1- The Christians of Palestine all appear to be related!Now, this may be an over exaggeration, but the many DNA matches between people of Ramallah, Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, Beersheeba, Taybeh, Bizreit, Jerusalem and other Christian towns point towards it. This even extends (to a lesser degree) to Lebanon and Syria. The older generation has told us that there was no intermarriage outside of specific clans, let alone their village. The only way for this to make sense, is to go back much further in time. The history of Beit Sahour and Ramallah tells of us time spent living in Jordan. My current theory is that many Christians from Palestine fled, most likely due to persecution, and took refuge east of the Jordan River. We are told they were in Wadi Musa. They were likely a small group of people who intermarried heavily at this time (around the 1600s) and then when they were able to return to their homeland, they settled different areas. The shared genes have remained with them, even though intermarriage has not taken place for hundreds of years.
I have noticed that the circle of proximity goes like this: the people from Beit Sahour appear very closely related, sharing as much DNA as first-third cousins. Moving out to Beit Jala & Bethlehem, these appear as 2nd-4th cousins. People from Ramallah are similar about 2nd-4th cousins. Other towns like Beersheeba, Jerusalem, Bizreit, Nazareth are slightly more distantly related. Then moving out from there you have other countries in the Levant such as Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. Many Christians from these areas are also related to Palestinian Christians. Some of them appear more closely related, but most share substantially less DNA, showing it is an old match from long ago. Very small (meaning very old) matches appear with certain people in places like Turkey, Armenia, Egypt, Georgia, Cyprus, Russia, Eastern Europe, and even England and the US!
Family notes: Our closest DNA matches have the following names- Rishmawy, Salomon, Khoury, Handal, Khalil, Hanna, Burhum, Sfeir, Nasralla, Larach, Kattan, Zablah, Babish, Dabdoub, Bendeck, Jasser, Nasser, Zoughbi, Eadeh, Abourezk, Harb, Yacoub, Monsour, Shaheen among MANY others!
2- Palestinian Christians Have the Same AdmixtureThe types of admixture are labelled differently at different companies. These are supposed to reflect the past 500 years or so. At AncestryDNA it's a combination of: Middle East, Caucasus, Italy/Greece, and European Jewish. These 4 components make up the modern day Palestinian. The %s might be off a little person to person, but generally they are very close. Trace elements in the DNA are Northern European genes and to a smaller degree North/East African.
At 23andme the admixture shows: primarily Middle East (the Caucasus and northern Levant) which is around 80-90%. Smaller amounts of North African (which includes Arab), Italian, and Ashkenazi.
At Family Finder the components of ancestry are: Eastern Middle East, Asia Minor, Southern Europe, and Jewish Diaspora.
Gedmatch provides tools for deeper admixture analysis from ancient times. Here the most common results are Samaritan (top result), as well as Cypriot, Druze, Lebanese Christian, and other types of Middle Eastern Jews. Also, Northern European genes show up at about 3-5% at Gedmatch.
There is no significant difference in admixture among the Palestinian Christians. I have not found certain surnames or tribes having more of this or that admixture.
Also, because we know our ancestors only married within their small group for the past few hundred years, I believe the high amount of Italian that is shown is more ancient Roman and Greek admixture than anything in modern times.
I will go into more depth about this topic with blog posts labelled 'admixture'. There is so much to write on this topic and I find it fascinating.
Family notes: Rishmawi (Salomon) & Isaac admixture are very similar. On one calculator, the dot on the map for Rishmawi results (my grandfather) was "in the middle of the Mediterranean Islands". My father's results were square in Lebanon, and my grandmother was Northern Syria/Turkey. This is taking everything together and throwing it on a map. It shows there is something European to pull it up from Palestine. My grandfather shows more European ancestry and more Italian than my grandmother does. My grandmother has East African that my grandfather doe not have and she shows more Ashkenazi Jewish and more native Caucasus. More details on the admixture page.
3- Different Haplogroups are Present in Palestinian ChristiansWhereas we can see that the population is closely related and has the same admixture components, the tests reveal different ancient paternal and maternal lines. Please see the Haplogroups page for more information. The paternal haplogroups are typically J1e, E1b, and G2. These 3 haplogroups are what the vast majority of Palestinian men carry. My grandfather and great-uncle are both J1e, which is considered the Semitic haplogroup. E1b is considered Canaanite and G2 originated more off to the East/Caucasus. Even though the two family members we tested were J1e, E1b & G2 were widely represented in matches. Maternal haplogroups vary broadly. The Palestinian women carry deep maternal ancestry from many places.
Family notes: My grandfather's maternal haplogroup is J2b1, which might be tied to the Phoenicians. I had a J mtdna "expert" look it over and say it was likely European in origin. This line from my grandfather comes from his mother's mother's mother. I can only go as far back as Qumsieh, but it would be her mother's mother and beyond. My grandmother's maternal haplogroup (Ishaq) is coming from the line of Romman-again her mother's mother's mother and beyond. This line is H1 and is clearly European in origin. This means that a European woman in ancient times ended up in Palestine and intermarried with the local population. She could have come through as a slave or a pilgrim, but usually women did not come with the Crusaders.
A note on Y-dna testing- I have continued to upgrade my grandfather and great-uncles tests at Family Tree DNA. We have learned a lot more since the initial results came back in 2010. Please see the Y-dna page for more details. I am very hopeful that more men with Palestinian roots in the Bethlehem area will decide to get y-dna testing. This will help us learn even more.
Additional Interesting Findings:
- The legends of Crusaders and citadels and translators and Italians- these do seem to be true to an extent. The high level of Italian genes that all Palestinian Christians carry represent ancient Roman admixture and possibly Italian from the time of the Crusaders. I think this oral history is likely true. Some Palestinian names are very Italian sounding. Other names come from the Crusaders, like Bardawil for the French King, Baldwin. It's very possible that the Bardawil family is somehow related to the Baldwin line or their French subjects. The trace amounts of Northern Euro ancestry is substantial enough to show up at about 3-7% in most calculators. Southern European ancestry is up to 25% in some Palestinian Christians.
- One of my main goals was to find out if we have Ghassanid ancestors. Many of the websites about Palestinian towns like Beit Sahour and Ramallah claim that our forefathers were Ghassanids. This seems to be a popular notion all over the Levant. First, I asked my grandparents and they had never heard of them. They believed they had always been from Palestine and had no tribal affiliation with Arabians to the south. Through Y-dna testing we can see that my grandfather's deep paternal line does not come from Yemen where the Ghassanids originated. Neither does my great-uncle's deep paternal line. In fact, the common Arab snp markers are not present in either of them. They are situated closely to the Cohanim, but not exactly. I was told their dna looks very native to the land! Overall I was surprised by the low amounts of Arabian dna, about 10-15% or even less. At this point, I have no evidence of Ghassanid ancestry. It is possible that it's there, but unless I can prove it, I will not claim that we descend from Ghassanids.
- Wikipedia says this about our ancestral roots. What the DNA tests have shown is that our core ancestry is really a mix of ancient Israelite & Canaanite. This makes up bulk of our DNA. It is why there is a close relation to the Jews, but it's not exact. There is some relation to the Arabians, but it is not as close. Our J1e paternal ancestors were the Kurdish Babylonian people (modern day Iraq) who became the Hebrews and Israelites and later the Jews. Some of them intermarried with the native Canaanites. There are many examples of this in the Bible. Once Christianity arose, Jews were the first to convert. The many Romans living in the land were also early converts, as well as Greeks, Arameans (the Syrians & Lebanese), and other non-Jewish people living in the region. The early Christian community really defines who we are. There was a lot of admixture in ancient times- with Crusaders, other Europeans, some East/North Africans, Arabs, etc. But the vast majority of DNA does not come from these places- it truly does come from the Holy Land through both Jewish and Canaanite (Aramean/Phoenician, etc- the people living in the land that were not Jews) people. Everything I see from the results so far, confirms what many of us have heard through oral history- that we are the descendants of the first Christians and have "always" lived on the land.
- As far as DNA purity goes- the Middle East is one of the most mixed places on earth. Even though our ancestors lived in relative isolation for hundreds of years, in ancient times the Holy Land was the melting pot. My Middle Eastern relatives are more admixed than my American relatives on my mother's side! But, we know this is from ancient times. It's very interesting to see the different people groups that left their mark on the people of this region. More on this in the DNA Cousins section.
- Family Specific Rishmawi Story: One of the most interesting and puzzling findings is the very close results between my grandfather's direct paternal line and my grandmother's brother. We know my grandparents are likely 3rd cousins through the AbuAitah side, and this is not a surprise. But, as far as we know the Rishmawis and Isaacs are not related on the paternal side. The Rishmawi family took their name from Rishmaya, Lebanon when the first Rishmawi left this area as a farmer and settled in Beit Sahour and became part of the Isaac clan. The full story and more about the clans of Beit Sahour are here. But, what we have discovered through DNA is that my grandfather and great-uncle share a very unique Y-dna cluster and they are related to a common paternal ancestor approximately 450 years ago! The only other person in the cluster is a Bisharat (read about this family on the link) who was part of the Jarayseh family in Wadi Musa and later settled in Nazareth. The only sensible conclusion I can draw, is that the Rishmawi family in the mid 16th century must have been in the same location as the Isaac ancestor, in order for them to be family. I believe that location- not Jordan or Lebanon- was Palestine. They likely had to flee due to persecution and one branch went east of the Jordan and the other went to Lebanon. They reunited hundreds of years later! From what I have been reading, immigration to Palestine for people without roots there was not very common in the 1600-1700s. Why would the Rishmawis move to Palestine if it were not to return to the homeland? People with deep Lebanese roots tended to stay there. If anyone has any other possible explanation for the relation between Rishmawi & Isaac in this time frame, I would be happy to hear your ideas!
- The infographic below is for my father. The maternal line shows my grandmother's mother's mother's line (as far back as we know is Romman, but this goes even further). You see here it points to Europe for this side. Please remember this does not mean Miriam Romman was 100% European, it's just her direct maternal ancestor and it was very long ago. You can also view the deep paternal line for my grandfather's father's father, going back to the Rishmawis. I will have more information about this particular test and the results on Haplogroups pages.