DNA Consultants’ blog

Read reviews of science articles, new research and news reports on ancestry testing, ancient DNA and popular genetics

Melungeon Riddle Solved by Autosomal DNA Project

After many years in development, the results of a DNA ancestry project enrolling 40 Melungeons were published and made public, marking the end of an attempt to solve the mystery of a Southern U.S. ethnic group with autosomal DNA.

Abraham Lincoln’s Jewish Roots

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is interested in their namesake’s Jewish ancestry. Do a Google Search and you’ll get numerous hits under “Abraham Lincoln Jewish Ancestry.” They can all be traced back to the work of Rutgers University professor Elizabeth C. Hirschman, who published her findings in The Melungeons:  The Last Lost Tribe in America in 2005 (Mercer University Press). Melungeons.com immediately reported the news in an article on Abraham Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks, in March 2005.

Do You Have Gypsy Matches?

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.

Heretical History

Ashkenazi Jews May Have Founded Israel

But Hebrew-Speaking Khazars Created Ashkenaz

Yes, the Khazars spoke Hebrew. It was the official language of the medieval kingdom, just as it is today in Israel. That is one of the surprising revelations of a book titled The Invention of the Jewish People, by Tel Aviv history professor Shlomo Sand, who devotes half a chapter to the “strange empire in the East” (London:  Verso, 2009).

Does He or Doesn’t He?

Only His Geneticist Knows for Sure 

A visit to the temple by a Canadian doctor and one-page letter to the journal Nature in 1997 started it all, a frenzied hunt for the multi-study, double-blind, placebo-controlled proof that Jewish men of the surname Cohen carried the same genes as the biblical patriarch Aaron, the mystical Cohen Modal Haplotype (Skorecki et al., 1997).

Abraham’s Children: A Review

This blog posting attempts to summarize this important article and translate its technical results into layman’s language for the sake of our customers. From the genetic evidence, we hope to glean some useful information about Jewish history and genealogy, especially for those who find they have “some” Jewish ancestry in their family tree but who are non-Jewish in the way they identify.

Signs of Crypto-Jewish Heritage

List Proven to Work in Part Also for Melungeon, Cherokee Family History. As part of our series on Jewish ancestry, we reproduce below an appendix from the forthcoming book, Star, Crescent and Cross:  Jews and Muslims in Colonial America, by Elizabeth C. Hirschman and Donald N. Yates.

Jewish II Characteristic of Ashkenazi Jews

Since the spate of Jewish genetic studies appearing this summer, reports in the media have announced that nearly all Ashkenazi Jews descend from only four women, and that if you are Ashkenazi you are likely to be no farther distant in kinship than fifth or sixth cousins from any other Ashkenazi Jew (for instance, your spouse).

Now Come Jewish Autosomal DNA Studies

Two major research articles on Jewish DNA appeared in June. As reported by Nicolas Wade in the New York Times in an article titled “Studies Show Jews’ Genetic Similarity,” they settle an old controversy. One of the surveys of genomic or autosomal DNA was conducted by Gil Atzmon of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Harry Ostrer of New York University and appears in the American Journal of Human Genetics. The other, led by Doron M. Behar of the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa and Richard Villems of the University of Tartu in Estonia, is published in the journal Nature.

The Secret History of the English

They Probably Always Talked Like That

One of the startling revelations by Stephen Oppenheimer is that a form of English was probably spoken from the beginning of the colonization of the British Isles. Just as genetic bedrock was laid down by the earliest inhabitants, to persist relatively unchanged through subsequent invasions by other peoples like the Romans, the English tongue has been dominant as the language of the land, admitting little admixture with Anglo-Saxon and Celtic. (See Stephen Oppenheimer, The Origins of the British, pp. 303ff.)