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Reconciling Deep Ancestry with Family Finder Results

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  • Reconciling Deep Ancestry with Family Finder Results

    I just got my Family Finder results back a few days ago, and just as when got my the Geno 2.0 deep ancestry results early this year, I found out some intriguing things, and was left some new questions.

    I was most interested in finding out about my paternal lineage, as beyond my father himself, who died in 1982, the trail is broken. It’s uncertain who my paternal grandfather was, but based on several theories, and at least two conflicting stories that my father had told family and friends, we suspected that he was either from Scandinavia, Central Europe, or was Jewish. When I got back my deep ancestry results from the Genographic Project, I was surprised to find that my direct paternal ancestry was seemingly Berber (E-M183), with my father’s direct ancestors presumably in the Maghreb ~5,600 years ago and perhaps much more recently.

    I took the Family Finder test largely to see whether it would show any North African heritage in recent generations. That was not the case: the breakdown was 49% Eastern European, 24% Ashkenazi Diaspora, 17% Southern European, 7% Scandinavian, and 3% Asia Minor. All except the Eastern European percentage (which presumably came mostly from my Polish-Ukrainian Catholic maternal grandparents) had been previously unknown or unestablished. The ~1/4 Jewish ancestry perhaps represents (or came mostly from) my grandfather, and lends some credence to the theory that Bill Hoffman, my grandmother’s fourth(?) and final husband and my father’s stepfather from whom we got our family name, may have actually been my father’s biological father as well, as supposedly the beginnings of his relationship with my grandmother predated her first marriage.

    With every answer comes some additional questions, it would seem. My paternal grandmother came from (East) Germany, and her father had a German surname (Dinter)—she was supposedly related to the Hapsburgs. But there is no Central European heritage reflected in the results, so I don’t know what part of her ancestry is reflected in the results—whether she was part Jewish, or if it’s the Southern European/Scandinavian (which would at least make a fairly even split, percentage-wise, among my grandparents). And how precise and accurate is FTDNA’s slicing and dicing the world into its 22 different regions, and the ethnic percentages generated from this?

    Then there’s the matter of Jewish heritage. One thing I noticed, when perusing my matches (the closest of which was for 2nd-4th cousin) was that they tended to have much higher calculated percentages of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage than I (with the average being probably about 80%), and very few (only 1 out of the ~25 people pegged as being potential 2nd-4th cousins)having a smaller percentage. Is my percentage of Jewish ancestry underestimated? Or are Jews more likely to pursue their genealogical roots than European gentiles? Or is there some other reason that hasn’t occurred to me?

    Lastly is the matter of my trying to reconcile my deep ancestry results with those from Family Finder. I know that many Berbers converted to Judaism after the arrival of refugees from the Middle East, and there were Jewish settlements in the Maghreb in Roman and even Phoenician times. With that in mind, I’d wondered why my results reflected Ashkenazi roots and not Sephardic or Mizrahi. But there doesn’t seem to be and FTDNA breakdown for those groups, and a lot can happen in 5,000 years (such as migration and intermarriage with Eastern European Jews). Perhaps some of the Southern European ancestry indicated in my FTDNA makeup also comes from my paternal grandfather, and that more than one of my grandparents had Jewish roots.

    At any rate, I’m glad to have this opportunity to explore my ancestry in a manner that wasn’t possible for past generations, and I’m grateful for all I’ve been able to learn so far.
    Last edited by efgen; 3 October 2014, 12:16 PM. Reason: Reduced text size for better legibility (-Moderator)

  • #2
    As you noticed dividing the world into 22 populations is... giving us only very rough ideas. How many countries in Europe?

    Back to the guessing game. Some random thoughts.

    If you look up statistics for the family name spelled exactly Hoffman, you might be surprised. Poland is the third, after the US and Canada; while Germany is not even in the first ten (it may be the twentieth)... Indisputably, Hoffman family name is of German origin. On the other hand, Catholics with that last name were recorded in Cracow (Kraków, Poland) since at least 1611 (although the area south and around of Cracow had seen German and Flemish settlers during the previous two centuries, so presence of such a last name there was not surprising). If Bill (not his real name?) was born to Jewish parents, you still do not know whether both of them were from the core endogamous Ashkenazi population.

    Your maternal grandparents could have given you the Ashkenazi component, since you said they were a Polish-Ukrainian couple. The areas around modern Polish-Ukrainian border used to have the highest percentage of Jewish population (and the highest population density), thus any admixture (sorry for the scientific term...) was quite likely there. Of course, that could have happened anywhere.

    Originally posted by TJHoffman View Post
    are Jews more likely to pursue their genealogical roots than European gentiles?
    In the US? Yes.


    • #3
      Originally posted by TJHoffman View Post
      When I got back my deep ancestry results from the Genographic Project, I was surprised to find that my direct paternal ancestry was seemingly Berber (E-M183), with my father’s direct ancestors presumably in the Maghreb ~5,600 years ago and perhaps much more recently.
      One simple hypothesis is that E-M183 expanded into Spain during the Islamic conquest (if not before), and then introgressed into the Sephardic Jewish community. After the 1492 expulsion, some Sephardic Jews migrated to countries where Ashkenazi Jews were already present and expanding rapidly.


      • #4
        Thanks for responding, dna. I just found something very interesting, my grandmother's Ellis Island immigration record (which I had sought before but somehow missed). She was from Gorlitz, Germany, which is on the border with Poland and a few miles from the Czech border as well. She came to America when in 1913, when she was 14, about 5 years earlier than I had thought. My father was born in 1919. My grandmother presumably would have met Bill Hoffman in America. I don't know where he was originally from, whether he was a first-generation American, or much about him other than that he was Jewish, his marriage to my grandmother was the only one of her several marriages that lasted, and that he died in 1949.


        • #5
          Thank you, lgmayka, that hypothesis makes a lot of sense.