Historian discovers new roots through DNA test

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City of Rome Historian Mike Colangelo had a fascination with local history that led him to genealogical research.

Colangelo has a camp in Boonville where he spends most of his free time. To learn more about his roots, Colangelo took a Ancestry DNA test.

After taking the test, he joked to his wife Jackie Colangelo that there may be some surprises in store. Mike is a jokester, so she thought nothing of it and brushed him off.

When Colangelo received the notification that his results were in a few months later, he and Jackie rushed home to view them on the computer. The information contained would forever change what he knew about his origins. The unavoidable truth glared brightly from the screen.

“Not one percent Italian,” Colangelo said. “That meant my father wasn’t my father. ”

This revelation left Colangelo wanting more information. After some time had gone by, Colangelo was able to track down a phone number for Jim Gallagher, his biological father.

Colangelo called him out of the blue, and Gallagher, who lived in Arizona, was blindsided by the call.

He admitted that he had lived in Rome before joining the Navy, more than 50 years prior, but insisted that he hadn’t had an intimate relationship with Colangelo’s mother.

Colangelo let it go, but called back the next day. That time, he got a different story.

‘I did know your mother,’ Gallagher told him, ‘and I guess I’m your father.’

Four months later they met in person in Arizona, and for Colangelo it was as if puzzle pieces of his identity were finally connected.

He and Gallagher immediately noticed how much they looked alike, and how outgoing the both were. They also shared an interest in history and did autobody work.

He also gained three half-brothers, who like his father, all have features and personalities similar to his own. Those similarities, such as features, mannerisms and personality quirks, were remarkable, especially considering Colangelo hadn’t even met, or known they existed, until his 55th year of life.

“My father said, ‘it’s like you were on vacation and you came home,” Colangelo said.

Gallagher was already fighting cancer when Colangelo found him. They were able to have a few more visits in Arizona and countless phone calls in the year that they had together before he died.

Gallagher’s wish was for his ashes to be spread at sea. After he died, his ashes were shipped to New Jersey to where a sister lived near the Atlantic Ocean. When no one else from the family was able to be there to escort the ashes, Colangelo and wife Jackie traveled out to do it.

The entire experience has had a profound impact on Colangelo.

“I gained another family,” he said. “The Colangelo family will always be my family. They raised me, and they are a big part of who I am. I have peace with the answers I have. I really don’t have any unanswered questions.”

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