Tuesday, May 13, 2008


by Elizabeth Caldwell Hirschman and Donald N. Yates

The book was published in 2007. It uses DNA studies to trace the ancestors of the Melungeon population of the Appalachians which leads back to Scotland.

Hirschman is on the faculty of Rutgers University. In the process of researching her own Jewish roots, she has uncovered a great deal of information about the Melungeons, and this is not her only book. Her story is told at the Rutgers Focus website, and at this DNA testing website there is also a brief description of her. Donald N. Yates is the founder and principal investigator at DNA Testing. He received his doctorate from the University of North Carolina.

The field of genetic genealogy, according to Wikipedia is still in its infancy. The National Geographic Society has been active in using this method to track populations through its Genographic Project, in partnership with IBM, launched in 2005.

With that as background, I will plunge into the text.

The authors first make a case that Scottish history has gone largely uninvestigated

...the pursuit of [Scotland's] native history was long prohibited in Scotland. Elitist English authorities excluded Scottish history from the national curriculum as a metter of educational policy. In 1949, Lord Cooper complained to the Scottish Historical Society that it was possible for a Scottish student to take a degree in history without any knowledge of Scottish history. (p. 3)

The Stewart dynasty remains particularly mystifying. Until the appearance of an "official" genealogical compilation in the 1990s (and some would say even after it), the origins of the Scottish royal family were simply not known. (p. 4)

So why are we proposing that many of Scotland's people were Jewish? For the simple reason that is true....

The evidence presented does not suggest some ancient Jewish visitation based on a "lost tribes" theory, in other words, that a Jewish tribe dispersed from Judea-Palestine in antiquity and somehow wandered its way to Scotland, morphing over time into a population of Gaelic warriors. No; our argument is grounded upon documented historical migrations into Scotland from various European countries, primarily France, the Low Countries, Hungary and Germany. These migrants, we propose , were persons of Jewish ethnicity whose descendants now comprise the majority of the present population of Scotland. Further, we also argue that the greater part of the estimated 4 million Scots and Scots-Irish who immigrated to the New World were drawn from this same ethnic ancestry.
(p. 6)

...early Jews who did live in Scotland practiced an underground or secret form of their religion (called Crypto-Judaism)...a minority of the descendants of these early Crypto-Jews did in some cases revert to the open practice of their faith upon arriving in the American colonies; and...the majority of the descendants of these Jews are now unaware of their ancestors' religious practices, because their faith was so well dissembled, and because of conversion to Protestantism and assimilation over the intervening centuries. (p. 7)

The authors speak of the influence of early medieval religions--including the Druids--on the Celtic church, and of its independence from Rome. They write:

...except for the existence of Christian artifacts such as the Book of Kells and carved Celtic crosses, there is little evidence to suggest a strong early Christian presence in Scotland....the so-called Scottish saints (e.g., St. Machar of Aberdeen) are not even proven to be Christian per se. Contemporaries describe them as unspecified "holy men" or "religious teachers." No written accounts of their teachings or religious doctrines survive. It was only centuries later that they were labeled as Christian. (p. 10)

...bagpipes--the musical instruments most associated in the popular imagination with Celts and Scotland--first gained popularity in Scotland at the outset of the 1500s. This was an age when Celtic culture was in eclipse, but it was a time that saw the mass expulsion of Jews and Moors from Spain due to the Spanish Inquisition. Significantly, the bagpipe originated in ancient Mesopotamia and Greece and was popular in Spain and southern France before it entered or re-entered Ireland and Scotland. It is a Middle Eastern and Central Asian musical instrument, not one indigenous to the British Isles. (p.12-13)

...the Cistercian order in many ways appears to be modeled on Judaic religious precepts. (p. 15)

...the Celtic Church retained several Jewish practices, while deliberately resisting conformation to Roman Catholicism. From 906 C.E. onward, the Last Supper ritual was celebrated only at Passover/Pesach; infant baptisms were not practiced, and no crucifixion imagery or icons were used. (p. 21)

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