BRENTANO An Italian surname, but one with a long history in Hull. The earliest Hull reference to date; “Francis Joseph Brentano, son of Joseph Brentano of the town of Kingston upon Hull, merchant’s clerk …” Sept. 1816 (Reg of Apprentices, 1809-20, entry no 1357). So this appears to be a family established in Hull in the early 19th century, perhaps the end of the 18th.
Francis Joseph is doubtless the man of that name who married Louisa Walker at Holy Trinity church, 12 Jan. 1824. The name Joseph is common among the Brentano males in 19th century Hull. An Edwin Joseph Brentano (b.c.1810) married Sarah Calvert at Holy Trinity, 6 Oct.1834. They had seven children, including a Joseph Otto (died young), an Edwin Joseph and a William Joseph. As I have not yet found baptimal records for Francis J. and Edwin J. sr., no relationship has been traced. They might have been brothers. I suspect that the family may have been Catholic on first settling in Hull, and so would be unlikely to appear in established church records.
As to the origins of the Brentanos of Hull, the records have not yet given an answer. I have heard of a family tradition of an Italian, and noble, ancestry.
Brentano is certainly an Italian surname, though a rare one. It derives, I believe, from a place called Brenta, on the shore of Lake Como in the Italian Alps. The name is now better represented in Germany than in Italy, though not at all common there. The name does not seem common anywhere, and Hull must have a fair share of the world’s Brentanos.
I suggest that it is quite feasible that the Brentano family migrated to Hull from Germany rather than from Italy. The forenames give no clear indication, apart from Otto, which looks German. Also the German Brentanos were a mercantile family in the German Rhineland, though rather grander than Joseph B’s “merchant’s clerk”. There is also a Joseph Maria Brentano, “sworn translator” on record in Hull (Directory, 1851).
In Italy a Pietro Brentano is on record at Bonzanico in 1350. Bonzanico, Azzano and Tremezzo (all associated with the Brentano family) are neighbouring settlements on the western shore of Lake Como. Across the lake is the settlement of Brenta.
In Germany a Simon Brentano is on record at Koblenz c.1680. The founder of the famous German family of Brentano di Tremezzo was b.1735, Como, Italy, migrated to Frankfurt sometime before 1774. It is clear, however that Brentanos, doubtless related, were established in the Rhineland before this time, so all German Brentanos need not be “Brentano di Tremezzo” (also known as Brentano von Tremezzo).

For the sake of completeness I should mention one Pietro Brentano. He was one of a large group of Italians, “makers and vendors of weather glasses and [pictures?]” who disembarked in Hull, 26 May 1795. They appear to have been seasonal visitors, and most are later recorded as leaving the country via Hull. Pietro B. was not listed among the company leaving. It is likely that he left via another port rather than settled permanently, but that is speculation. (Hull Record Office BRE 7, “Aliens”)

ADDENDA 28.1.15: The German language Wikipedia has an article on the Brentanos with lines of descent and illustrations of armorial bearings. A knowledge of German would be useful of course, but names and dates are the same in English.
I have found a reference to an Italian Count Brentano, Carlo Giuseppe Brentano, conte di Caltignaga, Treasurer general to the Duchy of Milan (fl. 1731-1738). This Carlo built the Brentano Palace (“Palazzo Brentano”) at Corbetta, Milan. Caltignaga is in the Novara district, west of Milan.
I have to admit that, prior to finding this reference, I did not believe that any Brentano bore the title of count.


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