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