Vezzosi and Sabato had to deal with repeating names and confusing surnames. Indeed, Da Vinci had become a surname while "da Vinci" simply meant "from Vinci."
"We know the surname Da Vinci was kept at least until 1803, since we have found it in the tomb of Ser Anton Giuseppe, an important descendant," Sabato said.
"The surname Da Vinci was then simplified to Vinci," she added.
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During their research Vezzosi and Sabato made some intriguing findings. They found more details on Lucia, Leonardo's paternal grandmother. Her family owned a kiln for artistic ceramic ware at Toia di Bacchereto, near Carmignano in the Vinci surroundings. The kiln was then owned by Ser Piero, Leonardo's father.
"It is more than likely that Leonardo began his artistic activity between the age of 8 and 10, not only in Florence, but also at the family kiln," Vezzosi said.
The researchers also shed some light on the mysterious figure of Caterina, Leonardo's mother.
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It was known that she lived with her husband Accattabriga in the village of San Pantaleo near Vinci. The most likely reconstruction identifies her as a female slave coming from the Middle East. It is believed she moved to Milan in 1493 to stay with Leonardo and that she died there.
Caterina and Accattabriga had five children. The only male, Francesco, died at 26 "killed by a springald in Pisa." Little is known of Piera, Maria, Lisabetta and Sandra, Leonardo's half-sisters.
"We know that Lisabetta had three daughters and now we are investigating her genealogy," Vezzosi said.
Finding Caterina's descendants would be crucial to possibly retrieving mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down through the maternal line.
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The most interesting branch of the Da Vinci's family tree turned out to be connected to one of Ser Piero's sons -- Domenico Matteo, who was born in 1483 from Ser Piero's third wife.
From there, Vezzosi and Sabato were able to trace a direct and uninterrupted line up to today's living descendants.
Dina, who appears to bear a striking resemblance to Leonardo's self-portrait, was indeed a descendant of Leonardo's half-brother Domenico Matteo.
"Her son Giovanni has helped us out finding important connections," Vezzosi said.
He noted that their research added more than 150 names to the Da Vinci's tree.
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"Overall, we have more than 270 names. We found descendants up to Majorca and Valencia, Spain," Vezzosi said.
The researchers also discovered a number of Da Vinci burials around Vinci.
"Finding such tombs and a direct and uninterrupted male line of descendants could be an important contribution to a serious scientific research aimed at reconstructing Leonardo's Y chromosome," Vezzosi said.
A scientific meeting was hosted this week in Florence under the patronage of the Tuscan Regional Council.