Mike Aquilina

Meme of Noble Descent

Thursday August 24th 2006, 3:05 am

The Curt Jester tagged me for this meme. But it’s only right to trace its lineage back to Michelle Arnold of Catholic Answers, who took her inspiration from no less than Brooke Shields. Brookie had bragged to a reporter that her family tree included Catherine de Medici and Lucrezia Borgia, Charlemagne and El Cid, William the Conqueror and King Harold II.

I did a little digging on genealogy sites a few years back. All my grandparents hailed from two little villages in Sicily, and a priest in the area told me that those villages had been settlements of refugees from Napoleon’s invasion of Malta. Since “Aquilina” is to Malta what “Smith” is to Pittsburgh, his history seems plausible. One of the leaders of Malta’s resistance against Napoleon was Salvo Aquilina, who was executed for his efforts. Maybe Salvo’s survivors weren’t as eager to go to the gallows, and so took the midnight boat to Sicily instead.

My correspondence with Aquilinas throughout the world has turned up an Aquilina in the rolls of Byzantine nobility, and a deed from the 1670s that refers to a parcel of land granted to the Aquilinas in the 1430s. If Malta still wants me, I’m ready to claim that land.

As for other famous forebears … Well, readers of this blog already know all about St. Aquilina of Byblos. She’s got the name, but we’ve yet to draw DNA from her relics. So I can’t claim her yet.

But all this is connected by dotted lines (or imaginary lines), since I didn’t do anything resembling real research. My father long ago warned me: “Don’t shake the family tree too hard, you never know what’ll fall out.”

As my “research” stands, it permits me to imagine a lineage even more illustrious than Brookie’s. Heck, everybody owned Sicily for a month — Athenians, Byzantines, Germans, Africans, Arabs. And how about Malta? St. Paul and St. Luke, the Knights Templar — I could be a walking Da Vinci Code.

Thus I proceed with this meme, assuming, like Dan Brown, that everything I declare is FACT.

1. Which famous person would you most like to learn that you are descended from? St. Mary Magdalene. Even in reality, what a bloodline that would be!

2. Which famous person would you hate to learn that you are descended from? Nero. He was about as creepy a guy as I can imagine. The London Observer recently summed him up as “a psychopathic, debauched, wife-beating matricide.”

3. If you could be ancestor to any living famous person, who would it be and why? My son Michael, because he wrote a great book on St. Jude, which made him world-famous on the street where I live.

4. If you could go back in time and meet any known ancestor(s) of yours, who would it be? My grandfather, Calogero. My accurate genealogical information ends with him. He was a coal miner and, later, a school janitor, who was so beloved in our town that his obituary was a full-page news item in 1926, thirty-seven years before I was born.

5. Tag five others: you, you, you, you, and you.