Genealogy… Ancestors Concealed Jewish Origins


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:

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