was my great-grandmother Jewish? #general


Rachel Neeve
 

Hello everyone,

I'm looking for some advice from more experienced people about my desire to find out if my great-grandmother was Jewish. 

My great-grandmother, born 1903, had 10 children. Some of her children say my great-grandmother was Jewish, and some of them say she wasn't. 

I'm particularly interested to find out more about my great-grandmother specifically. At this stage I am not seeking to create a family tree spanning generations, just to know more about her. Is this possible?

Is there any way I can definitively say whether she was Jewish or not?

Thank you in advance
Rachel Neeve


chuckreback@...
 

You and/or the oldest relative (someone from your parent's or grandparent's generation). from that line should take an autosomal DNA test.  Ancestry.com is a good place to start.

Chuck Reback
Spartanburg, SC


Diane Katz. SURNAMES/TOWNS: Laske/Ladyzhin;,Steinberg Kiev; Grunberg Rheinhorn/Iasi; Milston/Slutzk; Bicz/Mogilev; Glas/Varniai; Moskowitz/Nagy-Saros Klein/Eperjes; Hefliech/Hungary; Marks/Machester/Suwalki; Shedrofski/Suwalki
 

I think the most important information would be to determine who her parents were.  Was she born in America or another country?  Do you have access to any genealogy websites?   Do you know her maiden name?   
--
Diane Katz
gdbkatz@...


srg100@...
 

If her mother was Jewish, she was Jewish. How to establish that might be difficult. 
Where did she live?  Do you know where she's buried? 
If you know the answers to these you can look for marriage and burial records which may give you more information.

--
Shoshanah Glickman
Gateshead, UK


Judith Elam
 

Hi Rachel 

Was she born in the USA?  If so, you should be able to find her parents and see where they were born.  If immigrants, then there should be a passenger manifest for them which might list their race and language spoken.  Also, the census records might indicate her ethnicity.  What was her birth name?  And her surname?  These also might indicate if she was Jewish. 

And if you do a DNA test, it will show if you have Jewish DNA.  I recommend FamilyTreeDNA for the test.

So there are many ways to determine if she was Jewish or not.

Sincerely,

Judith Elam


Janet Furba
 

Search for your great-grandmother in the Archives of Civil Birth, Marriage, Death registration Books of the place and in the Archives of the local Synagogue.
Janet Furba,
Germany

 


Janet Furba
 

This could be performed by a blood laboratory test.
Janet Furba,
Germany


Michele Lock
 

I recommend testing with Ancestry DNA; they have the largest number of Jewish persons tested whose ancestors came from Central/Eastern Europe.

If at all possible, have a parent/aunt/uncle who is a direct descendent of this great grandmother test, since they are one generation closer and will have inherited a larger portion of DNA from the great grandmother (who would be their grandmother).  If this great grandmother was of Central/Eastern European Jewish descent, then a parent/aunt/uncle of yours will have inherited about 20-30% European Jewish DNA (as Ancestry calls it) or Ashkenazi DNA (same thing, what 23 and Me calls it). If you test, your DNA results would be about 9-14% European Jewish (or Ashkenazi). 

You can also post your question in the Facebook group called 'Jewish DNA for Genetic Genealogy and Family Research'. They have some experts there are are very good at interpreting DNA results from the different testing companies.

I want to add one thing - the ethnic group 'Eastern European' is not the same as 'European Jewish'. Eastern European refers to the ethnic Slavic people, roughly from Poland, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. There is occasional confusion about this point from people out there.

Good luck.
--
Michele Lock

Lak/Lok/Liak/Lock and Kalon/Kolon in Zagare/Joniskis/Gruzdziai, Lithuania
Lak/Lok/Liak/Lock in Plunge/Telsiai in Lithuania
Rabinowitz in Papile, Lithuania and Riga, Latvia
Trisinsky/Trushinsky/Sturisky and Leybman in Dotnuva, Lithuania
Olitsky in Alytus, Suwalki, Poland/Lithuania
Gutman/Goodman in Czestochowa, Poland
Lavine/Lev/Lew in Trenton, New Jersey and Lida/Vilna gub., Belarus


g_and_js_mom@...
 

Janet,

I typed out a reply to your above comment earlier today but don't see it posted here.  Perhaps it did not post -- if it did, I am sorry for the duplicate message.  I will recreate my basic message:

I too have been researching my great-grandmother and her ancestry for several years.  (Sadly, she and my grandmother hid their Jewish background during their lifetimes.)  I do know that my great-grandmother was of 100% Jewish ancestry. and I am working diligently to discover information about her and her family of origin.  (I have done DNA testing through Ancestry, which has been very helpful and has confirmed the Jewish ancestry.)

All I know about my great-grandmother's family so far is that her parents, Jacob and Rachel Glasser (born around 1850), came from Kovna (Kaunas), Lithuania, and that my great-grandmother, Jennie Glasser Fox Mathews (born 1882), was likely born in Germany.  The family emigrated to the U.S. around 1891 to 1898.  I know that Jennie had at least 3 siblings:  Yetta Glasser Fagan (born 1871), Rebecca Glasser Nurkin (born 1875), and Samuel Glasser (born 1883).

I have not yet discovered a more specific birth location for Jennie in Germany.  When I do (I hope I can find it!), I am very interested in your reference to searching for someone on the Archives of Civil Birth, Marriage, and Death Registration Books in the birth place and in the archives of a local synagogue.  Do you have more specific information about how I would locate such records?  Might you also have any tips on how to pin down a location of birth in Germany in 1882?  Any advice you have (or anyone may have), I would greatly appreciate.  Thanks so much!

Blessings to you,
Kristine Booth Ludwinski
Fairview, Texas


jbonline1111@...
 

If your great-grandmother lived in the United States, you might also check census records, which often showed whether a person was a citizen or not and also if they were Jewish (under 'race').  
--
Barbara Sloan
Conway, SC


mpipik
 

Rachel, you leave out information which would help us help you.

Where was your ggm born?  Where did she live?  Without knowing the answers to those questions, we could be giving you unnecessary advice and sending you off on searches or tests that you wouldn't necessarily need  (e.g. searching Jewishgen).

If she lived in the US. the answers as to how to find out whether she was Jewish would be different from someone who lived elsewhere.

So, if she did live in the US, to me, the first thing to do would be to get a subscription to Ancestry (it is the best for this process) and do a search of all records for your ggm and her children. As Judith E states, if she lived in the US you should be able to find a birth record, a passenger ship manifest (which lists ethnicity), a death record, naturalization papers, census records, even marriage records or social security application form.  There is also cemetery information.

If you do find records you can then use that information to look further.  At this point it would be hard to generalize what the next step would be.



Jessica Schein


Sarah L Meyer
 

Do you know where she died?  Can you get a photo of her tombstone?  If there is Hebrew on it - that would indicate that she was Jewish.  Just English or another language would be non-informative.

--
Sarah L Meyer
Georgetown TX
ANK(I)ER, BIGOS, KARMELEK, PERLSTADT, STOKFISZ, SZPIL(T)BAUM, Poland
BIRGARDOVSKY, EDELBERG, HITE (CHAIT), PERCHIK Russia (southern Ukraine) and some Latvia or Lithuania
https://www.sarahsgenies.com


Odeda Zlotnick
 

If your GGM was born in a Christian family, and converted to Judaism, she it totally, thoroughly Jewish according to traditional Jewish law, and DNA knows and shows nothing about it.

If your GGM was born to a Jewish father and a non-coverted gentile woman, she is not considered Jewish according to traditional Jewish law -- no matter how much "Jewish" DNA she has. 

Personally, I find it rather jarring to hear people talk of Judaism as though it were a DNA issue.  We know who thought being a Jew is a racial issue, and it was not the ancestors of those of us who consider themselves Jewish.

DNA can indicate family relationships, or belonging to certain geographical group.   I know Jews from  Marrocco, Kurdistan, Ethiopia - since when is being a Jew related to having come from Central Eastern Europe?

So, some questions you should ask yourself about your GGM, that have nothing to do with DNA:
  1. Why do some descendants think she was Jewish, and some not?
  2. Was there any doubt if her own mother was Jewish? Was it clear she wasn't?
  3. Was she a Jewish woman married to a Gentile, bringing her children up as Christians?
  4. Was she a gentile who converted and married a Jewish man? Did someone want to cast doubt on her conversion?
  5. Did anyone want to actively hide / reject the Judaism of their ancestors and family -- and if so why?  Some did for fear.  Others in the hope of gaining social advantage / professional status -- etc.

--
Odeda Zlotnick
Jerusalem, Israel.


Dorann Cafaro
 

Odeda

You are correct in all your statements however as a person raised as a Christian doing genealogy on my family I have a little different view point. First I found my great grandmother buried in a Jewish cemetery and was told she had to be Jewish to be buried there even though I had no knowledge of any Jewish roots. Next I found I had 25% Ashkenazi DNA so it helped confirm that I had Jewish roots. Then working on my tree I found that my gg grandfather was a Rabbi. So you are correct that I may not be Jewish as my mother was an Irish Catholic and only my father was Jewish although his mother converted to Christianity for her husband business but I still think my Jewish roots are important part of who I am. I am proud of those roots.

Dorann Cafaro
Charleston, SC


Odeda Zlotnick
 

You are correct in all your statements however as a person raised as a Christian doing genealogy on my family I have a little different view point. First I found my great grandmother buried in a Jewish cemetery and was told she had to be Jewish to be buried there even though I had no knowledge of any Jewish roots. Next I found I had 25% Ashkenazi DNA so it helped confirm that I had Jewish roots. Then working on my tree I found that my gg grandfather was a Rabbi. So you are correct that I may not be Jewish as my mother was an Irish Catholic and only my father was Jewish although his mother converted to Christianity for her husband business but I still think my Jewish roots are important part of who I am. I am proud of those roots.

Hi Dorann,
Actually, your post, and the terms you've chosen to use seem to me to be in agreement with what I posted.
For you, the first indication you may have Jewish roots was a cultural one: Your discovered your GGM's gravestone in a Jewish cemetery.  And you were told that, given traditional Jewish burial traditions, this indicated you have Jewish roots.  And that, exactly, is my point.  The question that started this thread  was not "do I have Jewish roots in my family" or "how do I go about finding if my family had Jewish roots".
And some of the responses focused only on DNA - some even only on the DNA of people from Central Europe. It was this that I protested against. 

I also agree with you that what we find about our families' pasts is an important part of who we are -- as is the fact that part of the information about past was hidden from us by former generations - and knowing why it was hidden is also important.

No matter who we are in the present - we who search our family roots care about them. They point us to questions about how and in what circumstances our ancestors lived.
There's human drama in your family history which is so much more than the DNA strands: A rabbi's daughter who married a Christian, [how did they meet?] a Christian man who married a woman whose religion my have hurt his business. 
Did she convert before, or after the wedding? How did her parents respond? Did they accept it? Did they reject it? Ditto for the siblings.  Did she have any? They would have been your Dad's aunts and uncles -- did he know of them?  Did your GM  maintain contact with her family of origin, and did they with her? Did they reject her? Did she reject them?
In some strictly orthodox Jewish families, the family reacts to a conversion as though the son or daughter died -- some even sit Shiva (7 days or mourning) at that death.  No doubt you can imagine how dreadful that feels to the living person who converted. And yes, if this were the case, DNA could in principle help you find your Dad's lost uncles, aunts and cousins -- if they were not among the 6 million human beings murdered in Europe simply because they were what the Nazi's considered Jewish.
Did you GF's  family know your GM was Jewish? If they did, how did they treat her?
I'm  bringing these issues up not as questions for you to respond to, but in order to emphasize how much more than DNA makes up a  family history.
The human part of the story also tells us not only about the individuals, but also about the society they lived in. In this case, a society in which having a Jewish wife could harm a man's business.  

--
Odeda Zlotnick
Jerusalem, Israel.


David Lewin
 

At 00:14 20/11/2021, Dorann Cafaro wrote:
Odeda

You are correct in all your statements however as a person raised as
a Christian doing genealogy on my family I have a little different
view point. First I found my great grandmother buried in a Jewish
cemetery and was told she had to be Jewish to be buried there even
though I had no knowledge of any Jewish roots. Next I found I had
25% Ashkenazi DNA so it helped confirm that I had Jewish roots. Then
working on my tree I found that my gg grandfather was a Rabbi. So
you are correct that I may not be Jewish as my mother was an Irish
Catholic and only my father was Jewish although his mother converted
to Christianity for her husband business but I still think my Jewish
roots are important part of who I am. I am proud of those roots.

Dorann Cafaro
Charleston, SC
You are here touching on the age old question of "who is a Jew"?
Judaism is not uniform. There are very many streams and
variants. So depending who gives you the answer, you may get
totally different opinions. It is not good enough to ask a a Rabbi
without knowing also to which Rabbinic school he - or in modern
Reform she - adheres to. For example: the State of Israel -
largely governed by Jewish Law - recognized immigrants from the
Ex-Soviet Union as Jewish using the criteria which Nazi Germany laid
down for this determination. You will note here that is was the
Non-Jews who decided this.

So the bottom line must be that there is no definitive answer. I
would advocate that a Jew is he, or she, who says that they are Jewish.

David Lewin
London


David Harrison <djh_119@...>
 

Dutch "House Book" records would tell you not only the religion but also if Jewish, if Ashkenazi or Sephardi.
David Harrison
Birmingham, England



From: main@... <main@...> on behalf of jbonline1111@... <jbonline1111@...>
Sent: 18 November 2021 21:44
To: main@... <main@...>
Subject: Re: [JewishGen.org] was my great-grandmother Jewish? #general
 
If your great-grandmother lived in the United States, you might also check census records, which often showed whether a person was a citizen or not and also if they were Jewish (under 'race').  
--
Barbara Sloan
Conway, SC


Michele Lock
 

Reading over more carefully the request from the original poster, she wrote that she is not looking to put together a family tree, and that she is primarily interested in finding out whether this great grandmother was Jewish or not. 

My read on this is that she is not looking to delve into records to answer this question, though the poster can correct me if I am wrong on this. I also suspect the poster is from an English-speaking country, given her name and facility with English.

My post was the fourth to mention taking a DNA test, though I was the first to mention about the possibility of the great grandmother being a descendent of Jews from Central or Eastern Europe. I'll amend this statement to add that it is also possible that the great grandmother was Sephardic, in which case DNA results would likely show a mix of Italian/Greek/Middle Eastern ethnicity.

That being said - in the majority of English-speaking countries, somewhere around 90% of Jewish immigrants to those countries came from Central/Eastern Europe, hence my concentration on Ashkenazi heritage. 

As for searching out records: in my opinion, DNA is a record. For autosomal DNA tests, such as Ancestry DNA, 23 and Me, and FTDNA, the results reflect the ethnicities of a person's forebears going back about 200 years. This works out to be some combination of the ethnicities of one's great great great grandparents, who number 32 individuals, each of whom contribute about 3% of a person's total DNA. Different companies interpret the ethnicities in somewhat different ways, though if a person's question is to find out if they are partly of Jewish heritage or not, then this is one major way of doing so, and it is a lot quicker than delving into records. 

In re-reading the original post, since the great grandmother was born in 1903 and had 10 children, those children would have been born from about 1920 to about 1945. This means that some of those children are likely still alive. Perhaps one (or more) of those children who is open to the possibility that their mother was of Jewish heritage, would be willing to take a DNA test. Having inherited 50% of their DNA from their mother, it will be relatively easy to determine what ethnicity (or ethnicities) they inherited from her.

I hope the original poster replies to the suggestions that have been offered up by all of us, and to clarify further what it is she is hoping to find out.
--
Michele Lock

Lak/Lok/Liak/Lock and Kalon/Kolon in Zagare/Joniskis/Gruzdziai, Lithuania
Lak/Lok/Liak/Lock in Plunge/Telsiai in Lithuania
Rabinowitz in Papile, Lithuania and Riga, Latvia
Trisinsky/Trushinsky/Sturisky and Leybman in Dotnuva, Lithuania
Olitsky in Alytus, Suwalki, Poland/Lithuania
Gutman/Goodman in Czestochowa, Poland
Lavine/Lev/Lew in Trenton, New Jersey and Lida/Vilna gub., Belarus


ab12cohen@...
 

David Lewin states

So the bottom line must be that there is no definitive answer. I
would advocate that a Jew is he, or she, who says that they are Jewish.

That is a very controversial and even I would say dangerous thing to say. There is a case ongoing in USA about an Orthodox woman who married a Syrian-lebanese man who portrayed himself as an Othodox Jew.  It also parallels the debate about who or what is a woman/female.

Alan Cohen


srg100@...
 

What are the Dutch "House Book" records  and how do you access them?
Thanks

--
Shoshanah Glickman
Gateshead, UK