Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Breakthrough Using Family Finder?

Not quite two months ago, I reported here that three people from previously untested Pikholz families had submitted Family Finder tests. Results are in or two of the three and although this is really preliminary, I am excited about where this seems to be going.

This is the chart I showed here in my earlier post.
The two people whose test results have come in are Charles a few weeks ago and Leonora last night. We are still waiting on Sam's daughter. In the meantime, we have heard from a second cousin of Jane's - Nan - that she and her two children have submitted tests, so we may get additional support from them.

Leonora's mother Taube has four Pikholz grandparents and at least five Pikholz great-grandparents. That has the potential to make Leonora's results either very useful because of the strong dose of original Pikholz DNA or quite useless because of the endogamy factor. Or perhaps both at the same time. Leonora herself was born in Tajikistan (long story!) and her father would have had nothing resembling Pikholz DNA that might interfere with this analysis.

Let me also explain where my own family fits in here. My great-grandfather Hersch Pikholz had two Pikholz parents. His mother Rivka Feige was almost certainly the daughter of Isak Josef and the sister of Berl in the top-center of the chart. Her husband, the father of Hersch, was Isak Fischel who was probably a fairly close relative of Mordecai (on the top left) - perhaps even a brother or a nephew.

Of Leonora's first fourteen matches, are all "second cousin - fourth cousin," eight (including the first five) are Pikholz descendants and five are descendants of my own great-grandfather. The other three are Charles (her closest match), Lloyd (her third closest) and Jane. Charles and Leonora are in fact documented as second cousins. Lloyd is nearly documented as a fourth cousin but Leonora has more than double Pikholz DNA on that side so she would appear closer.*

Leonora also has six Pikholz matches who are suggested "third cousin - fifth cousin" and the closest of those is Dalia, who is part of the chart above.

Jane's appearance as a close match with Leonora is not exactly a surprise, but we had no real reason to expect it either. Jane's four closest matches are all Pikholz and they include Charles, Leonora and my father's first cousin Herb. (Herb is Leonora's fourth closest match.)

We do not yet have Leonora on GEDmatch, so I ran some chromosome browsers using FTDNA. There is a limit there on the number of kits we can compare in one go, so I started with Lloyd and compared him to Charles, Dalia, Leonora, Jane and Herb. (I could have used my father's brother or sister instead of Herb, but I chose him because of his excellent match with Jane.)

It would be unusual to find someplace where all of them match, but there are sets of matches of three, four and five of the six on four different chromosomes.

Here we have some other sets of matches among the same group of six.

So what does all this tell us?

Well, I am thinking that
  1. Jane's great-great-grandfather Moshe Hersch and Charles' and Leonora's great-great-grandfather Moshe Hersch are the same person. I'd call that high probability. Nan's test will help nail this down.
  2. That same Moshe Hersch could be a brother of Mordecai but is more likely to be a brother of Berl, the son of Isak Josef. (In fact, Mordecai could be a son of Isak Josef as well, but I am not ready to go there at this time.)
  3. Simon, the grandfather of Sam (Shalom) Marenus is probably the brother of Szulim, the great-grandfather of Charles and Leonora. Sam Marenus' daughter's test will help here. I'd like to have another test or two in that family.
  4. The name Moshe Hersch is prominent in the family of Nachman as well and very likely is the name of a common ancestor of the two families.

In my own family, my great-grandfather was Hersch without Moshe. My father's brother is named for him. But my uncle also carries the name of his other grandfather - Moshe (Moritz) Rosenzweig - so we have our own Moshe Hersch. His birthday in the Jewish calendar is this week.

I think there are two others (living) in Jane's family, but also not named for one of the originals.

* Leonora's matches are very focused, not like some of the other Pikholz descendants whose matches are all over the Pikholz map. She has only seven Rozdol matches among her twenty-one Pikholz matches and she does not match anyone on my mother's side, nor the Kwoczka cousins.

Housekeeping notes
The first of the putative RISS-BAAR family has ordered a Family Finder test. That one is a Riss. There is a Baar who plans to order one next week. I'd like to get three or four from each family both to test my theory that the great-grandmothers are sisters and to give an idea how they connect to everyone else.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Pikholz in the Land of the Czechs

Those who see my postings on Facebook are aware that I found a new Pikholz branch two weeks ago.

First there was this. The remark about none in the US turned out to be wrong.

(These were all on my personal "status." I also posted on Tracing the Tribe and elsewhere, so there are many more "Likes" and comments than just these.)

Then these.
So let me share some of what I have learned and what I am thinking.

My starting point was Milton in Australia who had posted a tree on Ancestry. His great-grandparents were Eisig Baar and Sarah Pickholz who lived in Hranice Czechoslovakia (known as Mährisch Weisskirchen in German), 150 miles from Prague. They had twelve children who reached adulthood and there was no mention of any children who died young. Milton shared a photograph taken in 1892 showing the parents and all twelve children, the youngest maybe a year old.

Milton is the grandson of Emil.

The Ancestry tree listed the children in near-alphabetical order, though there were names on the photograph.

The tree on Ancestry was light on specifics, but Milton also forwarded some information recorded by a cousin, with a bit more detail. That cousin said he thought there was a thirteenth child.

My first assumption was that Sarah must have come from east Galicia - near either Skalat or Rozdol, where all the Pikholz families lived in the mid-1800s - and perhaps the Baars' first children were born there.

So I had a look at the JRI-Poland database and turned up three births to Eisig and Sura Baar in Jagielnica, not far from Skalat. Rifka was born in 1865, Roise in 1867 and Juda in 1869. I could not be certain that this was the family we wanted. But when I saw the photograph, it was clear that the four eldest children were Regina, Rosa, Julius and Gustav (who was born in 1874, according to the Ancestry tree), so that looked like an excellent fit.
Documents that I found later stated that the family had indeed lived in Jagielnica.

So far, nothing with the name "Pickholz," but the family's word was good enough. For now.

As far as living descendants, Milton knew of three grandchildren of Josef Baar, one in England and two in Canada. For sport, I checked JewishGen's Family Finder and turned up two results, one looking for Baar in Vienna. He had registered with JGFF in March 2011  and hadn't checked back in since April of that year. Not promising.

But in fact, this American is the grandson of Gustav and he is now participating in our discussions. The three grandchildren of Josef are not. Yet.

It was not clear at all who Sarah is within the Pikholz structure. I had a look at my Given Name Analysis and saw only one Sara who was even remotely possible and she was married to an Eisig. They were listed as the parents of a Dwory Pikholz who had children in Skalat in the period 1877-1893. Could this Dwory be the missing thirteenth child? She looked a bit too old for this family. Dwory has children named Sure and Eisig, born while the Baar parents were still alive, so it is unlikely that this is the same couple.

So I see no obvious candidates for Sarah's parents or siblings.

My next step was to find some documentation for Milton's tree. I  contacted Traude Triebel of the Austrian site GenTeam. Traude had helped me with several Viennese questions recently and promptly came up up with marriage records for Gustav and Moritz and several Holocaust-related documents. Gustav's marriage record showed his Jewish name to be Gabriel and his birth year 1872. Moritz was Moshe and he was born 1874 - so the photograph label identifying him as a young boy sitting on the floor was incorrect.

Traude also provided a 1908 death record for Isaak Baar, who appears to be our Eisig. No death record for Sarah and no birth record for any of her post-1876 children, where we would expect to see her parents' names. 

I inquired about Czech records on Tracing the Tribe and Raymond Minkus sent me to Václav Bednář in Hranice who provided me with more than two dozen images. There were no birth records, but a police record for Moritz from 1941 lists his mother as Rosalie Pikholz. I suspect that Sarah died and Rosalie was a second wife of Eisig, but I cannot say for certain. Other documents referred to the family's business and professional lives. Marcel Elias lent a hand in translation.

I found nearly eighty records of interest at Yad Vashem, though some of those were other Baars who might be interesting to that side of the family, not to me. Many of the family - both from Hranice and from Prague - were sent to Theresienstadt. Some remained there and others were killed in Auschwitz, Maly Trostinez and Lodz.

Much of the Baar family did not self-identify as Jews and had intermarried, but that did not save them.

Four of the records from Yad Vashem were for Milton's father Hans Milosch Baar. (The Arolsen records are in a German Soundex, which means among other things that every Hans is listed under Johann, even if Johann is not his actual name.)
These cards show an inquiry by Hans' brother-in-law in Australia and his subsequent passage there in 1948.

Milton's mother writes:
Hans grew up to never be sure of what he had, and felt very insecure. This went on into his adult life because of the Depression and later because of the Hitler oppression. He did not believe in thinking of or preparing for "the future". It was "what you had today" that counted. Have it NOW, spend it NOW, enjoy it NOW. For him there was no "tomorrow". That is how he came to have the nick-name "Tobby". He was known by his family and friends to say each day - "Well, is it To be or not To be" - in reference to whether he would be able to eat that day, get or keep a job that day, or later on to survive that day. He was eventually known jocularly as "To be", and he spelt it as Tobby. When he came to Australia he was naturalised as Hans Milosch Baar (known as Tobby Milton Baar) and on all legal documents became Tobias Milton Baar.
We are still working on all these documents and other aspects of the Baar family, but in the meantime, I think I figured out who Sarah is.

Four months ago, I wrote here about the RISS family and the seven children of Breine Riss, the daughter of Gabriel Riss and Ryfka Pikholz. Breine's children were born in the 1860s and 1870s and five of them have names that appear among the twelve Baars. There is nothing remarkable about two families with children named Rifka, Rosa, Josef and Moshe, but when both start with Rifka and both have a Gabriel, it is worth considering that these may be Sarah's parents, not just Breine's.

Add to that the fact that Breine has grandaughters named for her in 1888 and 1889 and Sarah's youngest is Berta.

I am trying to get a few members of both families to do Family Finder tests. We have great-grandchildren of both Sarah and Breine and third cousins is easily within the scope of autosomal DNA.

In addition, there is a family story that the Baars came to Poland from Spain, so I suggested to Milton that he might want to do a Y test as well.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Which Markus? And How Many Daughters Did Lot Have?

It sometimes sounds as though this is a blog about DNA in genealogy, but it really isn't. Sometimes I write about records. This is one of those times.

This is a Vienna death record from 1915.

And here are the important parts, a bit larger.

Markus Pickholz died 1 May 1915 (Shabbat) and was buried Monday.
He came from a town called Gaje Wielkie and he was twenty-four years old.

There is no further identifying information.

But we have someone who pretty much fits the description.
I moved the record closer to the headings for convenience.

Markus Pikholz born 15 March 1889 to Sussel Gruberg and Josef Pikholz in Bereszow Wielkie, which is very close to Tarnopol. This is probably a grandson of Uncle Selig, as I discussed two months ago.

He would have been nearly twenty-six at the time of the death in Vienna, but we needn't quibble about that.

Except for one thing. We have another candidate.

This Markus Pickholz was born 6 November 1892 to Esther Zellermayer (who had a Pikholz grandmother) and Isaac Pickholz in Gaje Bereszow, also quite near Tarnopol. He would have been twenty-two when the Vienna death occurred.

So one is between one and two years too old and one is between one and two years too young.

We want someone from Gaje Wielkie - the two we have are from Bereszow Wielkie and Gaje Bereszow.

I consulted with Alexander Sharon, JewishGen's expert on small towns in Galicia but none the towns he came up with are near Tarnopol.

So which of these two Markus Pickholz died in his early twenties in Vienna? And perhaps more important, what happened to the other one?

There is one possibility that comes to mind. About seven months ago, I wrote about Zisl Kling, whose parents are an unknown couple named Mordecai and Sarah Pickholz. At the time, I suggested that Zisl's mother Sarah was the Pickholz and that her father's surname was Ladre or Laderer. But what if that is wrong and Mordecai is the Pickholz? Zisl was born 1920 and she had a sister a few years older, so one of these two Markus could be her father.

In fact, we have a DNA test from the grandson of the 1889 Markus, so a test by Zisl's daughter might clear that up. I'll have to approach her about that.
Lot's daughters
This past Shabbat, we had a kiddush in shul for the hattanim from Simhat Torah, of which I was one. Each of us spoke briefly and I took on a question based on two of my favorite subjects - genealogy and Biblical punctuation.

The week's reading included the rescue of Lot from Sodom.

There is some debate among the commentaries about whether Lot, Abraham's nephew, had two married daughters in addition to the two unmarried who are mentioned specifically both before and after the destruction of Sodom.

There are three relevant verses: 12, 14 and 15.

(There is also a suggestion by the Midrash that the reason Abraham stopped bargaining when he reached ten righteous people, was because he figured that he had ten - Lot and his wife, the four daughters and their two husbands and two fiances.)

In verse twelve, the mention of son-in-law, sons and daughters seems to imply the existence of grandchildren from daughters, for if it referred to Lot's sons, they would have been mentioned before the son(s)-in-law.

Verse fourteen mentions "his sons-in-law the takers of his daughters" and there is some debate about whether that means "and the takers" or "who took."

Verse fifteen verse says "Take your wife and your two daughters who are here," perhaps implying that there are specifically daughters who are not present.

The Biblical puntuation on verse fifteen clarifies that it does not specifically mean additional daughters, but does not rule it out. The Biblical punctuation in verse fourteen comes down pretty clearly on the side of only the two unmarried daughters.

The above is based on a piece by my teacher Michael Perlman.

Housekeeping notes
The Israel Genealogical Society is planning to resurrect the Jerusalem chapter with a two-day program on 3-4 December. The program will include the IGS annual meeting. I am not sure how involved I will be in that.

The International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies has issued a Call for Papers for the Conference that is planned for next summer, here in Jerusalem. It will be five days instead of the usual six and the presentations will be forty-five minutes including questions, instead of seventy-five minutes including questions. I think I am going to pass this year.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Salk Guinea Pig On Tier1's Relationship Tree Projection

The GEDmatch Relationship Tree projection
Last week, I wrote about the Matching Segment Search offered by GEDmatch on its new subscription program, Tier1.

Kitty Cooper has blogged about the triangulation feature. Blaine Bettinger has blogged about a tool they call Lazerus, that recreates the DNA of ancestors based on the tests of living descendants and has put together a Facebook group to work with it.
That leaves the Relationship Tree projection.

This tool was on GEDmatch until a few years ago, but was removed because it was not really ready for prime time. There were, however, people who had used it with success, so it was revived as part of Tier1 due to popular demand.

Nonetheless, it is a work in progress, not a polished finished product.

The Relationship Tree projection is basically a calculator, using self-reported data rather than data that is drawn directly from the database. The results, therefore, are displayed very quickly. It also means that the user must be careful that the numbers are entered correctly.

I cannot get Blogger to show the entry form properly, so you'll have to take my word for the fact that it requires the following information:
  1. The numbers of the kits being compared and the sexes of the people
  2. The total cM and longest segment in the match
  3. The total cM and longest segment in the X chromosomes
  4. Which of the two kits is an older person and by how much
You can also add the names of the people being compared and there is a box for comments at the bottom of the page. These are optional.

I ran my own kit against four other people - my father's first cousin Herb, my no-closer-than-fourth cousin Dalia, my indeterminate but fairly close cousin Jane and my probably-about-fifth cousin Jacob. I have perfect Y-37 matches with Dalia and Jacob, but these are not considered by the calculator.

The calculator determined that Herb is indeed my first cousin once removed.

The calculater shows Dalia and Jacob to be my second cousins once removed and Jane to be my third cousin. These results are way too close and are no doubt a result of our Jewish endogamy, which the calculator does not consider.

The three results other than Herb also showed a very long vertical, multiple-path chart that I could not even see well, let alone understand. It is way too long to show here.

I ran my comments past the developers, John and Curtis, and John added two things I did not know:
To work properly, the 2 kits being used should have non-zero X-DNA comparison results.  Otherwise, the number of possible paths becomes very large.
Entries in the "comments" box are not used by the software. They were intended to be feedback to us during the development process, but quite frankly no development has been done for several years.
The fact that this tool was returned to the site because users found it useful means that there are users who found it useful. You can hardly argue with that, ready for prime time or not..

If you have significant amounts of endogamy in your family, this is probably not for you.

The calculator is "a work in progress," but that does not mean that is being worked on at this time. The developers themselves refer to it as "experimental."

John and Curtis are very responsive within what their time and resource constraints permit. Not everything is going to be useful for everyone. Knowing that something is not is also useful knowledge. I can hardly complain when three out of four tools are useful.

Guinea pigs for Dr. Salk
On the occasion of last week's one hundredth birthday of the great Dr. Jonas Salk (thanks to Google Doodle for pointing that out), please indulge me a bit of personal recollection.

From the National Registry of Historic Places
I attended first grade at Dilworth School in Pittsburgh in the 1953-54 school year. (I am quite certain about that because we moved and changed schools at the end of that year.) Dilworth was - and still is - at 6200 Stanton Avenue, on the corner of Collins Avenue, backing onto Saint Marie Street.

We lived in easy walking distance, at 6401 Stanton Avenue.

One day, someone came into our classroom and told us that we were to be given a new shot that was supposed to prevent some illness that most of us had never heard of. Polio, they said. As they passed out the parental permission slips, most of the children began crying - no six year old ever liked shots. Most cried, but not all.
Miss Merritt and her first grade class

I didn't cry. I was not concerned in the least. I hated shots, but whenever I had an injection of penicillin, Mother would say something like "It's for your own good. We don't enjoy this either. YOU KNOW WE WOULD NEVER ALLOW YOU TO HAVE A SHOT IF YOU WEREN'T SICK." And there it was. I wasn't sick, so there would be no shot for me.

And that evening at home, they signed the paper. It was years before I truly believed them again.

That was only the first part of the trauma. The day of the shots itself seem to have been designed to create the greatest amount of hysteria. First of all, they led us to the gym. That huge room with the fancy wood floor that no first grade shoe was ever allowed to touch. The only other time we had been there, we were in socks.

And so not to contaminate the floor further, they lined us up single file along one wall. The wall was on our left and we were as close to it as they could get us. And as we looked towards the head of the long line of children ahead of us, we saw a large table with medical personnel in white gowns and these large tubes of blood hanging from racks.

No one had said anything about blood!

We watched in horror as each child came up to the table, received an injection from what looked like a really fierce needle, then extended an arm and had their arms tied with rubber straps to make another cup for Dracula. Some of the children yelled and thrashed and had to be restrained throughout the process.

And we all watched.

And moved another couple of feet closer to the table.


No doubt some screamed when it was their turn, just because they thought it was expected.

I have no recollection of subsequent years. I was in a different school and do not even remember where the injections were administered.

Years later, when Pitt had some kind of ceremony marking fifty years since those first school injections, I first learned that we had been guinea pigs. I supposed it was common knowledge by then, but not for me. They knew the vaccine itself was safe, but there were some questions about effective and safe dosage. Hence the blood tests. Somehow I doubt that was on the permission slip that my parents signed.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Look at the Matching Segment Search (GEDmatch)

Last week, for the first time, I wrote about GEDmatch, just in time for the launch of their four new subscription tools which they call "Tier1.

Kitty Cooper has blogged about the triangulation feature and Blaine Bettinger has blogged about a tool they call Lazerus, which recreates the DNA of ancestors based on the tests of living descendants.

Miriam and my second cousins - a directed search
Last week I looked at GEDmatch results for a woman named Miriam who is connected to quite a few of my family. Miriam tested with Ancestry. Her matches were with two second cousins of mine of my mother's side, first cousins to one another. Miriam's two matches with these two cousins are on the order of 9-10 centiMorgans and I wrote to Miriam that we really need a tool that allows us to see who else matches her on those two specific segments - on chromosomes 8 and 15..

Later that same day, I saw the announcement of the GEDmatch Tier1 tool Matching Segment Search. It took a few days to register my subscription but by early Friday afternoon, I was ready to have a go.

I logged in at GEDmatch and found the four Tier1 links on the bottom right. You don't see the utilities until you have completed your donation. I chose the first - Matching Segment Search - and it gave me the screen below:

Note that what was called "Matching Segment Search" on the first screen is "GEDmatch DNA Segment Search" on the second.

I entered Miriam's kit number and left the minimum default values untouched. I also chose the chromosome bar (the default) in order to get a better visual picture.

The results came up in about a minute. Today (Sunday) as I repeat the same process, it is taking several minutes. I assume this is a server issue.

This is what the heading and the first few results look like after I blurred the identifying information for privacy:

The results are the matches for the twenty-two chromosomes - not the X.

You can copy and paste the results into an Excel file where you can manipulate them as you wish and save them for future use. But in this case, I had two specific segments in mind, so I saw no need for anything more than a single screen shot for each of the two relevant chromosomes.
My cousins are marked by the arrows. Kit numbers, names and emails are hidden for privacy.

The table on the left is the segment on chromosome 8 and the one on the right is the segment on chromosome 15. First I Iooked for people who matched Miiriam and my cousins on both segments and I was surprised to find none. I know a few of the names - one is a Pikholz descendant - but nothing jumped out at me as interesting.

I suggested to Miriam that she write to those matches, starting with the ones nearest my cousins on the list and ask if they have any of the ancestral surnames which are relevant for my cousins: Gordon, Kugel and Jaffe, or anything else in the right parts of Lithuania and Belarus. She can also show the charts to the matches to try to determine which of these matches match each other and if any are known family to one another.

The party on chromosome 6 - too many matches
About six months ago, I discussed the matches we have with Steve Turner on chromosome 6 and I decided to have a look at those with this new tool.

I entered Steve's kit number and set the minimum at 8 cM. Ffiteen minutes of waiting and I gave up. I raised it to 9 cM and the same thing. At 10 cM, I got results - but of course the only matches were 10 cM or more.

As I have discussed before, we are told we should ignore the smaller matches as they are probably Identical By State (IBS), splinters of DNA from the far distant past, beyond what we call genealogical time. But it seems obvious to me (though not to everyone) that when you have several matches of 10 or 12 or 16 cM and probable family members fall in the same segment with matches of 6 or 8 cM, these are almost certainly relevant.

So I wanted Steve's matches from at least 8 cM and couldn't get them. (This was Friday.)

I tried to look at Aunt Betty's matches and couldn't get anything below 10 cM there either.

Then I had a look at a few of my people whose other side is not Jewish - people who have fewer than 2000 matches on FTDNA rather that the 3500 or more that the 100%-Jewish descendants have. Those came up with no problem.

So this was obviously an issue of too many matches and the solution looked simple. GEDmatch should allow us to download a person's matches in two or three pieces.

I discussed this with GEDmatch Friday and although they understood my problem, they felt that my solution would create server pressure.

After Shabbes, I found the following message:
I have increased the maximum number of segments to 10,000.  Please let us know if this works better for you.

John Olson
Co-Administrator, GEDmatch.Com
I wasn't sure if the 10,000 match limit was a temporary solution or meant for long-term. Keep in mind, the number of tests is rising all the time as is the percentage of tests uploaded to GEDmatch, so what works now may not work a few months hence.

I had a look and was immediately pleased by a new screen:

Now I know the system is working on retrieving my data and I'm not just hanging around.

Of course, I had no idea how many segments they had been allowing before, so I did not know what to expect from the new 10,000 limit. I see now that they are at the end of the results

Aunt Betty's results came up at 8 and even 7 cM within an eminently reasonable two-three minutes.  Aunt Betty had 4174 matched segments with a minimum of 8 cM and 6477 with a minimum of 7 cM.

Steve Turner's did not. GEDmatch was having server problems.

Mark Halpern, guinea pig
One of the earliest non-Pikholz to join our project is my friend, veteran researcher, with known Skalat ancestors, Mark Halpern. Mark matches twenty-three known Pikholz descendants plus my two Kwoczka cousins. He matches seven of the nine descendants of my great-grandparents plus several others whom we think are close to us. Eight of his matches with us are suggested third-fifth cousins. Seven of his matches with us are from the Rozdol Pikholz family.

Tier1 looked like a good place to see who else matches in the same segments. It took maybe five minutes to pull down his matches at 8 cM and then quite a while to move it into Excel in six or seven pieces - probably an Excel problem on my end. Of 3771 segment matches, 61 match my families' kits. 

Of those sixty-one segments, one is 20.8 cM and only two more are more than 15 cM. Twenty-four are less than 9 cM. That sounds like a huge number of segments less than 8 cM. The IBS splinters from the distant past.

Taking Mark's matches with me as an example, we have a total of 21 matching segments at a total of 88.79 cM, but only three segments over 8 cM totalling 30.1 cM. And of the small ones, only one is more than 4.89 cM. Truly alot of splinters.

The Pikholz who matches Mark the most is Charlie, with five segments and 46.8 cM, followed by my Uncle Bob with three segments and 34.4 cM. In my personal family, Rhoda and Lee have three segments, one other Skalater, two Rozdolers and one of my second cousins on my mother's side have three segments each.

This is not an impressive set of matches. But there are nine matches which involve more than one of mine together with Mark and it's worth a look to see exactly who and where. However, I think the place to do so is the triangulation tool..

So now that the GEDmatch server seems to  be working...
I went back and looked at the Steve Turner matches. There were over two hundred matches on the same segment of chromosome 6. About half of those are between 7 and 9 cM and about half of the rest are below 12 cM. About half the matches are from 23 & Me kits, so these are clearly matches I would not see if I worked within FTDNA.

I am not quite ready to draw conclusions about the Matching Segment Search. It is certainly an excellent solution for a directed search. We'll see what else.

Housekeeping notes
Well, not strictly housekeeping, but some clean-up from last week.

I wrote last week about an apparent connection on the X chromosome between a second cousin (Rhoda) on my grandfather's side and my grandmother's Hungarian side. This was due to the fact that Rhoda and my two sisters matched Aunt Betty on the same segemnt of the X chromosome.

A closer look solved that. Aunt Betty, like all women, has two X chromosomes. Rhoda matches her on one, her father 's, and my sisters match her on the other, her mother's. I know this because Rhoda does not match my sisters on that segment.

The match that Aunt Betty and Rhoda share comes from my great-grandmother's Kwoczka side.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Using GEDmatch

Anyone who is serious about doing DNA for genealogy uses Sooner or later. It's been later for me but I am finally here.

GEDmatch is a free site run by two volunteers, which provides tools for analysis of autosomal DNA match results. People who have tested with one of the three testing companies upload their results to GEDmatch - it can be done anonymously - and the GEDmatch tools allow comparisons among results from all three testing companies, in addition to advanced analyses that even FTDNA does not offer internally.

GEDmatch is meant to be intuitive, but my own intuition on these things is not what it once was, so I have been hesitant about getting involved. (I was disappointed that my GRIP course did not include any hands-on GEDmatch exercises.)

Nonetheless, now that I have been interacting with some of the big names in the field, I felt that I was ready to have a go at it.

Matches with Miriam
My first experiment was for a woman named Miriam who tested with Ancestry and who showed many matches with my families based on a look-up on GEDmatch. Here are results from her eighteen interesting matches with us. There are five more among the Rozdol Pikholz but there was nothing significant there and I left them out for space reasons. You will probably need to click on the image to see the actual numbers. (The splotches of color I added myself and will explain below.)
The five tables on the left are Miriam's matches with me, my two sisters and my father's sister and brother.

The first two in the second column are second cousins on my mother's side (first cousins to one another). The bottom two are descendants of Peretz Pikholz (~1820-1873). 

The top two in the third column are my father's first cousin Herb and my second cousin Rhoda, followed by my two cousins on my great-grandmother's Kwoczka side.

The top three in the column on the right are descendants of Nachman Pikholz (~1795-1865) and the two at the bottom are indeterminate Pikholz/Bernstein cousins.

I then added a splotch of color to the matching (or near-matching) segments so Miriam could see her matches more specifically. For instance, my match with Miriam on chromosome 4 (starts at 97,112,821 and ends at 111,328,469) is nearly identical with her matches with one of my sisters and my aunt. I marked them in green.

My two sisters and my aunt have a match on chromosome 9 and I marked them in red.

My aunt and my uncle share three segments, one of which they share with one of the Kwoczka cousins and another with both him and Rhoda.

What does all that tell us? First it says that the grey and purple segments on chromosome 9 come from the Kwoczka side and that Miriam and my ggm have a common ancestor.

It is hard to say more about the matches with my sisters, my aunt and uncle and me. We have no one to test on my grandmother's side and there are no matches shared by the others on my grandfather's side.

Miriam has two matches with the cousins from my mother's side, but not with us. That may mean that Miriam has something in common with their Jaffe grandfather. I told Miriam Sunday morning, when we Skyped, that it would be nice if GEDmatch had a way to see who else in their database matches those two specific segments. Little did I know!

Finally, Miriam has a match with two of the descendants of Nachman. Those two are second cousins to one another and that match is likely from their "other side."

Aunt Betty's X chromosome
I have not been doing anything regarding X chromosome matches. This is one of the sex chromosomes - women have two of them and men have one plus a Y. Men get their X from the mother and women get from both parents.

Later Sunday, a woman I have been speaking with on Facebook - Kathy, who I think is in New Zealand - posted something about X chromosome analysis using GEDmatch and as a result of our ensuing discussion, I decided to have a look at Aunt Betty's X matches within the Pikholz families.

Here are her ten matches.

As in the case of Miriam's matches, I marked the identical or near-identical segments with color.  The blue segment shared by Aunt Betty, Lee and Pinchas (a Kwoczka cousin) almost has to be on the Kwoczka side. It cannot be on the Pikholz side, as my grandfather did not receive any X DNA from his father, only from his mother.

In fact, Aunt Betty cannot have any Pikholz X DNA, so her matches with Herb, Terry and Rhoda are either Kwoczka DNA or something from my grandmother's side via some unknown (and unimagined) common ancestor. That is not as trivial as it sounds, because the red segment is shared by Rhoda, Aunt Betty and my two sisters. Any X DNA my sisters received from our father must have come from his mother, as he received no X DNA from his father. (The same is the case for the green segments that my sisters share with Uncle Bob.)

But it does clearly mean that Rhoda has a connection on my grandmother's side and it must be on Rhoda's mother's side.. (Rhoda's father could not have gotten from his father, so the connection is not that way.) I know nothing about Rhoda's mother's family, but Monday evening she and I had a furious exchange of emails which included my finding quite a few documents for her mother's family.  My grandmother's known ancestral names include Rosenzweig and Zelinka from Slovakia and Bauer, Stern and maybe Grunwald from Hungary. I was hoping to find one of those surnames in Rhoda's mother's family.

I ordered the New York marriage record for Rhoda's grandparents and in the meantime she told me that her maternal grandfather was from Galicia. The documents I found this week show that Rhoda's maternal grandmother's parents were from the Humene area in Zemplen County, Slovakia. The surnames there are Eichler and Schonfeld. Perhaps something more useful will turn up later.

In the meantime, Sunday afternoon, I saw a Facebook post by Blaine Bettinger, one of the lecturers at my GRIPitt course, saying that GEDmatch had announced four new tools in a category they call "Tier1." There was no meaningful explanation of what those four would do, but the idea is that you buy a subscription at $10 a month for access. The basic GEDmatch will remain free.

So far, Blaine has blogged about a tool they call Lazerus, which recreates the DNA of ancestors based on the tests of living descendants. As my readers know, I have been trying to do this for the last six or eight weeks, using Kitty Cooper's mapping tools which Kitty herself ran with soon after. I am thinking this Lazerus tool (Blaine has already turned "Lazerus" into a verb) may do the trick, though I am concerned that it may overlook the   endogamy problem. That could result in recreating the ancestors incorrectly, so the process will have to be monitored.

When they receive my subscription, I'll be able to have a look. Meantime, here is how Kitty describes Tier1:

I will also be looking forward to seeing what Jim Bartlett has to say about this. He is not an endogamy expert, but he is very very good at using these tools and in particular knows how to explain it to the layman. He gave an excellent talk at the recent International Genetic Genealogy Conference which I purchased.

I also very much  enjoyed the talk by Tim Janzen MD from the same conference and our subsequent discussions about chromosome mapping. Tim is considered one of the top people in the field and he has convinced me that we should have a bit of testing with the other two companies, 23 & Me and Ancestry. Both those companies have issues with orders from outside the US, so I asked Aunt Betty do those tests. In any case, her DNA is one generation better than mine  anyway. Tim also said I should get some tests from one of her sons and we are working on that.

Kitty herself has blogged about the triangulation feature of Tier1.

If you recall, I mentioned above that I told Miriam that she needed to search for people who match specific segments of my Jaffe cousins and that is another feature that we find on Tier1.

Now that the holidays are behind us, I hope to get back to my regular Sunday morning schedule, either next week or the week after.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The DNA of Adam

On Thursday (Friday for those of you still living in Exile), we conclude the yearly Torah cycle and begin again with the Creation. On Shabbat we will read about the Creation in greater detail, ending with the list of Adam's "begats" through the ten generations until Noah.

It seems appropriate, therefore, to write this week about my indeterminate cousin Adam and his DNA.

Adam and I have been in touch for probably a dozen years, beginning with the discovery that we both have Kugel ancestry from Pleshchenitsy, now in Belarus. (With all the holiday food this week, it's a good time to write about kugel as well.)

My mother's father Rachmiel Gordon is the son of Chana Kugel, the daughter of Gershon and Zelda. The only Pleshchenitsy documents we have are revision lists. All we know of the family is that Chana seems to have had three brothers, Aharon, Yaakov and probably Zalman. Yaakov was married. So given that Adam is not descended from this specific family, the closest he can be to me is a fourth cousin.

Skipping ahead for a moment, when Y DNA testing (male line) became available, Adam tested a number of Kugel descendants from Pleshchenitsy and reported that there are several distinct Kugel families from Pleshchenitsy - if they are related to one another it is not on the male line.

Adam also tells me that he has Gordon connections, but I do not know exactly what those are. Any connection we would have there would be more distant than fourth cousins.

We have another angle with Adam, as one of his ancestors is a Kapilevich from Borisov. A probable relative on my mother's mother's Rosenbloom side went to a person called "A. Kaplowitz" upon arrival in New York in 1911, so that is another  possible connection between us and Adam.

When I did my first autosomal DNA test, Adam came up as a suggested third cousin. Closer than I would have expected, but certainly reasonable if we are connected in several directions .Now that I am up to about 3400 Family Finder matches, Adam is my seventieth closest by relationship and thirty-seventh closest by total centiMorgans. We have 131.62 cM in common. My sisters have much less - 107.32 and 81.94 cM respectively.

Adam, from Belarus and Poland, and I from Galicia, Belarus and Slovakia, met three years ago at the inaugural meeting of the Sub-Carpathian SIG at the IAJGS Conference in Washington DC.

But I was busy on my father's side, while Adam is clearly on my mother's side. More than likely on both of my mother's sides - so this was not a connection I was pursuing.

The closest living relatives in my mother's generation are her third cousins so if we want to test on my mother's side, we would be looking for my first and second cousins, not anyone in her generation. (Actually, my mother's father has four living second cousins and one of those did an autosomal test with 23 & Me, but we don't have access to those results and matches.)

I only have three living first cousins on my mother's side and we have no idea where one of them is. One of the other two - Kay, the daughter of my mother's sister - did a Family Finder test and we saw the results three months ago. Adam and I have matches of 6 cM or higher in eight segments and Kay matches us in four of them.

Those four segments appear on the three chromosomes 6, 12 and 13.

However, Kay does not match Adam on 13, so he must be on my father's side there.

And the matches with Amy and Sarajoy are a bit of a mix, so there is some "mother's side / father's side" going on here. Endogamy! (Kay's father's side has no Jewish DNA, so at least we are spared complications there.)

But at least we have chromosomes 6 and 12 to work with and the question is, is Adam on my mother's mother's (Rosenbloom) side or on my mother's father's (Gordon & Kugel) side. For this we have second cousins.

My grandfather top right.
Aunt Mary bottom left.
The easy side is my grandfather's side since we begin with the assumption of a Kugel relationship. On that side, we have tests results from Judy and Ruth, first cousins to each other and second cousins to me via my grandfather's sister Aunt Mary, who is their grandmother.

Judy's results came first and I was surprised to see that FTDNA does not consider her a match with Adam at all and when I run them together against me or Kay, we see no overlap. Of course, once you get to third and fourth cousins, there is no guarantee that there will be significant DNA matches. Third cousins overlap on average 0.78% and fourth cousins only about 0.20%. (I am using the percentages provided by 23 & Me.)

Ruth is a bit better - she has 89.11 cM that match Adam. The only match that seems to fit us is on chromosome 6. There she matches Adam, Sarajoy and me, but not Kay and Amy. Oops. That seems to indicate that perhaps Adam matches me and Sarajoy on chromosome 6 on Ruth's FATHER's side, which we already know seems to match my father's side somehow.

So it appears that if Adam is connected to me on my Kugel/Gordon side, there must be some DNA that my grandfather received and passed on, but which his sister Aunt Mary did not - at least not to Ruth and Judy. My grandfather had another sister and a brother, but I am not in contact with any of their descendants.

More likely is that the connection with Adam is on my mother's mother's Rosenbloom side.

On that side, my grandmother had one brother in the US with children. We have no contact with the two who remained in Russia and two others died soon after arriving in the US, with no children. That one brother had two sons with children - one with six who have thusfar declined to test and one with three, one of whom has tested.

Beth's results came in about a week ago. Unfortunately I have not been able to get her into a project, so I cannot check her directly against Adam.

Beth has nice matches with Kay (394.98 cM), with my sisters (347.28 & 325.36 cM), with me (245.29 cM), but nothing with any of us and Adam together.

So it may be that the whole idea of Adam's being on my mother's side is totally wrong!

Which leaves my father's side.

We saw some hints of such connections on chromosomes 6, 12 and 13, where Kay seems to be on my mother's chromosome and Adam on my father's. So let's see what else we have on Adam and my father's side.

Adam and I have eight matching segments. All of those are matched by Amy or Sarajoy or both.

My father's first cousin Herb matches Adam on five segments, but none which match me.

There is this on chromosome 1. These are my matches with (in order from top) Adam, second cousins Rhoda and Terry, Aunt Betty and third cousin Pinchas on my g-gm's Kwoczka side. There is no room on the chart, but Amy and Uncle Bob match the segment on the far right.
This looks nice, but the problem is, none of the others match Adam except me, even though almost all the matching segments are identical. So the whole group matches me on my father's side, except Adam who, by process of elimination, matches on my mother's side. But we know there are no matches with Ruth, Judy and Beth.


This whole post is rather anticlimactic. I really thought we would be able to figure out at least part of my connection to Adam. When I got my first results two-plus years ago, I was excited to see Adam on my match list as a suggested third cousin. There were nearly fifty people in that category and Adam was the only one I knew and the only one where I had even an inkling about the nature of our matches.

So what do I have now? Endogamy. Lots and lots of endogamy. Just when I think I am beginning to understand what I am doing.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Pikholz Women of the Early 1800s

The matter of ancestral women is a bugaboo of genealogists from most cultures, but as usual, it's more complicated with European Jews.  I would like to look at this within the context of the Pikholz Project, with perhaps an idea regarding all those DNA matches from non-Pikholz testers.

Given names
Let's start with one of the more obvious points and that is that we often do not even know the given names of some female ancestors, even though their husband's names are known.

Until recently, inscriptions on Jewish tombstones included the father's name but rarely the mother's name. So that source, so useful for fathers, is of no use for mothers. That may be a matter of traditional modesty, but it is more likely that since the father was more of a public figure, his name would have been how the deceased was known to the public - being also how he was called to the Torah.

So far as I know (and I have very limited experience) the same is true of kettubot, Jewish marriage contracts.

In my area of interest, east Galicia, early birth records named the parents and sometimes the maternal grandfather. Only in 1877 when Austrian law began to require the mother's parents names, did we learn the grandmother's given name.

When the mother's given name is unrecorded and there are no alternate sources, we have two problems - uncertainty and error. Uncertainty is self-explanatory - what you don't know, you don't know. I simply do not know the name of the mother of my mother's maternal grandmother. I can only speculate that perhaps my grandmother or one of her sisters bore her name.

The matter of error is more serious and here I plead guilty to a bit of systematic sloppiness. We have a marriage record for for Berl and Dwojre Pikholz in 1887, that was probably close to thirty years after their actual Jewish marriage. Berl's parents are Isak Josef and Rojse Pikholz and Dwojre's are Motie (=Mordecai) and Taube Pikholz. We know the couple Mordecai and Taube and have death records for both.

But this is the only record we have for Isak Josef and Rojse aside from Isak Josef's 1862 death record. Although I do not have documentation, I am quite sure that my great-great-grandmother Rivka Feige and her brother Selig are the children of this Isak Josef. But I have no indication that their mother was Rojse. Rivka Feige has no children or grandchildren named any form of Rojse, nor do we see any in our limited information about Selig.

Berl, on the other hand, has a daughter Rojse whose children were born from 1881.

Berl was a few years older than Rivka Feige and Selig, so it is quite possible that Rojse had died and their mother was a second wife. However, I have never laid that out before and the casual follower of the Pikholz Project could easily assume that Isak Josef's wife is always Rojse. (This is not an issue in my database, where Rivka Feige and Selig are not even attached to Isak Josef, because we have no documentation.)

There are likely a few similar cases in the Pikholz Project. Not many, mind you, but a few.

There are also several cases of Pikholz men whose names appear on birth records as fathers, but with two or three different mothers. In some of those cases, I think these are the same man, but I cannot record that as such. I can only write "probably the same as..."

Birth surnames
Even more common than women without given names are women without birth surnames.

So what is Rachel's maiden name?
Just recently, I sent my second cousin Ruth a copy of her parents' 1936 Brooklyn marriage certificate. Where it specifically says "Mother's maiden name," Ruth's father had written "Rachel." We had to find the marriage record for his sister to learn the mother's maiden name.

And often, when a form says "Mother's name" the surname given is her married name, which is usually NOT her birth name.

The Pikholz Project currently has with many such women with the surname "XXXXX."

Who is the Pikholz?
We also have couples in the old records where it is not clear whether the Pikholz is the husband or the wife or both. As we know, marriages were not always recorded with the authorities, so the children were given the mother's surname and often the father used it as well.

I think in the appropriate Given Name Analysis pages, I have recorded all these using no surnames for either of the couple and including both the husband and the wife.

The DNA angle
As I have mentioned here before, we have few dozen people whose autosomal DNA tests have shown matches to more than half of the thirty-odd Pikholz descendants who have tested. And there are surely many more. Over twenty have joined the Pickholtz Surname Project at FTDNA to allow me to include them fully in chromosome comparisons - some of which I have discussed here.

I refer to these families as "non-Pikholz" because they have no indication of Pikholz in their families. Some of them have known Galicianer ancestors and some do not. I have taken to explaining that although DNA shows that they and we have common ancestors, they are probably from the pre-surname period, likely the mid-late 1700s, so we cannot define the relationships using the usual tools.

But this period was upwards of two hundred years ago. That's six-seven, even eight generations ago, very much on the periphery of autosomal DNA's usefulness. Surely not all of these dozens of non-Pikholz matching families share common ancestors right about the time surnames were adopted. And it is almost certainly not all to be blamed on endogamy.

There must be something else. I think it's the women.

If the connections between these families and ours go through their women or our women or both, from slightly later, say the early 1800s, surely that would make more sense.

There might even be a way to find hints. The wife of Nachman Pikholz (~1795-1865) was Sure (=Sara). Her children are Moshe Hersch, Alte, Arie Leib, Itzik, Basie, Pessie, Ciril Abraham Getzel and probably Gabriel. Do any of the non-Pikholz families have a group of given names that might indicate common ancestors?

This would not be proof, but it might be a way to give us some direction. So how about it, non-Pikholz DNA matches?

My list of Pikholz women without surnames

1. Beile. Died in Skalat in 1841 at age sixty. Called "alien" on her death record. That's all we know. The first Beile births in the Skalat area are Henie Beile in the 1840s, Golde Beile on 1865 and several Sara Beile from the mid-1870s.

2. Bassie. Died in Kozowa in 1875 at age sixty. She was married to Moshe Hersch, the son of Nachman. Her children are Ari Leib, Simon, Taube Freude, Josef and Jacob.

3. Chaje Zirl. Married to Isak Elias Zellermayer and had a son Moshe Hersch in 1848. We only know her name from the son's marriage record.

4. Feige. Married to Berl (1789-1877), but she seems to be significantly younger. We have a Feige 1805-75 who may be the same person. Children are Moshe and Sara Bassie, perhaps others. Her husband seems to be the father of Peretz, but she seems too young.

5. Ryfka. Married to Gabriel Riss. That's all we know and this is from a birth to her daughter Brane, who also married a Riss. Brane had children in the period ~1860-1882.

6. Taube. Died in 1872 at age seventy. Married to Mordecai. Children are Chana Chaje, Enie, Dwojre, Chaim Yaakov and Arie Leib.

7. Sara. Married to Nachman (~1795-1865). As I said above, her children are Moshe Hersch, Alte, Arie Leib, Itzik, Basie, Pessie, Ciril Abraham Getzel and probably Gabriel.

8. Sara. Married to Gabriel (~1822-1852) a "man of Skalat" who lived in Husiatyn. Childen are Moshe, Chana and probably Schia. (It is possible that Sara is the Pikholz and Gabriel is not, but I don't think so.) I discussed this family in detail here

9. Eliezer (Leiser). (Yes I know he is not a woman, but bear with me.) Eliezer died in 1878 at age fifty-six and was married to Chana Chaje, the daughter of Mordecai and Taube (above).  We haven't a clue what his surname might have been but since he was a levi, we know he was not a Pikholz. He used the name as his own.

All these above are from Skalat or nearby. I do not see this problem in Rozdol.

One more category
Now that I think about it, as long as I am giving homework to our non-Pikholz DNA matches, let me list the known maiden names of some of the early Pikholz spouses. Perhaps some of those will fit someone.

In the Skalat area: Nagler, Rechel, Pollak (from Jezierna), Zellermajer, Glisner, Waltuch.

And from the Rozdol area: Steg, Rosenzweig, Kawa, Borek, Krut/Kraut. Also Kranter, a man who married an early Pikholz woman, whose parents are not yet identified.

Housekeeping notes
James Tanner wrote an important three-part series a few weeks ago which reinforces what I believe but never really put into words. It's worth a read, especially in our Jewish world where so much of what people call "proof" just isn't there.  Here is the best part.

Wishing everyone a happy Sukkot holiday. I shall not be communicating with people outside Israel from sundown Wednesday, our time, until Sunday morning..

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Another Corner of the Pikholz Families

Until now, we have had Family Finder (autosomal DNA) results from five Pikholz families identified as being from Skalat.
  1. Descendants of my great-great-grandparents Rivka Feige and Isak Fischel, both of whom are Pikholz, born about 1820. Ten tests plus one descendant of Uncle Selig.
  2. Descendants of Nachman Pikholz (~1795-1865). Four tests.
  3. Descendants of Mordecai Pikholz (~1805-1864). Two tests.
  4. Descendants of three of the five children of Peretz Pikholz (~1820-1873). Three tests.
  5. Descendants of Berisch ben Moshe Hersch (Berisch 1837-1918). One test.

There are an additional eight Skalat families with living descendants, but with no one who has agreed to test. Two of those eight are almost certainly descendants of Nachman.

We also have eleven tests from the Rozdol famlies and two with uncertain origins, but I will not be discussing them today.

In the past three days, three people have signed up for Family Finder tests from two families which are known to be closely related and I would like to think that they will contribute significantly to our understanding of the family structure. I have been begging for tests from two additional family members in one of those lines, one of whom is the only candidate in either of those two families for a Y (male-line) test.

When Sure (=Sara) Pickholz Aptowitzer and her husband Benzion applied in Vienna for an immigration visa to the United States on 7 August 1939, she wrote "that I intend to join distant cousin Samuel Marenus" in Elizabeth New Jersey.

I have assumed that the cousinhood is not really "distant," just that Sara did not know how to define the relationship precisely. If Sam Marenus was not reasonably close, Sara could have named her own brother who had gone to the US a year earlier.

Sam Marenus was about the same age as Sara and both he and his older brother and sister were born in the US, so they clearly didn't know each other in person, before Sara went to the US. His mother Dwojre (Dora) was the daughter of Simon Pickholz of Skalat and was one of four of Simon's children who lived in the US. (The others died in childhood, save perhaps one for whom we have nothing but a birth record.)

So I have been keeping these two families - which I call DORA and ORENSTEIN - together. (Esra Orenstein was Sara's father. Her mother Taube was the Pikholz.)

Sam is Shalom, like Sara's
grandfather. Is this significant?
Complicating any inquiry into the relationship between the two families is the fact that Sara's mother Taube had two Pikholz parents. Her father was Szulim (=Shalom, which was Sam's Jewish name) and her mother was Sara (sometimes written Sara Nesia) the daughter of Moshe Hersch and Jente Pikholz. Sara Aptowitzer was probably named for her maternal grandmother Sara (who died at age forty in 1887), but does not have the second name Nesia.

Sara and Benzion Aptowitzer had two sons, one died six years ago. The other son, Charles, ordered a Family Finder test earlier this week. I took advantage of his order to encourage Sam Marenus' daughter and two of her second cousins to test as well. She did and I think I can thank her brother-in-law Mark Strauss for encouraging that. Mark does genealogy research himself and may be related to us independently.

These two new tests may shed some light on the relationship between the two families. They also may show some connections with other Skalat Pikholz families.

The two new families being tested are the second and third from the right. But if you notice, the one on the far right is headed by a Moshe Hersch who is probably the same general age as Charles' great-great-grandfather of the same name. If we are lucky, we may find evidence that these two Moshe Hersch are the same person. We'd still need some magic path to actual documentation, of course, but it would be significant progress. More testing in both those lines would help. But unfortunately we don't have many candidates.

(There is another Moshe Hersch about the same age, but he is a son of Nachman and there is nothing to indicate that he may be the same as one of these two.)

But we also have a bit of a wild card in Leonora, whose test is now on its way from here in Israel to Houston . Leonora's mother Taube (named after her aunt, Sara's mother) had four Pikholz grandparents and at least five Pikholz great-grandparents. Leonora's father is from Central Asia and should have no Jewish DNA whatsoever, which should make it a bit easier to look at her matches.

Leonora is therefore a second cousin of Charles on their mothers' side and to the extent we can sort out that side, can help both with the connection to Sam Marenus' line and with the Moshe Hersch question.

The parents of Taube's father Eliezer are first cousins on their mother's side. His father (Isak) Josef is the son of Chana Chaje and his mother Gittel is the daughter of Devorah, both of whom are daughters of Mordecai, the ancestor of Dalia and Lloyd. (Mordecai's line and mine are a perfect Y-37 match, indicating a close common, male-line ancestor for Mordecai and my Isak-Fischel.)

Eliezer's mother Gittel is also the daughter of two Pikholz parents. Her mother Devorah is, as I said, the daughter of Mordecai and her father Berl is the son of the "original" (Isak) Josef.

Note that Eliezer's father (Isak) Josef does NOT seem to be a descendant of the original (Isak) Josef, so I am guessing that there is a close relationship between Mordecai and Old (Isak) Josef. They are about twenty-one years apart (1784 vs 1805), which could be anything - father-son, brothers or further, but I tend to think that it is one of those two. I haven't a clue where we might find more evidence on this, but there are other descendants of Berl-Devorah and of Mordecai's daughter Chana Chaje who might yet be persuaded to give us some DNA.

Housekeeping notes
May you be written and sealed in the Book of Life and have an easy and meaningful fast.

And please accept my apologies if I have offended anyone in this blog over the past year.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Alexanders

Third cousins

The week began last Friday (well, weeks don't begin on Fridays, but you know what I mean) with the unveiling of the tombstone of Ian (Ziskind Aharon) Alexander, a second cousin of my mother-in-law on her mother's side. The burial was in the Eretz HaChaim Cemetery in Bet Shemesh about eight months ago. As the family is divided between Israel and the US, the unveiling was set to coincide with Yair's wedding. ("Divided" is definitely not the right word, as you will see presently.)

Though a Zionist all his life, with half of his family living here, Ian was not sure he was entitled to be buried here. It  was not a legal question, of course, but a question of "what was right." This modesty of his was a subject of eulogies both at the funeral and at the unveiling.

Yair and Aviva were married Wednesday evening. Yair is the son of Janet, the youngest of the Alexander children, and her husband Harvey. He is the first of Janet and Harvey's to be married. Both families immigrated from the US and the wedding had an ummistakable American flavor, though the overly-loud Israeli band seems to be unavoidable. Both families live in the same mid-sized suburban community (its website says 550 families), one that is often inaccurately stereotyped as being full of "rich Americans."

The photo accompanied the invitation
The third family event of the week was the aliyah of Edna, Ian's wife and the family matriarch, from Elizabeth New Jersey. She will be living quite near Janet and Harvey and we all wish her a successful integration into Israeli life.
At the anniversary party

Edna and Ian were married nearly sixty-seven years. They raised four daughters and four sons, one of whom is deceased. Three now live in Israel, three in New Jersey and one in California.

Ian's parents - Israel & Rose
Ian's father's mother and my mother-in-law's mother's mother are sisters. Ian himself had been born in London but his parents moved to the US when he was a baby and his brothers were born in Brooklyn.

Edna is New Jersey through and through.

Ian's grandparents - Avraham Alexandrovitch
and Fannie (Frumit) Lindenberg
Ian's grandmother arranged the marriage between the childless widower who lived in their building in London and her niece in Poland - my mother-in-law's parents - so it came to be that both Janet and my wife are named for Janet's great-grandmother. When you look at it by whom you are named for, third cousins can be not that distant.

The two oldest Alexanders, Meir and Zahava, came to Israel after high school, not long after my wife's parents moved their family here, so there was some contact between the British and American cousins, but it was not a particularly close bond until the next generation began growing up.

The Alexanders were my first contact with third cousins - certainly not my last - and we learned quickly enough that the particular ordinal number doesn't much matter.

The Alexanders and us 
When I took my first genealogy inventory of my wife's family about eighteen years ago, my father-in-law had a fair picture of the family, but not much detail. We made contact with both Meir and Zahava and the rest is history.

Zahava and Reuven's eldest son Esh-Kodesh was getting married soon and we were invited. The wedding of Kodesh and Inbal was our first exposure to the Alexanders. It was an outdoor wedding, so we could hear each other talk. I went from one to another asking questions (the usual genealogy stuff - names, places, dates, who is named for whom) taking barely legible notes and generally making a nuisance of myself. (Who is this guy, anyway!)

Reuven spoke at length under the huppah, with three year old Deror on his shoulders.

The date was 22 Elul 5757. The date on Yair and Aviva's invitation is 22 Elul, though the wedding didn't actually happen until after sundown.

We took an instant liking to Meir and Sharona and while still at the wedding, arranged that they and their four boys would visit with us during Sukkot. We have been back and forth a few Shabbatot since then. There have been more weddings and in between some bar mitzvahs.

Most of their family in the US tries to attend most of the events, so we have gotten to know them as well. (Oddly enough, the first time I met Sam was in the US because he attends the same shul as one of my Kwoczka cousins I was visiting with in New Jersey.)

The solidarity of the Alexanders has always impressed me and their family events were always fun. They usually seat us among the close family. A few others in my wife's family know some of them, but some do not at all.

In recent years, when it was difficult for Ian to travel, Edna would come and someone would stay in New Jersey with him.

Kodesh and Inbal
Talia was born about nineteen months after Esh-Kodesh and Inbal were married.

Eighteen months later, Kodesh was murdered by a local Arab while working as a civilian guard in a government office in Jerusalem. It was one of the first murders of what became known as the Second Intifada, which killed nearly nine hundred Israeli civilians and wounded over 5600 more. In addition to soldiers.

We attended the midnight funeral, here in Jerusalem. As I recall, there were a few hundred people. Inbal's father spoke at length. Kodesh was not yet twenty-six.

When Inbal married Ofer about a year later, Zahava sent us an invitation, then phoned to make sure we knew it was important to her that we come. ("Which side are you from?" "The dead husband's." A guaranteed conversation stopper.)

We have never been at an Alexander function since, where Inbal was missing. Ofer was there too, most of the time. Including at Ian's unveiling Friday.

At the wedding Wednesday, when I had the idea to write this particular blog, I asked Inbal if she minded my mentioning names. Her reply: "It happened, didn't it?"

Yes, it surely did. Talia is now fifteen.

And now
Pretty much everyone attended the unveiling. Edna, all the seven children and most of the spouses, including the one son-in-law I had never met. Most of the grandchildren living here in Israel were there. And their spouses. And great-grandchildren, some near the grave, watching and listening, others off to the side playing, not understanding what it was all about. A first cousin of Ian's on his mother's side and her family. They had just made aliyah recently. And your humble blogger, a second-cousin-once-removed-in-law.

Harvey ran the service and spoke, as he had at the funeral. Meir spoke, as did Zahava. I apologize for not remembering who else. Perhaps someone from the family can cover that in the comments section below.

Ian had been an airman and a flight instructor in WWII and the service was interrupted three times by helicopter overflights, as though planned.

And Edna, the new immigrant, spoke.

We left knowing we would all see each other again Wednesday. With the Alexanders there is always something in the pipeline. When they go their separate ways, they always seem to know when they will be together again.

(Special thanks to Edna and Janet for allowing me to present this post, using names - not having a clue what I would say about them.)

Housekeeping notes
I hope to be able to stick to my regular blogging schedule during the holiday season. I hope to have enough to say and the time to say it.

In the meantime, may everyone be blessed with a good holiday season and a good year, health and parnassa and may you be written and sealed in the Book of Life.

לְשָׁנָה טוֹבָה תִּכָּתֵבוּ וְתֵחָתִמוּ