Confessions of an Irish Italian Mexican

by Anis Salvesen

Hispanic. Latina. Mexican American. All of these are how I identify.

Irish and Italians were the girls I attended Catholic school with, but not me—until I took an AncestryDNA test.

Mexican Redheads

My dad is from Western Mexico. His mom had seven kids—three of them with red hair, like her father. The other four had darker features.

For years, our family story was that we were part French. Then I learned that maybe wasn’t the case.

Last year, I looked up my dad’s redhead grandfather’s last name Rangel in Ancestry’s last name meaning tool and found out it was Spanish.

That made sense to me. It was the Spaniards who conquered Mexico.

Irish Mexican?

Irish heritage was never on my radar as a possibility, despite the red hair in the family.

During a St. Patrick’s Day party in college, I sat next to a grad student from Ireland. He said every single American he talked to that night was part Irish.

I remember saying,

“Trust me, I’m the one person at this party who is definitely not any part Irish.”

Fast forward years later. I get a job at Ancestry, I take a DNA test, and look what shows up in my test results—10% Irish*!

My AncestryDNA results show I’ve got 10% Ireland/Scotland/Wales

Make That Italian-Irish Mexican

The other surprising bit was that my AncestryDNA test results showed 24% Europe South, which is primarily located in Italy and Greece.

I was blown away. Iberian Peninsula, which is Spain and Portugal was not even in my top three results.

I confess, all of the years I went to Catholic school with Irish and Italian girls, I felt completely “other.” And yet the whole time I was more like them than I knew.

What Does This Mean?

As Ancestry’s test results become more precise, I may turn out to be more Irish or less Irish than I originally thought.

But for me the takeaway—from my own story and so many others I’ve heard—is that you can’t assume you know everything about your past.

And for Mexican Americans and other Hispanics like me, I feel like that’s especially true, since so many of us are mixed.

What will your DNA reveal about you? Take an AncestryDNA test to find out.


*Based on AncestryDNA assignment to the Ireland/Scotland/Wales region.
*Anis is an Ancestry employee. This is her actual family story.