Dear Holly: You are the Brightest One and Nonna is the Darkest One

5 years, 3 months.

Dear Holly,

Sometimes while I am giving you a bath, you randomly tell me some of the most insightful discoveries going on in your head, as a 5 year-old girl; like recently:

“Daddy, am I the brightest one?… And Nonna is the darkest?”

You are self-aware of the fact that you are curiously the fairest complected member of our entire living family tree; as it is simply a natural response when people see you with any family members; to point it out.

And true, it’s most obvious when you are next to Nonna.

You managed to get all the German and Norwegian genes, and apparently none of the Mexican or Mediterranean.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: You Chose Acapulco Mexican Grill for Your 5th Birthday Dinner

5 years.

Dear Holly,

For dinner the night of your 5th birthday, Mommy and I let you decide where you would like to go; out of all the restaurants in the area of Spring Hill, Tennessee; where we live.

You chose Acapulco Mexican Grill, which is in walking distance from our house.

(In fact, we’ve walked there for dinner on more than one occasion!)

It is a Mexican tradition that at the end of the meal, the wait staff comes to smash dessert in your face.

Since you are only 5, our waiter went easy on you by just barely dabbing your nose with whipped cream from a slice of cheesecake.

You thought it was so much fun!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: You Love Nonna’s Authentic Mexican Burritos

7 years, 10 months.

Dear Jack,

Last weekend as we spent the weekend in Alabama at Nonna and Papa’s house, you quickly learned how much you loved Nonna’s burritos. In fact, that’s all I remember you eating the whole time.

I guess it helps that Nonna’s mother was Mexican. You’re getting the real deal.

Her burritos even look Mexican. What’s funny is that when our family goes out to Mexican restaurants, you never order a burrito, so perhaps Nonna’s burritos are the most authentic burritos you’ve ever had.

You ate a lot this past weekend… thanks to Nonna’s burritos.

Love,

Daddy

MyHeritage DNA Test Results are Back… But Do You Agree with the Results?

Either my DNA results from MyHeritage are inaccurate, or what my family has believed this whole time about our ethnicity has been inaccurate.

Currently, I am sort of baffled. I am still sorting out the confusion. My Italian grandfather, Alberto Victorio Metallo, whose own father arrived in America a hundred years ago from Italy and could only barely speak English when he died in 1983, was Italian.

However, my results from MyHeritage do not remotely reflect my Italian heritage. Instead, the test shows I am literally 0% Italian. I went through the trouble of looking up exactly what countries of origin my DNA traces back to, according to the regions that MyHeritage provided, and removed the countries in which the test showed I have no DNA connection.

Here’s my DNA:

Nick Shell

100.0%

37.4% Central Western European (Germany, The Netherlands/Holland, France, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland)

31.8% Iberian (Spain/Portugal)

21.6% Central American (Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama)

6.1% Eastern European (Russia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia)

2.3% Balkan (Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania)

0.8% Middle Eastern (Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan)

0% (England, Finland, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Scandinavia, Greece, Italy, Sardinia, EstoniaLatviaLithuania, Ashkenazi Jewish, Yemenite Jewish, Mizrahi Jewish, Native American, South American, Indigenous Amazonian, African, Asian, Oceanic)

My whole life I have had reason to believe I am one quarter Italian, but I was open-minded to the idea my test would reveal instead of being 25% Italian, maybe I would only be 12.5%, as my great-grandfather Joseph Metallo (the one who came here from Italy) married a woman named Maria Vite; who could have possibly been of French descent, based on vite being a French word.

(That’s my Italian grandfather pictured above on the left; opposite me, with my son.)

However, my great-grandmother also emigrated here from Italy and spoke Italian. Maria “Mary” Vite died at age 38 in the year 1938, so there is definitely some mystery as to her family tree. But even if she was 100% French yet born in Italy, my great-grandfather would have had to been mainly of Spanish or Portuguese descent and his family would have had to at some point adopted Italian names, including their last name, Metallo.

Even if the test was a little inaccurate, I would still think I would show up at least a little bit Italian. After all, Middle Eastern DNA showed up in me, along with Eastern European, but not Italian?

If you’re wondering why I show up as nearly a quarter Central American and nearly a third Spanish (or Portuguese), it’s because my grandmother (who my Italian grandfather was married to) was Mexican.

(This is her, pictured below, being able to meet my daughter.)

That actually brings up another surprise. By quadrupling my Central American DNA, which is 21.6%, that indicates my Mexican grandmother was actually 86.4% Central American, only leaving 13.6% (that’s close to one eighth) to be Spanish. Then, once I subtracted that 13.6% from the Spanish part of me (31.8%), it left 18.2%. I then multiplied that percentage times 4 again, to assume how Spanish my Italian grandfather must have been: 72.8%.

According to my theory, my Mexican grandmother was mainly Central American (barely Spanish) and my Italian grandfather was mainly Spanish (not Italian at all); leaving the rest of him to have been 9.2% Balkan (Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania). That brings my Italian grandfathers DNA up to exactly 82%.

Next I added the 3.2% Middle Eastern he must have been; now totaling 85.2%. That implies the rest of him had to have been Central Western European, which includes French.

This also means, by default, my dad has to be of Spanish descent as well, because there’s still Spanish DNA to be accounted for.

Most of my test makes sense. My last name is Shell, which in German, means “loud and noisy.” So that accounts for some of the 37.4% Central Western European.

But is this test accurate? Is it possible that I am truly not Italian at all? What do you think?

In the meantime, my mom is taking the test too. Being half-Mexican, half-Italian her whole life, I’m curious to know what the test says about her. We should know by October…

And if you’re interested in taking a DNA test like I did, here’s the link to MyHeritage.

I Will Be the 1st Person You Know Who Actually Took a DNA Test to Find Out Their Ethnicity (MyHeritage Results by September 2nd)

Some people could care less about what shows up in their family tree. They will just sort of laugh it off with, “Yeah, I’m pretty much a mutt, I guess… A little English, a little Irish, maybe some German- I even heard there’s some Native American Indian in there too.”

But I am not one of those people.

Instead, I am Nick Shell. Therefore, I have always been fascinated by the mystery of my ethnicity.

I suppose I have somewhat of an advantage in that I know for a fact that all my great-grandparents on my mom’s side were born in another country:

Her grandparents on her father’s side were born in Italy and her grandparents on her mother’s side were born in Mexico. It’s just always been taken for granted that my mother is half Italian and half Mexican.

But I can no longer assume that every ancestor on my mom’s side was either 100% Italian or 100% Mexican. Besides, “Mexican” isn’t actually a race; as I understand that Mexicans are ultimately an ethnic mix of Native Americans and Europeans.

Over the years, my mom has reminded me of what she heard as a young girl, when she was around the Italian half of the family: “Just because we have the Metallo name and we’re Italian, that doesn’t mean that’s all we are. There’s other stuff in there too: A little bit of Greek, a little bit of French, and a little bit of Jewish…”

 

And before my Mexican grandmother passed away last year, she told me something I never heard her say before; that when she was a little girl, she saw family members “who had black skin and tight, curly hair.” I believe it is possible there is actually a few drops of African blood in me.

As for my dad’s side of the family, no one really knows. A few years ago, my dad received a book containing all the family tree records, but the names all seem to be predictably “WASP”: White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.

But I won’t be wondering much longer. Because as of Saturday, July 22nd, I mailed off the DNA test I bought from MyHeritageThe results should be back within 4 to 6 weeks from that day; which would be August 19th be at the soonest, and September 2nd at the latest.

As you can imagine, I am looking forward to finding out the results! No matter what the results reveal, I am sure I will be surprised…

Even though I paid $79 (normally $99) plus shipping, I see there are running a special that ends tonight, on July 31st; for just $69.

And if you’re interested in taking a DNA test like I did, here’s the link to MyHeritage.