14 April 2011

The Secret Jews of Calabria and Lost Sephardic Ancestry

The subject of secret or hidden Jews fascinates me and the goal of helping people find and reclaim their Jewish heritage is important to me. Do you wonder if your family might have been Jewish in the distant past? Think about your family customs. Family customs and traditions frequently provide the keys to uncovering Jewish roots. 

In this video Rabbi Barbara Aiello visits Calabria, Italy where she talks with many different residents about Calabria's Jewish past and the customs of its people. 



Another interesting video about the history of the Jewish people in Italy, including those Sephardic Jews who arrived after 1492, can be viewed on YouTube. For more information about Italian Jewish roots, see Rabbi Barbara's page here.

Jewish heritage has been lost many times over the last several thousand years, most recently during the Holocaust and more distantly during the Spanish Inquisition. One branch of my husband's family is said to have been kicked out of Spain during that time. MJ and I are on a quest to discover whether or not there is any truth in his family's oral tradition. One route to discovery is DNA testing. 

MJ is participating in the Iberian Ashkenaz mtdna Project through Family Tree DNA to determine whether or not his great grandmother, Sofia Ponce, had mtDNA shared with other known Ashkenazi families with Sephardic roots. What we have learned so far is that his mtDNA falls within Haplogroup W1, which is found primarily in Europe, the Middle East, and North, South, and Central Asia. Whether or not he shares Sephardic or Iberian mtDNA is at this phase of the project inconclusive, but possible. We are hopeful that another one of Sofia's great grandchildren will test to increase the data. We'll keep you posted!


Happy Thursday!

Scrappy Gen
Let's Remember!


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10 comments:

  1. Wow, Vincent is participating in the same DNA testing. We've gotten back results on 2 of the 5 tests. All point to Ashkenazi and Cohanim so far. I hope the other results come in before we leave for Spain. We've got the paternal genealogy back to about 1725, and need a few more generations to get back to 1492!

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    1. Good luck getting back that far! I will be lucky to get to 1650 in Colosimi. I hope there will be some clue as to where my paternal line came from - Family tree DNA says middle eastern. Until they finnish the deep clade, I will not know for sure if my DNA is Jewish

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  2. Heather, It sounds like he most likely does have Jewish ancestry. We only tested full sequence mtDNA and it took forever for it to come back. Unfortunately MJ has one errant gene and so does not have any matches that show up on Family Tree DNA. That is why we are working on getting another cousin to test, to see if we can pinpoint how far back this gene comes into the picture.

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  3. My great great grandfather was abandoned as a baby in Dipignano Calabria in 1875 and so we never knew if we were in fact Italian, Spanish, Greek or something else. I obtained my Y-DNA and mtDNA from Family Tree DNA. I've learned that my Y DNA is E1b1b1 (DNA travelled through the Middle East 8,000 years ago on our way to Calabria) and my mt-DNA is "X" which is either Ojibwe or Galilee Druze... ??

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    1. Are ojibwe people jewish or not?

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    2. This not my area of expertise. If anyone knows more about it, please feel free to add to the conversation.

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  4. My family immigrated only 100 years ago from Calabria to the United States. I often wondered of my genealogy also as we never held most Italian traditions. I obtained a genealogy report which stated that my family traveled from what is now modern Iraq to Calabria. My genealogy results showed that I have both Sephardic and Ashkenazi blood lines which are with a 99% match to indigenous DNA. Without the DNA results I would still be wondering.

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  5. I have documentation of my family line back to Colosimi, Calabria, Italy to 1775. Before my Great Great Grandfather changed his named to Ross around 1894 in Canada, our family name was Greco which was a name used by the Jews. I hired a researcher to explore church records in Colosimi and he may get back as far as 1650 depending on the state of the records.
    I did not suspect Jewish paternal ancestry until my Y DNA results came back saying my paternal line is middle eastern. Specifically I am Y DNA G2. Family tree DNA is running another round of tests but they could very well come back with a Jewish subclade.
    Its funny, but years ago, before I ever started family history research, I actually spent about a year studying Judaism at a local Synagogue. Woulden't it be funny if I actually turned out to really have Jewish ancestry? From my time in the Synagogue I learned a bit about the jewish way of life but comparing what I learned to my paternal familys traditions has revealed no surviving Jewish traditions. I will have to watch my father's family closer from now on just to see if any quirky traditions have survived.

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    1. Anonymous, Please let us know what your results were. That will be very interesting. Jennifer

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    2. Ended up being G2. Not G2a b or c. Just G2.

      I match 5 others with possible Jewish Ancestry

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