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Notes For My Son, by Richard Fidao
(Probably written in the 1960's)
Introduction

My son Roland is the first male member of the family to be born a British subject and is the only member of the Frederick Fidaos of Smyrna likely to perpetuate the name. The only other descendants of the Fidaos of Smyrna likey to carry on the name are Alden (1951) and Lloyd (1954) of the American branch of the family. There are, therefore, only three descendants of the Fidaos of Smyrna likely to propagate their species.

[Editors note — Roland has two sons, Rudyard (1988) and Alexander (1994) and Lloyd has one son, Christopher (1984)]

I am writing these notes to explain to Roland and his descendants the origins of his name and the antecedents of his forebrears. The attached Family Tree goes further back, but I will mention here only the direct line of descent from his great-grandfather Frederick who was the first of his forebears to be borne in Smyrna, Turkey, in 1839. He married Isabelle Browning, daughter of William Gardner Browning, gentleman farmer of Plumstead, Sussex, who later went to Smyrna as an employee of Hanson & Co. on his family losing their fortune. Her mother was the "devastatingly beautiful" Ciara van Sanen, daughter of a Dutch diamond and jewell merchant in Smyrna. William was a cousin of Robert Browning and my grandmother Isabelle had kept a bunch of letters which he had written to her. Unfortunately, they were destroyed in the fire and sack of Smyrna in 1922.

[Editors note — See: http://www.greek-genocide.org/smyrna.html]

This marriage of Frederick was followed by his son Rudolf (my father) marrying May Whittall of the well known family of Worcester, Smyrna and Constantinople, not to speak of Ceylon where the brief commercial career of Fred Whittall in t hat country founded one of the largest British companies still carrying on in Ceylon under the name of Whittall & Co. (see family history and books of reference listed in the attached note relating to the Whittalls of Worcester and Turkey). Finally, the son of Rudolf and May and writer of these notes, married Jill Mary Shelley Smith, daughter of Wilfred Smith of Somerset, Bath, and Gwendelyn (nee Shelley).

I was naturalized a British subject during my stay for 14 months in England in 1947/48. Thus, Roland was born in India in 1956 a British subject by birth with a preponderance of English ancestry in the three generations that preceded him through he also had the privilege of Austrian, Dutch, French, Italian and Swiss forebears in the four generations before him.

I will now proceed with some facts about the very uncommon name of Fidao and the origins of the very small and cosmopolitan multilingual family, now widely dispersed and branching off into new nationalities. Time permitting, I will try to embark on a short history of the three generations preceding Roland and their lives in Turkey, Greece and India while Joe Fidao of Mobiloil, Genoa, goes on with the story of the whole of the Fidao family to which I am contributing all I can.

Origins of the name Fidao

The name 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. The Encyclopedia continues to state "National animosities and disputes, many still alive, have penetrated this linguistic research, particularly North Eastern Italy, the Aito Adige (formerly the Austrian Southern Tyrol) and the Austrian Friuli area. Ninety percent of the people speaking these dialects are to be found at the head of the Adriatic sea." 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. These latter Fidaos appear in Family Tree No. 2 in order to distinguish them from Family Tree No. 1, the Smyrna Fidaos.

In his book about the island of Grado entitled "L'Isola d'Oro" Biaggio Marin tells how the Patricians of the flourishing and important Roman town of Aquileia fled to the island of Grado to take refuge from Attilla and the Huns in 452 A.D. According to this book, the descendants of these patricians and the islanders of Grado founded Venice in the 6th and 7th Centuries. Indeed, the connection between Venice and Grado has always been close and, in 697 A.D.. Christopher, Patriarch of Grado, succeeded in suppressing the 12 Tribunes, and, as a result, Venice was able to elect her first Doge, as stated in Encyclopedia Brittanica.

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, when having to prove to the Nazis that he had no Jewish blood in our family for at least six generations. The latter certificates have been handed to me by Joe Fidao, while the two originals relating to 1760 and 1764 have been sent to him in photostat form.

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. While this is all very interesting, I leave it to others with more time, money and patience than myself to delve into the distant past and into what records remain after the many wars in that area.

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. My grandfather Frederick Fidao, [see Family Tree] was regarded as the head of the Austrian community in Smyrna and I have a photograph of him on an Austrian battleship in Smyrna sitting beside the Admiral and surrounded by the ship officers, Consul, and other officials. My grandfather sent five of his six sons to Austrian and German schools and Universities and a sixth, Gilbert, to Paris to study medicine. My uncle Fritz (Frederick) Fidao (Doctor of Law and Colonel of an Austrian mountain artillery unit at the battle of Caporetto) devoted much time in researches into the origin of our family and concludded that we were of Ladine extraction. The Ladines (a corruption of Latins), who spoke Raeto-Romance dialects, were hill people from the upper Inn valley of the South Tyrol, the Engadine valley of Switzerland and what is now North Eastern Italy. According to my uncle Fritz, "in the South of pre-war Austria, most of the population East and West of Trieste and in Grado, Montfalcone, Aquilleia, Gorizia and Gradisoa are of Ladine origin and draw their knives if anyone calls them Italians." In view of my uncle's violent hatred of the Italians, it is possible that his findings may have been biased. In my opinion, it is more likely that the Fidaos had much Italian blood in them even if they are of ladine extraction. Whatever may be the facts, it is from a family of ship builders at Montefalcone in the 19th century when Trieste was the chief port of the Austro-Hungarian empire and base of the Austrian fleet, the Lloyd Steamship Navigation (now Lloyd Triestino) and the Cosulich Line, that the Fidaos of Smyrna originated.

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. Before the first World War, my father had to go to the U.S.A. on the firm's business and was booked to travel on the Titanic on its maiden voyage when it struck an iceberg at high speed and sank with heavy loss of life. By a stroke of luck, my father decided to change to another ship a few days before the Titanic sailed.

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. The brief notes that follow are intended only as a very brief description of the various branches of the Fidaos of Smyrna by nationality.

The French Fidaos (Family Tree Branch 1)

Emile Fidao (1875-1950) was a distinguished Academician in Paris and was awarded the Legion d’Honeur for his book on Richelieu and others as follows. This list was given to me by the Librarian of the British Museum:

L'esprit Classique et la precosite au xviieme siecle avec un Discours et un dialogue inedits de Chapelain sur la Gloire et sur l'Amour – Paris 1914

Q'est-ce qu'un Classique. Essai d'histoire et de Critique positive – Paris 1929

Richelieu – Precepteur de la Nation Francaise – Paris 1936

Discours sur la raison classique _ Paris 1937

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 who is now in the wine business in Washington, D.C., U.S.A. 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), [See Family Tree] brother of Emile settled in the U.S.A. about the turn of the century and married an American girl of Irish descent. His two grandsons, mentioned in the first paragraph of these notes, Alden and Lloyd, and my son Roland are the only descendants of the Smyrna Fidaos likely to carry on the name.

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.

Some books mentioning the Whittall family of Worcester and Turkey

1. Family Records by Edmund Giraud – This includes, in three separate sections the trees and family history of the Girauds, Whittalls and Lafontaines, with family trees going back many years before they settled in Turkey in the early 1800s.

2. The letters of Gertrude Bell by Lady Bell – Some letters describe her visits and stays at my grandfather's, Richard Whittall, house and life in Burnabat which she loved.

3. Ben Kendim or A Record of Eastern Travel by Aubrey Herbert – Describes the Whittall family in pages 31 and seQ.

4. The C. Whittall & Co. Centenary issue 1911

5. Mountains of my Life by Ashenden (Sydney Nowill Jr. ) – This is a delightfully well written book describing Burnabat and Turkey in its first part.

6. Frederick the Great on Kingcraft by Sir William Whittall – Reproduces a copy of a historicall document over which there wass much controversy and gives the Whittall family history in support of the veracity of the statements made. It also includes Turkish stories and anecdotes of life in Turkey in those days of the turn of the century.

7. It Happened in Smyrna by Thomas Edgelow – This is a novel with an introduction by his aunt the novelist Baroness van Heuten. He writes well and describes events of those days vividly, but has nothing good to say of the oft mentioned Whittalls (Blankinsops) and Keysers who would not give him a job or pay up his club and other debts, despite his good letters of introduction to them. He was a remittance man and lived in Burnabat for over a year, largely at the expense of the Patersons who found him amusing enough to pay his bills, befriend him and entertain him. His description of visits to the interior, mines, farms and ports as well as captures of Whittalls and others by brigands and local gossip and activities are very amusing.

NOTE: There are many other books, no doubt, which have not come to my attention. I would be grateful if anyone would let me know of these, their date of publications and the name of the publishers and authors.

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