Concepts – The Faces of Endogamy

Recently, while checking Facebook, I saw this posting from my friend who researches in the same Native admixed group of families in North Carolina and Virginia that I do. Researchers have been trying for years to sort through these interrelated families. As I read Justin’s post, I realized, this is a great example of endogamy and often how it presents itself to genealogists.

I match a lot of people from the Indian Woods [Bertie County, NC] area via DNA, with names like Bunch, Butler, Mitchell, Bazemore, Castellow, and, of course, Collins. While it’s hard to narrow in on which family these matching segments come from, I can find ‘neighborhoods’ that fit the bill genetically. This [census entry] is from near Quitsna in 1860. You see Bunch, Collins, Castellow, Carter, and Mitchell in neighboring households.

Which begs the question, what is endogamy, do you have it and how can you tell?


Endogamy is the practice or custom or marrying within a specific group, population, geography or tribe.

Examples that come to mind are Ashkenazi Jews, Native Americans (before European and African admixture), Amish, Acadians and Mennonite communities.

Some groups marry within their own ranks due to religious practices. Jewish, Amish and Mennonite would fall under this umbrella. Some intermarry due to cultural practices, such as Acadians, although their endogamy could also partly be attributed to their staunch Catholic beliefs in a primarily non-Catholic region. Some people practice endogamy due to lack of other eligible partners such as Native Americans before contact with Europeans and Africans.  People who live on  islands or in villages whose populations were restricted geographically are prime candidates for endogamy.

In the case of Justin’s group of families who were probably admixed with Native, European and African ancestors, they intermarried because there were socially no other reasonable local options. In Virginia during that timeframe, mixed race marriages were illegal. Not only that, but you married who lived close by and who you knew – in essence the neighbors who were also your relatives.

Endogamy and Genetic Genealogy

In some cases, endogamy is good news for the genealogist. For example, if you’re working with Acadian records and know which Catholic church your ancestors attended. Assuming those church records still exist, you’re practically guaranteed that you’ll find the entire family because Acadians nearly always married within the Acadian community, and the entire Acadian community was Catholic. Catholics kept wonderful records. Even when the Acadians married a Native person, the Native spouse is almost always baptized and recorded with a non-Native name in the Catholic church records, which paved the way for a Catholic marriage.

In other cases, such as Justin’s admixed group, the Brethren who notoriously kept no church records or the Jewish people whose records were largely destroyed during the Holocaust, endogamy has the opposite effect – meaning that actual records are often beyond the reach of genealogists – but the DNA is not.

It’s in cases like this that people reach for DNA to help them find their families and connections.

What Does Endogamy Look Like?

If you know nothing about your heritage, how would you know whether you are endogamous or not? What does it look like? How do you recognize it?

The answer is…it depends. Unfortunately, there’s no endogamy button that lights up on your DNA results, but there are a range of substantial clues.  Let’s divide up the question into pieces that make sense and look at a variety of useful tools.

Full or Part?

First of all, fully and partly endogamous ancestry, and endogamy from different sources, has different signs and symptoms, so to speak.

A fully endogamous person, depending on their endogamy group, may have either strikingly more than average autosomal DNA matches, or very few.

Another factor will be geography, where you live, which serves to rule out some groups entirely. If you live in Australia, your ancestors may be European but they aren’t going to be Native American.

How many people in your endogamous group that have DNA tested is another factor that weighs very heavily in terms of what endogamy looks like, as is the age of the group. The older the group, generally the more descendants available to test although that’s not always the case. For example warfare, cultural genocide and disease wiped out many or most of the Native population in the United States, especially east of the Mississippi and particularly in the easternmost seaboard regions.

Because of the genocide perpetrated upon the Jewish people, followed by the scattering of survivors, Jewish descendants are inclined to test to find family connections. Jewish surnames may have been changed or not adopted in some cases until late, in the 1800s, and finding family after displacement was impossible in the 1940s for those who survived.

Let’s look at autosomal DNA matches for fully and partly endogamous individuals.

Jewish people, in particular Ashkenazi, generally have roughly three times as many matches as non-endogamous individuals.

Conversely, because very few Native people have tested, Native testers, especially non-admixed Native individuals, may have very few matches.

It’s ironic that my mother, the last person listed, with two endogamous lines, still has fewer matches than I do, the first person listed.  This is because my father has deep colonial roots with lots of descendants to test, and my mother has recent immigration in her family line – even though a quarter of her ancestry is endogamous.

To determine whether we are looking at endogamy, sometimes we need to look for other clues.

There are lots of ways to discover additional clues.


Is there a trend among the surnames of your matches?

At the top of your Family Finder match page your three most common surnames are displayed.

A fully endogamous Jewish individual’s most common surnames are shown above. If you see Cohen among your most common surnames, you are probably Jewish, given that the Kohanim have special religious responsibilities within the Jewish faith.

Of course, especially with autosomal DNA, the person’s current surname may not be indicative, but there tends to be a discernable pattern with someone who is highly endogamous. When someone who is fully endogamous, such as the Jewish population, intermarries with other Jewish people, the surnames will likely still be recognizably Jewish.

Our Jewish individual’s first matching page, meaning his closest matches, includes the following surnames:

  • Cohen
  • Levi
  • Bernstein
  • Kohn
  • Goldstein

The Sioux individual only has 137 matches, but his first page of matches includes the following surnames:

  • Sunbear
  • Deer With Horns
  • Eagleman
  • Yelloweyes
  • Long Turkey
  • Fire
  • Bad Wound
  • Growing Thunder

These surnames are very suggestive of Native American ancestry in a tribe that did not adopt European surnames early in their history. In other words, not east of the Mississippi.

At Family Tree DNA, every person has the opportunity to list their family surnames and locations, so don’t just look at the tester’s surname, but at their family surnames and locations too. The Ancestral Surname column is located to the far right on the Family Finder matches page. If you can’t see all of the surnames, click on the person’s profile picture to see their entire profile and all of the surnames they have listed.

Please note that you can click to enlarge all graphics.

If you haven’t listed your family surnames, now would be a good time. You can do this by clicking on the orange “Manage Personal Information” link near your profile picture on the left of your personal page.

The orange link takes you to the account settings page. Click on the Genealogy tab, then on surnames. Be sure to click the orange “save” when you are finished.

Partial Endogamy

Let’s take a look at a case study of someone who is partially endogamous, meaning that they have endogamous lines, but aren’t fully endogamous. My mother, who is the partially endogamous individual with 1231 matches is a good example.

Mother is a conglomeration of immigrants. Her 8 great-grandparents break down as follows:

In mother’s case, a few different forces are working against each other. Let’s take a look.

The case of recent immigration from the Netherlands, in the 1850s, would serve to reduce mother’s matches because there has been little time in the US for descendants to accrue and test. Because people in the Netherlands tend to be very reluctant about DNA testing, very few have tested, also having the effect of reducing her number of matches.

Mother’s Dutch ancestors were Mennonites, an endogamous group within the Netherlands, which would further reduce her possibilities of having matches on these lines since she would be less likely to match the general population and more likely to match individuals within the endogamous group. If people from the Mennonite group tested, she would likely match many within that group. In other words, for her to find Dutch matches, people descended from the endogamous Dutch Mennonite population would need to test. At Family Tree DNA, there is a Low Mennonite Y DNA and Anabaptist autosomal DNA project both, but these groups tend to attract the Mennonites that migrated to Russia and Poland, not the group that stayed in the Netherlands. Another issue, at least in mother’s case, is that her Mennonite relatives “seem” to have been later converts, not part of the original Mennonite group – although it’s difficult to tell for sure in the records that exist.

Mother’s Kirsch and Drechsel ancestors were also recent immigrants in the 1850s, from Germany, with very few descendants in the US today. The villages from where her Kirsch ancestors immigrated, based on the church records, did tend to be rather endogamous.  However, that endogamy would only have reached back about 200 years, as far as the 30 Years’ War when that region was almost entirely, if not entirely, depopulated. So while there was recent endogamy, there (probably) wasn’t deep endogamy. Of course, it would require someone from those villages to test so mother could have matches before endogamy can relevant. DNA testing is not popular in Germany either.

Because of recent immigration, altogether one half of mother’s heritage would reduce her number of matches significantly. Recent immigrants simply have fewer descendants to test.

On the other hand, mother’s English line has been in the US for a long time, some since the Mayflower, so she could expect many matches from that line, although they are not endogamous. If you’re thinking to yourself that deep colonial ancestry can sometime mimic endogamy in terms of lots of matches, you’re right – but still not nearly to the level of a fully endogamous Jewish person.

Mother’s Acadian line has been settled in North America in Nova Scotia since the early 1600s, marrying within their own community, mixing with the Native people and then scattering in different directions after 1755 when they were forcibly removed. Acadians, however, tended to remain in their cultural groups, even after relocation. Many Acadian descendants DNA test and all Acadians descend from a limited and relatively well documented original population. That level of documentation is very unusual for endogamous groups. Acadian surnames are well known and are French. The best Acadian genealogical resource in is Karen Theriot’s comprehensive tree on Rootsweb in combination with the Mothers of Acadia DNA project at Family Tree DNA. I wish there was a similar Fathers of Acadia project.

Mother’s Brethren line is much less well documented due to a lack of church records. The Brethren community immigrated in the early 1700s from primarily Switzerland and Germany, was initially relatively small, lived in clusters in specific areas, traveled together and did not marry outside the Brethren faith. Therefore, Brethren heritage and names also tend to be rather specific, but not as recognizable as Acadian names. After all, the Brethren were German/Swiss and in mother’s case, she also has another 1/4th of her heritage that are recently immigrated Germans – so differentiating one German group from the other can be tricky. The only way to tell Brethren matches from other German matches is that the Brethren also tend to match each other.

In Common With

If you notice a group of similar appearing surnames, use the ICW (in common with) tool at Family Tree DNA to see who you match in common with those individuals. If you find that you match a whole group of people with similar surnames or geography, contact your matches and ask if they know any of the other matches and how they might be related. I always recommend beginning with your closest matches because your common ancestor is likely to be closer in time than people who match you more distantly.

In the ICW match example below, all of the matches who do show ancestral surnames include Acadian surnames and/or locations.

Acadians, of course, became Cajuns in Louisiana where one group settled after their displacement in Nova Scotia. The bolded surnames match surnames on the tester’s surname list.

The ICW tools work particular well if you know of or can identify one person who matches you within a group, or simply on one side of your family.

Don Worth’s Autosomal DNA Segment Analyzer is an excellent tool to genetically group your matches by chromosome. It’s then easy to use the chromosome browser at Family Tree DNA to see which of these people match you on the same segments. These tools work wonderfully together.

The group above is an Acadian match group. By hovering over the match names, you can see their ancestral surnames which make the Acadian connection immediately evident.

The Matrix

In addition to seeing the people you match in common with your matches by utilizing the ICW tool at Family Tree DNA, you can also utilize the Matrix tool to see if your matches also match each other. While this isn’t the same as triangulation, because it doesn’t tell you if they match each other on the same exact segment, it’s a wonderful tool, because in the absence of cooperation or communication from your matches to determine triangulation between multiple people, the Matrix is a very good secondary approach and often predicts triangulation accurately.

In the Matrix, above, the blue boxes indicates that these individuals (from your match list) also match each other.

For additional information on various autosomal tools available for your use, click here to read the article, Nine Autosomal Tools at Family Tree DNA.


Everyone who takes the Family Finder test also receives their ethnicity estimates on the MyOrigins tab.

In the case of our Jewish friend, above, his MyOrigins map clearly shows his endogamous heritage. He does have some Middle Eastern region admixture, but I’ve seen Ashkenazi Jewish results that are 100% Ashkenazi Jewish.

The same situation exists with our Sioux individual, above. Heavily Native, removing any doubt about his ancestry.

However, mother’s European admixture blends her MyOrigins results into a colorful but unhelpful European map, at least in terms of determining whether she is endogamous or has endogamous lines.

European endogamous admixture, except for Jewish heritage, tends to not be remarkable enough to stand out as anything except European heritage utilizing ethnicity tools. In addition, keep in mind that DNA testing in France for genealogy is illegal, so often there is a distinct absence in that region that is a function of the lack of testing candidates. Acadians may not show up as French.

Ethnicity testing tends to be excellent at determining majority ethnicity, and determining differences between continental level ethnicity, but less helpful otherwise. In terms of endogamy, Jewish and Native American tend to be the two largest endogamous groups that are revealed by ethnicity testing – and for that purpose, ethnicity testing is wonderful.

Y and Mitochondrial DNA and Endogamy

Autosomal tools aren’t the only tools available to the genetic genealogist. In fact, if someone is 100% endogamous, or even half endogamous, chances are very good that either the Y DNA for males on the direct paternal line, or the mitochondrial DNA for males and females on the direct matrilineal line will be very informative.

On the pedigree chart above, the blue squares represent the Y DNA that the father contributes to only his sons and the red circles represent the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) that mothers contribute to both genders of their children, but is only passed on by the females.

By utilizing Y and mtDNA testing, you can obtain a direct periscope view back in time many generations, because the Y and mitochondrial DNA is preserved intact, except for an occasional mutation. Unlike autosomal DNA, the DNA of the other parent is not admixed with the Y or mitochondrial DNA. Therefore, the DNA that you’re looking at is the DNA of your ancestors, generations back in time, as opposed to autosomal DNA which can only reliably reach back 5 or 6 generations in terms of ethnicity because it gets halved in every generation and mixed with the DNA of the other parent.

With autosomal DNA, we can see THAT it exists, but not who it came from.  With Y and mtDNA DNA, we know exactly who in your tree that specific DNA came from

We do depend on occasional Y and mtDNA mutations to allow our lines to accrue enough mutations to differentiate us from others who aren’t related, but those mutations accrue very slowly over hundreds to thousands of years.

Our “clans,” over time, are defined by haplogroups and both our individual matches and our haplogroup or clan designation can be very useful. Your haplogroup will indicate whether you are European, Jewish, Asian, Native American or African on the Y and/or mtDNA line.

In cases of endogamous groups where the members are known to marry only within the group, Y and mtDNA can be especially helpful in identifying potential families of origin.  This is evident in the Mothers of Acadia DNA project as well a particular brick wall I’m working on in mother’s Brethren line. Success, of course, hinges on members of that population testing their Y or mtDNA and being available for comparison.

Always test your Y (males only) and mitochondrial DNA (males and females.) You don’t know what you don’t know, and sometimes those lines may just hold the key you’re looking for. It would be a shame to neglect the test with the answer, or at least a reasonably good hint! Stories of people discovering their ethnic heritage, at least for that line, by taking a Y or mtDNA test are legendary.

Jewish Y and Mitochondrial DNA

Fortunately, for genetic genealogists, Jewish people carry specific sub-haplogroups that are readily identified as Jewish, although carrying these subgroups don’t always mean you’re Jewish. “Jewish” is a religion as well as a culture that has been in existence as an endogamous group long enough in isolation in the diaspora areas to develop specific mutations that identify group members. Furthermore, the Jewish people originated in the Near East and are therefore relatively easy, relative to Y and mtDNA, to differentiate from the people native to the regions outside of the Near East where groups of Jewish people settled.

The first place to look for hints of your heritage is your main page at Family Tree DNA. First, note your haplogroups and any badges you may have in the upper right hand corner of your results page.

In this man’s case, the Cohen badge is this man’s first clue that he matches or closely matches the known DNA signature for Jewish Cohen men.

Both Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA results have multiple tabs that hold important information.

Two tabs, Haplogroup Origins and Ancestral Origins are especially important for participants to review.

The Haplogroup Origins tab shows a combination of academic research results identifying your haplogroup with locations, as well as some Ancestral Origins mixed in.

A Jewish Y DNA Haplogroup Origins page is shown above.

The Ancestral Origins page, below, reflects the location where your matches SAY their most distant direct matrilineal (for mtDNA) or patrilineal (for Y DNA) ancestors were found. Clearly, this information can be open to incorrect interpretation, and sometimes is. For example, people often don’t understand that “most distant maternal ancestor” means the direct line female on your mother’s mother’s mother’s side.  However, you’re not looking at any one entry. You are looking instead for trends.

The Ancestral Origins page for a Jewish man’s Y DNA is shown above.

The Haplogroup Origins page for Jewish mitochondrial DNA, below, looks much the same, with lots of Ashkenazi entries.

The mitochindrial Ancestral Origins results, below, generally become more granular and specific with the higher test levels. That’s because the more general results get weeded out a higher levels. Your closest matches at the highest level of testing are the most relevant to you, although sometimes people who tested at lower levels would be relevant, if they upgraded their tests.

Native American Y and Mitochondrial DNA

Native Americans, like Jewish people, are very fortunate in that they carry very specific sub-haplogroups for Y and mitochondrial DNA. The Native people had a very limited number of founders in the Americas when they originally arrived, between roughly 10,000 and 25,000 years ago, depending on which model you prefer to use. Descendants had no choice but to intermarry with each other for thousands of years before European and African contact brought new genes to the Native people.

Fortunately, because Y and mtDNA don’t mix with the other parents’ DNA, no matter how admixed the individual today, testers’ Y and mtDNA still shows exactly the origins of that lineage.

Native American Y DNA shows up as such on the Haplogroup Origins and Ancestral Origins tabs, as illustrated below.

The haplogroup assigned is shown along with a designation as Native on the Haplogroup Origins and Ancestral Origins pages. The haplogroup is assigned through DNA testing, but the Native designation and location is entered by the tester. Do be aware that some people record the fact that their “mother’s side” or “father’s side” is reported to have a Native ancestor, which is not (necessarily) the same as the matrilineal or patrilineal line. Their “mother’s side” and “father’s side” can have any number of both male and female ancestors.

If the tester’s haplogroup comes back as non-Native, the erroneous Native designation shows up in their matches Ancestral Origins page as “Native,” because that is what the tester initially entered.  I wrote about this situation here, but there isn’t much that can be done about this unless the tester either realizes their error or thinks to go back and change their designation from Native American when they realize the DNA does not support the family story, at least not on this particular line line. Erroneous labeling applies to both Y and mtDNA.

Native Y DNA falls within a subset of haplogroups C and Q. However, most subgroups of C and Q are NOT Native, but are European or Asian or in one case, a subgroup of haplogroup Q is Jewish. This does NOT means that the Jewish people and the Native people are related within many thousands of years. It means they had a common ancestor in Asia thousands of years ago that gave birth to both groups. In essence, one group of the original Q moved east and eventually into the Americas, and one moved west, winding up in Europe. Today, mutations (SNPs) have accrued to each group that very successfully differentiate them from one another. In order to determine whether your branch of C or Q is Native, you must take additional SNP tests which further identify your haplogroup – meaning which branch of haplogroup C or Q that you belong to.

Native Americans Y-DNA, to date, must fall into a subset of haplogroup C-P39, a subgroup of C-M217 or Q-M3, Q-M971/Z780 or possibly Q-B143 (ancient Saqquq in Greenland), according to The study of human Y chromosome variation through ancient DNA. Each of these branches also has sub-branches except for Q-B143 which may be extinct. This isn’t to say additional haplogroups or sub-haplogroups won’t be discovered in the future. In fact, haplogroup O is a very good candidate, but enough evidence doesn’t yet exist today to definitively state that haplogroup O is also Native.

STR marker testing, meaning panels of markers from 12-111, provides all participants with a major haplogroup estimate, such as C or Q. However, to confirm the Y DNA haplogroup subgroup further down the tree, one must take additional SNP testing. I wrote an article about the differences between STR markers and SNPs, if you’d like to read it, here and why you might want to SNP test, here.

Testers can purchase individual SNPs, such as the proven Native SNPs, which will prove or disprove Native ancestry, a panel of SNPs which have been combined to be cost efficient (for most haplogroups), or the Big Y test which scans the entire Y chromosome and provides additional matching.

When financially possible, the Big Y is always recommended. The Big Y results for the Sioux man showed 61 previously unknown SNPs. The Big Y test is a test of discovery, and is how we learn about new branches of the Y haplotree. You can see the most current version of the haplogroup C and Q trees on your Family Tree DNA results page or on the ISOGG tree.

Native mitochondrial DNA can be determined by full sequence testing the mitochondrial DNA. The mtPlus test only tests a smaller subset of the mtDNA and assigns a base haplogroup such as A. To confirm Native ancestry, one needs to take the full sequence mitochondrial test to obtain their full haplogroup designation which can only be determined by testing the full mitochondrial sequence.

Native mitochondrial haplogroups fall into base haplogroups A, B, C, D, X and M, with F as a possibility. The most recent paper on Native Mitochondrial DNA Discoveries can be found here and a site containing all known Native American mitochondrial DNA haplogroups is here.

Not Native or Jewish

Unfortunately, other endogamous groups aren’t as fortunate as Jewish and Native people, because they don’t have haplogroups or subgroups associated with their endogamy group. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few other tools that can be useful.

Don’t forget about your Matches Maps. While your haplogroup may not be specific enough to identify your heritage, your matches may hold clues. Each individual tester is encouraged to enter the identity of their most distant ancestor in both their Y (if male) and mtDNA lines. Additionally, on the bottom of the Matches Map, testers can enter the location where that most distant ancestor is found. If you haven’t done that yet, this is a good time to do that too!

When looking at your Matches Map, clusters and distribution of your matches most distant ancestor locations are important.

This person’s matches, above, suggest that they might look at the history of Nova Scotia and French immigrants – and the history of Nova Scotia is synonymous with the Acadians but the waterway distribution can also signal French, but not Acadian. Native people are also associated with Nova Scotia and river travel. The person’s haplogroup would add to this story and focus on or eliminate some options.

This second example above, suggests the person look to the history of Norway and Sweden, although their ancestor, indicated by the white balloon, is from Germany. If the tester’s genealogy is stuck in the US, this grouping could be a significant clue relative to either recent or deeper history. Do they live in a region where Scandinavian people settled? What history connects the region where the ancestor is found with Scandinavia?

This third example, above, strongly suggests Acadian, given the matches restricted to Nova Scotia, and, as it turns out, this individual does have strong Acadian heritage. Again, their haplogroup is additionally informative and points directly to the European or Native side of the Acadian heritage for this particular line.

In Summary

Sometimes endogamy is up front and in your face, evident from the minute your DNA results are returned. Other times, endogamous lines in ethnically mixed individuals reveal themselves more subtly, like with my friend Justin. Fortunately, the different types of DNA tests and the different tools at our disposal each contain the potential for a different puzzle piece to be revealed. Many times, our DNA results need to be interpreted with some amount of historical context to reveal the story of our ancestors.

When I first discovered that my mother’s line was Acadian, my newly found cousin said to me, “If you’re related to one Acadian, you’re related to all Acadians.” He wasn’t kidding. For that very reason, endogamous genetic genealogy is tricky at best and frustrating at worst.

When possible, Y and mtDNA is the most definitive answer, because the centuries or millennia or intermarriage don’t affect Y and mtDNA. If you are Jewish or Native on the appropriate lines for testing, Y and mtDNA is very definitive. If you’re not Jewish or Native on your Y or mtDNA lines, check your matches for clues, including surnames, Haplogroup and Ancestral Origins, and your Matches Map.

Consider building a DNA pedigree chart that documents each of your ancestors’ Y and mtDNA for lines that aren’t revealed in your own test. The story of Y and mtDNA is not confused or watered down by admixture and is one of the most powerful, and overlooked, tools in the genealogist’s toolbox.

Autosomal DNA when dealing with endogamy can be quite challenging, even when working with well-documented Acadian genealogy – because you truly are related to everyone.  Trying to figure out which DNA segments go with, or descend from, which ancestors reaching back several generations is the ultimate jigsaw puzzle. Often, I work with a specific segment and see how far back I can track that segment in the ancestral line of me and my matches. On good days, we arrive at one common ancestor. On other days, we arrive at dead ends that are not a common ancestor – which means of course that we keep searching genealogically – or pick a different segment to work with.

When working with autosomal DNA of endogamous individuals (or endogamous lines of partially endogamous individuals,) I generally use a larger matching threshold than with non-endogamous, because we already know that these people will have segments that match because they descend from the same populations. In general, I ignore anything below 10cM and often below 15cM if I’m looking for a genealogical connection in the past few generations. If I’m simply mapping DNA to ancestors, then I use the smaller segments, down to either 7 or 5cM. If you want to read more about segments that are identical by chance (also known as false matches,) identical by population and identical by descent (genealogically relevant matches,) click here.

The good news about endogamy is that its evidence persists in the DNA of the population, literally almost forever, as long as that “population” exists in descendants – meaning you can find it!  In my case, my Acadian brick wall would have fallen much sooner had I know what endogamy looked like and what I was seeing actually meant.

A perfect example of persistent endogamy is that our Sioux male today, along with other nearly fully Native people, including people from South America, matches the ancient DNA of the Anzick child who died and was buried in Montana 12,500 years ago.

These people don’t just match on small segments, but at contemporary matching levels at Family Tree DNA and GedMatch, both.  One individual shows a match of 109 total cM and a single largest segment of DNA at 20.7 cM, a match that would indicate a contemporary relationship of between 3.5 and 4 generations distant – meaning 2nd to 3rd cousins. Clearly, that isn’t possible, but the DNA shared by Anzick Child and that individual today has been intact in the Native population for more than 12,500 years.

The DNA that Anzick Child carried is the same DNA that the Sioux people carry today – because there was no DNA from outside the founder population, no DNA to wash out the DNA carried by Anzick Child’s ancestors – the same exact ancestors of the Sioux and other Native or Native admixed people today.

While endogamy can sometimes be frustrating, the great news is that you will have found an entire population of relatives, a new “clan,” so to speak.  You’ll understand a lot more about your family history and you’ll have lots of new cousins!

Endogamy is both the blessing and the curse of genetic genealogy!



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35 thoughts on “Concepts – The Faces of Endogamy

  1. Thank you for putting this together.  I have a very large 5th cousin match within my endogamic Amish/Mennonite and now I have one that changed to Brethren.  He said that the Amish did not keep good records either.  He is helping verify my Elizabeth Troyer’s parents.  He and I are related through the Troyers.  At least this is the closest match.  My line married out when my great-grandfather Jonas Souder married a lady who was Bavarian and Scots.

  2. Probably works well if you don’t have Smith and Jones as common names. And a surname of Bell. Enjoy your posts.  Share names with you and have an Acadien line but unfortunately you do not appear on my matches–alas.


  3. Truly Excellent Article Roberta! One of your (and anyone else’s) Best Ever!!

    Thanks a Million, Jim McCullough

    On Fri, Mar 10, 2017 at 1:52 PM DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy wrote:

    > robertajestes posted: “Recently, while checking Facebook, I saw this > posting from my friend who researches in the same Native admixed group of > families in North Carolina and Virginia that I do. Researchers have been > trying for years to sort through these interrelated families. ” >

  4. Excellent! Helps me see what I see in my first cousin’s results… her mother was Jewish with lots of double cousins, etc. She has twice as many DNA cousins as I do!! 🙂


    On Fri, Mar 10, 2017 at 1:52 PM, DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy wrote:

    > robertajestes posted: “Recently, while checking Facebook, I saw this > posting from my friend who researches in the same Native admixed group of > families in North Carolina and Virginia that I do. Researchers have been > trying for years to sort through these interrelated families. ” >

  5. I just wanted to find out one thing when I joined this group.

    Why doesn’t Middle Eastern show up in my DNA and the DNA of other Ashkenazim?

    Harry Katz


  6. Hi Roberta.. you posted the following:

    Some intermarry due to cultural practices, such as *Acadians* , although their endogamy could also partly be attributed to their staunch Catholic beliefs in a primarily non-Catholic region.

    Actually there was intermarriage because such a small pool of French settled Acadia..some 300 families. It really had nothing to do with being Catholic or their beliefs as Catholics. There was no one else to marry.

    I hope this is helpful.

    Lucie LeBlanc Consentino Acadian Ancestral Home

    On Fri, Mar 10, 2017 at 1:52 PM, DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy wrote:

    > robertajestes posted: “Recently, while checking Facebook, I saw this > posting from my friend who researches in the same Native admixed group of > families in North Carolina and Virginia that I do. Researchers have been > trying for years to sort through these interrelated families. ” >

    • Eventually, there were English, some at the fort. Have you found intermarriage with this group, at all? I’ve not noticed it, but I’m not as focused on Acadian genealogy as you are.

      • Well as a matter of fact I am a descendent of Jean Baptiste Lejeune and Maria Trahan.those Acadains are a endogamous bunch all right. Not much more than my colonial Shenandoah Valley ancestors though where Humphreys marry Leslie’s,Stuarts, Crawfords and each other over and over again.
        It leads to some very confusing searches to say the least. mY lat4est challenge is to find a recent” cousin” who popped up in FTDNA who shares 70 centmorgans 45 of which are on the 9th chromosome and that does not match ay of my cousins on either side? No regional familiarity as well. I as also have agood deal of ancestors from Bertie NC as well.
        Somehow I think this must have something to do with endogamy? What do you think.

  7. Dear Roberta,

    I am a 76-year old adoptee and I had Autosomal DNA testing through AncestryDNA, 23andMe, and FTDNA to try to identify my birth father. All three indicated that my birth father was predominately Finnish with a small amount of Volga-Ural Russian. I thought that it would be easy to identify my birth father. Wrong! On 23andMe and FTDNA combined, I have around 3,000 Finnish DNA cousins with the majority living in Finland. Any one of them could share DNA in common with 300 – 600+ of my Finnish matches! I have 50 or fewer Finnish DNA 4th – Distant cousins residing in the United States as my paternal grandparents were recent immigrants to the United States.
    Without a first/surname for my birth father it’s been impossible to identify how I’m related to my Finnish DNA cousins due to endogamy. I’ve communited with around 200 of my closest Finnish DNA cousin matches and all have expressed a desire to help me if I can identify my birth father’s surname. For my closest DNA cousin residing in Finland, I’m related to him through both his maternal and paternal ancestors. His son is my third closest match and I’m related to his son through both parents. Any suggestions?

    Thank you.

  8. I have to chuckle. I have my daughter’s grandfather-in-law, with:

    13214 matches (autosomal) surnames Cohen, Miller, Friedman.

    Just forwarded your article to one of his ggsons, new to FTDNA, so he’ll understand what he’s looking at!

    Thanks for all your hard work.

    Pat Dunford

    Tucson, Arizona

    ( Veep- Clay Family Society)

  9. Great article! One correction: I think you mean “Kohanim”, not “Kohamin”. (Also “raises” the question, not “begs” the question; the latter means making a circular argument.)

  10. Well done Roberta!

    I have always maintained in practicum, that we are an aggregate of endogamous segments. Most cultures practiced endogamy by hook or by crook with one exception: the modern era. We are now far more mobile than in any other era and cultural genetic mixing has increased.

    However, one could make the argument that any culture usually procreated within the context of its geography. So the Nigerian who was enslaved brought hundreds if not thousands of years of endogamous segments to the west. If he/she were sold in a lot with other Nigerians, then the endogamous segments would be prevalent in all of their progeny.

    I think we also see an excellent example of that in the Irish. I think we could also make a case for colonial America. So people in the rearview might be further than they appear!



    • I think that is probably true. As I’ve worked the records in various places, I see it over and over again. Of course, with few exceptions, we lose the ability to track or verify endogamy after records end, except in rare situations.

  11. This seems like a good place to share an anecdote. I match another fellow for a total of 71 cM over four segments. We are estimated to be 4th-6th cousins on AncestryDNA and 3rd cousins on GEDmatch. In fact, we are multiple 7th cousins, once removed. The endogamy of his Acadian ancestors was so extensive that 48% of his “ancestral pool” circa:1650 is shared with me.

  12. Pingback: The Concepts Series | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  13. Thank you for your coverage of Jewish and Native American genetics. I have always been very interested in those two groups. Very informative. And thanks for the links to sources and further teaching.

    What is one to make of Southern European results in Family Finder? The only excuse I could come up with was noble and royal ancestry in Spain, Italy, etc, back through the centuries via Puritan/English gateways, even though Family Finder doesn’t cover more than 5 or 6 generations. I certainly don’t have any Hispanic grandparents anywhere in that time frame. Your Southern European percentages are higher than mine, with no indication of Hispanic or Spanish grandparents either, so what gives?

    • Southern European DNA could be from Southern France as well, which with the anglo-norman kings and their court had commercial and diplomatic link. Even further back in time, there were Roman troops. And all the way back to neolithic, farmers came in from further South.

      It just takes a few prosperous families to leave a big mark on the local endogamous DNA pool. Then a few of their descendants move to America, stay around the same region where they are equally prosperous as their ancestors and leave a big mark in these early settlement DNA pool.

  14. Nice article, Roberta. I would add that autosomal DNA results out of descendants of Somerset County, Maryland on the Lower Eastern Shore may demonstrate “geographical endogamy,” where “geographic isolation” for hundreds of years resulted in a pattern of intermarriage among founding families. I would recommend that a hallmark of Somerset County, Maryland endogamy is when the majority of surnames on the first page of your autosomal DNA test results match those carved into the tombstones in the Manokin Presbyterian Church cemetery! Historically, we discover from the marriage records that Acadian families mixed with others out of Louisiana within a generation of arrival on Louisiana shores — and we need to acknowledge the contributions of all of these families to our history — and our autosomal DNA. And so, while a case for endogamy may be made for those autosomal DNA testers of prominent Acadian lines, who likewise see the same beloved Acadian surnames repeating in their autosomal DNA test results over and again, there is also the aspect of the “allied families” which must be considered when analyzing results and determining how we may share common family ancestries. Allied families, as we have in our studies, are non-Acadian progenitors of all variety of origins — France, Germany, and the Canary Islands, to name only a few – whose recent genetic (and cultural!) contributions to the family histories of Acadian peoples out of Louisiana are also significant.

  15. Roberta,

    As always, I thought this was an excellent post. However, I’d urge caution about this statement: “If you live in Australia, your ancestors may be European but they aren’t going to be Native American.”

    I’ll agree it isn’t *likely*, but it certain isn’t out of the question. Why? Because Europe was not the only source of immigration to Australia. So was America. In fact, it has been since before either country gained its independence from Great Britain.

    Since at least *some* Americans have a small amount of Native American ancestry, those Americans could also be the means of spreading that ancestry if they immigrate elsewhere.

    For that reason, the first suggestion I’d make to an Australian who finds a significant amount of Native American ancestry in Ancestry Composition (or some other tool) would be not to immediately dismiss it. Rather, determine whether there might be *any* American in the family tree. If there is, that person could well be the source of a Native American component.

    The same thing actually applies to Europe. Either Americans or Canadians could be the means of introducing small amounts of Native American ancestry — you don’t have to imagine fully Native American individuals making the journey. (Although a few actually did, and not always by choice.)

  16. More to the point of the article, I descend from two different somewhat, endogamous groups. I don’t know what label I could apply to either of them.

    The first group consists of early settlers of the Biloxi, Mississippi, area and their descendants. Some of the names are Baudreau, Bosarge, Fountain, Fayard, Ladner, Ryan, and Seymour. If your ancestry is from this area and you have any of these names, you likely have several — and sometimes the same ones, in multiple generations.

    An example is my 4th great grandmother, Rosalie. Rosalie was born a Fayard, but married a Ladner by the first name of Joseph. However, Rosalie’s mother Angelique had been born a Ladner and married a Fayard. In fact, Angelique and Joseph were 1st cousins, so Joseph and Rosalie were 1st cousins once removed. (This is the closest relationship I’m aware of, though there was at least one couple among my Canet ancestors — which is a connected branch to the others, but under the spelling “Cannette” — who had a “canonical impediment” that had to be dispensed. It seems likely that they were cousins of some sort.)

    In fact, the practice of cousins didn’t end in my family until my great grandmother’s generation. And even then it was on the second try. My great grandmother’s first husband was a Seymour, who was also her 2nd cousin. I’m descended from her second husband, who was not related. (As far as I know. However, my great grandparents had in come that both of their fathers were Minorcan immigrants. I don’t know how much endogamy exists among Minorcans.) Both my grandmother and my mother married men from out of state (in fact, my mother actually married a Yankee).

    Some of my cousins in this part of my family have even more recent endogamy. For example, I have a cousin at Ancestry who is related to me through *three* of his grandparents. On my side, it’s just through my maternal grandmother.

    I also have a cousin at 23andMe who is both a 3rd cousin (through his father) and a 3rd cousin once removed (through his mother). His parents are 2nd cousins once removed to each other.

    The second group is somewhat similar. It consists of interconnected Sizemore, Bowling/Bolling/Boling, Asher, Collett, Muncy and other families, whose names appear again and again. I’m not entirely sure *how* I’m connected to this part of my family, except that it’s through my mother’s father.

    Among this group, I have a predicted 3rd cousin who is a Hensley. This cousin’s mother, however, was born a Sizemore. His paternal grandmother was *also* born a Sizemore. So was his *maternal* grandmother, who was in fact a 1st cousin to his maternal grandfather. The mother of my 3rd cousin’s paternal grandfather was a Bowling.

    I’ve compared both of our family trees, and it actually looks as if this cousin may be related to me through *all* of his grandparents. On my side, though, there is some speculation involved. I know who my grandfather’s parents were *supposed* to be, but it’s pretty clear based on various DNA kin that they were someone else — someone obviously closely connected with the Sizemore et al. families. (I think I even know who it may have been, but haven’t yet *proven* it.)

    Well, this has gotten longer than I intended — should have written a blog of my own! — so I’ll quit. But thanks again for this very interesting and informative blog!

  17. I like the question about what does Endogamy look like. No simple answer, and as you pointed out, sometimes they have more matches, sometimes not. At FTDNA, my mother has only 21 pages of matches. And given how FTDNA counts the tiny segments, her 1st – 2nd cousin range cousins are only limited up to the 2nd page before they go into 1st – 3rd cousin range cousins all the way to page 6. And her 2nd – 3rd cousin range cousins goes from page 6 – page 13 before she begins to get the various distant cousin matches of which not until page 15 does the TOTAL SHARED being to fall less than 100cM. With her 2 highest endogamous matches, the highest one she shares a total of 720cM but longest block 16cM, and the 2nd highest is 715cM total, longest block 18cM. Not large at all. To me, that is an easy sign that I teach other Polynesians, particularly Eastern Polynesians to watch out for.

    At Ancestry, it’s slightly different. Her 2nd – 3rd cousin ranges can go on & on. It’s been months since I checked but back in August, that 2nd – 3rd cousin range predicted 2nd cousins was 133. Her possible 3rd – 4th (predicted 3rd cousins) was 804, and possible 4th – 6th (predicted 4th cousins) was 2,152. With the influx of Australians and New Zealanders getting DNA tested in the past several months, that number has constantly increased as I only pay attention to the new closer matches and all I see are Maori names and people who live in Australia and NZ.

    To me, all of these are easy signs of distinguishing endogamy. The small segments are key in determining a true 3rd to distant cousin vs. an endogamous one plus the total shared which is usually high. But it has come to the point that without looking at someone’s tree (if they have one) nor their name (surname) that the total shared combined with the size of the largest segment can tell me if they are actually admixed eastern Polynesians or western Polynesians.

  18. Misnomer to talk about Ashkenazi Jewish endogamy as this is common in ALL Jewish communities such as Sephardic (iberian roots niw everywhere including ancestors of many Hispanics in the US Southwest) and Mizrahi (Eastern Jews in and from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, India etc.), both of whom still knowingly marry cousins today! Cousin marriage has always been considered the preferred form among Sephardim and Mizrahim for various reasons.
    Additionally, many who self-identify as Ashkenazi actually have Sephardic origins. So it is a complete misnomer to talk about Ashkenazi endogamy.

  19. I have an issue with submitting all my family surnames in FTDNA. I started with one kit and long ago spent a LOT of time submitting all my family surnames. Now I administrate 3 kits. The problem is that after the 2016 feature update in FTDNA all my original surnames for my first kit have disappeared. Now I have THREE kits to add surnames to: the two new ones and the first one which I had already done but is now gone.

      • Hi Roberta,
        I could not find any feature which offers a “copy-paste” option. All I noticed is that my original surname list was gone and when I accessed the tab for adding family surnames the only option I could see was to add the surname and location, individually – i.e., all over again, one by one. This may now explain why it seems like so many of my matches are frustratingly missing surname lists.

        At first I was a bit annoyed at the thought that people would go through the trouble and expense of taking a DNA test to support their genealogy and then not bother to create a tree or even a surname list to support the research. Then I noticed that the surname list that I myself had previously submitted was mysteriously gone. The 2016 feature update may not perhaps account for missing trees, but it does seem to explain some missing surname lists.

  20. Roberta, Read the following on third party tool ADSA DNAGedcom site today:

    “I’m sorry to announce that FTDNA plans on keeping the API down for an extended period of time. The ICW portion was causing performance problems on their site and they haven’t figured out how to resolve that problem yet. I am researching other options. If you wish to send a message to FTDNA, please email them at Please be sure to be kind in your messages.”

    I have not registered/downloaded FTDNA Kit. After reading their post, I didn’t want to upset any of my personal/or managed kits matches/process. I am trying to group matches on one kit. I wasn’t sure if there was additional benefit of this tool with ICW matches other than visually charting/grouping. I’m member of FTDNA forums. Is there a section just for ADSA tools/evaluations/results? Do you have any suggestions.

    Also, is there any easy way to detect “new” matches that have transferred atDNA data to FTDNA from other sites? Test date that is different than other matches or my own org. kit posting date. If a cousin/match has transferred, will their test/results be listed separate or the results mixed.
    Thanks for all of your wonderful posts.

  21. In the past, I’ve been able to visualize endogamy at FTDNA using the Dnagen Match Circle tool. Unfortunately, FTDNA seems to have disabled the ICW feature, which the Circle tool needs to work. Hopefully, they’ll bring ICW back soon, because the Circle tool is a great way to quickly gauge whether you have endogamy and how much.

  22. Pingback: Concepts – Endogamy and DNA Segments | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  23. you need to look at my DNA. I descend from a specific family in Mexico where cousins married cousins ALL THE TIME. for example, my DNA comes from both wives and husbands because they are in the same family. It is extremely hard to find who my bio father is. 🙁

  24. *sigh* I just wish I could afford Y and mtDNA tests fir Mom and Dad. They’re in their 90s. 🙁

    Southern Appalachian endogamy. I only have 7 surnames for the great grands. And the 2 Bakers are 1C1R. And it gets worse the farther back you go– every generation back introduces yet another common ancestor. Mom’s mt line is the only one that’s not tied to Daddy’s family even though it is tied to her dad.

  25. Kia ora Roberta,

    Thanks for the article. Just a note, in case it is of interest, Polynesians do have distinctive haplogroups and testing these lines could be useful in untangling Y DNA lines if one can afford the Big Y.

    At lower Y DNA tests I suspect results would be too similar to differentiate lines – we’d see a lot of men being C-M216, the Eastern Polynesian equivalent of R-M269 for British Isles and European men.

    Once we have more info on the C-M216 haplogroup from Big Y testing, I guess FTDNA will be able to offer SNP packs but we might still find little variation and thus still need Big Y testing to be able to differentiate lines. It will be interesting to see how it all unfolds in time.

    For mtDNA the similarity in haplogroups and lack of differentiation would be worse I’m guessing with all Eastern Polynesians (-re-contact) being some variant of B4a1a1.

    Still it is very helpful to be able to test for the haplogroups as it does confirm whether the direct line is Polynesian or not.

    Thanks again.

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