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9% Jewish result for a Bulgarian

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  • 9% Jewish result for a Bulgarian

    Hello:

    I did a DNA test for my father-in-law who is from a village near Smolyan in the Rhodope mountains in Bulgaria. The ethnicity results came back that he is 9% of Jewish origin (7% sephardi and 2% ashkenazi, to be precise). This is very surprising not just because there is no family tradition of Jewish origins - the are all Orthodox Christians as far as we knew - but also that the place he is from is very isolated geographically and a very long way from the big cities where Bulgarian Jews lived.

    I looked through his 280 results very, very carefully. Among his matches there are people in Serbia, Greece and Turkey so clearly some of his ancestors travelled way more than we thought. But none of the family trees that I have looked at have anyone obviously Jewish in them. Neither are there any people living in Israel, which might be expected as most Bulgarian Jews survived the Holocaust and emigrated.

    If the FT DNA system obviously identifies 9% of his DNA as Jewish. How can I find which segments this is for myself in order then to see whpo matches him on these? Maybe they might have information that might be of use. There are virtually no written records surviving for the area the tester if from (it only left the Ottoman Empire in 1912) so beyond his grandparents it is almost impossible to trace the family tree. I can only work out what I can from the DNA.

    Thanks!
    Last edited by mde; 22nd February 2019, 03:48 AM.

  • #2
    "very isolated geographically" makes me suspect some people of Jewish descent moved into the community at some point, and endogamy within the rest of that community took care of things from there. Also could be an "invalid call" as well.

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    • #3
      I think the other results make it clear that although they were living in the mountains there were a lot of individuals who must have left and travelled considerable distances. On mature consideration, Solon - now Thessalonikki - which had a very considerable Jewish population is closer than Sofia, the Bulgarian capital. Historically, it also had a large Bulgarian population. My guess is on intermarriage there. Almost the entire population was killed in the Holocaust so finding a connection in Israel is also much less likely.

      But, as I said, I would like to do more than guess. What is an "invalid call". I read up and it seemed to be that if the percentage was less than two, it could just be 'noise'. But how could 9% be mistaken?

      And, if someone, could answer the question about identifying those segments, that would be super helpful ...
      Last edited by mde; 22nd February 2019, 02:10 PM.

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      • #4
        The 9% or its subgroups could be mistaken if the algorithm is misinterpreting them as representing Sephardic and/or Ashkenazi Jewish, when it may instead actually represent another population group. I have read that similar percentages have been assigned as Ashenazi, in place of certain Mediterranean groups, such as Greek or Italian. Perhaps others who are more familiar with that phenomenon may post to clarify.

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        • #5
          Ethnic Admixture results, IMO are more "for entertainment purposes" than they are useful for much of anything else. It could be an incorrect call to any number of reasons up to and including reference panel deficiencies. Which in the case of Bulgarian populations, is probably well into the "reasonable expectation" category.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by mde View Post
            I looked through his 280 results very, very carefully. Among his matches there are people in Serbia, Greece and Turkey so clearly some of his ancestors travelled way more than we thought. But none of the family trees that I have looked at have anyone obviously Jewish in them. Neither are there any people living in Israel, which might be expected as most Bulgarian Jews survived the Holocaust and emigrated.

            If the FT DNA system obviously identifies 9% of his DNA as Jewish. How can I find which segments this is for myself in order then to see who matches him on these?
            Fully ethnic Bulgarians never match Jews in Family Finder and never have Jewish ancestry. There are no Jewish segments to discover in this person, and that is why he has no Jewish matches. MyOrigins got this wrong.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by khazaria View Post
              Fully ethnic Bulgarians.
              Whatever that is when it is at home. This person has matches with people with Serbian, Greek and Turkish surnames so I see absolutely no reason why he couldn't have a match with someone who is Jewish. I have read a fair bit about the history of the Balkans and the idea that there is "fully ethnic" anything is a pretty recent idea and one which hasn't been particularly helpful.

              If you can't answer my practical question - how do I know which segments FTDNA has identified as this 9% - you can't really help me.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by bartarl260 View Post
                Ethnic Admixture results, IMO are more "for entertainment purposes" than they are useful for much of anything else.
                I long thought it was something that the testing companies could offer to people who didn't actually want to research their ancestry. However, Ancestry is recently making claims - with a lot of documentation I don't claim to understand - that they can pinpoint this not just down to Ireland but down to the country level within Ireland! Either they are making outrageous claims or the science behind this is better than we think.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by mde View Post
                  Whatever that is when it is at home. This person has matches with people with Serbian, Greek and Turkish surnames so I see absolutely no reason why he couldn't have a match with someone who is Jewish. I have read a fair bit about the history of the Balkans and the idea that there is "fully ethnic" anything is a pretty recent idea and one which hasn't been particularly helpful.

                  If you can't answer my practical question - how do I know which segments FTDNA has identified as this 9% - you can't really help me.

                  I see that you have only joined the FTDNA forums two days ago, and all your posts are in this one thread. So you probably are not aware of khazaria's expertise regarding Jewish populations in Eastern Europe and other regions.

                  Aside from that, it is quite true that you are better off looking at the ethnicity of your father-in-law's matches, versus relying on any ethnicity estimates. If he has no identifiably Jewish people matching him, then the ethnicity prediction for 9% Jewish is incorrect, and khazaria was right to say that myOrigins got it wrong.

                  Regarding the last part of your quoted post above:
                  The only ethnicity estimates that I have seen, for which individual segments are identified by population group, have been at 23andMe. They have a section in “Ancestry Composition” which shows your ancestry composition by painting the chromosomes by population group. You can change the “confidence level” of the estimate from 50% (speculative) to 90% (conservative). If your father-in-law tests there, you can see what that shows. But then, who knows? 23andMe may not even identify any of his segments as being any type of Jewish.

                  Otherwise, at FTDNA you will need to find some matches of his who do have Ashkenazi and/or Sephardic Jewish ancestry, note the segments that they share with your father, and then compare with other matches who also match on those segments. This is what people do for finding matches of other ethnicities, or branches of a family. One way to find a DNA match who has the same shared origin (Sephardic, Ashkenazi) is to go to myOrigins and view his myOrigins Map. At the bottom left is a list of matches (who have opted into this feature) who share origins. There should be a column for the Jewish Diaspora category*. See if any show up in those lists, and go from there.

                  *I manage one kit for a person who is estimated by myOrigins 2.0 to have 17% Sephardic and 3% Ashkenazi ethnicities. The Shared Origins tab on the myOrigins map page shows a column for Jewish Diaspora. Note that this person is of Greek and Maltese ancestry, and has no known Jewish ancestry. The Shared Origins tab shows a few matches with Jewish Diaspora, but at low percentage levels. Other ethnicity estimates, including myOrigins v.1, do not show this high (combined 20%) percentage of any type of Jewish ancestry for this person, so I tend to believe it is misattributed for another group.
                  Last edited by KATM; 23rd February 2019, 12:07 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by mde View Post
                    I long thought it was something that the testing companies could offer to people who didn't actually want to research their ancestry. However, Ancestry is recently making claims - with a lot of documentation I don't claim to understand - that they can pinpoint this not just down to Ireland but down to the country level within Ireland! Either they are making outrageous claims or the science behind this is better than we think.
                    They're making claims, and mis-representing what the science can do for the vast majority of people.

                    If you're a recent immigrant from that area, within say the past 3 or 4 generations, they might be able to pinpoint a specific county or even community within that area. Assuming that is an area they have a rather extensive reference population(or failing that, user base with "well researched trees" linking them back there and DNA tests of their own who also agreed to participate in population studies) to work with.

                    Further given Ancestry's core user base is American, and there were very large populations of Irish and Italians who immigrated into the United States between 1850-ish through to the early-mid 20th Century, it isn't surprising that Italy and Ireland are the examples they use. They're probably also some of the only groups where they have a chance of doing so.

                    I can tell you that Ancestry DNA has 0 proficiency with my father's maternal German line, and it is even worse with my father's paternal Bohemian(Czech) line, his half-sibling's results aren't any better. (I'm more "Eastern European" than all of them together, and oddly, my mother doesn't show as having any Eastern European DNA....)

                    It has some proficiency in tying my Mother's ancestry to certain westward population movements within the United States, but all of her family lines date back to pre-1820 America with most of them reaching back into the colonial era. Ancestry has absolutely no proficiency at predicting where her Irish roots came from, or the "British Isles" markers, or any of the other markers she is supposed to have. They know it too, they don't even try to specify beyond nationality or "Westerm European." I doubt they ever will, and if they do ever make such claims its either because they're referencing my own work/DNA directly(I agreed to participate in the population study), or they have obtained information from sources I'd probably be dubious of myself. I don't even trust my own family tree for much beyond 1820-ish on all but a couple family lines.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      http://www.khazaria.com/

                      For our further edification on this subject. Thanks, as always, to khazaria!
                      Last edited by Biblioteque; 24th February 2019, 02:32 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by KATM View Post
                        I see that you have only joined the FTDNA forums two days ago, and all your posts are in this one thread. So you probably are not aware of khazaria's expertise regarding Jewish populations in Eastern Europe and other regions..
                        I only noticed he made statements about "pure Bulgarian ethnicity" which sound like dodgy nationalist propaganda. He didn't try and answer my question just say it is prima facie impossible.

                        Originally posted by KATM View Post
                        Otherwise, at FTDNA you will need to find some matches of his who do have Ashkenazi and/or Sephardic Jewish ancestry, note the segments that they share with your father, and then compare with other matches who also match on those segments.
                        So there is no tool on the FTDNA site which allows you to see what DNA they think is this 9%? That rather disappoints me as, unlike Ancestry, they have a choromosome browser it should be straightforward for them to tell you.

                        Working the way you suggest is unlikely to provide answers. There are very, very limited sources for documentary genealogy in Bulgaria compared to elsewhere in Europe so most people know no further back than family memory. In any case, from my own experience of working fairly intensively on my own genetic genealogy for a year, the chances of finding where the connection to a fourth cousin are are pretty low. I have found connections in less than 10% of my matches and I have done very extensive work on my family on all branches over thirty years. Obviously, a lot of the problems come up with people who never have and never will research their ancestry in the depth I have but even with people who have a good family tree I am often surprised how hard it is to find the link.

                        I think Ancestry's strong claims about Ireland go back to a major study of Irish DNA published last year:
                        https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-17124-4

                        I read somewhere that Jewish DNA had been fairly intensively explored but can't find a similar academic paper.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          mde, I am trying to save you from wasting your time chasing something that doesn't really exist in your ancestry as it is reflected only in a faulty reading on one ethnicity estimate and not reflected in your cousin matches. Stop belittling me. I have been intensely involved with every aspect of Jewish DNA since the late 1990s and I've been an acquaintance of Family Tree DNA's founder since that time. Bulgarian autosomal DNA ties to Jews have never been found in GEDmatch nor in Family Finder nor in any scientific study of identical-by-descent sharing between populations. It is impossible for your Orthodox Christian Bulgarian family to break that pattern.

                          Indeed, MyOrigins does not currently break down its ethnicity elements by chromosomal location like 23andMe does, but it isn't something you need in this case. It is just saying you share ancient some Southeastern European DNA strands with Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews, probably from 3,000 years ago or more, from the portion of Western Jewish DNA that may derive from Greeks according to an ongoing investigation in the Ancient DNA section of Anthrogenica.
                          Last edited by khazaria; 26th February 2019, 01:31 AM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I would certainly be interested to see any published research on Jewish DNA. I don't intend to belittle you but you seem to be ruling out things a priori. The Jewish population of Solon was very high indeed and was not in the sort of ghetto situation seen in eastern Europe. It seems possible that members of that population intermarried in the historical period. Given almost the entire Jewish population of that city died in the Holocaust, one wouldn't expect to find many living Jewish relatives from among testers.

                            You also seem to be suggesting that Family Tree DNA's is using the wrong samples when it comes to deciding what is or is not Jewish. It could be the case. But it needs to be checked and not automatically rubbished. However, it is clearly not the case that we are talking about DNA from 3,000 years back. Autosomnal DNA from all I have heard cannot tell you anything back from than ten or twelve generations at most because they are so many recombinations in that period.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              The opposite situation sometimes happens with Ashkenazic Jews who score several points in the "Southeast Europe" category in MyOrigins 2.0 even though they don't have recent convert ancestors from peoples like Italians, Balkan Slavs, or Greeks. That really is picking up signals of ancestry from ancient and early-medieval times.

                              Family Tree DNA did select correct representatives of the Ashkenazic and Sephardic communities to form their reference samples, and the results are often good, but this doesn't prevent MyOrigins from making mistakes on occasion.

                              The Christian populations of Europe that actually do sometimes have distant Jewish ancestors, without knowing it before getting genetically tested, include: Sicilians, Spaniards, Basques, Portuguese, Germans, Poles, Ukrainians, Rusyns. For them, they have Jewish ancestors about 250-600 years back.

                              There are many Bulgarians in GEDmatch and they never match Jews on valid autosomal segments so your Bulgarian father-in-law's absence of Jewish matches is exactly as I would expect. There is nothing more I have to discuss about this theme.
                              Last edited by khazaria; 7th March 2019, 10:52 PM.

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