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Abraham Lincoln's Jewish Roots

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is interested in their namesake's Jewish ancestry. Do a Google Search and you'll get numerous hits under "Abraham Lincoln Jewish Ancestry." They can all be traced back to the work of Rutgers University professor Elizabeth C. Hirschman, who published her findings in The Melungeons:  The Last Lost Tribe in America in 2005 (Mercer University Press). Melungeons.com immediately reported the news in an article on Abraham Lincoln's mother, Nancy Hanks, in March 2005.

Actually, the revelation goes back to Abraham Lincoln's own lifetime. In 1909 a book was written by Isaac Markens titled Abraham Lincoln and the Jews. In it is the germ of the controversy. Rabbi Isaac Wise of Cincinnati wrote in 1865, "Abraham Lincoln believed himself to be bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. He supposed himself to be of Hebrew parentage, he said so in my presence, and indeed he possessed the common features of the Hebrew race both in countenance and features."


Sketch of young Lincoln shows typical Sephardic Jewish looks:  dark features, bony skull, lanky build, big nose, craggy brow.

Lincoln's son Robert later denied the admission of Hebrew ancestry. He told Markens that he had "never before heard that his father supposed he had any Jewish ancestry." Markens dismissed the exchange between Lincoln and the rabbi as a "pleasantry."

Pleasantry or not, the rumor seems to reflect historical truth. "The Lincoln material in my book traces his family's arrival from England into the New Hingham Colony in Massachusetts and their migration down to the Appalachian area," Elizabeth Hirschman told the curator of the Lincoln Collection, James M. Cornelius, who contacted her in September. "I use genealogies, marriage practices, wills and cemetery inscriptions to build the case for his Jewish--and likely Sephardic--ancestry."

Now that Lincoln is beginning to be seen as having Jewish ancestry, what about his status as a Melungeon? That has now slipped into jeopardy, it seems. Jewish and Melungeon ancestry go hand in glove, except in the eyes of those who don't believe Melungeons are a distinct ethnic group at all. They are opposed to finding any unwanted ethnicity in people claiming to be Melungeon. We predict Lincoln's Jewishness will rapidly be disposed of by these devotees of the received standard version of American history.

More information about Melungeons
Toward a Genetic Profile of Melungeons in Southern Appalachia
Melungeon Studies
Melungeon Match


turqwind commented on 17-Sep-2010 01:05 PM

After I read your post, I remembered my mother mentioned her Glasscock relatives were related to Abraham Lincoln. I still have a male cousin who is direct line, but I haven't talked to him about this. Anyway, Nancy Hanks' mother or grandmother or somebody was the daughter of Thomas Glasscock of Virginia. You have my and my mother's DNA. I have Jewish ancestry on both sides and some family members come from the right part of the country for Melungeon ancestry. I have some documented genealogy (DAR, UDC) and some "shady" lines I have no idea about and people went to great lengths to hide. Actually, I do have an idea about and that is why I came to use your service! Also, is the various Asia ancestry that shows up in my DNA possibly Creek or Choctaw? Going by family history, I guess it is. I am assuming the Michigan NA is Cherokee. "Nancy" is a very common name on both sides of my family. Food for thought. Thanks.

Anonymous commented on 17-Sep-2010 01:11 PM

That's interesting about the Glasscocks. Most surnames (e.g. Hitchcock) ending that way, also Cock and Cox, originated as Hebrew names according to Joseph Jacobs. No, I think your Asian is not related to Native American. It is either a "false positive" or has to do with Gypsy heritage.

Lynda Estrella commented on 14-Mar-2011 03:41 PM

I am related to Abe Lincoln, through his mother's family. My Grandfather was related to Abe Lincoln through the Ray side of our family. My Grandmother would taunt my Grandfather about his heritage when she and he were fighting. She went blind for that...I hadn't heard Jewish, I heard "dark skinned", "non-white", "black people". Jewish would have fit into that in my Grandfather's eyes. Someday I will have my DNA checked, my father could have Jewish blood also.

Iosef von Kastro commented on 25-Jun-2011 06:02 PM

Sadly, the real concept of Sephardic has been deformed, in the interests of who knows who. You hear people nowadays calling Moroccan, Yemenite, Lebanese, Ethipian!!, Syrian, Iraqui, Jordanian, etc. Jews as Sephardic. In other words, they call the Jews
from Arabic countries as "Sephardic Jews". This is totally wrong. The correct name for them is "Mizrachi Jews", the same as saying orientsl jews. These arabic jews communities do not speak spanish, nor ladino, and have no connection whatsoever to spain!!!
sepharadi indeed means "Spanish" in Hebrew. The only REAL sephardic Jews are those from Portugal and Spain. That said, yes, Lincoln looks EXTREMELY sephardic, as the original jews that settled in England in 1492. I myself am a Sephardic Jews, and Lincoln looks
a lot like me. Also, i would like to make notice that Edgar Allan Poe looks extremely Sephardic as well!!! I would like to hear opinions regarding this. Thanks.

Dan commented on 02-Jun-2012 06:26 AM

Great, he got a lot of his "own" countrymen killed then. It explains much of his hostity to AngloSaxons.

It doesn't matter commented on 23-Jul-2013 11:07 PM

Many of our family are related to Lincoln through his Ancestors on his Father's side. Two words were whispered that may or may not have anything to do with his line. They were Pennsylvania Dutch and Black Irish. High Cheekbones, Tall Height, Large Ears, and multi-ethnic hair are things that I see showing up in relatives. Brilliant colored eyes also show up. Not every person nor every generation. Besides his appearance and possible multi-ethnic background other things show up as well, a way with words, wisdom, kindness, melancholy as well as humor.

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