Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Bethany Turner-Livermore

Second Advisor

Dr. Steven Black

Third Advisor

Dr. Isabel Mendizabal

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Soojin Yi


This study compares genetics and linguistics of the Lemba, a population living primarily in South Africa, as a means to identify any possible correlation between these two sources, to better understand how identity is impacted by ancestry testing, and to examine the Lemba’s claim to Jewish ancestry with this evidence. The methods compare allele frequency data from several populations that were expected, based on Spurdle and Jenkins (1996), Casanova et al (1985), Ritte et al. (1993), Santachiara Benerecetti et al (1993), and Soodyall (2013), to be geographically proximate to and thereby more closely related the Lemban people. Results were clustered by language community to detect possible correlations. The different frequencies considered yielded dissimilar relationships between genetic and linguistic clusters, thus supporting the independence of mechanisms of linguistic and genetic change. These results contribute to the discussion of how identity can be validated or undermined by demonstrating three sources, geographic, linguistic, and genetic, by which to derive an identity and how these can produce contradictory answers.