I’m Jewish and Related to Hitler?

As we are all connected and come from a few thousand humans 60,000 or so years ago, you are probably both too.

After attending two parties last night, on the drive home my wife and I had a very interesting conversation about ancestry, how we’re all connected, and how two of her nephews discovered that they had completely different perspectives on their respective heritages. One saw himself as German (since their father’s direct ancestry is German) and the other brother identified with his lebanese background (since their mother’s ancestors hailed from Lebanon). It was a surprise to both of them.

That sparked a renewed interest in my ancestry so today I invested some time in poking around my 23andMe account to see if I could gain more insight in to my own genetic ancestry.

Like that one nephew of my wife’s, with the surname “Borsch” I’ve also always identified with Germany as my primary ancestry. Imagine my surprise when I saw that new visual representation you see above which clearly shows that the primary concentration of my ancestral DNA is British and Irish! Only 9.2% is closely aligned with French & German. Guess I have to rethink my ancestral beliefs.

But it got even more interesting as I dug deeper and discovered my .007% Jewish DNA and that Hitler and I shared a (thankfully) very distant male as an ancestor…

I started off today’s adventure trying to see how my paternal haplogroup, E1b1b1a2, was related to what 23andMe showed me as “famous” people with whom I am connected. In this case it was Napoleon Bonaparte who has an E1b1 mutation, E1b1b1c1.

Like all DNA, small mutations occur that spawn a new Y “line” which can be traced on a DNA family tree. Since the father’s Y chromosome passes essentially unchanged to the son—with small mutations added to the end over time—this means Napoleon and I share a common male ancestor who had E1b1b1.

So I wondered: With what other “famous” people did I share an E1b1 male ancestor?

Looking just at my paternal E1b1 haplogroup, these four men and I share a common male ancestor. Two are uplifting and two are “Yikes! Really!?!”

 Looking just at my paternal E1b1 haplogroup, these four men and I
share a common male ancestor. Two are uplifting and two are “Yikes! Really!?!”

Looks like some ancient father passed his Y chromosome and it came down to me, but only after branching out and creating the descendants above as well as:

  • Ramesses III, second Pharaoh of the Twentieth Dynasty and considered to be the last great New Kingdom king to wield any substantial authority over Egypt. He belonged to Y-DNA haplogroup E1b1a
  • Napoleon Bonaparte belonged to haplogroup E1b1b1c1*
  • Albert Einstein belonged to haplogroup E1b1b1b2*
  • Based on researched published in 2004, Adolf Hitler likely belonged to Y-DNA Haplogroup E1b1b1
  • Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, belonged to Haplogroup E1b1a
  • Desmond Tutu, South African retired Archbishop of Cape Town, according to a study on Southern African genetics belongs to Y-DNA haplogroup E1b1a1g

Check out: List of haplogroups of notable people

I also discovered that just over half of one percent of my DNA (.7%) is shared with Ashkenazi Jews. Even though the 23andMe sample size is small (1,305 people) they state that this percentage “…still clearly shows the connections among those who consider themselves to be Ashkenazi Jewish: two Ashkenazi Jewish people are very likely to be “genetic cousins”, sharing long stretches of identical DNA. This sharing reflects the close knit nature of this population.” So even that fraction of a percentage means an ancestor at some distant point in the past mated with another ancestor of mine.

Fun way to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday. Hope you have a chance to try this out for yourself too.

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  1. Mark Austin on June 9, 2014 at 5:52 am

    Hey Borschski I thought you were born Catholic? All this time you have been a Jew? 😉

  2. mary carlson on August 19, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    Interesting steve.I had a feeling their was some jewish ancestry in there.

  3. Scott Crusoe on September 19, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    Steve this info is Amazing. I too am E1b1b1a2 so we are related as well.

  4. Steve Borsch on September 24, 2015 at 6:20 am

    Hey cousin. It’s been interesting to connect with people on 23andme with whom I share so much dna that we’re considered 2nd or 3rd cousins.

    One woman I connected with was actually her father who had purchased dna swab kits from 23andMe and then put all the kids profiles on the site. Turns out he and his wife both have Norwegian ancestry and my Mom’s entire side of the family is from there too. Tracking it back a bit, this woman’s (um, Dad) ancestors came from the same, small fishing village as did my maternal great, great, great grandparents.

    Small world indeed.

  5. RonP on February 3, 2017 at 9:06 pm

    23andme is horrible at determining German ancestry. They have even admitted to this in one of their blogs. Most of it gets lumped into the “Broadly Northern European” category. This is due to the fact that Germans have historically been a genetically heterogeneous people. It’s easier for them to pick up on Irish/Celtic ancestry, due to the fact that they are more genetically homogeneous.

  6. Matthew Borsch on October 29, 2018 at 10:08 am

    Steve – Interesting. I have similar results from 23andMe (including the Ashkenazi Jew part) and I happen to share your surname (i.e., I am Matthew Borsch). Tracing my partilineal back as follows: father Frederick, grandfather Reuben, gg Frederick, ggg August*, gggg Freidrich.

    August, a farmer and blacksmith, and his father Fredrich (sp?) emigrated to the USA from Suhl, Germany, shortly after the Civil War. August reportedly had 16 children (so a lot of potential descendants). There is incidentally a small village named ‘Borsch’ that is about 15 miles west of Suhl and right on the east side of the former east/west German border. I visited that village in 2014 with my brother Stuart but could not find any living Borschs.

  7. Steve Borsch on October 29, 2018 at 10:33 am

    Hi Matthew. Was your father the Frederick Borsch who was the Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles? I ask since, whenever I would do an online search for our surname, his was the first result that appeared usually.

    I know of Suhl, Germany since my father and I traveled around Germany for two weeks back in 1997 (see The Big Trip to Germany). It’s about 250 miles from Mehren where my great-grandparents emigrated from in 1854. Does make me wonder how (not if) we’re related back there somewhere.

  8. Matthew Borsch on October 30, 2018 at 7:23 am

    Yes the same Frederick Houk Borsch (1935-2017) who was my father and sort of the patriarch for the extended family (we miss him a lot). I remember him telling me that his father Reuben (1903-1983) was in touch with ‘Borsch relatives’ in Germany up until WWII but not during or after that. Reuben had visited Germany in the 1920’s and now I wish that I had more information about that!

    Well — I imagine its likely that we share an ancestor in the not-too-distant past and perhaps sometime in the 16th, 17th, or 18th Century (wild guess). I wonder if your great-grandparents or their ancestors had traveled west from Thuringia? Relatedly, I’ve wondered if the Borsch name originated in Russia going further back (and as my Aunt has speculated, if the name was originally Jewish … those coming west fleeing a pogrom or something … who knows?)

    Good to meet you!!

  9. Matthew Borsch on October 30, 2018 at 7:29 am

    One more thing the little village of Borsch — it has been there for at least 300 years since I located it on a 1730 map where it was shown as ‘Borscha’ although I don’t know why the different spelling …. and I can’t confirm that the Borsch name on that village is even related to my Borsch …. but I have to think so given it is not a common name and given its proximity to Suhl where my great-great and great-great-great grandfather emigrated from 1870 or so.

  10. Steve Borsch on October 30, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    Good to meet you too!

    We moved from Minnesota to California in June and are renting until our new house is done end of November…so all my documents and such are in a PODS container back in Minnesota. Otherwise I could probably shed some light on locations. What I do remember is that Johann Borsch’s parents came from Prussia. The kicker is that Prussia basically covered much of present day Germany, but somewhere I have a map of Prussia overlayed on to present day Germany…but it will have to wait.

    The only other thing I know is that “Borsch” is derived from “boar’s hair” which was used to make brushes and brooms. If you cut through the fog a bit it’s not too big a leap to think that, at some point back in the day, our ancestors had a store “Borsch’s Best Boars Hair Brushes!” or something like that. 😉

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.