As the series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. begins its 10-week run on PBS, The Spittoon will feature posts from 23andMe’s Ancestry Ambassadors featuring their own stories about using DNA to dig into ancestry.By Tim Janzen, M.D.My father, Robert Janzen, comes from a long line of hardworking Low German Mennonite farmers. But when 23andMe developed the feature to identify Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, I really wanted to determine whether his data suggested any Jewish ancestry. Let me explain.His Mennonite ancestors were persecuted in the Low Countries — in what is now the Netherlands and Belgium — and in the 1500s they fled to a safer haven in what is now Poland. After Catherine the Great opened Russia to settlers, his ancestors migrated to South Russia between 1789 and 1819 where they established small villages of Mennonites on the Russian Steppe. After many hardships they eventually prospered and developed thriving agricultural colonies that helped transform South Russia into the “breadbasket” of the world before about a third of the Mennonites immigrated to the United States in the 1870s.
23andMe provides genetic testing services for informational purposes; your results may or may not help you to search for or identify relatives or family members. www.timjanzen.com and has given many presentations about Mennonite genealogy in the United States and Canada. He is the co-administrator of the Mennonite DNA project at www.mennonitedna.com. He also serves on the ISOGG Y-DNA Haplogroup Tree Committee. Tim is married to Rachel Janzen and they have four children.