My father, Bob, took one of those
mail-order genetics tests earlier
this year to find that he was not strictly a pureblood.
Turns out he’s just 97 percent Irish;
his 3 percent Swedish side is a complete mystery to him, which
believe bothers him not in the least.
Most of my mother’s first cousins —
she has 23 of them — had already taken the assessment and all had
turned out 100 percent Italian. Why shouldn’t they be? They were
all second-generation Americans who grew up in Italian enclaves in
But my mother’s results were
My mother, it turns out, is 31 percent
Armenian, which I imagine came as quite a shock. In the early years
of the 20th Century, Italians didn’t generally
intermarry. My own parents’ union in the late 1960s was looked upon
as a mixed marriage, because he was Irish (though just 97 percent)
and she was Italian — or so she thought.
Through some genetic sleuthing and
using knowledge gained from high school biology, we determined that
one of my grandmother’s parents must have been full-on Armenian —
either Kate on the Chiarella side, my Noni who died in 1997, or her
husband, Joe, on the DeSantis side, who died many years before I was
My money’s on Joe, for what it’s
worth. Not that it maters.
been fleeing the Middle East for Europe since the early days of the
Ottoman Empire in the 19th Century. Later, in 1915, the
empire would slaughter 1.5 million Armenians in the Middle Eastern
theater of World War I. A lot of Armenians landed in Italy in the
years between 1860 and 1915. And some of them made it over here.
It’s ironic, though, that genetic
tests like these would have greatly aided the Ottoman Empire in its
pursuit to rid itself of the Armenian bloodline. Hitler could have
used them to positively identify Jews in Germany in the early days of
the Reich. White supremacists rely on them now to ascertain their
degree of whiteness — often, as has been reported, with
I am interested in exploring my
Armenian side. If I can find a proper restaurant.
But I know too much about eugenics, its
weaponization and its role in shaping our society, from Jim Crow to
redlining real estate deals — too much to be turned on by
discovering specifically how Irish I am.
And I’m happy being a mutt.
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