I always find it humorous when people who haven’t researched the family tree tell me what nationalities and ethnic groups lie within the branched. And, so it went with a conversation I had with my Mom last week.
I can’t remember how we got on the topic, but we started talking about the different countries represented in our tree. This is when she informed me that we have Scotch ancestry. I have heard this before, but honestly, the documentation doesn’t support it. Oh, it’s possible that we have roots in Scotland before 1800. But up to the early 1800s, my Mom’s roots are Australian, Irish, British, and Welsh.
Then, she dropped one on me that I hadn’t heard before. My Grandma Lassalle, my thoroughly French Grandma Lassalle, told people she had a little bit of Italian blood in her. Italian? My Grandma’s parents were both French, both from the exact same region of France. I have the tree back to the 1600s and they are still in France.
Considering the changing geography from wars, political upheaval, etc., I suppose it is possible that my Grandma had an ancestor who walked over from another part of the continent. Or, she had noble roots somewhere back in the tree that are from Italy. Or, maybe an Italian traveler had an affair with one of her ancestors producing that little bit of Italian heritage.
While many things are possible, the documentation says otherwise. There is no mention of Italian or Italy in any of the records for the people in her tree as far as I can tell. Let’s say that back in the earliest possible records that still exist (around the early 1600) for this region there was one person in my Grandma’s tree that was Italian. First, I’d owe her an apology. Second, I really doubt that she would know about it. Third, can you really claim that you have a little bit of this or that when it’s that far back? I mean, my Azorean tree hits nobility in the 1500s and then goes backward through history. As many of the countries we know today didn’t really exist in the times I had ancestors in them, I have difficulty claiming that as part of my European makeup.
It makes me wonder why these stories persist. Is it that we’d like to believe we are just a little bit different, a little more unique than our pedigree would show? Maybe we feel that much more special if we have that odd trace of ancestry that seems utterly impossible given the circumstances.
I wish I had known that my Grandma claimed this Italian heritage (and that I had been interested) before she passed away in 1984. Now I would love to ask her why she thought so and what the story was behind it. For now, I can only assume my no nonsense Grandma was just messing with everybody. Makes for a more interesting story, doesn’t it?
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com