Category Archives: Genealogy

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

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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:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/0965114082

Secret Genealogy II:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/1484053222

Secret Genealogy III:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/148407579X

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The History of Hot, Black Egyptians

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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:

https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-Hamite-Ancestors-Family/dp/153518972X

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

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

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

Think You Might Have Jewish Ancestry?

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More and more people are beginning to wonder, “Gee, do I have Jewish ancestry that no one told me about?” That answer may be a loud YES. Some people are just now opening their eyes and seeing what was right in front of them and they never thought to ask. Why would they? We trust our parents and grandparents. They tell us the truth. Why wouldn’t they tell us? I can give you a one word answer. SAFETY.

Whether someone is Irish, Mexican, Italian, German, you name it, historically there’s been disparaging remarks said about them. Said about everybody. I don’t see it coming to a stop. If you have Jewish ancestry and your elders were mum about it, they were only trying to keep you safe. Or let you have the same opportunities as others. No, it’s not fair but it is what it is and that is what happened. It is though, never too late to explore your Jewish ancestry and their heritage. Your heritage. It’s not as hard as you think and today, there are many more resources available.

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

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