entry, one word is crossed out under Granela which may serve to indicate the census taker may have had difficulty transliterating what he was hearing as the point of origin. That is, Granela = Gragnanella as described in the following two paragraphs.

The 1786 baptismal record for Roque’s daughter, Jacoba Antonia reads, “Roque Leonardy of Grananella de la Garsona, Italy” (WPA, Translation and Transcription, p. 17). The actual document was written by Fr Thomas Hassett, and is much more important than the WPA version of it because it points not only to a more specific region in Italy but to the Catholic Parish as well (CPR, #72, p. 35), describing “Roque Leonardy parrochio San Bartolomeo vulgo de Grañenella de la Garsoña Italia.” Roselli quotes this record as, “Parrochiae Sancti Bartolomei vulgo de Granañella de la Garsoña, Italie” (Roselli, p.33). The Latin word “vulgo” is often used in Latin church records when writing the non-Latin equivalent of a word or name which in this case is Spanish. On the microfilm, it is unclear whether or not the letter “ñ” is intended for the first or second “n” in the word Granenella. Perhaps it should be the first “n” which would sound phonetically a bit more like Gragnanella, for “gn in Italian makes the same sound as the Spanish ñ” (Wiki Books). Therefore, in all likelihood, this is actually San Bartolomeo, of Gragnanella, which is within the province of Garfagnana, Italy. Perhaps when Fr Hassett heard the pronunciation of the province of Garfagnana by Roque, which would include Roque’s local dialect, he heard Garsoña, for a slurred “f” can certainly sound like “s,” and local dialects typically “drop” the proper pronunciation of the end familiar words.

The 1788 baptismal record for his daughter Maria Margarita (CPR, #240, p. 133) points to the same church parish, town, and province as Jacoba Antonia’s 1786 record. The 1788 record for Maria reads: “Roque Leonardy natural de la parrochia de la San Bartolomeo de Grañenella de la Garsoña Italia.” Hence, this record supports the proposition above for the correct placement of the letter “ñ” on Jacoba Antonia’s 1786 record. The WPA Transcription of the same record reads “of San Bartolomeo de a Granenella de la Garsona en Italia (WPA, Translation and Transcription, p. 61).

In addition to the three crucial records just discussed, the following are some of the more significant documents relevant to Roque Leonardi’s place of origin.

Roque’s 1768 marriage to Esperanza Balla lists the following: Rochus Lionardi son of Joannes and Jacoba Biajoni (part illegible) Parochia san Bartholomas de Modena (Menorcan Archive Films, 1768, entry 47).

The entry for Roque Leonardi in the1786 Spanish Census of Florida lists him as “labrador, de Ytalia, 44 anos” (Rasico, p. 187), that is, “farmer, of Italy, age 44” (translation by Doug Halsema).

The 1787 Spanish Census of Florida indicates that Roque was a “native of Modena in Italy” (Mills, p. 49).

The record of Roque’s death in 1801 (CPR, #311) lists him as “Don Roque Leonardi … Natural del ducado de Modena en Italia,” or, “Native of the duchy of Modena in Italy” (translation by Doug Halsema).

These documents are important for the point of origin clues and vital statistics they provide. Furthermore, these documents and others demonstrate different spellings of the surname and first names. In Menorca the surname was spelled Lionardi (Roque and Esperanza’s marriage record), and Fr Camps seemed to consistently spell it Lleonardi or Lleonard (GBM). Fr. Thomas Hassett spelled it Leonardy on CPR baptisms and deaths, but used the spelling Leonardi on his 1786 census. In the Escrituras, Roque seemed to sign his name Rocco Leonardy. On Roque’s CPR death record, Fr. Miguel O’Reilly spelled the surname Leonardi. The 1784 Spanish Census also reads Leonardi, but the same family is recorded in the 1793 Census as Leonardy.

In the Catholic Church Sacramental records from the parish of San Bartolomeo, in the town of Gragnanella, within the province of Garfagnana, Italy, we see that one particular priest recorded most of Roque’s immediate family as Lunardi. Follow this link to view some of these Gragnanella records.

When tracing Roque’s surname to its earliest appearances in historical records, it is obviously important to recognize the Italian naming patterns. The patterns for this Roque Leonardi (Rocco Lunardi) and his family from Gragnanella are close to the patterns by which they named their sons and daughters in Florida (Fucilla).

The names of Roque Leonardi’s parents listed on his church death record also match the names of these parents from this Lunardi family in Gragnanella, although the language on his death record is Spanish, not Italian or Latin. Therefore, once again some discrepancies occur in phonetics, and thus transliteration and translation.

Roque’s parents, as listed on his church death record:
Juan Leonardi = Giovanni Lunardi
Jacoba Biachoni = Giacoma Biagoini

Furthermore, Roque’s parents listed on his church marriage record to Menorcan Esperanza Balla match the names of the parents from the Lunardi family in Gragnanella, although the language on the marriage record is Latin interspersed with Catalan.

Roque’s parents, as listed on his church marriage record to Esperanza Balla:
Joannes Lionardi = Giovanni Lunardi
Jacoba Biajoni = Giacoma Biagoini

Italian Naming Patterns

first son
paternal grandfather

first daughter
paternal grandmother

second son
maternal grandfather

second daughter
maternal grandmother

third son
father’s oldest brother

third daughter
father’s eldest sister

fourth son
mother’s eldest brother

fourth daughter
mother’s oldest sister

The Places of Origin

At least three generations of the Leonardi family lived in Gragnanella, apparently arriving there in the late 1600s or early 1700s. They worshipped there at the Catholic Church of San Bartolomeo. Documentary evidence dates the church to at least the twelfth century: a Papal Bull by Pope Alexander III in 1168 mentioned San Bartolomeo by name. Gragnanella is an ancient medieval town surrounded by cultivated fields and forests of chestnut trees and rises to an altitude of about 480 m.

The baptismal records of Roque and his family were found, not in Gragnanella, but in the Franciscan Convent in Castelnuovo, a town about 5 km from Gragnanella. Both Gragnanella and Castelnuovo lie in the region of Garfagnana. When Roque’s maternal grandfather died, Roque’s mother, Giacoma Biagoini, inherited her father’s home and property in Castelnuovo; consequently, the family moved from Gragnanella to Castelnuovo. As a result, when Roque left the area to go to Menorca and Florida, he may have actually departed from Castelnuovo. Additional research must be done in order to determine that.

Earlier documents point to the Fosciandora and Ceserana area as the Leonardi family homestead during the 1600s.

Fosciandora is a border area between Tuscany and Emilia, between Garfagnana and Lucca, on a hill on the bank of the Serchio River. The town itself lies on the left slope of the Media Valle, dominating the Apennine chains. The immediate surrounding territory boasts of many fortifications built by the Longobardi, Lucchesi, the Este of Ferrara, Modenesi, Massa and Pisa. A primary point of interest is the centuries-old Fortress, or Castle, of Ceserana (Rocca di Ceserana).

Ceserana Castle is an interesting structure. The natives of Garfagnana used it as a stronghold in a line of defense against Lucca. According to Internet research, the interior of the castle has come down to the present day completely unaltered. The fortified boundary wall of the castle goes along the ridge over the village. In the village is the Romanesque Church Sant’Andrea, mentioned in documents as far back as the twelfth century.

The town of Fosciandora, now divided into five hamlets, was the site of many historic events. The town’s economy for centuries was based upon the harvesting of natural products, primarily chestnuts. At this writing, the outlying wards that make up the municipality of Fosciandora are all situated on the hills, along the scenic road that climbs up the steep slopes and gives visitors the opportunity to admire the castles of Perpoli, Palleroso and Fiattone. Fosciandora became the administrative center only in 1846; before that time, the territory was governed by the Castle of Ceserana (today one of the wards), allodial estate of the Countess Matilde of Tuscany. The castle and the church lend a medieval aspect to the small town.

The Duchy of Modena
Most of the research currently available on Roque Leonardi describes him as a native of Modena (Roselli, pp.33-34) and rightfully so. Roque was from the area of Garfagnana that had been designated, just prior to his birth, as being on the outskirts of the Duchy of Modena. At his birth it was actually part of Lucca, and today is in the area of Tuscany. Follow this link to view maps of the area.

A brief, contemporary description of the area follows as written by David Leibowitz :

The Serchio river curves due north after passing the city of Lucca, winding its way through some of the most stunning scenery in Tuscany. Upstream from the old spa and casino town of Bagni di Lucca, the river valley narrows as it becomes surrounded by steep cultivated hills. Great mountains dominate the eye as one enters the heart of the ancient, rustic realm known as the Garfagnana, whose name derives from “great forest;” indeed, even today vast beech and chestnut forests cover much of this very mountainous terrain. Nestled between the Apennines to the east and the Apuane Alps to the west, the rough topography of the Garfagnana has never made it easy to live here, farmers having to actively mold the land to make it suitable for farming.

To make life even more difficult, the Garfagnana has a long history as a border region: for centuries it was subject to numerous bloody power struggles: the Empire, the Papacy, Florence, Massa, Pisa, and Lucca, which dominated the Middle Ages, all sought control of the territory. The Garfagnana was finally taken by Modena’s Este dynasty (which ruled the zone from the early 15th century to the Italian unification of the mid-19th century, interrupted only by the Napoleonic era). Notwithstanding its medieval turmoil the region’s historic capital, Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, has managed to retain its ancient core; numerous important villages and churches also dot the hills and valleys.

Recently the Garfagnana region, located in the extreme northwest corner of Tuscany along the border with Emilia-Romagna, is witnessing a new prosperity thanks to growing appreciation by both travelers and gourmands.


Working Hypothesis for Continued Research

Biagio Lunardi is born in Sillico, and in Sillico he marries Pietra Gela Biagioni. The early children are born, among whom is Giovanni Francesco Lunardi.
Before 1674: 
The family goes to Ceserana, where Pietro and Rocco are born.
1682: Biagio and Pietra have died, and their are children young. Pietro and Rocco, go to Gragnanella where their married brother, Giovanni Francesco, lives.
Rocco marries Maria Nardini, from Fosciandora (where the marriage is celebrated).
1710: Giovanni Francesco is born, son of Rocco and Maria Nardini.
1736: Giovanni Francesco marries Giacoma Biagioni, from Castelnuovo (where the marriage is celebrated). They live in Gragnanella.
After 1753: The Giovanni Francesco family moves to Castelnuovo, where Giacoma’s mother has died and Giacoma has a house as an inheritance. Rocco leaves the family from Castelnuovo as he makes his way to Menorca and Florida.

Notes About the Research

Please email all comments, additions, and corrections to the email address at teh bottom of this page listed under the link for “Contact Information.”.
or mail to:

Rev. Doug Halsema
St Paul Catholic Church
3131 Hyde Park Road
Pensacola, FL 32503
Phone: (850) 434-2551

Paul and Doug Halsema compiled this report after studying the research done by many other genealogists and family historians. It is a work in progress, and as such is not intended as a definitive work. It is open to critique. We invite your comments, additions, and corrections. In particular we are in search of old photos of the Leonardi family or of persons related to the Leonardi family.

Much of the research for this work about the Leonardi Family of Florida and Italy was done at the St. Augustine Historical Society Research Library (SAHS), 6 Artillery Lane (corner of Aviles Street and Artillery Lane), St. Augustine, Florida.


CPR – Cathedral Parish Records, White Baptisms, Vol. 1, 1784-1792. St. Augustine Historical Society Research Library, St. Augustine, FL, USA.
Familiarly referred to as CPR. These are the records of the New Smyrna Colony housed in the Cathedral of the Roman Catholic Church, St. Augustine, Florida. In the St. Augustine Historical Society (SAHS) Research Library, these records can be found on Microfilm Reel #1, in Drawer 26.

Father Hassett’s Census of St. Augustine and Its Perimeter – 1786. Microfilm, St. Augustine Historical Society Research Library, St. Augustine, FL, USA.

Feldman, Lawrence H. The Last Days of British St. Augustine, 1784-1785; A Spanish Census of the English Colony of East Florida. Baltimore: Clearfield, 1998. Translated into English and taken from the original manuscripts held at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Fucilla, Joseph Guerin. Our Italian Surnames. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1987.

Jarvis, Grace H. “Translation of 1784 Census.” Georgia Genealogical Magazine, No. 39 (Winter 1971).

GBM – Golden Book of the Minorcans, Roman Catholic Church Records, St. Pedro’s Parish, New Smyrna (Mosquito) and St. Augustine, Book II Baptisms, St. Augustine Historical Society Research Library, St. Augustine, FL, USA. Father Pedro Camps’s Registers, which include Baptisms and Marriages of the New Smyrna colonists, are familiarly referred to as GBM. These records can be found on Microfilm Reel #18, Drawer 20, in the SAHS Research Library.

Gragnanella Baptisms – Roman Catholic Church Records, Book of Baptisms, 1612-1815, Gragnanella, Italy. The pertinent records were photographed in 2002 at Convento dei Cappuccini, Castelnuovo, Garfagnana, Italy. Research conducted and photographs taken in this area by Debora Hill, Pallante Center for Italian Research,

Leibowitz, David. “The Garfagnana, Tuscany’s Alps and the Kingdom of Farro.” DolceVita. Downloaded on 5/11/02 from

Matthews, Marguerite Marreé Evans. “The Pacetti Family of St. Augustine, Florida, & Camden County, Georgia.” 1999. Midge’s Camden County Page.

Menorcan Archive Films, Archivo Diocesano de Menorca, St. Augustine Historical Society Research Library, St. Augustine, FL. USA.
Microfilmed by, and available for viewing at, SAHS Research Library, Reel #37.

Mills, Donna Rachal. Florida’s First Families: Translated Abstracts of Pre-1821 Spanish Censuses. Vol.1. Tuscaloosa, AL: Mills Historical Press; Naples, FL: Distributed by D. R. Mills, 1992.

Pallante Center for Italian Research, Debora Hill,,. They played a major role in helping us to identify Roque Leonardi’s exact place of origin in Italy and the spelling of the surname in his place of origin, 1997-2003. Phonetic research concerning place of origin and domestic census research for this essay conducted by Doug Halsema.

Panagopoulos, Epaminondas. New Smyrna: An Eighteenth Century Greek Odyssey. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 1966.
Recounts the history of New Smyrna, Florida, including the Andrew Turnbull Expedition and the presence of Greeks in early Florida.

Raffaelli, Raffaello. Descrizione geografica storica economica della Garfagnana. Internet Transcription by Gabriele Giannotti,, 1879.

Rasico, Philip D. El Llibre d’Or dels Menorquins de la Florida: El Registre de San Pedro de Mosquitos i Estudi de la Poblacio Menorquina a la Florida en el Segle XVIII. Menorca, Spain: Institut Menorqui d’Estudis, Consell Insular de Menorca: Universitat de les Illes Balears, 1998.
The census of 1784 can be found on pp. 151-174. It is in the original language and was taken from microfilm. The 1786 census appears on pp. 177-210.

Roselli, Bruno. The Italians in Colonial Florida: A Repertory of Italian Families Settled in Florida Under the Spanish (1513-1762, 1784-1821) and British (1762-1784) Regimes; With a Brief Historical Outline, and an Appendix on the Contemporary Colonial Press. Jacksonville, FL: The Drew Press, 1940.

Wiki Books. Downloaded from 5/16/05.

WPA – Historical Records Survey (Florida), Division of Community Service Programs, Work Projects Administration. Translation and Transcription of Church Archives of Florida: Roman Catholic Records, St. Augustine Parish, White Baptisms, 1784-1799. Tallahassee, FL: State Library Board, 1941.

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