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A Brief History of the Fidaos
These notes are taken from a paper written by Richard Fidao
The name Fidao is very uncommon and taxes etymologists and linguists who try to trace the origin of the suffix “ao.” The first part of the name is almost certainly from the latin “fidus” meaning faithful. It is less likely that the “Fid” is derived from “fidere” meaning trust or fiducia meaning confidence. Although the Fidaos have been natives of the Grado – Monfalcone – Trieste areas in the extreme North of the Adriatic since at least 1260 A.D., the ending “ao” is neither Italian, Austrian nor Spanish. It might be, of course, Portuguese, Indian or even Chinese origin but this is extremely unlikely as may be understood from the facts that follow. In the small but well known summer resort island of Grado, between Trieste and Venice the ending “ao” forms the past participle in the Raeto-Romance dialect spoken in northern Italy, southern Austria and S.E. Switzerland and is a proper ending for a name, as confirmed to me by the British Museum in a letter dated 26.7.66, reading as follows:, “I believe what you have been told about your name originating in Grado is correct. Fidao would be a dialect form of the participle Fidato”. Encyclopedia Brittanica states that the Raeto-Romance dialects are spoken by about 450,000 inhabitants of South East Switzerland, Southern Austria and Northern Italy. The dialects, states Encyclopedia Brittanica, do not cover any contiguous area; they do not and never did have a cultural, linguistic or administrative unit; and they are not written in any standard language. This was due to the dialects having originated and spread in very mountainous areas where communications between various small communities were almost nonexistent.

In the island of Grado, which is joined to the mainland by a causeway, the name Fidao is to be found in the records of the 6th Century Cathedral and among the present inhabitants of the island.

Origins of the Fidaos
An official copy of a birth certificate of an ancestor born in Grado in 1760 A.D. is in my possession. This and other Fidao birth and marriage certificates were obtained by my uncle Dr. Fritz Fidao.

In 1938 my brother Rudolf visited Casa Fidao at Monfalcone, near Trieste, and the place of origin of the Fidaos of Smyrna who came of a ship building family. There he met Count Valentini whose grandmother was a Fidao. This count had told Charles Fidao Junior of Smyrna that he was proud of his connection with the Fidaos who were once Governors of the area in 1260 A.D. after the capture of Trieste by Venice in 1202 A.D.

In 1932 the Province of Trieste, including Monfalcone and Grado placed themselves under the protection of the Hapsburgs whose overlordship gradually developed into full possession of the area by Austria within a few centuries. After the First World War in 1919, the whole area, including Istria and up to Fiume was handed over by Austria to Italy under the Treaty of Versailles. Istria and territory immediately east of Trieste and Monfalcone was ceded by Italy to Yugoslavia after the Second World War. Thus the Fidao’s who settled in Smyrna in the 19th century (all descended from Andrea Fidao born in Monfalcone in 1803) were Austrian subjects.

The Fidaos of Smyrna
By the Treaty of Capitulations, Turkey granted extraterritorial rights to a number of European nations, including Austria and England, who were allies of long standing, and France, Holland, Italy and others. The nationals of these countries had the privilege to live and trade in Turkey and the Ottoman Empire under the jurisdiction of their own Courts of Law constituted by their own Consulates in Smyrna, Constantinople and other large towns. Thus, the children of such foreigners who were born in Turkey were deemed, in law, to have been born in their own national territory. It was under these conditions that Andrea Fidao settled, married and worked in Amyrna and that his son Frederick lived and traded in Smyrna in the highly respected firm of F. Fidao & Co. which dealt mainly in the exporting of raisins, figs, tobacco, wine, olive oil, opium and kid skins.

At the same time of the sack and fire of Smyrna, F. Fidao and Co. were supplying opium to the Dutch and Japanese State Monopolies and tobacco to the Austrian State Monopolie (Regie) besides major buyers in Europe and America. After the death of my grandfather (Frederick) the firm was run by my uncle Andre, my father (Rudolf) and my uncle Henri who ran the branch in the island of Samos.

After the First World War, Austrians originating from the areas ceded to Italy had difficulty retaining their Austrian nationality and were forced to take on Italian nationality. My father and his two brothers in Austria and Germany succeeded in retaining their nationality while others either accepted Italian nationality or took on whatever alternative they could, dependent on the circumstances of their case. Thus, those who had settled permanently in France and the U.S.A. took the nationality of the countries they were living in and, later, others like myself did likewise. The result was the proliferation of nationalities in addition to the dispersal of the Fidaos of Smyrna.

Editors note: For an interesting webite intended to provide a wide range of information about the Levantine community of Smyrna go to: www.levantineheritage.com

The French Fidaos
Emile Fidao (1875-1950) was a distinguished Academician in Paris and was awarded the Legion d’Honeur for his book on Richelieu and others. Emile Fidao wrote under the name of J. E. Fidao-Giustiniani, the latter being that of his mother, the Marchesa Giustiniani. She came of one of the leading noble and most talented families in Italy for many centuries. His sister Marie also came into the French branch by marrying Harry Giraud who, incidentally, was also related to my mother’s family. Another French Fidao was my uncle Gilbert who studied and practiced medicine in France and married a French woman. They went to Africa in the 1920’s and had a son Jacques. He is also married to a French girl and should probably be classified with the American branch as they have now settled in the U.S.A. and have a daughter.

The American Fidaos
Maxime Nicholas Fidao (1882-1966), brother of Emile settled in the U.S.A. about the turn of the century and married an American girl of Irish descent.

The British Fidaos
As mentioned earlier in these notes, I [Richard Fidao] started the British branch by getting my naturalization through in 1948. Prior to that, the British embassy in Athens granted British Emergency passports to my mother and father and family on the direct personal authority of the Rt. Hon. Anthony Edan when he visited Athens in March 1941. This resulted from a personal letter which I wrote to him while he was in Athens and I later saw my letter in the Military Attache’s office in Athens and was shown the portions of the letter which had been annotated by him personally.

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Map of Grado, Italy

Grado Italy from Google Maps
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Map of Izmir, Turkey

Izmir Turkey from Google Maps
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