The Italian Connection

From Robitaglie to C'est du chinois...

which is, as we all know, ROBITAILLE in ancient Chinese characters.

Gérald Robitaille, Orsay, France

Here it is in modern characters:

Encore du chinois...

However, before discussing ROBITAILLE in Chinese and before we learn of other purely theoretical speculations about the origins of our name, let me make a few assertions of fact. It is flattering for us to wish to believe that the Italians would have invented a word especially for our French name, one that accorded with their scheme of pronunciation; but, unfortunately not! ROBITAGLIE, which is pronounced ROBITAILLE, had existed for a long time. If we had produced a Michelangelo or a Leonardo da Vinci, I'd like to believe that the Italians would have "Italianized" our family name. Once again, unfortunately not.

In my research of our origins, it was ROBITAILLIEs from the Midi who first contacted me and who were kind enough to put me in touch with ROBITAILLIEs from the north, and their documents had the name spelled as ROBITAILLIE.

Even more important, there are many ROBITAGLIEs in the area around Florence. It must be a very old name for a tradesman that meant someone who was a cutter of material or marble. Even if we haven't (yet) produced a Michelangelo, our ancestors at least helped provide him with marble! It was during the 16th century (1510, I believe) that the ROBITAILLEs appeared in the Pas de Calais region. They do not appear earlier. In 1670, some ROBITAILLEs left for Quebec … but not for Florence, nor for Corsica, nor for the Midi region of France. Let's not reverse the order of the migrations of our large family. It is known that there was a lot of immigration of Italians into France beginning in the 16th century. From the Medicis to Mazarin, our ancestors were in good company and, in my opinion, despite the clear reservations of some of us. I am proud that my ancestors may have been Italians who were first "Frenchified" and then "Quebecified." There are also many who were Canadianized or Americanized—Robatcy, Rowbetie, Rubbertie, etc.—and I say the more, the merrier. That makes us a real international family. Today let's allow everyone the right to go where they wish and the right to be whomever they wish, without losing our mutual understanding of one another.

I have promised myself a trip to Florence so I can delve into this further. I have heard that a ROBITAGLIE accompanied Marco Polo to China! I wonder if he left any descendants. How would one know?