Note: When I began my rebuttal to Laura’s comment , I meant for it to be a comment, but realized it was a post instead…
When our people, the Sephardic Jews, left Spain, during the 400 years of the Inquisition, they numbered from ¼ to ½ million people. A large population of highly educated skilled individuals just did not go POOF into the night!
Besides the community in Rhodes, where your grandparents are from, (Incidentally. I am sorry for your loss of so many kin in the Shoah. From a population of 4,000 in the 1930’s to about 400 after the war is a sorrowful thing indeed), the Sephardic Jews, in the diaspora, spread all over the globe. Your people settled in Greece and remained there thru the centuries, and because of the stabilization of the Sephardic community remained true to their religion.
The fear of the spreading Inquisition, and persecution by other nations forced most of the Sephardim into a nomadic-Crypto state. It was in this way most of the Sephardim scattered the earth. For example:
Eastern Europe: http://www.avotaynu.com/sephardim.htm
England: http://www.sephardicstudies.org/uk.html For an interesting read see: The Jews of Georgian England
This fascinating book tells of the dismantling of Jewish faith and practice by Protestant tolerance.
South America: http://www.jewishgen.org/sephardic/samerica_sites.htm
In contrast, to your ancestors; our people, like the majority of the Sephardim became fragmented and scattered, living in many different countries, migrated often and changed their names and their identities. Over the centuries, our Sephardic ancestors lost their ability to practice their faith, and eventually ended up in the British Isles, Switzerland, Denmark, and Colonial America; where the early Mormon missionaries found them. During their diaspora state, our ancestors mixed with the Mizrahi, Ashkenazi, Native Americans, Africans, Scandinavians and other Europeans. The lesson everyone can take from this is; one cannot assume that their ancestors have always lived in any particular place. Also because pigmentation can evolve over the centuries, depending on admixtures; one cannot assume just because they may have light/dark skin, their ancestors ALL had light/dark skin.
You are correct in your assertion, that the Sephardic Jews are diverse in their appearance and skin pigmentation. In fact, when my son saw Dr. Getzug at UCLA for his Familial Mediterranean Fever (FMF), she remarked that he was the palest Sephardic descendant she had ever encountered. In contrast his sister with FMF is olive complected with dark eyes and hair.
Because of their diaspora state, Sephardic DNA is difficult to trace. As you well know Judaism is a religion, and found in many ethnicities. Much of the ethnic diversity that can be found in Judaism is because of the DNA admixture found in the Sephardim.
It is a well-established fact the Sephardim have been residents of the southern US since colonial times. See:
You are correct that the research about Melungeons is a controversial subject. Basically, the community is divided into those who maintain the Melungeons are strictly a black/white community; others who believe they are a white/Native American/black community; and many others who believe Melungeons are all of the above; ethnic differences varying in divergent family lines, and with many families mixed with Sephardic Jewish descendants. DNA studies can differ depending on which family lines are represented.
The DNA study, reported in the Huffington Post, which you and Adam G. refer to, does not disagree with any of the hypotheses presented. This DNA test, of which the journal, nor the article, or author are cited, states that DNA was tested in unbroken 79 male and 8 female lines of persons with known Melungeon ancestry. The Huffington Post states that African DNA was found in the study. No major revelation there, everyone agrees the Melungeon ancestry began in Colonial America or Virginia with the first African slaves who were granted indentured servitude. In fact, most Americans who have ancestors who lived in Colonial America have Native American and or African ancestry. I do not know who a “whole lot of people” the Huffington Post thinks they are upsetting.
The Melungeon ancestors who were free Africans were successful in the small New England and mid-Atlantic wilderness communities and married European women of the servant class. As society developed stricter social class structure, these families migrated to the Southeastern US, especially East Tennessee.
The disagreement is whether these families came to later include Native American and/or Sephardic Jews. This unnamed DNA study reveals African males in the founding fathers of the Melungeons, BUT did not test for the later possible admixtures of Native Americans, Sephardic, or other ethnicities. Incidentally, the Melungeon claim of “Portuguese” was code for Sephardic, as many of the Sephardim came from Portugal as well as Spain.
As for the Abraham Lincoln, and the genealogical clues one can look for to find Sephardic ancestors, we can thank Dr. Elizabeth Caldwell Hirschman, who is a professor at Rutgers University; and Dr Donald N Yates who received his MA from Duke University and his Ph.D. from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and is the President of a DNA testing company. These individuals are well respected in their fields. This does not mean controversy does not surround their work. Because this is cutting edge research, the dust has not settled, so to speak.
While I do not have the study the Huffington Post refers to, I do have a copy of an article from the Appalachia Journal vol. 38 issue 1 in 2010, titled ‘Toward a Genetic Profile of Melungeons in Southern Appalachia’ By Donald N Yates and Elizabeth C. Hirschman. This DNA test asserts the DNA ancestry of Melungeons is ethnically diverse and includes Ashkenazi and Sephardic DNA.
“Top population matches (i.e. inferred biological ancestry) showed notable levels of Jewish (both Ashkenazi and Sephardic), Middle eastern, Native American, Sub-Saharan African, and Iberian ancestry with in our Melungeon descendant sample. There were also intermittent indications of Roma/Gypsy in genealogies of certain individuals. “ Yates and Hirschman
Lab testing was NOT done by Yate’s company, but was instead done by Utah’s own Sorenson Laboratories.
The Yates Hirschman study tested 40 individuals from known Melungeon families and was compatible to the study done in 1990 by chemist James Guthrie who tested 177 Melungeon individuals. The leading matches found by Guthrie were: Libya, Canary Islands, Malta, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Cyprus, and Spain (Yates and Hirschman)
As for my ancestry, I need not have to prove to you, but in my defense, my genealogy and my husbands, was looked over by Todd Knowles, the department head, of the LDS Church Jewish Family History Library archives. He said the list of names was indeed Sephardic.
Myself, one of my sons and one of my daughters all have Familial Mediterranean Fever (FMF). We have the version of the illness that is found in the Sephardic Jews of North Africa. Incidentally FMF is also found in the Melungeon community. Familial Mediterranean Fever (FMF) is an inherited autoimmune disease. In order for a person to have this disease, both parents either have to be carriers, or one parent has the disease and the other parent is a carrier, or both parents have the disease. A single affected parent cannot pass the full-blown disease to their children, but FMF does get passed down in a carrier state; it takes both parents to have the full-blown FMF illness. My late husband was a FMF carrier and so my two FMF affected children have this disease. My other two biological children are carriers. My family has inherited this illness from our ancestors, those diverse Mormon Pioneers.
My son, the one with FMF, when given his patriarchal blessing was pronounced a literal descendant of the Royal House of David and of the lineage of the tribe of Judah.
All of my ancestral lines were Mormon Pioneer and were in Utah by 1862 and my late husbands were also all Mormon Pioneers settling in LDS communities by the early 1870’s. Assuming our pioneer ancestors were an anomaly, we are still related to thousands of members of the church with ancestors who were Mormon pioneers. I personally do not believe we are an anomaly, the same reasons my ancestors were attracted to the gospel, would be similar for others. As with any group, the amount of Sephardic ancestry would vary depending on the admixture of other ethnicities. Some people would have just a “trace” and others could have a majority of ancestors with Sephardic ancestry.
Joseph Fielding Smith said, “The Lord said he would scatter Israel among the Gentile nations, and by doing so he would bless the Gentile nations with the blood of Abraham. Today we are preaching the gospel in the world and we are gathering out, according to the revelations given to Isaiah, Jeremiah, and other prophets, the scattered sheep of the House of Israel. These scattered sheep are coming forth mixed with Gentile blood from their Gentile forefathers. Under all the circumstances it is very possible that the majority, almost without exception, of those who come into the Church in this dispensation have the blood of two or more of the tribes of Israel as well as the blood of the Gentiles.” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957–66, 3:63.)
We talk about how the Mormon pioneers were “prepared to receive the gospel”. This is a vague explanation, and does not entertain the “hows” and “whys” of the situation. I maintain the descendants of the Sephardic Conversos, who had been forced from their faith, had a desire to be part of the “Covenant people” once again. They were prepared to join the gospel thru trials and tribulations that expanded the centuries and their longing to renew with G-d, the new Covenant of Abraham.