Genealogy and DNA

An Insider’s Look at the Genealogy DNA Field, by Max Blankfeld

 

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In April of 2000 Family Tree DNA started offering its first tests, pioneering this new field of Genetic Genealogy, and helping answer questions such as:

 

  • Is this person possibly related to me?
  • If so, when could our common ancestor have lived?
  • What is his or her ancestral background?

 

With the growth of the database, people that tested started also finding matches with close relationships in the database: long lost relatives, adoptees finding information about their paternal and maternal lines, and even Holocaust survivors that grew as non-Jews, were able to find their Jewish ancestry!

 

This service has been now available for over ten years, tested more than 300,000 people, and its database has now a critical mass of Jews and non-Jews. Genetic Genealogy is of particular importance for the Jewish people as throughout centuries Jewish populations have dispersed, forced into other religions and decimated by the Inquisition, pogroms and the Holocaust. By analyzing one’s DNA we can now find long lost relationships, have hints of ancestral origins, or tell if someone who is not Jewish could possibly descent from an Inquisition convert. It can verify a possible adoption that could have happened generations ago, as well as determine if the two families with the same or similar surname are related. DNA tests provide new solutions to old genealogical challenges.

 

The Family Finder Test
More recently Family Tree DNA developed the Family Finder Test – which will allow connecting with family members across all ancestral lines. This test has a special significance for people trying to connect with long lost family members. This is a very relevant test for people of Jewish ancestry and who are looking for family members that may have survived the Holocaust.
Of course, the matches are across people that have performed this specific test, and therefore, the largest this database grows, the higher the likelihood of finding relevant matches.


Y-DNA and mtDNA Tests

In addition to the Family Finder, there is also the Y-DNA test, which matches men with a specific paternal line and the mtDNA which finds potential relatives only along the maternal line. Family Finder can look for close relationships along all ancestral lines. Anyone, regardless of their gender, may confidently match to male and female cousins from any of their family lines in the past five generations. The science – linked blocks of DNA across the 22 autosomal chromosomes are matched between two people. Based on this concept, Family Tree DNA bioinformatics team has worked extensively to develop the calculations that would yield the closeness of the relationship. The possibilities to find matches abound: grandparents, aunts and uncles; half siblings; first, second, third and fourth cousins; and, more tentatively, fifth cousins.

"Family Finder" focuses on the genealogy of the test takers: matching contact names and email addresses are readily available for easy communication, and special tools have been developed to assist in the genealogy and matching process.

 

The new frontier of Genetic Genealogy provides a very powerful tool to be used in conjunction with your family history research.  Testing is affordable, can provide information that is not available from other sources, and is often helpful in solving brick walls.

 

Family Tree DNA, the largest Genetic Genealogy company in the world, with whom Beit Hatfutsot is now working in partnership, offers several different tests.

 

You can take one or more, depending on your genealogical DNA testing goals.  

 

                                                  To order a DNA test please click here.


You may also order a test by searching for your surname at the Family Tree DNA home page, and joining a surname project if there’s already one for your family name.

 

Below is a list of known Family Tree DNA projects which focus on Jewish ancestry. If you find a project of interest, go to Family Tree DNA home page and in the search box enter the project you are interested in:

 

 

Bilstein
Blankfeld
 


For surname projects, although only one spelling is listed above, most projects welcome and encourage participants with variant spellings. Some projects have specific requirements and qualifications for joining, so be sure to carefully read the information on each project's website before submitting a request to join. If you do not find your surname or another project of interest listed below, use the search box to the right to see if there are other projects that include your surname.

 

 

 
 
We are a group of descendants of Jews who lived in Ariogala, Lithuania and the surrounding towns. Our goal is to discover new ancestral relationships among participants. The project is open to anyone who has a direct male line ancestor or a direct female line ancestor who lived in Ariogala, Lithuania, or the surrounding area. Contact the group administrator to determine if you might be eligible to particpate.
We're studying the similarity or diversity of our Jewish ancestors from the former Polesie region of Poland/Russia, which today comprises southwestern Belarus. Towns such as Brest, Kobrin, Pinsk, Kamenetz and more are included in this region.
The goal of this geographic Y-DNA project is to determine the Y-DNA haplogroups and haplotype signatures of males in Ashkenazi regions with Iberian surnames or an oral history of being descendant from Sephardim in order to be able to compare them with those of known Sephardic Jews.
Open to anyone with Jewish ancestors from the western Ukraine or Moldova. The region includes the gubernias of Podolia, Volhynia, Kiev and Kherson as well as Bessarabia and the eastern part of Galicia.
Descendants of Jews who lived in Kremenets and surrounding towns since the 14th century. Kremenets is in a border region of western Ukraine. The area was under Polish rule until the partitions of Poland in the 1790s, when it became part of the Russian Empire. The Kremenets area returned to Polish rule during the interwar years, but after the war was shifted to Ukraine.
Pikeliai/Pikeln is a town in Lithuania. While there are no Jews living there in the present day, it used to have a Jewish community. There are around 200 unique Jewish surnames associated with this shtetl based on my research in 19th and early 20th century records. The purpose of this project is to identify whether Jewish people with ancestors from this shtetl are related.
Trace the common ancestry of Jewish familes from the town of Przedborz, Poland and surrounding towns, such as Opoczno, Konskie, Checiny, Radom, Radomsko, Wloszczowa, Koniecpol, Kielce, Czestochowa, Piotrkow Trybunalski and nearby smaller shtetls.
We are trying to identify the original 50 families who were Iberian, Italian, and Romaniote Jews that existed in Rhodes in 1522. This will be done by studying the paternal lines (using Y DNA testing) and the maternal lines (using mitochondrial DNA testing) of Jews whose families had lived on the Island of Rhodes.
The purpose of this project is to identify whether Jewish people with ancestors from this district/Uyezd are related. Towns/shtetls in this district include: Aleksandravas, Alsedziai, Barstyciai, Darbenai, Gargzdai, Gruslauke, Jokubavas, Kalnalis, Kartena, Kretinga, Kuliai, Laukuva, Lieplaukis, Mosedis, Nevarenai, Palanga, Pavandene, Pikeliai, Plateliai, Plunge, Pozere, Salantai, Salociai, Saukliai, Seda, Skuodas, Telsiai, Tirksliai, Tverai, Varniai, Ylakiai, Zarenai, Zemaiciu Kalvaria, Zemalenai, Zidikai

 

If there isn't a project for your surname, consider initiating a surname project of your own. By initiating a surname project at FTDNA, you'll be tapping into the most comprehensive of DNA results from samples submitted by Jewish people. This is the ideal opportunity for those of you with unconnected branches on your same surname tree!


Family Finder by Family Tree DNA – watch the video

 

 

Family Tree DNA - DNA Testing For Genealogy



 

 

                                          To order a DNA test please click here