Genealogy Turns Up Jewish Roots



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Welcome to the Tribe

By Ingrid Briles

For the last ten or fifteen years, I have been drawn to read the scriptures in depth, and have been impressed as I read and began to pay attention to things that I never noticed. There was a time when I read the "Begets" (or so I had called them as a child) that I just paged past them. During this time of re-reading the Bible, I actually read every single "Begat". One day, there was an inner nudge to my soul that said, Well, you know who came before Noah, and his father, Lamech, and his father, Methusalah, all the way back to Adam, but what do you know about your own family?

That day, a journey began. With very little family still living, and no siblings, I began to trace my roots. As I searched, using message boards on the various genealogy sites, I began to hear from actual 'cousins'.

"Hi there! Your grandfather Charles and my grandfather Chester were brothers. I am sending you information on Charles' lineage. Good to meet you Cousin!"

"Hello. I saw your posting on Your Great-grandmother and my great-grandmother were sisters. After your great-grandmother passed away, my great-grandmother raised your grandfather, his brother, and his sister. Looking forward to sharing information with you."

And so it went. Once I had actual names, I learned where to go for more information; such as birth records, family Bibles, obituaries, military records, etc. Then I hit a brick wall. One of our surnames was very unusual, but I found matches in New York, New Jersey, and Tennessee. Our branch of the family was from Pennsylvania. I contacted the people in Tennessee, who were very certain that they had no ancestors in the North and never had. The New York branch had changed the spelling, and had no desire to communicate any further. In New Jersey, our surname was hyphenated with another unusual name. I looked the name up in an online telephone directory, and called the listing in Burlington. A gentleman with a very thick accent answered the telephone, and a fascinating part of my history emerged.

He was a Russian Jew, and yes, he knew of our family. One of his family members had worked on their genealogy and had traced the family through Russia and the Ukraine, back to 1644, as they escaped various Pogroms throughout the years. A son had immigrated to America, to New York, in 1742, and his son, my first naturalized ancestor, had settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1778, after the Revolutionary War. The man on the telephone was the first of the family to come to America since that time.

I am a Christian, and had no idea that there was a strong Jewish link in our family. An odd side note is that my grandmother's family were all Mennonites who had been chased all over Europe, and had finally fled to America for religious freedom in 1710.

Really excited about the news, I contacted a company that tests DNA. My Uncle, the person who would carry the YDNA of all the males in the line, submitted saliva for testing. The results came back that his markers matched people in Poland, Germany, Moldavia, Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine. Over 50 markers were listed as Ashkenazi. On my maternal side, or MtDNA, there are also many Ashkenazi markers, or mothers, including one Cohen.

I have to share my feelings here. As a Christian, I can't begin to tell anyone how wonderful it feels to know that my blood carries the same blood as Noah, Ruth, Esther and even King David.

I am a history buff to start with and even more so now that I have found a whole new side to our family's history. I have read Jewish history and stories with 'new eyes'. I recently attended a talk and book signing by a Jewish author. Afterwards when I purchased her book, I told her a little about my discovery. She smiled broadly, shook my hand, and said, "Welcome to the tribe!"

No one had ever voiced that to me. I felt a voice in my soul whisper, Yes, Welcome Home.


from the July 2008 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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