Thursday, August 14, 2014

Who Do You Think You Are? : Valerie Bertinelli

This week’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? featured actress Valerie Bertinelli.

Valerie had the opportunity to research both sides of her family; her father’s Italian ancestry and  her mother’s English ancestry. Valerie stated in the episode that she has always thought of herself as Italian especially given her Italian last name. This is a condition I find befuddling. As English as my last name is I always identify myself as American. I would never think to call myself English or Irish or French Canadian but I digress.

Valerie's English side traced back to Edward the First; King of England from 1239 to 1307. That of course for someone it today's day and age to be able to trace their lineage back to royalty but frankly, I found Valerie's Italian ancestry much more interesting. Perhaps it was because she connected with a cousin she didn't know she had. She traveled to Italy where she met her third cousin once removed. That sounds like a distant relationship but it just means this man Pietro and Valerie's father have a great-great grandparent in common.

Cousin Pietro knew much more about the family than Valerie’s father.  He shared with her a beautiful letter his father had in which he expresses the desire for the America cousins to come visit the homeland again. Here more than 40 years later, that wish came true when Valerie embarked on this research. I found that so very moving. Also, Pietro had held onto a postcard  that Valerie's great grandmother Maria had sent to the family right before she left for America. So sweet.

And speaking of America, Valerie has deep American roots. Like many Americans, Valerie identified with her most recent immigrant ancestor, the Italian Bertinelli's, but knew nothing of her American-ness. Valerie's maternal line goes back to a man named James Claypoole, who was very involved in the Quaker movement in England and America in  the17th century. James had emigrated to  Pennsylvania to practice his faith and was closely associated with the notable Colonist, William Penn. 

I found this episode really interesting and again, the encounter with her third cousin to be the most moving.

Next week’s episode of WDYTYA? is on TLC on Wednesday, August 20 at 9 p.m. Eastern time and  will feature actor Kelsey Grammer. I thought Kelsey would be the last of this season's episodes but I noticed in the intro a new face, actress Minnie Driver, and so I am excited to think we have at least another two more week of WDYTYA? this season.


  1. Ugh, I just lost my whole novel-length comment! Boo :( - the gist of which was that I liked Valerie's Italian journey, too, because it was more personal - she felt a real connection to her great-grandmother, and when her cousin had that postcard and letter and identified people in her photo for her, I literally said outloud, "That's why you connect with cousins!" I know she was impressed that she was descended from King Edward, but eh - so am I, so are millions of other people. Hey Valerie, we're cousins! Lol - but I do agree with her comment about feeling Italian - I know you usually identify as American, and a lot of times, so do I, but I have my Irish and German days, too! :) Another great post!

  2. I am sorry to hear you lost your original comment, Cousin Mary. That happens to me a lot. :-/ I have learned to copy my comment before I hit publish. But thank you for such a thoughtful comment. I had days on my past summer vacation when I felt Newfi but for the most part I feel very white-bread-American. Nothing exciting to see here. maybe it is because I have done so little European research, I mean, I don't have an ancestor born outside the Western hemisphere until I get to my 3rd great grandparents and records that far back can be more difficult to come across. Woe is me.