Using DNA Matches to add to My Family History

I was brought up as a Catholic but my family history research has identified my great-grandfather was Jewish. Rabbinic records indicate that he and his parents were born in present day northeast Hungary. The lack of available records has prevented me from extending this branch of my family beyond 1838 but DNA tests have given me more hope.

History speculates that the Jews that populated Eastern Europe were Ashkenazi that had emigrated from the Rhineland area in Germany. It is believed that the term “Ashkenazi Jew” refers to Jews who originally settled in the Rhine Valley of Germany in the early middle Ages. Jews in Germany in the 1600s were alternately tolerated and then persecuted. Due to this persecution, some Ashkenazi immigrated eastward into Bohemia, Hungary, Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, and eventually Russia, Ukraine, Romania. During one of these periods of persecution, I believe my Jewish ancestors probably decided to move eastward and this is how I think they settled in Hungary.

Y-DNA test results from FamilytreeDNA matched me with someone with German ancestry and whose ancestors originated near Landau, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany. The results were matches on 35 of 37 markers with a distance of 2 which indicates a definite distant relationship. Since the Ashkenazi did not adopt the European surname system until they were forced by the European rulers about 1800, it will be impossible to find the common ancestor with my German cousins. I believe the DNA results give me the confirmation of the German origins of my Ashkenazi ancestors and add important roots to my family history.

The main point with the above example is that the match that the results gave me did not add any name to my family tree but the relationship gave me important information that my family had emigrated from Germany to Hungary.


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