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Genealogy - Discovering My Family

Updated on March 21, 2020

Me and my family

I think I need to start off by introducing myself. I'm Michael Collins and I grew up in the North West of the UK and I'm now 41. However, I knew very little about my family history until I was about 21 when a family secret was finally revealed to my brother and myself.

When we were growing up we saw little of our extended family partly due to a fall out on my mum's side and my dad being happy just it being the four of us. We saw two of my dad's sisters once or twice a year and two of my mum's siblings about once a year.

About 18 months ago I decided to start a bit of research so I took one of those DNA test things, whilst the results were in line with what I had expected it has revealed much more of my family than I knew existed.

The DNA results

The results were no real surprise to me as they showed me to be approximately 50% British 30% Irish (with a surname like Collins what would you expect) and 20% Italian.

It also showed up some relations who had also take the DNA test who I did not know existed but with a surname like Dulcamara I know if I see it we are related in some way.

Now you might think - how can you be certain of that?

Simple - it was a made up name given to my great great grandfather who was left on the steps of a church in Chiavari in Italy when he was a baby.

A very small amount of family history I did know before I started my research but I have found more out via the relations I have made contact with during my research.

The family secret

My mum told my brother and I about this shortly after our gran died at the age of 93. It was that my mum was not my gran's biological daughter but she had been born to one of her dad's sisters.

We were told that her biological mum already had 6 children under the age of 11 when she fell pregnant with twins. Tragically when she was about 6 months pregnant her husband died. When the twins were born my mum was the weaker of the two and was quite unwell and not really expected to survive.

This is where my gran and grandad offered to raise my mum as their own. They were both nurses and could give my mum the extra care she needed. This was agreed to so my mum was then raised by Joseph and Elizabeth Dulcamara - my grandparents. Joseph died a long time before I was born so I never actually knew him but if my hair is cut the right way we do look similar

Joseph and Elizabeth Dulcamara wedding photo

My grandparents Dulcamara
My grandparents Dulcamara

My Dad's Side

Well this is a little more straight forward. My dad was born to Martin and Mary Collins and was the oldest of 4 children. As the only boy he was, apparently, allowed to do almost what he wanted. However, grandma Collins was not someone you wanted to upset. My dad always said that when it came to discipline when he was a boy his dad my have 'fired the bullets' but it was his mum that made them and loaded the gun (all figuratively of course).

Again I never really knew grandad Collins as he died shortly after I was born and grandma Collins died in a road accident when I was about 5. All I really remember about her was that she wasn't all that tall, jet black hair and always wearing a floral apron.

Martin and Mary Collins wedding photo

Grandma and grandad Collins
Grandma and grandad Collins

My reserch

Well over the past 18 months or so researching via online sites looking at birth, marriage and death certificate information I have found a large number of second cousins that I did not even know existed on my mum's side of the family and have been in touch with some of them and have been able to share information we had on the family as well as pictures etc. This has meant I have been able to build up a fairly substantial family tree with some parts going back to the mid 1700s. Naturally I'm not going to bore you with the tree but it remains a work in progress.

I have enjoyed finding out about my family origins and, due to how it happened, particularly my mum's side. It is a pity we will never know just who my great great grandfather was nor who left him on the steps of the church. One of the rumours is that his father was a minor nobleman who got one of the maids 'in trouble' and my great great grandfather was the result. Then again another story I heard once was that it was a priest who got a nun in trouble and that baby was my great great grandfather the fact is no-one knows but I doubt it would be the nun one - or the scandal may have been better known.

On my dad's side I have found branches of the family which my dad's siblings did not know about either and they have also provided information about the family to help me build the family tree. As grandad Collins was born in Ireland information about this side of the family is a little easier to discover via research websites.

The Dulcamara Dynesty

My great granddad Vittorio Dulcamara and his wife Amelia (neė Podestà) moved to the UK in the late 1800s and raised a family. It is quite fortunate as Vittorio's siblings, who remained in Italy, had no surviving children and so the name has died out there. It is, however, alive and well in the UK.

Two of Vittorio and Amelia's children, Mary and Joseph, are the two people who are more important in my life than their other children. Mary was my biological gran and Joseph was the brother who, with his wife, adopted my mum from Mary and raised her as their own.

Amelia, by all accounts, was not a woman you would ever want to pick an argument with. She looks, in some pictures, like she could kill a person stone dead with a single word. Never mind the godfather this was the ultimate godmother.

As families do, the Dulcamara family grew and moved around the UK from the home Vittorio and Amelia lived in in St Helens in Lancashire (now Merseyside).

Amelia Dulcamara

Would you dare argue with this woman?
Would you dare argue with this woman?

The Dulcamara Family

Mary Dulcamara is the front row with glasses, Joseph is third from the left of the back row. The older gentalman is Amelia's brother.
Mary Dulcamara is the front row with glasses, Joseph is third from the left of the back row. The older gentalman is Amelia's brother.


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