Author Archives: Suellen Ocean

About Suellen Ocean

With a Bachelor of Arts degree from Sonoma State University, Suellen Ocean does her writing from the hills of Northern California. She began writing professionally for print and radio broadcasting in the late 1980's. Her first self-published book led to her becoming "officially" published, when in 1998 she was asked to participate in the anthology, "The Simple Life" through Berkley Books, New York. She is the author of sixteen books on diverse subjects.

Those Elusive Jewish Ancestors, Let the Iberian Truth Prevail


Those of you who’ve read my books, know that I write about uncovering ancient Jewish ancestry. You’ve read about my researching my father-in-law’s Jewish ancestry and how I stumbled onto clues that my ancestors were also Jews. But I could not prove it. There were so many clues but nothing was concrete. Even though seeing their surname on a list of Jews asked to leave Spain during the Spanish Inquisition was more proof, it didn’t mean it was my ancestors. They could have shared the same name. But today, when I decided to look at my 23andMe composition chart and see what changes they’d made, I saw this:

“You most likely had a fourth-great-grandparent, fifth-great-grandparent, sixth-great-grandparent, or seventh-great- (or greater) grandparent who was 100% Spanish & Portuguese. This person was likely born between 1680 and 1770.”

The descendants of the former Jews of Spain and Portugal are called Sephardim. The DNA testing companies are getting better at finding not just Ashkenazic Jewish ancestry but Sephardic too. Finding Spanish & Portuguese ancestry does not prove 100% that my ancestors were Jews. But their surname, Bonte is on the list of Jews asked to leave Spain. Maybe the next time that I check, there will be more DNA discoveries. Keep digging away at those Iberian clues. Sooner or later, the truth will prevail.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret GenealogyA How-to for Tracing Ancient Jewish Ancestry, Secret Genealogy IIUncovering the Jewish Roots of Our Christian Ancestors, Secret Genealogy III From Jewish Anglo-Saxon Tribes to New France Acadians. Available here:

Secret Genealogy:

Secret Genealogy II:

Secret Genealogy III:


Genealogy… Jewish, Jewish, Jewish… and Our Christian Ancestors Never Knew?


It wasn’t until I was researching Jewish genealogy for my father-in-law that I began to see a pattern in my matriarchal line. Never had I suspected that my Banta/Bonte ancestors were Jewish, there was never any reason to. We weren’t Jewish. It was never brought up. I should have suspected something. Growing up with only a Southern and Mid-Western identity, should have been a red flag. But when you’re sixteen, who cares? Except for the occasional What are we Mommy? so that I could chime in when my friends recited their ethnic backgrounds, it didn’t matter.

Once I was on the trail to uncover the truth about my ancient ancestry, I was pleased to see the surname Bonte on the list of Jews asked to leave Spain. Great lead. These same ancestors changed their surname to Jacobse and were known to use Jacobs. Jacobse, Jacobs and Jacobi are all Hebrew names. Even Epke, which my very ancient ancestor went by, I believe means Jacob. And the surname Leeuw was used as well. Leeuw and all its variations are Dutch for “Lion,” which is what medieval Jews were required to use when they signed documents. I was so astonished by these findings, I became obsessed with uncovering the truth behind many an American surname.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret GenealogyA How-to for Tracing Ancient Jewish Ancestry, Secret Genealogy IIUncovering the Jewish Roots of Our Christian Ancestors, Secret Genealogy III From Jewish Anglo-Saxon Tribes to New France Acadians, Available here:

Secret Genealogy:

Secret Genealogy II:

Secret Genealogy III:

Black Genealogy… Looking at three African tribes that make up the Hamites


Noah’s son Ham is believed to be the progenitor of the Hamites, an ethnic group in North-East Africa. The Hamites descend from the Himyarite Kingdom (ancient Yemen) and blended with other African tribes, including the Hottentot, Bantu and the Masai. Let’s look at those three groups:


The Dutch called them Hottentot, they called themselves Khoi-Khoin. Stop me here why don’t you? I look for ancient Jewish ancestral clues. Khoin? Any relation to Cohen? Anyway, glancing at my old encyclopedia, it states that the Hottentot are the result of “early intermingling of semi-Hamite negroids” with bushwomen “perhaps” from Somaliland. “Racial purity has been affected by Boer and Bantu contact.” (The Boer were the descendants of the Dutch settlers. “Contact” is putting it mildly.) Further reading I see the expression, “half-breed” and further down the encyclopedia entry grows more confusing but this jumps out, “and at first called Bastaards, are of Dutch-Hottentot descent.” The Hottentot are described as being, “weak-limbed, brownish-yellow, long-headed, 5 ft 3 ins., with pointed chins and matted hair…”

Bantu” means “the people” and is used to define numerous African tribes with a variety of dialects. My old encyclopedia states that most of the black people “living in equatorial and southern Africa (except the Pigmies) belong to the great Bantu family. It is believed that originally the Bantus lived in Eastern Africa and at some later period pushed their way south and west.” Taking a look at my globe I see that the Bantu people could have come from the Holy Land thus making them Bani-Israel, Children of Israel. According to the same Grolier Encyclopedia, the languages of black Africans fall into five major groups: Bushman, Bantu, Sudanic, Hamitic and Semitic. The Bantu group has 400 languages.

Wikipedia describes the Masai as a “Nilotic ethnic group.” Nilotic means they are associated with the Nile River. Wikipedia says that they inhabit “northern, central and southern Kenya and northern Tanzania.” My old encyclopedia describes the Masai as having a “predatory temperament” due to “Hamitic contact.” Many were removed to a reservation and many reside in East Africa, Masailand. They are described as, “sinewy, round-headed, thin-lipped people, with Caucasoid nose…”

The “intermingling” of these tribal people with the Dutch, gave nature a vast genetic pool from which to draw. Resulting in… us.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret Genealogy IIUncovering the Jewish Roots of Our Christian Ancestors. Available here:

and Secret Genealogy V – Black, White and Hamite; Ancestors of Color in Our Family TreesAvailable here:

The History of Hot, Black Egyptians


You’ve come to read my post about hot, black Egyptians, only to find that I’m making Biblical references? Yes, of course. I’m going to reference Noah from the book of Genesis. He had a son named Ham, whom the Bible tells us is the progenitor of the Ethiopians and the North African nations. If you have North African ancestry or your Iberian ancestry traces back to North Africa, and if the Biblical reference is true, you descend from Noah’s son Ham. The ancient Biblical name for Egypt is Ham and it means hot or black. I see no reason why someone can’t be both hot and black but I need not digress.

Ham is referenced in Psalms 105 and 106. My old encyclopedia informs me that the wording in these passages confirms that another name for Egypt is indeed Ham. But another entry in the same encyclopedia states that, “Their relationship to the ancient Egyptians is still undecided.” Using the Bible to uncover the origins of our ancient ancestry is intriguing. There is much to explore.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret Genealogy V – Black, White and Hamite; Ancestors of Color in Our Family TreesAvailable here:

Curious About Whether You Have Jewish Ancestry? Their History is Fascinating


The history of the Jewish people is fascinating. While reading, “The Weight of Ink” by Rachel Kadish, I came across ancient Jewish history that I’ve always wondered about. Masada. Having heard a lot about Masada, I looked it up in a Bible concordance and it isn’t listed. What an oversight. It’s an old Bible, having both Old and New Testaments, but that doesn’t matter, it should be listed in that concordance. A Biblical concordance lists important names and histories. In 2008, almost 722,000 people visited Masada, making it the most popular Israeli tourist site that year. That’s an important Holy Land location.

Masada is a mountaintop where Jews got trapped by the Romans. These quotes from “The Weight of Ink,” tell us all we need to know.

“… choose death with honor,” the guide recited, “and do the kindest thing we can for ourselves, our wives, and our children, while it is still possible to show ourselves any kindness.” Each man, Eliezer urged, must kill his family. ..”

“order to be determined by lot, the men would slaughter one another. The final man standing would kill himself—but only after setting fire to the food stores so that the Romans would be denied that prize. Only one food storeroom and water cistern would be left intact, to mock the Romans with its bounty. Let the Romans find the food and the brimming cistern, and the bodies tenderly laid in a row.”

“Jews had chosen death, rather than slavery to the Romans and their gods.”

“And Josephus knew because two Jewish women, one old and one young, hid in a cave with some children during the killing. In their cowardice they were caught and made slaves by the Romans, and the women told their story to Josephus [Flavius].”

“They were traitors. But they did at least the good of keeping the story alive.”

My thanks to author Rachel Kadish for using her historical fiction to tell the history of the Jewish people.

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

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:

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


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: