Question of the Week: Do you have Jewish roots?

+17 votes
2,433 views

Do you have any Jewish ancestors? Answer below.

You might consider joining the Jewish Roots project to help identify and honor your Jewish ancestors.

We also have a Holocaust Project that is working to memorialize and remember victims of the Holocaust. These ancestors are difficult to research and document. If you have information that will help this project, please let them know!

asked Jan 5 in The Tree House by Julie Ricketts G2G6 Pilot (217,920 points)

Bravo, Bob! and THANKS for yr note DIRECTLY ABOVE. We'll need to remind people to join!! Our resources page is a very important part of Jewish roots research! 

I just found a note from a documentary Jewish film I saw yesterday, stating its source: JEWISHFILM.org (don't capitalize it.) The one Id's seen was about Ruth Gruber, a photo-journalist and journalist during the 1940s and on. An amazing woman in a time when being a major figure was "not for girls." 

Thanks, Julie, it’s your Question of the Week that stirred up interest. Not sure what you mean by ‘post the link to your joining post!
Also not sure why that last message was from ‘anonymous’, since it ws me!
Several of the responders seem to be quite surprised by their Jewish roots. I encourage them to go to https://www.jewishgen.org/JewishGen/FirstTimer.html

For those of us who are more experienced, I believe we of Wikitree really need to fix (not replace) several of the parameters. One suggestion in the responses was that there needs to be a place for patronymics. Almost all Jews before 1820 (as well as lots of others, especially Icelanders even today, and Russians Christians) used patronymics and had no last names. How do we with place these people on Wikitree, such as my grandson's Nigerian ancestors (including the 19th century kings!), who did not even have patronymics? Or Spanish speakers who use the father's surname second and the mother's surname last? The Wikitree REQUIREMENT known as "Last Name At Birth" is completely inconsistent with the goal of having a worldwide database. (I would not call it racist, but I know lots of people would. Better terms might be "ethnocentric bias".)

I regret that I do not have any easy answers. But these are issues that need to be addressed by Wikitree, if it is to fulfill its mission.
This question stimulated many more responses from Jewish members--and YES, we want you to join JEWISH ROOTS PROJECT so we can have discussions that are centered around the details of your roots!!!!!

Thank you Julie Rickets!!!!!
I'm so happy to hear that, Roberta! You're welcome. :-)

And Robert ... by "joining post," I meant the G2G post that the Jewish Roots project uses to invite people to join the project.
Hi, Ken --

There are some limitations about the number of name fields we have available to work with. We are aware that it's not ideal, but changing and/or adding new fields requires development time and resources that aren't easy to come by.

A number of our projects have had to work within those limitations, and they've develop naming standards specific to their projects. This page might be helpful for you: https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Space:Name_Field_Guidelines
Ashkenazi Jewish, European Jewish, Levant which may or may not be Jewish
Thanks, Julie. I know that LNAB is the essential key field. I will look further.

If one is able to research far enough back in time, no one had a surname. Patronymic names can be very unsatisfactory, especially since the same person might have his father's name in one document and his grandfather's in another. And then there is the question about women of whom we do not know their parents, and especially for whom the mother's names are lost completely. Not easy.
You're absolutely right, Ken!! It's not easy at all!!

The Sweden Project has done extensive work with patronymics. I don't know how alike or different their naming issues are to what you're dealing with, but I'm sure the project leaders would be happy to help you if they can. Here's the project page: https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Project:Sweden

Good luck!

33 Answers

+8 votes
 
Best answer

Yes, and I'm hoping that WikiTree will add features in the future that will make it more capable of representing data relevant to ancestry needs of non-western civilizations.

The following features would greatly benefit the needs of Ashkenazi genealogists:

  1. Support for dual first names
  2. Support for entering and showing names in more than two languages while clearly identifing that as one and the same info. For example: I have ancestors whose names were recorded differently in the following languages (all for one person): Old Russian, German, Latvian, Lithuanian, Russian. It would also be nice to be able to add English spelling variations as well even if none of the documents were in English. And of course, all those fields should be searcheable.
  3. Support for entering Russian patronymic names as those were always present in official documents.
  4. Ability to enter contemporary location name as was well as its present-day-equivalent google maps searcheable address.
  5. Nice family tree charts that deal elegantly with endogamy :)
answered Jan 6 by Patrick Munits G2G6 (6,220 points)
selected Jan 12 by Roberta Burnett
I hope more users will enter Hebrew as well and other world languages in the biographies.  For example https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Simon-1403
I agree, in general, with your points Patrick.

1. Doesn’t seem to be a problem. I’ve entered dual first names for several Scandinavian and Jewish ancestors and Wikitree doesn’t complain.

2. I’ve been putting the various language varieties in the Bio text and sometimes adding Polish, Lithuanian, or whatever, Categories for places.  Can’t imagine multiple entry boxes for multiple languages.

3. Other groups (the Scandinavians) put the patronymic as Middle Name if there is a Surname, but in the LNAB if there is no ‘family name’.

4.  See #2

5.  As if ;-)
Yes, of course! I forgot the calendars! Definitely there's a need for support of both the Hebrew and Julian calendars. Most dates of Ashkenazi ancestors from 19th/early 20th century Russia are in Julian calendar, and were in fact never converted to Gregorian calendar when they arrived to Americas.
The issue with nicely storing and displaying names in different languages will get resolved once WikiTree will start fully supporting Unicode. I still see a issues related to fonts.

However, the displaying Unicode characters and actually being able to fully integrate them are two different things. For example here's a list of how my great-grandfather surname appeared in official documents over a span of just 35 years in a single European city:

Муницъ - old Russian imperial passport 1906
מוניץ - marriage record - 1913
Munitz - WWI occupation era documents - 1916
Munic - early Latvian independence IDs - 1920
Munics - post-reform Latvian documents - 1929
Муниц - Latvian SSR, Soviet Union period - 1941

I'd also like to add English transliteration (Munits) of this Surname to the official list. Storing and showing these variations is not such a big deal, it mostly works fine. However, WikiTree is only fractionally capable of finding the proper profile when multiple surnames are used. This is a major shortcoming that I'm sure lessens the popularity of this otherwise fantastic genealogical platform among non-English speakers.

The whole interface should also be extended to allow menu, navigation, etc to be displayed in any language. The actual work of doing the proper translation can be performed by volunteers. I'm pretty sure such extensions in functionality can help increase popularity and use among genealogists from other countries.
Patrick, I'm just going to throw one more thing in here for you.  The Lituanian records I find for Munitz or Munits using "sounds like" at jewishgen.org almost all show up there as Munetse.  The only variants I encountered on a recent search were 1 or 2 Munitse instantiations, so I think that's probably another needed variant.

Also, please add Hebrew and Yiddish to your item 2 - I often find names there in either Yiddish or Latin character equivalents of Hebrew.
My great-grandfather never lived in Lithuania per-se, but for a period of a fee years he did obtain Lithuanian citizenship while living in Latvia. I omitted the Lithuanian spelling variation of our surname. I also didn't bother with additional different proper legal forms that are to be used by married or single women in Lithuania. Of course feminine form of spelling Munitz surname in Latvia is also yet another version.

Some versions even a smart soundex can't handle.
On top of all that, the myriad "proper legal forms" are only the tip of the iceberg because I don't know anything about Latvia, but in Lithuania what records were kept for Jewish people were mostly recorded by the temple.  In cities or large towns, formal Hebrew names were often the ones recorded, while in less populated and/or rural areas, names were recorded in Yiddish.  To make matters worse, the names recorded were NOT the ones the parents intended for their children - the names they used were local - sometimes slang - versions, while the officials unilaterally recorded what they deemed proper versions of the names selected by the parents.

Trying to deal with this opens a real can of worms!
Bravo, Robert, for all your continuing work on your large energy and information on your also large number of Jewish ancestors.

YES, please add a field for patronyms! It is definitely not the same as a middle name and I have ancestors who had a first name, a middle name and a patronym. People with Russian and Volga German ancestors would benefit from this too!

Great comment, Patrick about having more languages represented in our research pool.The Whole Family Tree goal includes them all, never mind for the nonce that it seems too huge to manage. Things will evolve.
+4 votes
Yes I do. I found this out recently. My grandmother used to say when she was a small girl she used to be taken to a synagogue and she listened to the beautifull singing. I established that her grandmother was a daughter of a catholic mother and a converted father. This father before taking on christian faith in 1846 in Warsaw, Poland, when he became "Józef Majewski" was  "Neuman Spicholtz", and his parents were called Szlama and Hana. The name Spicholtz is hard to locate anywhere, so I am looking for relatives.

 

have a great day,

Kasia
answered Jan 6 by Kasia Marchlińska G2G2 (2,570 points)
Kasia, My father also heard and loved the Jewish music he heard as a child in Connecticut. Music became a dear and private part of his life.
Kasia, how did you discover the information about your gf x 3's conversion? I'm aware it was a life-saving move, and it strikes me as difficult to track.
Not difficult to track at all. Such christenings were noted in books of christenings in parishes. I have a picture of this, will add as a source to his profile shortly. This was 1846 - not a lifesaving situation, surely. He wanted to marry a christian girl. Also there were more career opportunities for christians.

 

best luck in genealogy,

Kasia
+2 votes
My Family is for many generations from Amsterdam (Mokum), my nickname is Manus, so do the Math.
So yes there is, as we say in Amsterdam everyone de Mazzel.

Herman Overmars
Uzelf  →  Antonius Wilhelmus Overmars
your father →  Wilhelmina Dreessen
his mother →  Wilhelmina Catharina Tiernego
her mother →  Bernardus Wilhelmus Tiernego
her father →  Berendina Lot
his mother →  Bernardus Wilhelmus Tiernego
her son →  Jansje van Zaanen
his wife →  Dirk van Saanen
her father →  Andries Dirkse van Sane
his father → Jan Dirkse Van Zanen
his brother →  Dirk van Zanen
his son →  Jan van Zanen
his son →  Dirk van Zanen
his son →  Niesje Beets
his wife →  Tede Beets
her brother →  Maria Elisabeth Beets
his wife →  Geertruida Wilhelmina Mullemeister
her mother →  Arie Emilius Middelkoop
her brother →  Margaretha Frederica Middelkoop
his daughter →  Elias Diamant
her ex-husband →  Sara Zeldenrust
his mother →  Kaatje Elias Zeldenrust
her sister →  Jacob Elias van Mindeno
her husband →  Maartje Aron van Collem
his mother →  Aron Eliazar / Leizer van Collem
her father → Eliazer Abraham van Collem
his father →  Jacob Jokeb Abraham van Kollem
his brother →  Vrouwtje Wolf Coblens
his wife →  Ze'ev Wolf Mozes Koblenz
her father
answered Jan 6 by Herman Overmars G2G6 (6,540 points)
edited Jan 6 by Herman Overmars
+2 votes
My 3x Great Grandmother was Sarah Noah Dacosta, a Serphardi Jew  https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Noah_Decosta-1 though she married a Christian and converted.  He parents were Solomon Noah Dacoata and Leah, but I can't find Leah's LNAB
answered Jan 8 by Christine Frost G2G6 Mach 1 (19,100 points)
https://nl.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Da_Costa
Maybe this can Help you?
Thank you, it bears out that they came to London from Spain/Portugal as we thought. Do others find that the birth names of their Jewish ancestors change or at least are modified, from one generation to another?
+2 votes
2 weeks ago I would have said "No", but after getting my DNA results, I have .01% Ashkenazi Jewish..
answered Jan 8 by Lynn Bloomfield G2G Crew (620 points)
There is likely at least .01% in nearly every eastern European and many western Europeans.  That a pretty tiny ampunt to trace.  Good luck.
Same story with my husband and I.
+2 votes
Yes, Steinfeld in Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Charles Steinfeld (1808-1890) immigrated to the United States sometime before 1846. I have no information on his family in Germany. He settled in Marion County, Ohio. He married, first, Mary Ann Carpenter (1823-1847), in 1846 in Marion County, and, second, Lamira Page McWherter, in 1849 in Marion County, Ohio.
answered Jan 9 by Cathi Lyman G2G Crew (470 points)
+2 votes
I have 2% Eastern Jewish in my DNA.  How can I find my Jewish roots?
answered Jan 9 by anonymous

Do you have any information at all?  Is it your mother’s or father’s side? A country of origin?  You might look at the Jewish Roots Project page. There are several links there. The Jewishgen site is a good place to start.

Anonymous, hi !--  Unless you have unstated reasons for searching your Jewish roots, I'm of the opinion that under 10-12% Jewish means your fairly distant Jewish roots are so small as not to need research, but of course that's up to you and EVERYONE. 1-5%? 5-10% ?: Ditto. 

At 25%, that seems more significant: Your parent is 50% Jewish.

Thank You.  I appreciate an honest answer.  It was just a hope!
+3 votes
My entire family is Jewish as far back as we have records, so yes.
answered Jan 10 by Bill Flarsheim G2G Crew (630 points)
+2 votes
Ashkenazi  genes in my DNA.  Our colonial patriarch arrived as a reformed Christian, but may have been a recent convert per a testimony in his Luther Bible in 1722. He likely came from an area of Germany that included many Ashkenazi Jews.
answered Jan 10 by Roger Shell G2G Crew (460 points)
Tell us more: your story may help others!
I have done much research on my surname's line after they came to the New World. I wish I knew more about how my greatX grandfather came to convert to Christianity in Germany.   There was much persecution of not just Jews, but Protestants as well during the 16th and 17th centuries.  Was my ancestor coerced into converting to Catholicism first, then found faith in the reformed movement?  I don't know.  I have yet to delve into any German records that might exist which explain his history there. I will appreciate any insight from others re:  Jewish records from that era.  I don't know German or Hebrew.
+2 votes
Stutz is my Jewish surname which is also my brick wall.

My father and uncle were estranged from their parents growing up. Some of the stories I have heard were validated with genealogy records, while others are stubs which means to me they changed over time.

My grandfather was Joseph Pierpont Stutz, a U.S. Army veteran. He was a Presbyterian due to his mother was Priscilla Dorris, an Australian immigrant. My great-grandfather was Jackson Stutz. I believe he was banished from the Orthodox Jewish community marrying outside of his religion. I cannot locate any records to support this other then the mention of these names on my grandfather's SS application. His WWI records were destroyed in a fire. I believe Sam Stutz is his brother, but cannot link the correct one to the family because parental names don't match.

My father Alfred told me that my grandfather was an orphan and the large family was taken in by the Wexler family, but we don't know where this happened. Maybe New York, Massachusetts or Ohio as Joseph enlisted in the Army in Ohio after attending 2 years of college.

After I took a DNA test with 23 and Me, there were people contacting me with Jewish names I didn't recognize and their genealogy was not complete enough to reflect where "Stutz" linked into their family. But it was sort of stunning that they also had Slavic (Polish) and Russian in their backgrounds, when I was told our family line is Orthodox Jewish/German.
answered Jan 10 by Judi Stutz G2G6 Mach 1 (15,160 points)

Judi Stutz--  Your narration above is fascinating, and I suggest trying to transfer (it may not be possible) your first DNA test to ftdna.com, a testing company only that does NOT continue to cost and re-cost you over time. It also provides LOTS OF MATCHES, depending on who's tested and that changes every month.

 BUT: If you haven't purchased an autosomal test, at ftdna.com also called the Family Finder (FF), just do that. The test there costs something, but first phone them to find out if you can transfer your 23/Me results and if you need to do more -- just do it. (My matches are in the 4000, or maybe 5, the last time I looked. They increase over time.)

+2 votes
In doing my family research, I came across two different women (direct grandmothers) in the 1700's who had Jewish sounding names. Both are on my mom's mom's line. I had no proof and my dna came back as zero Jewish, which was not a surprise considering how far back these roots go. Then I did my mother's aunt's dna (my great aunt, also sister to my grandmother as both my mom and grandmother are deceased); she is 91 years old and she came back 2% Ashkenazi Jew.

No surprise for me as it confirmed my suspicions that the two ancestors were Jewish, which are in her direct line. So, yes, I have some Jewish roots, but no, I do not carry any Jewish dna.

Since we all come from Noah and his three sons, at some point in history we would have all come from Jewish roots. :)
answered Jan 10 by Lori Smith G2G1 (1,330 points)
Lori--Good sleuthing!
+2 votes
My sixth great-grandfather was Moses Mordecai, who emigrated from Germany to Philadelphia in the 1750's (?).  He was one of the founding members of the Beth Israel congregation there.  He was a merchant who signed the boycott of English goods in the 1770's and his house still exists in Old City Philadelphia.  I would love to know more about him.
answered Jan 10 by Candace Rains G2G Rookie (260 points)
Try his name plus "founding member of Beth Israel temple in Philadelphia. That should give him some history.

Also go to family search.com to seek his vital records.

Thank you!  The congregation was Mikveh Israel not Beth Israel. I even found a picture of his grave.

+2 votes
My grandfather, Maurice Louis Fauerbach [b. Oct 1871 in NY] was Jewish. His father Louis Fauerbach [von Feuerbach] was b. Dec 1833 in Kurhessen, Germany  and came to NY 15 Oct 1853. In general the family came from the Frankfurt area. They left before the holocaust but the records are tough to find
answered Jan 10 by Betty Kennedy G2G Rookie (260 points)
+2 votes
I've have had my DNA tested on several sites and most of them have given me a trace of European Jew. I have lines that go back into European Royalty and Nobility and I understand that there is a Jewish lineage through those lines.
answered Jan 10 by Gail Hardy G2G Crew (810 points)
+3 votes
Yes,  My grandmother was born in Lithuania and came over with her mother when she was two.  The family subsequently had four children - two boys and two girls.  The girls came first and the patriarch, Abraham, was not happy about that!  The original name was Schindler but when Abraham came over he changed it to Cohn (one of the seven tribes, I think.)  They landed in St. Louis and kept kosher until my grandmother married an Irish Catholic, John Patrick Maher.  The four siblings only produced three children, two of which were brought up Jewish and one of which, my mother , married a Protestant. My great grandmother never saw any of her family after moving to U.S. but a sister moved to South Africa.  The rest were swept away in the Holocaust.  Brave, brave people!
answered Jan 10 by Cynthia Peplinski
My good friend Steve is from a Jewish family, and he tells me that when HIS mother was a young woman in the 1920s and 1930s, she kept in contact with her cousins back in the "old country" via letters. Then World War II happened and... well, let's just say they were never heard from again.
+3 votes
I am still trying to find out who was Jewish in our Family. Hubby is 2% Ashkenazi, and he believes it is from his Polish/Russian side. The rest of his DNA is English and Dutch only 91%. My DNA showed I am 6% Sephardic Jew, and 27% Spain/Portuguese. 2 parts of my DNA I had no clue about. My Uncle (My dad's brother) was tested, and only tested 1% jewish. So I am thinking it is on my NY Grandfathers side. That is the only part of my tree I can not get back past 2xs GG's. but if my Uncle tested for Jewish, wouldn't that mean it's on that side too? Wonder why my % is higher than his? I'll keep digging. =)
answered Jan 10 by Shan Dawson G2G3 (3,240 points)
Your mother could have some Jewish ancestry as well, there's no need for it to be on one side only. :)
Oh ok, thank you. I will keep looking to see who it is. =)
+3 votes
Yes, but I have yet to discover who they were. I have over 100 96% to 99% Ashkenazi DNA cousins on 23andMe but my 1.1% is so low that my Jewish ancestors may not be recorded in anyone's family trees. I think they are on my father's side from Germany approximately in the mid seventeen hundreds but I can't find any proof. This could be one mystery in my family tree that won't be solved.
answered Jan 10 by Larry Herbstritt G2G Crew (610 points)
+3 votes
Hi,

Jewish roots: the Salvador line would appear to be Spanish /Portuguese Sephardis and my maternal line from right on the German/Polish border would appear to have many connections that were Jewish (although the Dau family was not, as far as I can tell.) The deep roots are Russian, in Bahrain, Scottish all over so most likely, yes. The Cornish and English are not, as far as I can tell.

This is likely to be a very diverse and interesting project.

Regards

Elaine Hooper (born Salvador)
answered Jan 10 by Elaine Hooper G2G Crew (950 points)
+3 votes
I was surprised when I had my DNA done that I came up 1%. I am waiting for my Geno 2.0 to see what it shows. I had my dad's DNA done and he is 2%!

Also, I think some might be surprised to see what they might learn about the Holocaust following this link: https://www.jw.org/en/news/releases/by-region/poland/auschwitz-concentration-camps-liberation/#?insight[search_id]=a6b078d7-c388-4708-b465-197c9f8edfc0&insight[search_result_index]=3
answered Jan 10 by Jamie Thompson G2G Crew (600 points)
Many would also be horrified to learn of the Vatican's involvement in the Holocaust.   The Reichskonkordat of September 1933 gave Hitler the Green light and under the agreement he made with the Vatican the new Church Tax in Germany went straight to Rome.   During the War the Church ran half the Extirmination Camps in Croatia - it is all on the net and Jasenovac was the worst - run by the Franciscan Brothers.   Only one Archbishop - Stepinac got caught and put on trial - let off with 16 years and home imprisonment after 5 years.   Somebody big must have arranged that.
+2 votes
I was raised Jewish (not Christian) by my grandmother, my mother's mother, who lived with us when I was growing up. She had many Jewish customs and insisted her mother was totally Jewish, so I have always known I am a Jew, but now, it turns out, not in the way I had thought. Turns out, it was my grandmother's "wicked" stepmother (Nannie) who was Jewish --the one who raised her, not her birth mother who died when she was four years old.

Nannie was not well regarded by the family. They said she was mean and mistreated my grandmother. But if this were true, then why did my grandmother feel so connected to her? I suspect, therefore, the real reason my mother's family didn't get along with Nannie was because she had insisted on maintaining a Jewish home.

This means, of course, that I am not a Jew by birth, but it hasn't changed the fact that I am Jewish, and I'm no less Jewish than I was before I learned of it. Which may not be Jewish enough by some standards --I have much to learn, I'm sure.
answered Jan 10 by Martyn Mulford G2G6 (9,180 points)

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