Sephardic Dominicans

  • 20 members

About us

Please excuse any formatting errors found in this article. At times words may be joined together and line spacing may be inconsistent. FamilyTreeDNA has been informed of a glitch in the way this page is displayed and are working on a solution. 


In order to effectively use genetics to understand what DNA haplogroups early Sephardic Jewish settlers introduced to the general population of the Dominican Republic, it is important to have a basic knowledge of ancient Israelite history and early Western European history. For the purposes of this study, "Sephardic" should be taken to mean the classical definition of term; Jews with roots in the Iberian Peninsula. In other words descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jews, not Middle Eastern Mizrahi Jews. According to tradition, Sephardic Jews descend from the Jewish exiles that were expelled from the Land of Israel to Spain in the year 70 by the Romans. Any haplogroup analysis for any Jewish group must not ignore the ancient origins of the Jewish people in The Levant, as well as account for possible intermingling with local populations in the countries they were exiled to. In some cases, we will examine the possibility of descent from non-Jews who converted to Judaism. In those cases, it is assumed the conversions took place in Europe or the Middle East since historically there have been no known conversions to Judaism in the Dominican Republic. 

We will begin our analysis by first offering historical information on the haplogroups present in our study, as well as those haplogroups we expect to see as the study grows. Then we will examine what haplogroups are present in the subgroups which were created based on member accounts of their lineages. Much of the information presented is hypothetical. This study is ongoing and has not reached the membership levels necessary to reach conclusive results. The analysis offered is a layman's attempt at interpreting a limited set of data and should be considered an amateur's attempt at best. The analysis is based on the current understanding of ancient haplogroup origins and is presented taking into consideration modern Jewish history, as well as ancient Jewish traditions of origin, including the Bible. 

The study currently has four sub-groups for Y-DNA analysis and four for mt-DNA analysis. They are:

 1) Dominicans with Confirmed Sephardic Lineage: Members in this subgroup have knowledge of a direct Sephardic ancestor AND customs in their direct line that indicate some observance of the Jewish religion, however minimal. Members with a paper trail proving Jewish lineage will also be grouped here. Members in this sub-group must have ancestors with roots in the Dominican Republic for at least three generations. No members have qualified for placement in this group as of yet.

2) Dominicans with Rumored Sephardic Lineage: Members in this subgroup have knowledge of a direct Sephardic ancestor OR customs in their direct line that indicate some observance of the Jewish religion,however minimal. Members in this sub-group must have ancestors living in the Dominican Republic for at least three generations. The purpose of this group is to determine how many members with rumored ancestry might share a common ancestor with those who have confirmed ancestry.

3) Dominicans without known Sephardic Lineage: Members in this subgroup do not have any knowledge of a direct Sephardic ancestor norare they aware of any customs in their direct line. Members in this sub-group must have ancestors with roots in the Dominican Republic for at least three generations. The purpose of this group is to determine the validity of claims from individuals with rumored ancestry. We should expect to find the results of this group to be somewhat different than the rumored group and drastically different from the confirmed group.

4) Non-Dominicans with Confirmed Spanish & Portuguese Jewish Lineage: Members in this subgroup have knowledge of direct Spanish and Portuguese Jewish ancestor AND customs in their direct line that indicate some observance of the Jewish religion, however minimal. Members with a paper trail proving Spanish and Portuguese Jewish lineage will also be grouped here. Spanish and Portuguese Jews, also known as “Western Sephardim" are a sub group of Sephardic Jews who descend from Jews that migrated to Western European countries (i.e. The Netherlands, England) and the New World (i.e. New Amsterdam [modern day New York], Curacao). Dominicans with Sephardic ancestry are more likely to descend from this group of Western Sephardim, so it is important to see what similarities, if any, members of our confirmed group share with this one.

Y-DNA Historical Background

The most common Y-DNA haplogroups among Jewish men worldwide would be haplogroups J1 and J2. The J haplogroup is of Semitic origin and is overwhelmingly present in The Middle East. This origin is in line with the origins of the ancient Israelite people, from whom Jews are traditionally believed to descend from, and whose homeland was the ancient Kingdom of Israel now the modern day State of Israel, located in the Levant. This haplogroup has been found in the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities of the Netherlands,which were established after the expulsion from Spain. Many of the Dominican Republic’s Sephardic settlers in the 18thand 19th centuries immigrated from the Jewish community of Curacao which was an offshoot of the Jewish community in Amsterdam, Netherlands. It is safe to assume that many Crypto-Jews, who immigrated to the New World from Spain in the 15th and 16th centuries, while hiding their Jewishness, were members of this haplogroup as well. Worldwide, approximately 40% of Jewish men have been found to belong to haplogroup J. 

The Cohen Modal Haplotype is found in this haplogroup. The Cohens (priests) were the priestly class in ancient Israel and according to Jewish tradition they all descend from Aaron, Moses' brother, who himself descended from Levi, son of Jacob, grandson of Abraham. 46% of men with a Cohen tradition in their paternal line have been found to be part of the Cohen Modal Haplotype. This percentage is astoundingly high in the field of population genetics, and strongly supports the tradition that Cohens have a common ancestor originating in biblical times. This indicates that haplogroup J was the haplogroup that the forefathers of the Israelite nation were a part of. Abraham's land of birth was Ur of The Chaldean’s in ancient Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq),which is where this haplogroup may have originated. It should be noted that haplogroup J, and even the Cohen Modal Haplotype, can also be found among non-Jews, particularly those of a Middle Eastern background, and is not necessarily indicative of Jewish ancestry. Sephardic Jews likely brought this lineage with them to the Dominican Republic from Spain. A Member of this project with a tradition of Jewish ancestry on his paternal line, and is a member of this haplogroup, can be considered to be very likely of Jewish descent. A member with no such tradition, but is a member of this haplogroup, would be strongly encouraged to research his family background. 

This is the second most common haplogroup among Jewish men worldwide. It accounts for approximately 20% of Jewish male lineages overall, but among Sephardic Jews in particular it accounts for approximately 30%. It is North African in origin and its distribution matches the Afro-Asiatic linguistic expansion, which eventually resulted in the formation of Hebrew in addition to other Semitic languages. Its high prevalence among Jews worldwide certainly supports a founder theory for its origins. It is unlikely that the forefathers of the Israelite nation were part of this haplogroup, since evidence so far supports haplogroup J being the haplogroup of the founding Israelite tribes. The high percentage among Jews may be the result of ancient conversions to the Abrahamic faith, conducted by tribal members in order to allow marriage to the daughters of the twelve tribes. According to tradition, Jacob the forefather of Israel had twelve sons, who later grew to form twelve tribes. These tribal heads likely had daughters who had no choice but to marry local men, who were converted and integrated into the Israelite tribes before they immigrated to Egypt. Another hypothesis is that the “mixed multitude" mentioned in the Bible during the Exodus from Egypt may be responsible for introducing this haplogroup into the ancient Israelite gene pool. Either way, haplogroup E1B1B has been present among Jews for thousands of years. The higher prevalence of this haplogroup among Sephardic Jews may be due to North African Berber converts to Judaism during the Muslim occupation of Spain. Sephardic Jews may have brought this lineage with them to the Dominican Republic from Spain. A member of this project with a tradition of Jewish ancestry on his paternal line, and is a member of this haplogroup, can be considered to be likely of Jewish descent.

The Iberian Peninsula, which consists of modern day Spain and Portugal, has been colonized and ruled by several tribal powers throughout history. The identity of the ancient Iberians is unknown; however it is known that the Celts who came later merged with them, to form the Celtiberians. The Atlantic Modal Haplotype, the most common haplotype in Western Europe is a part of R1B1A2 and it has Celtic and Germanic variations. A Celtic origin is most likely for individuals of Spanish lineage who are members of Haplogroup R1B1A2. In the year 409, the weakening of the Roman Empire's power in Iberia resulted in a power vacuum throughout the peninsula. That same year, Germanic Suevi,Vandals, and Sarmatian Alans followed shortly after by the Visigoths established kingdoms throughout Iberia. These Germanic tribes brought with them Haplogroup I as well as Germanic variants of haplogroup R1B1A2. These Germanic Kingdoms were taken over by the Moors in the 8th century, but were reestablished in the 13th century during the Reconquista, setting the stage for the Spanish speaking, Christian Spain we know today.

In the early 11th century the establishment of the very prominent Narbonne Talmudic Academy in France resulted in increased Jewish educational opportunities for the Jews of France and Spain. Some researchers propose that during the height of the academy’s prominence, many non-Jews from France and Spain were attracted to the famous school and underwent conversions to Judaism, thus introducing haplogroups R1B1A2 and I into the Jewish gene pool. Even non-Jews who had not attended the academy may have been enticed to convert. In Spain, some estimates hold that Jews comprised 10-20 percent of the total population. This is a very high percentage considering that historically Jews have been known to make up about 1% of the world's population. Jews were very successful in business and reached very high positions in Spanish society, to the point that many not only held titles of nobility and were employed frequently by the crown, but some researchers believe some Jews even married into the royal family. 

The Jews' prominence in Spain prior to the Inquisition may have made conversion to Judaism more attractive and accessible, thus creating yet another opportunity for haplogroup R1B1A2 and haplogroup I to be introduced into the Jewish gene pool. Pogroms in Spain, may also account for the introduction of some Western European DNA among Sephardic Jews, although pogroms were not so common in Spain, nor as severe as they were in Eastern Europe. These origins are highly speculative and research is currently underway to confirm these theories, however these haplogroups are present in most Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities in small percentages. These haplogroups have even been found among Sephardic Jews whose ancestors migrated to the Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth century and have not been to Europe since. Therefore Jewish ancestry cannot be discounted because of a match with a Western European haplogroup. A member of this project with tradition of Jewish ancestry on his paternal line and is a member of these haplogroups may have direct descent from a convert to Judaism. Since converts may marry born Jews, indirect Jewish ancestry on other lines is possible and testing of other family members may be necessary. Sephardic Jews, but more often Spaniards and other Europeans brought these lineages with them to the Dominican Republic from Europe.  

This haplogroup is predominantly Sub-Saharan African and is the most common haplogroup among African Americans. Among Jews, it can be found in very small percentages, even in Jews from Eastern Europe, where there is little (if any) African influence to be found. This indicates that while this haplogroup is certainly not a founding lineage for Jews, it was present in very small amounts at the time of the formation of the ancient Israelite nation. It is possible that this lineage joined the Jewish people along with the "mixed multitude" described in the Bible during the Exodus from Egypt. For the purposes of this study, members of this haplogroup would be considered unlikely to have direct Jewish ancestry, since the Dominican Republic has a large African influence due to the slave trade, and this would be much more likely origin for a member from this haplogroup.

Y-DNA Results

Native Dominicans with Rumored Paternal Sephardic Ancestry

Kit:199142|Haplogroup:R1B1A2 | Surname: Peña

This member has over 2000 matches, mostly of Western European origin. Very high match percentage with FTDNA members from Wales indicates a likely Celtic origin. Member's paternal line has been rumored by family members to be Jewish. A majority of matches are not Jewish on their paternal lines, however in other Jewish study groups member is a part of, results cluster closely with (and in two cases match exactly with) several Sephardic Jews with a variation of the surname “Camhi” (Kamhi, Chimchi, Kimchi), which is a common surname among Sephardic Jews of Turkey and the former Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire welcomed Jews in large numbers after the expulsion from Spain. A common Sephardic origin is likely with a common ancestor probably being a European convert to Judaism. Testing beyond 12 markers for this member as well as the Sephardic matches will be necessary in order to have conclusive results.


Kit:165330|Haplogroup:I2B1 | Surname: Rodríguez

This member has very few matches. Matches with individuals in Germanic countries confirm the Germanic origin for this haplogroup. One other Spanish match indicates possible origin from Visigoth or other Germanic tribe in Spain. No known Jewish matches, but this may be attributed to the rarity of the haplogroup in general. Member’s family settled an area of the Dominican Republic where according to tradition in the area, “Rodriguez" is a Jewish surname. Conclusive results are pending more matches.

The Native Dominicans with Rumored Paternal Sephardic Ancestry  subgroup contains members who suspect Jewish lineage becauseof a family tradition of a Jewish ancestor or because of certain customs ofpossible Jewish origin in the direct paternal line. The only major differencebetween this subgroup, and the control group, which only includesmembers with no known paternal Jewish ancestry, is that the control groupcontains many members with sub-Saharan lineages. This may be due to manyfactors. Perhaps having an African ancestor on the direct paternal lineaffected the phenotype of the family enough to where even after many years, thefamily knew their direct ancestor was a freed slave or the descendant of afreed slave. It is also possible that early in the Dominican Republic,Europeans were automatically labeled as Jewish, by the mostly mulattopopulation. Finally, it is also possible that the two members with rumoredJewish ancestry, actually do descend from Jewish families, and that there werefew (more likely none) Jewish families with sub-Saharan origins, thus explaining why E1B1A members are not found in the "Rumored Ancestry" subgroup. This analysis is inconclusive and is pending increased project membership for further analysis.

MT-DNA Historical Background

 According to Jewish law, Jewishness is determined by maternal descent. This makes mt-DNA testing for those searching for Jewish ancestry very important because of the implications of having Jewish maternal ancestry proven. Unfortunately at the time there are many obstacles today when it comes to proving Jewishness through mt-DNA testing. Currently, Jewish authorities do not accept DNA testing to prove Jewishness. Furthermore, even if it was accepted, it would be very difficult to prove, since mt-DNA mutates at much slower rate than Y-DNA. Whereas Y-DNA mutations can certainly span thousands of years, higher resolution testing can usually narrow down your matches to relatively recent common ancestors. MT-DNA mutations however can often span tens of thousands of years. Higher resolution testing will narrow down matches to a more recent common ancestor, but not as recent as higher resolution Y-DNA testing. Also, despite the Jewish law requiring maternal descent for Jewishness, genetic evidence indicates that after the Roman Exile in the year 70, Jewish men who settled in different parts of the world usually married local women, most likely after having performed ritual conversions on them. The result is that most Jewish mt-DNA matches the mt-DNA of the local non Jewish communities that Jews initially settled in. However; after those conversion events, it seems that Jewish communities remained insular, marrying for the most part, descendants of these converted women. 
        Much more research is needed to develop reliable databases of what can be considered to be Jewish mt-DNA. All is not lost however. If after testing, many Jewish matches are found, and that individual has a maternal tradition of Jewish ancestry, it can be considered likely that there is Jewish ancestry present. Without tradition however, it is just as likely that the individual shares a common ancestor with those Jewish matches that goes back thousands of years before the formation of the Jewish religion. Therefore HVR2 testing and even testing of the entire genome is recommended for individuals searching for Jewish ancestry on their maternal line.

        Haplogroup K can be considered to be the mt-DNA equivalent of Y-DNA haplogroup J in that it is most commonly found in the peoples of the Middle East. Ashkenazi mtDNA K clusters into three subclades seldom found in non-Jewish persons; K1a1b1a, K1a9, and K2a2a. Interestingly, there is a basis for three mt-DNA lineages in the Hebrew Bible. According to Jewish tradition, Jacob fathered the twelve tribes through two wives and two concubines. The two wives, Rachel and Leah, were sisters and surely shared the same mt-DNA, thus resulting in the children of Jacob and founders of the Israelite nation descending from three specific mt-DNA lineages. This haplogroup is much less common among Sephardic Jews, indicating that Jewish exiles who settled in Spain did not bring as many women with them, and married local women who converted to Judaism. A Member of this project with a tradition of Jewish ancestry on his/her maternal line, and is a member of this haplogroup, can be considered to be very likely of Jewish descent, possibly from one of the Ashkenazi Jewish settlers who settled in the city of Sosua in the early 20th century, although Sephardic ancestry is still possible. A member with no such tradition, but is a member of this haplogroup, would be strongly encouraged to research his/her family background. 

      Haplogroup U6 can be considered to be the mt-DNA equivalent of Y-DNA haplogroup E1B1B in that it is of North African origins and its distribution matches the Afro Asiatic linguistic expansion. The U6 research project has discovered what it believes to be a Sephardic Cluster in haplogroup U6A7A1B characterized by mutation 150T. U6 can be found in small percentages among Sephardic Jews and even Ashkenazic Jews. Similar to haplogroup E1B1B, U6's presence among Jews may date back to ancient times when the founding members of the Israelite tribes performed conversions on local Canaanite women, to allow them marry tribal members prior to their descent to Egypt. Another possibility is that this lineage joined the ancient Israelites along with the "mixed multitude" that came out of Egypt with the Israelites, as described in the Bible. It is also possible that Berber conversions to Judaism during the Muslim occupation of Spain introduced this lineage to the Sephardic gene pool. This haplogroup has been found in the Sephardic Jewish communities of the former Ottoman Empire. A member of this project with a tradition of Jewish ancestry on his/her maternal line, and is a member of this haplogroup, can be considered to be likely of Jewish descent.

        Haplogroup L can be considered to be the mt-DNA equivalent of-DNA haplogroup E1B1A in that it is of Sub-Saharan African origins. This haplogroup is found in very low numbers among Jews. It's presence among individuals with strong Jewish tradition on their maternal line, and who do not have a recent origin in Africa, can perhaps be attributed to an ancestor from the "mixed multitude" that came out of Egypt with the Israelites, as described in the Bible. For individuals with speculative Jewish ancestry on their maternal line, this lineage likely indicates that whatever Jewish traditions are present on the line, were adopted perhaps because of a Jewish husband several generations ago. It is possible that the Moors brought this lineage to Spain during the Muslim conquest, but this haplogroup is found in minority percentages among North Africans. Still,descent from a Moorish convert to Judaism is possible. The strong African influence in the Dominican Republic makes descent from a freed slave far more likely for a member of this project, unless Jewish tradition is present on the maternal line as well as knowledge of a Jewish ancestor on the maternal line.

MT-DNA Results

Native Dominicans with Rumored Maternal Sephardic Ancestry


This member has fewer than 100 matches. There are two confirmed Jewish matches, both Sephardic and both from the former Ottoman Empire. After the expulsion from Spain the Ottoman Empire welcomed Jews in large numbers. Most of the matches with individuals with unknown Jewish ancestry are from former Portuguese colonies off and on the coast of Africa, in particular Cape Verde, with the member matching 2.3% of testers with maternal lineages originating there. The overall pattern of distribution is consistent with Sephardic migration post-expulsion where Portugal was the closest and most common location Sephardic Jews relocated to. Cape Verde interestingly had a large Crypto-Jewish community, and Jewish customs, surnames and artifacts can be found on the island today. The member has mutation 150T, but FGS testing will be needed to determine if member is part of the Sephardic cluster discovered by the U6 Study Project. This member has rumored Jewish ancestry on his maternal line. With matches being consistent with Sephardic Jewish migration, and two matches with confirmed maternal Sephardic lineage, maternal Sephardic Jewish ancestry is likely.


This member has a few hundred matches with all of them widely dispersed all over the world. The U2 lineage developed shortly after its parent lineage was founded approximately 50,000 years ago. This explains why this ancient and rare lineage is found in Eastern Europe, where it is most common and likely originated, but is to be found in small percentages in Western Europe, Northern Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent. The age of this haplogroup and its wide spread mean it could have entered the Jewish gene pool at any time from the founding of the Jewish religion over 3000 years ago, to relatively modern times. Member has rumored maternal Jewish lineage. Member has several Ashkenazic Jewish matches, but based on the age and diffusion of this lineage, it is not possible to use it to estimate likeliness of possible Sephardic Jewish ancestry.

Kit: 190773|Haplogroup:L1B1

This member only has 11 HVR1 matches indicating a very rare lineage. Nearly all matches are of sub-Saharan origin with the exception of one match in England and another in Afghanistan. Its presence in Afghanistan may be due to Moorish migrations into the Middle East, which opens the possibility that perhaps the Moorish conquest of Spain brought this lineage there as well, where perhaps a bearer of this haplogroup converted to Judaism. Such a scenario is highly speculative however, despite that the fact that there is rumored Jewish lineage on this members maternal line and member has no apparent Jewish matches. Preservation of Jewish customs may be due to a rather recent Jewish ancestor on an indirect ancestral line.

Kit: 198648|Haplogroup:L3D

This member only has 4 matches, making her lineage exceedingly rare. Two matches are from the Cape Verde islands, which was a Portuguese colony where many Sephardic Jews were able to keep their faith in hiding and form a community of sorts. Anthropological and archaeological evidence as well as civil records attest to the significant Jewish influence on the island. The islands' proximity to the African continent however gives it an even larger African influence and in fact most of the islands' inhabitants have historically been of majority African descent. The member's other two matches are in Guinea Bissau which had a similar influence from Portuguese Jews. The fact that all matches have common ancestors in areas settled by Sephardic Jews attests to this member's rumored Sephardic maternal lineage. On the other hand, the sub-Saharan specific L3D haplogroup points to a more likely African origin and member does not have matches in non-African places of Jewish settlement. One of the matches has a very Sephardic surname; Gabay, but surnames are not carried along the maternal line. While there are some indicators of Sephardic lineage for this member, Sephardic intermingling with a West African maternal line is more likely, but conclusive results are pending further matches.

        The Native Dominicans with Rumored Maternal Sephardic Ancestry subgroup contains members who suspect Jewish lineage because of a family tradition of a Jewish ancestor or because of certain customs of possible Jewish origin in the direct paternal line. There are two major differences between this subgroup, and the control group, which only includes members with no known maternal Jewish ancestry. Firstly, t
he only two maternal lineages in the study with European matches both belong to the "Rumored Ancestry "sub-group". This is likely insignificant since it can be presumed that a majority of European lineages in the Dominican Republic are not Jewish. Secondly, the control group (which consists of only two members) contains Haplogroup A, which is indicative of Native American ancestry, and in the case of Dominicans, likely ancestry from the Taino tribes native to the island of Hispaniola. If this indicates that having strong native customs makes one less likely to mistakenly believe they have Sephardic maternal ancestry, therefore excluding "A" results from the "Rumored Lineage" and "Confirmed Lineage" groups remains to be seen and is pending further group membership.

Ken Rodriguez

Sephardic Dominicans Project Administrator