Sadly, antisemitism is still alive and well in 2018, and it seems that the fear and hate of people perceived as "Others" is on the rise again - be it "other" religions, "other" skin colours, "other" sexualities and gender identities, or "other" bodily functionalities.
Genealogy is, in its very essence, the study of connections between human beings. Thus, genealogists are in a powerful position to break down the boundaries between the perceived "Self" and the perceived "Other", and to further understanding between groups who are seen - or who see themselves - as different or even as polar opposites.
In my genealogical research, I - a non-Jew - have come across several clues to possible Jewish ancestors. This is a good day to reflect on those connections, and celebrate them.
The Norwegian government has not historically been particularly friendly to practising Jews, and most of my family's possible Jewish connections involve people who would have converted to Christianity before moving to Norway.
- One of my ancestors was a Jan Beuns in Antwerp, Belgium in the mid-1500s. His surname was also spelled Buens. "Buen" is a Sephardic surname, and there were indeed Sephardic Jews in Antwerp at that time. The community was later expelled, but our Beuns/Buens family might have hid or (most likely) converted.
- Another ancestor of mine seems to have been a Jew from Cologne named Eckebrecht, who converted to Christianity around the year 1100 following the horrendous Rhineland Massacres. This is extremely far back in time, and the connection - which I have from second-hand sources - may or may not be accurate.
- A few of my ancestors are said, in oral tradition, to have been of Jewish descent. This includes one Anders Bruun, born around the year 1600, whose family Bruun might have been of "Jewish-Roma" heritage. There is also speculation that my ancestor Adrian Rockertszoon van Valkenier, who immigrated to Norway from the Netherlands in the 1500s, might have had Jewish roots, but there seems to be no firm evidence for that.
- I have ancestors in the 1700s with the surnames Frankdahl and Weinberg, which are found among Ashkenazi Jewish families in Germany. There is, however, no evidence that my ancestors with those names were anything other than Christian. Our earliest known Weinberg ancestor, Melchior Heinrich Weinberg, was a member of the Evangelical church.
- The Scandinavian Romani people has many stories of intermixing with Jews. Since I have ancestors who belonged to the Swedish Romani community, there might be Jewish connections on that side.
- Additionally, there is some genetic evidence of Ashkenazi ancestry on my mother's side (disputed) and, more significantly, on my paternal grandmother's side (with the Buens, Bruun, Weinberg and van Valkenier connections). The DNA company MyHeritage estimates my paternal grandmother's brother to be 3% Ashkenazi (FTDNA reads it as Middle Eastern + North African + Central Asian). There are also some Ashkenazi cousin matches.