Tampa Daily Times Article

“Mrs. Mary Brown, Descendent Of Italian Nobility, Saw Indian Fights in Tampa”
by: Mrs. M. Sidney Gibbons, Tampa Daily Times, 24 December 1924, page 10 section D.

As of this writing (2004) we have not been able to determine where the research originated for this article. It dates from 24 December 1924 which predates much of the published Menorcan research including Roselli’s book, Italians in Colonial Florida.

Much of the research concerning the Leonardi family in Florida was readily available at the time. The ancestry of Roque, mentioned in the article, is what we question.

In this article, the information concerning the name of Roque’s parents may have come from Roque’s Catholic Church death record because it uses the same date of birth for Roque and the similar transliteration and spelling for Roque’s parents’ names. Whereas Roque’s death record uses the Spanish Juan, the article uses the Italian Giovanni. However, both the death record and the article use Leonardi as the surname, and use the Latin Jacoba Bianchoni (Italian, Giacoma Biagoini) for the name of his mother. (Actually, there is no usage of the letter “h” in Classical Latin.)

We have discovered that his date of birth was actually 1741 which looks very much like 1742 on Roque’s Catholic Church birth record.

Follow this link for Roque’s death record.

Follow this link for Roque’s birth record.

The date of marriage mentioned in the article for Agueda Coll and Roque Leonardi is very interesting. As of this writing (2004) it is the only place we have seen any date stated for certainty because the Church record for this marriage has been lost. Most of the time the date for their marriage is presented as being sometime before the recorded birth of their first born, Colorinda Leonardi. The date given in the article is exactly nine months to the day prior to the date recorded for their first born. We suspect the author of the article or the one who provided information to the article used this formula to arrive at the date of marriage for Aqueda Coll and Roque Leonardi.

Follow this link for Colorinda’s birth record.

It seems to us that the connection to nobility mentioned in the article is nothing more than fanciful romanticism often connected to supposed genealogy research of the first half of the 20th century which often vacillates between truth and great story telling! This theory of story telling is perhaps born out because the article claims Roque’s wife “Agatha Coll” was of Spanish descent. Both of Roque’s wives mentioned in the article, Agatha (Agueda) and Esperanza were Menorcan, not Spanish. In 1924 Menorcans were looked down upon around Florida, in particular in St Augustine, as lower class citizens.

Follow this link to see Agueda Coll’s and Esperanza Balla’s birth record.

No authors we know of to date, provide any genealogical link between Roque Leonardi and the Leonardi’s that cited in the article as serving the Dukes of Modena.

It is important to note that there are several versions of Leonardi coat of arms in circulation which are identified as coming from this Leonardi family line. As for the coat of arms mentioned in the article, we have a copy of the version mentioned in the article. Our copy comes via Philip Beasley who states:

“A Mrs. Pons was given this coat of arms to give to Philip Martin Leonardi (1836-1905). But she kept it, and later in life she gave it to his oldest living son, John George Leonardi (1877-1958) in the 1920’s or 30’s. By then she was an old woman. Perhaps she was to give it to Philip because he would have been the oldest living male relative about the year 1900. Copies were made of the original given to John George Leonardi. The original seems lost.” I was told the original was from Florence.
[Philip Beasley is John George Leonardi’s Nephew.]

Follow this link for Leonardi various coat of arms.

Mr. Beasley, who is a teacher of history, indicated to Doug Halsema that his stately grandmother, was sure they were descended from nobility. Whether or not she concluded that from reading the article, or whether or not she had that information herself, we may never know.

. . . halsema.org editors.