Monthly Archives: January 2019

Genealogy… Ancestors Concealed Jewish Origins

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I don’t know what it says about me that I was blown away when I saw evidence of ancient Jewish ancestry. Or what it reveals that after nine years, I still have trouble believing it. It all started with a book that I was writing about a romance between a Christian and a Jew during the Crusades. I brought home oversized books by the pound, giving myself a crash course on European history. Then I merged onto the Internet and found a plethora of ancient documents. I saw names of Portuguese merchants during the Middle Ages that were similar to names I’d uncovered in my “Dutch” family tree. Then I read “Rembrandt’s Jews” by Steven Nadler, (University of Chicago Press). Nadler paints a portrait of Inquisitional Jews hiding in plain sight in old Amsterdam. The more I studied these colorful people, the more I became convinced that my ancestors were Jews who’d fled north to escape the Inquisition. Yesterday, I received an updated DNA report from 23andMe, informing that, six to eight generations ago, my ancestors were from Spain/Portugal. The Inquisition was more than eight generations ago but these people married within their group so would maintain the same genetic make-up as their ancestors. Having seen their surname on a list of Jews kicked out of Spain during the Inquisition, I should not be surprised but I am. That’s what happens when your family has… Secret Genealogy.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret GenealogyA How-to for Tracing Ancient Jewish Ancestry. Available here: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-Volume-Suellen-Ocean/dp/0965114082

Genealogy… What Do Names Tell Us? That They’re Jews?

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Names are becoming my favorite genealogy tell-all. Yes, they can and do change through the years but even the changes are telling. In today’s modern world, about once a week I hear of Jewish names that were Anglicized. Usually, it’s a radio talk show host, TV personality or otherwise famous person in the public eye. It happened a thousand years ago, and it still happens today. It’s not uncommon for people to dislike their name but it is unfortunate that when culture meets culture, a cherished surname can become one that’s continually laughed at.

One of my Dutch ancestors had the word “Jow” written after his name, and no one knows what that means. I think the Early American Dutch clerk thought he was writing “Jew.” Jood is Dutch for Jew. My husband’s great-great-grandfather was named Gedeon. In parentheses, is the word “Jeddi.” And speaking of nicknames, the word “Jew” is sort of an English nickname. Jehudi is the ancient Hebrew word for Jew. I wonder… Jehudi… Jeddi. I’m sure it was his nickname. Like Robert to Bobby or James to Jimmy. But it’s still fun to explore these things. And wonder…

Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret GenealogyA How-to for Tracing Ancient Jewish Ancestry. Available here: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-Volume-Suellen-Ocean/dp/0965114082

Wait… Jews Are Not White?

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I heard a San Francisco radio talk show host say that he wasn’t white because he was Jewish. Wait… what? The idea that Jews are not white is new to me. Most of the Jews that I know, are fair skinned or have olive complexions. Of course, there are many black Jews, I saw them on the streets of Tel Aviv. The history of the return of black Jews to Israel from Africa, is a fascinating story. And Sammy Davis Junior was black. He became a Jew. Need we remember that Jewish is also a religion? Confusing, I know.

What “white” and “black” are used for is census reports and birth certificates and employment applications, although for decades we’ve been able to choose “decline to state.” Which I sometimes do and sometimes don’t. However someone wishes to identify, I’m alright with it. To be honest with you, since my DNA tests show that I have a small amount of Native American ancestry and a small amount of sub-Saharan, I smile when I think that I could check the box that says “black” or “Native American.” I’d love to do that. I won’t though. It might create a nightmare scenario for me at an airport someday. But just so you know, I’m really proud that I found a little color in my family tree. I’ve rested easier ever since because I just knew it was there. I’m not so crazy after all. Follow your intuition wherever it might lead. A very important point to remember when studying your family genealogy.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret GenealogyA How-to for Tracing Ancient Jewish Ancestry. Available here:

http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-Volume-Suellen-Ocean/dp/0965114082