Frequently Asked Questions

Typical questions

Q: Are the branches coming from The Middle East?
A: Yes, the distribution of haplogroups of the Ashkenazim is similar to the Middle-East, it is not similar to the distribution of haplogroups in the area of the the kingdom of Khazaria.

Q: Are their many people from Europe that converted to the Jewish religion?
A: No, the amount of people that were converted is not very large, but likely at least 7%. These are the branches R1b-U152, R1b-U152-2-a, R1b-U152-2-b, R1b-P312, R1b-Z159-Ivanhoe, I1-Z140, I2-P37 and R1a-L1029. The R1b-groups probably became Jewish in Spain, the last three groups probably in middle Europe. For several groups we don't know yet.

Q: Is it possible that the story of the Khazars as origin of the Ashkenazim is correct?
A: No, it is not possible that most of the branches came from the Kingdom of Khazaria. We have too many branches passing Iberia. At the moment it is possible that the first groups that arrived in the Polish Lithuanian area came from the Kingdom of Khazaria. In the simulations part of this website it is demonstrated that it is most likely that the presently large groups came earlier to the Polish Lithuanian area. The largest groups are in order or size: R1a-M582, J2a-L556, G-M377, Q1-Y2200, E1b-L791. These five groups are about 35-40% of the Ashkenazi Jews. These groups have characteristics that are different from the groups that passed Iberia. The differences are: the size of the group is larger, the STR-variablity is larger, there are no nearby branches leading to other locations (with the possible exception of Q1-Y2200).
The characteristics suggest that they came early, and they did not pass Iberia in the period of the Caliphate of Cordoba. The other groups that passed Iberia have many converso descendants in Iberia; these five groups don't have that. During the period of the Caliphate there was probably no reason to leave the Caliphate and settle elsewhere. Only one of the five groups (Q1-Y2200) has several relative close descendants in other areas (Kazakhstan, Turkey, Iberia, Britain, Middle East, Algeria). The other four groups have a narrow line in the phylogenetic tree before the expansion of the groups started. One reason can be that the ancestors of the four groups lived in an area where the population did not grow.
If the Y-DNA ancestors of these groups came from Khazaria, it remains open if they came in Khazaria from Judea or their ancestors were Khazars and they became Jewish in the Kingdom of Khazaria. With the limited data available, it is also possible they came from another area to the Polish Lithuanian area, e.g. passing Germany in the middle ages.
The estimated time of the first branch splits of the large branches is before the end of the Kingdom of Khazaria, which makes it more likely that they passed Germany than the Kingdom of Khazaria. The first indication of the SNP estimates of the first branch splits of the large branches give the same estimates as the STR-estimates. In a few years these estimates will become more accurate than the STR-estimates.

Q: Jits van Straten published his book "The Origin of Ashkenazi Jewry: The Controversy Unraveled." in 2011. Does this book explain what happened?
A: No, it does not tell the complete story. See a review of the book and an additional analysis.

Q: Carmi et al. published in August 2014 a research on the history of the Ashkenazim based on auDNA data. Are the conclusions of this article consistent with the analysis of the analysis of this website?
A: Yes, the majority of the conclusions (number of Ashkenazi ancestors, time that this group changed from population bottleneck to strong population growth and average population growth) are consistent. See the a review of the article and a comparison of the results.

Q: Why was this site originally called "40 Ashkenazim"? There are millions of Ashkenazim.
A: When the site started i expected to end with 40 Y-DNA ancestors that are the ancestors of the Ashkenazim. It is clear now that the number should be a larger and about 100. The Y-DNA of the millions of Ashkenazim are the present male-line descendants of these original Y-DNA ancestors.

Q: What do we know about the amount of Ashkenazim in the middle ages?
A: We have about 700.000 Ashkenazi Jews in 1600 in the Polish Lithuanian area. Before that numbers are very uncertain.

Q: Are the statistics influenced by the Holocaust?
A: No. The simulation deals with the period until 1900. The knowledge on the size of the Jewish population in 1900 is good. The distribution of the large Y-DNA groups over the geographical area of the Ashkenazi are the same (see the diagram of the 5 largest branches in different countries. For small groups the statistics is insufficient; their density is so low that the distribution is determined by a small number of individuals.

Q: Do we know when they arrived in Eastern Europe?
A: Some historic knowledge is available, but very limited. The groups were very small when they arrived in the area where the population growth was large. It is insufficient to use in our models.

Q: Being Jews is determined by the female line; why do you care about Y-DNA?
A: The auDNA, mtDNA and Y-DNA show that the mixture between Jews and other groups is very limited over 2000 years. For this work, it is not very important whether one looks at male or female lines. They will give similar results. The Y-DNA data is statistically much richer than the mtDNA (female) data, and is used to get statistically significant results.

Q: Is it possible that the Cohen are descendants of one male ancestor?
A: No. The Cohen analysis made it clear that the Cohen tradition was strong and was maintained for the Ashkenazi period. Eight branches can be called Cohen-branches. They descend from five ancestors at the start of Judaism.

Q: What can we learn from the Romaniote Jews from Greece?
A: This is one of the old groups that left the Middle East and remained stable in the land where they arrived. A small analysis was written in 2016.

Q: How many children were born Jewish with a non-Jewish father?
A: Extremely few. In the Ashkenazi group we find 12% of the branches from Europe and 6% from Iberia and in the Sephardic group we find 6% from Europe and 6% from Iberia. The numbers have uncertainties, but the number is extremely low. For Sephardic the quality on the size of the branches is very limited. If we assume the majority arrived shortly after the arrival of the Islamic Arabs, and the majority remained Jewish until the Edict of Expulsion, we have an upper limit of 12%/24 generations is 0.5%, and the value is likely much lower. It shows that the populations did not mix. In the Ashkenazi situation, we get a similar upper limit (0.5%). This upper limit will go down if we create a suitable simulation. Again, the Jewish populations did not mix with the local population.

Q: How many children were born Jewish with a non-Jewish mother?
A: This can not be deduced from the analysis on this website.

Q: How many children were born non-Jewish with a Jewish mother?
A: This can not be deduced from the analysis on this website.

Q: How many children were born non-Jewish with a Jewish father?
A: This can not be deduced from the analysis on this website.

Q: What was the population growth of the Ashkenazi?
A: This was on average 1.25 per generation. As Jits van Straten has shows, this is much larger than the rest of the population in the country they lived. His explanation was incorrect. Different population growths for different groups (cultural, social, power) in a society is common.

Q: What was the population growth of the Sephardic Jews in Iberia?
A: Given the estimate of 200.000 Jewish persons at the Edit of Expulsion and at least 250 Sephardic branches who are thought to have arrived early after the arrival of the Islamic Arabs, the upper limit is 1.22 per generation. It is likely that this value will go down if more data comes in. The population growth was less than in the Ashkenazi group in the same period.

Q: Did the Ashkenazi ancestors follow the same route arriving in the Ashkenazi counties?
A: No. We know examples of branches that originated in Iberia and arrived in the Ashknazi counties. We know of examples of branches that came from the Middle East (shared ancestors before the start of Judaism with Arabs) and have descendants in Iberia and later in the Ashkenazi countries. We also have examples of branches who originate in the Middle East and arrived in the Ashkenazi countries before the Islamic Arabs arrived in Iberia. We also have some examples of ancestors that came from Western Europe and converted to Judaism in the Ashkenazi countries. We also know of some examples of ancestors who originated from an Ashkenazi branch and went to Iberia and have Sephardic descendants.

Q: Do we know what route the majority followed?
A: From the present data we can deduce that the majority of branches originated in the Middle East (possibly including Anatolia-Greece) before arriving in Iberia or the Ashkenazi countries. The majority of the largest branches have no early descendants in Iberia and the first Ashkenazi branch split is before the arrival time of the Islamic Arabs in Iberia; it is likely they did not pass Iberia (e.g. AB-067, AB-040, AB-056, AB-065, AB-044). Several other large (but not the largest) branches passed Iberia and have descendants in Iberia, and arrived in the Ashkenazi countries after the arrival of the Islamic Arabs in Iberia (e.g. AB-007, AB-022, AB-005, AB-033, AB-036, AB-058, AB-001).

Q: Where is the page phylogenetic trees?
A: The page was removed from the overview. You can still see it on Trees.html

Q: What did we learn from the Erfurt Jewish cemetery?
A: ancient DNA was researched from the Erfurt Jewish cemetery. A very nice article was published on the result. I made a comparison of the mtDNA and Y-DNA branches of the cemetary and the present distribution of branches among Ashkenazi Jews, and drew some additional conclusions..