Thursday, February 13, 2014
How are the Spadoni families spread across the world related? DNA test offers possibility to answer this
Whitepages.com shows nearly 1,000 people in the United States with the surname Spadoni. A large percentage of them have ancestors who came from Italy during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Most family groups have many known cousins living within the same geographical area. But are the Spadonis of one city or state related to those of another city or state? Through research in Italian archives, I have discovered previously lost connections between five American Spadoni family groups. Three are from Washington—Seattle, Tacoma and Gig Harbor. The other two are from Chicago and Alameda on San Francisco Bay. However, other Spadoni families are spread across the country, and I have to wonder if they are also related. Many Spadonis also show up in Australia, Canada and South America.
The same question comes up in Italy as well, only on a greater scale. Paginebianche.it lists some 1,500 people named Spadoni in Italy, and they too are distributed countrywide. The word “spadone” means “broadsword” or “big sword,” and “spadoni” is the plural. Usually the first person to be assigned a surname would use the singular form, and his offspring would take the plural. It is possible, even likely, that quite a few people in Italy took on the surname Spadone because of occupations as sword smiths, soldiers or aficionados of swords. But it is theoretically possible that an extensive Spadoni family developed from a single ancestor. Occasionally Spadonis from different regions will cross paths and exchange pleasantries, but they are usually left with the unanswered question about whether they are related within Italy’s distant history.
Now, however, there is a way to answer this question. DNA testing has become affordable and is rapidly growing in acceptance and popularity. All that is needed is for someone to start a Spadoni family name project with one of the DNA testing services. Once several Spadoni males from each family group have their DNA tested, it can be determined with relative certainty which groups are related to which. Not long ago I read the book Trace Your Roots with DNA, by Smolenyak and Turner, and noted that numerous people have started family name projects, encouraging people with the same surname to enroll.
I recently sent in an online order to FamilyTreeDNA of Houston to get my DNA Y-chromosome testing kit, and when I get the results back, the testing organization will give me the opportunity to contact anyone who matches my DNA, if that person has given permission to be contacted. However, my test alone won’t show anything if no one else related to me has previously been tested. The best way to match results is to work together with other people who share the same surname.
Family name projects test the Y-chromosome, which is passed down virtually unchanged from father to son, following the paternal line, so only males can be tested. However, females can also participate in a project by encouraging brothers, fathers, uncles and male cousins to become DNA donors to the project. They can also help by providing Spadoni family information that they might have and by contributing financially to help fund a family donor.
Blood samples are not required for this test. Instead, a sample is taken using a small Q-tip-like brush to swab the inside of the cheek. It is similar to brushing one’s teeth. Some people are concerned that DNA tests provide medical information or will identify individuals. In fact, only the Y-chromosome is tested, which has no medical value. The tests are not the same as those used by law enforcement authorities, and in any event, individual privacy is protected. When comparing DNA test results, kit numbers are used rather than names in order to maintain anonymity. A participant’s identity would be known only by the family project administrator and is not given to anyone else without specific written authorization. If a match is found for your DNA and the other person wishes to contact you, you will be notified by the project administrator and you will have the option whether to contact them directly or not.
I am currently considering whether to apply to the testing company FamilyTreeDNA to be a project administrator and start a Spadoni family name project. It would involve creating a web site to explain the process and encouraging people to participate. Then I would have to communicate with everyone who makes inquiries and also coordinate with the testing company, as well as post updates and results to apprise people of progress. I would much rather that someone else step forward to coordinate, or at least offer to share the duties with me.
Fellow Spadonis, please think about the possibilities of helping to coordinate or at least contributing a DNA sample once a volunteer administrator has been appointed. The cost for the recommended Y-DNA37 test will be around $160, although a less definitive Y-DNA12 test will only be about $60. It will be interesting to find out how many different Spadoni branches exist and discover previously unknown connections. Contact me if you wish to be involved in any way, and I will put your information on a mailing list to be used once an administrator is in place. I promise to use your contact information for no other purpose than a Spadoni family name project and will not give it out indiscriminately.
To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain perpetually a child. For what is the worth of a human life unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?
– Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106-43 B.C.