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Jewish DNA

Discussion in 'Jewish ancestors' started by jpkc, Apr 24, 2017.

  1. jpkc

    jpkc LostCousins Star

    I recently took a DNA test with LivingDNA and my paternal results were as I expected - mainly Scandinavian and northern Europe.

    But my maternal results were headed by 32% Ashkenazi Jewish and 17% Druze. As far as I know my mother's ancestors were mainly Irish (12% in the results) and I am wondering how to explore this further.

    Surnames of my mother's grandparents are Clancy, Sheehan, Lloyd and Cochrane. I have not been able to trace any further back.

    Any ideas would be welcome.
  2. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    I would suggest testing with Ancestry and see what cousin matches you get. Living DNA is fantastic for finding out your ethnic background, but it isn't going to connect you with any cousins in the near term.

    Ancestry seem to have focused on Ireland with their genetic communities, so it will also be interesting to see what - if anything - you learn from them. The offer ends tomorrow - please use this UK link or the one in the newsletter.
  3. jpkc

    jpkc LostCousins Star

    Thank you. I have ordered an Ancestry test.
  4. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Me too - more than one, in fact.
  5. jorghes

    jorghes LostCousins Superstar

    The other thing to search for would be any names that possibly could have been anglicized. My closest Jewish relative's name was Catherine Collins, not the most "Jewish" name going. I eventually discovered that her grandfather's name was actually Coenraad Leben Helschau and that the Collins was from the maternal line, where the family name was Van Kollem. (My ancestors lived in the Netherlands for years, which explains some of the spelling!)

    But I would completely agree with purchasing an Ancestry DNA test - I have almost enough Jewish relative links to create a "DNA Circle" (although it's a little misleading given it is currently centred on the wrong set of relatives - there is some pedigree collapse in my family tree unfortunately).

    DNA Circles are what Ancestry's results create when there are enough people who match in DNA terms and also have the same people listed in their family trees. Currently I am part of 2 main circles, one based around my Jewish links and the other around the first of my relatives to emigrate to Australia.
  6. jpkc

    jpkc LostCousins Star


    I received my ancestry kit and then spent several frustrating days trying to activate it.

    On firefox, Win 10 PC, trying to open any page on the ancestrydna website produced a pale cream screen with a black bar across the top.

    I finally found some posts to message boards from people with similar problems using Firefox, Chrome and IE, but one said it worked with Edge - and it does!
  7. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    I've never had a problem - I normally use Chrome, but I just checked the site out with Firefox.

    By the way, you don't have to activate your kit before sending off the test, although I'm sure Ancestry would prefer if you did.
  8. jpkc

    jpkc LostCousins Star

    I have now received my ancestry DNA results and am even more perplexed about the LivingDNA resuts (at the top of this thread).

    My ethnicity estimate comes out as 50% Ireland, 34% Great Britain and 11% Scandinavia. This makes sense as I know that my mother was at least 75% Irish and my Big Y results interpreted by yFull suggest that my closest living SNP matches are from Sweden.

    LivingDNA is supposed to give the most accurate ethnicity results but I am wondering if they mixed up the samples.
  9. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    You seem to be "comparing apples with pears". Ancestry's ethnicity estimates are based on your autosomal DNA, which can be inherited from any of your ancestors; Living DNA do provide an equivalent analysis of your autosomal DNA, one which is much more detailed, but you haven't told us what they came up with.

    Instead you seem to have quoted their analysis of your Y-DNA and mtDNA. Each of these tells you about a single line, ie your direct paternal and direct maternal lines, and it looks back tens of thousands of years. The results you have been given for those lines are perfectly compatible with what Ancestry have told you.

    But knowing where 2 of your millions of ancestors came from 20 or 30,000 years ago has little relevance to genealogy - it isn't the reason to test with Living DNA, or indeed any other company.
  10. jpkc

    jpkc LostCousins Star

    Sorry to be so stupid.
  11. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Not at all - it's an easy mistake to make. Have you now had a chance to compare Living DNA's ethnicity estimates with Ancestry's?
  12. jpkc

    jpkc LostCousins Star

    They are very similar except that Ancestry distinguishes between GB and Ireland but LivingDNA does not and Ancestry also narrows the results to Munster Irish and Southern English communities which fits with what I know.

    Matches have not yielded a lot yet. The top 3 comprise one person whom I know and 2 who have not responded to messages. Ancestry's listing of surnames appearing in the trees of matches includes several references to Sheehan (name of my mother's paternal grand mother) but so far all the ones I have looked at are just one person with no parents or siblings given.
  13. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Ancestry doesn't really distinguish between Britain and Ireland - if you look at the area covered by 'Ireland' it includes all of Scotland, all of Wales, all of northern England, and part of Devon & Cornwall.

    Living DNA, by contrast, not only distinguish between Britain and Ireland, they break them down into 21 areas, some as small as a single county. Equally importantly Living DNA are telling you where your ancestors were a few hundred years ago, whereas Ancestry are indicating where they were a couple of thousand years ago (the latter isn't much use to family historians).
    My next newsletter will set out a number of strategies for analysing your matches.
  14. jpkc

    jpkc LostCousins Star

    Ancestry has two sets of geographical estimates, Ethnicity for thousands of years ago and Communities for hundreds of years ago.

    I find the LivingDNA website very unfriendly. I cannot find a Help section or any explanation of what the variations in colour saturation on the maps mean, there are no tool-tips on the links and apparently no breakdown of "Great Britain and Ireland 91.2%".

    Prompted by your comments I tried clicking everything in sight and I have now found the sub-regional percentage breakdown by clicking a plus sign which l had assumed to be a control for zooming in to the maps. I am still not sure on the Cautious Sub-Regional page what "related" implies. For instance "Cornish related" seems strongest in Devon and most of Ireland but faintly coloured in Cornwall. But on the Standard map Devon is white.
  15. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    The Communities feature has potential, but at the moment it's early days. I belong to just one community, Southern English - which doesn't tell me anything I didn't already know. It might be more useful for those with Irish heritage.

    The Living DNA site is very slick, but if you're not used to use tablets and smartphones it isn't intuitively obvious where to find the information. However I've featured my own regional breakdown in the newsletter and linked to it on several occasions (including in the last newsletter and the one before)
  16. Bryman

    Bryman LostCousins Megastar

    Probably not as much collapse as I have just found in some of my relatives, mainly by marriage. One of my very distant blood relatives married into the Rothschild banking family where almost all marriages were between Rothschilds on both sides, ie uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, nieces. My relative was one of the very few outsiders to 'gain access'. He was a major in the British Army so may have 'forced' (?) his way in, although being a Jew probably helped too.

    No doubt one other thing in his favour was that his father was a wealthy Shipping Merchant from Manchester who later died with a net worth of over half a million pounds in 1905. According to Google, that would have been worth about 64 million today! It just goes to show that one doesn't need to rely on old money to get ahead. It is a pity that none of my closer relatives (or me) were so enterprising.

    Such a windfall could have paid for a lot of DNA tests but would that amount of pedigree collapse have been just too confusing, at least in that area?
  17. jorghes

    jorghes LostCousins Superstar

    I have a lot of cousins marrying cousins in my English family - quite a number where their surnames are the same, and that is the part that gets confusing, and then of course there is the problem of multiple marriages to sisters, or to two different sets of cousins... Occasionally trying to remember the actual links is confusing and the multiple links have most definitely confused both Ancestry and FTM when it comes to trying to explain how someone is related to me twice (or occasionally three times) through both blood and marriage.

    As for my Jewish pedigree collapse - a pair of my 5th great grandmothers are sisters, since their children married each other. And then when you head to the wider family, there is a lot of intermarriage of cousins etc. I believe this was probably because they were living in the Netherlands at the time and presumably the Jewish population in the Netherlands was not all that large and thus if you wanted to marry into the faith, non-related partners were at a premium.

    Once they moved to London, a fair few of them then married outside the faith including my great-great-great grandmother.

    I think that it may (correct me if I'm wrong Peter), double your chances of linking up with possible cousins because you have a double dose of possible DNA from each of those in the pedigree collapse section of your tree. I have a LOT of links with those who claim either of my 5x great grandmothers as an ancestor and a bunch who claim both. My results are heavily weighted towards the Jewish section of my tree.
  18. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    The fact that two of your 5G grandmothers were sisters will only have a slight impact on the DNA you've inherited because their parents are 8 generations back. Yes, you'll probably have inherited a little more DNA from them, but it will only increase from an average of 0.4% from each to 0.8% from each.

    What really impacts on your DNA matches is the fact that all Jewish populations are endogamous - relatively few Jews marry outside their own community. This means that the DNA pool has less variation than in the population as a whole, so rather than getting matches with individuals you'll typically get matches with clusters of individuals who all share the same segment with you. You won't know this from Ancestry because they don't have a Chromosome Browser - you'd all need to transfer your results to GEDmatch.

    The other effect of endogamy is to make matches appear more recent than they actually are - if everyone in a group shares the same segment of DNA it won't change as a result of meiosis (the swapping of DNA segments when sperm and eggs are created).

    So in practice you might do well to ignore all of those matches - all they really do is confirm that you have Jewish ancestry.

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