I’m Jewish and Related to Hitler?

sjb-dna-compositionAs 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.

About Steve Borsch

I’m CEO of Marketing Directions, Inc., a trend forecasting, consulting and publishing firm in Minnesota. Prior to that I was Vice President, Strategic Alliances at Lawson Software in St. Paul where I was responsible for all partnerships at this major vendor of enterprise resource planning software products and services. Read more about me here unless you’re already weary of me telling you how incredible and awesome I am.


  1. Mark Austin says:

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

  2. mary carlson says:

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

  3. Scott Crusoe says:

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

  4. Steve Borsch says:

    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. 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.

Leave a Comment