For my mother's birthday last year, my sister and I bought her a genealogy test. My mother's ancestors, as far as we knew, were 100% Italian--every single one who came here emigrated from Italy. If you know my mom, you also know this comes as a surprise to many people; she has red-blonde hair, green eyes, and freckles. When she was little and would wear green on St. Patrick's Day, the women who worked in her school's cafeteria fawned over her and her red pigtails, calling her a "sweet little Irish girl."
We weren't sure if there would be a surprise in her DNA. There are, after all, blond- and red-haired Italians. Case in point:
Allora....as it turns out, my mother is one of those redheaded Italians. 86% of her DNA is from the boot, and the rest is largely Mediterranean. Rivendicazione! Now it's my turn to test my DNA, and the question guiding my search is--am I German?
It's many people's first question when they find out I've written a novel about Germany. Little do they know, I wonder the same thing. We never identified as German growing up. Based on our great-grandparents' nationalities, my siblings and I identified as three-quarters Italian, one-eighth Irish, and one-eighth Hungarian. Therefore I didn't begin writing about Germany because I felt a descendant's claim to the story. (There is some family lore that helped shape Fraulein M.; the two sisters at the heart of the story grow up in a Catholic orphanage, and one of my great-grandmothers lived in one after her mother died of Spanish Flu. More on that in a future post.) The inspiration to write about Germany came from art, not family history. A visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's "Glitter and Doom" exhibit of Weimar portraiture in 2007 is what led me to begin exploring Weimar Berlin's freedom, decadence, and violence. (More on that soon, too.)
I didn't realize until I was well into writing the book that I may in fact have some German blood. My Irish/Hungarian grandfather has been very dedicated in his work to fill in the branches of our family tree, and in the process he has found some hidden Germans on both his Irish and his Hungarian sides. He and I have wondered if the reason we hadn't heard much about these German ancestors was that in the first half of the 20th century wasn't a good time to be German in the United States.
I'll post again when I get the results of my genealogy test. What about you--have you had your DNA tested? Were you at all surprised by the results?