Monday, October 10, 2016

Let's See How This Approach Works

Dear Mr. Pikholz, 
I tested my DNA with and I see on GEDmatch that I match twenty-six kits that have your email.
The names in my family are Cohen, Levy, Miller, Friedman, Blumenstein on my father's side and Goldstein, Goldberg, Feingold, Goldsmith and Kuperman on my mother's side.
Can you tell me how we are related? My GEDmatch number is A______.

Dear _______,
I manage about ninety kits and most weeks I hear from people like you who match thirty, forty, fifty and more. Those are generally weak matches with no segment larger than 15 cM. Usually 15 cM isn't much to go on, particularly when we have no surnames in common. (Much of that is on me because I do not have large numbers of surnames on my sides.)
I have begun suggesting that people do the following:
  1. If you are on Family Tree DNA, check the surnames of your matches with me, in the far right column and see if anything matches.
  2. Get on GEDmatch and search your kit using "one-to-many" but change the 7 to 15 or 20. That will eliminate the small matches. (You can always go back and look at those later.) Then sort on the "name" column. All my kits will come up together near the top. The middle part of the name tells you who is from which family, using the codes at .
Then we can talk, if you find anything significant.
For an example of how this can work, look at my blog post "Cousin Debbie" from last May. And note that although this was a very successful inquiry, we still were not able to be specific about the nature of our connection.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Lazarus: The Odd Case of the Son and His Mother

One of the talks I gave at the recent IAJGS Conference in Seattle is "'s Lazarus Tool As It Applies to Two Kinds of Endogamy." This was a first-time presentation and the idea was three-fold:
  • to show some of the things you have to be careful of when creating a Lazarus kit in an endogamous population
  • to show how I used the Lazarus kit of my great-grandfather to further my research
  • to show how two the different kinds of endogamy - structural and personal - blend together to enable analysis that would otherwise be exceedingly difficult if not impossible
For those of you not familiar with the Lazarus tool (about which I have written several times, beginning here), GEDmatch reconstructs a partial genome based on DNA that is shared between that person's descendants and that person's non-descendant relatives. Needless to say, this must be done very carefully to ensure that matching DNA from other ancestral lines are not mistakenly included in the reconstructed kit.

My target here is my great-grandfather Hersch Pickholz, who was born in east Galicia in about 1853 and died in Pittsburgh in 1931. His parents are Isak Fischel Pikholz - whose parents and siblings are unknown - and Rivka Feige Pikholz - whose parents and (at least  some) siblings we know. We have DNA tests for three of Hersch's four surviving grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren.

Hersch Pikholz
My great-grandfather Hersch Pickholz has two sisters and two half sisters (from his mother) who have descendants who have tested for our project, plus one brother whose one identified grandchildren were killed in Europe.

Hersch Pikholz, his tested descendants, two sisters, two half sisters, parents and known grandparents

So this gives us fourteen descendants and nine non-descendant relatives, for a total - after some adjustments - of 1947.2 cM. To this I added the seven great-great-grandchildren of Hersch's mother's three brothers.
The addition of these seven non-descendant relatives, brings Hersh's Lazarus kit to 2558.9 cM. But it's not that simple. There is a Mordecai Pikholz who is undoubtedly related to both Hersch's father Isak Fischel and to Hersch's grandfather Isak Josef, but we have no idea how. Some of his descendants are already in the picture, as you can see in red below.

So Charlie's mother has one grandparent from Isak Josef and one from Mordecai. The same for Judy's father. Leonora's has four Pikholz grandparents, two from each side, and one of those - Cirl - has one parent from each side. But I am OK with this because as far as Hersch is concerned, Charlie, Leonora and Judy are all non-descendant relatives, therefore good for his Lazarus kit.

But as long as I have introduced Mordecai, I figured I may as well include his other three sons, each of whom has one descendant who has tested. Adding these three - Barbara,  Dalia and Lloyd - bring the total of Hersch's kit to 2742.4 cM.

Rivka Feige Pikholz, the mother of Hersch
At some point, while preparing the Lazarus talk, I realized that I already had enough information in hand to do a nice Lazarus kit for Hersch's mother Rivka Feige. So just for fun, I did. The twenty-three who tested in the chart at the top are all her descendants and the seven in the second chart are all her brothers' descendants. In this case, I decided to omit Barbara, Dalia and Lloyd.

Rivka Feige's test kit was a respectable 2189.5 cM. (Had I included Barbara, Dalia and Lloyd, it would have been 2708.9 cM. This is a large difference, which seemed to me to justify leaving them out.)

I then compared the two kits, Rivka Feige and Hersch, mother and son. Keep in mind that I have not included anyone who is known to be related to Hersch ONLY through his father Isak Fischel, and in fact it is highly unlikely that there is anyone who fits that category, since all these Pikholz are clearly related, closely. Not through some structural Jewish endogamy, but because these close cousins were marrying each other in the current generations.

The match between the Lazarus kits of Rivka Feige and Hersch is 1357.9 cM. That means that fully half of Hersch's Lazarus kit (2742.4 cM) does NOT come from matches to his mother. But we tested no one who is exclusively from his father's family. Even if we grant that Barbara, Dalia and Lloyd might be in that category, they only added less than 200 cM to Hersch's Lazarus kit.

This is the power of endogamy.

Again, let me remind you, dear reader, that this mother-son comparison was not the purpose of the Lazarus presentation. It was something that I looked at "just for fun" much as I looked at Hersch's predicted eye color just for fun. We have no photographs of Hersch Pikholz, even though he lived in Pittsburgh for nearly thirty years. Certainly nothing showing his eye color. But my grandmother kept waiting for a red-head grandchild, because Hersch had a red beard. This is what GEDmatch said about his eye color. Just for fun.
Last week, I mentioned my plans for a trip to the US before RootsTech. I am available for presentations then - in particular the full "'s Lazarus Tool As It Applies to Two Kinds of Endogamy." #PROGRAMCHAIRS

Friday, September 30, 2016


The title of this blog, "Commencement" is more about when I am writing it than about what I have to say. It means "beginning," but as any graduate knows, it's the name of the ceremony that marks the end of some level of formal schooling. It may also mark new beginnings for the individual participants, but each on his own path and each in his own way.

Like the turning of the calendar year.

Traveling and speaking
I have never traveled abroad as much as in the past year. Three trips, nine weeks, twenty-four presentations (plus one more that was snowed out), even two television interviews. Lots of family visits, including with close relatives I hadn't seen in many years.

But enough about last year. Next year is upon us and although some potential speaking venues say "talk to us later," more say "talk to us about 2018, as we are already booked." I cannot think that far ahead.

I am giving one presentation at RootsTech in Salt Lake City, and like last year I'd like to set up a few events before and after. Mostly before, because of the timing. Three dates are nailed down, with a few others under discussion and (ATTENTION PROGRAM CHAIRS!) the schedule looks like this.
22 January (Sunday) - JGS of Maryland
29 January (Sunday) - JGS of Philadelphia
10 February (Friday) - RootsTech
  • The days between Baltimore and Philadelphia are available for the east coast. 
  • The days following Philadelphia are available for most anywhere. 
  • I want to use the days leading up to RootsTech for research in Salt Lake City. 
  • Notable are the Sundays on either end of RootsTech, which are still available.

I am certainly not limiting myself to my basic genetic genealogy presentation "Lessons in Jewish DNA - One Man's Successes and What He Learned on the Journey." That's what is scheduled for Philadelphia and RootsTech, but there will be something new in Baltimore. "’s Lazarus Tool As It Applies to Two Kinds of Endogamy" which I unveiled in Seattle is also a possibility, as are some other topics.

Invitations from non-Jewish groups are most welcome.

Nana's mother's side,
the Bauers and the Sterns
The coming year also includes a trip to Slovakia and Hungary in the spring. My paternal grandmother's father is from Trencin County Slovakia and her mother is from Kunszentmiklos and Kalocsa Hungary and among other things, I expect to find graves for both sets of her grandparents. Also participating in this trip will be my first cousin Linda, my fifth cousin Cyndi and probably another fifth cousin Susan. We are working with Karesz Vandor of Hungarian Roots on some of the arrangements.

As it happens, a few days ago someone who heard me speak in northern Israel last year told me about a friend of hers in Prague who is a Zelinka relative of mine and talking to her should help us with the Slovakian portion of our trip. The one here speaks to me in Hebrew and to the woman in Prague in Czech. I wrote to the Prague cousin in English and she replied in a sort of Hebrew in Latin letters with a Czech "accent." Of course, conversation with Linda and Cyndi is strictly English, though Linda can manage basic Hebrew. Karesz speaks everything.

(The places in red on these maps are where Nana's ancestors lived.)

Nana's father's side, the Rosenzweigs and the Zelinkas
Then there is the IAJGS Conference in Orlando. To tell the truth, I'm not thinking that far ahead yet. And I have submitted proposals for the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference, but they have not yet issued notices of acceptance.

Little Sister
There is a prayer called "Little Sister," written 7-800 years ago, which opens the New Year service - this year, Sunday evening. More precisely, although it is printed in most versions of the service, most Ashkenazic congregations don't say it, while the Sepharadim sing it in unison.

But we all know the takeaway lines.

Seven of the eight verses end with the line "The year will end and with it, its curses." The eighth concludes "Let the year and its blessings begin." Often, we put those two phrases together as a blessing for the New Year.

We exit a year that we all experienced together and enter a year where we each have our own hopes and dreams.

May you and your families be written and sealed in the Book of Life.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Ancestry and Me

In Parts Two and Three of my series on What I did Over the Summer, I mentioned testing my DNA with

While I was in Seattle, I spoke with Crista Cowan about getting access to Aunt Betty's kit and to her son Ed's. Crista did whatever hocus-pocus she does and I was invited to see those two kits. One time. After that, any attempt to look again gave me this, on the right.

That happened both with Aunt Betty's kit and with Ed's.

In the meantime, I had posted a tree on Ancestry, of only my own personal ancestors. With none of the collateral lines that just tend to confuse people. But more importantly with none of the lines of the other Pikholz descendants who have tested. I am not sure what I need to do here or what would just make it more complicated.

So a couple of days ago, I received a notice that my results had come in.
I clicked through and reviewed the settings which determine what information my matches can see. I told them they can show my actual name rather than my Ancestry user name. They don't have a "none of your business" option for birth year, so I chose 1881.

But then I saw a button called "View Another Test" that had not been on the screen previously and that gave me access to Aunt Betty and Ed.

I peeked at the ethnicity, even though I know not to take it seriously. Aunt Betty is 98% "European Jewish" with bits of "Middle East" and "Iberian Peninsula." Mine is 92% "European Jewish" and 4% "Middle East" with bits of Caucasus, Iberian Peninsula and Ireland. Ireland? Really? Maybe that explains why my parents painted the kitchen on Stanton Avenue and the living and dining rooms on Denniston in green.

So on to the matches. I have no "shared ancestor hints" and no "starred matches" - I suppose if I ever have one, I'll find out what it is - and 5134 "4th cousins or closer." When I looked, that was not exactly the case. Aunt Betty and Ed show up first, of course. Then Berek, a known third cousin once removed on my mother's side. (Until about two years ago, we thought his mother and all her family were killed in the Holocaust. In fact we didn't even know the names of his grandparents' five children.)

Those are followed by four people called "Possible range: 3rd - 4th cousins Confidence: Extremely High." 

After that a long list of "Possible range: 4th - 6th cousins" - two of whom with "extremely high" confidence and others just "very high." Ancestry and I clearly have a different understanding of "4th cousins or closer." I don't see 4th-6th" as meeting that criterion.

Most of those matches do not use anything resembling real names. I am used to Family Tree DNA, where most people use their real names.

They offer no information about any of these matches except a few words on their ethnicities, how recently they logged in and whether or not they have trees on ancestry. That last is not always correct - I am a match to Aunt Betty and it says I have no tree - but of course I do.

They have a "send message" button and I wrote to the first dozen or so with a message something like:

I have just received my matches from I have never worked with Ancestry, but I am deeply involved with Family Tree DNA, so I know a thing or two about genetic genealogy.
Ancestry says we are fairly closely related, but give no information other than this contact link.
If you want to talk, you can find me at . I can send you an invitation to my ancestry tree - which in order not to waste your time includes only my ancestors, not collateral lines.
Perhaps I'll hear back from some of them. I then looked for those same people among Aunt Betty's matches. I mean, any of my matches on my father's side are likely to match Aunt Betty. Problem is, after looking through the first dozens of matches for both of us, none of them do. My matches are certainly not all on my mother's side, so I am not sure why it shows up like this.

There is a limit - and it's pretty restricted - to how many of these 4th-6th that I am going to contact, at least at this stage. 

Meantime, I have heard from three other people who see me as a match, people I do not see as my matches, at least not near the beginning. One says I'm a 5th-8th cousin (do people really write to people that obscure?), a second who just says "distant" and a third whom I already know from FTDNA as some kind of fairly close relative on my mother's side.

Maybe I'll get this figured out. Or maybe more important things will get in the way. Perhaps one of my matches will respond and I'll learn something that way.

Housekeeping notes
After several weeks of selling Family Finder kits at the sale price of $69, Family Tree DNA has set the price at $79. Apparently that replaces the regular $99 price, though I have not seen an announcement to that effect.

FTDNA has also been getting results out earlier than planned for the last few weeks. I have some new family results that are not what I expected and I'll be writing about some of them soon.

The incomparable Lara Diamond has completed her trip to her ancestral towns in Ukraine. She should be reporting soon at her blog, Lara's Jewnealogy. It should have much more than she has shown us thus far on Facebook.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Family Tree DNA vs. GEDmatch

The last few test results from Family Tree DNA came in ahead of schedule and at the beginning of this week I received the Family Finder results for a woman I will call B. Her grandmother is Sheva Pikholz Weinstein whose children were born in Nemerow Podolia in the 1890s, into the early 1900s, so I'm guessing Sheva was born about 1870.

I have no idea what Pikholz family she belongs to. She never left Europe, so we have no ready access to a grave which might have her father's name.

The other family we have in Nemerow is Nellie Rochester, who was also born about 1870 and who has six great-grandchildren in Kansas City. One of those - Joyce - tested back in the early days of our project, but had very weak matches with only a small number of Pikholz descendants.

When I found the reference to Sheva and her family last year, it was clear that she was probably Nellie Rochester's sister and that her granddaughter - B - was very likely a second cousin of Joyce's father and his brother.

But it took me until my recent trip, when I spoke in Durham, to get the test done.

B's results showed just over eight thousand matches and I fully expected to find Joyce at the top of the list. Not only did that not happen, but B has 155 matches before the first Pikholz descendant shows up and even that isn't Joyce.

At the right are B's first twenty-four Pikholz matches. She has twenty-six more, all of whom are suggested fifth cousins-remote cousins.

Those in purple are Rozdolers, the reds are descendants of my great-great-grandmother Rivka Feige Pikholz, the browns are other Skalaters and those in black - including Joyce - are mysteries.

The numbers in red include matches on the X chromosome.

My regular readers will recognize the first two as my fourth cousins, the great-grandchildren of Uncle Selig whom I have discussed here many times.

The relationship order as determined by FTDNA remains very much of a mystery. B and Joyce have 90 cM of matches with a longest segment of nearly 27 cM - almost fifty percent longer than any other on this list. Yet Joyce is only B's seventh-ranking Pikholz match. And there are other rankings that do not appear to make a lot of sense.

Still, at third cousin-fifth cousin, Joyce is not far from what I would have expected and I am still trying to get a couple of her cousins to test on the theory that Joyce herself may be an outlier.

We are used to the fact that there are differences between FTDNA results and GEDmatch results. They tell us that it has to do with differences in the analysis, the rounding, the parsing and other catch-all terms that obscure more than they enlighten.

We live with that. But sometimes the pot boils over. This is one of those times.

In the chart above, I recorded the predicted relationships, total centiMorgans and longest segments for the first twenty-four matches both for FTDNA and for GEDmatch and added a "ranking" column for each. At the far right, I added a column showing the difference in ranking between GEDmatch and FTDNA for each person.

Anna and David, who are first and second according to FTDNA's reckoning, fall to thirty-fourth and thirty-fifth according to GEDmatch. Seven others have differences in rank of twenty or more. My father's cousin Herb who is thirteenth on the FTDNA list does not appear on GEDmatch at all, nor does Jane.

Someone phoned me this very day to tell me that she had compared several of her family members and her GEDmatch results are nowhere near her FTDNA results. "Which should I use?" she asked me. I know that the companies' algorithms are proprietary, but nonetheless perhaps someone can explain how these two sources - whom we depend on so much - can be so far apart. And indeed "Which should I use?" is relevant for all of us, isn't it?

Housekeeping notes
The first of my two television interviews with "Tracing Your Family Roots" on Channel 10 if Fairfax Virginia is now available here. I dislike watching or listening to myself, so I have no idea if it's any good.

There are also Seattle recordings which I'll post later.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Chromosome Mapping - It's Not So Simple

At the end of last week, I put my toes into the water of chromosome mapping to show which bits of my own DNA came from which of my father's ancestral lines. I looked at family matches with Debbie and Cyndi on the Zelinka line, Fred on a combination of the Rosenzweig and Zelinka lines and Shabtai on Bauer and Stern lines. That was on my grandmother's side. On my grandfather's side, I looked at Bruce, Pinchas and Ben on the Kwoczka side and the Baar and Riss cousins as descendants of my great-great-grandmother from her first husband.

I tried to be conservative, leaving out a number of segments that were small or otherwise suspect and looking for additional matches within the family.

The result was forty-five segments, totaling something over 550 centiMorgans or about one-sixth of the DNA that I received from my father. Not a lot, but a start.

Debbie's segments
Well, it may be a start, but it's a rough one. First there is this:

Erika is one of the Riss cousins, a descendant of my great-great-grandmother Rivka Feige from her first husband. Debbie's segment is part of Erika's segment and yes they triangulate. They are on the same chromosome 11. None of this "maybe on my mother's chromosome 11."

Although I overlooked this when I did the mapping last week, I should not have been surprised. Debbie matches my family in multiple ways and I have begun using her matches in my Power Point presentations to illustrate endogamy.
From one of my Power Point slides, showing Debbie's multiple matches with my families

Right there in point 3, I note that Debbie has matches with Rivka Feige's family, not only with the Zelinkas.

In fact, I discussed that specific segment on chromosome 11 when I introduced Debbie several months ago.

So I misattributed this segment to the Zelinkas when in fact it comes from Rivka Feige.

And what about the third of Debbie's three segments from last week's mapping, the one on chromosome 19? I mentioned that too in the original blog about Debbie's matches, but without showing the chromosome browser. So here it is.

This segment where Debbie and I match has also reached me from Rivka Feige. (Jane is my fourth cousin on that side.) So that's two segments that move from "Zelinka" to "Rivka Feige."

There could be a similar problem with Cyndi's two segments, but we thus far have not identified any effects of endogamy with Cyndi, so I'll leave that alone. For now.

Shabtai, Fred, Bruce
But that's not all. In reviewing last week's mapping, I saw this - a three-chromosome round robin of conflicting matches with Shabtai, Bruce and Fred - each of them supposedly unrelated to the others.

(Shabtai and Bruce have the same Y-haplogroup, but too far from one another to be considered a Y match.)

None of the three pairs triangulates. Not even the pair on chromosome 5 where the end point appears the same for Shabtai and Bruce. So this is not showing us that Bruce and Shabtai have a common ancestor we don't know about. Nor do Bruce and Fred. Or Fred and Shabtai.

(To be precise, they do have matching segments - in fact Bruce and Fred have two - so there is common ancestry between each pair. But not on chromosomes 1, 5 and 15. And not in any of their matches with me.)

For each pair, there are two possible explanations. One might be a match on my mother's side - after all, I have two chromosomes each numbered 1, 5 and 15, one from each of my parents. The other explanation is that catch-all, circular answer that one (or both!) of those matches is IBS, Identical By State, a false match. Although I know better, I think of the IBS answer as a refuge of scoundrels.

So let's see if anyone can be from my mother's side. As I have explained before, six cousins on my mother's side have tested: my first cousins Leonard and Kay, my second cousins on my grandfather's side Ruth and Judy and my second cousins on my grandmother's side Beth and Sam. Each of those pairs are first cousins to one another.

On chromosome 1, Fred matches only my cousin Ruth, but not on the segment where he and Bruce match me. That does not prove that he cannot match me there on my mother's side, but it is something of an indication., especially since he doesn't match the other cousins on my mother's side ANYPLACE.

Bruce's matches on chromosome 1 include Ruth, Judy and Sam, but interestingly not my first cousins - whom he doesn't match at all.
Bruce's matches with Ruth, Judy and Sam and with me, my sisters and family on my father's sides.

There is no triangulation here between Ruth, Judy or Sam with me, nor do those segments triangulate with any of Bruce's other matches on my father's side, so Bruce does not appear to match me here on my mother's side.

So since neither Fred nor Bruce appears to match me on this segment on my mother's side, one of them must be IBS - a false match. I will nominate Fred for IBS since his 7.85 cM segment is smaller than Bruce's 10.49 cM segment. My match on this segment would therefore be on Bruce's Kwoczka side. But there is a large dose of guesswork here.

On chromosome 15, Fred matches no one on my mother's side and Shabtai's matches with Leonard and Sam do not line up with mine, so we are pretty safe in saying that neither is on my mother's side. Fred's segment with me is 14.49 cM and Shabtai's is only 6.06 cM, so Shabtai's is almost certainly the IBS and this segment is on Fred's Rosenzweig or Zelinka side.

Chromosome 5 is a bit more complicated. Shabtai and I have a 35 cM segment and he has segments of just over 5 cM with Leonard and Sam.

Theirs do not triangulate with mine.

With Bruce, there is no triangulation and no matching at all with me. So here too, this is not from my mother's side.

But Bruce's match with me is 12.42 cM - a bit large for IBS. Yet, I haven't much choice. Shabtai's 35 cM segment is certainly not IBS. So I must ignore Bruce's segment and attribute this DNA to Shabtai's Bauer or Stern lines.

Endogamy is hard and the results of this kind of mapping are far from certain. Throwing it all into a machine and cranking out results makes a pretty, multi-colored chart, but I wouldn't try to take it to the bank. Even with tweezers and a microscope it's no simple or certain matter.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Some Basic Chromosome Mapping

Chromosome mapping
Two years ago, I had my first interaction with chromosome mapping, when I sat with Kitty Cooper in Salt Lake City. Kitty had developed a chromosome mapper, in which she could see which segments of her own DNA came from each of her ancestors. I liked this, of course and blogged about it here. The meager results looked like this:

I didn't take this any further even as more family members tested, because I was more interested in the reverse - reconstructing the ancestors. But I knew it was something I should get back to and maybe four months ago, I actually put it on my to-do list.

The graphics aside, the theory behind chromosome mapping is fairly simple. If I have DNA that matches that of the descendants of my great-great-grandmother Rivka Feige from her first husband, then both they and I must have gotten those segments from Rivka Feige. In fact, five such descendants have tested and I match four of them, with a total of seventy-four segments. Fifteen of those segments are five cM or more and four are between 9.65 cM and 17.95 cM. (I am using 5 cM as a minimum because that is the default on the Family Tree DNA chromosome browser.)

Two of those segments are shared by more than one of the cousins.
The orange is Lillian, my father's half second cousin. The others are my half third cousins.
I should be wary of the small segments, of course, and I must be aware that there were marriages between Pikholz family members during that period, so some of those matches may have come to both them and me from someone else.  I am, however fairly confident that the seven largest segments - 7.93 cM and greater - are from Rivka Feige. These.

I am going to do this from scratch, with tweezers, not using Kitty's mapping tool. I'll deal with the graphics later.

My grandmother's father's mother's side
There isn't much to do with my mother's side. I have two first cousins who have tested, plus two second cousins on each of my mother's sides - in both cases, first cousins to one another. So the best I can possibly do is to label my DNA as "Mother's mother's side" and "Mother's father's side." And even that with reservations.

So I went to my paternal grandmother, where I have a bit more to work with.

I have discussed Nana's father's mother's Zelinka side here, not long ago. So let's start with Debbie who is definitely on the Zelinka side, even though we haven't yet figured out the specific relationship. Debbie and I have nineteen matching segments, including 20.78 cM on chromosome 2, 7.32 cM on chromosome 11 and 5.96 cM on chromosome 19. The one on chromosome is beyond all doubt - it's the one I wrote about a few months ago.
Debbie in orange, then Marshall, Lee, Fred and Susan.
To make sure that the smaller segments are not stray bits that came from someplace else, I looked at them vis-a-vis my four second cousins on that side (on the left) and (below) Uncle Bob and Aunt Betty.

Well, we know for sure that Debbie's two smaller matches are not from my mother's side. These look good for Zelinka.

Then I looked at my definite, documented Zelinka fifth cousin, Cindy. I have only two small segments of 7-8 cM with her, plus thirty under 5 cM.

The four second cousins don't match either of them nor does Debbie but Uncle Bob matches both and Aunt Betty matches one.

These are probably Zelinka segments, but I say that with something less than full confidence.

My grandmother's father's father's side
The only cousin on Nana's father's father's Rosenzweig side who is comparable to Cyndi and Debbie is my fifth cousin Miki, but I do not have a match with him according to FTDNA. What I do have is a nice set of matches with my half second cousin Fred. His only Jewish DNA is from his grandmother, Nana's half sister. So my matches with Fred are almost certainly either Rosenzweig or Zelinka.
Fred matches me (above) on only twenty-three segments altogether, ten of them over 5 cM and five of those 9.33-14.49 cM.

Aunt Betty and Uncle Bob (left) match him on eight of the ten. I saw no point in checking Fred's matches with the other second cousins.

Nana's mother side
On Nana's mother's side, all we have to work with besides the second cousins (without Fred) is my father's second cousin Shabtai. Nana's mother's parents are Bauer and Stern and we have no way to differentiate between them. Both sides are from Hungary - the Bauers from Apostag and later Kunszentmiklos and the Sterns from Kalocsa.

I have forty-one matches with Shabtai. Six are between 5.13 cM and 7.65 cM. Six others are more than 15.98 cM, including segments of 47.13 cM (chromosome 4) and 36.16 cM (chromosome 5). I assume that some of these are Bauer and others Stern.

Marshal, Lee and/or Susan match eight of the twelve, but only four of the six large ones. None of them share the 19.53 cM on chromosome 18 or the 17.03 at the right end of chromosome 5. Below on the right, we can see that Aunt Betty and Uncle Bob also have only eight of the segments that I have with Shabtai, demonstrating that my father received some Bauer/Stern DNA that his brother and sister did not.

It appears therefore that I have twelve identifiable segments from Bauer and Stern, perhaps ten from Rosenzweig & Zelinka (matches with Fred) and five unambiguously Zelinka (matches with Debbie and Cyndi). Add to that at least four and perhaps as many as fifteen from Rivka Feige Pikholz.

The Kwoczkas
Then there is the matter of my father's paternal grandmother's Kwoczkas. My great-grandmother had two brothers. One has a grandson - Bruce - who has tested. The other has a great-grandson and a great-great-grandson - Pinchas and Ben, uncle and nephew. I have eighty-four matches with these three, twenty-five over 5 cM.
Of those twenty-five, ten are 10.49 cM or more. The four largest and two others are with Bruce. Three other matches of the top ten are with Pinchas and Ben's is identical with one of those three. The other fifteen are 7.71 cM or less and I think I'll ignore them for now.

Here are the remaining nine. No need to count Ben's which matches Pinchas. But I am going to move this comparison to a GEDmatch browser because there are more people are involved. (FTDNA's chromosome browser can take only five kits at once.)
Click the image to enlarge
So those matches that I have with the descendants of my great-grandmother's brothers are shared pretty liberally and convincingly by other descendants of my great-grandmother.

This is both partial and needs review. Expect to hear more on this in the coming weeks.

"Tip of the Iceberg"
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the inquiry into the possibility that the Skalat Pikholz Y-DNA goes back to Iberia. Our project administrator Rachel Unkefer spoke about the project in Seattle. You can see her presentation "Tip of the Iceberg" here. Very near the end, there is a reference to a red map pin which may be moving soon. That's us.

Baruch Dayan Haemet  ברוך דיין האמת
Miami Herald
My father's first cousin Herb Braun passed away Tuesday at age ninety-seven.

I met him once when I was fourteen and once when I went to see him in Miami three years ago. Regular readers will recognize his name as he was one of the first to test for our project.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Month Abroad: Part Five - Relatives

This is the fifth and final part in my series of blogs on my recent four weeks in the US. Part One (Iberia) is here. Part Two (GRIP) is here. Part Three (Seattle) is here. Part Four (Speaking) is here.

I had a chance to see quite a few relatives on this trip, some of whom I mentioned briefly before. But I'd like to expand on some, so I am summarizing all of them here, together.

In the Chicago area, I stayed at my sisters, though she and her husband were away. I got to see her two boys. One of her girls was in Israel during my trip and we nearly met at the airport in Madrid as she traveled east and I west.

I had a chance to see my brother who has been in Chicago the last few months. (I saw him in the winter as well.) Then I met Elaine, the widow of my first cousin David. She introduced me to her new husband and his son. who are settling in in Chicago where she and David had lived previously.

Shabbat I was with my first-born son, his wife  and four of their boys. The older two were away in yeshiva, but I did get to see one of them the following week in Baltimore.

Binyomin, on the right, was pleased to tell me that for his eighth grade science project, he extracted DNA from a banana.

Shlomo Zalman, on the left, often asks me about my genealogy research - as do the two older boys. In fact, he took the syllabus from the IAJGS conference in Salt Lake City two years ago.

I spent a wonderful week with Aunt Betty and Uncle Ken in Pittsburgh. They are both going strong, though as a concession to turning ninety, Aunt Betty let me open the sofa bed myself. That has never happened before.

Monday evening, we had my second cousin Roz over for supper. She lives not far away and was in my brother's class, but we never really knew each other. (Aunt Betty says she runs into her in Giant Eagle every once in awhile.) Roz did a Family Finder test and MtDNA for me during the recent Mothers' Day sale and I wrote about that two months ago.

When Roz came over, she brought a large hand-drawn chart of her grandfather's Lewinter family, which includes a bit of information that was very important to me. Part of the significance was the cousin who had drawn the chart.

You really must talk to everyone, not just one representative of each family. You can never tell who has the one photograph or the one artifact or the one memory that no one else has. (Such was the case with my father and Uncle Selig.) Same with DNA testing.

My second Shabbat was with my second cousin Alfred in Baltimore. That's on my mother's side. He is the only person who calls me "Yisroel Dovid" as that was the full name of our common great-grandfather. (He has a younger brother with the same name.) He has never agreed to test for my project but when a third cousin of his made contact through his brother Sam's test, he was quite enthusiastic. The only reason I was able to put them together was because when I asked his mother years ago for an inventory of her descendants, she also gave me all she knew about her ancestors. I included them in my database, so when we heard from the third cousin, I was able to identify their common ancestor. Another lesson - when you receive peripheral information, find a place for it.

In the meantime, Alfred's wife did a Family Finder and will probably do an MtDNA later on. So maybe we'll get him on board too. One of six in his family is really not enough.

They live right around the corner from Lara Diamond, so she was over for lunch and the four of us talked genealogy together for about six hours.

Later that afternoon, I went to Pinchas, my third cousin on my father's side and he had his neighbor Beverly, Alfred's sister, as well - together with her daughter. (Pinchas has tested for me, Beverly has not.) Pinchas and Roz are third cousins to each other twice, on the Kwoczka side and on the Zwiebel-Lewinter side.

My Baltimore stop concluded with an overnight visit to Uncle Bob and his wife Ro, who live in nearby Marriotsville. They did not attend my talk because it was a particularly hot day.

Monday morning, I stopped at my second cousin Judy's in Rockville and her first cousin Dick and wife joined us. This is my mother's paternal side. Dick brought pictures, some of which I had never seen.

This one, for instance, of my mother (left) and her older sister Aunt Ethel, whose daughter I would soon be seeing in South Carolina.

Next stop was in Bethesda where I met Jim Bartlett at the home of my wife's cousin Aline. Actually they are both third cousins and fourth cousins.

Aline is from the Belgian part of my wife's family, though she and her mother were both born in France. Aline is one of only two people in that entire family who has any interest in genealogy. She hasn't tested but as her parents are living, she plans to test them.

(Yes, I know that Aline has an MtDNA line up to Shimon's unknown wife, but I asked a cousin two generations further up to do that and we expect her results in a few weeks.)

Monday in Fairfax I saw Alfred's youngest brother Sam - he is the one who did test - both a Family Finder and a Y-37 to my namesake.

As I wrote in Part Four, Thursday after my talk in Charlotte, I drove down to South Carolina to see my first cousin Kay, whom I had not seen in forty-five years. Her daughter Stephanie, son-in-law and two grandchildren were visiting from Maine where he is in the military, so I got to meet them. It was a brief visit, but I am very glad we made the opportunity. So are they. For some reason, no one took pictures.

I was surprised that Kay and Stephanie knew as much as they did about our shared family history. Kay had acquired some documents on her own, something that no one else in my family has ever shown interest in doing. We also discussed the child that our mothers' sister had given up for adoption. My mother had never spoken of this or of the non-Jewish man who wanted to marry my aunt. (It is not clear is those are the same story or not.) In fact, the only reason Kay knew it was that her mother used it to warn her to "behave herself" when she went into the navy. As apparently my aunt had not done.

And she told me something I had never considered in my wildest dreams.

Aunt Ethel and Uncle Kenny (I wrote his story four years ago), who lived in Vandergrift, about an hour from Pittsburgh, had no children for about ten years and then adopted a girl about three years old. Kay and her brother were born after that. So while we were talking, Kay tells me that Donna was the youngest of four children whose Jewish parents from Pittsburgh were killed in an airplane crash. The children were split up. When Aunt Ethel died one of the older children called and Uncle Kenny took the call and before he gave the phone to Donna, wrote down the contact information for the family. Donna wouldn't hear of any of this, threw the paper away and never followed up - even when she was sick and the medical history might have been useful.

I was as close to speechless as I ever get. I knew that Donna's birth name was Sally, as that's how we were introduced the first time we met. (I was about five.) But it never occurred to me that she might be Jewish. I gave Stephanie a paid test kit to send to Donna's son. There will, no doubt, be more to this story.

I already told you about the Nemerow Pikholz descendants in Durham.

Linda's in West Virginia was not only for "catching up with myself." There was work to be done. Some months ago, I decided that I wanted to go next spring to my father's mother's places in Slovakia and Hungary. (Nana herself was born in the US, her brothers and sisters in Budapest.) So I threw out the idea to Linda and put her in charge.

In the meantime, our fifth cousin Cyndi - on the Zelinka side - decided she was going with us and rounded out the foursome with another fifth cousin, Cyndi's third cousin Susan. So Linda and I spent some time discussing what we wanted to do and then we got Cyndi on the phone for  - oh, at least half an hour. We had decided to work with Karesz Vandor, whom I already knew and whom I'd be seeing the next week in Seattle. We needed him not just for the trip itself, but to do some preparatory work to see what family graves were likely to still be there.

We are talking the beginning of next May, starting with a few days in our mutual towns in Trencin County Slovakia. Cyndi wants to photograph and record all the graves in Kotesso, on the theory that we must be related to everyone in the town. I know that Nana's paternal grandparents should be there.

From there we'd go to Budapest then split up. Cyndi and Susan had their other side in Kosice and we had Nana's mother's side in Kunszentmiklos and Kalosca. So now we feel that this is actually going to happen.

Thirty years ago, Aunt Betty bought herself a Commodore computer in order to write up Nana's recipes in book form for the family. It seems that Linda did the same for Aunt Betty's recipes on the occasion of her ninetieth birthday.  (Nobody ever tells me anything!) When I was at Linda's, I saw it and I hope that the Israeli part of the family will get copies in the not-too-distant future.

Oh, and Linda decided to test her DNA. Her father - Uncle Bob - has already tested, so this is mostly for her late mother's side. Her sample is on its way to Houston.

Cincinnati began with an overnight with my wife's maternal second cousin Billy and his wife Rachelle. This whole branch is one that no one would have ever discovered had I not gone after them - and even now, I am more involved with them than my wife is. Rachelle is a Lichtig descendant and my wife's father's aunt and great-aunt both married Lichtig men. Rachelle has a large Lichtig chart that I had seen before, but she is not sure of her own place there.

After my Cincinnati talk, Ed, Jeannie and I (see Part Four) went over to Phyllis and Michael's house. Phyllis' late father and my wife are second cousins. Phyllis and Michael both tested when we visited them last summer and Jeannie sat with Phyllis going over her results in greater detail than I have been able to do. We didn't see much of Michael as he was busy with son Aaron's two young boys. I have been following Aaron's family pretty closely on Facebook so I feel that I know the boys. It isn't mutual. Aaron's wife Alyssa came over later as well.

That left only Rita in Seattle. (Well, there was also Ed's wife's sister-in-law in Seattle, but we are not playing that game.) Rita was one of the original members of the Pikholz Project.
"Halevi" in the top left corner
We had met once before, when she was in Israel seventeen years ago. We have since determined with the help of DNA (see Chapter Five of my book ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People) that Rita's family belongs in the same line as Jacob Laor, descendants of Nachman Pikholz who was born about 1795.

Rita's research has a number of brick walls. One is her cousin Moshe Hersch Pickholtz whose tombstone says he is a Levi. That can only be true if he or one of his ancestors got the name Pikholz from his mother. Rita herself thinks the family made it up, just for show.

Her other, bigger frustration is her grandmother's brother Shoil Pikholz who came to Palestine as an older man, perhaps in the 1920s. In all these years, I have found no sign of him, living or dead. We have also found nothing about his two sons - names and ages unknown - who stayed in Galicia, probably lost in the Holocaust.

Housekeeping notes
This empties out my list of scheduled speaking appearances.

I am thinking about a US trip in perhaps late January and will have to make a decision in the next week of so. It depends, of course, on speaking venues. I am working on a couple of new presentations, so having spoken previously needn't be dispositive. Any programming people who are interested should please contact me soonest.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Month Abroad: Part Four - Speaking

This is the fourth in my series of blogs on my recent four weeks in the US.      Part One (Iberia) is here. Part Two (GRIP) is here. Part Three (Seattle) is here.
The trip to the US was built on two pillars, the genetic genealogy course at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) which I discussed in Part Two and the IAJGS conference in Seattle which I discussed in Part Three. There were two weeks in between, part of which I described at length in Part One.

I gave seven lectures before Seattle - six of them were "Lessons in Jewish DNA - One Man's Successes and What He Learned on the Journey."

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My second night in the US, I spoke at Congregation B’nai Shalom in Buffalo Grove Illinois. The turnout was not large but included a few notable people in the audience. Two were from my school days - one my best friend from second-sixth grade with his wife. We've been in touch the last few years. Another was in my high school class; we didn't have much to do with each other then, but we have had some correspondence the last few years because his uncommon surname is the same as someone in my step-children's family.

Another attendee was Victor Weisskopf who came out from Skokie. He was the first non-Pikholz to join my project at FTDNA, based on numerous matches with us. I mention him in one of my closing slides as someone whose most recent common ancestor with us is almost certainly in the pre-surname period - 1750 or 1720 or 1690.

In Part One, I mentioned the Pikkel descendant who may show that we came to Galicia from Sub-Carpathian Hungary. The man I had been after for a Y-DNA test did not show up ("I know who I am") but his wife and son were there and the son tested in Buffalo Grove. I'm looking forward to his results in another month or so.

I was staying at my sister's and although she was out of town, her older son was in the audience.

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During GRIP, I spoke Wednesday evening. This was obviously a much more knowledgeable audience, though many of the GRIP students have no DNA background at all. (Imagine that!!) We used the main assembly area, as we did two years ago, and it was well received, with good questions afterwards, some book sales and many kind words the next days. I wrote at length about GRIP in Part Two of this series.

The audience included Aunt Betty and Uncle Ken and also my friend Tammy Hepps who has been in Pittsburgh for several years writing the history of Jewish Homestead.

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 The following Sunday, was the fast of the seventeenth day of Tammuz but it takes more than a hot day with no eating or drinking to keep me from a podium. In this case, it was the JGS of Maryland in Baltimore, where I had given my first DNA talk last year. This time their president Lara Diamond had me speak on "Beyond A Reasonable Doubt: What We Know vs. What We Can Prove," which has next to nothing about DNA.

While we were setting up, two women walked in, looking shall we say out of place. "Hi, I'm Wendy" said the younger one. My last blog before leaving home was about Wendy whose mother Carolyn matches thirty of my kits and she was hoping I could help identify Carolyn's grandfather. Wendy is a serious and knowledgeable researcher and they - um - fit right in with the audience.
Wendy and Carolyn - my new DNA cousins
Also in the audience were my second cousin Beverly and her daughter Miriam. For those keeping score, that's at least one documented family member at each venue. The turnout in Baltimore was larger than anywhere on this trip aside from GRIP and the first Seattle presentation. (Good for you, Baltimore.)

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The following evening was the Fairfax Genealogical Society at the JCC of Northern Virginia. (In Part Two, I explained the genesis of this particular meeting.) Almost all of the fifty-odd seats were filled, though there was some expectation of more people from JGS of Greater Washington.

The audience included an old school-days friend from Pittsburgh and my second cousin Sam, Beverly's brother.

I was preceded by a comprehensive survey of the genealogy holdings of the local library.

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I had picked up a rental car when I arrived in Pittsburgh from Chicago and it served me well for nineteen days. By this time, I had had only one semi-long drive, the Friday afternoon from Pittsburgh to Baltimore. (Remember, I am no longer used to American distance driving as all of Israel is not that big.) After Fairfax, the drives were longer; Tuesday afternoon to Rachel and Dan in Charlottesville (See Part One), then Thursday to Charlotte.

The early-evening meeting was sponsored by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and the Levine-Sklut Judaic Library, where I had set to meet a woman named Gay to discuss her matches with my families. It was a small audience, about thirty people, not as well-versed in genealogy as I had expected.

It was also the only venue where I had no family members. My Charlotte third cousin once removed was out of town.

I was to spend the night near Columbia South Carolina (more on that in Part Five) so this was my one night drive. My daughter was concerned about my night driving, citing some memories from when she was young. It was uneventful, even though about half the drive (it seemed longer) was dark back roads.


Sunday I spoke for the Triangle Jewish Genealogical Society in Durham. In fact that was the centerpiece of that whole part of the trip, the reason I went in that direction to begin with. Last summer, I had discovered a new Pikholz branch headed by a woman named Sheva Pikholz Weinstein whose children were born in Nemerow (Podolia) in the 1890s. A granddaughter lives in Durham and I had been trying to communicate with her daughter about the family and of course to get a sample of her DNA. It was my theory that Sheva is a sister of Necha / Nellie Rochester of Kansas City and California. One of Nellie great-granddaughters has tested but her matches are weak and the family is pretty much orphaned within the Pikholz structure.

So when I began putting this trip together, I decided to go to Durham to meet the mother and daughter in person. They came as did a second daughter (and husband) and the mother's DNA is now in the lab in Houston. As far as family information goes, their knowledge is sparse and they could not give me contact information for cousins, but I'm taking this one thing at a time.

The turnout was excellent considering that it's a small group. They say that they never had thirty-seven people before. I added the story of Debbie Long to my presentation as she is the founding president of the local JGS. Debbie, who is a fourth or fifth cousin of mine on the Zelinka side, was not present, but we caught up with each other in Seattle.

The Durham audience was one of the best I have had, with many good questions and much discussion both before and after

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Monday I drove to my cousin Linda in northwest West Virginia. (More on that in Part Five.) 
I was using Waze to get around and it worked very well, though occasionally sent me on more scenic routes than I would have chosen on my own. Such was the case between Durham and West Virginia, as Waze took me up Route 52 through Mt. Airy. But that was obviously meant to be.

Soon after crossing from North Carolina into Virginia, something possessed me to stop at a roadside antique shop. I had never been inside one before. While looking around, something large caught my eye. It virtually called to me and said "buy me." So I did. The manager wrapped the two pieces of porcelain very carefully and I put the basin into my suitcase and the pitcher into my hand luggage. I am happy to report that both arrived home safely and now stand on a small table in the dining room.

Sometimes driving is a chore, but on this entire trip I quite enjoyed it. I never turned on the radio and mostly sang. A lot of it I made up on the fly, both words and music. Hours and hours of singing solo in the car, for the better part of two weeks. Glorious!

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After two days of catching up with myself at Mitch and Linda's house, I made my last significant drive, setting out mid-morning Wednesday to Cincinnati. I decided I could manage without Waze until I got closer and ended up seeing more of Kentucky than I had intended.

My final pre-Seattle lecture was at noon Thursday at the Genealogy and Local History Department of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. This was my smallest turnout and a significant part of the audience was library staff.

Another venue, another genetic genealogy T-shirt
from Gold Medal Ideas
As I was setting up, I was very surprised to see Jeannie McClenahan Cecil, whom I had met a few months earlier in Jerusalem. Jeannie is a definite DNA cousin who had driven down from Spencer Ohio, three and a half hours away.

Also in attendance was my first cousin Ed, Aunt Betty and Uncle Ken's son. He is the one who initiated the contact with the library. So Jeannie and Ed are also DNA cousins and I enjoyed being able to introduce them.

The audience included the Director of the Cincinnati Hebrew Academy and one of his science teachers.

My Southwest flight to Seattle was scheduled to leave Dayton at 8:20 PM with a short stopover at Midway. The incoming flight was late but they turned it around quickly and we made the connection. We, being me and my luggage.

Part Five, the last of this series, is here.