So many people are of mixed heritage; everyone is from somewhere else. “-G. Willow Wilson
In January of 1973, my father changed his name. Not only his first name, but his entire legal name. In the district court of Harris County Texas, the man who was once William Clark Polley became Anthony Joseph Pollizzio. The reason according to court records? ‘The causes which induce him to desire a change of name and to adopt another are: That the name which the applicant desires his name changed to was his grandfather’s name and most of the members of his family are known by the Pollizzio surname, as is the applicant, and that it is for his interest and benefit to change his name and adopt another for the reasons aforesaid.’ The court granted his request.
I was 17 at the time and dad told me the same story he told the courts. It was his grandfather’s name, so that made me half Italian.
I have lived 45 years of my life thinking I was Italian on my father’s side and Irish on my mother’s. The Irish have Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, beer and St. Patrick’s Day. The Italians have Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, pasta and wine. What more could a girl ask for?
I embrace the Italian heritage. I identify with being Italian. I was once married to an Italian. I love Alfa Romeos, old Sophia Loren movies, The Sopranos, and I own the entire Godfather DVD set. I make a mean pot of gravy. I am partial to a medium bodied Montepulciano or a complex Nebbiolo. And of course, Chianti.
Knowing I am Italian makes me proud and gives me something I never had. A sense of family and belonging; a history. A big raucous family surrounding a long dinner table laden with enough heaping plates of sausage & peppers, pasta, salad, and bread to feed Rome. Dean Martin singing “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime” in the background. The wine, abundant and always flowing. Nonna rising, grabbing the wine bottle and drinking straight from it in defiance. Slamming it down on the table. Daring us to say one word. After dinner, the pungent aroma of brewing espresso. Sipping sambucco with three roasted coffee beans floating for health, happiness, and prosperity. Eating cannoli. This spurs a round of quotes from the Godfather movies. ‘Leave the gun, take the cannoli. A friend should always underestimate your virtues and an enemy overestimate your faults. I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.’
Sharing stories. Enough love and laughter for a lifetime. I am proud to be Italian.
So what’s the problem?
Ancestry.com is the problem. Recently, I began researching my family history. Within that family history there is not a single Pollizzio.
I can only surmise two scenarios. My grandmother had an affair with an Italian man and my dad was the result of that affair. Or my dad lied, to me and the judge. At this point, anything is possible. If any of you reading this have any other ideas, please send me an email. I’d love to hear from you. I have zero experience in genealogy.
It’s too late to ask dad anything about it. He is in a nursing home, almost 91 years old and like a baby.
So where do I go from here? I ordered a DNA test, that’s where. It has been in the hands of experts for several weeks. It will be several more before I know about my true heritage.
I am confused about my feelings. On one hand I hope my grandmother had an affair with an Italian so I can hold on to who I thought I was. On the other, I am curious.
Who am I?
Where do my ancestors come from?
And once I know, how will that change the perception I have of myself?
At this point, I have no idea.
I’ll keep you posted on the outcome.