The purpose of the Jews of Rhodes Project is to try to identify the original 50 families who were Iberian, Italian, and Romaniote Jews that existed in Rhodes in 1522. This will be done by studying the paternal lines (using Y DNA testing) and the maternal lines (using mitochondrial DNA testing) of Jews whose families had lived on the Island of Rhodes.
The Jews of Rhodes Project has had an incredible start. Over the past year, 46 people have enrolled. Thirty-one people have completed Y-DNA tests to ascertain more about their paternal lineages (father´s father´s father ... etc.). Twenty-one people have performed the mitochondrial DNA tests to discern more about their maternal lineages (mother´s mother´s mother ... etc.).
To date, families evaluated include ALHADEFF, BENVENISTE, HANAN, HAZAN, ISRAEL, De MAYO/MAYO, MENASHE, PIZANTE and RUSSO.
Each of this group, with the same surname, were found to descend from a common male ancestor - from the same family, generations ago.
A reminder: Sephardic surnames often appear in different spelling variations. For example, MENASHE may also be spelled MENASCE, MENASHE, MENASCHE, etc.). Bob notes that spelling differences do not typically point to a different origin or family.
In the tested group, there are five groups of people with mtDNA (mitochondrial or female DNA) matches. Each group descends from a distinct female ancestor along the maternal lines.
One of those groups included four individuals. The oldest female maternal ancestors in that group lived 150-250 years ago and are connected to a common female ancestor back in time along the maternal branches. These families included ISRAEL, NAHMIAS and PIHA. This result suggests that their common maternal ancestor lived in Rhodes before 1700.
Y-DNA (paternal/male DNA) ancestors are believed to have originated a few thousand years ago from Northern Africa and the Ottoman Empire.
Y-DNA study family participants are ALHADEFF, ALTABET, BENON, BENVENISTE, BERRO, CODRON, COEN/COHEN, De MAYO, FRANCO, HANAN, HASSON, HAZAN/JAZAN, ISRAEL, LEVI/LEVY, MAYO, MENASHE, NOTRICA, PALOMBO, PISANTE/PIZANTI, ROUSSO/RUSSO, SURMANI, TARANTO, TREVES.
mtDNA study family participants are ALMELEH, AMATO, CAPELLUTO, GALANTE, HAGIEZ, HALFON, MIZRAHI, NAHMIAS, NAVARRO, PIHA, ROZANES, TARICA, TOURIEL/TURIEL
The project has resulted in many individuals discovering new cousins and being able to trace their families back many more generations.
All Rhodesli descendants who would like to become part of this project, should email Bob.
On a personal note, I would be very interested in seeing any correlation between these families and others who have participated in FamilyTreeDNA.com's Sicilian DNA project and other similar projects, as well as the IberianAshkenaz project. The IberianAshkenaz project is for those ostensibly Ashkenazi families from Eastern Europe who either carry Sephardic family names, have an inheritated generally Sephardic medical condition, or have a strong oral history of Iberian origins. The New Mexico DNA project results would also be an interesting comparison to see if there are genetic matches, as those families are mostly descendants of Converso families that arrived in the early 1600s from Spain to northern New Mexico.
Each of these projects add so much more to our understanding of where our ancestors lived and where they later migrated.