Its been a while since I’ve given an update on my life. Between motherhood, university internship and a bit of a rough patch, I haven’t had time to reflect much. I have now graduate from my Museum Studies program and finally have some time to catch my breathe and focus on writing a bit more.
So something I have been wanting to write about for a while was my Ancestry journey. For my birthday last July I bought a Ancestry DNA kit. Genealogy is something I’ve always been interested in, and I was curious how ethnically Italian I was. I am also a big believer in eating for your ethnicity. Since I got my results, I have been able to trace my family back several generations in various towns, uncover family secrets and found relatives all over the world.
Before buying a DNA test, I did a bit of research on which company to go with. I found that Ancestry seemed to be the most accurate and have quite a large sample size.
After sending away my DNA to Ancestry, I received an email that my results where in. So when I logged in I was able to see my DNA story and DNA matches. My DNA story has changed since my initial results. The reason being is that your DNA doesn’t change, but the sample size and algorithm that is used to assess you DNA will change. Ancestry uses Autosomal DNA, which represents both one’s maternal and paternal segments of DNA. According to their website, their DNA test targets your most recent family history of the last 100 to 1000 years. You do your DNA with other companies that focus on paternal or maternal lines, called Y-DNA and mtDNA, which can focus on the last 10,000 to 50,000 years. However, when searching for relatives and using historical records to trace back family history, I think Autosomal DNA is sufficient.
As you can see below, that the majority of my DNA is Southern Italian. This was broke down further to idenity Calabria the place of origin, which you can’t see in this image. Caucasus was next, which is modern Persian empire. Then there is a touch of Middle Eastern and European Jewish. I was pretty astounded to find that 26% of my DNA came outside of Calabria. I wasn’t sure if this was because invaders had intermarried with the local population, or because a group of my ancestors resettled in Calabria at some point in the last 1000 years.
I was pretty excited about my results, which represented a crosssection of Mediterrean and Middle Eastern countries. There was no big suprises of rogue ethnicities in my family tree that I wasn’t aware of. Considering my grandparents are all Calabrese, I doubted it would be the case.
My results also put to bed a family legend on my mother’s side. My mother’s brother was told back in the 90s by a ‘genealogist’ that their surname, Gualtieri was of French origin. He sold him a family crest and told him that we descend from a French king named Gualtier. This king was apparently exiled and relocated to the south of Italy where he changed his name to ‘Gualtieri’, married into a poor family and lost the family wealth over generations. This was immeidately grasped by my mother, who had a conversation with an old Calabrese man years before in the cheese factory that she had worked in. He told her that her father family was orignally from the north of Italy and had came from France. Clearly none of this is true, otherwise I would have a trace of French or Northern Italian DNA, which is distinctive to Southern Italian DNA. Additionally, the surname Gualtieri is a common surname found in the area that her parents are from and originates from the Papal States. There is no known history of this story either, which lead me to believe it was a lie. A more plausable explanation for the story from the man in the cheese factory is that my mother’s had two great uncles, who immigrated to France and Piemonte. This man may have been from the same town and would have known them or her family.
Another, falsehood that I had be told growing up was that my father’s family is Greek. Their surname is Greco, which does mean ‘the Greek’. However, this surname origins from Tuscany and is one of the most popular surnames in Italy. My mother also believed that my grandfather’s family has a more Greek bodyshape, being long in the torso and short in the legs. My results show no Greek DNA. Additionally, I have been able to trace the Greco name back eight generations in the same town, which dispels this belief. It is possible that their town had originated from had Greek settlement in the distant past, as many towns in Calabria had. However, there is no reason why they would be more Greek my other ancestors.
Updated DNA Results
About two months after I received my results, Ancestry did a massive update. Everybodies results had changed based on a new algorium. I was really surprised that my results had changed so much and now focused on two regions. I was now 73 % Calabrese and 27% Turkish/ Caucasian . I was confused how I had such a significant percentage of Turkish/Caucasian, but not surprised that I lost my Middle Eastern and European Jewish regions. However, when this conversation topic came up on a Calabrese Genealogy Facebook group, it was apparent that no matter how ‘Calabrese’ we were, we all had signigicant amounts of Turkish DNA. This is most likey due to the fact, that during the Middle Ages Ottoman pirates raided Calabria and other parts of Southern Italy. This birthed the italian expression “Mamma li turchi!”, meaning “Oh mom, the Turks!”. Nevertheless, I am proud of my DNA results and I imagine I had a doppleganger living 100 or 1000 years ago, living a very different life to mine.