07 March 2008

Gesher Galicia DNA Project launched

Jewish genealogy is now utilizing the cutting edge tool of DNA to further research of geographic areas.

A number of special interest groups (SIGs) at JewishGen are looking at this new tool, according to Elise Friedman of Florida, who coordinates the JewishGen SIG DNA Projects initiative. The project is designed to:

-Encourage participation in genetic genealogy by Jewish genealogists and their families through geographical DNA projects.

-Discover relationships between different-surname families from within the geographical boundaries of each SIG.

-Study the distribution of Y-DNA and mtDNA haplogroups of Jewish families who lived within the geographical boundaries of each SIG.

-Contribute to the study of Jewish migration patterns through increased Jewish participation in DNA testing.

The first DNA Project launched is for Gesher Galicia, and Belarus SIG, Hungarian SIG and Scandinavian SIG DNA projects will follow shortly.

When Friedman began working on this idea last year, she began to recruit volunteer administrators at some SIG meetings at the annual Jewish genealogy conference.

Rabbi Gary M. Gans (Marlton, New Jersey) immediately volunteered to take on Gesher Galicia, which now has almost 60 participants. He has been spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Tikvah for more than 25 years. The site states that in addition to a busy schedule of congregational and community responsibilities, "on any given day, the rabbi may be found searching through generations past in his never-ending quest to explore genealogy and inviting us to join in." Marlton is, he says, "one shtetl over from Cherry Hill."

Says Friedman - the administrator of several personal and group DNA projects at Family Tree DNA and a speaker on DNA projects - the new project's web site is here. Questions on the Gesher Galicia project may be sent to galiciadna@gmail.com.

There is also a link on the JewishGen DNA page, where readers can find more information on DNA testing for genealogy.

The goal of Gesher Galicia, Inc. is to foster Jewish genealogical and historical research in Galicia, a former Austrian Empire province. It provides a forum for researchers to share information and to promote individual and group research of the geographical area.

For a list of all the Galicia administrative districts covered by this DNA Project, click here:

In 1877, the Austrian government assigned to 73 Administrative Districts (ADs) the Galician towns where Jews were known to have lived at the time of the 1870 census. The government designated some towns as Jewish Administrative Centers, which were the administrative seats where Jewish metrical (birth, death, marriage) records were to be kept.

Genetic genealogy is an additional tool for researchers searching Jewish Galicia roots. It enables studying the similarity/diversity of Jewish ancestors from Galicia; can prove/disprove common ancestry between families with the same surnames without a connecting paper trail; confirm validity of a paper trail between families of the same surname; and can discover common ancestry between families of different surnames.

Many of our Eastern European ancestors adopted surnames only in the past two centuries, so it is likely that many adopted different surnames than their distant relatives. Surname changes were also made to avoid conscription, and - common in Galicia - due to children legally bearing the mother's maiden name instead of their father's surname due to marriage restrictions.

For a brief history of Galicia, click here

During the First Partition of Poland in 1772, the Austrians took the area from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and called it Galicia-Lodomeria, whose borders varied over the years. The Austrian Empire's largest province bordered Moravia (west), Russian Empire (north and east), Ottoman Empire (Moldavia, south).

It was returned to Poland when it was reestablished after WW1. Following WWII, it was divided between Ulraine and Poland. Today, eastern Galicia is Ukraine and western Galicia is Poland.

If your ancestry is from Bukowina, however, you'll need to contact the Romanian Special Interest Group, Rom-SIG. The Austrian Empire acquired Bukowina from the Ottoman Empire in 1775, merged with Galicia in 1787, and became a separate province of the Austrian Empire after 1849. It shares with Romania a history of Turkish and Romanian administration not experienced by Galicia.

Many researchers pronounce Galicia in varied ways. While the local phonetic pronounciation is akin to "gal-ee-tsya," the Polish spelling is Galicja and the German spelling is Galizien.

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