23 August 2009

DNA: Are you a Halpern or Heilperin?

If you are a Halpern/Heilperin descendant, here's a DNA surname project of interest.

Organized by Dr. Steven D. Bloom, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, preliminary results are available and more men are being sought for the Y-DNA project at FamilyTreeDNA.com.

Steve is hoping that Tracing the Tribe's readership may wish to get involved in this project.
As part of the core project related to this study, we wanted to specifically test males with documented genealogies tracing to male lines of the Rabbinic Heilperin families (see either "Lurie Legacy" by Neil Rosenstein or Meir Wunder's "Meorei Galicia" for details). Should any two or men match, we could be fairly sure we had found the haplotype related to this family (and confirmed the written genealogy).
Results have been mixed so far, thus the pressing need for more men to be tested.

The first two men tested did not match (Steve names them Halpern A and Halpern B). There are numerous reasons why this may have happened, but he feels the top possibilities are:

- females passing down surnames to males (a fairly common historical occurrence)
- informal adoption of orphaned non-direct male line family members
- Marital infidelity or rape.
However, one man (Halpern A) - with a documented 500-year-old genealogy - matched another Halpern male (Halpern C) in the study. Halpern C previously knew nothing about his connection to the Heilperin rabbis.

Steve explains that although this isn't as positive a result as matching with a man with a known connection to the Heilperin rabbis (a Halpern B match), it does likely mean that Halpern A is a true male line Heilperin in the way he claims.

Although this study is just at the preliminary stage with early results, Steve says that he think he can say that the branch from Zebulon Eliezer Heilperin has a haplotype of G2c (associated with Halpern A and C)

Steve's own male Halpern cousin - supposedly a direct descendant of Jehiel Heilperin of Minsk (whom Rabbi Wunder lists as a Zebulon Eliezer descendant) - does not match Halpern A, as the cousin is a J2.

There is always the possibility of the reasons mentioned above as to why two males of the same male line do not match, or perhaps Jehiel Heilperin was not a descendant of Zebulon Eliezer.

The problem is that there are not yet enough participants to analyze these options, so Steve has put out another call for male Halperns to participate.

If you are a Halpern or a descendant of the rabbinic Heilperins, consider testing and joining the project. Do you know of someone (perhaps at work, in your synagogue, school, neighborhood, etc.) who fits that description? If you don't wish to test and join the project, but have genealogical information to share, that's also important. In all these cases, please contact Steve.

The project is most importantly looking for known or suspected descendants of the rabbinic Heilperins discussed above, but any Halpern can join. Remember that the first project match was someone completely unsolicited who was unaware of any rabbinic connections.

As is the case with many similar situations, there are many reasons why someone may not know of a connection - such as the early death (via pogrom, war, epidemic, etc.) of a parent who could not pass on the family story, and perhaps followed by adoption into a non-Halpern family upon remarriage of a mother. There are many scenarios that could be put into play.

In our Talalay tale, there is a persistent story that one of Rabbi Leib ben Mikhail Talalay's numerous sons was an infant found on the rabbi's doorstep and raised as part of the family. However, we have not yet been able to determine who that son might have been. I'm sure readers can also describe scenarios from their own family history.

Contact Steve for more information, to provide information or to test and join the project.

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