Genealogy from DNA Analysis

For many years I have believed, based on stories I was told from an early age, that my grandparents on my mother’s side were Dutch Sefardi Jews.  They were definitely Dutch, my grandfather Joel Kops went from Holland to England in the early 20th century and every evening he listened to the news from Hilversum in Dutch.  They were very assimilated, with essentially no Jewish practices, but they were definitely Jews (all of my grandfather’s family remaining in Holland – 51 people – were murdered by the Nazis).

In order to find out if the story of my Sefardi origin was true I had a genealogist trace my family back 4 generations, but all the surnames she uncovered were Ashkenazi names.   I also discovered that although ca. 5,000 Sefardi Jews moved to Holland from Spain after the expulsion of 1492 (Holland had been a Spanish colony and was very anti-Spanish and anti-Catholic), also soon after another 5,000 Ashkenazi Jews also moved to Holland.  So it was a toss-up.  Then I decided to do the acid test, a DNA test.

Without going into the details, one can analyze the sequence of bases in the DNA taken from almost any cells in the body (usually the oral mucosa), and compare the analysis to many others from different ethnic groups.  They can analyze the Y-chromosome to trace the patrilineal descent and the mitochondrial (mt)-DNA to trace the matrilineal descent, as well as the total DNA (genome) content.  The company called Family Tree DNA (see ) has built up a large data base of such characteristic ethnic DNA sequences, particularly with a large Jewish database, and by statistical comparison they can tell you your individual ethnic background.  The tests cost several hundred dollars.

My results were that I am 89% Ashkenazi Jewish and only 6% Sefardi, with 3% West Middle East and 2% south-east Europe (Italy-Greece).  Given that my father’s family were Ashkenazi Jews from the Ukraine, assuming they had no Sefardi origins, this means that my Sefardi origin on my mother’s side was ca. 12%, certainly less than the 50% that I was expecting.  So the story of my Sefardi origins was perhaps somewhat exaggerated, but nevertheless is real.



7 thoughts on “Genealogy from DNA Analysis

  1. Jack,
    We will have to talk about this when we come to Israel. You obviously know more than I do. Did I ever send you the Kops Family Tree? It was done by one of Mum’s cousin’s son. It is not brilliant because I tried to print it of and it comes out in tiny writing. I sought expert advice on how I could enlarge it and print it out but was never able to do it.



  2. I found that an extremely interesting piece of information. I have had some doubt about some of the ethnic origin of my own family, and perhaps your findings will goad me into doing something about it.
    Hope to see you at your talk next week.
    Love to you both.
    Ros and Les (Artzi)


  3. Was it Living DNA because it says $159. You said it costs a few hundred dollars. I’m really keen to order the kit but just want to check with you first.


  4. Jack,
    Some Sephardic DNA gets accidentally classified as “Ashkenazi” by Family Finder because Sephardic Jews also settled in Eastern Europe and intermarried with Ashkenazic Jews – yes, even Jews in Ukraine. So your actual Sephardic DNA percentage from your Dutch Jewish side that you thought was all Sephardic may potentially be higher than the 6 percent estimated by Family Finder. And your Ukrainian Jewish side may perhaps include up to about 1 percent of Sephardic DNA in addition.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s