Ancestry.com keeps updating my personal history.
When you hit a certain age there is a little switch in your head that flips over and you suddenly think to yourself, “Huh. Genealogy. That sounds like fun.” I hit this point a few years ago, and I’ve written about it before in this space.
I wasn’t really going to do the DNA testing thing, since I’m not sure what else those companies might want to do with it. Can you imagine an army of my clones marching through the countryside, stripping the bookstores bare and demanding tea? It would be a particularly civil sort of chaos, really, and one we could probably use these days. Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea after all, except that I already know that the world can barely handle one of me. It doesn't need an army of copies. But since my mom wanted me to take the DNA test and she paid for it, I said okay.
It turns out I’m related to her. And my uncle. Possibly my brother as well. I’m glad they cleared that up.
Apparently Ancestry keeps refining their methods and at some point those little refinements hit a critical mass and they release new estimates of where my genes have come from. These new estimates can vary significantly from previous estimates as well as from what I already know from documentary research, so I suppose you can take all of that for what it is worth.
What I always find fascinating is that no matter what refinements they use Ancestry invariably tells me that the percentage of Italian in my genetic heritage is higher than 50%. They have told me that it has been as high as 74% and as low as 59%, but no matter what version of the results that they give me it’s always more than half.
My mother’s side is completely Italian. I can trace every single branch of that side of the family back to Italy – sometimes to specific towns – and I know when many of them came to the US. I even know the name of the ship that brought my great-grandmother here in 1907. So 50% Italian makes sense to me.
My dad’s side is Not Italian. Not in the least. This was, I understand, something of a stumbling block for my mom’s extended family when my parents were dating – my dad once told me that eventually they decided that he looked Italian and that was enough. Again, I can trace them back to this Not Italian region in multiple lines – a Not Italian region that consistently accounts for less than 20% of what Ancestry tells me is my own heritage, by the way. On the original results it was 1%. The latest version pegs it at 16%.
Maybe that’s where the extra Italian comes in.
Are Italian genes just so powerful that they can override genes from other places?