Sunday, July 20, 2014

Some summarizing data on my DNA projects

As we get ready for registration for the GRIPitt course in Practical Genetic Genealogy this
afternoon (Sunday), it seems like a good time to summarize what kind of testing has been done for my family DNA projects. Unless I say otherwise, the test in question is a Family Finder (autosomal) test.

Today will also be the debut of my T-shirts, seen on the right. I have black and yellow, in additioon to the blue.

Thanks to Amy and Larry Kritzman for getting this done on time and Sarajoy for the graphics and some of the design.

My documented family 
First let me mention the close family members who have tested. Some of them are in more than one of my family lines.

Two of my sisters have done tests recently and we don't expect to see results for maybe six weeks. They, of course, are in all the lines that I am in.

My father's sister (aka Aunt Betty) is in all my lines on my father's side. She did both Family Finder and MtDNA. My second cousin Lee is also in all the lines on my father's side, as our grandfahers are brothers and our grandmothers are sisters.I had a few things to say about Lee's excellent DNA soon after his test results came it.

My father's first cousin Herb did both a Family Finder and MtDNA. My father's brother (aka U Bob) ordered a Family Finder test a few days ago, so that covers all but one of the living cousins of my father's generation. The last one is thinking about it.

Terry and Rhoda, daughters of my father's first cousins on the Pikholz side have tested. Rhoda's test is new. This means that of the six children of my great-grandfather Hersch Pickholz who had children, descendants of five have tested.

All those above are descendants of my great-grandparents Hersch Pickholz and Jutte Leah Kwoczka. Jutte Leah had two brothers and Baruch the grandson of one and Pinchas the  great-grandson of the other have also tested. Baruch also did the most basic Y (male line) test.

One other documented cousin on my father's side has tested. That would be Ralph, whose great-great-grandmother Leah was the older sister of Hersch Pickholz. His results are not in yet.

There are also connections on their other sides between Pinchas and Rhoda and between Herb and Ralph. That's endogamy for you - all that marrying within the tribe that makes the DNA very very hard to decipher.

My mother's family
On my mother's side, which I have only begun looking at, four cousins have tested - my first cousin Kay, my second cousin on my grandmother's side, Beth, and two second cousins on my grandfather's side Ruth and Judy. Ruth also did an MtDNA test. We do not yet have results for any of those tests.

Other Pikholz descendants from Skalat
Aside from my personal, documented family, we have eleven Skalaters who have done Family Finder tests. Those include:
  • a pair of third cousins with a Y-37 match to me  
  • two pairs of cousins, apparently part of the same family and also with a Y-37 match to me 
  • a set of two third cousins and a third cousin once removed
  • two individuals - Jane and david, whom we are having trouble connecting to anyone, though they are definitely Pikholz descendants from Skalat
We also have a Pikholz from Skalat who did the most basic Y-12 test, but has declined to do more. We have no one else in his family. the results of his Y-test are consistent with ours, but he only did twelve markers, so we cannot say much else.

Results are in for all of these.

Pikholz descendants from Rozdol
We have eleven Pikholz descendants from Rozdol families who have tested.
  • two second cousins froim a family that we can trace back only to about 1850
  • two third cousins and a second cousin to their parents
  • three descendants of the main Rozdol line - the one that traces back positively to the original Rozdol couple
  • one with a Pikholz maternal line back to his great-grandmother
  • two whose father are Pikholz on both sides. they share one side in common
Ambiguous Pikholz
We have two Pikholz descendants we have no ideaa how to place. I originally thought they were close to one another, that they were traceable to a specific Skalat family and that there would be another Y-37 match. Wrong, wrong and wrong.

Steve Pickholtz is a category of his own. His grandfather was adopted into the same Pikholz family as jane above and the adopting parents included the sister of the mother. Yet Steve also matches enough actual Pikholz descendants that we cannot ignore him.

Other non-Pikholz matches
Although our purpose in doing the DNA testing was to determine relationships withing the Pikholz families, we can hardly ignore someone who is not known to be a pikholz but who matches eighteen or twenty of ours.

We have about two dozen such people, mostly people who came to me. There are no doubt many more that I haven't chased after. Many of these have actually joined our surname project.

I have done chromosome browser analyses for many of these but have not been able to identify anything definitive. Maybe this GRIPitt course will change that. I have discussed a number of these analyses on this blog, over the past six or eight months.

Lines to my great-grandparents
Let me count out my great-grandparents, to see how many baases we have covered in Y and MtDNA tests.

My father's paternal grandparents:
  • I did the Y-37 that leads to Hersch Pickhilz and his father Isak Fischel
  • Herb's MtDNA leads to Jutte Leah Kwoczka and her mother Basie Pollak

My father's maternal grandparents:
  • Moritz Rosenzweig has no male line  descendant
  • Aunt Betty's MtDNA goes through her grandmother Regina bauer to Regina's mother Fani Stern
My mother's paternal grandparents:
  •  We have some people who can test the Gordon line, but no one wants to right now and it is not urgent
  • Ruth's MtDNA goes up through our great-grandmother Anna Kugel's mother Zelda
My mother's maternal grandparents:
  • We have Rosenblooms galore who can test for our great-grandfather Israel David Rosenbloom. No one has agreed to do so. yet.
  • I did the MtDNA for my great-grandmother Etta Bryna.
That's seven out of eight possible and five out of seven done - or in process. Good enough for now.

I don't have much WiFi access right now and there is much to do, so I shall close here. Big two weeks coming up.

While I was writing this, the good folks at GRIPitt accepted my suggegstion to make a brief presentation of the special challenges of Jewish genealogy. Something else to do in the next few days, but something I welcome.

Housekeeping notes
The handouts for my presentation at the IAJGS Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Salt Lake city is now available. The talk is entitled" Beyond a Doubt: What We Know vs. What We Can Prove."

See the handouts at

Sunday, July 13, 2014

It's Never Too Late

Last Thursday, the twelfth of Tammuz, was the eleventh yahrzeit of Professor Beatrice Riss Taft, the daughter of Josef Riss-Pickholz and Franziska (Freida Beila) Gottesman. Beatrice Riss Taft was born in Vienna in 1919 and is buried in Haifa.

Her father, Josef, changed his name from Pickholz to Riss about the time that Beatrice was born. His parents were Breine (sometimes Brane) Riss and Abraham Ahron Riss (1842-1933). (I'm not certain, but they both seem to have been Riss.) We do not know when Breine died, but we assume it was before the family came to Vienna. She must have been fairly young as there are grandaughters named after her in 1888 and 1889.

Josef died in 1938 and is buried in the same grave as his father. Franziska was killed in Auschwitz and her name was inscribed on Josef's tombstone after the war.

Breine and Abraham Ahron had seven children altogether during the period 1860-1882 and from one of the births we learn that Breine's parents are Rifka Pikholz and Gabriel Riss. We know of no other children for Ryfka and Gabriel and we can only guess at Ryfka's parents. (I have no idea!)

The seven children of Abraham Ahron and Breine are:
  • Wilhelm (Gabriel Wolf) ~1860-1925, lived in Vienna. He had two daughters, one killed in the Shoah and one who lived in Bolivia. (We cannot find the four Pikholz graves in Cochabamba).
  •  Rivka (1862-1919) married David Gottleib and had five daughters. Two died in childhood. Two of the other three married but had no children and one had a daughter we know nothing about.
  • Isidore died in 1937 and his wife was killed in the Shoah. We have been in intermittent contact with one child of each of their two sons, one in Germany and one in England.
  • Deborah (b. 1874) was deported from Thereisenstadt. She was married twice and had no children.
  • Moses married the daughter of his brother Wilhelm. They had two children and no grandchildren.
  • Josef had a son Egon and Beatrice. Egon's widow is largely responsible for the work on this branch of the family.
  • Rosche lived in Chicago and San Francisco and had a daughter from each of two husbands. She adopted the three children of the second husband from his first marriage. I believe the youngest daughter is still living, but she has not responded to my attempts at contact.
But our star today is Beatrice, who married her childhood sweetheart, Markus Taft, in 1986 at age 67 in Indianapolis.

The event and their story are commemorated in this article from the Indianapolis News from July 18 1986. My thanks to the Indianapolis Star for their permission to reproduce this article here. (Click on the article to see it larger.)

Housekeeping notes
In case anyone was wondering why I missed the last three weeks, my computer crashed and it took three weeks to recover the data. (Thanks to my wife's brother for the recovery.) I was able to work on my laptop, but I was too discombobulated to blog.

I leave for the US today (Sunday) and will be in Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Salt Lake City, returning home after three weeks. Pittsburgh is the GRIPitt course in Practical Genetic Genealogy and Salt Lake City is the IAJGS Conference on Jewish Genealogy.

I would like to think that I will keep the blog going during the time I am away.

The folks on the Conference Committee advise: 
July 25 - last day to register for IAJGS LIVE! if you want your access code in time to view all LIVE! conference programming as it is presented (whether you register for LIVE! by this date or later you will be able to enjoy 60 of the best conference programs whenever you like and as many times as you like until October 31, 2014). 

Sunday, June 15, 2014


We join all the Jewish People in praying for the safe return of the high school boys
 Ya'akov Naftali ben Rachel Devora
Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim
Eyal ben Iris Teshura

This week we will mark the yahrzeits of Uncle Joe and Aunt Helen - she on Tuesday 19 Sivan, he on Wednesday 20 Sivan.  Fourteen years apart.

Uncle Joe and Aunt Helen are the older brother and sister of my father's parents. They lived in the neighborhood, on Morrowfield Avenue, or as my father used to say, above the Squirrel Hill tunnel. They were married fifty-two years, from Lag BaOmer the week before her seventeenth birthday. Aunt Helen loved saying that she was married when she was sixteen.

There was a big party for their fiftieth anniversary. We, of the younger generation were not invited. I was old enough to think I should have been there.

Uncle Joe was born Izak Josef Pickholz in Zalosce, east Galicia at the end of Pesach 1890, but like all our family's Isak Josefs of that period, was called Josef. His father's parents were Isak Fischel and Rivka Feige,  almost certainly both Pikholz. Rivka Feige's father was probably the "original" Isak Josef who died in 1862 at age seventy-eight.

He went to the US in 1903 with his father. Uncle Max had gone first, then Aunt Becky and Aunt Mary. His mother and the three youngest went about a year later. They landed in Baltimore on a ship called the Cassel and joined the older children in Pittsburgh, passing through countryside which looked remarkably like where they had come from.

When I began asking around a few months ago if anyone had ever seen Uncle Joe laugh, or even smile, Aunt Betty said "He must have." Well yes, he surely must have.

Aunt Helen was born in Budapest in 1896 and named after her mother's eldest sister Ilona Bauer, who had died in 1893 at  age thirty. She had been married to Lipot Weisel and I have no idea if they had children. Aunt Helen's Jewish name was Dobrisch and she hated it, even going so far as to instruct us that if we ever wanted to name a child after her, we should find some other way to do so.

The Rosenzweigs were fairly well off in Europe. My great-grandfather went to the US in 1901 and my great-grandmother and the children went together sixteen months later.

 Aunt Helen pretty much always smiled including here on the far left, probably aged nine.

Aunt Helen and Uncle Joe were blessed with their only child in their twentieth year of marriage. Margie too always smiled.

My younger cousin Linda writes

There are pictures of him [Uncle Joe] smiling (from the 50th anniversary party, at least). I can only remember being at 6315 [Morrowfield Avenue] a couple of times, and they were "festive" occasions. I honestly don't recall anyone being unhappy, but I can't specifically recall looking at Uncle Joe and seeing him laugh. There were always opportunities, though, as Cousin Harry was there, too, and everyone laughed because of him.

That party was apparently not a terribly formal event, as the following pages will show.  (remember, I wasn't invited.) Thanks to Amy and Larry Kritzman for finding me a copy on short notice.

 Uncle Joe was in the wholesale grocery business with his two younger brothers, Uncle Dave and my grandfather Morris. Uncle Dave was a wry and sardonic sort and I'm told that my grandfather - who died when I was nine - was the happy one, so it makes some sense that Uncle Joe, the eldest of the three, would have been the serious one. 

I always knew him as very thin, almost scrawny. But that was not always the case. Before his heart attack, Uncle Joe was significantly heavier, as in this 1941 picture. 

They closed the business when Uncle Joe turned sixty-five.

I asked Cousin Herb - Aunt Mary's son and by far the oldest surviving cousin - how he remembered the brothers. He wrote:

I have the same recall as Betty.  He was a sourpuss.  Now, My uncle Morris a jolly one, like a happy Irishman;

Uncle Dave a gentle sweet person with a backbone to stand up for his convictions. All three melded together so well in the business, but you should have heard the arguments at the weekly Bridge or Pinochle game.
They were card players, the lot of them. Not just bridge and pinocle but also canasta. The women too.

Aunt Helen was a character. During the war she was very active in war bonds and was honored by christening some kind of warship.

Aunt Helen was never bound by what other people thought. She would tell us jokes that she knew our parents would not have approved of ("What's the difference between mashed potatoes and pea soup?")  

She would bring some cooked dish when invited, but would never say in advance. Aunt Betty would say "If you'd tell me, I'd know how to plan the meal." And there would be feigned insults all around.

The one thing which was totally predictable was birthday and Hanukkah presents. It would always be a silver dollar.

Uncle Joe  always - in my day - gave the impression that he was not completely well and my mother was always very solicitous of him. My mother also worried about how he saw us. Once he stayed with us for a couple of days and dinner one evening was left-over turkey. We were not allowed to eat the bones. Uncle Joe might think we were poor.

 Amy suggested that perhaps because Aunt Helen "took up all the air in the room" - and she surely did - Uncle Joe was content to sit quietly and watch.

I supposed he must have smiled and laughed. But no one seems ever to have seen it.

The two couples, they and my grandparents, were close. All the way to the end.
With my grandson Avrohom, the week of his bar mitzvah

Housekeeping notes 
I have positively identified living descendants of Gabriel and Sara Pikholz of Husiatyn. Now I have to get them to talk to me. Not a simple matter. (Wait till they find out I want some DNA!)

My talk at the IAJGS Conference in Salt Lake City is one of those planned for their "LIVE!" program, so it can be seen by people who cannot attend. The panel I am participating in is also planned for "LIVE!" - the panel on Monday and my talk on Wednesday. As of now, I do not see any option to register for a single presentation. The cost for the program is $149 for the full week or $49 per day. They tell me, however, that speakers will receive free copies of their own sessions, which can be shown to family members.

In the last two weeks, six seven eight nine! family members have ordered DNA tests, including second cousins of three of my four sides.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Differently Every Year - Remembering Skalat

The memorial for Skalat
I was not planning on writing about the annual Skalat memorial this year, except perhaps a brief passage at the end. I have written about this previously on this blog - here and here and here. The meeting is important, but not what you would call "interesting." Pretty much the same from year to year.

We met at five o'clock Thursday afternoon, the seventh of Sivan - which outside of Israel is the second day of the Shavuot holiday.

There is a whole row of town monuments along that stretch. Maybe thirty or so. At the other end is Husiatyn, a town near Skalat which I have written about here and specifically about the Zellermayer-Pikholz connections here.  Near that is a monument to Vileika, where many of my mother's Gordons lived in the early and mid 1800s, probably earlier too. There is Pleshchenitsy where my Gordon grandfather's mother, Anna Kugel, came from. And Zbarazh, not far from Skalat, where we had other Pikholz families.

We were about twenty-five or so. Zvika Sarid led us. We lost his mother's brother Mottel Weissman a few months ago, so again we all said kaddish together. We did that last year when Mottel was too ill to attend. Zvika pointed out that there were only four people in attendance who had actually lived in Skalat. The rest were children and grandchildren, plus a few spouses. I wondered about some of the missing. I knew that Tonia Winter was not well, but her daughter always came. And Giza - she is young for a Holocaust survivor. Giza came a few minutes later.

Zvika's daughter Chava took a picture of their mother Yocheved standing next to the monument and I made a comment about the monument's being the same as it was last year. But of course, that is not the point. The point is that while Skalat is frozen in time, Judenrein for seventy-one years, Yocheved is not. She left, made aliyah, married had children and grandchildren. That is what Chava was recording. Her mother growing older.

Some of the topics of discussion at the last few memorials were not mentioned. Nothing about the monuments in Skalat itself or the money to maintain them. No one spoke of plans to go back to visit. Skalat had been planning to make itself a five-hundredth birthday party last August. No one mentioned that either.

Mottel's daughter Chanaleh had written something years ago - perhaps a school project - about the yearly visit of the Rebbe of Husiatyn, who used to spend several weeks in Skalat on his way from his home in Vienna to his father's grave in Husiatyn. This was along the same lines as Tonka Pikholz had written in one of the Skalat memorial books. Tonka herself is buried in Holon and her sister's son and daughter visited her grave, as they always do. Tonka would be a hundred this year.

Zvika read from what Chanaleh had  written, which included something about the Rebbe's friend Yosef Milgrom, on whose property there was a small house in which the Rebbe stayed in Skalat. People came from all around to seek his advice and blessings, including the non-Jews.

Bronia said that no one was left from Yosef Milgrom's family.

So I spoke up. And told this story. Three years ago, I spoke at the IAJGS Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Washington DC, and in the course of my talk mentioned the Husiatyner Rebbe and his visits to Skalat. I spent the following Shabbes in Lakewood NJ, where my son and daughter-in-law and family were spending two weeks at the yeshiva. Someone asked me who I am etc and I said I am a genealogist, so he said that one of the rabbis who was there at the time had just written a book about his family.

I had a look at the book and saw a chapter about the Husiatyner Rebbe. So I went over to the writer, introduced myself and told him that I had just referred to the same subject in my conference talk. Across the table from him, and quite unrelated to him, sat an older woman who said "My husband's uncle Yosef Milgrom, built the hoiuse where the Rebbe used to stay when he was in Skalat."

"Small world" is a cliche, but cliches generally come from some truth. And Bronia was pleased that Yosef Milgrom has living family.

Zvika announced that he wanted to introduce something new for the memorial program. He read from the Hebrew version of the Weisbard memorial book, a personal testimony by Yoel Ben-Porath (Julek  Weinraub), as transmitted in 1995 to Lusia Milch. Zvika wants to "feature" a Skalater each year at the memorial meeting. He already told Zvi Segal that he wants him to prepare something about his father Shammai for next year.

No one wants to be the first to leave. We all hope that everyone will be there next year.

Other cemeteries
I usually use the day in the Tel Aviv area for other cemetery matters.

Gil Mordecai Scharf is a third cousin of my wife's, buried in the military section of the Holon cemetery.

He was a gunner in a tank and was killed during Operation Shelom HaGalil in 1985. He was nearly nineteen.

I went to the Kiryat Shaul cemetery to visit the two Zellermayer graves that I wrote about not long ago. Avraham's grave has his full birth name "Avraham Isak ben Zalman Yehudah." I wasn't sure it would, as his children's graves just have "Avraham." His yahrzeit was the day after my visit.

Also in Kiryat Shaul, I visited the grave of Zvi (Stanislav) Domnivsky. I mentioned him three weeks ago when I discussed the family of my Uncle Jachiel. Stanislav had submitted Pages of Testimony for two of Uncle Jachiel's Tunis grandsons and had defined himself as a relative. I was hoping the gravestone would give me a clue exactly how he was related. But it did not.

From there I went to the Yarkon cemetery to the grave of Stanislav's daughter Lydia.

That did give me some information. It says "My dear mother."

I will have to contact the burial society to see what they can tell me about the son or daughter - who probably has no idea who the Tunis family is.

Housekeeping notes
Occasionally I order records from Polish State Archives other than AGAD, when I need something for myself or for a client.  I made an exception recently when I placed an order with the Przemysl Archives - my sixth time ordering from them.

They are awkward to work with. They require statements explaining how the person placing the order is related to the person in the record, they send poor-quality paper copies by mail rather than scans, they cover up the other records on the page lest someone learn something that hasn't been paid for - and they take a very long time to process the orders even after they have been paid.

But in this case, a family member wanted  ten records on his other side, so I gathered up a few other people and placed an order on 11 September. The records came this week. Finally. One person received the single record he ordered. One got nothing. Another received part of an order. The original fellow who wanted ten got three of the ten, but also a handful of others that he hadn't ordered.

I think I am finished with Przemysl. (As my father would say "Famous last words?")

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Your Mother Went By Salomea?

No, not my mother. Joe's mother. He is where this story kicks off.

Joe's article appeared in the issue of The Galizianer (the quarterly publication of Gesher Galicia) that came out a few days ago. He gave his kind permission to reproduce it here.
The article was originally published in the Winter 2013-2014 issue of L'dor V'dor, the quarterly newsletter of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Maryland and they too have given their permission.

From my side, the story began when the International Tracing Service (ITS) index became fully available at Yad Vashem. My first look was in March 2008 and I found this. (I redacted the address.) 

Josef Nathanson of Baltimore had inquired in 1994 about Yetta Pickholz Schaffer of Lwow, born 1880, which may or may not be a precise year. He also inquired about her son and three daughters. As I have mentioned here on other occasions, east Galician families came to Lwow from all over, so there was no telling if this Yetta was from the Rozdol families or the Skalat families. I had no Yetta or Etta or similar born around that time, so I had no idea who this might be.

I wrote to Mr Nathanson at the address listed on the cards and we had quite a flurry of correspondence over several weeks. I had not yet begun my subscription to and my friend Renee Steinig found the passenger list with the name Salomea. But I still could not identify Yetta, so I could not place the Schaffers into the Pikholz family structure.

Joe had a precise date of birth for his mother, but despite my inquiries, we could not get the record from AGAD.  So there we sat for two years.

In 2010, AGAD received a few more years of records from the Civil Records Office in Warsaw, but there was a lot to be done before they would allow them to be indexed. I paid someone in  Warsaw to do an unofficial search, from which he could give me only extracts.

The search results included two daughters and a son of Yetta and the extract identified the mother as "Jenta Pikholz, c. Salomon Striks i Szejndel Pesel Pikholz." Jenta, not Yetta. And parents we knew. In fact, we had Jenta's 1883 birth record.
Scheindel Pescha's grave - Vienna. Joe's great-grandmother.
Scheindel Pescha was the daughter of David Pikholz and his wife Szerke Kawa. She was born 1846, probably in Rozdol, and died in Vienna in 1925. David and Szerka had four sons that we know of and are in touch with a number of descendants. This is the family I call IF4.
One of at least ten ITS cards for Friedrich
Scheindel Pescha was married to Salomon Strix or Strycks or some similar spelling. It varied from document to document. They had five children before Jenta, apparently four who went by some form of Stryks and Mordecai, who was Pickholz. Mordecai had four sons in Vienna, with the wonderfully Viennese names Siegfried, Friedrich, Ernst and Otto. Their Jewish names: Shelomo, Gabriel, David and Avraham. They died in London, Dachau, Haifa and Buenos Aires and I am in contact with children of Ernst and Otto.

Otto's daughter gave me some bits of information on the Stryks cousins, but I was never able to make contact with them.

Oh, and eventually we found Salomea's birth record. She was born ten days earlier than what the family had "known."

Now if we could only get some DNA out of these folks...

Housekeeping notes
I have an article of my own scheduled for the next issue of The Galizianer.

The practical genetics course I am taking next month at GRIPitt carries with it a discount coupon for Family Tree DNA tests for my project members. Thus far three new signups and at least two working on it. Thank you GRIPitt and FTDNA!

Friday, I visited Hevron with my son Devir and my cousin Ari. We photographed twenty-two graves that were not there on my last visit nearly two years ago. (I really must get back to going more often.)  There is an entirely new section with four graves, next to the section with the old rabbinic graves. You can see my Hevron site here. I should have it fully updated in the next day or two.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Leading into the month of Sivan

  • Wednesday we celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem, forty-seven years ago.

  • Thursday we say the Shelah's prayer for the spiritual and physical welfare of our children and grandchildren.

  • Friday we bring in the month of Sivan. I shall be in Hevron.

Something about each.

The reunification of Jerusalem - 28 Iyyar
During the lifetimes of many of us, we were blessed to see the reunification of Jerusalem. During the nineteen year occupation of the Old City, the Mount of Olives and other significant places of Jewish heritage, the Jordanian Arabs destroyed synagogues, other buildings and grave sites, in addition to preventing Jews from approaching these places. (My apologies for the quality of these photos, particularly the ink that bled through.)

And the Kotel Plaza was not the great open space we recognize from the last forty-five years.  There was work to be done.

The archealogy on the southern end of the Temple Mount didn't appear ex-nihilo either.

There were the places where residents of the Old City has been murdered and buried in mass graves - in what was then and is now "the Jewish Quarter." As though there can be any other quarter.

 I have been using the word "reunification," not "liberation," for as long as we cannot go up to the Temple Mount, neither it nor we are liberated.

Above the Kotel on the right, the Chief Rabbinate says that it is forbidden to tread on the holy ground, even in the areas that clearly should not be forbidden. (We are reminded from time to time why the Law of Unintended Consequences is sometimes a good thing.)

But back then, we could get close enough to take pictures through windows that open onto the Temple Mount itself.

Whenever I took people into the Old City back then, we would stop and see how it had looked before the Six Day War. We could not get a better view than this.

A word about united Jerusalem vs what they write in the papers. We waited Thursday night at a stoplight up near French Hill. On the island waiting for the light to change, there were two hareidi boys, maybe ten years old, with their backpacks, no doubt on the way home from school. On the same island were three Arab men, forty-ish, probably also on their way home. Sharing the same small traffic island. No one thought a thing of it.

I heard a long interview last week with Steven Pressfield on his new book The Lion's Gate, about the Six Day War, with a great deal about the reunification of Jerusalem. Some lucky family member is going to get a copy from me.

I have written here and here about two non-family members who were buried on the Mount of Olives and whose graves were desecrated during the Jordanian occupation.

We also have a family member buried there - but not from that period. My wife's second cousin Sheila (Sarah Fruma) Goldson Weiner, born in Cincinnati, made aliyah with her husband and four children, had a fifth here in Jerusalem and died on Yom Yerushalayim thirty-four years ago. She was forty-one. I have lost count of her grandchildren, but there have been over thirty for some time. (Her husband is from Memphis and is related to a third cousin of mine who, last I knew, lived in Tuscaloosa.)

We pray for our children - 29 Iyyar
Rabbi Yeshayahu HaLevi Horowitz, born 1558 in Prague, served as a rabbi in a number of communities in Europe, eventually returning to Prague. After his wife died in 1620, he made aliyah to Jerusalem, where he wrote his seminal work "Shnei Luhot HaBerit" and he became known as the Shelah, the acronym of his book. This particular work - which was meant as instructions to his children - was published by his son some years after his 1630 death. The Shelah left Jerusalem after he and other community leaders were jailed for ransom, and lived in Zefat befiore moving to Teverya, where he died. He is buried in the same compound as the Rambam.

His prayer, which he instructed should be said on 29 Iyyar, the day before the beginning of Sivan, the month we receive the Torah, can be found (with translation) here.

Rosh Hodesh Sivan
We have three Pikholz yahrzeits on the first of Sivan, all buried here in Israel. Two are in Holon - one from Skalat and one, a Pikholz spouse, from Rozdol and this one on the right who lived in Efrat and is buried in Kefar Etzion.

I discussed Hevron here a couple of years ago, including its capture in the Six Day War by the Chief IDF Chaplain, Rav Shlomo Goren.

For a few years, before we moved to Jerusalem, Devir and I used to go to Hevron for a sunrise minyan every time Rosh Hodesh would fall on a Friday. Then for awhile we went every Rosh Hodesh.

Devir has been after me to go, as we have not been there is quite awhile and we plan to do so this week.

It will give me an opportunity to update my Hevron Cemetery website..

Houskeeping notes
The panel discussion I am participating in at the Conference in Salt Lake City has been moved to Monday at 4:45 PM.

My own talk is at 9 AM Wednesday and I have just learned that I have been assigned a room with a seating capacity of 480. Methinks someone is being optimistic. My good friend Renee Steinig has agreed to introduce me, as she did three years ago in Washington DC.

The Conference website has a link for a live stream of "Over 50 of the best conference programs," but they haven't announce which those would be. I don't know if being assigned a room for 480 people qualifies as "of the best." We'll find out. Registration for this is $149.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Uncle Jachiel Had Three Children

My father did not know much about the family history, but he did pass on two tidbits that no one I
Unsigned undated note, written late 1973 or early 1974
spoke to later had ever heard. He told me that his grandfather Hersch Pickholtz, who died when my father was eight years old, had an uncle Selig Pikholz whom I discussed here about thirteen months ago.

And he told me that his grandfather Hersch Pickholtz had a brother Jachiel, who had three children and that his family "never left Europe."

I have no idea why my father knew of these uncles.

My great-grandfather Hersch Pickholz arrived in Baltimore in 1903 and travelled to Pittsburgh, where he added the "t" to his surname.  His older sister Leah Braun and her family had been in Pittsburgh since the mid-1880s. Another sister Bessie was married to David Lozel Frankel and they too lived in the US with the surname Franzos and later some became Francis. According to the 1910 census, Bessie and her husband arrived in 1890.

Based on my father's information, I recorded the brother Jachiel with a wife and three children, in addition to Hersch and the two sisters. I could only guess where Jachiel fit in age order.

It appeared that the four children were born in Podkamen, where we have no records, and Bessie was sent back to Skalat to be married. We knew that Hersch lived in Zalosce, near Podkamen, and when JRI-Poland received access to Zalosce records (births 1877-1890, deaths 1823-66, 1877-97) we saw that Jachiel lived there as well. We see no births for Leah's three children, so they may have lived in Podkamen.

We located a death record for eighteen year old Wolf Pickholz, who died 6 April 1892, identified as the son of Jachiel and Sime. So Wolf would have been born 1873-74. I assume that he is one of the three children of Jachiel whom my father had mentioned, though it is possible that because he died young, he was not included in this count.

I saw no other births or deaths for children of Jachiel, so I assumed that the other children were either born before 1877 or elsewhere - Podkamen, for instance.

JRI-Poland also had a death record for Sime, 6 December 1894, at age forty-six. If she was born in 1848, Jachiel was likely the eldest sibling.

I moved the record next to the headings for clarity. Columns 3 & 4 are missing in the archives' scan.

In column 5, you can see her name on the first two lines. The last four lines tell us that she is the daughter of Aron and Ester Schapira of Skalat. The third line begins with "Ehegat" which Vienna-born Henry Wellisch tells me is an abbreviation for Ehegattin which means "married wife" and that is followed by the name of her husband Jachiel Pickholz. If Jachiel had predeceased her, we would expect the record to say "wdowa" (widow in Polish) or the German equivalent.

On the other hand, there are three choices in column 8 - single, married and widowed - and it's the third box which is checked. So we have conflicting information on this record, but it is more likely that she was a widow.

Then about sixteen months ago, I received an email from Pamela Weisberger asking me this:
Do you know this Pickholz from Zalosce?  Card File of Landowners 1880 in
Lviv archive:  #168/1/2081
Zalosce Card#  29 House # 31 Pickholz Jachil heirs Residential Parcel #95
This card was discovered by Natalie Dunai. I do not have a copy of the card itself, just the transcription.

The card refers to house 31, which we see is where Sime died. Jachiel's son Wolf had also died in house 31. The property was owned in 1880 by Jachiel's heirs, so he must have been dead by then but perhaps not long as the owners were not named.

In any event, it seems clear that Jachiel died before 1880 and the fact that his sister Bessie had a son named Jachiel in 1878 probably means he was dead by then. So he seems to have been in his thirties.

There was nothing else in the Zalosce records telling us anything about Jachiel's other children.

But something else had turned up between finding Sime's death record and Natalie's discovery.

I moved the record next to the headings for convenience.

On 16 December 1899, Jechiel Jakob was born in Loszniow to Arja Meier Tunis and his wife Sara, the daughter of Jechiel and Syma Pikholz of Zalosce. Loszniow is near Trembowla.

Child number two, Sara.

Jechiel Jakob died in 1900 and a daughter Syma Ester who was born in January 1901 died a few months before her second birthday. Another son Moses was born in February 1907 and died later that month.

Two other sons lived to adulthood. Chaim Benzion was born 27 October 1902 and Layzor Izak was born 2 May 1904. My grandfather's first cousins.

The marriage of Arie Meier Tunis and Sara Pikholz was recorded in Trembowla 25 June 1918. It  gives Sara's date of birth as 15 July 1876.

I found Pages of Testimony at Yad Vashem for both sons. One set was submitted by Stanislav Domnovsky of Tel Aviv in 1957. He wrote that he was a "relative." Stanislav died in 1976 and is buried in Kiryat Shaul. I have not followed up who this might be, but he is on my cemetery list for next month.

Stanislav calls Layzor Izak "Leopold" and he was a lawyer, married to Ada Weinberg. Chaim Benzion he calls "Chaim Karol." He was a physician and was killed in Lwow. Stanislav says his wife is Anna Kahane and that they had a four year old son George.

I found this in early 2005. That matters.

At the same time, I found three Pages submitted by Anna Weinfeld of Rehovoth in 1999. One Page was for "Leopold (Layzor)," an attorney, married to Ada Weinber. They had two children, whose names are not mentioned. Children of my father's second cousin. She writes of Leopold "Shot in a group of professionals in Lwow." Her relationship - SISTER-IN-LAW.

Another Page was for "Chaim (Mondek)," a physician with one child. She writes that he served in the Polish army and was taken to the camp Pelashov, near Krakow and that he was "shot to death in the back by a Ukrainian policeman." Her relationship - WIFE!

The third Page was for six year old "Jerzy (Jurek)," born March 1937. This must be Stanislav's George. He was hidden as a Gentile.  She writes further, "He was placed with a Gentile woman and after neighbors told the authorities, he was taken to Skalat  and executed." Six years old. That was July 1943. Relationship - MOTHER!.

I have written before that timing is everything.  Here too. I found these Pages in May 2005. Anna Kahane Tunis Polsiak Weinfeld died in Rehovoth in November 2004.

I should really get to her grave as well.

I spoke with Anna's daughter (from a later marriage) who sent me to a woman named Marta (83 at the time) who knew Leopold and Mondek. She was able to tell me that Leopold had a son living in Wroclaw. I had someone in Poland check and we learned that my third cousin Stanislaw Tunis died in Wroclaw the previous year. I don't yet know if he had children, but I have someone on it.

Anna also submitted a Page of Testimony for Arie Meier Tunis. I assume that Sara died before the Holocaust.

Uncle Jachiel had three children - Wolf born 1873-4, Sara born July 1876. There is another one out there somewhere. Probably born in the early 1870s. My grandfather's first cousin.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Dear Cousin Ethel, I've been working on what you wanted.

11th of Iyyar 5774             

Dear Cousin Ethel,

I am still waiting for confirmation, but I am pretty sure I have done at least some of what you asked. A bit later than I'd have hoped, considering that I have been saying kaddish for you for the last six months. But nonetheless.

This is what we knew until recently of our Rosenbloom family.

Here is a chart showing the five children of your grandparents (they are in red), the two children that your grandfather had with his second wife and, over on the far right, the two children that the second wife had with her first husband. (I learned the names Abraham and Bela Resnikov a few years ago. And of course, no one knows what became of Jack Bandis - just that your father had some contact with him early on in the US.)

Alta Kaplan and her four children
For convenience, I marked in green the ones who went to America. And on the left, I put the four children of the older sister Alta Kaplan. All we know about them is that Jakov and one other son each had a daughter before Stalin cut off communication.

There is one other person unaccounted for in that generation, which would be the half-sister Mera (your father always said "Mary")  who was a physician in Moscow. The half-brother Moshe Herschel was killed just after the end of WWI and your brother Maurice is named for him.

Those old Yiddish letters that you gave me years ago include one from Mera dated 13 October 1929, asking your father to send her one of those new devices with tubes you put in your ears, to help hear a person breathing. She wrote her mailing address in Cyrillic at the end of the letter, so we know where she was living in Moscow in 1929. She signed her name "M. D. Goldina." That is the only thing we have telling us her married name. By the time we spoke to your father, he did not remember the name "Goldin."

Top: Shayna Liba & Hymen
Bottom: Mera & Moshe Herschel
I made some unsuccessful attempts over the years to try to find Dr. Mera Goldina, but did not have anything to show for it. I figured that perhaps a medical association might have something, but nothing came of those efforts. I posted on discussion groups from time to time, but mostly moved on to other things.

My friend Logan Kleinwaks has a site where he posts all kinds of eastern European directories, searchable by OCR (that's optical character recognition, a way to search the printed page), and recently he's put up Moscow directories for the 1930s, so I decided to have a look. First I wanted to make sure I had the Cyrillic correct, so I posted the name and address on Schelly Talalai Dardashti's Tracing The Tribe discussion group on Facebook, asking for help from Russian speakers. One thing led to another and Luba Tabolova (a native Russian speaker living in the US) mentioned the "D." as a patronymic.

As you may know, Russians use the father's name as the basis for a middle name. I realized that she must have been using her father's second name David rather than Israel or Srul - perhaps because it sounded less obviously Jewish.

So, thinking that Mera might have remained in Moscow, Luba did a cemetery search for "Mera Davidovna Goldina" and she found a grave in the Malakhovskoye Cemetery in Moscow with precisely that name and the years 1903-1990. That means she died five years after your father. But is it the right person?

The same tombstone named Max Yankelovich Goldin 1905-1979, presumably her husband. We had never seen her husband's name before.

This discovery came to us the day after the yahrzeit of your grandmother and namesake, just a couple of days after your own birthday and the week before the yahrzeit of my grandmother, your Aunt Sarah.

I have no idea how long this photograph has been available online. Perhaps recently or perhaps from the time that you could have actually seen it.

We are still trying to figure out how to confirm that this is your father's half-sister. Luba is trying to get additional information from the cemetery.  She also found a phone number for a Felix Goldin whose father is Max who is about eighty years old. Problem is, the phone number is not valid. but we are working on it.

We'd like to see Felix confirm that
a) he is the son of the couple in the cemetery
b) the Mera Goldin in the cemetery is indeed "ours"
c) perhaps that he knows something about the Kaplans.
But we couldn't make contact. Then last week, I checked my new Family Finder DNA matches and found this:
David Goldin. A second-to-fourth cousin. David as in Israel David, Mera's father? If he is Mera's grandson, he would be my half-second cousin. Is this perfect or what? I emailed him.
Dear Sir,

I see that we have a close DNA match - second-fourth cousin.

My grandmother had a half-sister named Mera Goldin who was a physician
in Moscow. Our last conatct with her was in 1929.

Is it possible after all these years that this is your family? If so please tell me
where you are and how and when I can reach you by phone.

Israel David Pickholtz
A day later, I received a note from a man in Massachusetts, a nephew of David Goldin. David tested at his request but asked that he not have to deal with inquiries such as mine. He didn't say how old David is, but David's father (1910-1983) was born in Greenport NY and lived his whole life there. David's grandfather went to the US from Poland. So David is clearly neither a son of grandson of our Mera.

The nephew gave me David mother's and grandmothers' maiden names and they don't mean anything to me.

Still, the DNA says that David Goldin is a second-third cousin, so the nephew will give me some additional information on those lines.

No one on my mother's side has done DNA testing, so I cannot see if he matches that side.

Luba will continue trying to get information from the cemetery and to make contact with Felix, so I am still hoping we have Mera's grave, even if we don't have any descendants yet.

I'll let you know when we know more.

Israel P.                             

PS - Funny thing. I was speaking to Beverly on the phone and I told her that I thought I had found the missing sister, the doctor. Her first reaction was "Aunt Ethel would be really happy."

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Party on Chromosome 6

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Dr. Steven Turner in the United States telling me that he had some DNA matches with a number of people in our DNA project. At first, he thought he matched eight Pikholz descendants.  I gave him my standard response about our project's being about how to connect our own families with one another, not so much about connecting with non-Pikholz from the pre-surname period two hundred-odd years ago. And I told him that if he matches more than half of our twenty-seven Pikholz testees, we could talk.
That twenty-seven is a new number. We just received results for my double second
cousin, Lee. Our grandfathers are brothers and our grandmothers are sisters. .I really wanted his mother to test, but it didn't work out. Lee ought to match the other Pikholz very much as I do, but that is not the case at all.

I have thirteen matches within the Pikholz group and Lee has eighteen. In additioon, we have a documented fifth cousin named Cyndi on our grandmothers' side, whom I match accordingly. But Lee matches her much closer - probably due to something on his father's side. I have not gone back to check how Lee matches with the non-Pikholz I have discussed here earlier, but for the newest ones, his place in the DNA analysis is prominent.

Yet another reason that we should test as many people as we can and not just say "Well, my third cousin already tested."
So Steve Turner had a closer look via the ancestral surname window on FTDNA and it turns out

he is a match for fifteen Pikholz descendants. That put him across my threshold of 50% and I had a closer look.

He also matches both my Kwoczka cousins, descendants of the brothers of my great-grandmother. In fact, one of those, Pinchas, is better than all of Steve's Pikholz matches but one.

He joined our surname project at FTDNA, making it easier for me to examine his data. He added his mother to the project as well. She matches fourteen Pikholz, and not all the same as Steve. So clearly he has matches with us both on his mother's side and on his father's side.  (Steve's father's family is from Rohatyn, which is between Rozdol and Skalat, so there is some geographic logic to that.)

So I ran Steve's results on a chromosome browser against all his Pikholz matches, as well as his matches within the non-Pikholz who match most of us. There were a number of very interesting matches, but the match on chromosome #6 was remarkable.

Look at his matches with our group on chromosome #6 between the two vertical red lines on the left. He matches nine Pikholz (the ones whose names are underlined in red) and twelve non-Pikholz. He also has four significant matches towards the center of the chromosome, between the blue vertical lines. Now I have to figure out how to do more with those twenty-one matches on the left.

Well, the one thing I know how to do is to look at those same twenty-one people against Steve's mother. Some of them do not match at all and I omitted them from the comparison below.

The whole group on the left has all but disappeared. Those twenty-one matches of Steve's do not come from his mother. But the large matches towards the center, with Terry and Herb, together with the smaller match with Vladimir, are still there, so those must be matches on Steve's mother's side. Plus a match with Pinchas in the same place, that Steve didn't have.

But aside from the DNA party on chromosome #6, there were a number of other interesting areas. I present here, in table form a number of areas in chromosome #10 and one in chromosome #15. The column headings are: name of the person who matches Steve, chromosome number, spot where the match begins, spot where the match ends, "length" of the match in centiMorgans and number of matching SNPs.

On chromosome #10 on the left, there are six areas with interesting matches, some of which are known close relatives (Marla and Hartley in the third and fourth segments are siblings as are Douglas and Pamela in the fifth), but in general, most are people whom we do not know to be related either to us or to each other. But obviously they are. Probably in the 1700s.

The experts tell us to ignore the small matches, the ones with fewer than four or five or eight centiMorgans (depends which expert you ask). The small segments are supposed Identical By State (IBS) which means they are just left over from some really ancient ancestor and not significant for us today. The larger more interesting matches are said to be Identical By Descent (IBD) which means they match because of some relatively recent, theoretically knowable, mutual ancestor.

But look at the matches on chromosome #15 in green, above. (Or below or wherever Blogger has decided to put them today.) These are all very small matches and nine of the eleven are perfect matches. None of the eleven are as close to one another as second cousins. So I take issue with the IBS/IBD distinction especially when a large group share that small match. I mean, it had to come from somewhere, no? And if it were ancient, would it really have preserved itself in so many distantly related descendants - known to be related by other parts of their DNA?

I really have to learn more about this analysis business. Eleven weeks until the course at GRIPitt.