Re: German ancestry of my Galician or Ukrainian ancestors?

Rachel Unkefer

I can't speak to strong or weak matches at Ancestry, but at FTDNA, 100 cM match can be a person who matches multiple ancestors hundreds of years ago, but none in a recent timeframe. The length of the longest segments are as important as the total matching cM. Unfortunately, Ancestry doesn't give us a chromosome browser, so it's difficult to assess these matches.

Speaking as someone who has done extensive research on German Jewish families, both DNA and documents, I can cite the Bacharach family who was likely in Frankfurt or Worms in the 13th century and by the 17th-18th century had several branches in Lithuania, Belarus, Czechia, etc. While the family has an origin in Germany, and many branches were still there into the 20th century, there were also family members who spent the past 400 years in Eastern Europe and whose descendants don't necessarily consider themselves German-Jewish, even though they still carry a German surname.

One pair of such relatives share 131 cM, even though their common Bacharach ancestor has to have lived prior to 1600. Their largest shared segment is only about 10 cM. The total 131 cM most likely is a compounding of multiple relatives who lived in the Middle Ages, most likely in Germany. There were several population bottlenecks that occurred before large migrations east, so the vast majority of Jews in Eastern Europe in the 18th-20th centuries were descended from a very small number of Jews who survived those bottleneck events in Germany and eventually moved eastward. All those shared DNA segments from a small number of ancestors compound to look like the common ancestors are much more recent.

If you do share long cM runs with any of the unexpected Germans, consider a possible NPE in more recent generations. Maybe you do have a German ancestor who was not the spouse of your female ancestor from Ukraine or wherever and they met each other in New York or somewhere outside of Europe. Or there could have been a traveling rabbi or merchant from Germany visiting your ancestor's village or something along those lines. I would only look at this explanation if you have long matching segments, which you can't really tell at Ancestry.

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