Tuesday, November 29, 2016

DNA testing can show distant connections—it’s true

I sent off my Ancestry DNA kit today, and the paperwork included says it will take six to eight weeks to get the results. But meanwhile, I’m entertaining myself by comparing people of Italian ancestry who match my brother’s DNA test. A few days ago, I found another Chicago Spadoni family that we’re related to and have established contact with Donald Spadoni, my fifth cousin once-removed (and he is the third person I know named Donald Spadoni). I hope to find out more about him and his family through continuing correspondence.

Archbishop Anthony Burns
But today I found another Italian connection, and the distance of the relationship really surprised me. The database showed we were related to Anthony JM Burns, archbishop of an offshoot of the Catholic Church. His Ancestry account showed a family tree that went back to Pietro Dini (1844-1918) and Gioconda Spadoni (1848-1925). My prior research in the archives in Pescia, Italy, shows the genealogy of Gioconda. I was surprised to click back into her ancestors and find that our common ancestor was Francesco Spadoni, born in Stignano around 1455, a time-span of more than 500 years.

I’ve read some forums complaining about the supposed false claims that the DNA testing companies make about finding one’s relatives. In actuality, the tests find many relatives—but the real problem is that most of them don’t have well-developed family trees connected to their online profiles, so it’s not possible to find out how they are related. However, some of them do include family trees, like Archbishop Burns, my 12th cousin twice removed. His went back to the mid-1800s, and that was enough for me to make the connection.

I had read that autosomal DNA testing could reveal relationships beyond 500 years, but I don’t know if I really believed it. Well, now I do. The lucky thing is that I’ve done so much research in Italy and built a broad Spadoni family tree. Without that, I never could have made the actual connection to Archbishop Burns.

I was able to look him up on Google and Facebook and was about to write him a note when I discovered, sadly, that he had passed away in June of this year at age 49. One of his brothers posted a note on Anthony’s Facebook page explaining that this would be the last entry because of Anthony’s death. Perhaps I can make contact in the future with this brother or someone else in the family. It’s amazing to me that through genealogy websites and DNA testing, we can find cousins with common ancestors dating back to the Middle Ages.

Postscript: On Jan. 3, 2019, I discovered a closer connection with the late Archbishop Burns. His great grandmother was Felicita Giuntoli, and I recently found that Maria Anna Giuntoli was my fourth great grandmother. I don't have a paper connection between these two ancestors, but they were both born in the same region and were likely related.

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