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Where Do I Come From: Shawn

Monday, July 22, 2013

Where Do I Come from:  Shawn

Real People's DNA Stories

Ethnicity Beyond European Migration

By Shawn

My journey into DNA testing began with my desire to expand on my known heritage, while clarifying debated Jewish ancestry.  What I have found in return is that my ancestral paper trail only uncovers a small portion of the blood that runs through my veins.  My DNA Consultants results, for the most part were quite surprising.  My European matches were fairly consistent with my country origins on paper and surrounding areas.  The major surprise, however, was that my number one European match was Romani/Gypsy and my number 10 match was Czech Republic.... 

Things became much more interesting with my World Population Matches.  My scores (in order) were Romani/Gypsy, Middle Eastern, African, Iberian, Central European, African-American, Jewish, Mediterranean European, European American and Eastern European.  I also came up with Native American admixture to top it off.  These results are causing me to believe that there may be a line or more of family lineages that I have yet to tap into. 

Looking back on things now, I have received comments from others concerning my phenotype such as "I'm not sure what you are,” "You don't look Irish" and "You must have some Black ancestry."  Some have even just assumed I was Hispanic or Caucasian.  Interestingly enough, almost all acknowledge that they see my Italian/Spanish phenotype, while a few also see slight Native American.   

While my results provided insight into how diverse my blood really is, they also put an end to an age-old family debate as to our Jewish ethnicity.  One of my relatives from a few generations past would passionately defend her position that our family line was indeed Jewish, while another family member would vigorously put forth his position that we were not Jewish.  He would try to prove our non-Jewishness any time he could.  I also had another family member along that same family line say that he almost did not get hired for a job because the hirer thought he was Jewish.  I always believed these accounts, especially since as young as I can remember I have found this side of my family (Italian and German) to phenotypically look Italian and/or Jewish.  

So where does all this leave me now?  My results show my blood is much more than simply Italian, French, Irish and German.  They confirm family testimony of Spanish/Portuguese/Iberian and Jewish ancestry.  Perhaps more interestingly, my results leave me re-assessing my ethnicity or multi-ethnic heritage, end years of family verbal passages or debates and leave me with intriguing new ancestries that are waiting to be discovered. 

Comments

Maria OConnor commented on 23-Jul-2013 12:42 AM

Shawn: Countries frontiers are artificial. For example, there are people of celtic heritage in northern Spain, northern Portugal, all over Ireland, all over England, all over Scotland, all over Wales, Southern Germany, northern France, Northern Italy, etc. All of them, even considering the come from different places have the same celtic DNA. So, if you have an ancestor from Spain or Portugal, could be of celtic origen, or mediterranean origen.
If a person has jewish sefardi dna, it could be originated from Southern Spain, Southern Portugal, North Africa, Middle East, etc.
Also, in South America there are great numbers of people of European ancestry, including non hispanic non portugue ancestry, like Irish, German, Italians, etc.
Is quite complicated, due to ancient and new migrations.


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Elizabeth Hirschman, Modern Pioneer

Friday, December 07, 2012
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Behind the Numbers:  Elizabeth Hirschman

  (Part Two of a Series)

We interviewed Rutgers marketing professor Elizabeth Caldwell Hirschman, author of several books and articles incorporating DNA in her research, to hear her personal story in our continuing series about the people behind the scenes in the field of DNA testing.

 

Elizabeth Hirschman with MBA students at Rutgers in December 2009.


When did you first get interested in DNA?

ECH: I got interested in DNA testing around 2000 when I discovered I was Melungeon after reading Brent Kennedy's 1994 book. Brent suggested several different ancestries that possibly contributed to the Melungeon population and I wanted to find out which of these were correct and which ones I had. I already suspected Jewish ancestry because of the naming patterns in my family over the past 300 years, as well as some of their habits --e.g., not eating pork, getting married in a home instead of a church, cleaning house on Friday afternoon, no eggs with blood spots, washing all meat, etc. We also had some genetic anomalies -- shovel teeth (sinodonty), palatal tori and large rear cranial extensions, as well as polydactylism.

Tell us more.

 

ECH:  Over the course of the past decade I have been found to have Native American, Spanish, Ashkenazi Jewish, African, Mediterranean and Gypsy/Northwestern India ancestry. My Dad turned out to have substantial Gypsy and African ancestry. He and I share a large cranial rear extension that I believe likely comes from the African ancestry -- the photos I have seen of the !Kung Bushmen look just like our head shapes. My Mom has Native American and/or Sino-Siberian ancestry. She also possessed the Asian teeth and palatal tori found in this group.

You've written several books and articles with Donald Yates; how did that come about?

ECH:  We shared ancestry from the Coopers, a prominent pioneer family in Daniel Boone’s time. In 2000, I wrote him out of the blue when he was a professor in Georgia and introduced myself and asked if possibly the Coopers were Jewish. We began to correspond by email. I told him I was sure one of the reasons I was working so hard to figure out the Melungeon story was because I had to figure out who I am. “Up until last year,”  I remember telling him, “I thought I was Scotch-Irish, English , white and Presbyterian.” It was a big transition to Sephardic, brown and Jewish. It turned out that we were distant cousins and had numerous links in our Melungeon ancestry.

What was a typical publication?

ECH: One article was called “Suddenly Melungeon! Reconstructing Consumer Identity Across the Color Line.” This was published by Routledge in 2007 in a handbook on consumer culture theory edited by Russell Belk.  

 

How did the Jewish findings play out?

 

ECH:  On a personal level, both Don and I, as well as his wife Teresa, returned to Judaism, he and Teresa in Savannah and I in New Jersey. On a professional level, we started the Melungeon Surname DNA Project, which focused on Scottish clan and Melungeon surnames (i.e., male or Y chromosome lines), and later included Native American mitochondrial DNA.  Initially, many people in the genetic genealogy community were frustrated that the incoming Jewish DNA results were not originating in the Middle East, as they had strongly believed and hoped, but were showing a lot of Khazar, Central Asian, Eastern European and Western European/Spanish/French input.

Can you elaborate?

ECH:  Critics were not happy that DNA was proving a wider and more inclusive picture of the Jewish people. Where Don and I have performed a service, I believe, is by just following the DNA trail and accepting new findings (e.g., the Gypsy/Roma) when they come in, instead of clinging to an a priori theory/belief/wish, for instance, the claim of a Middle Eastern origin for the majority of Jews.

What tests have you ordered from DNA Consultants?

 

ECH: I ordered every test as they became available over the years, first the Y chromosome and mitochondrial or male-line and female-line tests and later the autosomal or DNA fingerprint tests that analyze your total ancestry.  I helped organize the first autosomal Melungeon study by contributing samples from my mother and brother and obtaining samples from well-known Melungeons like Brent Kennedy and his brother Richard. Increasingly, our testing took on the aspect of a family group study. For instance, I was able by comparing multiple results from relatives to reconstruct my father’s ancestry quite satisfactorily, even though he died many years ago. I took the Rare Genes from History for all available family members. There is a streak of the Thuya Gene and First Peoples Gene in all of us, as well as the Sinti Gene (which is Gypsy), while my brother Dick got our father’s Khoisan Gene, which is African. Incidentally, it has the same source as the !Kung people and head shape I mentioned before.

If you had H. G. Wells' time machine where would you go?

 

ECH: I would love to be able to visit my ancestors and see what they looked like, where they lived, how they lived and learn how they got to Appalachia from such disparate parts of the world. I wish I could talk with them. My project now is to visit all the places they are known to have come from and see what the architecture, climate, food, and people are like. That is about as close to "meeting" them as I will be able to get. So far, I’ve traveled to Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Spain, Tunisia and Morocco on the trail of my Sephardic Jewish ancestors. I am trying to get to the Silk Road to see Central Asia, Turkey and Northwest India in the near future.

Professor Hirschman has published over 200 journal articles and academic papers in marketing, consumer behavior, sociology, psychology and semiotics. She is past President of the Association for Consumer Research and American Marketing Association-Academic Division. Professor Hirschman was named one of the Most Cited Researchers in Economics and Business by the Institute for Scientific Information in 2009; this recognition is given to the top .5% of scholars in a given field.  


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Behind the Numbers: Phyllis Starnes

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

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Phyllis Starnes:  Designer Genes


We interviewed Phyllis E. Starnes, assistant investigator, to find out what fascinates her about the field of DNA testing. Her story is the first in a series titled "Behind the Numbers" about the workers behind the scenes in our industry, from lab technicians to statisticians.

 

Interviewer:  How did you first get interested in DNA?

PES:  I went to the Melungeon Union in Kingsport [Tennessee, in 2002]. Beth Hirschman had her “stalk,” a diagram of her Melungeon family tree with all the names in her genealogy, many of which were also my surnames. I heard Dr. Yates speak at that meeting. They had their lines all pinpointed, thanks to DNA studies.

Interviewer:  What was your next step after that?

PES:  I came home and did a lot of genealogy research on the computer.

Interviewer: And then?

PES:  The first year DNA Consultants opened for business, which was 10 years ago, I ordered a Y chromosome test for my husband Billy. Other companies were offering the same product, but DNA Consultants was the only one to give you a full analysis and customized explanation of things. Then I ordered my own mitochondrial DNA test.

Interviewer:  Any surprises?

PES:  Billy’s top matches for his male line, the Starnes surname line, were Macedonia and Albania. My mitochondrial mutations matched Native Americans. I became the first of the “Anomalous Cherokees” whose female lineages didn’t fit in the traditional scheme of “Indians out of Asia.” In fact, my Hypervariable Region 2 mutations matched only one other sample in the world, and that was Dr. Yates, who is Cherokee in his direct female line.

Interviewer:  What did your husband and the rest of your family think?

PES:  Some were excited, as I was, but most were just not interested. My kids thought the strong Native American matches were very interesting.

Interviewer:  What other family members did you test?

PES:  As soon as autosomal testing arrived, with the DNA Fingerprint Test, I did Billy and myself, of course, Julia, Kiely and Holli (our three daughters), our granddaughter Keely, my Dad’s sister and Mother’s sister, an uncle and his wife, a niece and a cousin.

Interviewer:  What did you find out?

PES:  Within the immediate family, it was obvious who got which ancestry and trait from whom, and how they all resonated. One of the big surprises was my father’s side, which proved to have quite a bit of Native American and Iberian. The “First Peoples” gene came from his side and passed on down through our girls. On my mother’s side, 11 out of 20 matches was India.

Interviewer:   India!?

PES:  Yes, it appears we were finally seeing the extensive Romani/Gypsy heritage in her family. People had always told me I was like a Gypsy, from my clothes and jewelry to my attitude and outlook. When Billy was in the Navy, I told him one day, ‘I’m tired of being a Gypsy.’ I said I wanted to settle down in one place.

Interviewer:  Did you settle down?

PES:  Yes, we’ve lived in a small town in East Tennessee for almost 40 years. We moved here in 1973.

Interviewer:  Any other surprises in your DNA?

PES:  If you were to chart our geographical matches, both in terms of autosomal DNA as well as the female and male lines, it would surround the Mediterranean. That’s where Familial Mediterranean Fever comes in.

Interviewer:  Who has FMF in your family?

PES:  Billy, myself, Julia, Holli and a cousin. I’m sure others have it but it has not been diagnosed and they may call it instead fibromyalgia. Brent Kennedy [author of a book on Melungeons and their genetics] is a cousin many times over.

Interviewer:  What do you enjoy about your job?

PES:  It’s like a holiday every day. With customers coming out of North Carolina or East Tennessee, I see a lot of the same matches and genealogy I have personally encountered in my own experience with DNA testing. I recognize a lot of genetic cousins.

Interviewer:  When did you first hear the word “Melungeon”?

PES:  I grew up in Southwest Virginia in the little town where the Stony Creek Church is located. The church minutes contain the first written instance of the word. The register is all of mine and Billy’s ancestors, and part of Beth’s [Elizabeth Hirschman, author of books on Melungeons].

Interviewer:  What do you see in the future of DNA testing?

PES:  I think we’ve only glimpsed the tip of the iceberg so far, even though it’s been 10 years. We’ll continue to have new knowledge, new products. I highly recommend our customized approach.

Interviewer:  Any parting shots?

PES:  I’ve worked in sales all my life—jewelry management and design, my own interior decorating shop, running my own hair salon—but I have found something to be truly excited about in DNA. Funny I couldn’t get this excited about selling diamonds! If you think about it, your genes are the ultimate design for living.



Donald Yates and Elizabeth Hirschman speaking at Fourth Melungeon Union, Kingsport, Tenn., in June 2002. Hirschman, a professor at Rutgers University, went on to publish Melungeons: The Last Lost Tribe in America. Yates, a professor at Georgia Southern University at the time, founded a service for evaluating DNA reports that became DNA Consultants. The two authors have collaborated on a number of books and articles, including Jews and Muslims in British Colonial America. 












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Gypsy Migrations

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Gypsies, or Roma, or Romani (so called because of their concentration in Romania) are a far-flung distinctive population with a lot of diversity. In our database, we have samples of four Gypsy populations, plus samples for Romania, Macedonia and Hungary which you can match if you have even a small degree of Gypsy/Romani.

Gypsy DNA can sometimes be conflated or confused with Jewish DNA because both populations originated in the Middle East and often lived in the same Central European areas in modern times, but true Gypsy matches usually come with Indian, especially north Indian matches, because that's where the Gypsies lived around the 900s before they backtracked into Iran and Turkey and eventually crossed the Bosporus into Europe.

The Gypsy language, Romani, shows a strong Romanian influence but its basic vocabulary and grammar point to a north Indian origin.

The Gypsy religion, on the other hand, is not Indian or Hindu but closest to Jewish, Persian and Zoroastrian forms of monotheism.

"It is not known when or why the Gypsies left India but they were living in Iran by the tenth century AD. The Iranian poet Firdausi (c. 930-1020) wrote of the Gypsies in his epic history of the Iranians, the Shah Nama (Book of Kings), that they were originally a tribe of musicians who had been sent to the ruler of Iran by an Indian king. Once they had eaten the ruler out of house and home, the Gypsies took to the roads. By the 11th century Gypsies were living in the Byzantine empire and soon afterwards were spreading through the Balkans. When the Ottoman Turks began to overrun the Balkans in the 14th century, groups of Gypsies dispersed across western Europe, reaching Bohemia in 1399, Bavaria in 1418, Paris in 1421, Rome in 1423 and Spain in 1425. In the early 16th century Gypsies spread to Britain, Scandinavia, Poland and Russia, but the Balkans remained the main Gypsy centre." John Haywood, The Great Migrations from the Earliest Humans to the Age of Globalization (London:  Quercus), p. 142.


Gypsy Migrations according to Haywood.

Comments

Shari commented on 16-Oct-2011 10:26 AM

According to my mother’s Fingerprint Plus DNA test, both of her parents had Jewish I and Jewish III DNA. One parent had Tatar/Khazar DNA (Jewish IV). India was Mom’s Top World Match. Mom’s mother was genetically Roma-Gypsy. To date there is no genealogical
evidence that Mom’s father was either Roma-Gypsy or Jewish. I’m wondering if the combination of Jewish I and Jewish III along with Indian (from India) ancestry is the typical DNA pattern found for persons of Gypsy-Roma ancestry. Perhaps Jewish I and III could
also indicate only Jewish ancestry, a possibility for Mom’s father’s ancestry. Another possibility would be that her father had unconfirmed Gypsy-Roma ancestry. One or the other parent having Jewish IV DNA may provide a clue. I enjoyed reading GYPSY MIGRATIONS.
I’ve also found the following Internet article to be interesting. Dr. Hancock suggests that Romani had “military” beginnings on the basis of his linguistic and historical research: “An examination of the earliest words in the Romani language suggests a number
of things: firstly that there is little in the original, ‘first layer’ Indian vocabulary that reflects a nomadic or itinerant population, but rather it points to a settled one; and secondly that while there are not many original words for e.g. artisan or agricultural
skills, there are quite a few military terms... ”

From: ON ROMANI ORIGINS AND IDENTITY, Ian Hancock The Romani Archives and Documentation Center 
 The University of Texas at Austin

 http://www.radoc.net/radoc.php?doc=art_b_history_origins&lang=ry&articles=true

Donald Locke commented on 18-Oct-2011 12:23 AM

"Gypsy DNA can sometimes be conflated or confused with Jewish DNA because both populations originated in the Middle East" I would disagree with this opinion that the Romany originated in the Middle East when we clearly originated in South Asia. India,
Sri Lanka, Nepal, parts of Pakistan. I am of the English Romanichal vista "clan" and the Romanichal vista Y DNA results clearly show a high average of our male population carrying Y Haplo Group H1a, more importantly I am the researcher who discovered the relationship
between marker 425 = 0, null to the Romany H1a male lineages. To date, of all the Romany H1a male lineages identified so far, of all those tested to the 67 marker level, 100% were found carrying this same null value marker mutation in common regardless our
surnames, and regardless which Romany vista "clan" we hail from. Romany of England, Scotland, Hungary, Bulgaria have found Y Haplo H1a with the 425 = 0 marker mutation, which clearly links the Romanichal vista to the Roma vista's of Europe. mt Haplo Group
M5a1 which is also being claimed as South Asian in origin has also recently been discovered amongst the English Romanichal. I am the Admin. of the Y Haplo Group H and Romany DNA projects with FTDNA. To date not a single Asian Y Haplo H1a male has been found
carrying the 425 = 0 marker mutation, this mutation so far is only found among the European Romany male population. And as far as I am concerned, H1a with the 425 = 0 marker mutation = Romany origins. Donald Locke

stevo commented on 11-May-2012 03:01 PM

my name is steven and i have found out that my real farther was Roma/Gypsy . my my mom was jewish from morroco. there are a group of people in eastern turkey called kerds and the name sindh is a common surname with them. i bealeve they travled to india
backtraped to turkey and then went to germany/auatria and this group beacame the sinti rom of the rinelands. that however is the sinti the other rom im not sure.

Theo commented on 31-Jul-2013 02:45 AM

Hello. While your article is interesting and should be accurate from a scientific point of view, I would like to make some amendments to your cultural references.

Back home gypsies are called Rromi, or Rrom ethnics, and that distinction makes no linguistic sense in Romanian. This leads me to believe they inherited the name from an older distinction. As a native Romanian, to me the gypsy language makes absolutely no sense. I can't understand a thing until they actually switch to a different language.

Mel commented on 17-May-2014 06:00 PM

A few corrections...

The word "Romani" has nothing to do with Romania, as stated in the article above. The word is the feminine adjective form of "Rom" which means man in the Romani language.

Our religion tends to be Christian, not "Jewish, Persian and Zoroastrian forms of monotheism".


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Book Deal: Star, Crescent and Cross

Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Jews and Muslims in Colonial America

After more than eight years in development, a book contract was awarded to Elizabeth Caldwell Hirschman and Donald N. Yates for their collaborative study of Crypto-Jews and Crypto-Muslims in the settlement of British North America. Titled Star, Crescent and Cross:  Jews and Muslims in Colonial America, the work will be published next year by McFarland, a leading U.S. publisher of scholarly, reference and academic books.

Among original investigations by the authors are genealogical studies of the West Country Gentlemen and others who proposed and promoted England's first colonies. From Sir John Hawkins (Sephardic Jewish surname Haquines, "physician" in Arabic) and Sir Francis Drake (whose family coat of arms bore a six-pointed star until it was air-brushed out by later historians) to Stephen Parmenius (a Jew from Turkish-held Hungary) and Captain John Smith, the principal players in England's colonization efforts are revealed to be far different from the white Anglo-Saxon Christian buccaneers American schoolchildren are taught about.

"England's reliance on Iberian Jews to promote its interests abroad goes back as far as the Tudors," according to Star, Crescent and Cross. "Henry VIII used Spanish Jewish lawyers to justify his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. One of them, an Italian banker tapped for his shrewdness and knowledge of international law, was the ancestor of Oliver Cromwell, Protector of the Commonwealth."

The book presents a series of colonial documents, contemporary firsthand accounts, records, portraits, family genealogies and ethnic DNA test results which fundamentally challenge the national storyline depicting America’s first settlers as white, British and Christian. The authors postulate that many of the initial colonists were of Sephardic Jewish and Muslim Moorish ancestry, usually arriving as crypto-Jews or crypto-Muslims.

Names Ordinary and Illustrious

The footnotes in the study document origins and meanings of over 5,000 surnames previously assumed to be sturdy English ones of ancient bearing. The authors' research casts a sidelight on celebrated Jewish Americans who can trace back to colonial forebears. These range from the Massachusetts Kennedys to the Byrds of Virginia, from actors Johnny Depp and Adrien Brody to actresses Roseanne Barr and Gwyneth Paltrow, from writers Louise Glück and Neil Simon to politicians Barbara Boxer and Bernie Sanders and jurists Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.

"We hope that the remarkable stories of the men, women and families in Star, Crescent and Cross will serve as a reminder of America’s early diversity and stimulus for rewriting some of the inaccurate and injudicious portions in the country's history," said Yates.

Among the famous colonial figures discussed (and usually illustrated with a portrait) are William Byrd II, Patrick Henry, William Bradford, William Penn, George Mason, George Washington, Richard Lee II, Thomas Paine, Paul Revere, Peter Stuyvesant, Luis Gomez, Jacob Troxell, Anthony Ashley Cooper Lord Shaftesbury, Tench Tilghman, Christopher Gist, John Skeen, Sir Philip Sidney, Walter Raleigh, Humphrey Gilbert, Virginia Dare, Don Luis de Carvajal, Daniel Boone, William Cooper, the Salem Witches, Christopher Gist, Lord Saye and Sele, and various Lowells, Cabots, Lodges, Livingstones, Delanceys and Roosevelts.

Chapter 2, "Sephardim in the New World" is a survey of Crypto-Jews in North America, especially the Caribbean and Atlantic Islands. It includes autosomal DNA data proving the Melungeons are probably descended from Jews mixed with American Indians, Africans and Gypsies/Romani, as recently reported in this blog

There are chapters and name-lists devoted to each of the original colonies. The book will contain over 50 illustrations.


English navigators and explorers included many West Country gentlemen. Most were from intermarried Crypto-Jewish families. New York Public Library.

 
Comments

stw commented on 29-Nov-2010 07:38 PM

It seems that from other research, such as, "Y-chromosome Lineages from Portugal, Madeira and Acores Record Elements of Sephardim and Berber Ancestry", amongst others. Sephardim and Muslim Moors are fairly indistinguishable, since Islam came late to the game, and converted most of the Israelites (pre-Ashkenazi European Jewry). This fact, together with the protection of the Jews in Muslim lands from Christian forced conversion, means that DNA research will most likely produce false positives for Jewish origins. This means that the Sephardim and Azore shared DNA predates Islam and rabbinic Judaism to Berber and Israelite origins. The same could be said for the study of etymological studies. If ancient Hebrew is basically Moabite Canaanite, a vulgar dialect of ancient Arabic (Jewish enclopedia), then etym. tracing of surnames could easily map into Arabic surnames, especially with remooval of semetic vowel marks, which are medeival in origin. A simple example is Elohim and Allah, both spelled the same in consonant spelling without marks, ALH, Aliph Lam Ha. Moreover, it is well understood that a large majority of Spanish conquistadors were Crypto Muslims , fleeing the oppression of newly Catholic Spain. This was not the case for Jews who had the opportunity to live in some parts of Europe, and who possessed valued commercial skills in the Islamic Caliphate, which would not likely be easily transferred into the required skills of Colonial Conquistador, an undesirable profession at best. However, the Netherlands contained a large number of Jews who fled Spain, as did Ireland (the so called Black Irish though more likely crypto Muslim mercenary sailors). Finally the small number of practising Jews in western Europe at the time of the North American invasions, and the neutral status of Judaism, or other non trinitarian sects such as the Quakers, makes it more likely that the cryptos were cryto Muslims with Israelite or Berber origins, rather than the descendants of the Islamic commercial class, the Sephardim. Nor is it likely that the eastern european, Balkan , Ashkenazi (see, The Ashkenazic Jews: A Slavo-Turkic People in Search of a Jewish Identity, Paul Wexler) made their way through Germany to Holland to the new world ( a much later historicall migration). All of this requires some condieration in this research book, even if one might sell more books by making the Kennedys and founding Fathers all Jews.

Anonymous commented on 09-Dec-2010 09:17 PM

Very good points!


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Do You Have Gypsy Matches?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Customs and Beliefs of the Roma and Sinti

Some of our customers have been surprised to get Gypsy/Romani population matches in their results for the DNA Fingerprint Test. Typically, these are combined with Middle Eastern and Indian matches due to the Gypsies' historical migrations. Other customers were not surprised at all and called to tell us about the fortuneteller great-grandmother or mysterious ancestor who traveled with the circus. Gypsy heritage is not unheard of among Melungeons. So for those who think they may have Roma/Sinti or Romechal (the term used in the British Isles), we have compiled the following list of customs and beliefs taken from an excellent authority.

Strict monotheism similar to Jews

Keeping the seventh day holy

Lighting candles on the evening of Parashat (Friday)

Blasphemy a sin, as is cursing an elder

Beng (Satan) the enemy of God and of the Roma people

The Evil One called bivuzhó (impure) and bilashó

 

Code of Law

No social classes, only a division into Roma and Gadje (non-Roma)

A court of justice called Kris (Judiciary Council), composed of clan representatives as judges

Both men and women serving on Kris

Issues between Roma to be judged only by the Kris, not by Gadje

All Roma equal before the eyes of the Kris

Belief in blood revenge and compensatory payment for clan of victim

Banishment from territory of victim’s clan for wrong doing

Forfeiture of protection if banished offender reenters

Roma not even to acknowledge or greet one who is banished

Accursed or banished called mahrimé (impure)

Roma not to ask interest for loans to other Roma, only from Gadje

 

Sexuality, Marriage and Childbirth

Nudity is taboo, allowed only with a husband and wife

Showing naked legs before an elder disrespectful

Homosexuality an abomination

Not allowed to wear clothes of the opposite sex, even as a joke or disguise

Virginity before marriage essential

Tokens of virginity shown to the assembly after wedding

Prostitution strongly condemned

Incest taboo, defined in the same way as Mosaic law (including step-siblings and in-laws)

Permissible to marry your cousin

Members of the Kris must be married

Lack of a spouse makes a man or woman incomplete

Groom’s family pays dowry to the bride’s family

Dowry for a widow amounts to half that for a virgin

A man dishonoring a woman should pay the dowry to her family anyway

Runaway couples considered legitimately married

Marriage endogamic, even within the same clan

Clan recognized by a common ancestor within a few generations

Divorce admitted:  husband sends wife out or she leaves

Remarriage expected after divorce

Levirate law practiced (Deut. 25:5-6)

Childbirth impure, must take place outside the home

Mother giving birth isolated with baby for seven days strictly, followed by 33 days of less strict isolation (cf. Lev. 12:2, 4-5)

New mother cannot show herself in public or attend religious services

Both sexes marrying very young (child marriage)

 

Funeral and Mourning Rituals

Dead to be buried intact (autopsy or cremation sacrilegious)

Close relatives of the dead impure for seven days

Not to touch a dead body

Family and relatives of deceased forbidden to bathe, comb their hair, cut their nails for three days

On third day after a death, relative must wash thoroughly, and then not again until seventh day

All food in house where a person died is thrown away as defiled

On third day after a death, the house is purified (“the ashes of the burning of the sin”) and a virgin sprinkles running water

The same ceremony repeated on the seventh day after a death, with food brought to the mourners from another dwelling place

Mourners stay at home

Sitting on low stools

Covering mirrors

Not using oils or perfumes or cosmetics

Not wearing new clothes

Not listening to loud music

Not taking photographs or watching television

Not painting, cooking, and cannot greet people

Day mourning extended after seventh day remembrance ceremony until thirtieth day

Another remembrance ceremony on thirtieth day, closing the strict mourning period

 

Beliefs in Afterlife

Death is final, no reincarnation or return

Soul goes to Paradise or Hell

 

Purity and Impurity

Concept of marimé (similar to kashrut)

Lower body and things associated with it impure

Sleeping regarded as an impure state

Not to greet anyone upon waking until washed

Disrespectful to greet anyone in an impure state

Dogs and cats impure

Horses, donkeys or riding animal impure

Carnivorous animals impure

Avoidance of horseflesh

Shoes, pants, hose, skirts, trousers, etc. impure

The camp pure

Restrooms built outside the home

Clothes for the lower body and menstruating women washed separately

Dishes washed in a different place from clothes

 

Other Practices

Custom of mangel, asking for favors from Gadje

Painting doorposts of dwelling with animal blood to protect against angel of death

Invoking the Prophet Elijah, particularly when seeing lightening or hearing thunder

Firstborn son considered a special blessing to the family

Wearing of whiskers

Left hand related to the public domain (Gadje), impure

Separate dishes and cups for Gadje

Only eating ritually slaughtered animals

Slander considered very a very serious offense, worth taking to Kris

Lack of belief in divination (contrary to general view of Gypsies)

Practice of Tarot cards and crystal balls for Gadje only

Having a Gypsy name besides a civil name

Names that are Hebrew, Greek, Russian, Spanish, Hungarian, Persian, never Indian or Hindu

Beef a favorite food

Interest in bullfighting

Middle Eastern music and dance with zithers, etc. (Flamenco in Spain)

Fingernails and toenails filed with an emery board, not a clipper

Going to a church called Filadelfia (Brotherhood)

Claiming to be Egyptian in origin

Making pilgrimages to the burial places of your ancestors

 

Source:  Abraham Sándor, “Comparison of Romany Law with Israelite Law and Indo-Aryan Traditions”

 

 More information about Melungeons
Toward a Genetic Profile of Melungeons in Southern Appalachia
Melungeon Studies
Melungeon Match

 

 

Comments

Anonymous commented on 18-Sep-2010 01:39 PM

Thank YOU, Shari, for this long comment. Actually, it was your emails that inspired me to research the true history of the Gypsies. Great idea about a Gypsy Forum on DNA Communities. I have a Gypsy modal DNA profile I can post. Would you consider being a co-moderator with Kim de Beus?

Shari commented on 19-Sep-2010 05:06 PM

Thanks so much for, “Do You Have Gypsy Matches?” It’s fascinating reading. My U.S. Gypsy-Roma great-grandparents were quite religious, I believe Baptist. Mom’s grandparents were “Genetic Gypsies,” not cultural Gypsies. My guess is that they were either “Silent Gypsies,” covering up their ethnicity, or they didn’t know about it. (They emigrated to the U.S. in the 1880s and later owned farms.) In the Shetland Islands mainland these ancestors’ occupations were the typical fishing and farming. Their family naming patterns were traditionally Scottish. Most likely, early on, their ancestors adopted typical Scottish names and ways of life, passing these on to their descendants. In Scotland, Gypsies were persecuted, imprisoned, banished to other lands and even put to death if they didn’t conform. Some or most of Mom’s maternal grandparents’ earlier Gypsy-Roma ancestors migrated from Aberdeen, Scotland to the Shetland mainland. Mother’s test also revealed DNA matches with people in Glasgow, Scotland - assuming Gypsy-Roma. Besides DNA, there are other clues that they were Gypsy-Roma. One clue is that one of our ancestor’s surnames - FEA - is a common Gypsy surname - http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/fealty. During Internet searches I’ve found historical as well as current information about Gypsy-Roma. There are websites originating in England and Scotland as well as many sites reviewing ancient Gypsy history (some timelines) of migration from India to most European countries. As I understand it, almost all researchers (such as Iovita in “Reconstructing the Origins and Migrations of Diasporic Populations: The Case of the European Gypsies,” the source cited by you, Don, in Mom’s DNA report) have concluded that Gypsy-Roma originated in India; and before that, Southeast Asia is mentioned. Only one site by Abraham Sandor (your source for your Gypsy blog entry) makes the argument that Gypsy-Roma did not originate in India, but instead in Mesopotamia, later migrating to India before beginning their European migrations - http://www.imninalu.net/Roma_map.htm. . The records of early Gypsies in England and Scotland seem mostly to recount arrests, trials, banishment and being put to death - drowning and otherwise. In Europe a popular punishment was cutting off ears! Most early treatment described in European history is appalling. Estimates of up to 500,000 Gypsy-Roma individuals were killed by the Nazis in World War II. There are few Internet accounts of Gypsy-Roma in the U.S. One website presents basic genealogical information - some Gypsy surnames and YDNA test descriptions for male descendants of known Gypsy-Roma persons banished (1600s-1700s) to the U.S. Southwest, South America and other lands (Peter Wilson Coldham books). “Famous Gypsies” websites can be found on the Internet. Alternatively, there are vitriolic (sometimes downright racist) posts and sites about Gypsy-Roma. One is a U.S. police website giving an overview of Gypsy “criminals.” There are criminals in all ethnic groups who need to be caught and punished appropriately. There is such a disconnect for me here. My mother’s grandparents and great aunt and great uncle raised lovely families and we descendants are very nice people! I’m certain that’s true of the overwhelming majority of Gypsy-Roma as well as “Genetic Gypsy-Roma.” No matter the ethnic group, people only wish to raise decent, happy children who grow up to be responsible, caring adults in our society. With (mostly) dark skin and hair, colorful dress, “different” behaviors (including that of “traveling”) and with no country of their own, the Gypsies were forced to find safe “home places,” not easy to do in lands already occupied. The Gypsy-Roma were persecuted for centuries. Today Gypsies live all over the world, still often enduring various forms of persecution. I believe these people have survived as well as can be expected under extreme circumstances. Some resigned themselves to or have been forced to take on the life styles of their resident neighbors to stop the persecution. Now some of us are discovering for the first time that we have various amounts of “Gypsy-Roma” DNA. Gypsies could certainly use more positive “press,” so I’d like to make a request to be considered. Would DNA Consultants be willing to include a fifth posting category - “Gypsy-Roma” - along with Europe, Melungeons, Native American and World? Gypsy-Roma deserve more positive representation and something like this would certainly help. I’m proud of my Gypsy great-grandparents. They sacrificed and worked hard to establish homes in the U.S., ensuring easier lives for their descendants. I enjoyed “Do You Have Gypsy Matches” and am very pleased with Mom’s DNA Fingerprint Plus test. It will definitely enrich Mom’s family history (that I’m in the process of writing)! Thanks to DNA Consultants for a great service. Shari

Shari commented on 20-Sep-2010 09:45 AM

Looking forward to seeing the Gypsy modal DNA profile on the new Gypsy Forum at DNA Communities.

Shari commented on 22-Sep-2010 02:13 PM

Don, thanks for the invitation to become a co-moderator with Kim, you and others on the new Roma (Gypsy) Forum that is now up and running in the DNA Consultants Communities site. This will be an important positive source for those of us who wish to exchange information and increase our knowledge about Roma (Gypsies) - DNA and history.

Shari commented on 07-Sep-2012 09:34 AM

I need to make a big correction in my post above regarding my Shetland ancestors. Thank you for your extraordinary and revealing book, WHEN SCOTLAND WAS JEWISH, in which I found almost all of my Shetland ancestors' surnames to be Jewish (SINCLAIR, LESLIE,
etc.) except for our great...grandmother’s Romany-Gypsy surname FEA. Now I must conclude that these ancestors, farmers in California, were predominantly of Jewish ethnicity. Also, I no longer suspect they changed their surnames to escape persecution. Most
likely they just "moved on" to the Shetland Islands (some perhaps earlier to Orkney) from Aberdeen, Scotland, then to the United States. Many Shetlanders emigrated to other countries in the 1880s because of overpopulation.

anaiz reyes commented on 30-Jul-2014 12:47 PM

I'd like to know more on how to find out if I have gypsy blood im very sure I might have from my features n was told I have a gypsy spirit watching over me. Since I was little I belly danced and was always intrigued by the culture it felt like home


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