Re: DNA results vs records #dna

Adam Turner

Forgive the silly question, but it's worth clarifying, since some non-Jewish people do post here occasionally: the ancestors you're referring to in your father's family were Jewish, right? Because when you say "updated DNA results," that makes me think that what you're referring to is Ancestry's estimate of your ethnicity (which were just updated this week for many if not all customers), as opposed to your father's family's birthplaces or their nationality. 

Ancestry now gets fairly granular at estimating ethnicity, for both Jewish and non-Jewish ethnicities. Within the "European Jewish" ethnicity there are are now six different sub-regions, which have substantial geographical overlap with one another and are organized into two different groups: three sub-regions in "Central and Eastern Europe," and three in "Western and Central Europe." (This latter group includes the sub-region I think you might be referring to here: "Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg." There are even more sub-regions listed for the non-Jewish "Germanic Europe" ethnicity. 

Here's the thing: the ethnicity estimates are not even close to a declaration of the specific geographical location where your family lived when they immigrated from Europe about 130 years ago. They are a broad and likely messy estimate of a population your ancestors were a part of, say, 400 to 1500 years ago. (Ancestry says: " your ethnicity estimate..shows you where your ancestors might have lived hundreds, or even a thousand years ago.") But people, especially Ashkenazi Jews, didn't stay in the same place for a thousand years! So just because AncestryDNA's estimate gives your ethnicity as "European Jewish-->Western and Central Europe--> Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg", that doesn't mean that your ancestors couldn't have lived in the Russian Empire around 1880. All it means is a substantial number of your ancestors in maybe 1300 or 1400 most likely came from a Jewish population in Central or Western Europe. They could definitely have moved east from what is now Germany into what became the Russian Empire over the intervening centuries.

So where, exactly, did your ancestors live in the 19th century, and how might a family with ancestors who likely lived in Central Europe around the Middle Ages ended up listing "Russia" as their birthplace on their naturalization papers? An ethnicity estimate can't even begin to give you answers to those questions; only careful research can.

Adam Turner

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