Surnames and DNA

Back in February 2014 I put up a post concerning the possible origins of my surname – Scarangello.  In Italy our name was originally Scarangella,, it was changed at Ellis Island and was unknown outside of the Province of Bari in the Apulia region just above the heel of the boot.

It can be read here:

This post has received more  comments than any other of my ramblings – 66 at last count.

Most of the comments were from cousins I know, cousins I know of but haven’t met, those who have found the name in their own family trees or those seeking information on someone with the name in their tree hoping I knew of this person.

Through the post I found a lost cousin – the daughter of my father’s eldest brother who had changed his name in order to find work la hundred years ago living, alive and well in Texas.  Her granddaughter commented on the post and I realized who she was when she mentioned the name change.

Yesterday I received several more comments looking for a Vito Scarangello.  I had an uncle Vito but the dates were wrong.  My Vito came to America as a child in 1906.  The Vito the commenter was searching for came here a  decade earlier.

I pointed out however that this didn’t mean we weren’t related. The multitude of similar names complicates the issue.  The old timers tended to name their children after their parents or uncles and aunts.

For example I (and two of  my cousins) are named Frank, after our  grandfather Francesco.  Francesco himself was named after his grandfather, also named Francesco. In between was Gaetano, my great-grandfather.  My grand dad Francesco named his first child Gaetano (the one who changed his name.)

In some ways I know very little about my grandparents.  I know my grandmother Laura DeVito Scarangello had a sister living in the Bronx and I suspect she had a brother from a picture I have.  I have no idea if my grandfather had any brothers or sisters, though I suspect he did.  If so I never met them.

Vito Scarangello appears to be a relatively common name in some family trees from the region and it is possible that my grandfather had a brother or uncle Vito after whom he named his second son.

Of course all of this involves only tracking my paternal line involving my surname.  We all have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents – by the time one goes back 8 generations there are 256 people from whom you can claim descent.

Those of you who read me know that I had my DNA ancestry tested last year.

Read about the results here:

Well part of the test results advises you of the number of people in their files sharing your DNA listing them from first through 8th cousins.  And 8th cousin is someone with whom you have a common ancestor 8 generations ago.

As of yesterday I shared my DNA with 11,107 people of whom 777 where considered “close relatives” (4th cousins of closer) and 10,330 distant relatives (5th thru 8th cousins).  An eighth cousin is someone with whom I share a common ancestor 8 generations ago.

Mind you, these results are only for persons who have ordered a DNA ancestry test from

I know or know of perhaps a couple of dozen of the eleven thousand plus people on the list.  What is most interesting is seeing family names I knew as a child; people in the neighborhood.  People and kids named Cirillo, Paccione, Barilla. DeVito, Poveromo.

I knew these families and as it turns out we were probably all distant cousins from a small town in Italy with constant intermarriage between a finite number of famiies.

Are we all descended from Charlemagne?  Probably.

All you have to do is prove it.



About toritto

I was born during year four of the reign of Emperor Tiberius Claudius on the outskirts of the empire in Brooklyn. I married my high school sweetheart, the girl I took to the prom and we were together for forty years until her passing in 2004. We had four kids together and buried two together. I had a successful career in Corporate America (never got rich but made a living) and traveled the world. I am currently retired in the Tampa Bay metro area and live alone. One of my daughters is close by and one within a morning’s drive. They call their pops everyday. I try to write poetry (not very well), and about family. Occasionally I will try a historical piece relating to politics. :-)
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2 Responses to Surnames and DNA

  1. beetleypete says:

    Most people over here who take DNA tests get ‘Viking’. That’s no great surprise, as a huge part of the country was occupied by Danes, for centuries. Those ancient sailors certainly got around!
    I’m not curious enough to bother. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jennie says:

    It can be a needle in a haystack, Frank. Not only were names changed, they were often misspelled by the record keepers. It’s a great journey.

    Liked by 1 person

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