Saturday, 27 December 2014

Not for the faint of heart

My husband has a German last name, inherited from his very English father, an Anglican archdeacon. His grandfather had a German forename as well, hastily anglicized during his service in the Royal Naval Reserve during the First World War, although he could speak German, having been tutored by his Berlin-born paternal aunt.

When I submitted my husband's DNA for testing about two years ago,  I felt sure that we might find out more through the Y-chromosome testing.  However, not a single instance of his surname showed up on the matches.  What was clear, though, was something we've long suspected: 14% of his genetic make-up comes out as Jewish - Ashkenazi, to be precise, with possible national connections to Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania.  Also, despite the relatively small percentage of his total DNA, the vast majority of his matches at the Family Tree DNA website, both for Y-chromosome and autosomal,  appear to be American Jews.

With no surname match, things went a little dead in the water - until about a month ago, when his surname turned up in the family tree of a recent autosomal match with connections to Berlin and Poznan. The latter city is currently in Poland, but has links to Germany.  I wrote a quick email to the American who had submitted his DNA.  He told us that he had a cousin living a few miles away in his home state of California who shared the Resident Fan Boy's surname and that this cousin would be taking the Y-DNA test soon.

So we wait.  If this cousin shows up in the Resident Fan Boy's Y-DNA matches, we will have a better idea of where his paternal line goes.  If not, it's back to the drawing board, though I'm anticipating an autosomal match at least.

There is a painful side effect and it's one I've long been expecting.  In the family tree of the man with the autosomal match are, as I've said, several members bearing my husband's surname. They are in the line of this man's paternal grandmother.  With a sinking heart, I noticed there are families whose death dates are all in the early 1940s.  When I clicked on the profiles, I saw the words: "Auschwitz" and "Theresianstadt".

Yes, I knew this would happen eventually, but all the intellectual preparation in the world doesn't lessen the blow of seeing the names of people with the same last name as my husband and children, knowing how they died, and knowing that, somehow, they are ours.

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