Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tara and Cousin Herb

Tara's matches
It began last Thursday mornng with a note from professed newbie Tara in Toronto. It seems that when she sorted her GEDmatch results by "longest segment," her top four matches all pointed to my email address.

The first of the four, with a longest segment of 70.7 cM is my father's late first cousin Herb. The other three are my sister Amy, my brother Dan and I. Worth a look? I'd say so. I mean who has a longest segment of 70 cM with a stranger?

Tara matches forty-one members of my project, but it is an eclectic group. All six of my parents' children were there, but not my father's sister and brother. And despite my X match, which is from my mother's side, there is only one second cousin from that side.

I did a few chromosome browsers and distilled the results to a single chromosome of interest - chromosome 3.

The small bit on the left side of the centromere is something I wouldn't bother mentioning, but it's right here in front of me. The five blue segments are my parents' children and the 12.5 cM green segment is my half second cousin Fred. The triangulation is good. So while this is not a large match, it does point someplace fairly specific - my Rosenzweig/Zelinka side from Trencin County Slovakia. That does not fit Tara's surnames or geography, which is largely Romanian.

The action is on the other side, where we begin with Herb's 70 cM segment in orange. On the left side of that segment, my sister Amy has 39 cM. On the right side of Herb's segment on lines 5 and 7, my sister Judith and my second cousin Terry have ~23.5 cM, my sister Sarajoy (line 6) has nearly 20 cM and the mysterious Vladimir (line 8) has 13.5 cM. On lines 3 and 4, my brother and I have ~36.5 cM that begins overlapping with Amy's segment then runs to the far right end like the others on the right. Finally my second cousin Rhoda (line 9) has a 9 cM segment that falls under Amy's and a 23.7 cM segment like mine and Dan's but not as long.

Tara's Romanian geography does not fit our eastern Galicia, nor does she have any of the very few surnames we know on the sides we share with Herb.

Of course, the thing is that if Herb has a legitimate 70 cM match with Tara, I would guess that the MRCA would not be expected to be much before 1800.

Herb's chromosome 3 on the segment that matches Tara
Before anything else, I did a triangulation to see whether all eight of the Pikholz descendants actually match Tara and Herb in the same places - or whether perhaps Herb and Co. match Tara on one of her parents and some of us match Tara on her other parent. I did that by comparing all eight (plus Tara) to Herb. Tara is on line 4 and the black vertical lines mark the ends of her match with Herb. That is the area we are interested in for triangulation.

Amy is on the left. Judith, Terry and Sarajoy are on the right. Rhoda, Dan and I overlap both sides. This is the same as our match with Tara above, so the triangulation works. Vladimir matches Herb, but not here, so he is no longer part of this analysis. He does match Tara, but the common ancestor is through her other parent.

Matching Segments
My next move was to look at Tara's Matching Segments analysis to see who else matches her long segment with Herb. (I have referred to Matching Segments before. It is a GEDmatch tool on Tier1 which requires a small donation.) I decided to limit this search to segments of 13 cM or more, but I was really interested only in those over 15 cM.

These are the results with personal information redacted and my family in red. (In this case, there is no significance to the colors on the bar graph.)

I added in the small segment from Rhoda. Eliezer is Judith's son and Avi is Judith's twin's son, so I had excluded them from the chromosome browsers above.

I also added in my fourth cousins, the half-siblings David and Anna (the second and third from the top) even though they are only about 11 cM. They did not show up on Tara's chromosome browser but they did show up here. Same thing with my third cousin Joe. In all three cases they show up on a one-on-one with Tara, with a single matching segment. (GEDmatch probably has some obscure rule that explains this.)

All three triangulate with Herb.

What is significant with all three is that they are not descendants of my great-grandmother, so Tara's segment with Herb and Co. appears to be a Pikholz match, not a Kwoczka match. (There is a reason I say "appears to be" but I won't go into that here.)

Just for fun, I ran Tara on the fancy one-to-many at Tier1 and the three single-segment matches don't show up there either. Not even when I raise the limit from 2000 to 5000. Furthermore, the 2000-match Tier1 search does not give all the normal matches that the regular 2000-match search shows. Much as I love GEDmatch, sometimes you have to look at something half-a-dozen ways to get a full picture and then hope you got it right.

Triangulating Tara's non-Pikholz matches with Herb
I did one-to-ones between Herb and each of the twelve people in the above list whose matches with Tara are 15 cM or more. Leah and the three in the "Elisha group" do not match Herb at all, so they are on Tara's other side.

E, J, Carol, Steven and Ryan match more or less according to their matches with Tara, though Ryan's is about 30% larger.

The other three - L, Harriett and Joseph - match Herb on no more than 10.5 cM of their matches with Tara. What about the rest? Who knows. It will require further inquiry.

What happens next?
Before I draw any conclusions and even before I write to any of these matches, Tara's mother has agreed to test. Probably her father too. That should clarify whether Tara's long match with Herb is from one of her parents or is perhaps - as is likely - a composite, part from her father, part from her mother. The "Are Your Parents Related" tool on GEDmatch shows her parents unrelated to one another on chromosome 3, so we needn't worry about that.

Oh, and Tara has a paternal grandmother who is willing to test. Anyone in Montreal who can help with this?

Meantime, Tara has joined our surname project at FTDNA.

Monday, August 14, 2017


My mother's mother, Sarah Rosenbloom Gordon, went to the US from Borisov before WWI - as did her two younger sisters and her younger brother. The two sisters were dead by early 1916. An older sister stayed in Russia with her husband and children. There was also a younger half-brother and half-sister who remained in Russia with the father and step-mother. The half-brother was killed in a pogrom of some sort after WWI.

Less than seven moths ago, I reported here that we (=Galit Aviv-Sisto) had found the grandchildren of the older sister Alta Rosenbloom Kaplan. Grandsons in Indiana and New Jersey, a granddaughter in Columbus Ohio, a granddaughter in Nuremberg, a grandson who died here in Israel (I am still looking for his three children) and at least two living granddaughters in Moscow.

The IAJGS Conference in Orlando was three weeks ago (seems more like three months!) and Aeroflot has a nice price from Israel to the US east coast (< $1050), so I booked my flight and arranged to visit one of the Moscow cousins - my second cousin Liya, her husband Gennady and their daughter Katya who has been my Facebook translator these past months. The other, older cousin was not well and her daughter who would have accompanied us, was out of town.

My three "new" second cousins - first cousins to one another - in three countries. I now have DNA from all three.

Katya met me at the airport Tuesday evening. Moscow is a huge city, very sprawling - at least that was my impression - and it took about an hour to get to their apartment. The weather was much warmer than I expected. Liya is a retired mathematician, as was her father (my mother's first cousin) and his younger sister. Gennady is a retired professor of electrical engineering.

They have a son, Ilya, who lives in UK but as his daughter Tatiana was already in high school when they went, she stayed behind to finish her schooling in Moscow. Tatiana (twenty-one) is studying mathematics. When I told her I was going to Orlando and identified it with Disney World, she said that all she knows about the US is where people study mathematics. These mathematicians tend to be focused.

Wednesday, we went to the cemeteries, Gennady driving, Liya with her gardening tools, Katya and I. Our Kaplans are all buried in the Vostrikovsky Cemetery. In the best Soviet tradition, it is non-sectarian and perhaps that is the reason it is in such good condition. There is no Hebrew on the tombstones, nor are there any Jewish symbols. Not even the small stones that visitors leave in many countries. Each grave or pair of graves is surrounded by a metal fence.

My great aunt Alta is here as are all of her children. It is not clear where her husband is buried or even when he died, in the early 1920s. Apparently he was never discussed. Uncle Hymen said his name was Berl, but his children are Borisovitch and Borisovna. You will see the problem with that further on.

Most of our Kaplan graves are in section 94.

Next to the road is the grave of Sophia (Sonia) Borisovna Kaplan, born 1921, died 1969. I do not have precise dates. She was a mathematician and died of breast cancer.

Her son David (who is almost certainly named for our great-grandfather, as am I) is the one who came to Israel. Next to her is her husband Maksim Markovitch Gorohov, born 18 April 1925, died 30 April 2004.

Maksim's surname was originally Razgon but was "sovietized" to Gorohov. David reverted to Razgon in Israel.

This is the view from the side of Sonia's tombstone.  Sonia shares the grave with her older sister Esfir Borisovna Kaplan, 1903-1978.

Esfir - which I am told is the Russian form of Esther - was named Etta Bryna after her maternal grandmother who died in Borisov in 1896, probably before her fortieth birthday. Etta Bryna's surname is unknown and I have written abut this several times, most recently here.

Esfir's husband was Yosef Gemeyner. She was not able to have children but she raised her husband's son Mark from his previous marriage.

Alta, my grandmother Sarah and Uncle Hymen all had daughters named Etta Bryna for their mother and all three of those daughters adopted after not being able to have children. (My Aunt Ethel had two natural children after adopting.)

A bit further back from the road, without moving the car, are Liya's parents.

Isaak Borisovitch Kaplan 1909-1966 and Emma Abramovna Elkind 1913-1969.

Liya, their only child, ws born in 1939, so she was orphaned of both parents by age thirty. Alta was still alive when her youngest children, Isaak and Sonia, died.

The picture of Isaak on the tombstone - a Russian custom which is practiced in Israel as well - I have never gotten used to it! - is certainly familiar.
This is the same Isaak, standing on the right. This was the only Kaplan photograph we had until seven months ago, so we thought there were only four children, not six. (The girl is Sonia.)

Below, we see the Kaplan family in 1914, just before Uncle Hymen (standing in the back) sailed to the US on the last ship before WWI. Isaak is the young boy seated on the left. The daughter on the table died and I do not know her name. Esfir is the girl on the right.
A bit further back at the same stop are the graves of Lev Borisovitch Kaplan, born 18 March 1907 and died 4 Decenber 1986. His wife Pelageya Alekseyevna was born 13 November 1912 and died 23 January? 1989.

I assume Lev was named for Etta Bryna's father Yehudah. We have no idea when or where he died, but there is a good chance it was after Etta Bryna.

They had three children - one now in new Jersey, one in Columbus and the youngest who died in Moscow ten years ago.

As we visited each set of graves, Liya brought out her gardening tools and went over each one. The clippings were carefully removed.

We moved along the road to the corner of the section where we found the grave of Boris Borisovitch Kaplan, 1900-1973. This is where we defer to Uncle Hymen's memory of Alta's husband as Berl, as there is no way Boris would have been given the same name as his father. In fact, Uncle Hymen said that this son, Boris, was named Boruch Yosef.

His wife Genia Yankelevna Chankina - 1897-1972 - is in the same grave. To the right is a sign - not a proper stone - for her brother.

The fence was freshly painted. Perhaps at the direction of their daughter Dusya. Or Dusya's daughter. Dusya was born in 1929 and is one of the two great-granddaughters mentioned by my great-grandfather Israel David Rosenbloom in a 1929 letter to Uncle Hymen. No one is certain if Dusya is alive as the families are not in contact.

We crossed the main road to the other side of the same cemetery heading for section 116. On the way we encountered an entourage of large men in suits, sunglasses and Mercedes looking for all the world like your stereotypical Russian mafia, straight out of central casting. We carefully found a way around them.

The eldest son Yakov, named for Israel David's father, is in section 116. Yakov was a shoemaker which enabled him and all the family to live in Moscow. This is what saved them during the Holocaust.

Yaakov is not called Borisovitch, but Berkovitch which fits better with Berl as Alta's husband's first name. My mother's first cousin, Yakov Berkovitch Kaplan was born 1899 and died 1984.

His wife Fanya Gershevna Pinskaya is buried in the same grave. She was born 1905 and died 1988. The Soviet regime did not acknowledge marriages at that time and their children have Fanya's Pinsky name.

Fanya was from Penza, where Israel David lived after WWI, and I assume that is how Yakov and Fanya met. Inna in Nuremberg is their daughter.

Within the boundaries of the same fence is Alta.
Alta Davidovna (from Israel David) Kaplan, 1879-1970. The family tradition was that she lived to ninety-three, so the stone may be incorrect. Or the tradition.

The family says that the name "Alta" was added during a childhood illness and that her original name may have been Masha - but no one is sure.

There are about six years between Alta and my grandmother Sarah, the second child. That fits with the story that Uncle Hymen was called CHAIM Benzion because several sons died in infancy. Very likely they were born between Alta and Sarah. (Attention family members - Benzion and Masha are probably family names. Chaim and Alta are not.)

Finally - on this day which was beautiful for visiting cemeteries but miserably hot for sitting in traffic - we drove to the Malakhovskoye Cemetery to see Aunt Mera, the half sister with whom Uncle Hymen was particularly close.

The stone on the left is Maks Yakovlevitch Goldin 1905-1978 and Mera Davidovna Goldina 1903-1990. My grandmother, who died in 1959 in her seventies, had a living sister as recently as twenty-seven years ago. Aunt Mera was a physician and the cemetery records say she was from Penza.

I do not know if here is any symbolism associated with the cut corner on the top left of the tombstone.

This is a Jewish section, rather than standard Soviet, and people leave stones. The flowers are plastic, so could have been there for years.

The grave on the right is Mikhail Maksimovitch Goldin 1931-2009. Aunt Mera's son. The blank space below his name looks like it should be for his wife, so she may well be alive. Maybe children too.

At four in the morning, it's already light that time of year in Moscow. Gennady and Katya drove me to the airport at five thirty Thursday morning for my 9:25 flight to Dulles. There were eight chairs at the gate.

The only people I saw during my Baltimore-area overnight were Uncle Bob and Ro and Friday I was off to Orlando.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Wives of Moshe Hersch

Mail from Judy
In Orlando with Rozdol Pikholz cousin Audrey (left) and
my fourth cousin once removed Steve and his wife Diane
I have been very busy lately and have not even written yet about my visit to Moscow. And I'll not be writing about the IAJGS Conference in Orlando.

But some DNA matches came up this week that appear significant and I want to tell you about one of those. (Despite everything, I have been trying to keep up with all these "I have ## matches with your project. How are we related?" emails.)

This one (partially redacted) came Thursday:
Dear Israel Pikholz,
Your reputation precedes you. However, I didn't think I had many matches with you until I looked at it from the perspective of my (full) brother's DNA report, and especially from Chromosome 23. I am attaching a PDF showing all 17 matches of individuals you manage who appear on my brother's list in GEDmatch.

My brother is Ira Rosenberg ... and I am Judy Pritchett .... I have included myself.

Our four grandparents' surnames are:

Rosenberg (unknown, possibly Zbaroz) ff
Dejur/Deshur (Katerinopol), fm
Abramowitz (Odessa), mf
Alter/Alpert (Kriulyani, Bessarabia) mm

On Chromosome 23 there do seem to be two distinct family lines represented. 
This is chromosome 23, as she attached it.

Line 1 is Judy herself, where she matches Ira.

Lines 2 and 3 are my fourth cousin Nan and her son Steve who introduced one of my Orlando talks, ~25.6 cM. Line 4 is Nan's third cousin and my fourth cousin Charlie, ~16.3 cM. The four blue bits (5.3-5.9 cM) are Aunt Betty, two of my sisters and Uncle Bob's daughter. When I ran it myself the following day, Uncle Bob himself also appeared, as did my double second cousin Marshal. (Marshal was missing because Judy only saw seventeen matches with my families, when in fact there are forty-nine.)

All these matches are on my father's side - and in fact must be my grandmother's side because Uncle Bob gets no X from his father.

The large X-match between Ira and Nan & Charlie

Nan and Charlie are, as I said, my fourth cousins, descendants of Moshe Hersch, the brother of my great-great-grandmother Rivka Feige Pikholz.

Charlie could have received the segment in question from either parent of his great-grandmother Sara.

But Nan could not have. Her great-grandfather Berisch received X only from his mother. Since she and Charlie received the X from the same source, it must have been the mother of Berisch and Sara - Moshe Hersch's wife. (I acknowledge that it is possible that the X in question snuck into the lineages of Charlie and Nan via a spouse of one of the intervening generations, but based on what I know of the family, I consider this highly unlikely.)

Ira's Rosenberg family comes from Zbarazh, which is near Skalat, but since Ira received no X from his father, that cannot be the source of this match. But that is another question, not for here.

But now I must introduce a bit of research history. 

The Hebrew side of Berisch's stone.
When we received the 1826-1845 Skalat deaths maybe eighteen years ago (thanks to Jacob Laor and Alex Dunai), we found an 1843 death for seven year old Israel Pikholz, son of Moshe and an 1842 death for three year old Perl Pikholz the daughter of Moshe Hersch. The fathers may be the same person, but not necessarily. We also have the 1918 death of Nan's great-grandfather Bernard / Berisch Pickholtz in Philadelphia - which includes his birth date 14 December 1837. His father is named on his tombstone as Moshe Zvi, which is, of course, Moshe Hersch.

So it appears that Moshe Hersch may have had these three children in a three year period, before 1840.

Later we received an 1887 death record from the AGAD archives for Sara Pikholz, showing her to be forty years old. From the birth records of Sara's children, we know her parents to be Moshe Hersch and Jente. (Sara's husband is Szulim Pikholz, but that has nothing to do with this analysis.)

Sara's 1887 death record - age at death was forty.

Because of the long break between the three pre-1840 births and the 1847 birth of Sara, I was not prepared to declare that this was one family. When I got into DNA, I demonstrated in Chapter Six of my book that the two Moshe Hersch were the same person, but I was still wary of saying that all four children were from the same wife. (Yes, I know that there may have been additional childen in between, but I have seen nothing that mentions such children.)

But since Nan and Charlie share a segment on the X chromosome that can only have come from Moshe Hersch's wife, it is tempting to put the question to bed by declaring that Moshe Hersch had only one wife - the one we know as Jente.

But not so fast. If The mother of Moshe Hersch's pre-1840 children died, it is likely that the family would have married him off to someone else within the family. The dead wife's sister or niece, for instance. So even if Moshe Hersch had two wives, there is a better than even chance that they would have had much of the same X chromosomes. If they were sisters, the X from their father would have been identical.

I still do not know if Moshe Hersch had two wives, and we may never know. But I am now certain that if he did, the two women were closely related. Considering all the difficlties in this research, that qualifies as progress.

What about Ira's matches with my grandmother?
In addition to the six ~5.5 cM segments, Ira also has matches of more than 10 cM with my grandmother's family, on two other chromosomes.

On chromosome 17, Ira has matches of 13-16 cM with Aunt Betty, Uncle Bob, my second cousins Marshal and Susan and one of my sisters. Another sister has ~8.8 cM on the same segment. So we know that Ira is related to my grandmother's side, as I showed above on chromosome 23.

On chromosome 18, there are three identical segments of ~15.9 cM with my father's second cousin Shabtai, one of my sisters and me, plus a segment of ~12.6 cM with another of my sisters. This too is my grandmother's side, but in this case Shabtai makes it clear that the match is on my grandmother's mother's (Hungarian) side. The truth is, I'd be more comfortable if Aunt Betty, Uncle Bob or one or two of the second cousins also showed up on this segment, but we can only use what we have.

This match on my great-grandmother's side does not in any way indicate that the other two segments (on chromosomes 17 and 23) are also my grandmother's mother's side, rather than her father's side.

Now if Judy and Ira have some surnames and geography that fit any of this, or if they have cousins who can test, we may be able to move this along.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Where Was Simon? And Why?

Shimon Pikholz - Simon or Szymon on some of his documents - lived in Skalat and was
married to Dwore Waltuch who bore two daughters before she died in 1861 at age twenty-three. Skalat birth records begin in 1859, so we don't have one for Lea. Breine was born 14 January 1860. We have a large  family for Lea and her husband Berl Pfeffer, but the only trace we have of Breine is her birth.

As often happened when a widower was left with small children, a second marriage was arranged within the family - in this case, Dwore's younger sister Chana. Chana and Simon had five children who lived to adulthood (one of them died unmarried at age twenty-five) and several others died in childhood. All were born in Skalat, the last in 1885.

Simon himself was the son of Mordecai (b. 1805) and Taube Pikholz and based on the age of the first wife, I assume he was born around 1835.

Lea Pfeffer had children in Kopycienice (e Galicia) and in Czernovitz, where she died in 1913. Her husband Berl Pfeffer and children later moved to Vienna.

Chana's daughter Rifka went to the US in early 1891, married Max Rosenbaum and took the name Beatrice.

Dwore - named for her aunt - went to the US later in 1891 (together with another Pikholz, a first cousin of my grandfather. She went by Dora in the US.

Chana and son Mordecai/Max went to the US in 1892.

The youngest, eighteen year old Joseph, was in New Jersey on 1899 but we have no record of his travel from Europe.

As for Simon, we have nothing to show that he crossed the ocean and he had no presence in the United States. But neither do we have a death record for him in Skalat or anywhere else.

Rivka had only daughters and granddaughters, so didn't name after him. Dora had a son Samuel, but his Jewish name is Shalom, after Simon's brother.. Max had a son Shimon, but he wasn't born until 1933. And Joseph's son Sam has no Hebrew on his tombstone so we can only guess at his name.

So for years, I had assumed that Simon died in Skalat, probably just before his family began its piecemeal emigration. And that for some reason there was no death record.

Then  this.
Szymon Pickholz, house 899 Skalat, died 20 December 1908 at age 78.

This cannot be anyone else, even though I have nothing else in this house. Born in 1830 works.

So why was he in Skalat sixteen years after his wife went to the US? Was there a divorce or a separation? Now I return to the youngest son Joseph who appears in New Jersey in 1899 at age eighteen without ever appearing on a passenger list. Maybe Simon brought his youngest son to the US and the transcribers wrote the names so badly that they are unrecognizable. Then Simon returned to Skalat - when? why?

Is there a way to know?

(I have been in touch with descendants of four of Simon's children, including Lea Pfeffer, but only one has given DNA for our project. But that one has proven very valuable.)

Housekeeping Notes
Tuesday I go to Moscow to meet the third of my newfound second cousins on my mother's mother's Rosenbloom side. The three are first cousins to one another, which makes for good DNA. Another one in Moscow - the sister of the one I visited in Nuremberg - is too ill to see me, but her daughter will probably get her DNA and I'll visit another time.

It's a quick visit, but since it's on the way to the US, it doesn't add to my travel expense so I can do it again pretty easily.

Then Orlando where I am giving four presentations and several mentoring and translation sessions. And I'll be debuting a new T-shirt in the "My Kind of Acid" line.

And after that a quick weekend in Chicago which will include an unveiling for my brother a week from Friday.

Way too much to do before I leave.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Sibling Reunion?

Earlier this week, Lara Diamond posted about the reunification of her family with the descendants of her grandfather's aunt. This sparked a seriies of "me too" posts and comments.

Here is another version of the classic sibling reunification story, one in which I was tangentially involved, nearly twenty years ago. One with a different ending. (And with names changed to protect privcy.) 

An American genealogist was helping someone find what happened to her father's eldest sister, Feige Abramowitz. Feige's maiden name was unique and her birth date and birth place were known. Her husband was Shemuel (=Samuel) Abramowitz. This was in the late 1990s. Feige would have been ninety-one. The family "knew" she was killed, but didn't have any testimony or documentation.

A typical ITS card. (Can any such report ever be "typical?")
She asked me to have a look at the International Tracing Service card index at Yad Vashem. (This was before the major release of ITS records nearly ten years later.) I found a record that this same Feige Abramowitz - identified by maiden name, parents' names and birth date - applied for entry into the United States in 1947. The trail ended there. The Red Cross looked into the case, but reported back in a cryptic sort of way that they could not tell the family anything. 

We tried everything we could think of, including searching the Social Security Death Index using nothing but her birth date, but nothing looked right. Of course she could have died before 1962, when the online SSDI begins. Or perhaps she had not died at all.

Then we searched SSDI by the husband's birth date and found a Sam Abrams, who had lived in a large city in the Midwestern USA. Shemuel Abramowitz as Sam Abrams? With the same birth date? Looked promising. 

In that particular city, I had a third cousin who knew all the old Jewish women. I asked my cousin if she knew a Feige Abrams, about ninety-one, the widow of Sam. "You mean Phyllis," she said. "What do you want of her?"

A meeting was set up, very carefully, with the social workers in the retirement facility where Phyllis Abrams lived. Eventually she told her story. 

Feige Abramowitz was dead, killed in Poland. 

Sam survived. He met a fellow survivor in Poland and they married. She had no identification papers so he gave her his dead wife's identity. She spent fifty years in the United States terrified that someone might find out she had lied on her immigration papers and that she would be sent back to Poland. 

I'm thinking that the Red Cross had already figured that out.

Housekeeping notes
My own cousin reunion tour continues next week. I reported earlier on finding my grandmother's older sister's family and on meeting second cousins in Columbus Ohio and Nuremberg Germany. Next week Moscow where I plan to meet two more second cousins. With DNA kits in hand.

Then Orlando.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Regina Bauer's Chromosome 21

A couple of weeks ago, I described my new approach to handling the alerts I get from Family Tree DNA for Family Finder matches. I had some minor successes but it was a lot of work. My June inquiries - which related to test results received during May - produced two good but non-specific results, one for the families of each of my grandmothers. And responses are still trickling in.

Since the Pikholz family is much larger and less well-structured than some of my others, I decided to concentrate my July inquiries on my grandmothers' families. One of them produced this match with Robbie from Chattanooga.

One of the interesting things here, before even looking at the numbers, is that Robbie has no other segments in common with any of the nine kits on chromosome 21.

The first three are my brother, one of my sisters and I. Aunt Betty is my father's sister. Shabtai is my father's second cousin on my grandmother's mother's side and Susan is my second cousin. This group of six matching segments points to the family of my great-grandmother Regina Bauer. Her father's family - the Bauers - lived in Kunszentmiklos Hungary and before that in Apostag. Her grandmother was probably a Lowinger. Regina's mother is a Stern from Pacs and Kalocsa Hungary and additional surnames are Grunwald and Hercz.

Robbie's other three matches here are on my father's father's side. Rhoda and Roz are my second cousins, first cousins to one another. Pinchas is my third cousin, the great-grandson of the brother of my great-grandmother Jutte Leah Kwoczka. But these three have an additional connection that has nothing to do with my family - the Zwiebel and Lewinter families from Tarnopol - and that is the source of Robbie's match.

These two groups triangulate; there is a common ancestor between the two groups. So it appears clear that someplace back in genealogical time there is common ancestry between Shabtai's Hungarian Bauers or Sterns and the east Galician Zwiebels or the Lewinters. Back in time, but recent enough that segments in the 12-21 cM range were preserved in both groups.

If this looks familiar, it should. I wrote these two sentences almost exactly one year ago. About a smaller version of the same segment.
Carolyn and her daughter Wendy at JGS Maryland last summer
The only person missing here is my brother who tested a few months later. But it's the same segment. The match is with Carolyn.

Carolyn and Wendy are trying to identify Carolyn's father, a man who left her some clues on chromosome 21. Something to do with the Bauers or the Sterns and the Zwiebels or the Lewinters.

And, it turns out, Robbie has exactly one segment over 5 cM that matches Carolyn and that is, of course on chromosome 21.
Unfortunately Robbie doesn't know anything about this corner of his ancestry.

As I mentioned above, some of the responses from last month are still trickling in. Sam, for instance. He was travelling so he got me his GEDmatch number a bit later. I looked at his matches last week and saw a few bits related to my mother's side. Plus a set of six on a segment of about 17 cM on chromosome 17, but it was just my father's children,  sister and brother, there were no cousin matches to help us be more specific. I write this:
> Well, there are a few places where you have matches that point to my
> mother's mother's Rosenblooms from Borisov (Belarus). Nothing huge, but
> it's there. Unfortunately, we have no other surnames there to work with.
> There is a segment of not quite 10 cM which includes my father's sister, three
> of my father's children a second cousin on my gm's side and a second cousin
> of my father on my gm's mother's side. Those would be Bauer, Stern,
> Gurnwald, Lowinger and Hercz from Kunszentmiklos, Kalocsa and elsewhere
> in Hungary. Not very strong, but it's there.
> Maybe something with my p-gf's mother's Kwoczka from Zalosce in east
> Galicia.
> There is a nice segment of ~15-16 cM with my father's sister and brother plus
> four of my father's children, but no cousins, so it's hard to say more.
> Thank you for particiipating.
> Israel P.

Minutes after concluding my analysis of Robbie's single segment, an email came from Sam.
> Well thanks for your response!
> I'm pretty new at this. Where do we go from here?
I reviewed his matches and what do you know, that "segment of not quite 10 cM" is on chromosome 21.

It's a smaller version of Robbie and Carolyn's segment. Roz is missing because her 5.9 cM match is under the threshhold and simply didn't show up in Sam's results.

And like Robbie, Sam matches Carolyn here and no where else, using the standard threshhold.

Sam also has a small triangulated 7-8 cM segment with Rhoda and Shabtai on chromosome 7, showing once again that the two families have a history.

Eventually this wall will crack. And my approach to the alerts is working.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

My Grandsons and Genealogy

Minna is a cousin of my son-in-law's mother. Her husband is a major rabbi at a very large Jerusalem yeshiva. There is no reason we should know each other, much less be friends. Even at my daughter Merav's social occasions we wouldn't normally see each other because men and women sit separately. But Minna and I would always cross the barrier to speak to each other,

Beginning nearly sixteen years ago, Merav had a medical situation which required a series of surgeries and hospitalizations. In addition to providing transportation, I sat through all those surgeries and other procedures, sometimes with her, sometimes in the waiting room. Minna sat through all of them as well, in the role of surrogate mother. So we became friends.

Minna died this week after several years of suffering. She was not quite fifty-eight. Merav and her husband went to the funeral, with some of their children. Yesterday I went to the house for shiva, to pay a condolence call to her husband and children. I wasn't sure whom I would see and who would even know who I am - in their circles the men and women generally sit in separate rooms. I figured I would introduce myself as Merav's father and that would be enough. I'd sit quietly for a few minutes and go.

Nine forty-five in the morning seemed like a good time but the apartment door was closed. In a traditional shiva house the door is always open. I knocked. They said that they were eating breakfast, but I was ushered in. I had the status of being Merav's father and I didn't have to introduce myself. They all knew who I was and were pleased I had come. (I think there are seven children, all married.)

It is a small, austere apartment where they raised their children, full of books. I had actually been there once before.

The rabbi, Minna's husband, spoke of my grandchildren almost as his own, by name. His children, both the sons and daughters, concurred.

As we sat and talked, one of the sons said to the father "He is the one who does family history." Then continued "and uses DNA." And they mentioned the study that Rachel Unkefer is doing that takes the Pikholz Y-line back to Spain and Jeff Paull's work touching on my possible ancestor Rabbi Nathan Neta Spira (b. Krakow 1585), author of Megalleh Amukkot.

Merav's children, last winter
Many genealogists live with the frustration that our children are simply not interested. My youngest is kind of interested, my marine biologist son likes the DNA and the others humor me sometimes.The grandsons are more interested - some of that is genuine and some because I force-feed them. But some of them actually pay attention, both those here and those in Chicago.

Minna's adult children knew of my work - not only that I am a genetic genealogist but some of the details - from Merav's kids, particularly Moishie who is turning eighteen and studies in a yeshiva in Benei Berak. He listens to me and finds it interesting enough to pass it on to Minna's family. Knowing this made my day. That and talking genealogy anecdotes with Minna's husband and children.

And paying my respects to a friend.

Housekeeping notes
Speaking of grandchildren, my son in Chicago is making his next bar mitzvah the first Sunday in May. If any program directors are looking for something around then, please drop me a note.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

First Cousins / Genetic Half Brothers

My nephew Eliezer's Family Finder results just came in. That's one of the sons of my sister Judith. Her twin - my sister Carol/Devorah - was killed in an auto accident thirty years ago, but since they are identical, we have her DNA. Except for the astigmatism and later the glasses, you could not tell them apart.

But Judith wanted to know what the DNA would say about their children so we ordered Family Finder tests for Eliezer and for one of Carol/Devorah's sons Avi. Avi's results came in a couple of weeks ago and I discussed them here.

This is the chromosome browser for Judith showing the two boys. There is no difference between the orange and the blue and you cannot tell which is her son and whch is her nephew.

Family Tree DNA says each of the boys shares 3382 centiMorgans with Judith, with a longest segment of 267 cM.

The two boys match me quite closely (Avi 1788 cM and Eliezer 1781 cM) and the others not quite so closely - Dan (1771 / 1837), Jean (1793 / 1705), Sarajoy (1635 / 1684). But they differ quite a bit regarding Amy.

Amy and Avi share 1495 cM with a longest segment of 83 cM. Amy and Eliezer share 1718 cM and a longest segment of 113 cM. This fairly large difference doesn't mean anything - it's just the randomness of recombination.

There is, however, one number worth noting. Avi and Eliezer share 1963 cM, based on the FTDNA match page. On GEDmatch, it's even greater, with 2177cM at the standard threshhold of 7 cM, 2223 cM with a threshhold of 1 cM.

The International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki says that half siblings share about 1700 cM, so our numbers appear high. Blaine Bettinger's Shared cM Project brings actual statistics showing that half siblings share anywhere from 1320 to 2134 cM with an average of 1753 cM. (His statistics show full siblings to be 2150-3070 cM with an average of about 2600 cM.) He calls the range 2100-2230 cM the "caution area," where you cannot determine the relationship from DNA alone - maybe half siblings, maybe full siblings.

It is tempting to say that the extra-large overall match between Eliezer and Avi may have something to do with the fact that their fathers' families come from the same general area - and both are kohanim, to boot - but no one has an interest in actually checking this out. I showed some of these numbers to Blaine and asked if it is reasonable to say that "there is a good chance their fathers are related" or perhaps "a very good chance." He allowed for the possibility that the fathers are related but "probably not closely." I can go with that.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Success Using Family Finder Match Alerts

Family Tree DNA Alerts
I manage over ninety family kits, most of whom tested with Family Tree DNA. So I get many scores of these notices every week. Not only each person, but since, for instance,  Dan is a member of all five of my projects, I get all of his notices five times. Others are members of multiple projects and for them too I get multiple notices.

These notices of "Close Matches" means matches that FTDNA considers to be suggested second-third cousins. Readers may recall that several months ago I challenged FTDNA to explain why the more recent kits are getting far and away more close matches than earlier kits from the same families. We are four months and counting and FTDNA has not yet addressed this issue. (Janine, if you are reading this, see my help request 565856  which was opened 17 February.)

I cannot just limit myself to those matches which FTDNA calls "close." I also want the 2-4 cousins and the 3-5 cousins. After all, if one person has is a suggested 2-3 cousin, it is relevant to consider siblings or other close relatives who are 2-4 or 3-5 with that same person.

So between the huge numbers of alerts and the inconsistency in reporting them, I have yet to find a way to make use of them properly. After all, if I get a close match with Joe Schmoe, I cannot look at his matches with my other kits. It all becomes unwieldy and my worry that I will miss important matches competes for my time with more immediate demands.

An Attempt to Manage the Alerts
A few weeks ago, I decided to try something new. I decided to download in an Excel file all the matches during the month of May for each of my project members. then I arrange them in separate Excel files by group: my mother's side, my grandmother's side, the Rozdol-Pikholz side, etc. That's a lot of work by itself but after that I have to sort by the names of the new matches to see who may have interesting matches with several people within each of my groups. There is no macro that will do that for me.

I then sent out over two hundred emails like this.

Some replied, most did not. Some gave me their GEDmatch numbers, others did not care to share this secret information with me. Others needed help even creating GEDmatch numbers. Oh, and a few would send me a list of all the GEDmatch kits in their families.

I looked at each one against all my kits - after sorting on the "Name" column of their match lists so all mine would come up together near the top  - and created 2-D Chromosome Browsers. For most I would do two or three Chromosome Browsers for different parts of my families.

In one case after another - particularly within the Skalat Pikholz families - I would get results that I couldn't do anything with. The only segments over 10 cM were individuals, not groups. And when they were groups, they were vague and appeared weak and distant. I mean, if I have a segment shared only by a third cousin here and a fourth cousin there and a double fourth cousin another way, how serious can this be. It almost has to be long ago and in most of my directions I have only two or three ancestral surnames to work with, even when I can go back two hundred years or more.

I was also hampered by the total inadequacy of the Tag Groups that GEDmatch inaugurated a few months ago. I have been meaning to write about that and will try to do so soon.

I really began wondering what was the point of all this work. After all, if I were serious, I'd have to do this every month! I would send the results to the matches and began concluding with "Thank you for humoring me."

First Partial Success
Last week I saw some progress. Kind of.

I heard from Ellen, the wife of one of my new matches of interest, a man named Robert. She gave me his GEDmatch number and I went to work. My Chromosome Browser gave me this:

Identical segments with two of my sisters and my brother, a similar segment with my half-second cousin Fred, and a smaller segment in the same place with my second cousin Susan. This is not large but it is unambiguous. My father's mother had a half sister (same father, different mothers) named Ella. Aunt Ella's husband was not Jewish, nor was the wife of their son. So my half second cousin Fred has all his Jewish DNA from one grandparent, Aunt Ella. Susan is a full second cousin on that side. There is no way that our common ancestor with Robert is not an ancestor of my great-grandfather - either a Rosenzweig or a Zelinka. Both families lived in the area of Trencin County Slovakia back into the 1700s.

It reminded me of the match with Cousin Debbie last year, on a segment that looked like this:

True, Debbie's segment with us is larger than Robert's and she has more matches, but nonetheless this is the same logic and I can accept Robert as a family member with the same authority.

And Robert has another match, this one with Fred and my double second cousin Lee. It is possible, though unlikely, that this comes from  different common ancestor that the match on chromosome 7, but even if so, it does not challenge the conclusion.

However, whereas Debbie is definitely Zelinka, not Rosenzweig and she knows of Trencin County ancestors, Robert's position is less well-defined. He could be either Rosenzweig or Zelinka and in any case, he knows his family to be from Horodenka in southeastern Galicia. So we have work to do here, but we know there is at least a small pot of gold to be claimed.

The Duncans
When it rains, sometimes it pours. Or at least rains a little more. The next GEDmatch I looked at after Robert was a brother and sister pair, Evelyn and Adam. Their father is Scottish, a Duncan, so my families' matches with them are on their mother's side.

I started off with this excellent set of matches for Evelyn on Chromosome 12. Regular readers will recognize them easily enough.
Evelyn's matches with my mother's mother's Rosenblooms, from Borisov in Belarus.

  • The first two, Inna and Lydia are granddaughters of my grandmother's sister Alta. They are first cousins.
  • The next two, Beverly and Sam are grandchildren of my grandmother's brother Hymen. They are siblings.
  • My sisters Amy and Sarajoy and I are on lines 5, 6 and 9.
  • My first cousins Kay and Leonard round out the group.
Evelyn has another match with Inna and Lydia on Chromosome 20, of about 11 cM.

Evelyn's brother Adam has much the same segment on Chromosome 12.

It's a bit different from Evelyn's matches, but with the same clear message. We share a common ancestor upstream of one of our great-grandparents Israel David Rosenbloom or his wife Etta Bryna. And speaking of Etta Bryna, my maternal haplogroup, as seen in my MtDNA test is U1b1. Evelyn's is U1b. These are very close and may refer to the same common ancestor as these matching segments, though the matching segments appear more recent.

Adam has another segment that Evelyn does not.

This points in a slightly different direction. It does not have the Rosenbloom cousins, but it has five of my mother's children plus our first cousin Kay - and our second cousin on our mother's father's side, the Gordons. I am not quite sure what to make of this because Judy's Jaffe grandfather also came from Borisov. What is certain is that Evelyn and Adam are our cousins - probably fourth, maybe fifth or even third. Galit has added them to our Rosenbloom Borisov project.

The problem is, we do not know how to go from there. We do not have additional known ancestral surnames from our side and though they have a few, we cannot put it together. And their geography is Pinsk rather than Borisov - that's a distance of nearly 400 km.

I also had a look at the matches on Chromosome 12 on the GEDmatch Matching Segment tool to see if there is anyone else who matches both the Duncans and the Rosenblooms on that segment. I see none.

Now I have to decide if I want to do this again for the June matches.

Housekeeping Notes
I'll be speaking on the Hebrew version of
Lessons in Jewish DNA – One Man’s Successes and What He Learned On the Journey
this week, 19 June at 6:30, for IGS Rishon Lezion, Museum of Rishon Lezion, Ahad Ha’am 2.

Also, my son in Chicago is making his next bar mitzvah the first Sunday in May. If any program directors are looking for something around then, please drop me a note.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Lydia Conundrum

Lydia and Inna are second cousins of mine on my mother's mother's side. They are first cousins to one another. Their grandmother, Alta Rosenbloom Kaplan, is the older sister of my grandmother Sarah Rosenbloom Gordon, who remained in Russia when her sisters and brother went to the US before the First World War.

Lydia's DNA results came in two months ago and Inna's this week.

We now have autosomal DNA from thirteen Rosenbloom second cousins: Lydia and Inna from Aunt Alta, Beverly, Beth and Sam from Uncle Hymen and my first cousins Kay and Leonard, my four sisters,  my brother and me from my grandmother Sarah.

I hope to take DNA from two more of Alta's granddaughters when I visit Moscow next month.

Two of Lydia's matches with the second cousins are over 420 cM. Eight more are between 342 and 387 cM. One is 286 cM. Compare these to the ISOGG definition of second cousins - 212.5 cM - and Blaine Bettinger's Shared cM Project's average of 238 cM and we see that Lydia's matches are much higher than expected. If it were just the vagaries of DNA, some would be higher and some would be lower, but that is clearly not the case here.

So the answer must be Jewish endogamy. All Jews, being related multiple ways, have much larger matches than the general population.

Inna with her daughter, granddaughter and a visiting Israeli cousin
Inna's results are less striking. She has over 300 cM with only three of the eleven second cousins, the highest being Leonard with 386 cM. She has six more between 258 and 296 cM. Then me at 224 cM and my brother Dan at 215 cM.

This appears to be a much more normal distribution, with less influence from Jewish endogamy.

With that, Inna has between three and six matches of over 20 cM, on eight segments with the second cousin group, including matching segments of over 50 cM.

It follows that one of Lydia and Inna, daughters of brothers, has a much greater influence from endogamy than the other. And if I were to tell you that one of them has a non-Jewish mother, hence much less endogamy, you would say that it must be Inna.

You would be wrong. As I was.

Inna's mother is from a normative Ashkenazi Jewish family. FTDNA's MyOrigins calls her 93% Ashkenazi Jewish, typical of our family. There should be lots of endogamy here.

Lydia's MyOrigins shows her to be 45% Ashkenazi Jewish and 46% East Europe non-Jewish, plus some fragments. The normal sort of background endogamy is missing, so I fully expected that Lydia's large matches with us were a result of a close cousin relationship between her Rosenbloom grandmother and her Kaplan grandfather.

If that were indeed the case, Inna's matches would be even larger because she has both the supposed cousin grandparents and the standard, garden-variety Jewish endogamy. But she doesn't. So she doesn't.

Why? Beats me! More important, why does Lydia have these big numbers? What else is going on here? It looks much too large and much too skewed to be "the strange ways of DNA." (Lydia's best match with the cousins is with Kay, whose faher also has no Jewish DNA.)

I cannot wait to see what the Moscow cousins have. One of them is Inna's sister, the other a first cousin to Inna and Lydia. So unless anyone has some suggestions, I expect to revisit this at the end of August.

Housekeeping notes
I'll be speaking on the Hebrew version of
Lessons in Jewish DNA – One Man’s Successes and What He Learned On the Journey
on 19 June at 6:30, for IGS Rishon Lezion, Museum of Rishon Lezion, Ahad Ha’am 2.

Also, my son in Chicago is making his next bar mitzvah the first Sunday in May. If any program directors are looking for something around then, please drop me a note.

Monday, June 12, 2017

My Nephew Avi

My nephew Avi's Family Finder results just came in. Avi's mother - my sister Carol/Devorah - was killed in an auto accident thirty years ago. But she and Judith are identical twins so we have her DNA. Except for the astigmatism and later the glasses, you could not tell them apart.

But Judith wanted to know what the DNA would say so we ordered Family Finder tests for Avi and for one of Judith's sons Eliezer. Eliezer's was delayed in the mail - or in FTDNA's mail room - but should be along in two or three weeks.

These are Avi's matches with his mother's six siblings.
FTDNA accepts him as Judith's son, as expected.

When I looked at the six of us against one another a few months ago, I saw that Amy is not as close to Judith as the rest of us. This shows up in Avi's match with Amy as well, both in the longest segment and in the total.

Avi's match with Judith is 3382 cM.

We have five other Pikholz parent-child comparisons: Aunt Betty and her son, Uncle Bob and his daughter, my fourth cousin Nan and her son and daughter and Maxine from the Nachman Pikholz line and her daughter. Aunt Betty's son, Uncle Bob's daughter and Nan's daughter share 3384 cM with their parent. Maxine and her daughter share 3383 cM and Nan and her son share 3382 cM. All five and Avi have a longest segment of 267 cM.

On Avi's chromosome browser, I see tiny breaks in chromosomes 3 and 8, so I assume that is what is missing from the 3384. In any case, this layman doesn't see anything that implies anything special about the twins.

After I get Avi on GEDmatch and see Eliezer's results, I'll have another look.

Housekeeping notes
I'll be speaking on the Hebrew version of
Lessons in Jewish DNA – One Man’s Successes and What He Learned On the Journey
on 19 June at 6:30, for IGS Rishon Lezion, Museum of Rishon Lezion, Ahad Ha’am 2.