Sunday, December 16, 2018

DNA Hinting At Ancestral Origins?

Genetic genealogy doesn't exist in a vacuum.  Many people who take DNA tests assume that their results will come with a fully populated (and maybe even documented) family tree back generations.  While DNA doesn't work like that (unless you are a good match to me), it can point you to places to do additional research, that you may not have known about otherwise.

Last Sunday, I got a message through MyHeritage from a woman named Kathy who said that many of my kits matched her sister-in-law Dorothy.  Generally when I get messages like this, I ask which kits match, and then I get to respond that they are from various lines of my family and are not related to one another, and I explain about endogamy.  But her response was different.  Everyone that Dorothy's kit matched was related on my maternal grandmother's side.  So I took a look.
Chromosome 3 - Shared segments between Dorothy and my family

Dorothy matched my mother and uncle and my grandmother's first cousin in the same 25cM segment on chromosome 3.  My grandmother's sister Ruth shared part of that segment with Dorothy as well.  That would have been intriguing enough, but then I saw chromosome 14.
Chromosome 14 - Shared segments between Dorothy and my family

Dorothy matched my mother and uncle and grandmother's sister on a 30cm+ segment on chromosome 14.  And she matched my grandmother's first cousin Helen in that same place with a segment of over 50cm!  That's huge!

But there's something else huge here.  Dorothy's family is Ukrainian and has no oral history of Jewish ancestry.  But Dorothy did come back with 5% Ashkenazic Jewish in her ethnicity.  Clearly that ancestor that contributed 5% of her DNA also contributed parts of her chromosomes 3 and 14.  Also, Dorothy's family is from Galicia, while my family emigrated from further south (Maramaros, Hungary)--but in an area whose Jews previously had mostly come from Galicia.  And my Rutner family has oral history of coming from Galicia!

Two of Dorothy's siblings have tested.  One doesn't match my family, but the other inherited that segment of chromosome 3.  Dorothy's first cousin Lenora shares that segment of chromosome 14 with my family.

I then looked closer at my other kits.  It turns out that while my cousin Ron doesn't share any huge segments of DNA with Dorothy, he does share 3 chunks of that large chromosome 14 segment.
Chromosome 14 - Shared segments between Dorothy and my family--including Ron

So it looks like my family's connection with Dorothy's is via my shared ancestors with Ron--my great-great-great grandparents, Mendel Rutner and Ita Farkas.

Dorothy's family is from near what is now Zalishchyky, Ukraine, in what is today the Ternopil Oblast.  Could an ancestor of Mendel or Ita have come from that area--with a relative who was an ancestor of Dorothy?

I then turned to some of GedMatch's tools.  I looked at other kits that matched both my cousin Helen and Dorothy and shared at least 20cM with both.  Besides my own kits and Kathy's kits, there were only 5 other email addresses that qualified.

  • Two people responded and said they weren't sure about their ancestral origins
  • One is someone I'd corresponded with a few years ago.  The woman's grandmother was from Zolochiv and her grandfather from Monasterzyska--both in Galicia. 
  • The other two haven't yet responded.
I then used GedMatch's Matching Segment Search, using Dorothy's kit.  (Since she has such a small percentage of Jewish ancestry, endogamy will be less of an issue.  I also used a segment threshold of 20cM which helps to cut down on endogamy as well.)

There were four more kits that appeared here.  Two haven't yet responded, but I recognized the email address of the four--Steve Jaron of JGS Pittsburgh.  That kit belonged to his mother.  I asked about any known ancestry from Galicia or Maramaros, and sure enough, Steve knew.
Her father's ancestry is from Galicia, more specifically:
  • Direct ancestors on her father's father's side from Tarnopol, Veilkaya Berezovica, and Zloczow
  • Direct ancestors on her father's mother's side from Stanislawow, Zabolotiv and Brody
Złoczów was the Polish name for what is now Zolochiv--and where that woman I corresponded with a few years ago had ancestry--but it is pretty far from Dorothy's family origins.  However, Zabolotiv is much closer, which is intriguing.

I found one of Dorothy's cousins on Family Tree DNA.  Most of the matches duplicated those from GedMatch, but there was another who was a shared match with some of my kits (and because we know we are dealing with large shared segments with my kits, endogamy isn't an issue, so shared matches is a good methodology).  This person listed one of his ancestral surnames as Rotter from Snyatyn, Ukraine.  Snyatyn is near Zabolotiv and Dorothy's Zalishchyky.  And could Rotter and my family's Rutner be the same?

I looked for Rutners in JRI Poland and Gesher Galicia records.  And while there are no indexed (or possibly existing) Zalishchyky records from the 1700s or 1800s, there was a Rittner family who was from Zalishchyky who had children in a town for which there are records.

And something else interesting--despite both MyHeritage and GedMatch showing large shared segments with my family, Dorothy doesn't match either my mother or uncle on Ancestry.  Could this be their Timbr algorithm messing with things?

Kathy's going to research Dorothy's part of the family in local church records, looking for any Jewish people marrying into the family or other town names associated with the family.

From my family's perspective, all of the common matches with Dorothy's family are from the eastern half of Galicia, generally in the area around Ternopil.  This may be pointing to my family's pre-Hungarian origins, which mirrors what the family stories said.  With endogamy, it's difficult to do this kind of analysis for Jews in most cases, because of the inter-relatedness.  But this intriguing match to someone with very little Jewish ancestry makes techniques like shared matches much more informative.

Any other thoughts or ideas?  Please comment below!

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  1. Very nice - the match and the analysis.

  2. I wish I could do one tenth of what you seem to be capable of doing. I get sooo many emails of matches from Ancestry, Geni, Family Tree DNA, My Heritage 23and me and I'm also in Gedmatch. You inspire me by showing that sometimes it is possible to make sense of this...even whith the issue of endogamy muddying the picture.

    1. Oh good! One of the reasons I blog is to show people what is possible.

      Endogamy makes things more challenging but definitely not impossible.

  3. Hello, Your match story remembers mine. I ´ m looking for my only jewish maternal ggf line. I have 10% jewish origin and my mom has 23%. Her best matches are around 98-70 centimorgans with longest block aroud 30cm . Her best matches are not mine. When I triangulate with or without my mom's 1/2 cousins (or my half 2C ) I can identify those matches from my mysterious ggf line. But they all match together ! I ´m stuck with the endogamy question. I don't know how to identify who is a real true match. Beatrice from Switzerland

    1. Those aren't great matches when dealing with endogamy. What platform(s) is she on?

  4. She is on FTDNA (Best match 73/23 or 50/27 depending on the criteria). I uploaded her results in gedmatch (matches there Are 63/10 or 44/20 , 39/25 ) uploaded too At myheritage (Best match 98/39 or 63/20 . Some with a seldom big 40 cM segment) This year she tested also at 23&me (best match 70% in 5 segments) and Ancestry (best match 33cM in 3 segments).

    1. Wow, those are really low. (And I've found that MyHeritage tends to find large segments that aren't truly there when you look at FTDNA or GedMatch). I'm not sure how to advise you other than hoping that someone else tests and helps to solve the mystery.