Sunday, August 17, 2014

What DNA Came From Which Ancestors

As I have gotten older, I have become more hesitant just diving into new technology. Invariably, once I get into it, I get used to it fairly easily, especially when I really need what it has to offer.

A few days ago, I finally got into mapping chromosomes with the help of two graphic tools from Kitty Munson Cooper, whom I met in Salt Lake City.

The object of this exercise is to see which bits of my own DNA can be traced to specific ancestors, or more correctly to which ancestral couple. (An extension of that would be to reconstruct the DNA of those ancestors, but that is another story.)

I am going to present here only my paternal side. I expect to see test results from two second cousins from my mother's side and I'd rather wait on those before drawing conclusions there.

Segment Mapper
I have ten known relatives on my father's side who have tested. Seven are descendants of my great-grandparents Hersch Pickholz and Jutte Lea Kwoczka. One - Ralph - is a great-great-grandson of one on my great-grandfather's sisters and the other two are the grandson (Bruce) and great-grandson (Pinchas) of my great-grandmother's two brothers.

The other seven are my sisters Amy and Sarajoy, my father's sister Aunt Betty, my father's first cousin Herb, my double second cousin Lee and two other second cousins Terry and Rhoda.

The chromosome browser provided by Family Tree DNA, allows a comparison to only five people at a time. Kitty's Segment Mapper allows comparison to as many as forty people at once.  Soon enough I'll try more comparisons, but for now all I need is ten.
I left out the X chromosome since that is only from my mother's side.

Ralph has two bright green segments in chromosome 1 and another in chromosome 19, all of them overlapping several descendants of my grandparents. Since Ralph is on my great-grandfather's side, these segments must be from his parents Izak Fischel and Rivka Feige.

Pinchas has the same kinds of matches on chromosomes 1 and 7 and Bruce has one each on chromosomes 1 and 16, so those segments would be from my great-grandmother's parents Mordecai Meir and Bassie.

Chromosomes 4 and 20 have matches only from the four people who come from my grandmother's side - my sisters, Aunt Betty and Lee. None of the other Pikholz appear there. That indicates that the entire length of those two chromosomes are from either my grandmother's Rosenzweig side or my mother's side.

There is a nice match involving Ralph, my sisters and me on chromosome 3, but no one else among my father's relatives. I have not included that because it is quite possible - prehaps even probable - that this represents a connection between Ralph and our mother's side.

Many of the remaining segments are pretty clearly from my great-grandparents, but we don't know enough to say which of them. Yet.

I should be able to add additional segments to my specific ancestors by using someone other than me as the base. That would be the case if Ralph or Pinchas or Bruce matched a handful of my father's family members, but not me. I am not sure there is a tool for this.

Chromosome Mapper
So what does it look like? I ran it through the second of Kitty's tools, the Chromosome Mapper.

As I say, I am trying to be conservative here, so I did not label any of the sections of the middle chromosomes, even though the first figure shows a high likelihood that there are segments on my Pikholz/Kwoczka side.  I'd like a bit more proof there.

I am also aware that all of this is tentative because the chromosomes come in pairs and it is possible that when I have a match with two people at the same place, one might actually be from my mother's chromosome and the other from my father's. I need to figure out an efficient way to check this. (See my remark about chromosome 3 above.)

But thanks to Kitty, the process wasn't hard. I think I am getting the hang of it. I should be able to add some other Pikholz descendants to the segment mapper and we'll see what shows up. But not this week.

Housekeeping notes
We are away for a few days, so I may not be as responsive as usual.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Family Finder Illumina OmniExpress Matrix

Filtering Family Finder matches by project
For some months now, I have been complaining that Family Tree DNA has not been responding to my pleas to add a "by project" filter to the Family Finder match page.

This is what the results page looks like for my sister Sarajoy, showing her six closest matches. I have access to this page because I am a group administrator and she is a member of my group.
I removed the surnames here. Note that all have known relationships entered.

Among the tools offered on this page are filters by name and ancestral surname. If for instance, I want to see whom she matches who has listed the ancestral surname Gordon (our mother's name), I can enter "Gordon" in the window to the left of the red arrow (which I added for convenience) and press "Apply." then all we will see is matches that Sarajoy has with people who have Gordon among their ancestral surnames.

I can do the same thing for the "Name" window - I can see whom she matches among people actually named Gordon. And I can use both filters at the same time.

What I cannot do is see whom she matches among members of a project. I solved that problem originally by having all my Pikholz descendants list "Pikholz" (that specific spelling) among their ancestral names and using the "ancestral surnames" filter. But some two dozen non-Pikholz who match many of the Pikholz descendants would not make it through that filter, since they do not know of any actual Pikholz in their families.

So I have been lobbying for an additional filter based on membership in a project and have been complaining to whomever will listen that my pleas are getting no response.

Along comes Roberta Estes
Last week in her blog "DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy," Roberta Estes published what she calls "the second in a series about DNA projects, how they work and how they can benefit testers and others," which you can read here.

About halfway through this long post, Roberta dedicates five short paragraphs and one screenshot to an FTDNA tool called "Illumina OnmiExpress Matrix" which I had not seen before. This matrix is a tool available to project administrators and the link to it appears at the top of the second column of the group administrators home page.

It looked to me like this might be a way to work around the filter problem that has had me so troubled.

Now, I try to keep up with developments, whether by reading blogs, following groups on Facebook, listening to podcasts or following FTDNA on Twitter and either this is the best kept secret in autosomal analysis or I have been sleeping though the presentations.

Here is FTDNA's FAQ for the matrix.
I had a look at the matrix and found that while Rebekah Canada is quite good at explaining the various parts of the FTDNA site, this October 2013 FAQ is just not right.

First of all, it does not allow you "up to" twenty people. I entered forty-five and it has yet to stop me.

Second, there is a fourth option for display of data.

Third ... well let's just have a look.

But why talk about it when I can show you
I started with my Kwoczka project which has a manageable nine members, just to see how the matrix works. (We have results for a tenth but she hasn't joined the project yet.) All the relationships among the nine are known.

All nine names originally appeared in the "Group Members" box and I had to move them one by one into the "Selected Members" box. If I wanted to rearrnge them after selections, I had to move them up or down one at a time and one row at a time. No drag and drop.

The four data-display options appear in the small window towards the center and I chose "Relationship." Note that these are not the known relationships I entered into the system, but the suggested relationships as calculated by FTDNA. But with anomalies.

One that I like is that it omits the remote cousins, as you can see with Pinchas and my two sisters.

Actually I have no trouble with their listing my sister Amy as a bit closer to our Aunt Betty and our father's cousin Herb. Such is the randomness of DNA. But I was very surprised to see the relationships listed next to my red arrow. FTDNA thinks Amy is Aunt Betty's grandparent, grandchild or half-sibling, while it thinks that Sarajoy and I are her "Aunt/Uncle, Niece/Nephew." But ever since we began looking at autosmal relationship charts, we have been told that all these show matches of about 25%. No one has ever made a distinction between the relationships suggested for Amy and those suggested for Sarajoy and me! Did I sleep through that too?

I switched the data display to "Relationship Range" and got what the FTDNA match page shows, including the remotes. And it continues to ignore the known relationships.

When I set the display to "Total Centimorgans," it gave those to the tenth decimal point, even though the last four-to-six digits were zero in every case. I cannot imagine whom is served by that supposed degree of accuracy, especially since in larger matricies, it makes it impossibly wide.

The fourth data display - the one that does not appear in the FAQ - is "In Common With Members." As best I can tell, it lists everyone who matches all nine of us (about 125 people), with the relationship to each. Again, the remotes are counted but left blank.

The Pickholtz Surname project has about sixty members, about half of whom are actual Pikholz descendants. In order to test the limits of the matrix, I selected forty-five members and displayed by relationship. Here is the result. I had to shrink the page substantially in order to present it here, but you really are not supposed to look at so many all at once.
There is no significance to the two shades of grey. The left side is normal page width and the "extra" is on the right. The names along the top and the left side are not frozen in place, so once you begin scrolling, you lose them.

A bigger problem is that there does not seem to be any way to save a matrix other than as a screen shot. So if I want to make a modification tomorrow or next week, I have to rebuild the entire matrix from scratch, a very cumbersome process.

Roberta says she would really like "the ability to simply generate a file that downloads to a spreadsheet with a match matrix for everyone in the project."

As for me, I think there should be a way to associate some of these families together as a way to get a handle on the complexities of the matches.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Yes, Uncle Joe Laughed

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my grandfather's brother Uncle Joe and my grandmother's sister Aunt Helen and in particular posed the question Did Uncle Joe Ever Laugh?

Their grandson, my cousin Marshal, provides  an answer in the guest blog below. (No, he has not done a DNA test, but his brother Lee has.)

Guest blogger Marshal Spector

Recently Richard/Israel wrote a piece with the heading asking if his Uncle Joe ever smiled. It contained recollections and musing about my Nanna and Pa that bothered me a bit. Pa died when I was 5 so I have vague memories of him. Lee found a picture from my parents' wedding with my Grandfather having a smile on his face.

A great smile on a great day
 the wedding of his only daughter
Richard asked where the picture was from. In responding, I added the following:
Pa may not have been outwardly expressive, but he taught by example—he (and his brothers) conducted his business in an honest and fair manner (counting cans during the war), lived within his means (never bought anything on credit) and took good care of his family. I understand your upset at not being invited to their 50th anniversary party—my guess is that it was a generational thing.

My mother told this story many times:
Mom would be at home with her friends when the ice cream man would come down the street. Pa would reach in to his pocket and pull out change. My Mother would only take as much as she needed for the ice cream that she wanted. Her friends asked her why she didn’t take more—there was more change in her Father’s hand and he may never know.
My grandfather showed that he trusted my Mom, my Mom learned to be honest and she taught honesty to her friends.

My guess is that my Grandfather smiled broadly on the inside, knowing that his daughter had all the right (Jewish) values—trustworthiness, righteousness, decency and integrity. My grandfather exemplified the best of “old-fashioned” values that are, at times, sorely lacking in today’s culture.

My Mother smiled much of her life, at times under difficult circumstances, thanks to the home in which she was raised and the extended family that was so much a part of that generation.

I wanted to share that with you given what you wrote a while ago about My Grandparents.
Wishing you and the family well, along with peace and security to the people and land of Israel.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Salt Lake City

I posted Thursday about my week in Pittsburgh, neglecting to mention that this was probably my best ever visit with Aunt Betty and Uncle Ken.

This has been a different kind of conference for me than in years past.

I was surprised to find that most of the people I talked to here had never heard of GRIP, so one day I skipped my new set of "I LOVE ENDOGAMY" T-shirts and wore the shirt we got from GRIP. The rest of the time was the new T-shirts except when I spoke, which was shirt and tie.

I spent very little time with my Galizianer friends, spending more time with the blogger crowd. There were a few meetings that I was invited to - bloggers, media etc - and I saw alot of the same people at each. I also attended the talks of several of them. These included people I have known somewhat over the years but also some younger ones who have become Facebook friends in the past months, including two with Pittsburgh-area ancestors.

At one point in one of those meetings, I was exchanging Facebook direct messages with someone who was sitting three seats away from me, like the modern version of passing notes.It was like I was seeing for the first time how the younger generation works.

I am not going to review all the lectures I attended. The lectures are availble for purchase and enough people blogged talks in real time - here, here, here and here, for instance.

Jim Tanner, not in his usual
 bent-over-the-laptop pose
There was one prominent blogger from the general genealogy community who was here for the whole conference, typing away all day. James Tanner is said to be the most prodigious of the genealogy bloggers and some of his children have followed him into the field. I had not been familiar with his work until now.

Wednesday evening, I had the privilege of spending two and a half hours with Kitty Munson Cooper and Gaye Tannenbaum, talking tools for DNA analysis. Kitty has written a few tools herself and is well thought of in the general DNA genetics world. Kitty will speak to the folks at GEDmatch about creating a tool which would have specific relevance to my own work.

I know Gaye's name because she co-authored one of several articles by Dr. Jeff Paull, for which I served as a pre-publication reviewer. Another in that series is due out in the Fall Avotaynu.

And I spoke with Alex Denysenko about some record sets in Podolia, particularly Nemirow. Unfortunately, those end in 1852, while I want 1865-1880. He will check about census records, which should serve a similar purpose in my Pikholz research.

 I was involved in two presentations - a panel and a lecture.

Gary at the podium while the rest of the panel looks on.*
The panel was on Monday afternoon and was called "Internet Collaboration: How Do We Share Our Family Trees Online?" The concept began as a pro or con debate on and programs like it and took off from a presentation at the conference last year. I discussed this at some length a few months ago. The panel ended up a bit more generic with each of three debaters explaining how he brings his family tree to the attention of the general public.

We were told to write up a full text of a fifteen minute opening, then ask each other questons. I wrote up my fifteen minutes a few weeks ago, but when I looked it over, it seemed more like an article than a talk. Although I speak reasonably well from notes, I have never actually written a speech and this did not sound like one.

I took advantage of being with Uncle Ken in Pittsburgh and we went over it in quite a bit of detail - until 11:30 at night, way past his usual bedtime. I made some changes in the text, but most of the change was in the way I spoke and the way I listened to myself - both thanks to him. Uncle Ken has been mentoring graduate students art Pitt since his retirement twenty-five years ago, so he knows whereof he speaks.

Thanks to Preeva Tramiel for this one

I also spoke Wednesday morning on "Beyond a Doubt: What We Know vs. What We Can Prove," the same title I used for a similar talk at the DC conference three years ago. I was once again introduced by my good friend and colleague Renee Steinig and the talk went well. Turnout was not what I had in the much smaller room in DC, but you can only control so much.

The handout for that talk can be found here.

Following that talk was a bit of unpleasantness. I was scheduled for 9:00-10:15, with the last fifteen minutes for questions. But there were few questions, so we ended ten minutes early. I was still at the podium with ten minutes left on the clock, when the speaker scheduled to follow came up and ordered(!) me off the podium so she could set up. There may be ramifications to this going forward.

I attended three talks on publishing. Tammy Hepps presented her Treelines program, which serves as an online tree, but with a story-telling capability.  Very impressive, but it looks like a lot of work. Perhaps If I had an assistant, I'd have a go at it.  Treelines is not a finished product and we should expect it to become a pay site when it is further along, though Tammy says that those who join now will be grandfathered in free. It is an impressive piece of work, even if it may not be right for me.

Mike Karsen spoke about publishing actual books, but in small bites. One part of the family at a time. He has an actual Pledge Card where people promise him that they will publish something within twelve months, in exchange for various goodies from Mike himself.

Part of the idea here is that once you have done one, it becomes much easier to do others.

This is an excellent idea and a very good way to approach publishing, but here too, I don't think my schedule is up to it.

Finally, Marlis Humphrey, the President of IAJGS, gave a talk about publishing online. Clearly the wave of the future, but just as clearly, too much for me, at least right now.

I attended Martin Fischer's lecture "Finding Living Relatives: Techniques for Discovering Previously Unknown Mishpoche." One of the questioners afterward  said that he has overcome reluctant relatives by sending them incorrect data about themselves, which almost forces them to set the record straight. (making a woman older than she is, for instance.) This got lots of laughs and applause as it is clearly one of the more efficient ways to address this phenomenon.

However, I have seen more than one discussion - I don't recall if on JewishGen or on non-Jewish sites - where everyone agreed that this is unethical.

I posted about this on Facebook and got quite a few comments, mosty objectng to the questioner's suggestion. My son, who studies Jewish law on such things, says that is definitely improper.

At the last lecture I attended before leaving the conference, I found myself sitting next to my MtDNA match that I wrote about four months ago.

I am pleased to say that there was a minyan three times a day while I was at the conference. The food, on the other hand, did not give us the idea that there is a vibrant Jewish community in Salt Lake City.

Housekeeping notes
* The photo from the panel debate was taken by Lara Diamond and graced her blog post here.

On either end of the Conference, I got to spend Shabbes with my son and his family in Chicago. (Number two son is away at camp.)

Monday the eighth of Av and we are going into the Tisha beAv day of mourning. May everyone have an easy and meaningful day and may this be the year that this day of national mourning becomes one of rejoicing.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Breaking With Tradition

I was planning to blog my usual Sunday morning about the two programs I have attended these past two weeks, but it is too much, so I am putting this up now and will do the second half probably Monday.

The week before last was the course in Practical Genetic Genealogy at GRIP in Pittsburgh. It was a wonderful course with excellent instructors. I really wish I could bring up the lectures again in podcast form, but that is not an option.

If I had any illusions about there being some simple solution to the endogamy problem - endogamy being the tendency of certain groups to marry within a relatively small tribe - those illusions would be banished. To be sure, our three wonderful lecturers, Debbie Parker Wayne, Blaine Bettinger and CeCe Moore referred to Ashkenazi Jewish endogamy frequently, but it was generally as an example of where the usual rules do not work.

(I sat in the center of the front row and was rather undisciplined when it came to comments and questions, and all three of them were very graceful about it. As were the other students. And everyone was very concerned for me and my family because of the war going on in Israel.)

The course was well-structured and included homework, which we'd go over at the end of the following day.

If I had to name one lesson I took away from the course it is that although the smaller matching segments may indeed be real, they are probably more generations in the past and it is not an efficient use of my time to be looking at them. I should really be concentrating on only the larger matches.

Of course, that and getting more family members to test.

During the course, I received test results for my third cousin once removed, Ralph, and it showed some really nice matches that brought smiles to the lecturers as well. I'll probably discuss those matches in about two weeks.

Wednesday evening, I gave a talk to people from the entire program (the DNA course and the five others) on "Special Challenges of Jewish Genealogy." For the most part, they hadn't a clue about what we have to deal with as researchers, aside from our unusual alphabet. There were probably forty people in attendance and it was well-received.

I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that many of the people in the class take clients and want to upgrade their DNA skills in order to better serve their clients or widen their client base. That may work for the general population, but I wonder whether Jewish clients would be patient with all the difficulties and ambiguities. ("This is all I get for my money?") For now, I am sticking to the Pikholz Project and my other families, plus lending a hand elsewhere when I can.

I did not tweet or blog the course, but I did put a few things I learned at on Facebook:
Things I have learned at - everyone but me pronounces it "autozomal" as though it were written with a "z."

Things I learned at CeCe Moore says that the day is coming when we will be able to get DNA from more obscure sources. So Save and label your gf's false teeth, your gm's hair, your father's baseball cap etc etc. But NOT in plastic, which promortes bacteria.
And tell people (us!) you have it so we can create the demand.

Things I learned at Genealogists will stand in line for ten minutes to get M&Ms and bottled water.

Things I learned at The world of genealogy is full of old friends whom I haven't met yet.
The week as a whole was wonderful and I came away with a lot of old friends. I had had some contact with some of the students before the course, as well as exchanges with some of the instructors (from my course and others). Now I consider them my friends. A few have asked me a week later how things are going in Israel.

There should be a class picture here, but they have not been distributed yet.

I had a feeling of swimming with the big fish. I spoke briefly with Judy Russell, Cyndi sat next to me the first evening, Kikmberly Powell of the APG Quarterly was in our course, and more.

My new old friend Pittsburgher Elissa Scalise Powell put together a really nice program.

A bonus for the week was spending time with Aunt Betty and Uncle Ken, as I stayed there during the course and for three days beforehand.

Housekeeping Notes
Although I don't use it myself, I am sad to see the demise of The Master Genealogist. It's another step on the road that leads to only online trees, where we will no longer be able to maintain definitive databases distinct from illustrative websites.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

We're Not From Galicia - We're from Vienna

One of my favorite ancedotes when talking about my Pikholz research is about a fellow who lives across the road from where we lived until six years ago. His surname is Pickholz and he is about eighteen months older than I. He turned me down flat when I asked him years ago about his Pickholz ancestry. His excuse was "We are not from Galicia, we are from Vienna." Fancy people.

I got no further with his two sisters, who live in the Jerusalem area. We have crossed paths with the families of a couple of his kids as well, and no one has any interest in contact.

Fourteen years ago, I had some correspondence with Mrs. Heidrun Weiss of the Israelitischen Kultusgemeinde Wien (the Vienna Jewish community aka IKG) and she wrote, regarding the father of my neighbor:
"...Pickholz was born in 1919, June 1 in [Vienna] (2nd district, Taborstr.96). Mother Brane, father not [identified]. The birth is not official, that means it never was reported by mother or father, just by the nursing home."
I tried to follow up, but no information was available. So for nearly fourteen years I carried around this Brane Pickholz, probably born in the 1890s and nothing else.

I don't remember how many Pikholz descendants we had named Brane or Breine at the time, but even now we have only a dozen - ten from Skalat families and two from Rozdol. The only family where this name had any prominence is the Riss family, which I wrote about just two weeks ago.

Husiatyn - again
Logo for "The G" was designed by Assoc. Ed. Leo Albert
Lately I seem to be coming back to the small Pikholz family from Husiatyn again and again. In March, I wrote a blog post called "The Dead Man in the Zellermayer House" and I decided to expand it into an article for The Galizianer, the quarterly publication of Gesher Galicia. As it happens, the issue with that article came out a few days ago.

That article includes the following family diagram:

(A smaller version of this diagram appeared here when I discussed the Husiatyn Pikholz family back in January.)

As I reviewed the draft of the article, once again bemoaning the fact that we have no decendants of the two married children of Chancie and Joel Halpern, it occurred to me that perhaps their daughter Brane, born 13 January 1893 in Podwolocysk, just might be our mystery woman who gave birth in Vienna. in 1919.

Back to Vienna
I went back to IKG, asking if perhaps they had anything else on this birth or on the mother of the newborn. I mentioned the possibility that she might be the woman born in Podwoloczysk in 1893, and they came back to me with assorted forms to fill out - who I am, why do I want this information, where will I publish it, etc etc.

The actual birth record arrived some weeks later, and the mother is indeed identified as being born in Podwoloczysk on 14 January 1893. We won't quibble over the one day's difference.

There was no charge, but I sent a donation.

In my database, I added Brane's son, three grandchildren, twelve great-grandchildren and the two great-great-grandchildren that I know of. Surely there are more.

I wrote to my former neighbor and his two sisters on 12 June. None of them has replied thusfar. Wait until they find out I want some DNA.

Housekeeping notes
GRIPitt was wonderful. I had car and phone issues which detracted from the total experience, but that was not the fault of the program.

I gave a talk Wednesday evening on Special Challenges of Jewish Genealogy, which was very well received. Maybe thirty-forty people attended.
Earlier in the day, the rental car broke down while I was at the cemetery. Alamo was terrible about service and the only way I was able to get to my lecture was with the help of the eighty-nine year old woman who lived next door to the cemetery. At seven-thirty she drove me back to the college.

With Debbie Parker Wayne

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Some summarizing data on my DNA projects

As we get ready for registration for the GRIPitt course in Practical Genetic Genealogy this
afternoon (Sunday), it seems like a good time to summarize what kind of testing has been done for my family DNA projects. Unless I say otherwise, the test in question is a Family Finder (autosomal) test.

Today will also be the debut of my T-shirts, seen on the right. I have black and yellow, in additioon to the blue.

Thanks to Amy and Larry Kritzman for getting this done on time and Sarajoy for the graphics and some of the design.

My documented family 
First let me mention the close family members who have tested. Some of them are in more than one of my family lines.

Two of my sisters have done tests recently and we don't expect to see results for maybe six weeks. They, of course, are in all the lines that I am in.

My father's sister (aka Aunt Betty) is in all my lines on my father's side. She did both Family Finder and MtDNA. My second cousin Lee is also in all the lines on my father's side, as our grandfahers are brothers and our grandmothers are sisters.I had a few things to say about Lee's excellent DNA soon after his test results came it.

My father's first cousin Herb did both a Family Finder and MtDNA. My father's brother (aka U Bob) ordered a Family Finder test a few days ago, so that covers all but one of the living cousins of my father's generation. The last one is thinking about it.

Terry and Rhoda, daughters of my father's first cousins on the Pikholz side have tested. Rhoda's test is new. This means that of the six children of my great-grandfather Hersch Pickholz who had children, descendants of five have tested.

All those above are descendants of my great-grandparents Hersch Pickholz and Jutte Leah Kwoczka. Jutte Leah had two brothers and Baruch the grandson of one and Pinchas the  great-grandson of the other have also tested. Baruch also did the most basic Y (male line) test.

One other documented cousin on my father's side has tested. That would be Ralph, whose great-great-grandmother Leah was the older sister of Hersch Pickholz. His results are not in yet.

There are also connections on their other sides between Pinchas and Rhoda and between Herb and Ralph. That's endogamy for you - all that marrying within the tribe that makes the DNA very very hard to decipher.

My mother's family
On my mother's side, which I have only begun looking at, four cousins have tested - my first cousin Kay, my second cousin on my grandmother's side, Beth, and two second cousins on my grandfather's side Ruth and Judy. Ruth also did an MtDNA test. We do not yet have results for any of those tests.

Other Pikholz descendants from Skalat
Aside from my personal, documented family, we have eleven Skalaters who have done Family Finder tests. Those include:
  • a pair of third cousins with a Y-37 match to me  
  • two pairs of cousins, apparently part of the same family and also with a Y-37 match to me 
  • a set of two third cousins and a third cousin once removed
  • two individuals - Jane and david, whom we are having trouble connecting to anyone, though they are definitely Pikholz descendants from Skalat
We also have a Pikholz from Skalat who did the most basic Y-12 test, but has declined to do more. We have no one else in his family. the results of his Y-test are consistent with ours, but he only did twelve markers, so we cannot say much else.

Results are in for all of these.

Pikholz descendants from Rozdol
We have eleven Pikholz descendants from Rozdol families who have tested.
  • two second cousins froim a family that we can trace back only to about 1850
  • two third cousins and a second cousin to their parents
  • three descendants of the main Rozdol line - the one that traces back positively to the original Rozdol couple
  • one with a Pikholz maternal line back to his great-grandmother
  • two whose father are Pikholz on both sides. they share one side in common
Ambiguous Pikholz
We have two Pikholz descendants we have no ideaa how to place. I originally thought they were close to one another, that they were traceable to a specific Skalat family and that there would be another Y-37 match. Wrong, wrong and wrong.

Steve Pickholtz is a category of his own. His grandfather was adopted into the same Pikholz family as jane above and the adopting parents included the sister of the mother. Yet Steve also matches enough actual Pikholz descendants that we cannot ignore him.

Other non-Pikholz matches
Although our purpose in doing the DNA testing was to determine relationships withing the Pikholz families, we can hardly ignore someone who is not known to be a pikholz but who matches eighteen or twenty of ours.

We have about two dozen such people, mostly people who came to me. There are no doubt many more that I haven't chased after. Many of these have actually joined our surname project.

I have done chromosome browser analyses for many of these but have not been able to identify anything definitive. Maybe this GRIPitt course will change that. I have discussed a number of these analyses on this blog, over the past six or eight months.

Lines to my great-grandparents
Let me count out my great-grandparents, to see how many baases we have covered in Y and MtDNA tests.

My father's paternal grandparents:
  • I did the Y-37 that leads to Hersch Pickhilz and his father Isak Fischel
  • Herb's MtDNA leads to Jutte Leah Kwoczka and her mother Basie Pollak

My father's maternal grandparents:
  • Moritz Rosenzweig has no male line  descendant
  • Aunt Betty's MtDNA goes through her grandmother Regina bauer to Regina's mother Fani Stern
My mother's paternal grandparents:
  •  We have some people who can test the Gordon line, but no one wants to right now and it is not urgent
  • Ruth's MtDNA goes up through our great-grandmother Anna Kugel's mother Zelda
My mother's maternal grandparents:
  • We have Rosenblooms galore who can test for our great-grandfather Israel David Rosenbloom. No one has agreed to do so. yet.
  • I did the MtDNA for my great-grandmother Etta Bryna.
That's seven out of eight possible and five out of seven done - or in process. Good enough for now.

I don't have much WiFi access right now and there is much to do, so I shall close here. Big two weeks coming up.

While I was writing this, the good folks at GRIPitt accepted my suggegstion to make a brief presentation of the special challenges of Jewish genealogy. Something else to do in the next few days, but something I welcome.

Housekeeping notes
The handouts for my presentation at the IAJGS Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Salt Lake city is now available. The talk is entitled" Beyond a Doubt: What We Know vs. What We Can Prove."

See the handouts at

Sunday, July 13, 2014

It's Never Too Late

Last Thursday, the twelfth of Tammuz, was the eleventh yahrzeit of Professor Beatrice Riss Taft, the daughter of Josef Riss-Pickholz and Franziska (Freida Beila) Gottesman. Beatrice Riss Taft was born in Vienna in 1919 and is buried in Haifa.

Her father, Josef, changed his name from Pickholz to Riss about the time that Beatrice was born. His parents were Breine (sometimes Brane) Riss and Abraham Ahron Riss (1842-1933). (I'm not certain, but they both seem to have been Riss.) We do not know when Breine died, but we assume it was before the family came to Vienna. She must have been fairly young as there are grandaughters named after her in 1888 and 1889.

Josef died in 1938 and is buried in the same grave as his father. Franziska was killed in Auschwitz and her name was inscribed on Josef's tombstone after the war.

Breine and Abraham Ahron had seven children altogether during the period 1860-1882 and from one of the births we learn that Breine's parents are Rifka Pikholz and Gabriel Riss. We know of no other children for Ryfka and Gabriel and we can only guess at Ryfka's parents. (I have no idea!)

The seven children of Abraham Ahron and Breine are:
  • Wilhelm (Gabriel Wolf) ~1860-1925, lived in Vienna. He had two daughters, one killed in the Shoah and one who lived in Bolivia. (We cannot find the four Pikholz graves in Cochabamba).
  •  Rivka (1862-1919) married David Gottleib and had five daughters. Two died in childhood. Two of the other three married but had no children and one had a daughter we know nothing about.
  • Isidore died in 1937 and his wife was killed in the Shoah. We have been in intermittent contact with one child of each of their two sons, one in Germany and one in England.
  • Deborah (b. 1874) was deported from Thereisenstadt. She was married twice and had no children.
  • Moses married the daughter of his brother Wilhelm. They had two children and no grandchildren.
  • Josef had a son Egon and Beatrice. Egon's widow is largely responsible for the work on this branch of the family.
  • Rosche lived in Chicago and San Francisco and had a daughter from each of two husbands. She adopted the three children of the second husband from his first marriage. I believe the youngest daughter is still living, but she has not responded to my attempts at contact.
But our star today is Beatrice, who married her childhood sweetheart, Markus Taft, in 1986 at age 67 in Indianapolis.

The event and their story are commemorated in this article from the Indianapolis News from July 18 1986. My thanks to the Indianapolis Star for their permission to reproduce this article here. (Click on the article to see it larger.)

Housekeeping notes
In case anyone was wondering why I missed the last three weeks, my computer crashed and it took three weeks to recover the data. (Thanks to my wife's brother for the recovery.) I was able to work on my laptop, but I was too discombobulated to blog.

I leave for the US today (Sunday) and will be in Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Salt Lake City, returning home after three weeks. Pittsburgh is the GRIPitt course in Practical Genetic Genealogy and Salt Lake City is the IAJGS Conference on Jewish Genealogy.

I would like to think that I will keep the blog going during the time I am away.

The folks on the Conference Committee advise: 
July 25 - last day to register for IAJGS LIVE! if you want your access code in time to view all LIVE! conference programming as it is presented (whether you register for LIVE! by this date or later you will be able to enjoy 60 of the best conference programs whenever you like and as many times as you like until October 31, 2014). 

Sunday, June 15, 2014


We join all the Jewish People in praying for the safe return of the high school boys
 Ya'akov Naftali ben Rachel Devora
Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim
Eyal ben Iris Teshura

This week we will mark the yahrzeits of Uncle Joe and Aunt Helen - she on Tuesday 19 Sivan, he on Wednesday 20 Sivan.  Fourteen years apart.

Uncle Joe and Aunt Helen are the older brother and sister of my father's parents. They lived in the neighborhood, on Morrowfield Avenue, or as my father used to say, above the Squirrel Hill tunnel. They were married fifty-two years, from Lag BaOmer the week before her seventeenth birthday. Aunt Helen loved saying that she was married when she was sixteen.

There was a big party for their fiftieth anniversary. We, of the younger generation were not invited. I was old enough to think I should have been there.

Uncle Joe was born Izak Josef Pickholz in Zalosce, east Galicia at the end of Pesach 1890, but like all our family's Isak Josefs of that period, was called Josef. His father's parents were Isak Fischel and Rivka Feige,  almost certainly both Pikholz. Rivka Feige's father was probably the "original" Isak Josef who died in 1862 at age seventy-eight.

He went to the US in 1903 with his father. Uncle Max had gone first, then Aunt Becky and Aunt Mary. His mother and the three youngest went about a year later. They landed in Baltimore on a ship called the Cassel and joined the older children in Pittsburgh, passing through countryside which looked remarkably like where they had come from.

When I began asking around a few months ago if anyone had ever seen Uncle Joe laugh, or even smile, Aunt Betty said "He must have." Well yes, he surely must have.

Aunt Helen was born in Budapest in 1896 and named after her mother's eldest sister Ilona Bauer, who had died in 1893 at  age thirty. She had been married to Lipot Weisel and I have no idea if they had children. Aunt Helen's Jewish name was Dobrisch and she hated it, even going so far as to instruct us that if we ever wanted to name a child after her, we should find some other way to do so.

The Rosenzweigs were fairly well off in Europe. My great-grandfather went to the US in 1901 and my great-grandmother and the children went together sixteen months later.

 Aunt Helen pretty much always smiled including here on the far left, probably aged nine.

Aunt Helen and Uncle Joe were blessed with their only child in their twentieth year of marriage. Margie too always smiled.

My younger cousin Linda writes

There are pictures of him [Uncle Joe] smiling (from the 50th anniversary party, at least). I can only remember being at 6315 [Morrowfield Avenue] a couple of times, and they were "festive" occasions. I honestly don't recall anyone being unhappy, but I can't specifically recall looking at Uncle Joe and seeing him laugh. There were always opportunities, though, as Cousin Harry was there, too, and everyone laughed because of him.

That party was apparently not a terribly formal event, as the following pages will show.  (remember, I wasn't invited.) Thanks to Amy and Larry Kritzman for finding me a copy on short notice.

 Uncle Joe was in the wholesale grocery business with his two younger brothers, Uncle Dave and my grandfather Morris. Uncle Dave was a wry and sardonic sort and I'm told that my grandfather - who died when I was nine - was the happy one, so it makes some sense that Uncle Joe, the eldest of the three, would have been the serious one. 

I always knew him as very thin, almost scrawny. But that was not always the case. Before his heart attack, Uncle Joe was significantly heavier, as in this 1941 picture. 

They closed the business when Uncle Joe turned sixty-five.

I asked Cousin Herb - Aunt Mary's son and by far the oldest surviving cousin - how he remembered the brothers. He wrote:

I have the same recall as Betty.  He was a sourpuss.  Now, My uncle Morris a jolly one, like a happy Irishman;

Uncle Dave a gentle sweet person with a backbone to stand up for his convictions. All three melded together so well in the business, but you should have heard the arguments at the weekly Bridge or Pinochle game.
They were card players, the lot of them. Not just bridge and pinocle but also canasta. The women too.

Aunt Helen was a character. During the war she was very active in war bonds and was honored by christening some kind of warship.

Aunt Helen was never bound by what other people thought. She would tell us jokes that she knew our parents would not have approved of ("What's the difference between mashed potatoes and pea soup?")  

She would bring some cooked dish when invited, but would never say in advance. Aunt Betty would say "If you'd tell me, I'd know how to plan the meal." And there would be feigned insults all around.

The one thing which was totally predictable was birthday and Hanukkah presents. It would always be a silver dollar.

Uncle Joe  always - in my day - gave the impression that he was not completely well and my mother was always very solicitous of him. My mother also worried about how he saw us. Once he stayed with us for a couple of days and dinner one evening was left-over turkey. We were not allowed to eat the bones. Uncle Joe might think we were poor.

 Amy suggested that perhaps because Aunt Helen "took up all the air in the room" - and she surely did - Uncle Joe was content to sit quietly and watch.

I supposed he must have smiled and laughed. But no one seems ever to have seen it.

The two couples, they and my grandparents, were close. All the way to the end.
With my grandson Avrohom, the week of his bar mitzvah

Housekeeping notes 
I have positively identified living descendants of Gabriel and Sara Pikholz of Husiatyn. Now I have to get them to talk to me. Not a simple matter. (Wait till they find out I want some DNA!)

My talk at the IAJGS Conference in Salt Lake City is one of those planned for their "LIVE!" program, so it can be seen by people who cannot attend. The panel I am participating in is also planned for "LIVE!" - the panel on Monday and my talk on Wednesday. As of now, I do not see any option to register for a single presentation. The cost for the program is $149 for the full week or $49 per day. They tell me, however, that speakers will receive free copies of their own sessions, which can be shown to family members.

In the last two weeks, six seven eight nine! family members have ordered DNA tests, including second cousins of three of my four sides.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Differently Every Year - Remembering Skalat

The memorial for Skalat
I was not planning on writing about the annual Skalat memorial this year, except perhaps a brief passage at the end. I have written about this previously on this blog - here and here and here. The meeting is important, but not what you would call "interesting." Pretty much the same from year to year.

We met at five o'clock Thursday afternoon, the seventh of Sivan - which outside of Israel is the second day of the Shavuot holiday.

There is a whole row of town monuments along that stretch. Maybe thirty or so. At the other end is Husiatyn, a town near Skalat which I have written about here and specifically about the Zellermayer-Pikholz connections here.  Near that is a monument to Vileika, where many of my mother's Gordons lived in the early and mid 1800s, probably earlier too. There is Pleshchenitsy where my Gordon grandfather's mother, Anna Kugel, came from. And Zbarazh, not far from Skalat, where we had other Pikholz families.

We were about twenty-five or so. Zvika Sarid led us. We lost his mother's brother Mottel Weissman a few months ago, so again we all said kaddish together. We did that last year when Mottel was too ill to attend. Zvika pointed out that there were only four people in attendance who had actually lived in Skalat. The rest were children and grandchildren, plus a few spouses. I wondered about some of the missing. I knew that Tonia Winter was not well, but her daughter always came. And Giza - she is young for a Holocaust survivor. Giza came a few minutes later.

Zvika's daughter Chava took a picture of their mother Yocheved standing next to the monument and I made a comment about the monument's being the same as it was last year. But of course, that is not the point. The point is that while Skalat is frozen in time, Judenrein for seventy-one years, Yocheved is not. She left, made aliyah, married had children and grandchildren. That is what Chava was recording. Her mother growing older.

Some of the topics of discussion at the last few memorials were not mentioned. Nothing about the monuments in Skalat itself or the money to maintain them. No one spoke of plans to go back to visit. Skalat had been planning to make itself a five-hundredth birthday party last August. No one mentioned that either.

Mottel's daughter Chanaleh had written something years ago - perhaps a school project - about the yearly visit of the Rebbe of Husiatyn, who used to spend several weeks in Skalat on his way from his home in Vienna to his father's grave in Husiatyn. This was along the same lines as Tonka Pikholz had written in one of the Skalat memorial books. Tonka herself is buried in Holon and her sister's son and daughter visited her grave, as they always do. Tonka would be a hundred this year.

Zvika read from what Chanaleh had  written, which included something about the Rebbe's friend Yosef Milgrom, on whose property there was a small house in which the Rebbe stayed in Skalat. People came from all around to seek his advice and blessings, including the non-Jews.

Bronia said that no one was left from Yosef Milgrom's family.

So I spoke up. And told this story. Three years ago, I spoke at the IAJGS Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Washington DC, and in the course of my talk mentioned the Husiatyner Rebbe and his visits to Skalat. I spent the following Shabbes in Lakewood NJ, where my son and daughter-in-law and family were spending two weeks at the yeshiva. Someone asked me who I am etc and I said I am a genealogist, so he said that one of the rabbis who was there at the time had just written a book about his family.

I had a look at the book and saw a chapter about the Husiatyner Rebbe. So I went over to the writer, introduced myself and told him that I had just referred to the same subject in my conference talk. Across the table from him, and quite unrelated to him, sat an older woman who said "My husband's uncle Yosef Milgrom, built the hoiuse where the Rebbe used to stay when he was in Skalat."

"Small world" is a cliche, but cliches generally come from some truth. And Bronia was pleased that Yosef Milgrom has living family.

Zvika announced that he wanted to introduce something new for the memorial program. He read from the Hebrew version of the Weisbard memorial book, a personal testimony by Yoel Ben-Porath (Julek  Weinraub), as transmitted in 1995 to Lusia Milch. Zvika wants to "feature" a Skalater each year at the memorial meeting. He already told Zvi Segal that he wants him to prepare something about his father Shammai for next year.

No one wants to be the first to leave. We all hope that everyone will be there next year.

Other cemeteries
I usually use the day in the Tel Aviv area for other cemetery matters.

Gil Mordecai Scharf is a third cousin of my wife's, buried in the military section of the Holon cemetery.

He was a gunner in a tank and was killed during Operation Shelom HaGalil in 1985. He was nearly nineteen.

I went to the Kiryat Shaul cemetery to visit the two Zellermayer graves that I wrote about not long ago. Avraham's grave has his full birth name "Avraham Isak ben Zalman Yehudah." I wasn't sure it would, as his children's graves just have "Avraham." His yahrzeit was the day after my visit.

Also in Kiryat Shaul, I visited the grave of Zvi (Stanislav) Domnivsky. I mentioned him three weeks ago when I discussed the family of my Uncle Jachiel. Stanislav had submitted Pages of Testimony for two of Uncle Jachiel's Tunis grandsons and had defined himself as a relative. I was hoping the gravestone would give me a clue exactly how he was related. But it did not.

From there I went to the Yarkon cemetery to the grave of Stanislav's daughter Lydia.

That did give me some information. It says "My dear mother."

I will have to contact the burial society to see what they can tell me about the son or daughter - who probably has no idea who the Tunis family is.

Housekeeping notes
Occasionally I order records from Polish State Archives other than AGAD, when I need something for myself or for a client.  I made an exception recently when I placed an order with the Przemysl Archives - my sixth time ordering from them.

They are awkward to work with. They require statements explaining how the person placing the order is related to the person in the record, they send poor-quality paper copies by mail rather than scans, they cover up the other records on the page lest someone learn something that hasn't been paid for - and they take a very long time to process the orders even after they have been paid.

But in this case, a family member wanted  ten records on his other side, so I gathered up a few other people and placed an order on 11 September. The records came this week. Finally. One person received the single record he ordered. One got nothing. Another received part of an order. The original fellow who wanted ten got three of the ten, but also a handful of others that he hadn't ordered.

I think I am finished with Przemysl. (As my father would say "Famous last words?")

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Your Mother Went By Salomea?

No, not my mother. Joe's mother. He is where this story kicks off.

Joe's article appeared in the issue of The Galizianer (the quarterly publication of Gesher Galicia) that came out a few days ago. He gave his kind permission to reproduce it here.
The article was originally published in the Winter 2013-2014 issue of L'dor V'dor, the quarterly newsletter of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Maryland and they too have given their permission.

From my side, the story began when the International Tracing Service (ITS) index became fully available at Yad Vashem. My first look was in March 2008 and I found this. (I redacted the address.) 

Josef Nathanson of Baltimore had inquired in 1994 about Yetta Pickholz Schaffer of Lwow, born 1880, which may or may not be a precise year. He also inquired about her son and three daughters. As I have mentioned here on other occasions, east Galician families came to Lwow from all over, so there was no telling if this Yetta was from the Rozdol families or the Skalat families. I had no Yetta or Etta or similar born around that time, so I had no idea who this might be.

I wrote to Mr Nathanson at the address listed on the cards and we had quite a flurry of correspondence over several weeks. I had not yet begun my subscription to and my friend Renee Steinig found the passenger list with the name Salomea. But I still could not identify Yetta, so I could not place the Schaffers into the Pikholz family structure.

Joe had a precise date of birth for his mother, but despite my inquiries, we could not get the record from AGAD.  So there we sat for two years.

In 2010, AGAD received a few more years of records from the Civil Records Office in Warsaw, but there was a lot to be done before they would allow them to be indexed. I paid someone in  Warsaw to do an unofficial search, from which he could give me only extracts.

The search results included two daughters and a son of Yetta and the extract identified the mother as "Jenta Pikholz, c. Salomon Striks i Szejndel Pesel Pikholz." Jenta, not Yetta. And parents we knew. In fact, we had Jenta's 1883 birth record.
Scheindel Pescha's grave - Vienna. Joe's great-grandmother.
Scheindel Pescha was the daughter of David Pikholz and his wife Szerke Kawa. She was born 1846, probably in Rozdol, and died in Vienna in 1925. David and Szerka had four sons that we know of and are in touch with a number of descendants. This is the family I call IF4.
One of at least ten ITS cards for Friedrich
Scheindel Pescha was married to Salomon Strix or Strycks or some similar spelling. It varied from document to document. They had five children before Jenta, apparently four who went by some form of Stryks and Mordecai, who was Pickholz. Mordecai had four sons in Vienna, with the wonderfully Viennese names Siegfried, Friedrich, Ernst and Otto. Their Jewish names: Shelomo, Gabriel, David and Avraham. They died in London, Dachau, Haifa and Buenos Aires and I am in contact with children of Ernst and Otto.

Otto's daughter gave me some bits of information on the Stryks cousins, but I was never able to make contact with them.

Oh, and eventually we found Salomea's birth record. She was born ten days earlier than what the family had "known."

Now if we could only get some DNA out of these folks...

Housekeeping notes
I have an article of my own scheduled for the next issue of The Galizianer.

The practical genetics course I am taking next month at GRIPitt carries with it a discount coupon for Family Tree DNA tests for my project members. Thus far three new signups and at least two working on it. Thank you GRIPitt and FTDNA!

Friday, I visited Hevron with my son Devir and my cousin Ari. We photographed twenty-two graves that were not there on my last visit nearly two years ago. (I really must get back to going more often.)  There is an entirely new section with four graves, next to the section with the old rabbinic graves. You can see my Hevron site here. I should have it fully updated in the next day or two.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Leading into the month of Sivan

  • Wednesday we celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem, forty-seven years ago.

  • Thursday we say the Shelah's prayer for the spiritual and physical welfare of our children and grandchildren.

  • Friday we bring in the month of Sivan. I shall be in Hevron.

Something about each.

The reunification of Jerusalem - 28 Iyyar
During the lifetimes of many of us, we were blessed to see the reunification of Jerusalem. During the nineteen year occupation of the Old City, the Mount of Olives and other significant places of Jewish heritage, the Jordanian Arabs destroyed synagogues, other buildings and grave sites, in addition to preventing Jews from approaching these places. (My apologies for the quality of these photos, particularly the ink that bled through.)

And the Kotel Plaza was not the great open space we recognize from the last forty-five years.  There was work to be done.

The archealogy on the southern end of the Temple Mount didn't appear ex-nihilo either.

There were the places where residents of the Old City has been murdered and buried in mass graves - in what was then and is now "the Jewish Quarter." As though there can be any other quarter.

 I have been using the word "reunification," not "liberation," for as long as we cannot go up to the Temple Mount, neither it nor we are liberated.

Above the Kotel on the right, the Chief Rabbinate says that it is forbidden to tread on the holy ground, even in the areas that clearly should not be forbidden. (We are reminded from time to time why the Law of Unintended Consequences is sometimes a good thing.)

But back then, we could get close enough to take pictures through windows that open onto the Temple Mount itself.

Whenever I took people into the Old City back then, we would stop and see how it had looked before the Six Day War. We could not get a better view than this.

A word about united Jerusalem vs what they write in the papers. We waited Thursday night at a stoplight up near French Hill. On the island waiting for the light to change, there were two hareidi boys, maybe ten years old, with their backpacks, no doubt on the way home from school. On the same island were three Arab men, forty-ish, probably also on their way home. Sharing the same small traffic island. No one thought a thing of it.

I heard a long interview last week with Steven Pressfield on his new book The Lion's Gate, about the Six Day War, with a great deal about the reunification of Jerusalem. Some lucky family member is going to get a copy from me.

I have written here and here about two non-family members who were buried on the Mount of Olives and whose graves were desecrated during the Jordanian occupation.

We also have a family member buried there - but not from that period. My wife's second cousin Sheila (Sarah Fruma) Goldson Weiner, born in Cincinnati, made aliyah with her husband and four children, had a fifth here in Jerusalem and died on Yom Yerushalayim thirty-four years ago. She was forty-one. I have lost count of her grandchildren, but there have been over thirty for some time. (Her husband is from Memphis and is related to a third cousin of mine who, last I knew, lived in Tuscaloosa.)

We pray for our children - 29 Iyyar
Rabbi Yeshayahu HaLevi Horowitz, born 1558 in Prague, served as a rabbi in a number of communities in Europe, eventually returning to Prague. After his wife died in 1620, he made aliyah to Jerusalem, where he wrote his seminal work "Shnei Luhot HaBerit" and he became known as the Shelah, the acronym of his book. This particular work - which was meant as instructions to his children - was published by his son some years after his 1630 death. The Shelah left Jerusalem after he and other community leaders were jailed for ransom, and lived in Zefat befiore moving to Teverya, where he died. He is buried in the same compound as the Rambam.

His prayer, which he instructed should be said on 29 Iyyar, the day before the beginning of Sivan, the month we receive the Torah, can be found (with translation) here.

Rosh Hodesh Sivan
We have three Pikholz yahrzeits on the first of Sivan, all buried here in Israel. Two are in Holon - one from Skalat and one, a Pikholz spouse, from Rozdol and this one on the right who lived in Efrat and is buried in Kefar Etzion.

I discussed Hevron here a couple of years ago, including its capture in the Six Day War by the Chief IDF Chaplain, Rav Shlomo Goren.

For a few years, before we moved to Jerusalem, Devir and I used to go to Hevron for a sunrise minyan every time Rosh Hodesh would fall on a Friday. Then for awhile we went every Rosh Hodesh.

Devir has been after me to go, as we have not been there is quite awhile and we plan to do so this week.

It will give me an opportunity to update my Hevron Cemetery website..

Houskeeping notes
The panel discussion I am participating in at the Conference in Salt Lake City has been moved to Monday at 4:45 PM.

My own talk is at 9 AM Wednesday and I have just learned that I have been assigned a room with a seating capacity of 480. Methinks someone is being optimistic. My good friend Renee Steinig has agreed to introduce me, as she did three years ago in Washington DC.

The Conference website has a link for a live stream of "Over 50 of the best conference programs," but they haven't announce which those would be. I don't know if being assigned a room for 480 people qualifies as "of the best." We'll find out. Registration for this is $149.