Can DNA Testing Confirm Jewish Ancestry

February 4, 2020

Sequencing and examining your genetic signature can definitely answer some relevant questions that will satisfy your curiosity and at the same time reveal actionable information related to your health, wellness, and genetic predispositions for numerous hereditary maladies.

This is especially important for individuals with Jewish ancestral origins who are more susceptible to a wide variety of severe genetic diseases and conditions due to historic segregation and consanguineous marriages in some genetic populations.

Keep reading to learn more about the overall reach of modern at-home DNA tests and the types of ancestral and health-related information they can reveal.

The Scope Of Modern DNA Tests

Before anything else, you have to understand the limitations of contemporary at-home DNA testing solutions.

First of all, the most reputable testing providers usually only cover Ashkenazi and Sephardic genetic origins and hereditary conditions common for these two groups. In other words, the most popular ancestry DNA tests are able to determine your Jewish roots, but they cannot pinpoint your exact ethnic population unless you belong to these two groups. Consequentially, they also cover hereditary illnesses specific to Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. If your genetic roots stem from other branches of the Israelite population, your ancestry DNA test report will not be able to provide you with an overly accurate estimate.

If you perform your ancestry tests with companies like MyHeritage or Ancestry, your genetic results will be complemented with billions of genealogical records, including pictures, old documents, census records, journals, and many other relevant sources. This will allow you to “humanize” your testing results, discover relatives from the past, and even identify some living genetic relatives.

When it comes to genetic diseases and conditions, modern at-home DNA tests will provide you with a list of relevant genetic mutations that increase your chances of developing certain maladies during your life or passing them on to your children. Since children have a 25% chance of developing certain diseases if both parents carry a causal mutation on the same gene, it is very important for both you and your partner to get tested before producing any offspring. Even if your children do not develop certain diseases themselves, they can still be carriers and pass the traits to their offspring. Health-related DNA tests can determine your carrier status for the most dangerous hereditary conditions specific to Jewish populations. One of the best health-related at-home DNA tests on the market is provided by 23andMe.

Can At-Home DNA Tests Confirm Your Jewish Ancestry?

The short answer is yes, DNA tests offered by the companies we mentioned can pinpoint your geographic point of origin, determine the migration routes of your ancestors throughout history, allow you to connect with potential relatives within their databases, and generate your family tree.

As we already said, if you belong to the Ashkenazi or Sephardic subgroups, your chances of receiving a more detailed outline of your ancestral roots are much higher. One of the reasons for this is the composition of databases featured by popular DNA testing providers. Namely, Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews are simply the most numerous groups, which means companies have more related DNA profiles within their databases.

Doctor getting saliva test sample in clinic hospital

This composition also affects your ability to identify potential genetic relatives once your DNA has been sequenced. In other words, companies can only match your unique genetic signature with DNA profiles in their databases. Having said that, all reputable providers allow you to download your raw DNA file, which can then be used with other companies and compared with DNA results in their respective databases.

The companies we mentioned feature autosomal DNA tests, which means they examine thousands of genetic markers within your non-gender chromosomes. This means they generate their estimates by comparing your genetic signature with other profiles in their databases. However, companies like Family Tree DNA offer dedicated mt and Y-chromosome tests, which examine your direct maternal and paternal ancestral lines. This is very important since your Jewish identity is confirmed through your maternal lineage. It is said that 40% of all Ashkenazi Jews can pinpoint their genetic origins to four Jewish women who lived more than 1,000 years ago.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, we can state that modern at-home ancestry tests can definitely determine your Jewish origins, either by comparing your DNA with other Jewish signatures in their database or by performing direct mitochondrial DNA screening. If you belong to Ashkenazi or Sephardic subgroups, your chances of identifying your ancestral roots are much higher since most popular providers only cover these two populations.

Some DNA testing companies also provide users with billions of genealogical sources, so you can piece a puzzle of your living relatives you never knew about and form a family tree that includes potential relatives from the distant past.

Lastly, contemporary at-home DNA tests can determine your predisposition for numerous genetic diseases as well as your carrier status for certain conditions you can potentially pass on to your offspring.

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