I Think I Might Be Italian - Part One

Join me on this first part of my journey as I explore my possible Italian ancestry. Exhibit A - My new Espresso machine. Submitted for your consideration.

David Lalonde

4/22/20244 min read

If you’ve read my novels, you will no doubt have seen my interest and appreciation for Italian Canadians expressed. In some cases, their Italian ancestry is obvious and in others it is murkier, but they all share some of the character traits I admire most, and in particular, a passion for life.

I like to think I am like that too, though my ancestry is almost certainly French on my father’s side, and Irish on my mothers. As I begin the journey of researching and writing my third novel, Death of a Delilah, I have embarked on something that fascinates most of us: genealogy. The reason for that will become apparent once the novel comes out, but let it suffice to say my interest is particularly heightened on the subject these days.

Now, before I tell you why the question of my possible Italian ancestry has come up recently, and why it is so important to me, I must begin by telling you that I have used the Internet to trace my family ancestry, on both sides, back to the 15th century. Nowhere in that tree is there even a hint of an Italian ancestor, and that is rather disappointing for me. It is almost all French on the one side, and all Irish on the other, and only one rare exotic ancestor was even a Protestant. The rest of us are Catholics, even the English ancestors in the 17th century.

It is true that my maternal grandmother was born in the United States, but her mother was a Canadian and she was back on home soil by the time she was two. As much as I like Americans, I’m afraid the link is rather weak; we’re still really just great neighbours. My great grandmother decided to remain and become a U.S. citizen though, finding a new husband and a new life in the Jewish faith. I wish I’d known her, and maybe had a chance to visit with my Jewish relatives by marriage. I admire the Jewish people and I feel her connection may have provided me with an entrée. Ah, well, Shalom regardless and I continue to embrace “my sort of Jewish” ancestry.

Another unexpected find was that my 5th great grandmother was a Huron. That’s pretty cool, especially since the Huron have such an esteemed reputation; particularly for being very nice and welcoming, to the French and the English, which unfortunately left them particularly susceptible to European diseases. Not my relation though, gratefully. I’ve heard that distant links like that may not show up on the DNA test, but Great Gramma and I know!!

So, there you have it, the best I can come up with in terms of diversity is one protestant, one temporary American, one Jew by marriage, and one Indigenous Canadian. I’m proud of that proven heritage, but, yeah, I secretly covet the potential for an Italian ancestor. My Uncle Tony was from Italy, and we had a great personal connection, but I acquired him through marriage and he’s not a blood relative of my wife’s, so, you know. I also have many friends and people I grew up with who are Italians, mostly Calabrian around here in Sudbury, but the closest I am so far is “somewhat Italian by osmosis.”

The story I really wanted to tell you begins here though. I made a purchase from a company that you can buy things online from and they deliver right to your door. You probably find that amazing, and possibly unbelievable, but it’s true! I don’t want to corrupt anyone, as I have already been, by mentioning their name. I will just cryptically hint that it is something similar to a river in Brazil. And, like the fictional city of Northbury in my books, I know many will find the prospect of figuring that out very challenging.

As the package arrived, I snuck over to the door to avoid detection by my wife, but she caught me. “What is it this time, Dave?” she asked, with a little legitimate exasperation. I sheepishly opened the package to reveal a new Espresso machine. Rather than being upset, she kindly took my face in her hands and said, gently, “You know you’re not Italian, don’t you?”

I felt a little like that fleeing felon in Dirty Harry, looking up into the barrel of Clint Eastwood’s .44 Magnum. I said, “I gots to know!”

So, we bought some DNA test kits and have sent them away (not saying where we bought them from). Now I am waiting to find out if science can succeed in proving once and for all whether I have some Italian in me. I feel a little like Dr. Marty Roy must feel sometimes, in my novels. I confess that I am baselessly optimistic regardless, and have even dreamed of perhaps joining the Caruso Club as a member if the evidence in my favour is returned (as I feel certain it will).

I will keep you all posted, and in the meantime, you might want to buy a copy of Death of a Millionaire, and Death of a President, which are both available through the links on my page here. I think any lingering questions you have about why I admire Italians and hope to have some genetic, rather than simply spiritual link, is important to me. I hope my Italian readers might even find undeniable proof that I must be Italian, because only an Italian could write some of this stuff. Ciao, until next time, paisano!!