Follow along as I post results and interpretations of various DNA tests conducted on my Palestinian Christian family members. For a condensed version, read the Summary page for key findings. For more in-depth review, the other pages & blog posts will offer detailed and specific information. Use the labels to find posts relating to the Pages above or family surnames. Feel free to contact me at holylanddna@gmail.com. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Dabdoub Family Mystery

You may be familiar with some of the oral histories of the clans of Bethlehem. DNA testing can be useful in confirming or discounting some of these stories.   Recently, I came into contact with a Dabdoub DNA match at 23andme.  He is the third male DNA match with this last name that falls into our DNA relatives list.  The Dabdoub family history is a fascinating read and it begins with the founding of the Tarajmeh clan: (information taken from dabdoub.ps).

It seems that in the fifteenth century AD, two Italian brothers from the region of Monteforte in Italy, and while on pilgrimage to Bethlehem, decided to reside in the then-small town.  Their aim was to learn the Arabic language and work as translators to the Italian pilgrims (possibly the only pilgrims to the Holy Land at the time) who used to come and visit the birth and place of crucifixion an burial of Jesus (the Church of nativity in Bethlehem and the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.)
And so the two brothers achieved their purpose and became residents ofBethlehem working as translators as they had once wished. 
In the beginning, the Bethlehemites used to address these two foreign strangers (probably because their names were too difficult to pronounce at the time) with their craft or trade, the translators: al tarajmeh.
During their stay in the town, it was inevitable that the two tarajmeh would come in contact with the locals of Bethlehem, and so each one apparently wooed and married a talhamiyeh, from which they must have had some children… and these children must have also been the sons of tarajmeh, hence tarajmeh themselves. 
And so the stories goes that these two brothers lived happily (but not ever after) with their wives and children under one same roof in some part of the old town of Bethlehem.
Some years later, the two tarajmeh brothers had a row and decided that they should live separately.  And so they built a second upper floor to the one-floor house they used to reside in.  Each of the brothers then moved into each of the floors having a upper and a lower turjmani.
The children of the two brothers then got married and bore more tarajmehwho bore even more of the same.
For generations, the offspring belonged and had loyalty either to the upper or to the lower family.  With time, the Tarajmeh became obviously split into the upper and the lower hara (neighborhood).  And so, each of these two neighborhoods had their own families.

Families of the Tarajmeh Clan
Following are the families of the tarajmeh clan in Bethlehem (as provided by the Latin Parish of Bethlehem), some of which have totally disappeared from the city:
Abu Al Arraj, Abu Fheileh, Abu Jaber, Abu Khalil, Batarseh, Comandari, Dabdoub, Daoud, D'ek, Fleifel, Jabriyeh, Jad'on, Karmi, Mansour-Abu Khalil, Mikel, Mikel-Madalena, Mikel-Tawil, Mubarak, Rock, Sabat, Sara, Sem'an, Suwadi, Tabash, Talamas, Taroud, and Zmeiri

And now specifically, the Dabdoub family history:

The Dabdoub Family:
As mentioned earlier, the origin of the name Dabdoub has not yet been confirmed.  But the many stories about the origin of the name are summarized hereunder. 
Before I do, however, it has to be noted that the word Dabdoub in Arabic literally means bear cub, or baby bear.  Another point worth noting is that many families of the area are derived from animals (Dabdoub, Sarsour—later changed to Sansour—, Far); from fruit and vegetables (KousaFaqousehBaqleh, Ballout); and from professions (QanawatiQattan, Raheb)
Back to the Dabdoub name, and to the first story behind the name: a story that my father believes strongly in and which he tells in a very sarcastic way.

First Story
It is said that the first ancestor of the family used to have a very heavy built.  When he walked, he had a slow pace but a very heavy stomp on the ground; and he used to tilt left and right really heavily.  The name came about after some apparent prank-loving youngsters characterized him as “walking like a bear (dib)”; but later the nickname was softened to refer instead to the baby bear (dabdoub) to avoid insult to the man and his family.

Second Story
The second story has somewhat a different and highly improbable twist to the origin of the name.  As a young child, I used to hear it attentively and with great concern from my paternal grandmother, Faridah, who made it seem very credible at the time.
So it goes that this ancestor of ours was very poor in the start of his career working as a translator.  There were months, especially during the summer, when there was what we call today in tourism “low season” when pilgrims were a scarce item in Bethlehem.  During those dead seasons, our translator would go to the fields and simply do nothing.  When he got hungry, the story goes, he would kneel and uproot whatever available herbs he would find in front of him, in the hope he could get a little of what a locally famous edible plant called “Asaat al Ra’i” (the shepherd’s cane) would give him.
And so with the different kinds of herbs lying in front of him, he would stomp the ground so hard with his hands allowing the heavy sought-after fruit to jump higher than the rest of the herbs, and so he would be able to see where the fruit would then fall so he could collect it and eat it.
In colloquial Arabic, the act of heavily stomping the ground is called “dabdabeh” and the person doing this act could easily be called a “dabdoub”.

Third Story
A more notorious story has to do with the character, rather than either the walk or behavior of our translator.  People who want to bad mouth the Dabdoub family usually use this story.
In Arabic, the phonetic letter “d” and the equivalent to the phonetic diphthong “th” (as in “the”) are very close and in certain cases are used interchangeably especially in the colloquial dialect.  At the same time, the Arabic word “muthabthab” literally means “double-faced”.
And so it seems that our translator ancestor must have been a muthabthab of some kind and hence the nick name thabthoub.  Furthermore, and since the two Arabic letters “d” and “th” are interchangeable, and in order to sometimes avoid any insult to the man himself, the nickname would be softened to dabdoub.

Until this very day, people often write my last name in Arabic in the form of “Thabthoub” since what differs the two letters in written Arabic is that the “th” is a “d” with a dot on top.
Dabdoub or Abu Fheileh
In any case, my father tells me that the name Dabdoub was introduced to theTarajmeh clan around the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century.  Before that, the family’s original name was Abu Fheileh, and the reason for the shift is still unknown although the family name Abu Fheileh still exists to this date.

This oral history is so strong and passed down to so many descendants, there is even a book published about it - The Little Bear: Origins of the Dabdoub Family.
Needless to say, I thought it was very interesting that the 3 Dabdoub cousin matches do not have the same paternal haplogroups!  The first Dabdoub's are G1* which is a very strong paternal haplogroup in Bethlehem.  Most men I have seen so far share this paternal haplogroup there.  The last Dabdoub, however, is E1b1b1c.  This means, without a doubt, these 3 men could not possibly share the same distant paternal ancestor.  Even if this family history is true (and it very may well be), these 3 men cannot come from the same brothers!

This information is provided by 23andme:

G1* - Paternal haplogroups are families of Y chromosomes that all trace back to a single mutation at a specific place and time. By looking at the geographic distribution of these related lineages, we learn how our ancient male ancestors migrated throughout the world.
  • Haplogroup: G, a subgroup of F
  • Age: 16,000 years
  • Region: Central Asia, Near East, Northern Africa, Europe
  • Example Populations: Palestinians, Ossetians, Georgians, Moroccans
  • Highlight: Haplogroup G probably originated in the Caucasus but made its way across the Near East, northern Africa, southern Europe, and even into China.

  • Haplogroup: E1b1b1c, a subgroup of E1b1b
  • Age: more than 15,000 years
  • Region: Near East, northeastern Africa, southern Europe
  • Example Populations: Ethiopians, Jordanians, Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews
  • Highlight: Most people who bear E1b1b1c trace their roots to the Near East about 15,000 years ago.

Both of these appear very native to Palestine and also mention Southern Europe.  Many Italians have Semitic Haplogroups of the Middle East.  Thousands of years ago, Jews and Arabs settled areas of Italy. So, technically, these Italian translators could have originally had a direct paternal ancestor from the Middle East and hundreds of years later back migrated to Palestine.  This we will never know.  However, we cannot clearly rule out either haplogroup as the source of Italian ancestry for the Tarajmeh clan.

The one thing we do learn from these matches is that somewhere along the way, people adopted the name Dabdoub and these were unrelated people.  Maybe these Italian brothers adopted others into their clan, who took on the name.   The only way to know to more is to continue to test men with the last name of Dabdoub and compare against other men with different last names in this clan - Abufele & Daoud would be good ones to start.  We do have a Sabat match who is also E1b1b1c.  What a mystery!


Anonymous said...

You need to talk to people who are still alive - in their 90s - who know the facts first hand. If you copied and pasted this from the Palestine family net, then it's useless. People say what they want to believe about themselves or they repeat the delusions they've entertained for too long and without question.

As for the Dabdoub family, it's primal ancestor originated in SE africa the Y-DNA is E-M5021

HolyLandDNA said...

This is exactly why we need to use DNA - too many legends and myths. I agree with you! I shared this as an example of one such myth and then attempted to gain real insight via science and dna. E-M5021 is Levantine in origin and many Jews also have it.