Large portion of Latin America shows Sephardic-Jewish heritage

A new peer-reviewed study reveals that Sephardic genes may have traveled further than originally thought.

By Joseph Wolkin, World Israel News

A new study published in the Nature Communications journal reveals that almost one-quarter of people researchers surveyed have Jewish ancestry.

The group of researchers, which includes top geneticist Juan-Camilo Chacon-Duque, studied genomes from 6,589 individuals from five different Latin American nations. Twenty-three percent of those surveyed showed at least five percent of Sephardic genetic material.

They figured this out thanks to combining specific DNA data with the knowledge of Jewish history relating to Spanish-speaking populations.

“For instance, mtDNA and Y-chromosome data suggest that historical admixture in North West Colombia involved local Native women, and that some immigrant men carried haplogroups common in Jewish populations,” the research explains.

The group of people who have Sephardic DNA likely come from “conversos,” Spanish word for converts from Judaism to Christianity during the Inquisition. Even after they converted, conversos were still persecuted in Spain and Portugal, so many of them journeyed to Latin America.

“For every individual, we characterized more than 600,000 genetic variants,” the research said.

Different DNA variations were used to figure out whether or not they were common for Jews who have roots in Spain.

Further, 7.3 percent of the people who have Sephardic roots have “mostly Sephardic” genes, according to the study. While this might only be a sample, it is certainly intriguing to see just how many people might indeed have Jewish ancestry.