Tuesday, October 02, 2018


My sister Karen was astonished when she took one of the popular genetic tests; things are not the way our parents told us! Instead of the typical Boston mixture of an Italian father and an Irish mother, as we'd always been told, things turned out to be a lot more complicated. To begin with, we seem to be mostly Scottish, English, and French. Our parents utter lack of interest in the historical dsmension of our history left us ignorant of a lot of fine stories. Years of research on my part present a picture that interweaves quite well with the genetic references,...

To start with, the matter of the traditional Irish . I used to horrify my late mother by saying quite truthfully that any ancestors of ours who were in Ireland were there to oppress the Irish. The McCabes were not Irish! They were Scots Gallowglasses -- mercenary soldiers, poor but armigerous, who came to Ireland when the English kings were still Catholic, circa 1400. They worked for the English king with others of their ilk until the late 1700's when, like many other English Protestant soldiers and officials, they joined the United Irish and rose against the king. The rebellion failed, of course (Stephen Matutrin in Patrick O'Brian's novel cycle suspects The UI of mixed motives, but Patrick "O'Brian" Russ had no more Irish blood than any of these people! Perhaps he distrusted their Napoleonic ammbitions.They fled to Paris. They then went to the Maritimes, like their associates and relatives the Loveleses, Lawlesses and the Duanes. They became prosperous.

I lose the trail here. I don't know anything about them until Frank McCabe, whose mother was a Loveless, married Clothilde Fandel in the early part of the 20th century. Somehow the McCabes had became Catholic again-- I don't know how that happened. Frank was an educated and somewhat mysterious man, with a taste for Wagnerian opera and tripe in the mode Caen, who was an expert in porcelain and Chinese art for the Port of Boston.

Our coat of arms is a hoot, by the way. It consists of three apparently dead salmon. surrounded by the motto "Vincit autque mouri" which is "Conquer or Die" in very bad Latin.

Bodios are simpler. Our particular line has been coming since the 1870's to work in the stone quarries around Boston. They come from the extreme north of Italy, from Lake Maggiore. There's a village at the northern terminus of the tunnel through the Alps that opens in an alpine town called Bodio, in Canton Ticino.

I've always been fascinated by their language, which is nothing like what they call "Roman Italian" (they call it our 'patois').

I was raised in a Francophone school. My folks dialect somewhat resembled medieval French, like Villon's, with its "ing' and "ung" endings- wine is inevitably "ving", bread "pung"rather than pain or panno. And then there's the damn trotting rhyme. All our babies were bounced on the knees as the old folks sang: "Trot, trot, cavalotte/Sous des pierres, joue des mottes/ Boun "Boom!"] pung, boun ving/ something, something covaling" Damn weird French, but no kind of Italian at all!

And then I went to the Vaucluse, in northern Provence, 200 or so miles west of my grandparents country, where the old men not only looked like my father and grandfather, but sounded exactly like them. 'Ving' and 'pung' were everywhere. Both cultures trap and eat songbirds, and play a similar clay court bowling game, called 'boules' in French and 'bocce' in Italian. The dialects of southern France, southern Switzerland and northwestern Italy have had many names,like the 23 (?) varieties of Ladin, or old Provencal -- to my ear they were as similar as Navajo and Apache, or Kazakh and Kyrgiz-- less separate languages than romantic fantasies of independent homelands.

There's one more complication in my particular line: the Jengiz gene. The Jengiz gene, which is common in Asian males and very rare in European, got to the Piedmont with the Avars, a bunch of "Huns"-- Turkics-- who rode with Attila. It's not just a legend; I've got it!

The Bavarians. The Fandels are descended from a man named Fanelli, who popped up there in the early 1600's. I always assumed that he was a Jewish converso, but it turns out I have no detectable genes for that, or any other "Levantine" forbears. What we do have is north Iberian, Santiago land. So Fanelli was likely to be a Spaniard. There was lot of moving around in the southern Catholic alliances against the Turks, which culminated in the Battle of Lepanto -- "Don Juan of Austria" and all that -- it seems likely. We got a good poem out of it. ,

There are also some Scandinavians -- no surprise. All Scots have Scandinavian blood, from coastal raiders and rapers. No, the one I want to know about is the FINN!

Joe salling
Pierre, Fabre's heir, at dinner

No comments: