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Monday, August 28, 2006

Trisavo or Trisavolo?

My first posting on the naming convention for Italian ancestors has been corrected, thanks to a great catch by Francesco.

I had confounded the Italian words avo and avolo, which are synonymous and mean grandfather. Of course, nonno mean grandfather. When multiplicative prefix is attached to any of these roots (avo, avolo, nonno), the number of generations is extended. Thus, avo means grandfather, bisavo means great grandfather, trisavo means great great grandfather, etc.

Avo is derived from the Latin word avus and avolo is derived from the Latin diminutive of avus, avulus. Interestingly, the English uncle derives from the same root via the intermediate Latin word avunculus (maternal uncle).

Technically, bisavo, bisavolo, and bisnonno are all correct and proper words. However, the frequency of usage seems to vary by degree to ancestry. In practice, bisavo and bisnonno seem to be much more commonly used than bisavolo whereas trisavolo seems to be much more common than trisavo or trisnonno.

A further complication comes from the fact that in the plural, which is the example I originally provided, the -avi form seems to be written into Italian law where bisavolo is used instead of bisavo or bisnonno.

I know I've made this more confusing than I meant to, but the long and short of it is that different Italians will probably use slightly different (but correct) words for their ancestors. But the most popular constructions seem to be:

  1. il padre (i genitori)
  2. il nonno (i nonni)
  3. il bisnonno (i bisnonni)
  4. il trisavolo (i trisavi)
  5. il quartavolo (i quartavi)
  6. il quintavolo (i quintavi)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Haplogroup H Project

We have quite a few Italian members of mtDNA haplogroup H, which should not be a surprise given how widespread this haplogroup is across Europe.

Rebekah Canada is doing a great job making sense of this group with The H mtDNA Haplogroup Project. If your maternal line is in this group, or if you are simply curious, I highly recommend visiting her site.

And you can join that project while still remaining a member of this one.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Great Great Great Grandparents

Really interesting information relevant to the Italy DNA project has been lacking this week, so I put together a little chart that is at least tangentially relevant to the project.

Here is a list of the English and Italian names for several generations of direct ancestors. I presented the Italian in the masculine plural, but you can convert the names to the feminine and/or singular pretty easily by substituting the appropriate ending. I nonni becomes il nonno (for grandfather) or la nonna (for grandmother).

The singular form of "great great grandparents" is trisavo or trisava, but it seems to be more common to use the synonymous trisavolo or trisavola when referring to only one grandparent. The plural of trisavolo would be trisavoli. (Thanks to Francesco for pointing out an earlier error).

I'll admit to having concocted the last formation, although I think the construction would be understood by an Italian genealogist. I didn't want my settimavola Maria Simeone (born in 1683 in Villa Santa Lucia) to be left out.

Degree of Relation


I genitori


I nonni


Great Grandparents
I bisnonni


GG Grandparents
I trisavi


3G Grandparents
I quartavi


4G Grandparents
I quintavi


5G Grandparents
I sestavi


6G Grandparents
I settimavi

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

mtDNA Analysis in Sardinia

A new academic paper by Cristina Farumene et al., entitled High Resolution Analysis and Phylogenetic Network Construction Using Complete mtDNA Sequences in Sardinian Genetic Isolates, undertakes a novel look at the the mitochondrial DNA of three villages (Talana, Urzulei, and Perdasdefogu) in the Ogliastra region of Sardinia.

They reconstructed genealogical records of the towns, then undertook mtDNA samples of the living descendants of identified maternal "founders". Essentially, this amounts to an mtDNA snapshot of the towns in the 17th century. From the article's abstract:

For mitochondrial phylogenetic analysis, the best result comes from complete sequences. We therefore decided to sequenced the entire mtDNA (coding and D-loop regions) of 63 individuals selected in three small Ogliastra villages, an isolated area of eastern Sardinia: Talana, Urzulei and Perdasdefogu. We studied at least one individual for each of the most frequent maternal genealogical lineages belonging to haplogroups H, V, J, K, T, U and X. We found in our 63 samples, 172 and 69 sequence changes in the coding and in the D-loop region respectively. Thirteen out of 172 sequence changes in the coding region are novel. It is our hypothesis that some of them are characteristic of the Ogliastra region and/or Sardinia.

We reconstructed the phylogenetic network of the 63 complete mtDNA sequences for the three villages. We also drew a network including a large number of European sequences and calculated various indices of genetic diversity in Ogliastra. It appears that these small populations remained extremely isolated and genetically differentiated compared to other European populations. We also identified in our samples a never previously described subhaplogroup, U5b3, that seems peculiar to the Ogliastra region.

The paper is interesting, but of primary note for us is the high representation (more than 50%) of Haplogroup H. Two of the villages also had a lot of Haplogroup U (20-30%), but Perdasdefogu had almost none. On the other hand, Perdasdefogu had a good amount of K (19%) whereas the other two villages had none. And none of the villages had the level of Haplogroup T that we have in the Italy DNA Project.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Calabria Project results

We are not the only Italian DNA project around. There are a number of regional and provincial projects (I put a list near the bottom of our project's homepage), and the Calabria DNA Project has just posted some new results.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Haplogroup K and Parkinson's disease

From a paper by D. Ghezzi et al.
It has been proposed that European mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroups J and K, and their shared 10398G single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the ND3 gene, are protective from Parkinson's disease (PD). We evaluated the distribution of the different mtDNA haplogroups in a large cohort of 620 Italian patients with adult-onset (>50, <65>50year old males. In spite of the common 10398G SNP, haplogroups J and K belong to widely diverging mitochondrial clades, a consideration that may explain the different results obtained for the two haplogroups in our cohorts. Our study suggests that haplogroup K might confer a lower risk for PD in Italians, corroborating the idea that the mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation pathway is involved in the susceptibility to idiopathic PD.

European Journal of Human Genetics (2005) 13, 748–752. doi:10.1038/sj.ejhg.5201425 Published online 13 April 2005

Friday, August 04, 2006

Y chromosome haplotypes in Central-South Italy

An upcoming release of population data in Forensic Science International may be worth a look.

The abstract:
One hundred and fifty individuals have been sampled across Central-South Italy and genotyped for Y chromosome STRs by PowerPlex® Y system. Comparison with previous Italian databases revealed that majority of Y chromosome variation still need to be sampled. Identification of locus duplications, distribution of genetic variation and firstly identified alleles point to the necessity of more focused sampling strategies for reference databases.
I'll post more if it looks interesting after I've seen the whole article.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Etimologico, anyone?

The link to DNA is quite tangential, but even genetic genealogy must fall back on traditional research methods eventually, and this handy online etymological dictionary is very handy.