Who Were the Ashkenazi Jewish People, and Are You Related to Them?


If you ever get your DNA tested, you might be surprised to discover a certain percentage of Ashkenazi Jewish DNA. Many people with European ancestry who are not practicing Jews and know of no Jewish ancestors do discover some Ashkenazi in them. There is a lengthy discussion on the topic on 23andme.com, a popular DNA testing site. People are using the discussion to try to determine their Jewish ancestors and their origins after discovering they are descended from some of the Ashkenazi population. Here’s what you need to know about the Ashkenazi Jewish people, and how they are different genetically from the general Jewish community.
The name Ashkenazi comes from a Biblical person named Ashkenaz. He was the eldest son of Gomer. Gomer was a grandson of Noah through Noah’s son Khaphet. This makes Ashkenaz a great-grandson of Noah. The Jewish population in eastern and central Europe began being distinguished from the Holy Land Jewish people by the use of the name Ashkenazi in the early Medieval period of history. There was a Christian custom at this time of calling areas of Jewish settlement in Europe with Biblical names, which is how the Ashkenzazis received their name. By the later Medieval period, the term Ashkenazi was used for the German and French Jewish populations alone and was even adopted by the Jewish people and scholars of the area themselves...