October 30, 2005

Fingerprints of the Past

Fascinating piece in the New York Times today about many Hispanics who are discovering while researching their family history that they are descended from 'Hidden' Jews who fled the Inquisition in Spain to settle in Mexico four centuries ago. Hispanics Uncovering Roots as Inquisition's Hidden Jews.

For more than two decades, anecdotal evidence collected by researchers in New Mexico, Colorado and Texas suggested that some nominally Catholic families of Iberian descent had stealthily maintained Jewish customs throughout the centuries, including lighting candles on Friday evening, avoiding pork and having the Star of David inscribed on gravestones.

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Modern science may now be shedding new light on the history of the crypto-Jews after molecular anthropologists recently developed a DNA test of the male or Y chromosome that can indicate an ancestral connection to the Cohanim, a priestly class of Jews that traces its origin back more than 3,000 years to Aaron, the older brother of Moses.

Family Tree DNA, a Houston company that offers a Cohanim test to its male clients, gets about one inquiry a day from Hispanics interested in exploring the possibility of Jewish ancestry, said Bennett Greenspan, its founder and chief executive. Mr. Greenspan said about one in 10 of the Hispanic men tested by his company showed Semitic ancestry strongly suggesting a Jewish background.

I didn't have time to read the whole paper today, so I'm happy to thank Ann Althouse whose post "the fingerprints of my past were all around me, but I didn't know what they meant."

Posted by Jill Fallon at October 30, 2005 11:56 PM | Permalink