I had a DNA test done and the results say that my DNA is group with Sephardic Jews. My last name is Steen and I have always heard that we were of Dutch ancestry and I do genealogy and have not found anything stating that anyone was Jewish. I must admit that within myself I always found common ground with people that are Jewish and felt that I may be.

Does having Jewish blood, as indicated in a DNA test, make one Jewish, or is Jewish status defined only based on traditional standards?

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    @aaronsteen-johnston welcome to Mi Yodeya and thank you for bringing your question here. I'm sorry that some of the comments seeking clarification came across badly. We want to make sure questions are clear before people start answering, is all, and often a question needs an edit or two. This happens to all of us; I've asked lots of questions that seemed clear to me, except they weren't. I hope you find the answers you get helpful and that you'll continue to participate here. Feb 13, 2014 at 14:05
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    Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/13281 and judaism.stackexchange.com/q/20443
    – msh210
    Feb 13, 2014 at 16:51
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    Many Dutch Jews came from Spain & Portugal during and after the inquisition and are therefore of Sephardi descent
    – Imanonov
    Feb 18, 2014 at 23:58
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    Dupe? judaism.stackexchange.com/q/52891/759
    – Double AA
    Oct 4, 2015 at 6:08
  • @DoubleAA yes IMO.
    – msh210
    Oct 8, 2015 at 23:41

1 Answer 1


Based on Jewish law, a person's Jewish status (for a non-convert) is determined through matrilineal descent. This means that one is only Jewish from birth if their mother was Jewish. And their mother was only Jewish if their mother was Jewish.

Based on this, a person can have seven out of eight great-grandparents who are Jewish, and still not be Jewish from birth (in the case where the mother's mother's mother was non-Jewish).

So even assuming that the DNA test was 100% conclusive as to your DNA being descended from Sephardic Jews (a separate discussion), having DNA that is related to a Jewish group says nothing about one's Jewish status (though it can tell you a lot about your ancestry).

For further information on matrilineal descent, take a look at the answers to this question or this question or at one of these pages: 1, 2, 3

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    Thank your for your response. I feel better educated to this subject matter. Feb 13, 2014 at 23:18
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    Can't DNA tests sometimes determine whether results are matrilineal? I don't know if it could give the results about whether you are Jewish through the mothers' line though. Also, to fully answer your question it would be worth getting an answer about what happens if a person could find out through DNA testing that their mothers' line is Jewish, and yet they don't have a family tradition about it. Would they be automatically obligated to keep Torah, or would they have a choice whether to convert? Anyway, remember that anyone can become Jewish, and many people choose to because of ancestry.
    – Annelise
    Feb 19, 2014 at 10:11
  • @Annelise even matrilineal DNA is not allowed as proof because it is not acceptable testimony. As I say here Oct 22, 2017 at 0:49

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