Totally unexpected Italian paternal ancestry

Genetic genealogy is the application of genetics to traditional genealogy. Genetic genealogy involves the use of genealogical DNA testing to determine the level and type of the genetic relationship between individuals.
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oxfordfrench
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Totally unexpected Italian paternal ancestry

Post by oxfordfrench »

Has anyone else on the forum also had a completely unexpected DNA result showing Italian paternal ancestry? At the age of 75, I have discovered that instead of being half French (father side)/half Spanish (mother side), it turns out that I am half Italian on my father side. Ancestry.com shows 42% Italian (father)/45% Spanish (mother - as expected). No French at all- 23&me shows 54% Italian & 42% Spanish. Again no French. Possible contacts (2/3 cousins) all have Italian names & are located in the USA where none of my family has ever been. My French father family genealogy up to 1800s is 100% French. No Italian input whatsoever. The logical conclusion is that my French father was not my real father and that my biological father was Italian, which given the high number of Italian immigrants in Marseille (my home town) in 1946 is a real possibility. My US contacts have no idea how we could be related. How do I go from all this uncertainty to find out more? I have also uploaded my DNA to Geneanet, MyHeritage & MyLiving DNA, but so far no luck with pointers or extra contacts. Any advice how to proceed welcome! Thanks
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MarcuccioV
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Re: Totally unexpected Italian paternal ancestry

Post by MarcuccioV »

I can relate to this through a first cousin -- she was completely unknown to me (for nearly 60 years) prior to DNA testing. Turns out her real father (who she had no knowledge of) was my mom's twin brother (who was married & had 3 kids and later a 4th after her). Total surprise for both of us, although a lot of family anomalies were enlightened through the discovery.

In my case, it appears through several matrices that my dad may have been up to 10% Italian but as yet I haven't found it. So it could be an adoption, illegitimacy or something else.

Good luck in your search and continue digging -- clues very often pop up in the most unlikely places...
Mark

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darkerhorse
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Re: Totally unexpected Italian paternal ancestry

Post by darkerhorse »

You could have a second DNA test to confirm the first.
oxfordfrench
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Re: Totally unexpected Italian paternal ancestry

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I did! First tested with Ancestry.com and then - to confirm - with 23&me. Also my 3 children all have an Italian % - and no French. After uploading also on other sites, I got some contact from My Heritage, including 1 in France, but so far they haven't responded to my messages.
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MarcuccioV
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Re: Totally unexpected Italian paternal ancestry

Post by MarcuccioV »

oxfordfrench wrote: 08 May 2022, 19:25 I did! First tested with Ancestry.com and then - to confirm - with 23&me. Also my 3 children all have an Italian % - and no French. After uploading also on other sites, I got some contact from My Heritage, including 1 in France, but so far they haven't responded to my messages.
What region(s) in Italy did 23&Me find..? For me it was Lazio, Campania, Abruzzo, Sicilia & Puglia... My documentation starts/ends in the same commune in Lazio...
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oxfordfrench
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Re: Totally unexpected Italian paternal ancestry

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23&me found (ranking from 1 t0 7) Campania, Sicily, Apulia, Calabria, Abruzzo, Basilitica & Molise.
Ancestry com found : Avellino & SW Foggia provinces and South Benevento & North Avellino.

Avellino is also quoted by the US contact who replied and who might be a 2/3rd cousin - as the birth?/starting place from which his grandparents left for America in 1905.

I tend to think these locations are correct given that the geographical results for my Spanish (mother) ancestry were correct (Andalucia)

But then so many Italians emigrated precisely from these areas at the beginning of the last century...and without even the hint of a name, my research is quite difficult.
mjclayton1
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Re: Totally unexpected Italian paternal ancestry

Post by mjclayton1 »

oxfordfrench wrote: 05 May 2022, 16:13 Has anyone else on the forum also had a completely unexpected DNA result showing Italian paternal ancestry? At the age of 75, I have discovered that instead of being half French (father side)/half Spanish (mother side), it turns out that I am half Italian on my father side. Ancestry.com shows 42% Italian (father)/45% Spanish (mother - as expected). No French at all- 23&me shows 54% Italian & 42% Spanish. Again no French. Possible contacts (2/3 cousins) all have Italian names & are located in the USA where none of my family has ever been. My French father family genealogy up to 1800s is 100% French. No Italian input whatsoever. The logical conclusion is that my French father was not my real father and that my biological father was Italian, which given the high number of Italian immigrants in Marseille (my home town) in 1946 is a real possibility. My US contacts have no idea how we could be related. How do I go from all this uncertainty to find out more? I have also uploaded my DNA to Geneanet, MyHeritage & MyLiving DNA, but so far no luck with pointers or extra contacts. Any advice how to proceed welcome! Thanks

If you haven't done this already, you need to put together a family tree and then start to compare that to your Match trees at the various web-sites. Ancestry is a good start, as you'll see more trees (and matches) there than anywhere else. The hope is that you'll find close generational matches and then be able to narrow down paternal possibilities via your genetic relatives.
oxfordfrench
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Re: Totally unexpected Italian paternal ancestry

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Thanks for your reply and advice. I appreciate all help in trying to unravel this. I was in fact thinking of putting up a family tree on Ancestry, but I am unsure about the following point : I can do my Spanish maternal side with no problem, but what do I do about my paternal side? All my previous paternal genealogical data applies to my French father to whom it turns out I'm not related. All his data relates to his French ancestors. Do I still use the French data or leave the paternal part of the tree empty? Again, thanks for your help.
oxfordfrench
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Re: Totally unexpected Italian paternal ancestry

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Thanks for your reply and advice. I appreciate all help in trying to unravel this. I was in fact thinking of putting up a family tree on Ancestry, but I am unsure about the following point : I can do my Spanish maternal side with no problem, but what do I do about my paternal side? All my previous paternal genealogical data applies to my French father to whom it turns out I'm not related. All his data relates to his French ancestors. Do I still use the French data or leave the paternal part of the tree empty? Again, thanks for your help.
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Re: Totally unexpected Italian paternal ancestry

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oxfordfrench wrote: 05 May 2022, 16:13 My US contacts have no idea how we could be related. How do I go from all this uncertainty to find out more? I have also uploaded my DNA to Geneanet, MyHeritage & MyLiving DNA, but so far no luck with pointers or extra contacts. Any advice how to proceed welcome! Thanks
Greetings!

May I ask how close, in terms of cM #'s, your Italian relations in America are to you? I'm trying to get a sense of how far removed you and they might be from your paternal ancestry.

Also, and I'm not sure how much experience you have in messaging DNA matches on Ancestry, but I have send dozens of messages with only about five replies, and only one of any helpful significance. I certainly wish you better luck.

-Greg
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Re: Totally unexpected Italian paternal ancestry

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Hello. My top contacts on Ancestry ranged from 107 to 67 cM. Two of them replied very quickly to my messages and it turned out that they were sisters. One of their numerous cousins was my top contact on 23&me with 1% (5 segments) and again he replied; we all seem to share the same geographical Italian area for our ancestry ie Avellino/Campania. They are slightly younger than me and their paternal gd parents emigrated from there. Some of my other 'top' contacts were also closely related to them, but they never replied to messages. Via My Heritage, I got what I thought was 2 closer contacts - one in France (in Marseille)(123 cM) and one in Italy (107 cM), but again no reply to messages. It also does not help that these DNA tests are illegal in France (!) & therefore not many people do them. Not sure what more I can do...
greglam
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Re: Totally unexpected Italian paternal ancestry

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oxfordfrench wrote: 20 Jun 2022, 20:44 Hello. My top contacts on Ancestry ranged from 107 to 67 cM. Two of them replied very quickly to my messages and it turned out that they were sisters. One of their numerous cousins was my top contact on 23&me with 1% (5 segments) and again he replied; we all seem to share the same geographical Italian area for our ancestry ie Avellino/Campania. They are slightly younger than me and their paternal gd parents emigrated from there. Some of my other 'top' contacts were also closely related to them, but they never replied to messages. Via My Heritage, I got what I thought was 2 closer contacts - one in France (in Marseille)(123 cM) and one in Italy (107 cM), but again no reply to messages. It also does not help that these DNA tests are illegal in France (!) & therefore not many people do them. Not sure what more I can do...
Good morning.

I have been thinking about your conundrum to see if I can maybe provide some help, or at least helpful advice.

First, I have a hunch that your answers are more likely to be found in America than Italy.

I am not going to sugarcoat this, you have a difficult, if not impossible, task ahead of you, without a match higher than in the low 100cM range. I am fortunate to have had quite a few more-distant family members, especially on my paternal side, but also my maternal side, take the AncestryDNA test, and I have 15 results between 67cM - 108cM. As a top result, 107-108cM would not be much to go on, as that is basically, at best, 2nd Cousin 2x-removed. In other words, the great-grandchild of a sibling of one of your great-grandparents. The good news, for me, is that I can identify four of mine with certainty, and have communicated extensively with one of them. The bad news is that the other eleven are essentially complete mysteries. And, with no help from them, no communication, no public trees, etc, they are likely to remain that way.

I was looking at my mother's account and DNA match list, she is 78, and judging from her list, what you are really going to need, in your situation, is for someone who is (at minimum) about a 600cM (grandniece/nephew) or better match to pop up, and, ideally, a 1,500cM match, i.e. a niece or nephew.

Let me ask you this, on Ancestry have you clicked through the "Common Match" names to see if they lead "up the chain" at all, even in a roundabout way? I'm not familiar with the functionality of My Heritage. I wonder if there is a similar "Common Match" function there that Ancestry has? Even if you could just find a male with an Italian surname, that might be a first step to a records search in Ancestry.

Now that I think about it, your situation is not entirely dissimilar from what I am facing on my mother's paternal side. I have several matches in the 100-200cM range, that, by the process of elimination, I have classified as definitely being on that line, but, with no response to messages, and no higher cM matches along their particular line, it's just a dead end. But, I suppose I could theoretically look up their birth certificates, if I could find their places of birth, which would then, theoretically, identify their parents, etc, etc.

I wonder if these sisters who are your distant cousins could provide you with family names that you could cross-reference to other records in Ancestry searches? I don't know, I think for you to make any progress, you'll just have to take the scattergun approach and see if something leads somewhere. But, at bottom, I think without a much higher cM match, you don't have much of anything productive to go on.

I would truly like to help, or at least see you make some kind of progress, so I really do apologize if this all sounds negative. I'm just very sorry that you have to try to sort this out.

-Greg
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Re: Totally unexpected Italian paternal ancestry

Post by oxfordfrench »

Hello and thanks again for your advice. I feel like I'm looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack, but I must persevere. I'm trying to see what could be the connection between the large US family group in my top contacts who are descendants of the original Italian immigrant couple (I know their names) and my biological Italian father who was obviously in Marseille in1946 (too late for a WWII encounter). I'm thinking that maybe the initial immigrant couple had siblings who stayed in Europe and turned up in France. I've done some cross-references with the names I know on French Geneanet but it just links me back to US databases. MY Heritage has a fairly limited common match tool but every extra info requires extra payment...Not as good as Ancestry or 23&me. I agree that I need to carry on messaging even if so far replies have been far and few between. I have heard that despite the French gvt ban on DNA tests, more people in France, especially young ones, are managing to do them, therefore there is also the chance that I could hear of a closer contact. PS - Was your mother born in the States or in Italy?
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Re: Totally unexpected Italian paternal ancestry

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oxfordfrench wrote: 21 Jun 2022, 18:26 Hello and thanks again for your advice. I feel like I'm looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack, but I must persevere. I'm trying to see what could be the connection between the large US family group in my top contacts who are descendants of the original Italian immigrant couple (I know their names) and my biological Italian father who was obviously in Marseille in1946 (too late for a WWII encounter). I'm thinking that maybe the initial immigrant couple had siblings who stayed in Europe and turned up in France. I've done some cross-references with the names I know on French Geneanet but it just links me back to US databases. MY Heritage has a fairly limited common match tool but every extra info requires extra payment...Not as good as Ancestry or 23&me. I agree that I need to carry on messaging even if so far replies have been far and few between. I have heard that despite the French gvt ban on DNA tests, more people in France, especially young ones, are managing to do them, therefore there is also the chance that I could hear of a closer contact. PS - Was your mother born in the States or in Italy?
Ah, ok, I had it in my head somehow that you were born in '46, but you must have been born in '47, yes? It will definitely a tough search, but at least you have the family in the U.S. and the couple in Italy to work from. It's better than nothing, and could definitely lead to something.

My mother (Irish and Hungarian), as well as both of her parents, was born in the U.S. My father (Italian) was born in the U.S., but my grandfather was born in Italy, and my grandmother in the U.S. Interestingly, I have found almost nothing, and I mean nothing, about my maternal grandfather and family, and only slightly more about my paternal grandmother and her family. Quite odd. Conversely, on my mother's maternal side, and my dad's paternal side, I can go back hundreds of years, and in one instance on my mom's side, nearly a thousand.

I wish you all the best. Please don't hesitate to message me if you think I can be of help or if you just want someone to bounce ideas off.

-Greg
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Re: Totally unexpected Italian paternal ancestry

Post by mjclayton1 »

oxfordfrench wrote: 19 Jun 2022, 20:35 Thanks for your reply and advice. I appreciate all help in trying to unravel this. I was in fact thinking of putting up a family tree on Ancestry, but I am unsure about the following point : I can do my Spanish maternal side with no problem, but what do I do about my paternal side? All my previous paternal genealogical data applies to my French father to whom it turns out I'm not related. All his data relates to his French ancestors. Do I still use the French data or leave the paternal part of the tree empty? Again, thanks for your help.
I would consider doing two trees: one with your known/paper relatives (French) and one for your previously unknown Italian connection. It's difficult, but I would start by copying what you think are relevant portions of a tree from your strongest Italian match. Build it out as much as you can (it's time-consuming, for sure, so try not to get too discouraged). That will probably make your starting point well back in the early-mid 1800's. As more Italian matches come into play you then hope to jump up a generation or two, but as some have already indicated here you'll definitely need to find closer Italian matches, if at all possible. It will be very important if you can somehow discover possible surnames that your direct line comes from. Difficult, but not impossible. You never know when you'll hit "pay-dirt" with someone else doing research sometime down the line.
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