Friday, May 05, 2006
Mom gave it to me...

Ok even those of you who are not so much interested in their family history might appreciate today's post. It's something I started reading about a few years back and became instantly fascinated. We are all brought up believing (to a certain degree) that we carry equally the genetic legacies of our ancestors, and that we, as individuals, posses a unique "mix" from the proverbial "Gene Pool". This of course would not be true of identical twins, but generally speaking we believe that even our sisters and brothers inherit a genetic makeup quite different from our own, even given that we have an identical ancestry. Following along still? Don't get bored with this, I'm leading up to something..

Nearly every cell of the human body contains scores of mitochondria, tiny organelles that play a key role in releasing cellular energy. The amazing thing about these little organelles is that:
  • Passed ONLY from mother to child during fertilization (fathers do not contribute)
  • They are REPLICATED and almost never mutate for perhaps thousands of years.
What does this mean? Astonishingly that.... you have in nearly every cell in your body a detectable genetic "map" which has been passed to you from your mother, and from her mother, and from her mother, and from her mother backward in time for more than a millennium without change. In other words, if you were to locate (nearly impossible within any certainty I realize) the remains of your maternal line ancestor from 1000 years ago, and conduct genetic research upon her remaining cells you would find an identical genetic "stamp" to one that you carry today, as I said in nearly every cell. While you do inherit from your father the The Y-chromosome (in the nucleus of each cell) this mutates a great deal over time, and the farther back you go in the paternal line, the less likely it is to find an exact match. There is just nothing comparable to mtDNA.
Interestingly enough this test was used to prove that (Thanks to Prince Phillip of England who submitted to testing) Anna Anderson was in fact NOT Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanoff of Russia, as Anastasia and Phillip shared a common maternal Ancestor (namely Queen Victoria of England).
Soon after finding this article I began working on my biological mother's matrilineal line in Sicily. It has taken me years of primary source research (mainly church records) but at this point I have traced back to the Sicilian peasant woman ... Blandonia Maurici, who was born about 1550. Here is (for fun I guess) an image of her original marriage record:

(The marriage of Antonino Longo to Blandonia Maurici, 30 March 1572)

(baptism of their daughter Giulia Longo (my maternal line) 22 December 1573)


Now for fun I decided I would try and find the farthest back Maternal line ancestor for my two sons (obviously through their mother and her mother and her mother etc.) and WHAT did I discover?? They descend directly in the matrilineal line from THIS notorious woman:


Gillette Banne (born 1632 died 1672) who, with her 2nd husband Jacques Bertault were hanged on June 9th, 1672 at Quebec City, Nouvelle France (modern day Quebec) for the brutal murder of their son in law Latouche. Apparently Gillette first tried to poison him, when that didn't work her husband stabbed him with a pitchfork, but their young victim still stood strong, yet sadly in the end was no match for a crude shovel to the head. The couple then proceeded to dismember his body and dump it in pieces into the St. Lawrence River. Gillette gave a full confession against her husband and the two were found guilty (naturally), tied to a Giant Wheel (old French Medieval tradition) and suffocated by pulling the ropes around their neck tight. When they were found to be breathing no longer, the magistrate ordered the wheel spun breaking all four of their limbs before the bodies were removed and buried. Apparently in older times this would have been enacted while they were alive, but you see The French had grown civilized by 1672. It still amazes me that the mtDNA of this woman resides in every cell of not only my ex-wife, but my two sons. They fortunately will not pass it on to their children :) (should you care to read more on Gillette, here is a detailed PDF summary of her life, fascinating stuff)


Y'all go out and have a Margherita for me ok? I thought in celebration of this special day I would upload a clip from a Mexican group which I have been listening to since I can remember (when the mood strikes) they are Trio Los Panchos and this is one of my favorites....

La Malageña

(right-click open in new window to play, right-click to save)


Que bonitos ojos tienes
Debajo de esas dos cejas,
Debajo de esas dos cejas
Que bonitos ojos tienes.
Ellos me quieren mirar
Pero si tu no los dejas,
Pero si tu no los dejas
Ni siquiera parpadear.
Malagena salerosa,
Besar tus labios quisiera,
A tus labios quisiera
Malagena salerosa,
Y decirte, nina hermosa;
Eres linda y hechicera,
Eres linda y hechicera
Como el candor de una rosa.
Y decir de nina hermosa
Eres linda y hechicera,
Eres linda y hechicera
Como el candor de una rosa.


Laters :)

S76 C12 150

Blogger Kalvin said...
This is the kind of family history I love. I have to admit when my grandmother started telling me about all of the suicides, murders, adultery, intrigue and scandal I would get interested. And you know, mtDNA just has to do with the mitochondria. Sure it may be the place in the cell for THE key metabolic pathway that creates for the most part the most important energy molecule in the cell, but it's not really all that variable, and I highly doubt it has an outward manifestations. Besides, it's glamorous to be descended from famous murderers (at least I keep telling myself that). AND HAPPY CINCO DE MAYO. Nice lyrics and song.

Blogger Miz BoheMia said...
Wow! Fascinating! I am amazed by what you are able to unearth! Most of us would not know where to start!!!

I had heard of mitochondrial DNA but I did not know the details that you mention... part of me is sad my son doesn't get to pass it on! Seriously! *sigh* But then again... maybe it's a good thing!

Ooooh! La Malagueña!! Someone you know lives in Malaga and La Malagueña means a woman from Malaga!

Hope you have a great weekend my dear friend! Much love and hugs coming your way!!!

Blogger Nick said...
that song makes me want to go to Chi CHi's for some ice cold Corona or XX.

Blogger Hanuman1960 said...
So you were talking about genetics? I thought your mother gave you that dress! :P

Blogger castor said...
Here is a link where you can find a map which shows you the diffudion of Italian surnames in Italia and in USA:

cognome (ital) = surname

Blogger vuboq said...
Thanks for the song!
Happy Friday!


Blogger Donald said...
Tracing one's family history can be quite interesting. A few years ago my mother (who is now 80, and originally from England) found out that she was not afterall an only child. It turns out her mother gave birth to a boy (out of wedlock) when she was 20, and then had my mother when she was 40, and married to a younger man. My mother grew up thinking Reginald (who was being cared for by an aunt) was her cousin, when in fact he was her brother. My mother found out that Reginald grew up not knowing he had a sister, got married and had a son, who is the person who contacted my mother to tell her all about this. So the net result is my mother had a brother, has a nephew and I have a cousin.

Blogger Seeker Onos said...
Pretty fascinating stuff... I have heard it said that in Jewish tradition, it is the matrilineal line that determines whether or not a person is Jewish (by nationality, not by chosen faith).

In light of this topic, that would tend to make sense. Yet interestingly enough, the ancient Jewish traditions also make the father/husband the head of the household.

Blogger BriteYellowGun said...

Blogger Jim said...
Wow... that is very interesting ancestry information! Who knew! One of these days i'm going to have to try to get some information on my mom's side of the family, since we know very little and never met any of them. Have a great weekend Jim!

Blogger Jim said...
Very interesting ancestry information! Thanks for sharing that. One of these days i'm going to have to try to find some background on my mom's side of the family since we know very little.

Have a great weekend Jim!

Blogger Sangroncito said...
Fascinating! It makes me want to concentrate on my mother's line now. On my father's side I can go back many centuries, but on my mother's maternal line only back to a great grandmother, but only because I haven't researched any farther. Time to start hunting!
Great photo, by the way.

Blogger Will said...
The PDF is strong stuff to read but for all the apparent barbarism (to our sensibilities) of the execution, I sense an enlightened court.

The fact that Elizabeth was let off with a fine and merely had to watch the execution rather than be a victim of it; and the fact that the confiscated property was then handed over to certain of those who would have been rightful heirs anyway, indicates that while a murder was punished, the reasons for it were taken into consideration. In the U.S.system, Elizabeth would have been considered an accessory and sentenced to at least a term in prison.

I once did a study of the descendants of Robert Ingersoll, a famous atheist, and Cotton Mather, a famous colonial preacher. It was staggering. The sins and virtues are visited on the children. I never thought to do a matrilineal study. I wish I still had my documentation.
Y tambien, tu tienes un corazon muy blando, y muy amable. Yo lo quiero.
hasta mas tarde,

Blogger tornwordo said...
I think I remember learning that once. lol Really fascinating. It's funny that names are handed down paternally in most cultures whereas the maternal line is arguably more defined. I wonder if there are any cultures where the important lineage is the mother's.

Blogger Jim said...
Very scary mitochondria floating around!

I always thought that was strange about mitchondrial DNA, since all of our other DNA is recombined then proceeds to change constantly.

Feliz cinco de mayo, Jaime :)

Blogger Michael said...
I'm amazed at how far you've been able to go with your genealogy. I've only been able to trace mine back to around 1850.

Blogger purpletwinkie said...
I thought she gave you (and took a photo of) the dress! haha

Again, I love the whole tracing your roots quest.

Blogger Brad said...
Wow Jim. This is both fascinating and very scary to me also. Somewhere along the line they will be able to figure just who left what in someones blood line I would be willing to bet. That being the case, there will be scientists somewhere who wouldn't mind recreating someone from the past if they can find the means to do it.

Blogger Rich Brown said...
VERY INTERESTING! Although I have to say the best part of your entry was the photo of you at the top in your 1st Holy Communion dress, you looked fabulous back then. :-P Have a great weekend!

Blogger NeiLDC said...
yeah, greet your mom happy mothers day TOMORROW,, sure shell be proud of you!

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Facinating stuff, the drama of it all, I can feel the mtDNA pulsing through my veins...ops fox in the hen house again!

Blogger Miladysa said...
Lovely photograph and extremely interesting post. I have always wanted my DNA testing :)

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