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DNA Project

Genealogy by Genetics

We've initiated a Palevsky DNA project at FamilyTreeDNA to help prove or disprove that all Palevsky families have a common male ancestor. We invite one Palevsky male from each family tree listed on the left to participate in this project. You'll submit a DNA sample (a simple, painless cheek swab), which will be analyzed for specific DNA markers obtained from the Y chromosome. These markers will then be compared with the markers of the other Palevsky men who participate in this project and will enable us to determine if the families have a common male ancestor.

How does this work? The Y chromosome is passed down from male to male, through every generation, virtually unchanged. So a male will have the same Y chromosome as his father, paternal grandfather, paternal great-grandfather, etc -- all his direct male ancestors. Brothers will also share the same Y chromosome since they received the same chromosome from their father. This passing down of the Y chromosome enables genealogical research to be supplemented by genetic testing.

Privacy and Confidentiality

Many people have concerns about any type of DNA testing, but with genealogical DNA testing, there's really little to be concerned about. Once potential participants better understand this new field, they realize that their concerns were based on misconceptions and fear of perceived issues that simply don't exist.

Family Tree DNA has very strict privacy and confidentiality rules, which can be read about in the various links that I'll post in a moment. First, let me highlight just a few of the most common concerns:

MYTH: My health insurance company can get my DNA if I do this test.
FACT: This is categorically wrong and is the largest unfounded concern. First, the DNA collection is done in the privacy of your own home by swabbing your inner cheek. Your insurance company and your doctors are not involved and have no idea that you've signed up for a genealogical DNA test. Even if they were to somehow find out, they could not request your DNA from Family Tree DNA. And even if they were able to request it, there's no "chain of custody" -- Family Tree DNA couldn't guarantee that the DNA came from you, even if your name is on the order. For all Family Tree DNA knows, you swabbed your dog or your neighbor. Ok, they'll know if you swabbed your dog (someone really did that once!), but they would have no idea if you swabbed your neighbor. I have ordered genealogical DNA tests for many of my relatives, so my name is on the orders, but the DNA isn't mine. So, bottom line - if your insurance company really wants your DNA, I can guarantee you that they would send you to your trusted doctor for a blood test before they'll go knocking on Family Tree DNA's door. In addition, there's currently a bill working its way through the U.S. government that would prevent discrimination by employers and health insurers based on genetic information. See the Coalition for Genetic Fairness website for more information.

MYTH: They can test my DNA for anything they want, including medical information.
FACT: Although they technically could do that, they don't and they won't. Family Tree DNA has strict rules about their customer's DNA ONLY being used for the genealogical tests ordered by the customers. The lab has no right to test your DNA for anything else. I can also promise you that the lab doesn't have the time to do other types of testing! Family Tree DNA keeps the lab extremely busy with their genealogy tests. I have met the lab techs in person at annual Family Tree DNA conferences and they're regular people just like us, who already spend more than enough time at work doing approved tests, and like to go home once in a while to spend time with friends and family ;-)

Family Tree DNA - Privacy & Confidentiality
Family Tree DNA - Testing My DNA!?! Are You Nuts!?!
Family Tree DNA - Frequently Asked Questions
Coalition for Genetic Fairness

Palevsky DNA Project Results

As of Sunday, November 6, 2006......

We have 6 families participating in the DNA project, so far. We've discovered that there are at least two different Palevsky lines. The first 4 families who participated in the project all matched, then families 5 & 6 matched each other, but not the first 4 families. Traditional genealogy research is ongoing to identify exactly how families 1-4 and families 5-6 are related to each other. Following are more details about each group:

Group #1: There are currently 4 families in this group: Gershon, Hersh, Shmuel Lazar & Yaakov Tzvi. All 4 families match exactly on the first 12 markers and have the same haplogroup, J2. Three of these families tested to 37 markers and continued to match exactly. Two of those have further upgraded to 67 markers for more advanced analysis. We currently do not have enough information to determine exactly how these families are connected to each other, but we're working to obtain 19th-century records from Belarus in hope of finding some answers. (Elise's note: My personal theory is that Shmuel Lazar and Yaakov Tzvi are both sons of Gershon. I don't have a theory as to Hersh's connection yet.)

The Group #1 Palevsky DNA results have some rare characteristics:

  • Normally there are 4 copies of DYS# 464, which are commonly labelled as a, b, c and d. However, a small percentage of people have more than 4 copies. Group #1 has 5 copies of DYS# 464, as you can see by the presense of 464e in the results below.
  • At 464b, this group has something called a micro-allele. Without going into the science, the existence of the micro-allele gives us a value of 13.1 at that marker, whereas most people have whole number values at every marker.
  • At DYS# CDYb, this group has a "double value" -- 36/37 -- instead of the normal single value.

This group also has very close and exact high-resolution (37 or 67 markers) DNA matches with about 30 other families whose surnames are not Palevsky and who are from all over Eastern Europe and beyond. The matches include the anomolies mentioned above, so there's little doubt that all these families are related. There's a group doing a study on the connection between these families, and they estimate that the common ancestor lived somewhere in the 15th to 17th centuries, before modern surnames came into use! This study was presented at the 2006 IAJGS Conference in NYC this August.

One of the newest non-Palevsky matches for this group is a Daitch family from Kobrin, who is well-known to the Yaakov Tzvi family by marriage. The fact that the Daitch and Palevsky Y-DNA match each other means that they are not simply related by marriage, but they are actually descended from a common male ancestor and the families are therefore true cousins. The common male ancestor probably lived more than 200 years ago, before both families adopted surnames. Hopefully further genealogical study will help shed light on who the common ancestor was.

Group #2: There are currently 2 families in this group: Menachem Mendel & Yaakov Azriel Zelig (YAZ). Several branches of the YAZ family were tested to ensure that the family's oral history of the Saltzman and Nathanson branches originally being Palevsky was correct. These families each tested 12 markers and matched exactly with a Palefski branch of the YAZ family, so the oral history has been proven. The Menachel Mendel family then came along with an 11/12 match with the YAZ family, which should be enough to say they are definitely related. However, the Menachem Mendel family is testing up to 67 markers, and we would like to see one member of the YAZ family upgrade to at least 37 marker for confirmation and further analysis. These families are haplogroup R1b (or, more specifically, R1b1), one of the most populous haplogroups in western Europe -- so for R1b, more markers is generally best to ensure that the match isn't simply coincidental. There's also a separate Jewish R1b project at Family Tree DNA, which is seeking to determine more ancient origins of Jewish R1b's.

Why two Palevsky families when it's such a rare surname? That's a great question! Right now, we have only speculation, but we hope that further genealogy research will help shed light on this question. We do know that there were two different families pre-immigration, so no matter what the reason, it probably happened about 150-200 years ago. Keeping that in mind, here are some possible reasons: (a) one of the families had the surname first, and the other adopted it because they liked the name or because the first family was prominent, (b) a male married a female Palevsky and adopted her surname, thereby breaking the normal male-to-male Y-DNA/surname chain, (c) undocumented or forgotten adoption, (d) infidelity around 150-200 years ago (yes, it's possible!).

We look forward to more Palevsky families participating in this fascinating project! Please read on for further information about how to participate.

More DNA Project Details

The "entry-level" test for this project is a 12-marker Y-DNA test. A match of all 12 markers between two individuals gives a 50% probability that their Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) was in the last 7 generations, a 90% probability that the MRCA was in the last 23 generations and a 95% probability that the MRCA was in the last 29 generations. These results can be more refined with 25-, 37- and 67-marker tests, with probabilities as follows:

Markers50% Probability
# Generations
90% Probability
# Generations
95% Probability
# Generations

Only one male Palevsky descendant from each "distinct" Palevsky family is needed to participate in this project. Since we are doing this as a group project, Family Tree DNA is offering us the following reduced group-rate costs for the tests:

  • 12-Marker: $99
  • 25-Marker: $124
  • 37-Marker: $149 ... Recommended!
  • 67-Marker: $189

Plus shipping - $2 U.S. or $4 int'l.

Which Test Should I Order?

A 12-marker test is usually enough to establish whether or not you share a common ancestor with another Palevsky family. However, when there's a close 11/12 match instead of an exact match, it's often beneficial to test more markers to be absolutely sure that the families are indeed related. Also, for those who are willing to contribute to more advanced study of the Palevsky DNA, the 37- or 67-marker tests are recommended.

The advanced DNA studies with higher marker tests may help us determine where each family group branched off from the common ancestor. Somewhere along the way, the families would need to have a mismatch (also called a mutation) at one of the markers. We don't have enough data yet to promise that the tests will yield this level of info -- the only way we'll find out is by having some families be the guinea pigs and take the higher marker tests to see what they yield. However, I will say that the 37-marker test will probably NOT be enough to help us determine branches. As explained above, we have exact 37-marker matches with non-Palevskys, who we probably had a common ancestor with in the 15th to 17th centuries. So it stands to reason that all related Palevskys should match exactly at 37 markers, yielding us no new information. Therefore, the 67-marker test is highly recommended for the advanced study.

Tests can always be upgraded to 37 or 67 markers after the initial test is complete. Just be advised that the total cost after upgrades will be higher than if the 37- or 67-marker test is ordered from the start. Following are the upgrade costs:

  • 12 to 25: $49
  • 12 to 37: $99
  • 25 to 37: $49
  • 12 to 67: $189
  • 25 to 67: $148
  • 37 to 67: $99

Since the DNA sample of the participant will represent his entire family, we would encourage the participant to ask his family members to share the cost, especially if the cost would otherwise prohibit the person from participating.

DNA Project Fund

We have also set up a General Fund for the Palevsky DNA Project so that individuals can make donations to help subsidize the cost for those participating in this project. If you would like to make a donation to the general fund, please click here: Palevsky DNA Project General Fund Donation Form

I'm Interested! How Do I Participate?

To participate in the Palevsky DNA Project, please submit a join request at the Palevsky FamilyTreeDNA Project website. Once you're approved to join the project, you'll receive a link to the order form where you'll be able to order your DNA test kit at the reduced group rates specified above.

Additional info about DNA testing

Who are you? -, 6/26/2006
DNA digs into family tree - The Des Moines Register, 3/28/2006
Family tree project helps trace deep history - MSNBC, 11/18/2005
A Mosaic of People: The Jewish Story and a Reassessment of the DNA Evidence - Journal of Genetic Genealogy, Spring 2005
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