My ethnicity puzzle. Any ideas?

Can you help me solve my ethnicity puzzle? You might have some ideas, especially if you yourself have Ashkenazi heritage.

Ancestry sent me this information about my paternal grandfather (from the 1910 Federal census). Does everything look right to you?

Well, how could I expect you to know?

I can’t expect that, so let me explain a couple of things and then ask for suggestions about solving my puzzle here. First of all, you may wonder about the second line of the report: the misreading of “Davidson” as “Dandson” has actually happened to me twice before. I think it comes from people who have trouble reading cursive, where “vi” can look like an “n” if the dot is too small or even missing. Otherwise, almost all the information looks correct, except for the troubling birthplace listing. I’ve never before heard a claim that Grandpa Louis was born in Austria! All my life I heard that he was born in Romania. So what’s up with that?

It may be relevant that my paternal grandmother, May Tannenbaum, as well as both of Louis’s parents, are also all listed as being born in Austria.

I have several possible hypotheses:

  1. Some or all came from Romania to Austria and then from Austria to the U.S.
  2. Louis was ethnically Austrian but had lived in Romania.
  3. There was some political reason for them to claim Austria rather than Romania.
  4. The Romanian story is just a family legend, like Elizabeth Warren’s Cherokee heritage.

I don’t believe the fourth. And note that May’s last name, Tannenbaum, is plausibly Austrian but not Romanian. In fact I’m pretty sure that my dad said that Louis was Romanian but May was Austrian or Russian.

Ancestry’s DNA analysis, which of course is 50% on my mother’s side (Russia and Belarus, probably) doesn’t help much in text form:

But their map sheds some light on the matter. Note that neither Romania nor Austria is in their “most likely” region, but both countries are within their “possible” region :

Maybe we need a Sharpie to correct the map.

More seriously, any good guesses about either my hypotheses or hypotheses of your own? All these claims of Austria are troubling, as I never heard any of them until yesterday.


Categories: Life