Category Archives: Italians

Italian Connection

With the arrival of a cousin’s DNA results comes new answers and also new questions! The results are in for a cousin of my father – he is a first cousin, once removed, and now DNA confirms it. There’s absolutely no denying my father’s maternal biological family now – they are a definite, strong match, falling neatly into the range of shared DNA expected for such a relationship.

What’s interesting is that myself, my father, and the cousin actually share no other matches. Interesting but also kind of disappointing – give us a hint to work with! I’m not sure if it’s just a lack of DNA testing amongst Italians in Italy or if it’s just by chance, but the lack of shared matches shouldn’t slow research down too much – my father does not share any Italian ancestry that his cousin does not also share, being that he only has one fully Italian grandparent, who’s parents are also the ancestors of the cousin.  This means all Italian matches my father has are also genealogically related to the cousin as well, although they don’t share enough DNA by chance to show as matches.

That trick doesn’t go both ways though – the cousin is fully Italian as far as he knows, all 4 grandparents (and all ancestors already uncovered) are northern Italian. His Italian ancestor married an Italian lady after immigration, while his brother, mine and my father’s ancestor married a French Canadian woman. So it is very tough to weed out matches on the paternal side of the cousins’ tree. Another little tidbit hint is the cousin’s admixture is very typical of a northern Italian – this means no shocking origins for foundling orphan ancestor Arnaldo Morianti – likely he was from a local family.

So, with these new results comes a need for another look at the old records to see if any new leads have appeared!

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shared DNA between my father and his cousin

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My Italian Surnames

Much like the surnames of other countries and ethnic groups, the origin of Italian surnames can mostly be summed up in a few different categories – Patronyms (son of Pietro “Di Pietro”), Occupational (“Contadino = farmer”), Geographical (“Genovese” = from Genoa), Personal Traits(“Russo” – red hair, “Basso” = short) and Nature (“Colombo” = pigeon). I’m finding a heavy emphasis on the patronyms though, probably due to the great variety in how they are used. A great many of them are based on short forms, and nicknames – for example Cecchetto is derived from Cecco, a short form of Francis or Francesco.

Some areas of Italy also used an alias – “detto” – much like French Canadian “Dit” names. The purpose of these was to distinguish between different branches of a surname.

Here’s my Italian surnames, so far:

De Grandis – Personal Trait “large”

Lucato – Patronymic “son of Lucca”

Ambrosi – Patronymic “son of Ambrogio”

Cecchetto – Patronymic “son of Francesco”

Tognon detto Magiollo – two patronyms, Tognon is from Antonio and Magiollo from a very old given name “Magiolus”

Peron detto Basso – Patronym, based on the name Peter, plus Basso “short”

Morianti – Entirely made up for foundling orphans. Exploring it’s possible origins though, “Mori” is of the same name family as “Moro”, and “Morosini” – the name of a largish family from the area and the surname of a DNA match. There is also a Morandi family in Castelfranco Veneto. Whether or not you would make up a surname so close to an orphan’s real family name though, is questionable.

As I was leafing through pages in the civil records, I started noticing some familiar names, people I know from near me, locally. Being fairly exotic names, I checked a few to see whereabouts in Italy they can be found, and overwhelmingly they were concentrated around Venice. It then dawned on me that Castelfranco Veneto is a twin city to Guelph, Ontario – a city where I currently spend 5 days a week. I already obviously knew Guelph had a large Italian population, but apparently many here descend from Castelfrancians as well! What a coincidence.

A few other surnames that caught my eye just for being interesting, in the Castelfranco area were Rebellato, Del Dio Loco, Squizzato and Stangberlin.

Civil Registration: Death of Giacomo DeGrandis

I’ve found the civil death registration of my 3 great grandfather Giacomo DeGrandis AND IT LISTS HIS PARENT’S NAMES! Yahoo! One generation further into my Italian family tree! I was scanning my father’s list of DNA matches, disappointed at the lack of Italian matches when I finally spied one. After contacting him, we learned that our Italian families both hail from the Treviso province, just a little down the road from each other. That was amazing enough, since it lent weight to all my Italian research so far – surely I must have the right families (and my father’s true biological family, for that matter – him being adopted, you just never know!) if we are getting scientific, DNA matches with deep ancestry in the same area as my researched ancestors. Inspired by his genealogical success (previously, I believed a tree like his was impossible to build, due to a lack of records from the area!) I took a gander again at FamilySearch‘s database for Castelfranco Veneto and realized Giacomo’s death record as available in 1920.

I’m not going to pretend I can translate the whole thing in detail! Luckily Italian is close enough to French to be familiar, but these entries are very long-winded and official. I am just a beginner to these records! But I highlighted the important parts, that I took away from this:

In the year nineteen hundred and twenty, the month of February, thirteenth day. Giacomo, son of Bortolo DeGrandis and Celeste Luccato. Husband of Santa Ambrosi.

Giacomo DeGrandis.jpg

My Paternal DNA

The results of my father’s DNA test are in! They were earlier than expected too (Thanks, FamilyTreeDNA!)

The good and bad news is – they’re exactly what I expected! Heaps upon heaps of French Canadian matches, most of whom are related through multiple channels (related seven ways to Sunday, if you will). I am going to comb through his matches and try to pick out Eastern European or Italian ones, since those are the two lines I am most interested in because I know the least about.

His ethnic admixture can be summed up in one phrase – “Pan-European”. North, Central, Eastern, Western, Southern European, with a pinch of Ashkenazi to round it out. What can I glean from this? Well, likely his biological parents; who are half French Canadian, half Ukrainian and half French Canadian, half Italian respectively; are definitely confirmed to be his biological parents – the matches and admixture certainly fit the bill. For someone who can be said to be 50% French, 25% Italian and 25% Ukrainian, you can see that deeper than that, his French people likely descend from Celtic tribes – you see this in the British Isles-y, Iberian Peninsula-y bit. His Venetian Italians account for the southern European/Mediterranean/possibly some of central European. And his Ukrainians were likely a mix of ethnic Ruthenians(surnames Koszlak and Rozdobudko), some Ashkenazi Jews(possibly the surname Fink) and a more Baltic, northern Polish link (Bruchanski?).

All in all, despite no hidden surprises, at least his DNA is a hint that I am on the right track with my paper trail, and no major non-paternal events (read: illegitimate kids) seem to be popping up.

Without further ado, here’s some admixture interpretations, courtesy of FamilyTreeDNA, GEDMatch, and DNA.Land:

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My DNA Results

Well, I’m finally posting after receiving my DNA test results. The results are in…. and no big surprises. So far as ethnicity and admixture predictions, it seems safe to use the term “Pan-European”. I’m a mix of Baltic (mostly from my entirely Baltic mother), Mediterranean, Central European, East European and West European. As broad as that is, it seems to fit in with my known ancestry – 8 great grandparents with 4 being Latvian, 2 being French Canadian, 1 Italian and 1 Ukrainian.

My problem with this result is that it doesn’t really help define anything, which I was afraid of! It’s been suggested to me that some clues to be gleaned from this could be that my Ukrainians possibly had Polish and German backgrounds, as my Baltic and West European results were comparatively high compared to Eastern European.

Another fear of mine was that due to the endogamy in the French Canadian population (Endogamy is the fancy word for cousin marriage), that any DNA matches of French background would be related to me through so many different lines that even close matches would actually be much further back than they appeared. Well, I was right. Most of my matches appear to be French, and indeed related many ways. I received disappointingly few Italian sounding matches – I was hoping that with foundling orphan Arnaldo Morianti, DNA might give me some clues as to his biological parenthood.

Still, there were a few interesting hints hidden in my DNA. Trace amounts of Sub-Saharan African show up using certain admixture tools – this can happen amongst Italians – along with just enough, a tiny sliver of Native American identified DNA – believable, when you know French Canadian history.

I ended up asking my father to test, to get more information. Who knows what could be hidden in the 50% of his DNA that I did NOT receive from him! More ethnicity detail and Italian cousins, I’m hoping! His results are due soon.

In the meantime… here’s some interpretations of my admixture!Screenshot_2016-02-12-11-43-18

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New Method

After trying it out with my mother’s side of the family and becoming totally hooked (mentioned on my maternal family genealogy blog), I decided to finally order a DNA test from Family Tree DNA for myself. While I’d like to eventually order a test for my father as well (testing him would give me insight into another generation further back), I am testing myself this time, both to give me a little insight into both my mother’s and father’s sides, and also because after spending a year reading about DNA and understanding my mother’s, I’ve become very curious about my own DNA.

Theoretically, any ethnic admixture or match mentioned in my results that are NOT in my mother’s, definitely came from my father. I hadn’t tested this side of the family yet, or been very interested in doing so, because I thought to myself: any French Canadian matches of mine will be super easy to find links to (because of such readily available documentation). Almost too easy, and I expect a huge pile of French matches to sift through, due to the endogamy within the French Canadian population (my 2x great grandfather is the product of two first cousins, there are Meloches and Belleperches on several family lines). This will cause many of my French matches to share more total DNA with me, effectively making them appear to be a closer relation than they really are.

The Italians… well they’re a bit of a lost cause because records just simply don’t exist for the area I’m researching past about 1860. Also I have the unfortunate brick wall of having a foundling orphan in that family line. And the Ukrainians I am being a big baby about researching, due to so many different languages and ruling powers, so I have been stuck for a number of years.

Based on all that, I am excited to see my admixture breakdown more than anything. The Venetian foundling orphan could have been from anywhere, really. As for the Ukrainians, well Ukraine is a relatively new country and in the past, their hometown was part of lands owned by various other empires and kingdoms, so ethnically they could also hold a surprise (I’m expecting Carpatho-Rusyn, but you never really know). At one point both my Italians in Veneto and my Ukrainians in Galicia were both ruled by the Austro-Hungarian empire. The French likely hold less surprises ethnically, but maybe a small amount of Native American admixture will show up? Or Puritan!  It will be interesting to note the surnames of Italian matches too – they could hold the secret of Arnaldo Morianti’s parentage. That would be the third parental mystery DNA solves for me this past year. I’m under the assumption that Morianti is a made-up name given to Arnaldo and his brother Vittorio by the orphanage that took them in, as was often the case. So if I notice a recurring surname amongst my Italian matches that is not DeGrandis or Ambrosi I suppose I have a candidate for parentage.

Needless to say, I’m anxiously awaiting my results!