Help with Italian Heritage?!!!

+5 votes
I never knew I was Italian. At least not a lot anyway. Not until I took a DNA test. I'd found some Italian in my DNA through family history research from both my parents' sides of the family but very little and almost insignificant. Although I did figure I'd be more Italian than that through my mother's Hispanic heritage. But I was shocked when I took 23andMe's DNA test and found only 0.4%. To me, that was very disappointing. But after testing with MyHeritage, FTDNA, as well as uploading my raw data to GEDmatch, I found that I was a lot more Italian than I previously thought.

While 23andMe thought I was very little Italian, FTDNA told me I was 3%. Which is a lot more BUT I scored higher for Italian DNA on MyHeritage which said I was 8.3% and GEDmatch which said I was 12%. Now there's a huge difference between 0.4% and 12% so which is true?

I've concluded that 23andMe and FTDNA aren't correct on their percentages being that it wouldn't give me something so high if it wasn't actually there. And with that being said, it leaves me with either 8% or 12%. BUT there is another factor: Greek DNA. I've had a small amount of Central Greek pop up on GEDmatch yet it doesn't tell me how much is there. But after looking at Taux de Similitude, I have found that there seems to be quite a bit of Greek showing up as well. Taux de Similitude doesn't give percentages but it does give numbers for each country so this is what I came up with:

Italy: 49, 46, 42, 36, 35, 39, 41, 41, 38, 36

Greece: 49, 49, 45, 45, 39, 44, 37

The numbers for Greece are less and it also come up only occasionally on GEDmatch, leading me to believe it's a lesser degree of DNA than the Italian. But I'm just not sure which percentage is correct.

A lot of people have told me before that it's hard to distinguish on DNA so if there's no answer, I completely understand. I would just really like to know more about my Italian DNA if someone could help?

It would be very much appreciated!
in Genealogy Help by S G G2G6 (7.4k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith

3 Answers

+4 votes

Before drawing too much conclusion take a look at the uncertainties (“error bars”) in the results. It may turn out that these results are not distinguishable from each other.

I had my DNA by another company and there was a large amount of error or uncertainty in some of the results.



There are a number of articles about unexpected DNA results. This is one


by George Fulton G2G6 Pilot (322k points)
edited by George Fulton
+3 votes
I've been told that the results depend on how many people have taken a particular test. As a result, I've learned that AncestryDNA is the way to go for Italians because of the large number who took their test. So it really depends on the company and who took the test for it.

Might want to try AncestryDNA and see how it compares.
by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (356k points)
Different companies have different identifiers and codes. That is true. However, bottom line, both Italians and Greeks are going to have different markers that don’t come back as specifically “Italian” or “Greek” the way we would expect them too. Furthermore, it matters which part of Italy
That's true. Thanks for the clarification. =)

And yea it matters which part of Italy. My great-aunt took the test on AncestryDNA and got Southern Italian which is true. She's from San Pietro a Maida.
Ah, thank you! I might have to try that then! On GEDmatch, I got back a little Northern Italy but but mostly Southern Italy, I believe. The ancestors on my parents' side who were Italian according to my paper trail were from Genoa and Naples, though.
+3 votes
omg I wrote you a long answer but this stupid system deleted 3/4 of it! Why!?!?!   Ok I will reply again when I am at a laptop
by Michele Misurelli G2G Crew (830 points)
Okay! I'll be looking for that then, Michele! :)
One comment was a reply to me and then there was this. Type it out when you can. Don't worry about it. The message boards here can be wonky sometimes. =D
Ok let me try this again...

My paternal side of the family is right off the boat Italians. From Cosenza, Calabria to be specific. We have traced our family tree back to the 1600s in the Cosenza region and back to the 1500s in Giovinazzo which is where our family originated. So far 5 of us from my father's family have had DNA tests done; 3 of us with My Heritage, 1 with Ancestry and one with 23 and me. Not a single one of us were pegged as "Italian". We were all confused until I started investigating to find out that the results you get with the common testing labs are not as cut and dry and you think. Especially when it comes to Italians, Greeks and American Indians.

I started researching this issue and found information discussing the faulty coding with these companies. But it does go further than that- like I touched on before with the location in Italy your ancestors hail from.

If your ancestors hail from the north of Italy, you can expect an influx of Swiss, French, and even eastern European. From Sicily and the south expect Baltic,  Mediterranean, and even North Africa. Think of history: historic battles and what genes were behind the ancient Romans. Make sense? Italians are in essence made up of ancient dna (for the lack of better terms and to keep it simple)

So when I re-examined mine again, it had me at almost 40% Baltic which makes perfect sense. Also, you are way better off using Gedmatch - its free and far more accurate. Dont waste your money testing with another company, you are just going to get similar frustrating results. Besides, once you download your raw dna file from whoever you used for you initial test, Ancestry and My Heritage with both allow you to upload your file for their analysis. But Gedmatch is the best it seems. You will also get better matches with others who share your dna.

The best thing you can do also (if you havent already) is start documenting and working on your Italian family tree. It is going to be a huge help believe it or not, especially when you start finding dna matches from Italian ancestors. We have a large group of Italian cousins who are all dna matches from the same town/area in Italy! Cool huh?

So, go back and run your raw file thru Gedmatch and also read into to the results that you did get from your original testing lab- because real Italians are NOT showing up as "Italians" on these tests! But rather its a matter of reading into the results you are given showing "ancient" type dna.....I hope I explained ok
sorry mistake...I came back as 14% Baltic not 40%  typo-and 29% Iberian (South Europe) but I think you get the idea of what I mean by reading further into your results : )

Ah, this was extremely helpful! Thank you so much, Michele!! Hmm, well, as far as on paper, I only ever found two Italian ancestors and they were a bit far back. One of them was my paternal 8x great-grandfather, Mark Anthony (b.1670-1754) and my maternal 9x great-grandfather, Sergeant Antoine Clermont (b.1690-1765).


I did more research though on GEDmatch like you said and I came up with this:

From Eurogenes:

West Mediterannean - 11.66

Baltic - 19.84

And then from other admixture charts:

Remedello (from Ancient admixture chart)


I think most of those are Northern Italy though which is a surprise because I thought I was more Southern than Northern.

very interesting results! Which admixture tests did you run on Gedmatch specifically? I will run the same ones you did and post my results so you can see as well.

Abruzzo is more centrally located, Sicilian and Greek would be the south- I would say half and half north/south but then there is something else to consider: migration within Italy. Although it is more common for those ancestors to have stayed put in certain areas, there is always the chance of them migrating thru Italy. If I pull up my family name and the current locations of those in Italy, the majority of them are STILL in the south and still in the same cities and towns.  Less than a handful have migrated North. Just something to consider. It is possible,

The last names are helpful to a degree. Southern Italians usually have an "I"  "A" "E" or "O" at the end of their names, of course there are some exceptions, but that is the general rule. You will be hard pressed to find an Italian family from the north with an "I" at the end of their names. Neither name you mentioned above is a typical Italian name! So I have to wonder if those families migrated to Italy and lived there for years....I would love to see the names of the wives/mothers in the pedigrees : )  It can be very helpful. Italian women ALWAYS keep their maiden last names. They never take their husbands last names. In Italy, there are two names on every mail box- unless of course the people who live there are single : )  Children always take the fathers last name and there are no juniors allowed : )
I pulled up a few articles on Italian genes that I had book marked for you. Its quite a bit of discussion about halotypes but you can get the idea of what I was talking about with Italian genes being linked back to ancient/historical lineage.

Oh okay, thank you!! 
The first GEDmatch test I took was Eurogenes K13 which is where those Baltic and West Mediterannean percentages came from.

Here are the others I took and what I got for them:

Eurogenes K13 Oracle-4 on 3 and 4 populations approximations: Italian_Abruzzo, East_Sicilian, Central_Greek, South_Italian and West_Sicilian
Eurogenes K36 - 12.20% Italian
Eurogenes Jtest - North_Italian
Dodecad V3 - Tuscan
puntDNAL K10 Ancient - Italian_North and Italian_South on 2 populations approximation
puntDNAL K12 Ancient - Remedello_BA_SG_RISE489 on the Secondary Population
puntDNAL K12 Modern - Italian_Bergamo
puntDNAL K13 Global Oracle-4 - Italian_Bergamo
Eurasia K9 ASI - Tuscan and Greek
Gedrosia K12 - Greek and Sicilian
Ancient Eurasia - Italian_South, Sicilian, Greek, and Cypriot on Secondary Population
Near East Neolithic K13 - Greek, Sicilian, and Italian_South

Ohh, I didn't think of that but you're right! And that would make a bit more sense of why I have both North and South then. Hmm, that's interesting! I had never heard that before actually! Well, Sergeant Antoine Clermont was born in Naples but I've seen it listed as Naples, France. Now I assumed it was Naples, Italy being that to my knowledge, there is no Naples, France. BUT his wife was not Italian. Her name was Marie Jeanne Villiote/Weillot/Willot and she was born in Issoudun, St. Cyr Bourgez, Berry, France in 1695 and she died also in France in 1731. Unfortunately, I have no clue who their parents were and I've never heard anything more than that on them.

More info on Antoine:

And as for Mark Anthony, his last name was changed I'm supposing upon arrival to the colonies. He was born in Genoa, Liguria, Italy to Marcus Edward Anthony, himself born in Genova, Repubblica di Genova, Italia in 1654 and died in 1716 in Amsterdam, Holland, Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlanden. Marcus Edward was a coral merchant and he moved to the Netherlands. So the story goes, his son Mark was captured by pirates and he ended up escaping and boarded a ship that was bound for America. Some people don't believe that story to be true BUT what they fail to realize is that - the world was a different place back then. And things like pirates killing or kidnapping people DID indeed happen. So I really don't think it's that big of a stretch myself. Anyway, Mark's mother was a Mary Thomas born in 1654-1702. I don't know where she was from, though I assume it to be England based on her name. And in turn, his father, Marcus Edward's only known parent was Marcus Antonius (Mendes?) born 1630 in Europe (not sure where). There was also another story though about Mark Anthony - that he was descended from Marc Antony (the same one who was with Cleopatra) and supposedly, his son had written down a whole family tree documenting it but his Quaker in-laws found him vain for doing so and subsequently burned it. I have no idea of the truth to that, though - that's just what I've heard. And as for Mark Anthony's wife, he was married to Isabella Hart born in 1684 (not sure where) and died in 1716 in Hanover, Virginia. Her parents were John "The Immigrant" Hart born in 1651 in England and died in 1714 in Pennyslvania and Susannah Rush born in 1656 in England and died 1725 in Pennsylvania. So as far as I know for Isabella, she was English.

More info on Mark:

But those are my only two known Italian ancestors. And even that is a bit shaky on the information. Some people believe Mark Anthony to be Jewish even but I've never believed that myself being that it's only a theory with no proof otherwise. 
I do have some other possible Italian ancestors though - both on my mother's side. My mom is 1/4th Hispanic through my grandfather and through that side, I'm descended from a Ludovici/Luís Cortés and his wife, Bernardina Morin. What's strange though is that most of them had either Spanish or Portuguese surnames but with Italian-sounding first names. That's why I figured maybe I had some Italian DNA through that side but I'm uncertain.

The other possible Italian ancestors lies with my grandmother's side. They were always pretty darker-complected with dark hair yet they didn't resemble my mother's Hispanic side or even Native Americans. So I know it's something European but I'm uncertain as to just what. I actually have pictures of them I would love to send you, if that's alright? I can send you my e-mail address in a message later, if you want. But strangely enough, that line came from England - at least according to what I've heard.

Ah, thank you so much for those links, Michele! They were really helpful - I never knew all this about Italy before, I admit lol
No, northern Italians usually have surnames ending with an "I", while southern Italian surnames usually end in "O" or "E".

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