It’s all in the genes…
Y-chromosomal DNA is passed on from father to son. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited from our mothers. So, if we look at the DNA sequences of family members it is possible to spot fingerprints or markers that give clues to early ancestral origins. (Scroll down the page for more details.)
The evidence so far points to a Jewish (or other Middle Eastern) origin for the male Converse line.
Now read on…
The current project was initiated by Philip Converse, who had already done a DNA study on his mother’s family, the Eatons. When I contacted FamilyTreeDNA.com, I found that Phillip was listed as the administrator for the Converse family, but he had not yet received any DNA samples from volunteers. My brother (a direct male descendant of Deacon Edward) was willing to donate a DNA sample and, together with Philip’s own sample, we then had two volunteers and the beginning of a study.
Later we began correspondence with Hal Whitmore about Converse genealogy and the DNA work and, after Phil became unwell, Hal took over the co-administration of the DNA project. Phil sadly passed away in 2014. Finding more Converse volunteers involved a network of people: we would particularly like to thank Linda J. Converse and Peter Converse McDonald for their help in recruiting DNA donors for the study.
What are the conclusions? Well, to summarise in one sentence: we believe the evidence is that we are descended from medieval Jews who converted to Christianity in about 1290, took the appellation “le Convers” at that time, and a century or so later dropped the article and just became Convers (and much later, Converse). The DNA evidence supports this, but is not definitive (we could be descended from some other Middle Eastern people) but the historical record in England strongly supports the Jewish origin.
This analysis applies to descendants of Deacon Edward Converse since this is the line we studied. It does not necessarily apply to everyone named Converse – there may be people who acquired the surname later, or in another way.
Carolyn Converse-Cooper (November 2015)
The story so far (Summer 2019) has now been published: Converse, Carolyn A., Y-DNA Studies of an Early New England Family Indicate Possible Jewish Ancestry, American Ancestry 20 (2): 60-62, 2019.
Click here for the text of this article
Click here and scroll down to page 60 to view the published article (viewable archive of previous issues)
Link to the Family Tree DNA project
Link to the YouTube video of the talk: “The Convers(e) Surname from Y-DNA and Medieval Records” by Carolyn A. Converse, presented (remotely) at the Converse Family Reunion, June 24-26, 2022, Malden, Massachusetts.
Learn more about DNA
Introduction to Molecular Genealogy – the four types of DNA (beginners start here!)
The Legal Genealogist – tutorials on DNA testing and genetic genealogy
Family Tree DNA – understanding DNA (from one of the commercial testing sites)