Am I Jewish?

The short answer? No.

But that wouldn’t necessitate a blog post, now would it?

I was raised Roman Catholic, the faith my mother grew up in. My father was raised Methodist, the faith of both his parents. In fact his great grandfather, John Augustine Moray was a fairly prominent Methodist Protestant minister in Michigan. So then you might ask why would I even consider the fact I might be Jewish? If you happened to read my last post about Israel Morey (John’s father, my 3rd Great Grandfather, and my last known paternal ancestor) then you know I (or technically my dad, but because the results apply to me as well, I will use “I” for the rest of the post) recently learned that my Y-DNA haplogroup is J1 or J-M267 (two terms for the same group). Specifically, a subclade of this group that has strong Jewish orientation. In fact, one of the J1 project administrators believes my particular subclade (J-PF7263/64 for those of you who are interested) was a Jewish group originating in France around 800 AD, which then spread out to different parts of Europe including Germany, Spain, and the Ukraine. So, I may have paternal Jewish ancestry dating back to over a thousand years ago.

But does this make me Jewish? According to traditional Jewish law, Halakha, one’s status as a Jew descends through the maternal line, not the paternal (though special status is often inherited paternally), so even if my 50th great grandfather was a Jew…once one of the males in the line between him and I changed religions…that’s the end of the line.

My closest Y-DNA matches are descended from a Pierre Morin dit Boucher, and it is likely I am also a direct descendant. Pierre was born in France and immigrated to Acadia and then New France in what is now Canada. He is the last known paternal ancestor of the Morin line to which I likely belong, he was born in the early 1600s, and he was Catholic. So if my ancestors really were Jewish, at what point in the 800 years between my subclade appearing in France, and the birth of Pierre Morin dit Boucher did they change their faith? Will I ever get closer to figuring out why? Possibly. The paper trail could push back from Pierre, with the possibility of finding Jewish ancestors. Or as more people are taking DNA tests for genealogy, and as those tests become more sophisticated I may be able to push the knowledge of my DNA closer to the present.

Now…who knows if there’s any Jewish ancestry on my Mom’s side…maybe I’m Jewish after all. 😉

52 Ancestors – #2 Israel Morey

Israel Morey - Headshot
Israel Morey

Israel Morey is my 3rd Great Grandfather. According to census records he was born somewhere in Canada, and his death certificate tells us he was born the 30th of September, 1835. He crossed the U.S./Canadian border  around the age of 15 and settled in New York State around 1850. Unfortunately he was not counted in the 1850 census in the United States, nor the 1851 census for Canada (at least not that I can find). In the 1860 census he is living in Huron, Wayne County, New York and is already married with 3 children. Including my great great grandfather John Augustine Moray. According to draft records, he was still in Huron during the Civil War, in which he did not fight as he was ineligible for the draft due to “Alienage or Non-Residence”. By 1868, according to the birth of his daughter Henrietta (Netty), the family had moved to Ohio. And, indeed, in the 1870 census they are listed in Brady, Williams County, Ohio. Again in 1880 they are living in Williams County, Ohio, but by 1900 the family is living Fremont, Isabella County, Michigan. Israel died in Fremont in 1915, and is buried in nearby Union Cemetery.

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Israel and Family

When I first started my family tree almost 20 years ago I asked my grandparents for information about the family (as any good genealogist would do). My grandfather told me that the family story was that his great grandfather (that would be Israel, but Grandpa didn’t remember his name), had come from Canada and settled in Isabella County. Grandpa also said that his great grandfather was French Canadian and that his original last name was “M-O-R-E with an accent-Y”. After immigrating to American his family changed the name, one branch to M-O-R-A-Y (obviously my branch) and one to M-O-R-E without the accent-Y. As so often happens with family history, the family stories might not all be correct. The part about the two branches changing the spelling was indeed true though, and it seems Israel switched from “ey” to “ay” around the time the family moved to Michigan. Although John, my great great grandfather, took the changed “ay” spelling, some of his brothers did indeed keep the “ey” spelling and passed it along to their children. But as I dug further and became more experienced I found no records with the last name spelled with an accent. I also got in touch with The Morey Forum, a group of genealogists from all over the world studying every possible Morey branch they could find. Although they didn’t know where Israel came from either, there was a theory he was related to a group of Moreys that married into a somewhat prominent United Empire Loyalist family in Ontario. This was my best lead so far. Most Canadian Moreys were related to this family, and a few other would be cousins or uncles were named “Israel Morey”.  If it didn’t fit into the French Canadian family lore then so what? I couldn’t find any French Canadian Moreys and the circumstantial evidence was pointing me elsewhere. Israel being a long lost son of John Morey and Harriet Breakenridge of Ontario was my best bet…

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Israel’s land on the 1899 Plat Map

Fast forward to 2013. DNA testing for genealogy has been around for a while now, but I finally felt like the price is finally in my range. My first foray into genetic genealogy was Ancestry.com’s new autosomal test, but more importantly, as I learned a little more about DNA testing for genealogy my father and I took tests at FamilyTreeDNA.com, including getting my dad’s Y-DNA (paternal line) tested.  I was hoping the Y-DNA would match with someone who had John Morey of Ontario as an ancestor…or at least a known ancestor of John Morey. The results we received…lets just say I wasn’t prepared for. Not only was the DNA not a match for anyone related to John Morey of Ontario, but there was nobody named Morey that came up as a match at all. Now normally in genetic genealogy this would indicate what we call a “Non-Paternity Event” (basically either there was an adoption, or somebody was foolin’ around somewhere), but didn’t think that was the case. Instead of “Morey” matches…I had “Morin” matches. The names are too similar (especially when one reads the soft “in” ending with a French accent) for me to believe it was anything other than a respelling of the same name. All of the matches that I’ve been in contact with have a Pierre Morin dit Boucher (b. ca 1635 in France, d. 1690 in Quebec) as their last known ancestor, which likely means he is my direct paternal ancestor as well.

I still haven’t been able to figure out who Israel’s parents were or where he was born, but I’ll keep searching. And you never know, maybe a Morin will show up as a close cousin and will crack this case wide open.

Mary Israel and Mable Moray

Interesting side note: my Y Haplogroup is J-M267, a large portion of which are people of Arabic or Jewish descent. “Morin” likely derives from the French for a dark or swarthy complexion (like a Moor). And one administrator of the J1 project at FamilyTreeDNA believe the subclade I belong to is a Jewish cluster about 1,200 years old with ties to France. Which leads me to my next blog post…Am I Jewish? (heads up, the short answer is “no”).

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