Looking for Ashkenazi DNA Success Stories

A week from Sunday I am doing a presentation on the value of DNA testing for Jewish genealogists at a local group, the San Diego Jewish Genealogical Society. I have a nice talk planned, but it is missing a key ingredient, some success stories from my own research.

SDJGSsiteSmllThanks to some of my friends and fellow genetic genealogists I have a few good stories to share but if any of my readers have a success to contribute, please use my contact form to send it along!

While I have found over 30 new cousins on my Norwegian side with DNA so far, I have no confirmed cousins on my German and half Jewish side. It seems that genetic testing is not very popular in Germany. As my mother’s family came here in 1935, that is where most of my non-Jewish matches would be.

The problem with the Jewish side is that Ashkenazim share so much genetic material from past cousin marriages and population bottlenecks, that we tend to look like 4th and 5th cousins to each other in our DNA. Even though I am only 25% jewish (actually 28% at 23andme), I share some DNA with my Galician Ashkenazi husband with whom I doubt I have any common ancestors for many hundreds of years. I have blogged about these issues before, just click the tag Ashkenazi to read a few of those posts.

When you have a 2nd/3rd cousin match, even among Ashkenazim, it is likely a close cousin. So keep looking at those trees for the common ancestor. At all of the testing companies, the predictions of close family are usually correct, but once you get past 3rd cousins, due to the randomness of DNA inheritance, it is just not possible to make an accurate prediction. Please note that if you are from an endogamous population, like Ashkenazi Jews, those 3rd and 4th cousin matches can be much further out.

I have a number of cases in my Norwegians where cousins marrying each other make relationships look much closer. I did a blog post called Etne Endogamy which discussed this.

When my slides for my Ashkenazi DNA talk are ready I will put the link at the bottom of this page and the handout in my downloads area, but I wanted to get this post up now, in order to solicit a few more success stories.


14 thoughts on “Looking for Ashkenazi DNA Success Stories

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  1. Another match just showed up for my husband on 23andMe. It started with a man that asked to share with my husband and I was able to figure out that he was a 3rd cousin once removed. Then his mother tested, my husband’s 3rd cousin–predicted to be a 2nd cousin, by 23andMe. I have been communicating with them and sharing info. I left a comment about this before. Yesterday, I just saw that someone else confirmed my sharing request. I messaged her and then I started searching to see if I could figure out who she was. It turned out that she is the sister of the match I have been emailing. These are people that I knew were family because of extensive genealogy researching, but none of my husband’s living family knew about them. Now the family is getting back in contact through DNA

  2. Kitty:
    I have a 12-part story of my research into a woman who accompanied my great grandfather to the USA in 1922. It starts with basic genealogical methods and towards the end brings in Y-DNA and autosomal DNA testing. Here are links to the last three posts (links to earlier parts – if you can stand to read all that! – are included with each post).
    Bottom line: with a combination of records research and DNA results I have shown that my great grandfather (Avrum Garber) had a brother with a different last name (Levi Yitzchak Lederman). I have now relocated that branch of the family.

  3. Kitty, I found your slides from the Triangulation presentation but I could not find the downloads section you referenced to get the notes. Can you tell me how to do that?


  4. I have a question. After doing my autosomal DNA test with Ancestry.com (I am female), I was surprised when part of my ethnicity results were that I am “2% European Jewish”, which I assume is Ashkenazi. Most of my ancestors were in the U.S. during Colonial times, although I do have a few ancestors who were immigrants from Germany. Alongside with the results, it also gave traces of Eastern Europe, Italy, and Greece. This was a surprise too, as I had assumed all of my ancestry originated from Western Europe as well as England and Northern Ireland. If Ancestry only reports whom they consider to be relatively close ancestors, what does the 2% indicate? How many generations back? Would “23 and Me” or another genetic testing company show a different percentage? I have noticed, by laboriously going through my ‘cousin list’, where one line appears to have the most of those contributors with traces of Ashkenazi DNA. However, this line originated from Northern Ireland in the early 1700’s and were Quakers.

    Anyone have some suggestions? Thanks in advance.

    • Phylura –
      These ancestry composition calculators are still in their infancy and are not a proven science. See Judy Russell’s post on that:
      The ethnicity that is indicated is usually in the last thousand years or so. That being said, 23andme is probably the best of them but till not a proven science. You can get some good calculators over at GEDmatch. Try the Jtest one under eurogenes. I have lots of posts here about GEDmatch

  5. Hello, hoping for some information. Find out that I am 4.4% Ashkenazi ancestry. I know it is not much but want to know more and what it means. I am assuming because it is such a small amount it goes back pretty far. Do have a line of ancestors from Germany during 1400 to 1600. Any information would be helpful. Thanks

  6. it is hard to say because inheritance gets more and more random after your 2nd grandparents. Many Germans have a trace … If you had one great-great grandparent who was Jewish the expected amount of jewish DNA from them is 6.25% so that is likely for you, but it can vary a fair amount.

  7. I have one Jewish GG grandfather, so I have many, many Jewish FTDNA matches. I have created a large database of FTDNA matches to me or any of my brothers, with specific matching chromosome segments identified. I’m trying to eliminate matches resulting from pileups or Jewish matches too distant to be of genealogical interest. Can you suggest reasonable criteria for eliminating Jewish matches? We have none closer than estimated 3rd to 5th cousin, and only two or three with longest blocks > 20 cM. Does this mean I should disregard all of our (several hundred) Jewish matches so far?

    • Susan, the rule of thumb I give people for AJ matches worth pursuing is at least one segment > 20 cM and another > 10 cM and preferably several more > 7. That being said sometimes one very large segment > 40cM can be a findable relative. However those guidelines have works well for folk with at least one Jewish grandparent …

      • Thanks! I’m going to seriously prune my database. Should I also pay any attention to how common the matches are at particular chromosome locations? I have large numbers of Jewish matches at certain chromosome segments, but only a few (though all Jewish) at other segments. Also, should I pay attention to numbers of matches in common? Most of my Jewish matches have large numbers of MIC with me (many pages), but a few have small numbers of MIC (under a page).

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