16 October 2009

DNA: Was Columbus Jewish?

Every year, the theories get pulled out of the closet around the Columbus Day holiday.

So far, DNA is inconclusive. They say that although they've tested Colons, Columbuses and others bearing what might be the same name, results are inconclusive.

Of course, to a genealogist interested in genetic DNA testing, why didn't they just test their findings against the largest DNA comparative database at FamilyTreeDNA. Exact matches might exist in that database, and comparing genetic matches and known family history might provide some additional answers.

According to American researchers, says the Telegraph - the mystery over his origins has finally been solved. According to a linguistics specialist, it shows that he was from the Kingdom of Aragon in northeast Spain and his mother tongue was Catalan.

Of course, there is also a related Telegraph story claim that the explorer was really a Scotsman named Pedro Scotto.

While some believe he was the son of a weaver born in Genoa, other countries claiming him at one time or another have been Greece, Catalonia, Portugal, Corsica, France and even Poland. He may have been Jewish - there are too many coincidences here (the many Conversos on his voyages, the connection with Tisha b'Av, and the strange graphic he signed his name with).

To see the Columbus' crew list for the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, click here at JewByte and read an article which gathers many clues for the various theories. There's a link to the crew list, and almost every name on that list can be found as a documented Jewish surname in Sangre Judia, by Pere Bonnin. [NOTE: I checked]

Back to the Telegraph. Georgetown University (Washington DC) linguistics professor Estelle Irizarry published new findings following detailed study of Columbus' handwritten documents.

She concluded he was a Catalan-speaker man from the Kingdom of Aragon. [NOTE: Where, of course, many Jews lived pre-Inquisition.]

Irizarry's just-published book "The DNA of the Writings of Columbus" explains that Castilian Spanish was not his first language and Aragon-region origins can be seen in his grammar and sentence construction.

About the DNA testing done several years ago, there are no conclusive results so far.

Scientists took samples from the Seville tomb of Columbus and from bones of his brother and son and compared them to hundreds of people across Europe who were swabbed and who bore modern-variants of Columbus' surname.

Scientists had hoped to establish a common ancestor using standard Y-chromosome tests but they have yet to find a link.
So why don't they just compare it to the big database at FamilyTreeDNA and see who the genetic material's signature does match?

Genetic genealogy is what we use when the papertrail runs cold, when surnames are changed or unknown, or before surnames were required. By limiting the testing to those with similar names, the scientists have lost out on a huge pool of people among which some interesting results might be seen. A genetic match is a genetic match, despite the surname.

Some interesting ideas - read the complete article and related stories - but it could have been taken much further along.

1 comment:

  1. Are the DNA results a secret? I read some conflicting reports as to whether or not the researcher who tested the purported remains of Columbus and/or his son, brother will release those results to the public. If he did, we could compare them to the Family Tree DNA database. Wish I knew how to get those results!
    Judy Simon