Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Who Is This Samuel?

A few weeks ago, I began a blog about AGAD records with these lines:
A couple of weeks ago, I received a note from Rita, a Skalat Pikholz descendant in the US. She had just seen her mother's 1912 birth record in JRI-Poland, without a link to an actual scan. She wanted to know about getting the actual record.        
With that she opened a door for me which - while not exactly overgrown with shrubbery - was a bit rusty.
Then I went on to discuss AGAD and its records. But Rita's mother's birth record has a story of its own.
I moved the record to just below the headings for convenience. It is in fact the fourth record on the page.

Malka Chana was born to Chaja, the daughter of Leib and Ryszi Pickholz on 13 September 1912. The family has always known her date of birth to be one day earlier, but this sort of thing happens not infrequently. On the far right, the father is named as Szymon Figur. But here is where it gets strange.

This, on the right, is where the father confirms his paternity. 

Szymon (pronounced "Shimon") is the Hebrew equivalent of Simon. That is not a signature. The signature is below and it says "Samuel Pikholz" not "Szymon (or Simon) Figur."

We know that sometimes the signature is of the person himself, which this does not appear to be.

Sometimes the father is not present when the record is made and someone else attests to the father's paternity. In this case, Szymon went to the US before WWI on the Rijndam and his wife and daughter followed only after the war, 
but he sailed on 12 July 1913 from Rotterdam, so that would not explain anything.

His closest relative in his country of origin is his wife Clara (Chaje) in Kozowka.
 The person he is going to in the US is his Bril (brother-in-law) Louis Feier (Feuer).

His birthplace is Kosowke Austria (east Galicia).

So it's definitely the right man on that ship.

And besides, Chaje has only one brother - Shoil - and has no uncles or cousins named Samuel. Nor is there a Samuel in the family of Old Nachman Pikholz, which we have determined with the help of DNA to be closely related. So who can this be?

Did Szymon Figur suddenly adopt his wife's surname as his own? That happened from time to time, but Szymon Figur is never seen as Pikholz anyplace else. And although we say that spelling doesn't count, it's odd that if he took his wife's name, he was signing as "Pikholz" while the same document shows Chaje's parents as "Pickholz."

And although we know that Szymon was known as Sam in the US,
Shimon ben Menahem Mendel and Chaja bat Aryeh Leib
there is no reason to think that he began calling himself Samuel or Sam while still in Europe. That would have been very unusual, as Samuel is not a secular name like Markus or Herman.

In fact, when he went to New York ten months after this birth record, he was clearly going by Simon Figur. No Samuel and no Pikholz.

So we are kind stuck here. My instinct is to say that Szymon Figur signed his name as Samuel Pikholz, but I am far from convinced. I have not opened a new "Samuel Pikholz" in my database. Maybe something will turn up, though I cannot imagine what.

Housekeeping notes
On 1 December at 10 AM Pacific Standard time, I am to be interviewed about my book "ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People" on "A Savory Spotlight" with Sherry McNeal Savory and Tina Sansone. You can hear it in real time at and there are podcast links on the left of that so you can listen later.

My winter speaking tour is coming together slowly but nicely. It will include a presentation at the prestigious New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston on 27 January at 6 PM. My thanks to Jay Sage for setting that up.

Anyone who has access to FORUM - the quarterly of the Federation of Genealogical Societies - can see an excellent review of my book by Julie Cahill Tarr in the Fall 2015 issue (volume 27, issue 3). I hope to get their permission to post it here and elsewhere.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Second Cousins and Siblings

In the course of the lecture that I have been giving about DNA analysis and endogamy, I make the point that it is important to test as many family members as possible and particularly first and second cousins.

I show a slide based on Wiki of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy which shows estimates of shared DNA for various relationships.

I emphasize that second cousins share on average only about 212.5 cM or 3% of their DNA, which means that they do NOT share nearly 97%. Second cousins are people that many of us know and have grown up with. Sometimes we even resemble one another. So by not testing second cousins, we lose alot of information.

Some months ago, Blaine Bettinger did a non-scientific (self-selected) survey of peoples' known relationships and showed that second cousins share about 246 cM on average. That's more like four percent, still not very much.

I was curious to see how endogamous families were different from non-endogamous families. (I am talking about general populations, not cases where close cousins married one another in the last few generations.)

So I did my own mini-non-scientific study. No cherry-picking. (Note, the comparisons below are for segments of five or more cM.)

Here I compare four second cousins to my own results.

The two numbers for each person are number of matching segments and total matching cM.

Sam is on my mother's mother's side. Ruth is on my mother's father's side. My mother's parents are from Belarus/Lithuania, but apparently Ruth's father is a Galizianer, hence the much larger match with her.

Marty, Terry and I are mutual second cousins on the Pikholz side.

We see that Sam, Marty and Terry match me in the general range suggested by ISOGG and Blaine's study. Ruth, as I explained above, has a greater level of matching.

For purposes of comparison, I asked Roberta Estes if she would share some of her second cousin data and she readily agreed.

Roberta was comparing her mother Barbara and two of her mother's first cousins, Donald and Cheryl, to a second cousin named Rex. The closest of her three matches - Donald with 10 segments and 191 cM - is lower than the weakest of my matches - Marty, eleven segments and 223 cM.

So, at least in this bit of anecdotal evidence, my endogamous family has much better matches than Roberta's - which makes it much more difficult to make sense of it all. I added a slide into the newest version of my presentation, in order to make that point.

Roberta's data shows something else. Cheryl is Donald's sister and her matches - both number of segments and total cM - are a third less than her brother's. So we see another demonstration of the importance of testing siblings.

I have made this point before, most dramatically at the end of this. But for sport, I ran another Pikholz second cousin Rhoda (who is also a second cousin of Terry and Marty) against my sisters and me.
Here the number of segments that we match Rhoda is in a small range - 12-15. But Jean's total cM is 217, significantly less that Sarajoy, Judith and me. Amy has only 141 cM. Imagine if we didn't know that Rhoda is a second cousin and we had only Amy's results to compare to her. We would have seen 35-49% less matching DNA.

So please folks, test your second cousins. Test your first cousins. Test your siblings. As many as you can and as many as your budget allows. Oldest first.

And while FTDNA and Ancestry are having sales is a good time.

Housekeeping notes
The Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) has announced a course in Advanced Genetic Genealogy to be held 17-22 July in Pittsburgh. Registration is 2 March and I shall be on tenterhooks until then.

(Last time they let me give an evening presentation about Jewish genealogy. Perhaps they'll let me give one this time on Jewish DNA.)

If that works out and if my speaking proposals for the IAJGS Conference in Seattle are accepted, I'll have two weeks in between - 24 July-5 August - when I'll be in the US and available.

But before all that, I have registered for RootsTech in Salt Lake City (3-6 February) as an exhibitor, with books and genetic genealogy T-shirts and tote bags for sale. Needless to say that my booth will only be open only until mid-afternoon Friday. (The local Extended Stay is about twenty minutes walk from Chabad's synagogue.)

I am also putting together a lecture tour for about ten days before and after RootsTech. Three of the four Sundays are taken, but most of the weekdays are available. Anyone looking for a presentation on genetic genealogy - Jewish societies, non-Jewish societies and groups that are not genealogy-based - please contact me by email. Tell your friends.
Finally, I have an article in the newest issue of the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly. I told much of that story here, a couple of years ago.

Friday, November 13, 2015

DNA Is Good...

... but not usually this good.

I introduced the Baar-Riss family last year.

This writes the conclusion to Chaper Twelve of "ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People."

Sunday, November 8, 2015

My Atttention Turns Again to AGAD

A couple of weeks ago, I received a note from Rita, a Skalat Pikholz descendant in the US. She had just seen her mother's 1912 birth record in JRI-Poland, without a link to an actual scan. She wanted to know about getting the actual record.

With that she opened a door for me which - while not exactly overgrown with shrubbery - was a bit rusty.

Stop me if I have said some of this before.

Back in the early days of the Pikholz Project, Jacob Laor and I ordered searches of the Rozdol, Skalat and Zbarazh records for anything that had to do with Pikholz. These records are held by the AGAD (Archiwum Glowne Akt Dawnych = the Central Archives of Historical Records) in Warsaw. They found quite a few birth records for us but they only reported on the records where the father was the Pikholz. We placed orders several times and eight or ten other people joined in.

Then JRI-Poland added AGAD to their records project and they began indexing records. At first they had an ordering system which worked pretty well. Then about nine years ago, a new director took over at the Polish State Archives and everything stopped - the indexing, the ordering and some of the cordiality. We were left to place our orders on our own, from the existing index.

The first time I tried that, I found the bank charges high and the process a pain in the neck. I realized that the way to do this efficiently was to offer other people the opportunity to join me. It evolved into a system where I placed three or four orders a year and I acquired a large of records for myself, but certainly not all that I wanted. At first those records came on paper, but eventually they went over to scans. The scans were generally better quality than the paper.

In the meantime, the Polish State Archives found themselves with another new director and they began the process of making newer records available. Records are transferred periodically from the Civil Records Office to the archives only after one hundred years after the newest record in that particular book. But they cannot be indexed until after they are microfilmed, fumigated and whatever else archivists do. A significant backlog developed.

AGAD also decided to link the online index to scanned records so the need to order became redundant. But here too, there was a lag. So now there are older records scanned and online, newer records scanned and online, newer records indexed online but not scanned and probably newer records that have not yet been indexed. I was not able to keep up with what records were at what stage.

On top of that, I began linking records to the Pikholz Project website but that was a tedious process and I only did a few of the smaller towns. Not yet the ones from Skalat and Rozdol, for instance.

And of course, I was so heavily into DNA research, blogging and other aspects of genealogy that I had little time for the AGAD records.

When I heard from Rita, I decided I really should start catching up. I started going through the smaller towns, downloading scans in order to prepare them for linking to the Pikholz Project site. (That's more work than you would think.)

Now I still have no idea where AGAD is holding regarding scanning and linking the records that are already indexed or how soon they might have what other records indexed or in preparation for indexing.

In the meantime, I have begun preparing an Excel file with a list of records I want to order. Maybe I'll ask if others are interested.

But in the meantime...
... I found Uncle Selig's death record. Or at least the index reference. This is the brother of my great-great-grandmother, who has played such an important role in my research. He is featured in Chapter Seven of my book "ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People" and in fact the book is dedicated to his memory. He also appears prominently in the presentation I have been giving.

The scan is not linked, but I can order it from AGAD.

My father knew that his grandfather had an Uncle Selig Pikholz and I never understood why he knew that. When we found Uncle Selig alive in 1911, I considered that he may still have been alive during my father's lifetime. But not if he died in 1913. So I still don't know why my father knew of him.

So I'll be working on AGAD records for the next few weeks and if I can get a definitive response about AGAD's plans to upload scans, I'll know how to proceed.

Other things
Tuesday is twenty years for Nana. I wrote about her family here.

I have submitted three proposals for the IAJGS Conference in Seattle this summer, but I will only go if they schedule me for the first half of the week. Meantime, their website seems to have misplaced two of the three proposals.

Melody Amsel Arieli interviewed me about the book.

I am putting together a series of presentations in the US during the winter. Details to follow.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Perfect Y

There are three Pikholz descendants from Skalat who have done Y-DNA tests: Zachy, "Filip" and I. The Y is passed down from father to son. Zachy's Y, which was done for 37 markers, represents his third-great-grandfather Mordecai Pikholz who was born about 1805. "Filip's" is 67 markers and represents his great-great-grandfather Nachman Pikholz who was born about 1795. Mine is also 67 markers and represents my great-great-grandfather, Izak Fischel Pikholz who was probably born around 1815-20. We can only guess about how Nachman, Mordecai and Izak Fischel are related.

The three of us match perfectly at 37 markers and Filip and I match perfectly at 67. These are the first rows on my match charts.

At 67 markers, we have no one else at zero genetic distance or even at a distance of one. There is one match with a genetic distance of two and two more at four.

At 37 markers, we have no one at zero or one, other than our own. There are two at a genetic distance of two and a whole string at three.

Then a few weeks ago, we received a new match.
Alex is a perfect match with the three Pikholz Y-DNA tests. I wrote to him and he turns out to be part of someone's project and she's the one who responds in his name. That means we have a common ancestor and apparently not long ago. Y-DNA stays the same from father to son, but there are occasional mutations - perhaps every six or seven generations. That's the minimum here, since we know who our own people are. FTDNA says that there is a 96.74% chance that he has a common ancestor with Filip and me within six generations. For seven generations, that goes up to 98.16%.
Just to the left of center, we see that Alex did a 111 marker test and also a Family Finder test. (It says "FF.") So we could see how he matches us on Family Finder - and the answer: not at all! At least not at the FTDNA threshhold. We got Alex onto GEDmatch and there too, Alex had very little in common with the Pikholz descendants.

That surprised me until I remembered that Filip and I do not match on Family Finder either. (Zachy has not done Family Finder.) Sometimes that's just the way it is.

Perhaps some day we will have more on Alex' family and more on our own and we can get closer to that common male-line ancestor. Almost certainly before we had surnames.

Housekeeping notes
I had not been planning on attending the IAJGS Conference in Seattle this summer because of the proximity to Tisha beAv. Last week, I had a change of heart and submitted a proposal. There will be two more, both on DNA-related subjects. But I will leave Seattle Wednesday morning, so my participation will depend on having my proposals accepted and being assigned speaking time(s) on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday.

My talks in Jerusalem (Tuesday) and Carmiel (Wednesday) went nicely and family members participated both days. My sons Renanel and Devir were there Wednesday and Devir had two of his friends come with him. It's good when the nineteen year olds are interested.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

More on David Martino

Three weeks ago, I introduced you to Chromosome 3 of David Martino. David has a set of nearly identical matches with my four sisters and me, but not with any close relatives on either side. Not our father's brother and sister, not the second cousins on our father's paternal side and not the first or second cousins on our mother's side.

What we did have are overlapping matches on that segment with a half second cousin who has only one Jewish grandparent, on our father's maternal side, and a with a third cousin once removed on our father's paternal side.

The thing is, the triangulation is crazy. Amy and Jean match Ralph and not Fred. Sarajoy, Judith and I match Fred and not Ralph. The five of us are not the group that they seem to be vis-a-vis David. I was surprised that Sarajoy is paired with Judith and me, not with Amy and Jean - her end point is the same as theirs not ours.

The matches for David's maternal grandmother were almost precisely the same, so clearly it's all on his grandmother's side. I concluded with a call for possible explanations, hoping to get more that the usual "If it doesn't make sense it must be IBS and not indicative of real common ancestry." No one ventured a guess, not on the post nor on Facebook.

So today, I want to have a look at the other segment where David matches multiple Pikholz descendants, all over 10 cM. That would be Chromosome 22.

Here we have two of my sisters, our father's brother, our father's first cousin Herb, our second cousin Terry (her father is a first cousin of both Herb and Uncle Bob) and two other Pikholz descendants, Bonnie and Rita. here everyone matches everyone in a fine triangulation, except Terry and Herb who do not match each other. I cannot imagine how that can be and I'd be pleased to see some theories. (Once again, David's maternal grandmother has much the same group of matches.)

Jean and Judith have identical segments. Herb and Rita - an odd combination - have the same starting point.

Our family group are all descended from my great-grandfather Hersch Pikholz, whose parents are indeterminate Pikholz cousins born probably 1815 or so. Rita's Pikholz ancestor is Nachman Pikholz, born about 1795 and Bonnie is almost certainly from Berl Pikholz born about 1789. (We know who Bonnie's great-great-grandfather is - the only tiny uncertainty is whether he is a son of Berl.)

Bonnie has a handful of third cousins who are not represented in this segment and Rita has one second cousin and several fourth cousins who are also not represented here.

What I'm thinking is that since David and his grandmother match descendants of three Pikholz who lived around 1800 all on one 10+ cM segment, it is likely that our most recent common ancestor precedes those three Pikholz. Not necessarily, but highly likely since 1800 is about the point when we know many of the surnames.

That, of course, is the conclusion regarding so many of the folks who show up with a large number of Pikholz DNA matches.

Housekeeping notes
This Tuesday, 27 October, I'll be speaking in Hebrew about Jewish Genetic Genealogy for the Jerusalem branch of the Israel Genealogy Society. The meeting begins at 5:30 at Yad Ben Zvi, Ibn Gevirol 14. I'll be speaking in Hebrew.

The following day I wail be speaking in Carmiel, at Yad LeBanim, at seven o'clock. Also in Hebrew.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A New Report on Leo The Spy

I told the story of Leo the Spy three years ago. Leo Pickholz died in Lugano Switzerland in January 1972. His grave is unmarked.

Earlier today, I saw a post by Randy Seaver which introduced me to the Ancestry database "Reports of Deaths of American Citizens Abroad, 1835-1974." 

I looked up Pickholz and there was one result - Leo the spy.

The report was filed nearly four years after his death. In addition to information about Leo himself and his death, we also have current addresses for his sister in Liege (who died in 1981) and his brother in Paris, whose death date is unknown. There is a reference to  an additional woman in France who is not known to me.

The database is 1835-1974 and the death is from 1972 but recorded in 1975. So the limit of the database appears based on the date of death, not the date of reporting.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Extra Scharf

The short-lived marriage of Basie Rachel Pikholz and Samson Scharf is one we have known about for years. It was short-lived because Basie Rachel died 6 August 1882 at age 29, of stomache cancer (magenkrebs).
Basie's death is the sixth record on this page.

She had given birth to two sons in Zbarazh, Peretz in 1878, named after her father who had died in 1873 and Lazar who died in January 1882, four and a half months before his second birthday.  On Lazar's birth record, his mother is incorrecty recorded as "Basie Lea."
We have these three records, but it's easier just to show the index.

By 1885, Samson is having the first of four recorded children with his second wife, Gittel Kornweitz. (There may be one more in 1883, but Samson's name does not appear on that record.)

Peretz married in nearby Skalat - where his mother had almost certainly been born and where Samson and Gittel lived - and after the birth of his first child, went to the United States where his subsequent children were born.

I have been in touch with a granddaughter of Peretz almost since the start of the Pikholz Project and she knew that there had been a younger brother who had died in childhood. So the structure of this particular family was clear. Two sons, one of whom grew to adulthood.

Until last Wednesday.

When I received the following email from David Zelikvoski here in Israel. This was not a name I recognized.
my name is David Zelikovski, a descendant of the Scharf family on my mother's side. Recently I've taken a DNA test at FTDNA, and was found to have a relatively big shared longest block of 43 CM (total of 108 CM) with [redacted] Scharf a descendant of Samson Scharf and Bessie Pickholtz. My branch of the Scharf family is from a village between Zlochov and Brody, not very far from Zbaraze, which leads me to believe that Samson Scharf is probably related to my Scharf ancestry. Unfortunately, I was not able to prove that.

Anyway, by random search for data on other parts of my family, originating from Moravia, I've found this piece of information that might interest you (assuming you don't already have it). It is a marriage registry between Ester Scharf, daughter of Samson and Burche Scharf and Isak Keller. The marriage took place in Kyjov, Moravia in 11/1915 (emphasis in the original)
The Scharf he matches is a participant in our DNA project and is a great-grandson of Peretz.

As we can see from the partial certificate above, Ester's mother is Basche, not Burche, so this appears to be a sister an older sister of Peretz. (Married in 1915 at age 39, would mean she was born about 1876.) My immediate suspicion was that this was a late recording of an earlier Jewish marriage, perhaps with children born in Galicia.

As David continued looking at the WWI refugee records for Kyjov Moravia, he saw that this couple had a daughter Sarah, born in 1915.

who died two years later,

a few weeks after an older sister Berthe, who must have been born in Zbarazh.

So it looks like Peretz had a sister that lived at least until WWI and had at least two children. So why didn't he ever mention her?

Meantime, David went back to JRI-Poland (I love it when someone else does my work for me!)  and found two birth records that we had not noticed before. This...

Freude Jente was born near Zbarazh in 1904. For some reason, the record names Ester's father but not her mother. I have not figured out the long note on the bottom right, but it includes the date of Ester's 1915 marriage, so at least part of has to do with the "legitimacy" of the child.

And this...

The child here is Basie Rachel, born 10 October 1901 and here Ester's mother is identified as "Basi Rachli." That removes any remaining doubt that we are talking about the same family.

So Ester, the previously unknown older sister, and her husband Isak Keller had four daughters. Or maybe three. I suspect that Berthe who died at fifteen in February 1917 is the same person as Basie Rachel who was born in October 1901. (David agrees with me on that point.) But in the meantime, I'll keep them separate.

Now we have to find out what happened to Ester, Isak and at least Freude Jente.

And we still don't know why Peretz (who died in 1963) never mentioned her.

Housekeeping notes
I am speaking next week (in Hebrew) on Jewish Genetic Genealogy, based largely on my book ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People. (NOTE: The Israeli discount expires at the end of October!) One talk is for the Israel Genealogical Society's Jerusalem branch on Tuesday 27 October. The other is the next day in Carmiel.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

David Martino's Chromosome 3

May G-d avenge their blood.
For some additional perspective, see here.

And more has happened since.
There will be an announcement on my Facebook page Wednesday morning.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

I received an email last week from a man named David Martino. He began as so many others do:
I am writing because I match with three of your kits on gedmatch: ...

I wanted to compare family names and see if we can find the connection.  I also have multiple kits on there.  I wonder if any of your kits connects with multiple of mine.  That could help us narrow down the connection.
Two of my sisters are his closest matches beyond a couple of known famiIy members.

I replied as I do to other inquiries of this sort, that I have some eighty kits and that proper analysis requires looking not only at the closest matches. And that you cannot analyze these matches in the aggregate, but it is necessary to look at the segments on individual chromosomes.

So David gets right to work and came back to me with GEDmatch results which included nearly congruent matches with my four sisters and me.

Amy and Jean match precisely. Sarajoy ends at the same point as they do. Judith and I also match perfectly, starting and ending slightly before the others. Normally, I would just look at that and say that this represents a single match with one of our parents that came down to us with some variation. The task would be to see how we share matching segments with David and our other family members. Are there relevant matches with my father's brother and sister? With our second cousins on the Pikholz side? With the first or second cousins on our mother's side?

Turns out it isn't so simple. First of all, David has only two additional chromosomes with matches of 20 or more cM (represented by yellow bars) or 10-20 cM (represented by green bars). There is a "yellow" match on chromosome 17 with only my sisters and a handful of "green" matches with two of my sisters and some other relatives on chromosome 22. I'll look at chromosome 22 separately, but for now the curiosity in chromosome 3. Our group of five are joined there by two other family members, both on our father's side but not known ro be related to one another.

Fred is the grandson of our grandmother's half sister. Our great-aunt is Fred's only grandparent with Jewish DNA. Our grandmothers' common ancestry is through their father who is a Rosenzweig from Trencin County in western Slovakia.

Ralph's great-great-grandmother is a Pikholz, the sister of our great-grandfather Hersch Pikholz, who is from Skalat in east Galicia.

My immediate reaction was that one of Fred and Ralph matches David together with us and the other matches David via his other parent.

The way to examine this further is by triangulation. Let's revisit the definition of triangulation, according to Kitty Cooper.
If I match A and B on the same segment why is that not enough to prove they match each other and we have a common ancestor?
The reason the ancestor is not proven is that you have two strands of DNA on each chromosome (remember there are 23 pairs of chromosomes) and the testing mechanism cannot differentiate between the two of them. So A could match the piece from your mother and B could match the piece from your father or one of them could even be a false match to a mix of alleles from both parents (see my post on IBC for more on that concept)
The way to prove the common ancestor is to see if A and B match each other in the same place that they match you. This is what we call triangulation. [Emphasis is Kitty's.]
So I triangulated everyone. Amy and Jean match Ralph and not Fred. Sarajoy, Judith and I match Fred and not Ralph. The five of us are not the group that they seem to be vis-a-vis David. I was surprised that Sarajoy is paired with Judith and me, not with Amy and Jean - her end point is the same as theirs not ours.

Just for fun, I ran the GEDmatch "Are your parents related?" function on all five of us. For four of us, the answer on chromosome 3 is negative. Here is the result for Sarajoy.

So somehow or other, Ralph, Amy and Jean match David via one of his parents, while Fred, Sarajoy, Judith and I match David via his other parent. But that cannot be right because it would require David's parents to match on that segment using the "Are your parents related?" tool. Which they do not. In fact, David's father has no known Jewish DNA.

David is in the process of convincing family members to test and as of now, he has test results from his maternal grandmother and the sister of his late maternal grandfather.

Here are his grandmother's matches on Chromosome 3:

Looks familiar, doesn't it! Down to the end point that Sarajoy shares with Amy and Jean.

The grandmother also comes up negative on the "Are your parents related?" tool.

Perhaps some of the experts have some ideas on all of this. I expect that some of them will explain that the start and end points are fuzzy and that some of these 10+ cM segments are likely Identical By State (or By Chance) and not "real" matches. This looks like a circular argument to me, but that's me.

In the meantime, David is doing some homework on Chromosome 22 and perhaps we can look at that next week.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pamela Weisberger - חבל דאבדין ולא משתכחין

The Aramaic phrase in the title is from the Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, page 111a. Rashi explains that it means that it is a tragic loss when a great person dies and there is no one to replace him.

All the talk in the world of Jewish genealogy today is of the passing Friday of Pamela Weisberger. We say that the cemeteries are full of people whom we once thought couldn't be replaced. Pamela is probably as close to such a person as anyone most of us will ever know.

Barely thirty days ago in Los Angeles
There is no need for me to weigh in on the acute loss to her husband Ken and to her three children. Nor is there any need for me to speak to Pamela's many job descriptions and accomplishments in the world of genealogy.

I also need not speak about what the so-premature death of a friend and colleague does to all of us in our sixties who think we have all the time in the world. Especially so close on the heels of the high holidays.

But I shall say a few things about my own relationship with Pamela.

Mea Shearim
Our first contact was maybe fifteen years ago. She sent me a photograph of a building in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem which she said that some relative of hers had donated to a synagogue or a yeshiva seventy or eighty years earlier. There were two signs attesting to this in the photograph. She wanted me to find the building and make some general inquiries about the family.

I found the building easily enough, in a prominent place on Mea Shearim Street itself. One of the signs was still there. (It isn't any more and no one seems to know where it is.) The building was being used as a yeshiva and there was also a store of some sort using part of the ground floor. I made some inquiries and passed them on.

Eventually, Pamela made contact with these Krishevsky and Eisner relatives and on two or three occasions I went with her to visit them. I was there to translate. Some of them understood the connection, others didn't really. They were all very pleasant visits. Pamela - classy that she always was - would change into a long skirt, shawl and hat, so as not to make anyone uncomfortable.

We were going to go to see them just before the Conference here in Jerusalem in July. We had it pretty much set up, but we had some miscommunication (strictly my fault!) and it didn't happen. We figured it would keep until next time.

I don't know if there is anyone in Pamela's family who will tell the Mea Shearim relatives. I called one of them. She will tell the others. She asked for Pamela's Jewish name and her father's. They will light a candle for her soul. I said I'd try to find out. They don't really know her, but she cared about them and they reciprocated.

Gesher Galicia
I was not a joiner back then, but Pamela decided I should be a member of Gesher Galicia. I  am not sure who else was involved in the decision but one day Pamela informed me that I (a non-member) had been co-opted to the Gesher Galicia Steering Committee. And what size T-shirt did I want.

When Gesher Galicia was incorporated in 2009, I served as Secretary and as such was a member of the Board, with Pamela as President.

Gesher Galicia had become Pamela's show and most of us were happy to be role players. It worked well, but now it will all be very different. Not just a change in titles.

We had some common research interests - mostly in Skalat and nearby Grzmaylow, but also apparently in our Hungarian families. Every couple of months, Pamela would feed me some Pikholz reference that she'd run across while doing something else. We were friends that way.

On her first visit to Israel, I took her to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron and we visited the Hevron cemetery together.

In the "Acknowledgements" section of my recently published book "ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People" under the heading "Encouragement," the second item is
I spoke of my plans for a DNA testing project to Pamela Weisberger while she was visiting Israel in 2012. She encouraged me to submit a presentation for [the IAJGS Conference planned for the following summer in] Boston. I did and it was well-received, though even when I presented my talk, I had very few results to report. From there it has been a runaway train.
Pamela and her daughter Lily appear in Chapters Eleven and Eighteen, where I looked at some people who have many DNA matches with Pikholz descendants. We surely have multiple common ancestors - probably within the last three hundred years.

Pamela welcomed my suggestion to speak to JGSLA in August despite the fact that they had  already done an August program, and was instrumental in setting up a Phoenix talk the next day. She posted about it on Facebook here. The photo at the top of this page is from that post. She was always classy.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Another Option for GEDmatch's Lazarus Tool

I have written about the Lazarus tool on GEDmatch as have Blaine Bettinger and others. In fact, there is a Facebook group dedicated to the subject.

Lazarus is a tool which helps you recreate - in full or in part - the genome of someone who cannot himself be tested. Usually because he is long dead.

Lazarus is one of the "Tier 1" tools  which require a contribution to GEDmatch. (They do very important work and the contribution is definitely warranted, even if all you use are the standard tools.)

The idea behind Lazarus is that you look at the target's descendants and see what segments match other known relatives who are not descendants. For instance, if I have segments that match my father's sister or brother, then those segments must have come to me from my father. For a Lazarus of my father, I would be in what they call Group 1 and my aunt and uncle would be in what they call Group 2. My sisters would also be in Group 1 and they would allow us to recreate additional bits of our father's genome.

Adding other relatives of my father to Group 2 - his first and second cousins, for instance - allows us to enlarge his Lazarus kit even more. Unfortunately we do not always have enough kits of these cousins to give us a significant number of matches with Group 1.

Furthermore, in the case of endogamous families, where people are related fairly closely in mutiple directions, this must be done very carefully. I discuss this issue in detail in Chapters Fifteen and Sixteen of my book "ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People" and I after that I show practical uses of several Lazarus kits.

The form at GEDmatch tells us:
Group two is a list of kit numbers for available remaining relatives of the target Lazarus person we wish to deduce the atDNA. That will be brother/sisters, parents and cousins.
The implication here is that Group 2 must not include descendants of the target. This is stated specifically on Facebook and in other discussion groups.

The reason for this exclusion is that the members of Group 1 carry the DNA of both the target and the target's spouse (the other parent of the descendants). You want to be sure, therefore, that no one in Group 2 might share DNA with the target's spouse, DNA which would be mistakenly attributed to the target's genome.

There is, however, an exception. When the target has children from multiple spouses who are not related to one another.

Let us take as an example our forefather, the Biblical Jacob, who had thirteen children from four women. Leah gave Jacob seven children: Reuven, Shimon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zevulun and Dinah. Jacob had two children - Joseph and Benjamin - with Leah's sister Rachel. Jacob had four additional sons with his two concubines, Bilhah (Dan and Naftali) and Zilpah (Gad and Asher).

For the purposes of this analysis, I shall ignore the fact that Jacob was a first cousin of Leah and Rachel, in addition to other family connections. I shall also ignore the Rabbinic tradition that Bilhah and Zilpah were sisters of Rachel and Leah.
So let's say that Jacob's family has just returned to Egypt after burying him in his family plot in Hevron and Reuven says "Too bad we didn't do a Family Finder test on Dad while he was alive."

Levi, who was always particuarly conscious of his lineage, says "Well, half the DNA of each of us comes from Dad. We should be able to work with that."

Judah wasn't so sure. "We'd have to figure out a way to see what came to each of us from Dad and what came from our Moms. But we would probably need to phase our DNA using some other relatives."

Joseph, the worldly, practical one, said that he heard that GEDmatch had a new tool called Lazarus (whoever he is) which allows recreation of a dead person's genome based on matches between descendants and other known relatives. The descendants go in Group 1 and the other known relatives go in Group 2.

Dan, whose deaf son Hushim had whacked off the head of Jacob's only brother Esau when he misunderstood all the wild gesturing over the ownership of the burial plot, pointed out that they were not likely to enjoy any cooperation from Esau's kids.

"So," Reuven sighed, "We have only ourselves to work with. And we are all candidates for Group 1. It says that right here in the instructions."

"No so," said the learned, analytical Issacher. "Group 2 have to be people who are not related to the other parent of the descendants in Group 1. Generally that means not descendants of Dad. How about if we put the nine children of Leah and Rachel (who are sisters) in Group 1 and the four sons of the concubines in Group 2. Joseph and Benjamin cannot be in Group 2, because Rachel and Leah share DNA that would then be misattributed to Dad."

Dan, Naftali, Gad and Asher hated being reminded that they were the sons of concubines. When they were young, some of the others teased them by calling them "porcupines." But they couldn't argue with Issachar's logic.

"In fact," Issachar pointed out, "the DNA of the four half-brothers would be even better than the DNA of Esau's disgusting sons or even Uncle Esau himself, because the half-brothers are a full 50% from Dad." The porcupines were proud of that designation.

"Let it be written so" said Judah and Joseph in a rare moment of agreement.

Housekeeping notes
My next two speaking appearances are in Hebrew - 27 October at the IGS Jerusalem branch and 28 October in Carmiel. "ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People" will be available for purchase and signing. After those two events, the Israeli price will go up from NIS 120 to NIS 140 (plus shipping from Israel).

Outside Israel, books and genetic genealogy T shirts and tote bags are available at .

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Charles William Brinton Turns Sixty-Seven

Charles William Brinton was born on the twelfth of August 1948. Or maybe the eleventh

But the story begins earlier - or actually later.

Morty's story
Aunt Betty had a baby and Uncle Ken passed out cigars. Not to me - I was eleven years old. Morty was born on the eighteenth of July.

Then a few days later, when they were discharged from the hospital, they learned that his official date of birth was the seventeenth. It was not like Uncle Ken to misreport such a thing, so what was this about?

It was about Daylight Saving Time. (No not "Savings." There are no savings. It's about saving daylight. As though we can actually do that. Like in a piggy bank or a jar.)

Morty was born during the hour that was the eighteenth according to DST but the seventeenth according to Standard Time.

Apparently Pennsylvania recognized that Daylight Saving Time was not a real thing, just an artificial convenience. (Or annoyance, depending on your perspective.) The REAL, LEGAL time was Eastern Standard Time, all year long.

I thought that for years.

The discussion
Five years ago I had some kind of issue with a date of death. The tombstone had one day and the Social Security Death Index had the previous day. I did not have a death cerificate.

There are a dozen or more possible explanations for this kind of thing. Sometimes people confuse the date of burial with the date of death. Perhaps some confusion if the death was in the evening and therefore the next day according to the Jewish calendar. Or just plain errors - the hospital, the family, the stone maker, the Social Security record, who knows. But for some reason this got me thinking - in the abstract, to be sure - about the Daylight Saving Time issue.

I posted the following to the Association of Professional Genealogists discussion group.
This is how it appears in the APG archives
Most of the responses never really addressed the questions, because this appeared to be something that no one had much thought about before. It did solve a problem for one Altoona Pennsylvania genealogist whose conflicting birthdates could now be attributed to her 12:09 AM birth.

At some point in the discussion, the conclusion seemed to be that this was not, in fact, the policy of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania at all, but something that was decided by individual hospitals.

There was still the esoteric question of what is correct for purposes of genealogy. What do we write in our databases and websites? Of course not everything is perfectly standardized. The very fact that we use dates and times in the places the events took place means that a person born in the United States could have an earlier birth date than someone born in Europe a few hours earlier.

Surely the law deals with this when, for instance, a will leaves something to "my eldest grandson." (Does "eldest" always mean "first born?") But other than that, does it ever have any non-trivial "real life" significance?

But until I began thinking about this particular blog post, I hadn't given it another thought.

A few weeks ago, I presented the question to the ultimate authority on citations, Elizabeth Shown Mills. I wrote to her on Morty's official birthday, saying inter alia
I am planning a brief blog on the subject and wanted to mention whatever genealogists consider best practices.
She replied the same day that she had never heard the question raised before.

When it really mattered
That brings us to Charles William Brinton. It mattered to him enough to go to court.

Brinton was born 12:03 AM on the twelfth of August 1948 and so it was recorded on his Delaware birth certificate. On the first of December 1969, he realized this was not a good idea.

For those of us of a certain age - and I include myself - the first of December 1969 was an important day in our lives. It was the day of the first lottery. For the military draft. For service in Vietnam.

Wikipedia "Draft Lottery (1969)" tells us:
The days of the year (including February 29) were represented by the numbers 1 through 366 written on slips of paper. The slips were placed in separate plastic capsules that were mixed in a shoebox and then dumped into a deep glass jar. Capsules were drawn from the jar one at a time.
The first number drawn was 258 (September 14), so all registrants with that birthday were assigned lottery number 1. The second number drawn corresponded to April 24, and so forth. All men of draft age (born 1944 to 1950) who shared a birthdate would be called to serve at once. The first 195 birthdates drawn were later called to serve in the order they were drawn; the last of these was September 24.
The eleventh of August was number 324. Breathe a sigh of relief and get on with your life. The twelfth of August was number 142. Not so much. (My own number was 355.)

Brinton got the Delaware Bureau of Vital Statistics to issue a new birth certificate, to wit his birth was "August 12, 1948 12:03 A.M., D.S.T. August 11, 1948 E.S.T. 11:03 P.M."

Brinton took the Draft Board to court to get an injuncton pending a new birth certificate which would cite only August 11 as his legal birthday. According to the court's opinion, issued February 11, 1971, the facts were not in doubt.
The following factual summary has been stipulated by and between the parties to be true and correct. Plaintiff was originally assigned 1970 Random Sequence No. 142 by the Selective Service System based upon the fact that he had originally reported his date of birth to Local Board No. 5 as August 12, 1948.
Based upon Section 5(a) of the Selective Service Act of 1967, 50 App.U.S.C. § 451 et seq.; Selective Service Regulations §§ 1631.4, 1631.5 and 1631.7 and Local Board Memorandum No. 99 issued by defendant Tarr, plaintiff's liability for induction is governed by his 1970 Random Sequence Number. The 1970 Random Sequence Number for persons subject to induction born on August 12, 1948, is No. 142; the number for persons born on August 11, 1948, is No. 324. Registrants (not otherwise exempt or deferred) assigned No. 142 were liable for induction during 1970, but those assigned No. 324 were not.
Everyone agreed that Brinton had originally acknowledged his birthday as August 12, but now wanted the privileges on having been born on August 11. The draft board argued that this was sufficient, regardless of any subsequent changes in the birth record.

Charles William Brinton received his injunction and was not drafted. Sometime this week - maybe Tuesday, maybe Wednesday - he will celebrate his sixty-seventh birthday. Felicitations from All My Foreparents.

Housekeeping notes
I'm off to the US Tuesday morning. Here is the final(?) list of pesentations I'll be making while I am there.

16 August, 1:30 – JGS of Maryland Hadassah, 3723 Old Court Rd., Suite 205, Baltimore

17 August, 7:30 – JGS of North Jersey YMCA, 1 Pike Drive, Wayne NJ

20 August, 6:30 – Bnai Sholom Congregation, 949 10th Avenue, Huntington West Virginia

23 August, 1:30 – South Suburban Historical and Genealogical Society and Illiana JGS, 3000 West 170th Place, Hazel Crest Illinois

25 August, 7:30 – JGS of Los Angeles, American Jewish University

26 August, 7:00 – Phoenix JGS, Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center,
Arizona Jewish Historical Society, 122 E Culver St, Phoenix

30 August, 2:00 – JGS of Long Island, Mid-Island Y-JCC, 45 Manetto Hill Road, Plainview NY

1 September, 5:30 – JewishGen and the JGS of New York, Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place, New York. Space for this program is limited and people are requested to register by 13 August.

I hope to see many of you along the way.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The DNA of "The Fewest of All Peoples"

I am writing this Saturday night after we read the weekly Torah portion which includes this verse:
  לא מרבכם מכל-העמים חשק ה' בכם ויבחר בכם כי-אתם המעט מכל-העמים
Not because your numbers are greater than any people did the L-rd desire you and choose you; for you are the fewest of all peoples.
Devarim (Deuteromony) 7,7

I'm not sure about "the fewest of all peoples" numerically, but we certainly don't rank anywhere near the largest peoples. And considering the large number of tragic events to strike the Jews throughout the generations, keeping us small seems to be part of a deliberate plan.

Normally, a survival strategy for a population involves large numbers of offspring over generations. From time to time we see these breathless articles about the number of people living today who can count Genghis Khan or Charlemagne among their ancestors. (Yes, conquest too plays a role in spreading your DNA.) This is not at all similar to the statistical observation that all European Jews are descended from Rashi who died just over nine hundred years ago and who had all of three daughters.

Abraham too was blessed with the promise that his descendants would be like the stars in the sky and the sand on the shore (Bereishit - Genesis - 22,17). Other verses make it clear that these promises are analogies to very large numbers, with implications that extend to influence among "the nations."

This is a strategy that anyone can understand. You want to propagate your DNA, you do it through large numbers. Even moreso if it is spread by many nations. So like sand on the shore and stars in the sky, little bits of Abrahamic DNA reach to the far corners of the world. A fine blessing.

So what's this about being the "fewest of peoples?" This seems a less effective strategy for survival, much less propagation.

When introducing the subject of DNA to an unsuspecting audience, we often use this kind of illustration to explain how we inherit DNA from our ancestors.

The first generation, the great-grandparents, are represented by solid colors and these colors decrease on average by half with each subsequest generation. Some of those colors will disappear entirely after a few generations and others will persist longer. But the point is made that the further we get from some arbitrary source, the less of that source remains.

In fact, of course, our great-grandparents are not solid colors. They are composed of hundreds of bits of different colors in a mosaic that represent the Jews of Europe who produced us over the last hundreds of years and more. If we pick an arbitrary starting point twenty generations ago, we should have a million unique ancestors. But there were not a million Jews in Europe five-six hundred years ago, so we must have drawn from most of them multiple times. This is endogamy and I have discussed it here before - and of course many others have as well. Our great-grandparents' tapestries - indeed our own as well - include several instances of most of those colors and many instances of some of them.

But the point I am after is that for Jews who are descended from Jewish lines, those great-grandparents will have very much the same colors. Any two will preserve the DNA of much the same ancestors, as will our grandparents, our parents and ourselves. And as we continue propagating within the tribe, so will our children and our grandchildren. We will be very much like our ancestors of ten and twelve generations ago and in that sense they are preserved to an extent that Genghis Khan and Charlemagne with their tiny scattered bits, can only wish for.

What is success for a population? Is it injecting tiny bits of your group DNA into other populations far and wide - populations who carry some bit of you but do not resemble you or reflect who you are?  Or is it propagation that ensures that twenty generations hence your people will be very much like you?

Note: I do not doubt that you can challenge what I write above using science, statistics or even history. If you do, you have missed my point.

Housekeeping notes
The shipping discount for ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People is valid until Monday 3 August.

I am speaking in Baltimore, Wayne NJ, Huntington WV, Hazel Crest IL, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Plainview Long Island - and probably one or two more.The precise schedule, while not quite final, can be found on the website, where you can also order books, T-shirts and tote bags.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Galicianers From Russia

Another year of mourning the Temple in Jerusalem and the loss of sovereignty that came with it. And another reminder that what we read ten days ago is still relevant.
Have you not done this to yourself, in that you have forsaken Hashem your God as he led you on the way? What business have you on the road to Mizrayyim (=Egypt) to drink the water of the Shihor? And what business have you on the road to Ashshur (=Assyria) to drink the water of the River? Your own wickedness shall correct you and your regression shall reprove you.
Yirmiyahu (=Jeremiah) 2, 17-19
Alliances are temporary and trust in the nations is folly. Always was and always will be. Tempting though it may be to think otherwise.

Yesterday's fast is behind us and this week's blog is a day later than usual.

Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007
Last week, the genealogy community heard about a new database available on, a database of the sort that most of us thought we would never see. The government has been chipping away at the Social Security Death Index for several years now due to some spurious privacy issues, so imagine our surprise to see a Social Security database with more information than before. It doesn't cover everyone that SSDI has, but it includes parents' names in both the data and the search.

Here is the way Ancestry introduces it. (The red emphasis is mine.)
This database picks up where the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) leaves off by providing more details than those included in the SSDI. It includes information filed with the Social Security Administration through the application or claims process, including valuable details such as birth date, birth place, and parents’ names. While you will not find everybody who is listed in the SSDI in this database, data has been extracted for more than 49 million people.
Information you may find includes:
  • applicant's full name
  • SSN
  • date and place of birth
  • citizenship
  • sex
  • father's name
  • mother's maiden name
  • race/ethnic description (optional)
You may also find details on changes made to the applicant's record, including name changes and life or death claims. You may also find some unusual abbreviations or truncated entries for county and other names and punctuation errors in the data. These are in the original; we have not altered the text.
I started with Pikholz, Pickholz and Pickholtz.

Under Pikholz, there are two listings. One man who I knew spelled his name that way in the US. The other is a woman whom we know - the listing is her mother's maiden name. This woman's Social Security document gave her precise birth date which may or may not be correct and a confirmation of a middle name for her mother, which fits oral testimony from a descendant named for her.

Under Pickholz there are twenty-one entries, mostly Pickholz spouses. I know twenty of them, though I must check to see if any of them have information that I don't have already.

The one I have never heard of is Kalman Szapiro, born in Skalat in 1916, died in 2001. His mother is Marian Pickholz. The record also showed that Kalman became Karl in 1959 and that subsequently Szapiro became Schapiro and Shapiro. As usual, I turned to Renee Steinig for her people-finding expertise and she came up with a funeral home in Florida. I wrote to them asking if they would give me contact information for next of kin or at least pass on a letter from me. (An obituary had no family information.)

There are other kinds of follow-up to do, which I'll try to get to in the next week or so.

The Pickholtz entries
I moved on to Pickholtz where there are thirty-two entries. Among those is Max Greenberg about whom I blogged a few weeks ago. This new document could have saved me a lot of work finding him!

Most of the rest I know, but again, I must check for new details.

Another one caught my attention - Sady Francis, the daughter of Max Stern and Esther Pickholtz.

It took some time until I realized that I had first seen this woman last winter and had even blogged about her. Her husband's brother is the husband of my grandfather's cousin. This new document reminded me that I still have work to do on those two couples.

A completely new one is Abraham Izen, the son of Joseph Izen and Sophia Pickholtz, born in 1882 in "Charkoff, Soviet Union." That
would be Kharkov, a large Ukrainian city that was in the news a few months ago as part of
the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. In 1882 it was unambiguously Russia.

Though Kharkov is not near Galicia, we have another Pikholz family there, the three children of Rose Pickholtz and Jack Lipschultz. One of those three, a daughter Sylvia, was supposedly born in 1890. Unfortunately Sylvia';s great-granddaughter dropped off my radar about ten years ago. We know nothing further about this Kharkov family, but age-wise Sophia Pickholtz Izen may well be a sister of Rose Pickholtz Lipschultz. Or not.

Work to do on that. There is no indication on the document where Abraham Izen lived in the US, but his Social Security card begins with "561," so he would have signed up for a Social Security card in California.

The last of the thirty-two was also from Russia, but from a place of greater interest: Nemerow.  Mollie Wilder was born 12 May 1902 in "Nemrov, Soviet Union" to Benjamin Weinstein and Sheva Pickholtz. She died in 2001. Nemerow is in Podolia, south east of Skalat on the road to Odessa. Russia, not Galicia.

We know Nemerow as the birth place of Nellie Rochester (Necha Pickholtz) of Kansas City Missouri and Pomona California. She and her family went to California soon after 1920 but left behind a married daughter whose family remains in Kansas City today. In fact, one of Nellie's great-granddaughters, Joyce, tested for our DNA project. Joyce's matches with the other Pikholz descendants are few and weak. Now we have this "Sheva" as a probable sister to Nellie.

A probable brother Moses was last seen boarding a ship to London and New York.

Again, Renee jump-started my research, finding New York marriage records on Family Search for Abraham (b. 1892) and Samuel (b. 1900) Weinstein, sons of Benjamin Weinstein and Sadie Pickholtz. They are almost certainly be brothers of Mollie.

Among the other bits and pieces that Renee found is an Ancestry tree by Mollie's granddaughter. We have already made preliminary contact. Her father is living and I have already mentioned that I'd like his DNA. If he is a second cousin once removed to Joyce, that should be an easy match.  In the meantime, I have introduced Mollie's granddaughter to Joyce and we'll see how that develops.

Much work to do.

Housekeeping notes
ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People had a nice write up in "Nu, What's Nu" (a weekly genealogy newsletter by Gary Mokotoff of Avotaynu) yesterday and I am looking forward to some proper reviews as well.

A reminder, the pre-release discount expires on 3 August.

I have a few more talks set, both in the US and here at home. The schedule looks like this:
16 August, 1:30 – JGS of Maryland Hadassah, 3723 Old Court Rd., Suite 205, Baltimore
17 August, 7:30 – JGS of North Jersey YMCA, 1 Pike Drive, Wayne NJ
20 August, 6:30 – Bnai Sholom Congregation, 949 10th Avenue, Huntington West Virginia
23 August, 1:30 – South Suburban Historical and Genealogical Society and Illiana JGS, 3000 West 170th Place, Hazel Crest Illinois
25 August, 7:30 – JGS of Los Angeles, American Jewish University
26 August, 7:00 – Phoenix JGS, Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center,
Arizona Jewish Historical Society, 122 E Culver St, Phoenix
30 August, 2:00 – JGS of Long Island, Mid-Island Y-JCC, 45 Manetto Hill Road, Plainview NY
27 October, 6:00 – IGS Jerusalem, Yad Ben Zvi, Ibn Gevirol 14 (Hebrew)
28 October, 7:00 – Carmiel, Yad Labanim, Hativat Yiftah 48. (Hebrew)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Two Very Different Kinds of Endogamy

Two endogamies
The wiki of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) defines endogamy as
the practice of marrying within the same ethnic, cultural, social, religious or tribal group. In endogamous populations everyone will descend from the same small gene pool. People will be related to each other in a recent genealogical timeframe on multiple ancestral pathways and the same ancestors will, therefore, appear in many different places on their pedigree chart. Endogamy can be the result of a conscious decision or cultural pressure to marry within the selected group but also occurs as a result of geographical isolation (for example, in island communities). 
This pretty much fits with what most of us mean when discussing the difficulties of Jewish genetic genealogy, though some might question the term "recent genealogical timeframe." For serious  research, the issue of endogamy is not a problem of recent genealogical time (the last two-three hundred years) but rather the gene pool of European Jews as it existed twenty generations ago. Each person had 220 ancestors twenty generations ago, which would generally be about five to six hundred years back. This number is something north of one million, which is undoubtedly more than the number of European Jews who lived at that time.

This shirt and others
are available at
In this sense, endogamy is not qualitatively different from the pedigree collapse that exists in non-endogamous populations, for they too reach a point when they run out of possible
unique ancestors. The real difference is that our repeated ancestors are more recent and far more numerous. This endogamy has us all related multiple times even though we may not be aware of it at all.

That is also what creates the illusion that people are closer than they actually are. Two people with several small amounts of matching DNA representing distant cousinhood, may appear to be more closely related because the total amount of matching DNA fits a closer relationship.

Let me repeat, the parties to such marriages are related multiple times through distant cousinhood of which they are probably totally unaware.

This, however, is not the endogamy that the average researcher thinks of when the term first comes up. The average Jewish researcher hears the term "married within the tribe" and says "My (great-)great-grandparents married cousins." To be sure, this too is endogamy, but it is of a different type.

Close cousin marriages
I refer here to marriages on the order of first or second cousins, an uncle and a niece or a first or second cousin once removed. Sometimes a bit more distant. These are generally deliberate choices, whether of the bride and groom themselves or more likely their parents.

These relationships can be useful in analyzing genetic test results. For instance, a person born of a marriage of first cousins will have on average 25% of his DNA from each of the great-grandparents that the parents share.
The percentages below 50% are averages.
That is the same percentage (on average) that each parent has from those same great-grandparents. As a result, for the purposes of examining those two great-grandparents, the child can serve as a stand-in for the parents. His DNA would not be diminished by the additional generation.

The Pikholz Project's most extreme known example of what I would call "personal endogamy" is Leonora, whom I have mentioned here before. Leonora's mother Taube left Skalat as the Germans approached in 1941 when she was eighteen, and fled east, ending up in Tajikistan, where her two daughters were born. All four of Taube's grandparents are Pikholz. Her father's parents are first cousins. Her mother's parents' relationship is more complex. I discuss this family in Chapters Six, Thirteen and others, in my book ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People.

There are a number of reasons for a culture of cousin marriages. Sometimes it was as simple as a small Jewish community with little contact with outsiders. Expanding that circle a bit, we have parents contracting marriages for their children with the people they know best - their siblings and close cousins, people they trusted, people whose life expectations and religious customs were like their own.

Related to that, a man (or a widow) matches his youngest son with his eldest granddaughter. The family provides a perfect shelter for the young couple.

Of course there are issues of business and property. Keeping it in the family by marrying within the family is a time-honored tradition. We see it among royal and other upper-class families and it happened among the regular folks as well. Similar to that is what we often see in rabbinic families, the closest thing to Jewish royalty.

We know of many instances in the 1800s where a woman dies leaving a husband with young children and the family assigns him a new wife either from his own family or from the wife's family. Dwojre, the wife of Simon Pikholz, dies in 1861 at age twenty-three leaving two young daughters. Simon then marries her younger sister with whom he has a string of additional children. (I discuss the DNA of this family in Chapter Thirteen.)

Sometimes those second spouses - "replacement spouses," if you will - are already related. My grandfather's first cousin Sara Frankel was in the US and pregnant with her first child when her husband died. The family back in Skalat sent a cousin of hers to marry her - though we have still not figured just how she and the second husband/cousin are related.

I believe that a similar situation occurred among my own Skalat ancestors, as I discuss in Chapter Twelve.

On my mother's side, after my grandmother's brother lost his wife in the 1940s in the US, his widowed sister-in-law married him so that (according to my mother) some strange woman wouldn't spend his money, depriving her niece and nephews of their rightful inheritance. (I learned four years ago that his children had never heard that explanation!)

When Josef Pikholz of Klimkowce lost his first wife, his children were raised by his second wife who was also his niece. This kind of thing happened all the time. It was part of the social safety net of the era.

Yet another phenomenon was explained by a Lithuanian archivist at a talk at one of the IAJGS conferences eight or nine years ago. (I apologize for not remembering her name or the specifics of her talk.) She was addresssing the question why many marriages took place in towns where neither the bride nor the groom lived. Her explanation, this non-Jewish archivist: "Sheva berachos." The seven days of feasting after a wedding. It seems that during this period, the families would round up all the available young people ("young" meaning anywhere from about twelve years of age) from both families and match them up for additional weddings held there on the spot.

And I haven't even mentioned the possibility that cousins from the same gene pool living in the same place may have been attracted to one another, without the intervention of the parents.

All these cousin marriages create an endogamy that is known to everyone at the time and is recorded in some form in the family tradition, though not always correctly. The grandchildren of Rozdolers Berisch Pickholz and his wife Golde Pickholz always knew that their grandparents are cousins and assumed that meant "first cousins." They are wrong. Second cousins is most likely correct, but third is also a possibility.

The difference
Both these types of endogamy contribute to the difficulty of identifying specific ancestors and the path that any segment of DNA may have taken as it traversed the generations.

But they are not the same. The first kind of endogamy, the one that causes pedigree collapse, represents a dispersal of DNA segments among the ancestral lines of any individual or family. My sixth great-grandmother's DNA comes to me from eight, ten, twelve or more directions, each traversing a different set of my ancestors on its way to me. Good luck figuring them out, identifying the ancestors on each path and the relatives that are generated from each specific path.

What I called above "personal endogamy" is quite the opposite. Instead of diffusion, it creates convergence. My great-grandfather's parents were both Pikholz (we don't know exactly how they are related) so he carries something of a double dose of Pikholz DNA. His Pikholz-ness is more intense. And if there were additional Pikholz cousin marriages in his background - as in the case of Leonora's mother - that intensity is magnified. Although that can make it harder to be precise in our genetic analysis, it can make it easier to do a more general genetic analysis.

If an outsider appears to match my great-great-grandparents who were born two hundred years ago and who are closely related, all we need to know is the match to the family. In any event we usually cannot be so precise as to match the individual. Furthermore, this personal endogamy is strong enough that it smothers the older more diffuse endogamy. It can take what was quite impossible and make it manageable. With the right strategy, that can sometimes be enough.

The results of my great-grandfather's Lazarus kit (Chapter Eighteen) show some of that.

Note: Last week I received Avotaynu's Spring issue, which includes an article by my down-the-block neighbor Zev Kalifon, on the subject of endogamy. I had written this blog post earlier and the two seem to fit together nicely. I will suggest that Avotaynu Online might want to run them together.

Housekeeping notes
I can add to my US speaking tour a joint program of South Suburban Historical and Genealogical Society and Illiana Jewish Genealogical Society, 3000 West 170th Place, Hazel Crest Illinois, on 23 August at 1:30.

That is in addition to
16 August, 1:30 – JGS of Maryland Hadassah, 3723 Old Court Rd., Suite 205, Baltimore

17 August, 7:30 – JGS of North Jersey YMCA, 1 Pike Drive, Wayne NJ

25 August, 7:30 – JGS of Los Angeles, American Jewish University

26 August, 7:00 – Phoenix JGS, Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center,
Arizona Jewish Historical Society, 122 E Culver St, Phoenix

30 August, 2:00 – JGS of Long Island, Mid-Island Y-JCC, 45 Manetto Hill Road, Plainview NY

and a couple of others in the works.