Here’s my DNA results: Surprise—I’m descended from Ashkenazi Jews!

April 15, 2022 • 12:00 pm

I forgot to mention that my 23andMe DNA results arrived just before I left for Antarctica.  Today I’ll just give the general overview of where my genes come from. There will be more later on the physical traits predicted from the DNA, but I deliberately didn’t ask for health information, as I don’t want to know what I’m going to die from!

I paid $100 for this?

Where my genes come from. Well, one thing’s for sure if these results be correct: I have NO IRISH ANCESTRY. So much for that theory about inter-faith copulations! But I have genes from the area that’s now Poland and perhaps Ukraine. Here’s the map:

And the rest—bupkes!

Finally, I’m not even above the median in my Neanderthal gene composition!

Yep, I’m pretty much a full-blown Ashkenazi Jew descended from Eastern Europeans.

In the next installment, when I feel so inclined, I’ll talk about the physical traits they prognosticate for me from my DNA. (Most are accurate.)  I also have a few matches for first cousins once removed, and have to decide whether I should contact them.

63 thoughts on “Here’s my DNA results: Surprise—I’m descended from Ashkenazi Jews!

  1. Do I understand that your genetic variation is rather narrow? Like a Cheetah? Or am i very wrong there?
    I hope your kind will not go extinct, such a great website! 🙂

      1. Jerry, I wasn’t serious. I thought the smiley would have conveyed that.
        However, I’m seriously contemplating now of going ’23andme’, especially for my children. Could be interesting.

        BTW, there is a trope going around that denies that Ashkenazi Jews are really Jews of Middle Eastern origins, but Kazakhs that converted to Judaism. I think that was debunked as anti-semitic propaganda spread by -among others- Palestinians to deny claims of Israelis to the land (never mind Sephardic jews are a majority in Israel). Your take on that?

          1. Yes, Khazars, of course that’s the ones I was referring to. Thanks for correcting me.
            I’ve been doing some ‘research’ of the literature and although Koestler did popularise the idea, the idea itself is much older.
            Modern genetic studies find quite a bit of Mediterranean (Italic) and European admixture, especially in the mtDNA, and quite some Levantine Y DNA, in the Ashkenazi genome, but there is little support for the ‘Khazar hypothesis’ in any of the genetic studies I found.

  2. Another benefit of these tests is you can download your raw genetic data and see the nucleotides you’ve got at various loci. I enjoyed going through mine – just beware of lots of unsubstantiated hearsay for what certain loci/SNPs are associated with!

      1. Unfortunately, my physical maladies are all too real. Friends of mine who have attended medical school tell me that the list of ailments linked to genetics for Ashkenazi Jews is, by far, the longest such list for any ethnic group.

        1. I think orthodox Jews are very picky about who they marry, being endogamous, whereas other populations are more exogamous. A similar issue is found in some communities from the Indian sub-continent, where cousin marriage happens, in order to keep money/property in the family.

          1. The genetic studies show a great Western European mtDNA slice, at least 2/3rds, in Ashkenazi Jews. I guess that males went out and married local converted women, apparently mainly from Italy, probably during Roman times.

    1. There’s a small signal, about 0.1% for Denisovan/nonNeantherthal Archaic in western Europe. Recently described for Iceland, which is about as far ‘northwestern Europe’ as you get.

      You can find a discussion of this on John Hawks’ weblog.

  3. This is a very “pure” outcome, unless the population is a diverse one. Could such an outcome be due to the founder effect?

  4. I was mostly British Isles, England, Scotland. I also had a bit of Scandinavian (rapey Vikings), some broadly N. European DNA & some unassigned mystery DNA. Pretty much what I would have guessed. A lot of Neandertal as you’d expect from such European DNA.

    1. Me too Diana, a real mongrel from the Isles with some northern European and Viking. Nearly identical to yours.

    2. I am dubious about those attributions. Are they based on ancient DNA from those places?
      No – on modern, so that means you share some more recent common ancestry with populations of modern Scandinavians for example. Can they distinguish whether they were genes Scandinavians got from ancestors from North Germany, & shared in common with ancestors from North Germany, or peoples who left north Germany in the Bronze Age? Did they look at your mitochondrial DNA as well?

      I know we can use these markers to map existing populations & broadly how they relate to each other, but it is only with the expansion of ancient DNA testing, which IS happening, that we will get to find interesting things about ancestral populations & how they relate to each other, answering historical questions, like this from a week or so ago –
      https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0092-8674(22)00267-7

      More satisfying to me than knowing I share a lot of markers with people who live near me &share ancestors with in the last 500 years or so!

      1. They actually do give a timeline of the DNA. It seemed to comport with family history and research into my dad’s birth family (from what was publicly available). The Scandinavian (only about 5%) is often found in almost people with English ancestry. As for mitochondrial yes I believe they did look at that and because my parents both also did the test they got some better ancestry.

  5. Wait until you discover that you have children and relatives you didn’t know existed. That happened to me recently. I’m not going to say more than that though. 😉

              1. There are people out there that seriously believe there are clones of themselves in Chinese industrial refrigerators. I shit you not, I’ve heard it said.

          1. Yes, Diana, that is true for women. A pregnancy and birth do not really go unnoticed by the mother, I guess.
            I was thinking of males, since Jerry is male.

            1. Yes and I was responding to your question, “how can anybody” know they don’t have children as I’m an “anybody”.

              1. And your response illustrates nicely the problem with patriarchy, and it’s assumptions and contradictions.

              2. You’re probably joking but, in case you aren’t… The assumption is that a woman knows whether she’s given birth whereas a man does not always know if his sperm has been successful. If needed, there are websites that explain all this. I’m not going to. 😉

  6. I came back 99.6% Ashkenazi Jew for me from 23 and Me. Big surprise. All from Lviv, Russia and Poland. That I knew.
    But .2% Korean and .2% Manchurian & Mongolian? We must have been in that area for a long time. (I guess that’s the Neanderthal I have-2%)
    I have pages and pages of 2nd cousins I never knew existed.

  7. I have NO IRISH ANCESTRY.

    Ah, well, for some reason it would’ve tickled my fancy had you turned out to be (as my mom used to say) “as Irish as Paddy’s pig.”

    Alas.

  8. That is extremely interesting as I recall you had some ancestors from Ireland. My grandmother was a Coyne, from County Galway, and there was a rumor in the family that there was some German Jewish influence. My brother and I have Ashkenazi DNA, but that is because both of my maternal grandparents were from German Jewish families that lived in what is now Ukraine, but my cousins also from the Coyne line have no Jewish DNA. So the rumor of the name Coyne coming from something else, like Cohen, seems to be partially true.

    1. What am I missing? How can one have Ashkenazi DNA? One can have DNA that is compatible with having Ashkenazi ancestry but all people from the area are not Jewish. Jews from that area are called Ashkenazi but being from that area does not make one Jewish. Isn’t being Jewish cultural not physical?

  9. Our host’s original post finally tipped me into sending out my spit for analysis [23+Me] a couple of months ago. As a 1942 [my concept-date may have been ‘the date that will live in infamy’, and a within-family adoption, I knew my matriline, but expected I would find out something about my patriline. Not surprising to find that I am likely 99.5% northwestern European and likely 75+% British Isles.

    Second biggest surprise was that I have only a mediocre Neanderthal background, a bit under 2%. For 50+ years, since a first-term-in-college Physical Anthro course where I was asked to come to the front of the class to demonstrate my awesome brow-ridges….

    The biggest reveal: 23+Me sez my 0.5% residual regional contribution was west African. This is probably not noise since a similar very low fraction pops up in some of my patrilineal cousins — unknown to me btw. That should work out to somewhere around 1 or 2 African ancestors 7 or 8 generations out, which I put to sometime in the middle to late 18th C. I would guess that the liason[s] was not fully consensual. Perhaps I should see if the registry for the Jefferson/Hemings reunion is opening?

    1. Hence, according to the one drop rule you are a n….(unmentionable word)
      Note, I think the ‘one drop rule’ is ridiculous, Obama was just as much ‘white’ as he was ‘black’, in fact a bit more ‘white’, because of mtDNA. (Unless his mother had some African ancestry like you have, that is).
      I’d be delighted to have some unexpected ‘exotic’ DNA, btw. but I fear I have not.

  10. It’s interesting how among NW European, French & German are together, while Finnish people, like their language, cluster with no others. I wonder what sort of bottleneck the Finns went thru to become so isolated. In any event, having found from my NIH-sponsored All Of Us analysis (which, BTW, was not only free but I got a $25 gift card for enrolling) that I’m 1/8 Finnish, makes me happy.

  11. Hi Jerry,
    I also got my 23 and me done based on your recommendation. I am only 50% Ashkenazi Jew, but I also got this on the Neanderthal DNA: “You have more Neanderthal DNA than 91% of other customers.” Which means I have less than 2% Neanderthal DNA. And of all the Neanderthal traits they list, the only one that matches is that I’m a better sprinter than a long distance runner. That was very true, once, a long time ago.
    Thanks for the recommendation.
    Amy

  12. What am I missing? 2.8% Eastern European yet all the countries on the map are Eastern European. And aren’t most Ashkenazi Jew’s ancestry from Eastern Europe? If not, where?

    1. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Ashkenazi comes from Hebrew Ashkenaz (Germany) from the jews living in the Rhineland valley and neighbouring France. Only during the 10th to 13th centuries, after the Crusades, they moved to Eastern Europe in significant numbers.
      https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ashkenazi

  13. I also have friends who are Ashkenazi Jews, and I find it curious that there is no Semitic component to their inheritance.

  14. I clearly have Sephardic Jewish ancestry.
    Some time ago, I did some research and verified that almost all the scientists of Jewish origin who were awarded a Nobel Prize in natural sciences, the majority, that is to say, almost all the ones that I could verify were Ashkenazi; but those who appear on the list of Nobel Prize winners for literature were all of Sephardic origin.
    Curious.

  15. We have to remember that those SNPs, even if selected for predictivity, is only testing around .023% of the human genome. Principal component analysis of whole genome sequencing tell us that the largest geographical correlation is on the order of 0.1 % of the genome. It isn’t hard to find articles that assert that 23andMe can find one twin having on the order of 10 % “Broadly European” ancestry but the other on the order of 1 %, or that retaking the tests later will give another result since the company reference database has changed.

    The thing about me is that I’m Jewish. It’s not the only thing about me. I’m also 5 feet 11 inches tall, a glasses wearer and into bicycling. But most people who know me probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that most of my ancestors lived in shtetls in Eastern Europe.

    So, it wasn’t too surprising when I sent off nine DNA samples to three different DNA companies under a variety of fake names, and the results indicated that I’m super-duper Ashkenazi Jewish. (Ashkenazim are Jews who trace their ancestry back to Yiddish-speaking populations inhabiting the region between France and Russia.)

    Here’s what was a bit surprising, though: None of the companies — AncestryDNA, 23andMe and National Geographic, which works with a testing company called Helix — could agree on just how Ashkenazi I am.

    Three companies, three errors and six different results

    None of this means an ancestry kit from 23andMe or AncestryDNA or Nat Geo is worthless, Stoneking and Platt agreed.

    “I view these things as more for entertainment than anything else,” Stoneking said.

    The real science of population genetics, he explained, is used to figure out how large groups of people moved and mixed over time. And it’s good for that purpose. But figuring out whether 3 to 13 percent of my ancestors came from the Iberian Peninsula or Italy isn’t part of that project.

    [ https://www.livescience.com/63997-dna-ancestry-test-results-explained.html ]

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