Thursday, February 9, 2017

Beyond A Doubt - Another Resolution


Presented most recently to JGS Toronto,
JGS Maryland and IAJGS Seattle
I have a lecture about dealing with things we are quite sure about but do not have the supporting proof. It may not even be available.

In that presentation, I break the general question into seven considerations and give an example of each. For each example I decide to accept the conclusion into my family database or to reject it for lack of sufficient evidence.

Example #5 deals with the family of Gabriel and Sara Pikholz of Husiatyn. They had a son Moses in 1851 and I have been quite convinced that this is the same Moshe who married Chana Muhlrad in Skalat and together they had eight children in the period 1874-1894.

I also believed that this Gabriel is the son of Nachman Pikholz who was born about 1795.

I discussed this family in some detail three years ago.

This is the family of Moshe who I would like to think is the Moses born in 1851.















Moshe's granddaughter Miriam Reiner told me that her grandfather had "died young," well before she was born in 1913, but could not be more specific. In fact, I found an 1894 death record for a Moshe Pikholz in Skalat, which seemed to make everything fit - but for one little problem. The Moshe in that death certificate was fifty-seven years old so could not have been born in 1851.

On the other hand, we had no unaccounted-for Moshe born around 1837, so the death record may have simply had the age wrong.

But I could not justify a decision to say that Moses from Husiatyn was indeed the father of the Skalat family and in the conclusion to my presentation, I left the matter unsettled.

A couple of weeks ago, Mark Halpern of JRI-Poland sent me a spreadsheet with 695 Skalat deaths during 1908-1915. That list includes twelve people named Pikholz and at least two other Pikholz family members with a different surname. Most of the twelve are listed without names of parents or spouses, so it is not always clear who the deceased is. For instance, there is a Josef Pikholz who died in 1909 and I am not sure if this is the one born 1862 or the one born in 1863.

The index also does not include towns of origin, at least not for our entries, but those may appear on the actual records.

The entries have ages, of course, and also house numbers. The actual records have always had house numbers, but they were usually not included in the index.



Moses Pickholz who died in 1908 at age 57, so would have been born 1851. This is a perfect fit for Moses from Husiatyn. So perhaps he is not the father of the Skalat family and there are two separate Moshes.

But the house number is 23. Six children of Tobias - Moshe's son - and two of his grandchildren were born in that house. Surely this must be Tobias' father.

Furthermore, the new spreadsheet has a four month old daughter of Tobias dying in that house in 1912.

So I can now say without reservation that the Moshe who had the family in Skalat was indeed the son of Gabriel and Sara and was born in Husiatyn in 1851. That leaves me with an 1894 death record for a different fifty-seven year old Moshe Pikholz in Skalat - who on earth is that?

I'll write about some of the others in that spreadsheet in a subsequent post.

Housekeeping notes
My daughter-in-law in New Jersey had a baby boy a few hours ago. I am not going to chance a flight home after a Thursday berit, so I am in the NJ area a few more days. If anyone in NJ/NY wants a program Wednesday 15 February, Thursday 16 February or Sunday 19 February, please let me know and we'll see what we can put together.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Lydia in Columbus

Less than a week after learning of the existence of my Rosenbloom/Kaplan second cousins (described here), I went to see my second cousin Lydia in Columbus Ohio. This was last Wednesday and I was on my way to a Thursday evening speaking engagement for JGS Michigan.

Lydia is eighty-two, was born in Moscow and has been in the US for twenty-two years. Why Columbus? Her late husband has relatives there. We were both very excited about the meeting.

As I mentioned last week, she has pictures. Her grandmother, for instance, a bit older than the mid-1920s photograph that we have.

There is some difference of opinion about when Alta died - whether 1968 or 1973. But everyone agrees she was ninety-three. That's well into my lifetime and long after her younger sister, my grandmother, died in 1959. We should be able to check Alta's date of death as the whole family is buried together in Moscow's Vostrikovsky Cemetery.

I had always figured that Alta was born about 1880, as she had at least two grandchildren when contact was lost in 1929. I was quite sure she was several years older than my grandmother Sarah, because the younger brother (Uncle Hymen) was called Chaim Benzion because previous sons had died in childhood or infancy. There was not much room for multiple sons unless they were between Alta and Sarah.

Lydia says - and I think this is apocryphal - that when Alta was older, she would often be found wandering around Moscow and when asked her name, she would say "Alta Rosenbloom from Borisov." That's how the grandchildren came to know her maiden name and birth place. I have my doubts because her children - also born in Borisov - outlived her, and surely knew her history.

We took out pictures, she in a well-kept album that had been smuggled out of Russia and I on my laptop. We had identical pre-WWI photographs. Alta as a younger woman with her father - my namesake
- Israel David Rosenbloom, for instance.

She had the same majestic picture of Israel David that had hung om my grandmother's wall. It had hung on Alta's wall as well. And there were others.

But she had some that she could not identify.
 My grandparents in Vandergrift Pennsylvania, with their four older children. Mother was not yet born, so this would have been late 1924 or early 1925. And Lydia has an original baby picture of my mother, sitting on a stool.

She had one of Uncle Hymen and Aunt Becky with their two sons, taken probably 1926 before their daughter was born. And of course she had no idea who these people were. But she had preserved them in her album nonetheless.

We knew that Uncle Hymen had had some contact with at least his father until 1929, but it was now clear to me that the two sisters were also in contact. I had no expectations of my grandmother who never spoke of Russia and in her depression with small-town life far away from her family, burned some of her own pictures. But there it was. Well into the 1920s.

The labeling I cited last week on the picture of Uncle Hymen with Aunt Alta's family, is not completely correct. The younger daughter Sonya could not have been in that 1914 photograph as she was not born until after WWI. Apparently there was another sister who died and whom no one remembers. And the older girl in that one might be the half sister Aunt Mera, rather than Alta's older daughter Etta Bryna (Esfira in Russian).

Odd about that. All three surviving siblings, Alta, Sarah and Hymen named their first daughters Etta Bryna, after their mother. My Aunt Ethel and her husband adopted a daughter after a dozen years of marriage. She later had two naturally. Uncle Hymen's Ethel had no children and adopted a son. Esfira too had no children, but raised her husband's son from his previous marriage.

It was a joyous meeting, but far from complete. We will find a way to do this again and I hope to talk to the others in the family. Lydia gave me DNA. Her mother is not Jewish, so all her Jewish DNA is Rosenbloom and Kaplan. And she told me proudly "I did giyur" showing me a conversion certificate issued in Columbus. For now, her son - born 1965 - is not interested in any of this and in any case was not in town when I visited.

So here, if I have it right, is what we have added to our Rosenbloom family. Lydia's grandfather Lev was probably named Yehudah after Etta Bryna's father.
The following evening, my second cousin Reuven Rosenbloom and his wife came to hear me speak and on Shabbat I had lunch with a Rosenbloom cousin of the next generation.

Housekeeping notes
The Cleveland audience was excellent and included several Pickholtz descendants. They say there were 55-60 people and there were lots of questions. Earlier in the day, I had said kaddish with two of the Cleveland Pickholtz brothers and then went to the cemetery where their parents are buried. Their mother's stone setting is planned for Mothers' Day.

I am writing from Salt Lake City, I want to get some research in at the library tomorrow (Tuesday) and Wednesday, before RootsTech begins. I am speaking Friday at eleven o'clock.

Sunday I am off to California for the last two presentations of this trip. No Rosenblooms there, but there are some younger generation Pickholtz cousins who might show up.

12 February 2017, 1:30 – Orange County JGS Temple Beth David, 6100 Hefley Street, Westminster, CA 92683
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey

13 February 2017, 7:30 – JGS of Los Angeles, American Jewish University, American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive
Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?

And I am speaking back home on 16 March, in Raanana. In English.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Six Siblings - Part One: Origins

A week before he died last month, my brother gave me DNA. That gives us the whole set of six siblings. (A seventh was killed in an accident thirty years ago, but her identical twin is one of the six, so we count the set as complete.)

I would like to look at some aspects of our group results in a few blog posts and I'll start here with an easy one: origins. In general, I'll show the siblings in age order.

myOrigins on the far right, ancientOrigins at the bottom left
Now the truth is, I don't pay much attention to the whole ethnicity thing. It isn't really precise - how can it be, especially wiuth European Jews. And this new "ancientOrigins" thingee that FTDNA shows us - well until today I had never even looked at it.

So what do we have? Let's start with the new one and pretend that it is meaningful.


I don't need a statistician to tell me that the six of us are cut from the same cloth. Mostly farmer, some invader, a bit of hunter-gatherer. No one is far from the averages.


What about ethnicity, what FTDNA calls "myOrigins?"















The basic Ashkenazi Jewish ethnicity is without question, ranging from my 90% to Dan's 99%, with the girls in between. That's who we are according to FTDNA's standards.I would not be surprised, though, if some of the Ashkenazim in their database contain significant Sephardic heritage that no one knows to classify properly.

The European, West African and Central Asian are all one-offs ranging from 1% to 3%. We can probably ignore them.

What FTDNA calls "Asia Minor"
The three Middle Eastern categories show at least two of us in each one. The 5% that Jean and Sarajoy show in Asia Minor (Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan on the FTDNA maps) is probably real, representing Jews who are probably Sephardic.

I don't know how different that is from the "Eastern Middle East" category that includes Judith (5%), Amy (1%) and me (8%). The map shows this to be Egyot, Jordan, Lebanon. My eight percent seems like a lot,
especially compared to all the others, but these things are not meant to be precise. Perhaps "entertainment value" is an appropriate term. I don't think much of any claims of precision in differentiating between Eastern Middle East and Asia Minor.

If this analysis is telling us anything, it's that our family is Ashkenazic, flavored with some Sephardic ancestors - more than likely people who left Spain or Portugal and settled in various Mediterranean locations. The North African elements are surely in that category as well.Tegular readers will recall that I discussed our possible (probable?) Y-DNA line here.

More on the Sibling Set in a few days.

Housekeeping Notes
Speaking at the JGSs in Detroit and Cleveland in the coming days, then off to RootsTech and California.

2 February 2017, 7 PM – JGS of Michigan, Farmington Community Library – Main Branch – Auditorium,32737 W. Twelve Mile Rd. Farmington Hills, MI 48334
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey

5 February 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Cleveland, Park Synagogue East, 27500 Shaker Blvd,  Pepper Pike
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Kaplans

Since I began working on my family's genealogy, this picture has hung on my wall, representing my ultimate challenge.
This came from from my grandmother's younger brother Uncle Hymen and it shows his eldest sister Alta Rosenbloom Kaplan and her four children. Uncle Hymen knew that the man in the lower right is Jakov, the eldest, that one of the other boys is Baruch Yosef and that the girl in the middle is Etta Bryna, named for our great-grandmother who had died in 1896. The picture itself was taken in the 1920s in Moscow, though Alta was born in Borisov..

A 1929 letter from my great-grandfather (and my namesake) Israel David Rosenbloom tells us of two granddaughters born to Alta. And that is where we have been since the early 1970s. (I have mentioned this family before - most recently here.)

This is the family structure as we knew it.















Then along came Galit, a DNA cousin with roots in Borisov. I mentioned here recently that she and I have embarked on a DNA project involving a number of Borisov families. Galit lives near Philadelphia and we were to meet yesterday for the first time when I was scheduled to speak for the JGS of Philadelphia. Galit's first language is Russian.

Last week, Galit reported that she thought she had found Alta's descendants, that Alta had lived to age 93 - well into our lifetimes - and that she had six children, not four. And that some of the four in our photograph were mislabeled. (Uncle Hymen knew there were six, but probably just identified (or tried to) the four and no ever asked him if there were others.)

Friday morning, she wrote on our "Etta Bryna's Descendants" Facebook group "all is confirmed." For me, at least, the key confirmation was this.

The woman is clearly the same as the one in our photo and we know the young man in the back. Uncle Hymen. He left for the US at age twenty so this would have been a farewell visit to his sister. This includes Alta's husband Berl Kaplan who died of smallpox in 1916. Sons are Jakov, Boris (Baruch Yosef?), Lev, Isaak. Girls are Esfir (Etta Bryna) and Sofia.

I am now Facebook friends with Katya in Moscow, the granddaughter of Isaak, the boy on the left sitting next to Alta. Katya is a translator, so she does English.

The entire family lived in Moscow since before the war, so they survived the Holocaust unscathed. And some of the knew the half-sister Aunt Mera, who has a son Mihail who may be alive. (Katya will check that with her mother.).

Jakov's great-grandson Ilya has a tree online at My Heritage - in Russian - and I went over it with Galit. Alta herself died in 1968 and her children are all gone, but there are eight or nine living grandchildren. My second cousins. Some are still in Moscow. Ilya's family are in Nuremberg. One branch is in Israel. Several families are in the US and I plan to meet my second cousin Lydia (daughter of Lev) in Columbus Ohio later this week, on my way to speaking in Detroit. She is the one with the pictures.

Ilya has a great uncle in Indianapolis. I wish I could get to him as well but there are not enough days this week. Another family is in northern New Jersey. Nuremberg is a seven hour train ride from Budapest, where I plan to be in the spring. I wonder if Aeroflot has a flight from Israel to Orlando that will allow me to see the Moscow cousins this summer.

It was very special to have U. Hymen's granddaughter, my cousin Beth and her husband, with Galit and me when we met yesterday. These new cousins are to Beth and me as we are to each other. (Beth and I are the ones with the glasses.)

Obviously, I am rather overwhelmed by all of this. So much DNA to collect.

 More later. Enjoy the ride with me.

Housekeeping notes
My Baltimore talk on Uncle Selig was very good and we had a nice turnout, as usual. This was the first appearance of the Uncle Selig presentation, which I will also be doing in los Angeles in two weeks. I have also submitted it for Orlando.

The rest of the talks this trip are
2 February 2017, 7 PM – JGS of Michigan, Farmington Community Library – Main Branch – Auditorium,32737 W. Twelve Mile Rd. Farmington Hills, MI 48334
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey

 5 February 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Cleveland, Park Synagogue East, 27500 Shaker Blvd,  Pepper Pike
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey

10 February 2017, 11:00ROOTSTECH2017, Jewish DNA: Successes and Lessons from the Journey


12 February 2017, 1:30 – Orange County JGS Temple Beth David, 6100 Hefley Street, Westminster, CA 92683
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey

13 February 2017, 7:30 – JGS of Los Angeles, American Jewish University, American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive
Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?





Monday, January 16, 2017

Cousin Harvey

My father's sister, aka Aunt Betty, ordered her MtDNA test four and a half years ago and upgraded to the full sequence about eighteen months later. Initially, she had only three matches with no genetic difference and a fourth showed up about a year ago. Three more appeared in the final months of 2016. One of the seven was a suggested third-fifth cousin and the others were remote or not an autosomal match at all.

Aunt Betty's haplogroup is H10a1b and goes back to my great-great-grandmother Feige Stern who was born in Kalocsa Hungary about 1841. Her mother may have been Beti Grunwald.

Last week, she received a new match, a man named Harvey in North Carolina. In addition to the perfect MtDNA, they are suggested second-fourth cousins. It looked like it was worth following up. Harvey is active in genealogy but is a DNA-novice. There was nothing obvious in the surnames, and he let me upload his data to GEDmatch.

Harvey's most promising matches with my family appeared to be not on my father's side at all, but on my mother's mother's Rosenbloom side, from Borisov, NE of Minsk.








On chromosome 9, Harvey matches seven of my Rosenbloom family, all about 18 cM. The seven are my second cousins Sam and Beth (first cousins to one another), my first cousins Kay and Leonard (also first cousins to one another), my sisters Sarajoy and Jean and me.  (My other two sisters do not match Harvey at all and my brother's results are not in yet.)

On chromosome 11, there is a smaller match (on the far right) of over 12 cM with Kay, Beth and Sam's sister Beverly, one of the newer participants in our project.

Regular readers may recall that I wrote two months ago about a new project I am doing with Galit Aviv on a number of Borisov families. We are still laying the foundaton for this project, but I asked Galit to see if Harvey matches "her" members of this group. I was surprised when she said that they do. So using the GEDmatch Tier1 "Matching Segment Search" tool, I had a look at all of Harvey's matches, arranged by chromosome and segment.








When I did the matching segment search, I was able to add three of Galit's group to my family's matches with Harvey.

Then there are my Jaffe second cousins. Their grandfather is also from Borisov and Harvey has a match of about 17 cM with them.

And here too, Galit's cousin Nurit fits right in.
Galit has invited Harvey to join our project. Cousin Harvey!

But lest we forget, Harvey is a suggested second-fourth cousin to Aunt Betty. On a one-to-one comparison, we see they have three matching segments.

The small match on chromosome 5 is shared by a three other family members, but they are small, so I am not ready to draw conclusions.

The match on chromosome 13 is shared by no one else in the family. That leaves the large match on chromosome 3.








Harvey has 21.3 cM matches with Aunt Betty and Uncle Bob, as well as with my second cousins Roz (on my grandfather's side) and Susan on my grandmother's side. When you consider that there are another dozen family members who ought to fit in here, it doesn't look like anything we can work with.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Baruch Dayan HaEmet - ברוך דיין האמת

The funeral for my brother Daniel - Zvi Moshe - will be held Monday at two o'clock at Shalom Memorial Park, Arlington Heights Illinois. Additional details to follow.


Amy and Sarajoy will sit shiva at Amy's in Buffalo Grove Illinois. They will be receiving visitors 10 AM - 5 PM and 7 PM - 10 PM, Friday morning and 6-10 Sarurday night..

I will sit at home in Jerusalem, beginning directly after the funeral, which will be late Monday evening here. Services will probably be at 6:40 AM and maariv at 7:30 PM. I do not know if we will have enough for a minyan for minha. The address is Avraham Arest 6/4, on Patt by the entrance to Bet Zefafa. Check back here for updates or talk to me by phone or email.

Judith and Jean will sit at Judith's in Elkana, though Jean will go home to Arad Friday.

All of us plan to have email open during shiva. We` get up Monday morning, but Amy and Sarajoy should get up Sunday morning.

Dan's increasingly serious condition is why I was in Chicago last week.

I do not expect that there will be any changes in my travel plans.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Trip Notes

I am in the midst of a very brief personal trip to the US. Some notes.

** The flight from Israel had a stopover in a major European airport where, despite regular security, they do additional interviews at the gate. So I'm waiting in line for my security intervew and the gate agent on my right says to the couple she was talking to "Can you spell that for me?"

And the woman spells out their name "K-L-x-x-x."

And I say "You're from Podkamen." and she says "How did you know that."

So I say "All the KLxxxs are from Podkamen." And she says "Yes, but how did you know that."

And I say "I'm a genealogist. And besides, some of my family lived in Zalosce - the next town over." Now the husband gets involved and he says "Some of our family also lived in Zalosce."

So feeling I was on a winning streak, I say to the man "Your name is probably Pinchas." And he says "Yes it is, but how did you know?" And I say "All the KLxxxs are named Pinchas."


** I have mentioned my four sisters often in the context of our DNA tests. I also have a brother, whom I saw last week. I am pleased to report that two vials with his DNA are on their way to Houston.

I would not be surprised to find that he has segments that the rest of us don't, but I will be truly surprised if something significant shows up. Of course, we cannot know what may come of any specific DNA test until we have the results in hand.


** The call for papers for the 37th IAJGS Conference on Jewish Genealogy came out a few days ago. The Conference is planned for 23-28 July in Orlando Florida. I will probably submit proposals for the three presentations I made last year,plus the new "Uncle Selig" that I described here a few weeks ago.


** Anyone who is interested in a program in mid-July, especially in southern United States, please let me know. For that matter,we can also talk about late April early May 2018 when I expect to be in the US for my grandson's bar mitzvah.


** And there are still some speaking dates available in the US at the end of January. Let me know if you are interested.


** The FTDNA sale continues, with reduced prices and coupons.
I can offer six coupons for $5 on Family Finder, in addition to coupons for BigY ($75), Y-DNA ($20), Y-67 ($40) and Full MtDNA ($40) . Send me an email or a Facebook PM, if you want any of these.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

"Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?"

So far, two of the presentations I will be doing in the US this winter will be on the new topic

WHY DID MY FATHER KNOW THAT HIS GRANDFATHER HAD AN UNCLE SELIG?

Those two events are
22 January 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Maryland, Baltimore County Public Library, 1301 Reiserstown Road, Pikesville and
13 February 2017, 7:30 – JGS of Los Angeles, American Jewish University, American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive

This is the summary that they will be using for their announcements:
More than twenty years before Israel Pickholtz began doing serious genealogy, his father sent him a postcard with three bits of family information. One of those was that Israel's great-grandfather Hersch Pikholz had an uncle Zelig. That information was very important in Israel's research over the last two decades, research that was helped along by traditional sources and more recently by genetic genealogy.
 
But even as he was progressing in his research, Israel could not shake the question "Why did my father know this?" Israel says "My father was eight years old when his grandfather Hersch Pikholz died and they never had any real conversation. None of the cousins knew about Uncle Zelig, not even the older one who lived in the same house as my great-grandfather. My father himself did not recall why he knew this."

And did it even matter? Israel tells the story of his great-great-great-uncle, what he learned about his family and why now he thinks he knows how his father knew. And yes, it matters.
This presentation is available 23-26 January and 30-31 January in the Maryland, New Jersey, New York area, 1-2 February in the Pennsylvania, Cleveland area and mid-February in the NJ/NY area.

Of course, there will be presentations on DNA during this trip.

Housekeeping notes
I have an extra $10 Family Finder coupon, if anyone wants it. Contact me by email or Facebook PM. (Update: This was snapped up withing five minutes of posting.)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Ultimate Jewish Genealogy:

The City of Our Foreparents - Hevron
The first recorded purchase by our forefathers in what came to be known as Eretz Israel, the Land of Israel, was the Cave of Machpela in Hevron, which was purchased by Avraham as a burial place for his wife Sarah. The purchase - including the surrounding field - and the burial are recorded in the Torah portion that Jews everywhere read yesterday.

David Wilder reports on Facebook that more than 30,000 visitors spent Shabbat in Hevron yesterday to celebrate that purchase.

The Cave of Machpela is the burial place not just for Sarah, but also for Avraham and for Yitzhak & Rivka and Yaakov & Leah, and those couples at the top of our Jewish family tree lived in Hevron. So it is that a visit to Hebron and the Cave is an ultimate genealogy tour.

I have mentioned Hevron in this space on several occasions, with some detail here.

As it worked out, I had the occasion to be in Hevron last Wednesday and I made a long overdue visit to the cemetery in the Ramat Yishai neighborhood. Some years ago, I took it upon myself to record the main Hevron cemetery - that part that has been in use since 1967.

My Hevron Cemetery website, as it appeared until this week, with over two hundred graves and markers




















For awhile I had made a point of visiting the cemetery at least twice a year and updated the website and JOWBR accordingly. Today the Hevron cemetery serves the small neighboring community of Kiryat Arba and the even smaller Hevron community itself, so each update would be just a handful of new graves. But it has been two and a half years so I expected perhaps two dozen additions..

The Cave of the Patriarchs
Since my last visit, there are a lot more signs in the city directing traffic to the various Jewish sites and neighborhoods. Among other things, you no longer go down the narrow street in front of the Cave itself unless that is where you are heading. I did not stop there this time but went directly to the Ramat Yishai neighborhood at the top of the hill.

On previous visits, I would drive up the steep hill to the point where you turn left to the neighborhood and right to the cemetery. There were generally two soldiers and I would tell them where I was going, and be on my way. Now it is different. If you want to go to the cemetery you have to wait for them to call for an armed escort. As I waited, I watched the playful interaction between the soldiers and the Arab children who lived in the area.

Hallel Yaffa Ariel, May G-d avenge her blood
Eventually they said I could proceed and I let myself into the cemetery. Two armed soldiers  showed up a few minutes later and I apologized for taking them away from whatever else they had been doing. I felt a bit silly being guarded on what I considered to be friendly turf. The two soldiers followed me closely at first, asking questions, such as why are there stones on the graves. It turned out that these soldiers were not Jews but Druze and they were happy for the opportunity to learn about our burial customs. I pointed out to them several terror victims, including two father and sons killed in drive-by shootings. Although they were a few years ago, they knew of them. Of course they certainly remembered the terrible incident of the thirteen and a half year old Hallel Yaffa Ariel stabbed by a terrorist while in her bed only a few months ago. Her grave is at the top to the left of the Torah scrolls, right where you enter. You can't miss it. You mustn't miss it.



There is one new soldier - Major Benaya Sarel, who was killed in battle in Operation Protective Edge. His story (in Hebrew) can be found at the IDF site for fallen soldiers. He is survived by his parents, four sisters, three brothers and his fiancee.

The other new graves are down a flight of stairs to a new section next to the old rabbinic section. That required a bit of redesign of the web page and it now looks like this. (I know, it requires a more professional hand.)




Yosef Pachuau's epitaph is partly in Mizo
All the new graves - except one which I seem to have skipped - appear on the website with translations. Well, mostly with translations. Some years ago when some of the Bnei Menashe community began coming to Israel from India, a large contingent settled in Kiryat Arba. These are descendants of the tribe of Menashe who have been living in northeast India for more than 2500 years. They speak a language called Mizo and several of the newer graves have epitaphs in Mizo in addition to the Hebrew. GoogleTranslate doesn't do Mizo.

Others in the newest section are from the old Soviet Union, the US, Argentina, and elsewhere including of course native Israelis. Ashkenazim and Sepharadim. Old and young. Mostly men, some women. One whose stone is blank, but an epitaph of sorts appears on the wall next to the grave.



Housekeeping notes
We pray for all those affected by the terror fires here in Israel. We have just begun asking for rain and here we have another reason to do so. And may this scourge be eradicated from our land.

Program chairs - and people who know program chairs - please note. I have some available dates during my coming US trip, particularly the weekdays between 23 January and 2 February, in the east and midwest and perhaps 14-16 February in the NY/NJ area  Perhaps even Sunday the nineteenth. Several topics are available including the Lazarus-Endogamy talk which I presented in Seattle and a new one about Uncle Selig where DNA is not the main point of interest.

The following programs are set, with some others under discussion:

22 January 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Maryland, Baltimore County Public Library, 1301 Reiserstown Road, Pikesville
Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?
29 January 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Greater Philadelphia, Main Line Reform Temple 410 Montgomery Avenue, Wynnewood
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey
5 February 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Cleveland, Park Synagogue East, 27500 Shaker Blvd,  Pepper Pike
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey
10 February 2017, 11:00ROOTSTECH2017,
Jewish DNA: Successes and Lessons from the Journey
12 February 2017, 1:30 - Orange County JGS - details to follow.
13 February 2017, 7:30 - JGS of Los Angeles, American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive
Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Lichterman - Checking the Source


My g-gm's grave in Borisov
Etta Bryna - my great-grandmother
I wrote about the maiden name of my mother's mother's mother Etta Bryna Rosenbloom at length in the early days of this blog four and a half years ago and for those who want the details, it's worth a reread. She died probably in her late thirties and we know precious little about her. In addition to the information I presented back then, Renee Steinig found the death certificate of my grandmother's other sister in Islip, Suffolk County - but it lists both her parents' names as "unknown." The informant was the hospital.
Etta Bryna's tombstone

So I am still where I was then. Etta Bryna's father is Yehudah and he is a Levi. My conjecture that she is a Lichterman still runs up against a lack of any proof that the Lichtermans - a known Borisov family - were Leviim, but the gravestones of the known Lichterman men have no Hebrew. The traditional grave of their sister Gitta Lichterman Benenson (below) calls her father "Yosef" with no mention of his being a Levi.

This is where I have been holding for the past four or five years.

Gitta Lichterman Benenson
Our new project for several Borisov families 
Recently I joined forces with Galit Aviv to have a look at several Borisov famliies who appear to be connected to one another. These would be the Lichtermans, the Kaplanskys, the Benensons and the Rosenblooms. There are a couple of others which might belong here as well. To that end, we have added several people to the Rosenbloom Project that I set up at Family Tree DNA some years ago and are getting a few others to test - including a granddaughter of Gitta.

Galit - whom I have not met, but expect to see when I am in the US during the winter - is a good and resourceful researcher. Among other things, she came up with the following.














This is the 1908 death and burial record for Moshe Likhterman the son of R' Yudel
Map from the
JewishGen Gazeteer
Likhterman the Levi, in Slutsk. He is also called "the son-in-law of R' Eliyahu" followed by the odd notation "l'm24." The burial is next to someone named Yehuda who died a few month earlier. Could this be the brother of Etta Bryna? The fathers of both are Yehudah who is a Levi. And is that Yehudah next to him perhaps his father? And what is that odd notation "l'm24?"

Slutsk is some ninety miles SSW of Borisov, but that needn't indicate a problem. Certainly not if this Moshe held a rabbinic position.

The next step was obviously to see the actual Chevra Kadisha records, the book from Slutsk which is the source for the above record.

I contacted the people who had submitted the Chevra Kadisha records and no one was quite sure what the source was, except that it was in Israel and that the translators (from Hebrew) too were Israelis. So I had a look at the web site of the National Library, on the campus of the Hebrew University here in Jerusalem, hoping I would find it either there or at the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People which is now part of the Library.

The Manuscript Reading Room
The Chavra Kadisha book of Slutsk for the years 5439-5684 (1679-1924)




















The book is in the Manuscript Reading Room at the National Library, so that's where I went. It had moved since the last time I was there and is now in a pleasant room behind the cafeteria. Two young librarians, Ariel and Moriah set me up with a microfilm reader that had a scanner attached and brought out the film in a matter of minutes.
I saw that the transcription was faithful to the original text, with one small exception. (The original calls the deceased "yashish" which in modern Hebrew means elderly, while the translation is "venerable." But venerable was a more common meaning when the original was written.)

The original had the ל"מ (l"m) - left of center on the third line - but not the "24" which I assume was some sort of typographical error. But I didn't know what those initials meant or if they were significant.

Until suddenly I did. Because I had seen this before.

Four years ago, I wrote in this space about the correct name of Hersch Leib Pikholz of Rozdol and the solution to the problem was found in the records of what we call Kollel Galicia here in Jerusalem. The records in question are too poor quality to show here, but here is what I wrote in that earlier blog.
I was surprised to see that there were no contributions by anyone named Pikholz, despite the fact that Rozdol was the place that all the Pikholz families from that area had come from. There are no lists of Holocaust victims from Rozdol, but from our own records we know that there were Pikholz families there at the time. Certainly in the late 1920s. Eventually, I realized what had happened. The person in charge of collections for Rozdol, Pinchas Kerner, was himself a Pikholz son-in-law and he knew all the families personally, so instead of writing out the name each time, he simply wrote P"H as a personal shorthand.
l'm is shorthand for Likhterman!

R' Moshe's father-in-law Eliyahu is a Likhterman. I asked Ariel to have a look and he said "It wasn't uncommon for people to marry relatives." Maybe it's that simple.

But I don't think so. I read it differently. The rabbi Moshe ben Rabbi Idel the Levi Likhterman the son-in-law of R' Eliyahu Likhterman. How about Moshe (son of R' Idel the Levi) Likhterman? Ariel said he could see that possibility as well.

I think Moshe's father is a Levi but is not Likhterman. Moshe took the name Likhterman from his father-in-law. So Etta Bryna can be the sister of Moshe Likhterman without that being her maiden name - and the Likhtermans are not Leviim. The father of Etta Bryna and Moshe is. What is his - and Etta Bryna's - surname?

Now we go back to my grandmother's passenger list where she seems to be going to her "cousin J. Ben..." I demonstrated four years ago that this is Jacob Benenson, the husband of Gitta Lichterman. So is my grandmother calling a relative of her mother's sister-in-law (who lived in Slutsk!) "cousin?" Perhaps the cousin was Jacob and Etta Bryna is a Benenson.

I haven't a clue if the Benensons of Borisov are Leviim. Of the Benensons on Find A Grave, there are eight or nine men with photographs and Hebrew epitaphs. None say "Levi."

There are a lot of "if"s and "maybe"s in this highly speculative scenario and I am not about to jump to any conclusions. But for the first time in several years I see some possible movement in this part of the family. And some new possibilities. My instincts have been pretty good. Maybe we will learn something from the new DNA project and the new contacts.

Oh yes, I also looked at the burial record for the Yehudah who is buried next to Moshe Likhterman. He is someone not connected. Apparently they didn't number the plots, but recorded the locations according to the next grave over.

Housekeeping notes
Program chairs - and people who know program chairs - please note. I have some available dates during my coming US trip, particularly the weekdays between 23 January and 2 February, in the east and midwest and perhaps 14-16 February in the NY/NJ area  Perhaps even Sunday the nineteenth. Several topics are available including the Lazarus-Endogamy talk which I presented in Seattle and a new one about Uncle Selig where DNA is not the main point of interest.

The following programs are set, with some others under discussion:
22 January 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Maryland, Baltimore County Public Library, 1301 Reiserstown Road, Pikesville
Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?
29 January 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Greater Philadelphia, Main Line Reform Temple 410 Montgomery Avenue, Wynnewood
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey
5 February 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Cleveland, Park Synagogue East, 27500 Shaker Blvd,  Pepper Pike
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey
10 February 2017, 11:00ROOTSTECH2017,
Jewish DNA: Successes and Lessons from the Journey
12 February 2017, 1:30 - Orange County JGS - details to follow.
13 February 2017, 7:30 - JGS of Los Angeles, American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive
Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?
It's been awhile since I have mentioned my book, available at www.endogamy-one-family.com.