Jewish Genetics: Abstracts and Summaries

Part 4: Non-Jewish Israelites

Last Update: March 15, 2016

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Studies that test the potential Israelite ancestry of certain non-Jewish populations


Peidong Shen, Tal Lavi, Toomas Kivisild, Vivian Chou, Deniz Sengun, Dov Gefel, Isaac Shpirer, Eilon Woolf, Jossi Hillel, Marcus W. Feldman, and Peter J. Oefner. "Reconstruction of Patrilineages and Matrilineages of Samaritans and Other Israeli Populations from Y-Chromosome and Mitochondrial DNA Sequence Variation." Human Mutation 24 (2004): 248-260. Excerpts:

"Based on the close relationship of the Samaritan haplogroup J six-microsatellite haplotypes with the Cohen modal haplotype, we speculate that the Samaritan M304 Y-chromosome lineages present a subgroup of the original Jewish Cohanim priesthood that did not go into exile when the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 721 BC, but married Assyrian and female exiles relocated from other conquered lands, which was a typical Assyrian policy to obliterate national identities. This is in line with biblical texts that emphasize a common heritage of Jews and Samaritans, but also record the negative attitude of Jews towards the Samaritans because of their association with people that were not Jewish. Such a scenario could explain why Samaritan Y-chromosome lineages cluster tightly with Jewish Y-lineages (Fig. 2A), while their mitochrondrial lineages are closest to Iraqi Jewish and Palestinian mtDNA sequences (Fig. 2B)."

Peter J. Oefner, Georg Hölzl, Peidong Shen, Isaac Shpirer, Dov Gefel, Tal Lavi, Eilon Woolf, Jonathan Cohen, Cengiz Cinnioglu, Peter A. Underhill, Noah A. Rosenberg, Jochen Hochrein, Julie M. Granka, Jossi Hillel, and Marcus W. Feldman. "Genetics and the history of the Samaritans: Y chromosomal microsatellites and genetic affinity between Samaritans and Cohanim." Human Biology 85:6 (December 2013): pages 825-858. They evaluated the Y-DNA and autosomal DNA of "12 Samaritans chosen to have as low a level of relationship as possible" and compared them with 461 non-Samaritans including representatives of 7 Jewish and 3 non-Jewish populations with ancestry from Israel and members of non-Jewish ethnic groups from Africa, Pakistan, Turkey, and Europe. Excerpts from the Abstract:

"[...] Estimation of genetic distances [...] revealed that the Samaritans were closely related to Cohanim. This result supports the position of the Samaritans that they are descendants from the tribes of Israel dating to before the Assyrian exile in 722–720 BCE. In concordance with previously published singlenucleotide polymorphism haplotypes, each Samaritan family, with the exception of the Samaritan Cohen lineage, was observed to carry a distinctive Y-chromosome short tandem repeat haplotype that was not more than one mutation removed from the six-marker Cohen modal haplotype."

It should also be noted that some Palestinian Arabs who live in the city of Nablus and nearby villages paternally descend from Samaritans who converted to Islam. Their family names include Buwarda, Kasem, Muslimani, Shakshir, Yaish, among others. I don't know whether their Y-DNA has been tested.


Susan M. Adams, Elena Bosch, Patricia L. Balaresque, Stéphane J. Ballereau, Andrew C. Lee, Eduardo Arroyo, Ana M. López-Parra, Mercedes Aler, Marina S. Gisbert Grifo, Maria Brion, Angel Carracedo, João Lavinha, Begoña Martínez-Jarreta, Lluis Quintana-Murci, Antònia Picornell, Misericordia Ramon, Karl Skorecki, Doron M. Behar, Francesc Calafell, and Mark A. Jobling. "The genetic legacy of religious diversity and intolerance: paternal lineages of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula." American Journal of Human Genetics 83(6) (December 2008): pages 725-736. Excerpts from the Abstract:

"[...] The Iberian Peninsula provides a suitable region for examination of the demographic impact of such recent events, because its complex recent history has involved the long-term residence of two very different populations with distinct geographical origins and their own particular cultural and religious characteristics-North African Muslims and Sephardic Jews. To address this issue, we analyzed Y chromosome haplotypes, which provide the necessary phylogeographic resolution, in 1140 males from the Iberian Peninsula and Balearic Islands. Admixture analysis based on binary and Y-STR haplotypes indicates a high mean proportion of ancestry from North African (10.6%) and Sephardic Jewish (19.8%) sources. Despite alternative possible sources for lineages ascribed a Sephardic Jewish origin, these proportions attest to a high level of religious conversion (whether voluntary or enforced), driven by historical episodes of social and religious intolerance, that ultimately led to the integration of descendants. [...]"

The 2008 study by Adams et al. exaggerates Sephardic ancestry in Spaniards
Although Adams et al. claim about one-fifth of modern Iberians have Y-chromosome DNA haplogroups they think are consistent with Sephardic ancestry, many of these lines in Iberians actually originate from ancient pre-Jewish migrations from the Eastern Mediterranean to Iberia, as Stephen Oppenheimer indicated. Autosomal DNA matching analysis has revealed that some modern Spaniards have a small amount of Sephardic ancestry while others have none at all. Sephardic ancestry is neither massive nor widespread in Spain and Portugal.

Nicholas Wade, "DNA study shows 20 percent of Iberian population has Jewish ancestry." The New York Times (December 4, 2008). Excerpts:

"About 20 percent of the current population of the Iberian Peninsula has Sephardic Jewish ancestry, and 11 percent bear Moorish DNA signatures, a team of geneticists reports. The genetic signatures reflect the forced conversions to Christianity in the 14th and 15th centuries after Christian armies wrested Spain back from Muslim control. ... The genetic study, based on an analysis of Y chromosomes, was conducted by a team of biologists led by Mark Jobling of the University of Leicester in England and Francesc Calafell of the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. The biologists developed a Y chromosome signature for Sephardic men by studying Sephardic Jewish communities in places where Jews migrated after being expelled from Spain in the years from 1492 to 1496. They also characterized the Y chromosomes of the Arab and Berber army that invaded Spain in 711 A.D. from data on people now living in Morocco and Western Sahara. ... The genetic study, reported online Thursday in the American Journal of Human Genetics, indicates there was a high level of conversion among Jews. ... The issue is one that has confronted Calafell, an author of the study. His own Y chromosome is probably of Sephardic ancestry - the test is not definitive for individuals - and his surname is from a town in Catalonia; Jews undergoing conversion often took surnames from place names."

Pedro Cáceres. "Uno de cada tres españoles tiene marcadores genéticos de Oriente Medio o el Magreb." El Mundo (December 10, 2008). Excerpt:

"El doctor Calafell matiza que [...] los marcadores genéticos usados para distinguir a la población con ancestros sefardíes pueden producir distorsiones. En realidad, la pista genética usada en este caso también es compartida por pueblos de Oriente Medio desde Turquía hasta Líbano, con lo que en realidad, ese 20% de españoles que el estudio señala como descendientes de sefardíes podrían haber heredado ese rasgo de movimiento más antiguos, como el de los fenicios o, incluso, primeros pobladores neolíticos hace miles de años." (Translation: "Dr. Calafell clarifies that [...] the genetic markers used to distinguish the population with Sephardic ancestry may produce distortions. In reality, the genetic marker used in this case is also a component of peoples of the Middle East from Turkey to Lebanon, with the reality being that the 20% of Spaniards who are identified as having Sephardic ancestry in the study could have inherited that same marker from older migrations like those of the Phoenicians, or even the first Neolithic settlers thousands of years ago.")

"Spanish Inquisition couldn't quash Moorish, Jewish genes." ScienceNews 175:1 (January 3, 2009). Excerpts:

"'The genetic makeup of Sephardic Jews is probably common to other Middle Eastern populations, such as the Phoenicians, that also settled the Iberian Peninsula,' Calafell says. 'In our study, that would have all fallen under the Jewish label. The 20% of Spaniards that are identified as having Sephardim ancestry in the study could have inherited that same marker from older movements like the Phoenicians, or even the first Neolithic settlers thousands of years ago.'"

Joana Francesca Ferragut, Sofia L. Marques, C. Ramon, Jose Aurelio Castro, António Amorim, L. Alvarez, and A. Picornell. "Founding Mothers of Chueta Population." Forensic Science International Genetics Supplement Series (September 23, 2015). The Chueta (Xueta) people live on the Mediterranean island of Majorca, Spain and descend from Sephardim who became Crypto-Jews when they were forced to adopt Catholicism but for some generations had preserved Jewish religious practices in secret and even after they ceased those practices they still were kept apart from their non-Chueta neighbors with very little intermarriage between Chuetas and non-Chuetas. Excerpts from the Abstract:

"[...] The aim of the present study was to study the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroups in a sample of Chueta individuals and to compare with other Jewish populations and with their host population, in order to investigate the founding maternal lineages in this population. In the 109 individuals studied 50 different haplotypes were identified. The haplotype and nucleotide diversities of the complete CR were 0.952 and 0.010, respectively. Comparing with other Iberian Jewish population, the genetic diversity values were just slightly lower than in Bragança Crypto-Jews [7] and much higher than in the Portuguese Jewish community from Belmonte (Table 1), where a very strong founder maternal effect has been previously described [8]. High haplogroup (Hg) diversity was found in Chuetas (Fig. 1), with 35 different haplogroups. The Middle Eastern haplogroup R0a was the most prevalent (19.3%), followed by the widespread European haplogroup H (16.5%). In order to identify traits of Jewish ancestry, we took into account those Hgs with frequencies higher than 4% and significantly different frequencies to those found in the Majorcan host population [...] The haplogroups that stood out in the Chueta sample were: R0a, T1a, T2c1d, K1a1b1a, U1a1a and L3e2b, indicating a remarkable signature of Middle Eastern ancestry along with some degree of European and North African admixture. The haplogroup pattern in Chuetas pointed out that the most important Jewish putative founding lineage is R0a, found in other Jewish (especially North Africans) and Middle Eastern populations, like Druzes, Palestinian and Bedouins, but not in Portuguese Jewish populations. [...] These data confirm that the Chuetas, due to their singular history, have kept not only the cultural memory of their Jewish origin through centuries but also a substantial degree of ancestral genetic signature. Also some degree of the host admixture can be detected, as in other diaspora Jewish populations. [...]"

Latinos, including those with traditions of Spanish Jewish ancestry

Analysis of Y-DNA, mtDNA, and autosomal DNA matchups through direct-to-consumer DNA tests has conclusively demonstrated that both some Latin American Hispanics (especially, but not exclusively, Mexicans) and some Ashkenazic Jews descend from Sephardic Jews from Spain and Portugal and that's why they match each other. I summarize several of the many known examples of these matchups in my articles "Sephardic Jews in Galitzian Poland and Environs" and "Sephardic Jews in Lithuania and Latvia".

Christopher Velez, Pier Francesco Palamara, J. Guevara-Aguirre, Li Hao, Tanya Karafet, M. Guevara-Aguirre, Alexander Pearlman, Carole Oddoux, Michael Hammer, Edward Burns, Itsik Pe'er, Gil Atzmon, and Harry Ostrer. "The impact of Converso Jews on the genomes of modern Latin Americans." Human Genetics 131:2 (February 2012): pages 251-263. First published electronically on July 26, 2011. Excerpts from the Abstract:

"[...] Here, we analyzed DNA collected from two well-established communities in Colorado (33 unrelated individuals) and Ecuador (20 unrelated individuals) with a measurable prevalence of the BRCA1 c.185delAG and the GHR c.E180 mutations, respectively, using Affymetrix Genome-wide Human SNP 6.0 arrays to identify their ancestry. These mutations are thought to have been brought to these communities by Sephardic Jewish progenitors. Principal component analysis and clustering methods were employed to determine the genome-wide patterns of continental ancestry within both populations using single nucleotide polymorphisms, complemented by determination of Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial DNA haplotypes. When examining the presumed European component of these two communities, we demonstrate enrichment for Sephardic Jewish ancestry not only for these mutations, but also for other segments as well. Although comparison of both groups to a reference Hispanic/Latino population of Mexicans demonstrated proximity and similarity to other modern day communities derived from a European and Native American two-way admixture, identity-by-descent and Y-chromosome mapping demonstrated signatures of Sephardim in both communities. [...]"

I. Makriyianni, N. Hamel, S. Ward, William D. Foulkes, and S. Graw. "BRCA1:185delAG found in the San Luis Valley probably originated in a Jewish founder." Journal of Medical Genetics 42 (2005): e27. Some Hispanics living in the San Luis Valley - "a large, isolated valley situated on the border between New Mexico and Colorado" - carry the "hereditary breast cancer mutation, BRCA1:185delAG". The authors state that many of their ancestors had lived in Spanish settlement areas in northern New Mexico. The authors are aware of the partial Sephardic Jewish roots of the inhabitants of this area and therefore suggest that Sephardic origins explain the presence of this mutation among Hispanic Catholics, as they explain this is much more likely than imagining that an Ashkenazic migrant came to the area long ago.

Talia Bloch. "New genetic evidence links Spanish Americans of Southwest to Jews." Jewish Telegraphic Agency (September 28, 2011). Excerpts:

"In 1995, Demetrio Valdez, his wife, Olive, and some of their neighbors in Conejos County, Colo., started a kosher food co-op. ... Since childhood he had heard rumors that his family had Jewish ancestors dating back to colonial New Spain when, as historical records show, a good number of Converso Jews -- Jews and their descendants forcibly converted during the Spanish Inquisition -- came to the New World. Many of the Conversos who had made the trek over had become Catholics in name only. ... Now a new study in the Journal of Human Genetics has turned up fresh scientific evidence that the Spanish Americans of the Southwest must have had some Jewish forbears. A group of researchers in the United States and Ecuador analyzed DNA from two communities who trace back to Spanish colonial times: one in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, which includes Conejos County, and one in the Loja Province of southern Ecuador. The study found 'observable Sephardic ancestry' in both communities and calculated Jewish ancestry among the Lojanos at about 5 to 10 percent and among the Spanish Americans, also called Hispanos, at about 1 to 5 percent. 'This study provides firmer evidence for what people have been conjecturing for up to 20 years now,' said the study's director, Dr. Harry Ostrer..."

"Genetic Hebrews of Southern Colorado." Forward (February 24, 2012). Excerpt:

"Genetic markers reveal Conversos of the American Southwest..."

David Kelly. "DNA Clears the Fog Over Latino Links to Judaism in New Mexico." Los Angeles Times (December 5, 2004). Excerpts:

"He [Father William Sanchez launched a DNA project to test his relatives, along with some of the parishioners at Albuquerque's St. Edwin's Church, where he works. As word got out, others in the community began contacting him. So Sanchez expanded the effort to include Latinos throughout the state. Of the 78 people tested, 30 are positive for the marker of the Cohanim, whose genetic line remains strong because they rarely married non-Jews throughout a history spanning up to 4,000 years. Michael Hammer, a research professor at the University of Arizona and an expert on Jewish genetics, said that fewer than 1% of non-Jews possessed this marker. That fact - along with the traditions in many of these families - makes it likely that they are Jewish, he said. ... It also explained practices that had baffled many folks here for years: the special knives used to butcher sheep in line with Jewish kosher tradition, the refusal to work on Saturdays to honor the Sabbath, the menorahs that had been hidden away. In some families, isolated rituals are all that remain of a once-vibrant religious tradition diluted by time and fears of persecution. ... 'We believe a fairly high percentage of first families [arriving] in New Mexico were nominally Catholic, but their secret religion was Judaism,' he [Bennett Greenspan of Family Tree DNA] said. "We are finding between 10% and 15% of men living in New Mexico or south Texas or northern Mexico have a Y chromosome that tracks back to the Middle East.' They are not all Cohanim, and there's a slight chance some could be of African Muslim descent. But Greenspan said the DNA of the men is typical of Jews from the eastern Mediterranean."

John Nova Lomax. "Who's Your Daddy? Track your true identity along a DNA trail left behind by your ancestors." Houston Press (April 14, 2005). Excerpts:

"Growing up in the Rio Grande Valley, Danny Villarreal had heard the stories from his grandparents. His ancestors, it was whispered, had come to Mexico from Spain under something of a cloud. Apparently, they were not purebred Castilian Spaniards, but members of a persecuted minority -- namely, Jews who had converted to Catholicism on pain of death at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition. ... FTDNA sent the test off to a genetics lab at the University of Arizona, and a few weeks later Villarreal got his results back. Although the company didn't find that he was related to anyone then in its database, it did have a few surprises for him. First, there was his haplogroup -- the genetic marker that goes back on his Y chromosome for tens of thousands of years. All humanity is divided into 18 of these, and Mexicans of European descent would likely be in either haplogroup R-1A or R-1B, the most common groups in Western Europe, or if they were primarily of Native American descent, Q or Q-3. Villarreal's was E-3B, which is a Semitic haplogroup that evolved in East Africa and then spread around the Mediterranean and is most common today in the Middle East and in North and East Africa. Then there were his closest genetic matches. All three of them were to Jews in places like Hungary, Belarus and Poland."

Simon Romero. "Hispanics Uncovering Roots as Inquisition's 'Hidden' Jews." The New York Times (October 29, 2005). Excerpts:

"When she was growing up in a small town in southern Colorado, an area where her ancestors settled centuries ago when it was on the fringes of the northern frontier of New Spain, Bernadette Gonzalez always thought some of the stories about her family were unusual, if not bizarre. Her grandmother, for instance, refused to travel on Saturday and would use a specific porcelain basin to drain blood out of meat before she cooked it. In one tale that particularly puzzled Ms. Gonzalez, 52, her grandfather called for a Jewish doctor to circumcise him... Ms. Gonzalez started researching her family history and concluded that her ancestors were Marranos, or Sephardic Jews, who had fled the Inquisition in Spain and in Mexico more than four centuries ago. Though raised in the Roman Catholic faith, Ms. Gonzalez felt a need to reconnect to her Jewish roots, so she converted to Judaism three years ago. ... These conversions are the latest chapter in the story of the crypto-Jews, or hidden Jews, of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, who are thought to be descended from the Sephardic Jews who began fleeing Spain more than 500 years ago. The story is being bolstered by recent historical research and advances in DNA testing that are said to reveal a prominent role played by crypto-Jews and their descendants in Spain's colonization of the Southwest. ... Family Tree DNA, a Houston company that offers a Cohanim test to its male clients, gets about one inquiry a day from Hispanics interested in exploring the possibility of Jewish ancestry, said Bennett Greenspan, its founder and chief executive. Mr. Greenspan said about one in 10 of the Hispanic men tested by his company showed Semitic ancestry strongly suggesting a Jewish background. (Another divergent possibility is that the test might suggest North African Muslim ancestry.)"

Nathan A. Ellis, Susan Ciocci, Maria Proytcheva, David Lennon, Joanna Groden, and James German. "The Ashkenazic Jewish Bloom Syndrome Mutation blmAsh Is Present in Non-Jewish Americans of Spanish Ancestry." American Journal of Human Genetics 63:6 (December 1998): pages 1685-1693. The so-called "Ashkenazi" mutation blmAsh on chromosome 15 on the SNP rs113993962 appears to really be Sephardic in origin, since aside from Jews, it's only found in "non-Jewish persons ... [that] Each [...] has a Spanish-speaking Catholic family that has resided in the southwestern United States, Mexico, or El Salvador for many generations". They found 5 such affected Hispanics in the Bloom's Syndrome Registry. The authors suggest that the Hispanics are "descendents of a person who several centuries ago emigrated from Spain to New Spain and who most likely was a Sephardic Jew."

Felice L. Bedford, Doron Yacobi, Gary Felix, and Federico M. Garza. "Clarifying Mitochondrial DNA Subclades of T2e from Mideast to Mexico." Journal of Phylogenetics and Evolutionary Biology 1:121 (October 17, 2013). A particular branch of the mtDNA haplogroup T2e1 has been found among both Sephardic Jews whose families lived in the Ottoman Empire and Mexican Catholics from the states of Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas who descended from Conversos, as well as among Brazilian and Portuguese people.

Felice L. Bedford. "Sephardic Signature in Haplogroup T mitochondrial DNA." European Journal of Human Genetics 20:4 (April 2012): pages 441-448. First published online on November 23, 2011. Excerpts from the Abstract:

"A rare combination of mutations within mitochondrial DNA subhaplogroup T2e is identified as affiliated with Sephardic Jews, [...] It was found that the rare motif belonged only to Sephardic descendents (Turkey, Bulgaria), to inhabitants of North American regions known for secret Spanish-Jewish colonization, or were consistent with Sephardic ancestry."

Inês Nogueiro, João Teixeira, António Amorim, Leonor Gusmão, and Luis Alvarez. "Reply to letter from Felice L. Bedford and Doron Yacobi." European Journal of Human Genetics 23 (2015): pages 994-995. First published online on November 5, 2014. Excerpts:

"[...] as for T2e1b, a new branch in the PhyloTree build 16 (van Oven and Kayser6) was included. This branch was defined based on a mitogenome (GenBank accession number: KF657641) from Bedford et al5 as can be observed in PhyloTree build 16 search. This is a sample from Mexico: Nuevo Leon and together with three other samples from Bedford et al4, 5 (KF577587, KF577589 and JN819272) establish a clade where the Portuguese Sephardic Jews are included (T2e1a1a1) [...] With the exception of JN819272, a Sephardic Jew from Salonica, the other two samples are from Mexico, Tamaulipas and from Texas, USA and could have an eventual Iberian/Sephardic origin. The fact that we have observed two Jewish Sephardic sequences in the NE Portugal sharing the same motif described by Bedford et al,4, 5 plus two further distinct variants, m.13135G4A and m.7133C4T not previously described, can help to clarify if the putative Iberian origin of the Mexican/USA samples is indeed owing to Sephardic ancestry. It is remarkable that T2e1b and U2e1a clades include mitogenomes from both Sephardic and Ashkenazi origins. [...] either the defining variants for each branch could have arisen before the separation between the two Jewish groups, or there may have been recent admixture between them. However, in Nogueiro et al1 it is stated that: '[..] it must be said that although not frequent, marriages between the two communities [Sephardic with Ashkenazic] occurred (especially) in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, namely among the elite sugar traders, with the descendants assimilated into the Ashkenazi community.' [...]"

Bernard Secher, Rosa Fregel, José M. Larruga, Vicente M. Cabrera, Phillip Endicott, José J. Pestano, and Ana M. Gonzáález. "The history of the North African mitochondrial DNA haplogroup U6 gene flow into the African, Eurasian and American continents." BMC Evolutionary Biology 14:109 (2014). Published online on May 19, 2014. Supplement 1 lists GenBank samples carrying the mtDNA haplogroup U6a7a1b. They include 2 Jews with maternal-line roots in Poland, 2 people with maternal-line roots in Ukraine (one of them being a Jewish line from Kiev), 1 person from Germany, 1 person from southern Italy, 2 people from Spain (one a known Jewish lineage, another from the city of Jaen in south-central Spain), 1 from Algeria, 1 from Mexico, and 1 from Havana, Cuba. Excerpts:

"Six of them are grouped into a Sephardic cluster [mtDNA haplogroup] U6a7a1b, of diverse geographic sources with another five sequences of possible Jewish maternal descent. This wide spread testifies to the extent of the forced exile of this community of Hispanic origin. [...] There are only four complete sequences with Spanish American origin in our tree (see Additional file 1). Two of them are included in U6a7a1b, a Sephardic Jewish cluster."

Mexican-American Indians

Dan Even. "Israeli researchers: Group of Colorado Indians have genetic Jewish roots." Ha'aretz (May 30, 2012). Excerpts:

"[...] Weitzel's discovery of the BRCA1 mutation in these Hispanics led him to suspect that there was a genetic connection between them and European Jews, [...] The mutation was also found in a group of Mexican Indians who had immigrated from Mexico to the United States over the past 200 years and settled in western Colorado. [...] all had a common ancestor: A Jew who immigrated from Europe to South America up to 600 years ago, [...] the mutation found in the Colorado Indians was found to be identical to that of Ashkenazi Jews, [...]"

The Yaqui people originated in the Mexican state of Sonora, where most of them still live, though some later moved to Texas, Arizona, California, and Nevada in the 1800s and 1900s. A particular Yaqui from the United States of America is estimated to be 0.2% "Ashkenazi" by 23andMe, but this almost certainly represents Sephardic anscestry in reality. Their combined Native American and East Asian score is 93.5%, of which 80.2% is recognized by 23andMe as distinctively Native American. They also have a small amount of European/Spanish ancestry.

Other indigenous peoples of the Americas

A particular Q'eqchi' Maya from the Belize-Guatemala border region is estimated to be 0.2% "Ashkenazi" by 23andMe, but almost certainly comes from a Sephardic ancestor(s). Their combined Native American and East Asian score is 96%, of which 83.6% is recognized by 23andMe as distinctively Native American. They also have a small amount of European/Spanish ancestry.

A particular Guatemalan is estimated to be 0.1% "Ashkenazi" by 23andMe, but again probably Sephardic in reality. Their combined Native American and East Asian score is 94.8%, of which 81.2% is recognized by 23andMe as distinctively Native American. They also have a small amount of European/Spanish ancestry.

Portuguese who descend from Jews who converted to Christianity

Cnaan Liphshiz. "Portugal's secret Jews come out of hiding." Ha'aretz English Edition (Israel) (September 13, 2009). Excerpts:

"It is part of a national trend: The turning toward Judaism of thousands of Portuguese who believe they are descended from Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity hundreds of years ago. ... Many became crypto-Jews, practicing secretly. ... Recent genetic studies show that some 30 percent of Portugal's population has Jewish blood."

Susan M. Adams, Elena Bosch, Patricia L. Balaresque, Stéphane J. Ballereau, Andrew C. Lee, Eduardo Arroyo, Ana M. López-Parra, Mercedes Aler, Marina S. Gisbert Grifo, Maria Brion, Angel Carracedo, João Lavinha, Begoña Martínez-Jarreta, Lluis Quintana-Murci, Antònia Picornell, Misericordia Ramon, Karl Skorecki, Doron M. Behar, Francesc Calafell, and Mark A. Jobling. "The Genetic Legacy of Religious Diversity and Intolerance: Paternal Lineages of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula." The American Journal of Human Genetics 83:6 (December 12, 2008): pages 725-736. First published online on December 5, 2008. Excerpts from the Abstract:

"Considering the peninsula as a single population, the analysis unsurprisingly finds that the highest mean proportion of ancestry corresponds to the Basque parental population. However, this level is only 69.6%, leaving a remarkably high overall mean proportion of North African and Jewish ancestry forming the remainder. [...] Mean Sephardic Jewish admixture is 19.8%, varying from zero in Minorca to 36.3% in South Portugal (the value in Asturias is unlikely to be reliable, because of small sample size)."

Inês Nogueiro, João C. Teixeira, António Amorim, Leonor Gusmão, and Luis Alvarez. "Portuguese crypto-Jews: the genetic heritage of a complex history." Frontiers in Genetics 6:12 (February 2, 2015): eCollection 2015. Published online on February 2, 2015. This article explores the mtDNA of descendants of Conversos (people forced to convert from Judaism to Roman Catholicism) in Portugal. Over the centuries, these families had practiced aspects of Judaism in private in their homes while pretending to be devout Catholics to the wider community. They did eventually incorporate some aspects of Catholicism into their lives, creating a blended religious identity. Excerpts from the Abstract:

"[...] [Genetic] Data [focused on Sephardic descendants] from the Iberian Peninsula, the original geographic source of Sephardic Jews, is limited to two populations in Portugal, Belmonte, and Bragança district, and the Chueta community from Mallorca. Belmonte was the first Jewish community studied for uniparental markers. The construction of a reference model for the history of the Portuguese Jewish communities, in which the genetic and classical historical data interplay dynamically, is still ongoing. Recently an enlarged sample covering a wide region in the Northeast Portugal was undertaken, allowing the genetic profiling of male and female lineages. A Jewish specific shared female lineage (HV0b) was detected between the community of Belmonte and Bragança. In contrast to what was previously described as a hallmark of the Portuguese Jews, an unexpectedly high polymorphism of lineages was found in Bragança, showing a surprising resistance to the erosion of genetic diversity typical of small-sized isolate populations, as well as signs of admixture with the Portuguese host population."

Italians who descend from Jews who converted to Christianity

Giancarlo La Giorgia. "Forgotten Jews of Southern Italy." ACCENTi: The Magazine with an Italian Accent (Fall 2010). Excerpts:

"Who am I and where do I come from? [...] my ethnic background: 'Italian,' or more specifically, 'Calabrese and Sicilian.' [...] It turns out, forgotten Jewish ancestry among Southern Italian isn't so far-fetched. [...] 'Serrastretta was founded by Jews escaping persecution, because of its remote, mountain location,' she [Rabbi Barbara Aiello] said, intimating that there are still many Jews in the area and elsewhere in the Italian south, [...] Most southern Italian Jewish converts to Christianity eventually lost their faith, but many have passed down traditions, the meaning of which has been lost over time. 'I've met many southern Italians [...] who have what they consider quirky family traditions that are actually Jewish traditions,' says Aiello. She recites a long list of activities: lighting candles on Fridays (marking the Sabbath); throwing out an egg if there's a spot of blood in it, avoiding pork and shellfish, or meat mixed with dairy products (to keep kosher); and hanging a red string over a baby's crib, or tying it to their wrist (a kabbalah ritual). [...] My autosomal DNA revealed a wide variety of origins, including Iberian, Germanic, North African, Arabian, Central Asian, and of all things, Melanesian. It explains why some of my family members look Middle Eastern, while others could pass for northern European, and others have the almond-shaped eyes usually only found in Asia. Although there were no strong indicators of Jewish ancestry here either, the hodgepodge that is my genetic profile actually had more in common with Ashkenazi Jews than Italians! [...] it also explained how another Italian-American cousin of his [Enrico Mascaro's] could have a genetic illness that usually only afflicts Jews."


Genetic testing conducted before April 2005 was unable to establish any paternal genetic link between the Kuki-Chin-Mizo people (who live in Myanmar and northeastern India) and Jewish communities of the world or even other Middle Eastern people, and a maternal genetic link was inconclusive. Some people had suggested, based on vague correlations, that the Mizos have Jewish-like practices, and pretended that the Mizo are really the descendants of the Israelite tribe of Menashe (B'nei Menashe).

Yair Sheleg. "In search of Jewish chromosomes in India: What has genetic research uncovered about the origin of the Kuki tribe, which claims to have authentic Jewish roots and traditions?" Ha'aretz English Edition (Israel) (April 1, 2005). Excerpts:

"About five months ago the results of a study performed by a forensic laboratory in India (a kind of local equivalent of Israel's National Forensic Institute at Abu Kabir) were published concerning the genetic origins of the members of the Kuki-Chin-Mizo tribe. ... The study compared DNA samples taken from several hundred members of the tribe and from members of various other recognized Jewish communities, as well as from other tribes living near the Kuki (which served as a control group). ... On the one hand, no connection was found on the male side of the genetic chain (the Y chromosome) between the genetic profile of the Kuki and the Jewish profile, or the profile of Middle Eastern peoples in general. However, on the female side of the profile (what scientists call mitochondrial DNA) there is a certain resemblance to the genetic profile of Middle Eastern peoples and to that of the Jews of Uzbekistan (who also have a tradition of belonging to the 10 tribes) - a closeness that distinguishes the Kuki from the members of other tribes that live nearby. ... Bhaswar Miaty, one of the researchers, has told Haaretz that the initiative for the study came from the Indian government as part of a comprehensive study on the various groups in his country. recent months a genetic study of the Bnei Menashe... has also been under way at the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. Prof. Karl Skorecki, the director of the Rappaport Family Institute for Research in Medical Sciences there, has told Haaretz that the research is being conducted by a method similar to that done in India: collecting samples of DNA from members of the Kuki tribe and comparing them, on the one hand, to the Jewish genetic profile and, on the other, to the genetic profile of tribes that live near the Kuki. According to Skorecki, his team has not yet reached the stage at which it is possible to draw any conclusions. 'We did receive the samples several months ago and we have started to examine the mitochondrial DNA, but we have not yet analyzed the data and we haven't examined the Y chromosome DNA at all yet,' he says. He also notes that it is hard to rely on the conclusions of the Indian study, at least as it has been published thus far: : 'From conversations that I have had with them it turns out that they did not do a complete `genetic sequencing' of all the DNA and therefore it is hard to rely on the conclusions derived from a `partial sequencing,' and they themselves admit this. It is possible in a `partial sequencing' to arrive at certain conclusions that would be overturned had they run a `full sequencing.' '"

Yair Sheleg. "Menashe in Myanmar." Ha'aretz English Edition (Israel) (September 19, 2002). Excerpt:

"To add another element to the 'Jewish' connection of the Kuki, [Hillel] Halkin is helping with plans to carry out genetic testing. This is slated to be performed in the near future by a group headed by Prof. Karl Skorecki of the Technion, who for several years now has specialized in research into Jewish genetics. The team will compare genetic findings from the Kuki with those of the Jews and thus attempt to examine common genetic roots. However, Halkin stresses in advance that 'even if a genetic match is not found, this would not refute my belief in this connection. The textual findings are simply too strong.'"


Michael C. Campbell and Sarah A. Tishkoff. "African Genetic Diversity: Implications for Human Demographic History, Modern Human Origins, and Complex Disease Mapping." Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics 9 (September 2008). The genetics of the Igbo people of southern Nigeria are characteristically West African, clustering them most closely to other speakers of Niger-Congo languages.


Himla Soodyall. "Lemba origins revisited: tracing the ancestry of Y chromosomes in South African and Zimbabwean Lemba." South African Medical Journal 103 (12 Suppl. 1) (October 11, 2013): pages 1009-1013. This study uses higher resolution testing of extended haplotypes (notably the 12-marker extended Cohen Model Haplotype, beyond the 6-marker CMH previously searched for) to test the Lemba of South Africa and the related Remba people of Zimbabwe. The author now believes that the results are inconsistent with any Jewish origins for either the Lemba or Remba, though they do indeed have partial ancestry from outside of Africa. (Probably Arabs from Yemen?)

Mark G. Thomas, Tudor Parfitt, D. A. Weiss, Karl L. Skorecki, J. F. Wilson, M. le Roux, Neil Bradman, David B. Goldstein. "Y Chromosomes Traveling South: the Cohen Modal Haplotype and the Origins of the Lemba--the 'Black Jews of Southern Africa'." American Journal of Human Genetics 66:2 (February 2000): 674-686. (Mirror) The "Kohen modal haplotype" is found among a significant number of members of the Lemba tribe of Africa, which claims descent from Jews but is also descended from Black Africans (Bantus). The priestly Buba clan has the Kohen haplotype in a higher percentage than Ashkenazi priests do. Furthermore, the non-Buba Lemba have the highest percentage of the Kohen haplotype outside of the priestly caste, among populations tested to date - higher than Ashkenazim and Sephardim added together! ( estimates that only about 3 percent of Jews who do not know whether they are Levites or Cohens have the Cohen gene). 9 percent of the Lembas have the Cohen gene. Excerpts from the abstract:

"A previous study using Y-chromosome markers suggested both a Bantu and a Semitic contribution to the Lemba gene pool, a suggestion that is not inconsistent with Lemba oral tradition... To provide a more detailed picture of the Lemba paternal genetic heritage, we analyzed 399 Y chromosomes for six microsatellites and six biallelic markers in six populations (Lemba, Bantu, Yemeni-Hadramaut, Yemeni-Sena, Sephardic Jews, and Ashkenazic Jews). The high resolution afforded by the markers shows that Lemba Y chromosomes are clearly divided into Semitic and Bantu clades. Interestingly, one of the Lemba clans carries, at a very high frequency, a particular Y-chromosome type termed the 'Cohen modal haplotype,' which is known to be characteristic of the paternally inherited Jewish priesthood and is thought, more generally, to be a potential signature haplotype of Judaic origin."

James R. Ross. Fragile Branches: Travels Through the Jewish Diaspora. New York: Riverhead Books, 2000. Excerpts from Ross's book:

"The Lemba in southern Africa, who practice circumcision and do not eat pork, also claim their origins in Ancient Israel thousands of years ago. Anthropologists have concluded that the Lemba appropriated these practices when white missionaries taught them about the Hebrew Bible. Geneticists have found, however, that many Lemba men carry DNA sequences that are nearly unique to cohanim, Jewish priests believed to descend from Moses' brother, Aaron. The sequence is almost as common among the priestly clan of the Lemba as it is among Ashkenazi Jews who are believed to be cohanim." (excerpt from page 22)

Johnjoe McFadden. "Written in the genes." The Guardian (March 31, 2003). Excerpt:

"The Lemba are a tribe of Bantu-speaking black Africans who believe they are descended from Jews. ... Thompson's laboratory discovered that in their Y-chromosomes was a genetic marker found only among Jews. The Lemba tradition that a high priest named Buba led them out of Judaea may indeed be based on a real event. ... The Jewish gene in the Lemba tribe is found in only about 10% of the men, yet the whole tribe practices Jewish traditions."

Dorothy C. Wertz. "Jewish ancestry for an African tribe: From Yemen to Zimbabwe." GeneLetter 1(10) (November 1, 2000).

Jon Entine. "Is good performance in sports determined by colour?." The Sunday Standard (Nairobi, Kenya, October 1, 2000). Excerpt:

"...the Lemba tribe of southern Africa was recently shown to be genetically linked through the Y-chromosome to the Jewish population of Mesopotamia some 2,000 years ago. In key genetic ways, they are quite distant from many other Africans."

Jon Entine. Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We're Afraid to Talk About It. New York: Public Affairs, 2000. Excerpt from page 109:

"The Lemba have clan names like Sadiqui and Hamisi that are clearly Semitic and have an enigmatic identity that traces their origins to an ancient Jewish community in what is now Yemen. Although scholars had long dismissed their claims as having been adopted from tales spun by missionaries, research now confirms that the black-skinned Lemba are genetic cousins of white Sephardic Jews. A team of geneticists has determined that many Lemba carry in their male chromosome a set of DNA sequences that is distinctive of the Jewish priests believe to be the descendants of Aaron, one of the twelve original Jewish tribes."

Mark Schoofs. "Fossils in the Blood: Scientists Find Ancient DNA in Living Africans." The Village Voice (April 4-10, 2000). Excerpts:

"For instance, Jenkins and Soodyall have studied the Lemba, a group of so-called Black Jews who claim to be a lost tribe of Israel, and found that many of them have genetic markers similar to those of Semitic people."

Laurie Zoloth. "Yearning for the Long Lost Home: The Lemba and the Jewish Narrative of Genetic Return." Developing World Bioethics 3:2 (December 2003): 127-132. Abstract:

"This commentary examines the relationship between genetics and Jewish identity. It focuses especially on the use of Y-chromosome testing to map the genealogies of the Lemba in southern Africa."

Josephine Johnston. "Case Study: The Lemba." Developing World Bioethics 3:2 (December 2003): 109-111. Abstract:

"The attempts of scholars and scientists to unravel the mystery of the ancestral origins of the Lemba are summarised, focusing on Tudor Parfitt's book, Journey to the Vanished City, and a study by an international group of genetic and social scientists. The impact of this research on identity questions is raised."

Janine Lazarus, with Wendy Elliman and Julie Gruenbaum Fax. "At Israel's Doorstep in Africa." Hadassah Magazine 82:5 (January 2001). Excerpts:

"Tests have shown that the Lemba possess the 'Kohen gene,' extremely rare among non-Jews, in a proportion similar to that of Jews... [T]here are now efforts - from the Lemba and from Jewish outreach groups - to expose them to Judaism... As much as they needed someone like Parfitt to study them, they may also need someone to champion their integration. That person may be Rufina Bernadetti Silva Mausenbaum, a descendant of Portuguese Crypto-Jews who made her way back to the Jewish fold. Living in Johannesburg, she is a representative of Kulanu, an America-based Jewish outreach organization..."

John Murphy. "Jewish? Africans knew it all along." The Baltimore Sun (September 25, 2003). Excerpts:

"For years the outside world dismissed the Lemba's claims as sheer fantasy. That changed in 1999, when geneticists from the United States, Great Britain and Israel discovered some backing for the claims. The researchers found that Lemba men carried a DNA signature on their Y chromosome that is believed unique to the relatively small number of Jews known as the Cohanim, who trace their ancestry to the priests of the ancient Jewish Temple and, ultimately, to Aaron, brother of Moses. ... After the discovery, Kulanu and other Jewish organizations ventured to Lemba villages to understand the Lemba's history and practices and introduce the Lemba to mainstream Jewish beliefs and practices. Some Lemba began learning Hebrew and visited Israel; some renounced Christian beliefs. Others recast their traditional Lemba ceremonies as counterparts to traditional Jewish holidays... Still, the community as a whole appears to be at a crossroads. Some Lemba consider themselves Jewish while continuing to embrace Christian services and African rituals. ... Still, he [Tudor Parfitt] cautions, the question of whether the Lemba are Jewish has not been answered conclusively: 'DNA itself doesn't make anybody Jewish. All it can do is say something about their ancestry.' ... 'It doesn't constitute proof,' Rabbi Norman Bernhard, former president of the Southern African Rabbinical Association and a recognized authority on Jewish-Lemba relations, says of the genetic evidence. 'It raises a possibility, even a probability.'"

Dean H. Hamer. The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into our Genes (Doubleday, 2004). Excerpt from page 192:

"There is one [non-Jewish] group, however, for whom DNA analysis has provided a direct link to the Jews of biblical times. These are the Lemba, a southern African tribe who inhabit present-day South Africa and Zimbabwe. ... The Lemba believe they are descended from an ancient group of Jews who were led out of Israel by a prophet named Buba."

A. B. Spurdle and T. Jenkins. "The Origins of the Lemba 'Black Jews' of Southern Africa: Evidence from p12F2 and Other Y-Chromosome Markers." American Journal of Human Genetics 59 (1996): 1126-1133.

For more information about the DNA of Jewish Cohens and Levites, see:
Studies of Cohens and Levites

Jewish Genetics: Abstracts and Summaries - Index