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."

- - - - - - -

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.

- - - - - - -

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.

- - - - - - -

 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.)

- - - - - - -

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.

- - - - - - -

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

- - - - - - -

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!

- - - - - - -

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.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Month Abroad: Part Three - Seattle

This is the third in my series of blogs on my recent four weeks in the US. Part One (Iberia) is here. Part Two (GRIP) is here.

Time and Place
The International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) conference was held this year in Seattle, a place I had never been. I was supposed to have gone to the World's Fair with my parents and brother fifty-four years ago, but chose not to. That's a story for another time. So there was something of a personal closing in attending this conference.

In fact, I had originally planned to skip it entirely due to the fact that the entire conference was scheduled for the period of mourning for the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem. Not just during "the nine days" - we have seen that before - but with the Tish'a beAv fast Sunday there was no way do get home in time. (It is my personal custom not to do that fast abroad.)

The timing during the nine days of mourning also precluded my participation in any of the entertainment-type aspects of the conference, though I usually skip those anyway just because they do not interest me.

In the end, because of the publication last year of my book "ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People," I decided to submit several speaker proposals and if they were accepted and scheduled for the beginning of the week, I'd come for the first three days, going home to rebuilt Jerusalem Wednesday morning. I appreciate the efforts of the Program Committee to make that happen.

During my three days at the conference, there was a minyan for services three times a day and they were quite well attended. Thanks to Elliot Greene for organizing a Sefer Torah and siddurim.

Program items
In Part One of this series, I discussed my participation in programs that are relevant to my own probable Sephardic heritage and the important Conversos Project, so I needn't repeat them here.

I attended two other DNA talks and one meeting. On Tuesday at 7:30 AM, the legendary Steve Morse spoke about the basics of DNA. Why do I need to hear about the basics of DNA? Well, first of all, Steve is an entertaining speaker and I had never heard him on this particular subject. Furthermore, he has a way of simplifying complicated subjects, which can be useful even if you are already familiar with the material. For instance, Steve addressed the fact that Y-DNA mutations are more frequent than mitochondrial DNA. He pointed out what should be obvious, that even if the mutation rates of the particular alleles are the same, there are so many more in the Y chromosome than in the mitochondria that the appearance of any mutation in the Y ought to make the total Y much less constant than mitochondrial DNA. In fact, the question should be why the mitochondrial DNA mutates relatively quickly.

Another DNA talk was by Mary Kozy on autosomal DNA, at one-thirty Sunday. I must admit that I had never heard of this speaker before and I attended just to see how other people present subject matter that is similar to my own.

At 7:30 Monday I participated in the DNA Project Administrators meeting which was run by Yitzhak Epstein. Janine Cloud was there representing Family Tree DNA. It was a useful meeting. I think Janine had a lot of trouble hearing through Yitzhak's heavy accent.

Just after the lunch break Tuesday, I attended a talk by Rob Weisskirch on "Strategies for Online Research on Immigrants to Argentina." The description is
For many Jewish immigrants, Argentina served as a haven and means to build a new life. With the largest Jewish population in South America and 8th largest in the world, many relatives may currently reside or had resided in Argentina. For genealogists, there are Internet resources that can be accessed at a distance that can help track and locate relatives from the past and current ones as well. This presentation will provide strategies and Internet resources for finding those relatives with ties to Argentina as well as review the history of Jewish immigration to Argentina.
Although I don't have a lot of activity in Argentina, there were bits that I may find useful.

Monday after the lunch break, I attended consecutive talks by Crista Cowan of Ancestry and Todd Knowles of Family Search on what's new with each of their companies' record-searching sites. Both were useful.

Attending Todd's talk was a tough call as it was opposite Brooke Shreier Ganz' presentation on her important "Reclaiming the Records" project. But since I am unlikely to initiate such a project myself, I decided I could skip it.

Monday's lunch break featured a Media Lunch (or rather "lunch"), attended by about a dozen blogger-types and chaired by IAJGS President Marlis Humphrey. It was a very good conversation and Marlis appeared to be open to the comments and suggestions. I made some of the points that I have been trying to make for years - why must the conference be in the expensive months of July and August? What's wrong with June or - holidays permitting - early September. (Does someone think we are all school teachers?) And how about having speakers' proposals include three people who can recommend them, should the Program Committee choose to follow them up.

I was surprised to hear Marlis report that the largest line item in the conference budget is the rental of audio-visual equipment. I would think that some of the member societies could be persuaded to bring such equipment, perhaps in exchange for a free registration. Much was said about next year's conference in Orlando Florida. (Perhaps they will bill it as "The Hottest of Conferences.")

Talks I probably would have attended had I remained for two more days of the conference
Wednesday
Carpathian Puzzle (Alex Denysenko)
Jewish Family Research in Pre-Trianon Maramaros (Vivian Kahn and Sandy Malek)
DNA of the Jewish People (Bennett Greenspan)
Jewish Portugal (Genie Milgrom)
Ancestral Towns Might Not Have Been So Ancestral (Lara Diamond) - I probably would have introduced this one

Thursday
"Next Generation" Y DNA (Rachel Unkefer)
Sub-Carpathian SIG meeting
Open Access - Ethical Questions (Zvi Bernhardt)
Will You Be Able to Get Records in the Future (Jan Meisels Allen, Teven Laxer)

Speaking of things I missed, the Israel Genealogical Society submitted an authorization for me to represent them at the IAJGS Board elections. But that was scheduled for Wednesday so I missed it. I hear it was not the usual rubber stamp meeting.

My own programs
My first program "Lessons in Jewish DNA - One Man's Successes and What He Learned on the Journey" was at 9 AM Sunday, the first speaking slot of the conference. I did the first slot before, but then it was eleven o'clock. I expected a small turnout due to the early start and its being the first day, but I was pleasantly surprised by a fairly full (large) room. Robinn Magid gave a wonderful introduction and our timing was perfect. I could not see the audience well because it was being broadcast live and the lights were in my eyes, but I received many compliments afterwards. There were just enough questions to fill the allotted quarter hour.

The book sales hour afterwards was cancelled.

That afternoon, I spoke on "GEDmatch.com's Lazarus Tool As It Applies to Two Kinds of Endogamy," the maiden presentation of this talk. It was billed as a more advanced lecture, without all the usual ABCs we expect from a talk about DNA. It was in a smaller room, but the sixty-odd places were pretty much all taken and I didn't see anyone walk out. (I was worried about the getting the level right.) Jeanette Rosenberg introduced. Something possessed me to wear a suit and tie instead of one of my usual genetic genealogy T-shirts. People laughed where they were supposed to. I went too quickly, so we finished early.

The book sales hour afterwards was cancelled.

My final talk was one I had given before -  "Beyond a Doubt: What We Know vs. What We Can Prove" - and was held Tuesday afternoon in a room way too large for the audience. Lara Diamond introduced and as we both noted, could have given it herself. It is probably time to retire this one, unless some individual society wants to hear it.

The book sales hour afterwards was cancelled.

In lieu of book sales after each talk as had been promised, each speaker with books was assigned one random hour in the exhibit hall. Mine was 4:15 Monday afternoon. I - and most of the other speakers with books - found this arrangement quite unacceptable, but I did get some traffic and sales.

The folks at the company doing the recording responded to my inquiry about getting copies with "Yes we will get a list of emails from IAJGS and will send all speakers their
presentations."

I look forward to seeing evaluations of my presentations. (I am still looking forward to evaluations of my talks from previous conferences.)

The exhibitors
Since I have mentioned the exhibit hall, let me say that I was surprised by how sparse it was. The big companies were there, but some of those who make this a colorful place were not. I stopped by the FTDNA booth where it is always good to see Janine. She straightened out a few things for me with some of my kits. Bennett was there.

I spent some time at Ancestry. As I mentioned in Part One, I had decided to test with them, so I did that then filled in my basic ancestral tree. For now I don't think I need to do more. As of now, I have fifty "shaky leaves" to check out. Always good to see Crista.

I let my subscription to My Heritage lapse last month as I have not used it since signing up last year. I do not find them intuitive and haven't the time to learn how to best use it and now twice they have promised to remedy this.

For me the conferences have become more about meeting old, new and online friends and less about the lectures. I guess I did that, but there were friends there I never ran into despite the fact that all the lecture halls were in one area. I roomed with Avrohom Krauss, an American Israeli, like myself, from just outside Jerusalem. We know each other mostly from the minyan. We had a rollicking time - not at all appropriate for the nine days.

Part Four is here. And a Part Five is here.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Month Abroad - Part Two - GRIP

This is the second in my series of blogs on my recent four weeks in the US. Part One is here.

Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh
Two years ago, I participated in the inaugural course in Practical Genetic Genealogy at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP). The knowledge and the friendships from that week helped propel me along the path I have chosen in genetic genealogy.

This year, they offered Advanced Genetic Genealogy in their July session. This is the way GRIP describes the course:
If you believe that you are ready to graduate from the basics of genetic genealogy and take the next step in genetic genealogy education, then this is the course for you. Be prepared for a fast-paced learning experience intended for the genealogist who has experience applying DNA testing to family history research and has a strong foundational understanding of genetic genealogy concepts.We will demonstrate and discuss methods used by expert genetic genealogists to get the most out of DNA results, utilizing all four types of DNA, in conjunction with documentary evidence to advance knowledge of an individual’s family tree. Genetic genealogy’s application to unknown parentage search will also be examined and resources explored for when unexpected results are encountered.  We will end each day with a discussion session to enhance and reinforce the day’s coursework.Upon completion of this course, students will have gained insight into how to take their own genetic genealogy research to the next level and what it takes to assist others in this pursuit.
Nearly all the instruction was from CeCe Moore and Blaine Bettinger, who also taught two years ago. This is the curriculum.
One hundred forty pages of syllabus for this rich program
As I did two years ago, I stayed with Aunt Betty and Uncle Ken in Squirrel Hill rather than in the LaRoche College dormitory and rented a car for the twenty minute morning drive and the thirty minute afternoon return trip. Each day after morning services, I picked up a donut and a bagel at the kosher Dunkin Donuts to get me through the day.

The audio visual equipment in the room we were assigned was excellent, with everything shown on two large screens in the front of the room and a screen in the back to enable the  instructor to see it while facing the class. We were in four rows of stadium seating, with plugs for our computers on the table and adequate WiFi. The ratio of women to men was less overwhelming than last time. There were several people I knew, from the earlier course and from other places. The class list had forty-nine names, but it didn't feel like an overly large group. Only one or two aside from me expressed any special interest in Jewish DNA.

As before, I helped myself to a front row seat.

The course itself was outstanding and after more than one session, I (and others) said "this session was worth the entire price of admission." Of course this was helped by the fact that I am better equipped to handle the more advanced material than I was two years ago.

Among the stand-out sessions were Blaine on "Advanced Applications foir Third Party Tools" and CeCe on Ethnicity and Admixture, Unknown Parentage and Triangulation. The former included a really nice presentation of Kathy Johnston's Visual Phasing which identifies grandparents' segments based on three sibling-grandchildren. I had never seen this before. It is really very clever.

Both the unknown parentage session and those on admixture led to Jewish issues and CeCe showed herself to be much more knowledgeable and much more comfortable with the Jewish DNA than she had been two years ago. I told her that I was proud of her for her progress. She thanked me publicly for not giving her a hard time and for staying awake. (The latter was a problem last time.)

There was alot of emphasis on things specific to Ancestry and 23 & Me, and since I work with neither (though I tested with 23 & Me) I was quite unfamiliar with the material. I made a decision then that when in Seattle I would go to the Ancestry booth, give them some spit.- then put up the bare bones of a tree. I am pleased to report that I followed through on that. Even if I do not need it for my own research, I really need to know how this works as part of being a professional.

I still have to do something about 23 & Me which I have been ignoring because I find it user-unfriendly to say the least.

Although I am still skeptical about the whole notion of the companies' ethnicity analyses, I saw how CeCe uses them to help identify unknown parents. I was intrigued by the 23 & Me ethnicity results which are by chromosome, rather than just an aggregate blob. I would like to see FTDNA do something like that. I seem to have picked up on what CeCe was doing, as I was quite on the ball in the session on case studies. Of course, I do not use this much in real life, so I am not sure how to keep sharp on that analysis.

The attitude of Ancestry's "we'll do the work for you so you don't need to see the data" policy was analyzed under the harshest of lights. Good things were said about triangulation in that and other contexts.

There was a lot of discussion during Blaine's session on "Ethical and Legal Considerations." Judy Russell was a participant in the course so she had what to say on the subject. (Judy and I crossed swords more than a few times, but it was all in a friendly way. I think.)

Debbie Parker Wayne did one session - on "Reporting and Citing DNA results." It started off very dry with alot of reading from the slides, but it picked up and  ended up being quite useful.

Two students who are geneticists - Brianne Kirkpatrick and Beth Balkite - gave a session on "The Intersection of Genetic Genealogy and Genetic Counseling"  which gave us a different perspective on the whole topic.

Many of the participants in the course already work at a high level so student participation in the discussions was both interesting and useful. I think I held my own in that department.

If I had to boil it down to one sentence, I'd say that the course was way beyond my expectations, which were high to begin with.

I also enjoyed the general GRIP experience even though I was not a visitor to the cafeteria and did not stay for the evening programs. I wish I could say I look forward to doing this again as Elissa Scalise Powell and Debbie Deal put together a fine week of programming, but the non-DNA topics are pretty irrelevant for me and I don't see another DNA course in the near future.

There was one evening program in which I participated - the one on Wednesday when I gave a presentation "Lessons in Jewish DNA - One Man's Successes and What He Learned on the Journey." It was well attended and well received. A few people bought my book and a few others who had bought it online gave it to me to sign.

Triangulation: Jim Bartlett
While we are are on the subject of triangulation, which I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, let me mention that during the week after GRIP I spent a wonderful day with Jim Bartlett the segmentologist.

What got the ball rolling on that was a bloggers party at the home of Pat Richley-Erickson (aka Dear Myrtle) after RootsTech. Lara Diamond introduced me to Carol Petranek, the Co-Director of the Washington DC Family History Center. Carol said that it would be nice if I could speak at one of their Saturday programs, which of course I cannot. But since I knew then that I'd be in Baltimore on the twenty-fourth of July, I offered her the twenty-fifth. One thing led to another and I ended up with an invitation to speak that evening at the Fairfax (Virginia) Genealogical Society, with Jim Bartlett as my host.

I already knew that he liked my book and I have had a tremendous respect for his engineer's approach to DNA analysis, particularly triangulation. We went on for many hours and he showed me exactly how he does his analysis. It is still difficult for me to dive into this at that level both because of the Jewish issues and because I am doing a single-surname project, not just my own personal genealogy. This means I'd have to build an Excel analysis with additional dimensions.

I felt as though I had known Jim well, perhaps in a previous life. He and his wife Olivia were gracious hosts - as were all the people I stayed with during my trip. Actually, Jim and I met at the home of one of my wife's cousins and the three of us had a pleasant time together.

Jim is also known by the email address "gedmatch3" so I decided to run the Lazarus-Endogamy talk I had prepared for Seattle by him to see what he thought. He was the only person to see it before the actual presentation.

Jim and I on TV
Tuesday, after my Fairfax presentation, Jim and I were back in Fairfax for two interviews on Sidney Sacks' local TV show, Tracing Your Family Roots. In one Jim and Sidney's wife Arline interviewed me about my book and the other was more of a three way discussion, though officially Arline was interviewing both of us. I was not at my smoothest.

After they are shown locally, they will be available on line. I'll post links when I have them.

Part Three is here. Part Four is here. And finally, Part Five is here.

Friday, August 12, 2016

A Month Abroad: Part One - IBERIA


This is the first of what I hope will be a fairly rapid fire series of reports on my four weeks in the US.
If there is one word that covers much of the four weeks I just spent in the US, It is "Iberia," and not because that's the airline that carried me across the ocean in both directions.

Flying
The flights themselves were excellent. From home, I was on an Iberia flight operated by El Al to Madrid and from there to Chicago. The return was American from Seattle to O'Hare, then Iberia from there.

The flights were uneventful and there was plenty of room on the long trans-Atlantic legs. Chicago to Madrid was particularly good as I had the three-seat middle section to myself, so I moved to the center seat where there was no one leaning back.

There were some glitches with seat selection and check in, but the seats they assigned me were fine.

The forty minute layover in Chicago was plenty of time, though as I write this in flight, I don't know if forty minutes was enough for my suitcase. At the beginning of my trip, my suitcase was not loaded onto the MAD-ORD flight. (That made three out of my last four international flights!) That necessitated a small shopping trip to Walmart, as they did not deliver my bag for thirty-two hours. I filed a claim.

Unfortunately I seem to have left my "immediate to-do list" on the last plane.

Heritage Sub-Carpathia
But this chapter is titled "IBERIA" for more important reasons.

As I have written here several times, I have been looking at the possibility that before Galicia, our Pikholz line was in Visk (now Vyshkovo) in what was then Maramaros County in Sub-Carpathian Hungary and is now Ukraine. There has never been any evidence and no real possibility of finding any, so it has remained pure speculation for the last dozen years.

A few months ago, Lara Diamond (the new coordinator of the Sub-Carpathia SIG) told me that in two of her towns - Vajnag and Talaborfalva, now known as Vonihove and Tereblya -  she has records of families named Pikkel (or Pikel) and these towns are less than ten miles from Vyshkovo. I did some work on the extracts that Lara had created and found a living male-line descendant in north suburban Chicago. I wanted his Y-DNA to compare it to our own. It took a couple of months to make contact, but days before I left for the US, the man's wife emailed me, very interested in the whole thing. She said they would come to my talk in Buffalo Grove Illinois later that week.

She came. He said he'd be along later, but didn't show up. He told his wife on the phone "I know who I am." Fortunately his son is interested and came with his mother to hear me. He did the test. Family Tree DNA estimates results in mid-September. If he matches us, it appears to place us in Sub-Carpathian Hungary in the 1700s.

In the meantime, there is another Pikkel I am talking to on Facebook and I want him to test as well. And I spent $410 to get another set of records which Lara Diamond is working on
and which may add to this picture. (Any family members who wish to participate in that expense, let me know privately.)

Rachel Unkefer
Rachel Unkefer is the lead author of an article in the Spring Issue of Avotaynu, which discusses the Y-DNA of a number of Ashkenazic families in the R-M269 haplogroup. Her husband is one of these. So are we. Rachel's team believes that these families came from Iberia – either Spain or Portugal – some hundreds of years ago. Whether they left Iberia as a result of the Inquisitions in 1391 or 1492 or perhaps earlier due to garden variety anti-Semitism, is not clear yet.

This work is based on something called SNPs, which is different from the STRs that FTDNA looks at when assigning matches to Y-DNA results. This is not something I knew much about, so I asked Rachel if she would mind having me at her house for a couple of days for some personal mentoring.

There are some statistical models which purport to assign approximate times to the various SNP mutations. My own instincts are that the pace is faster than the models suggest.

Rachel and her husband Dan – my whatever-cousin – were wonderfully gracious hosts and we spent hours on the specific issue and on other aspects of genetic genealogy. Dan and I are fairly close on the chart, but it's probably still a few hundred years to our most recent common ancestor.

The thing is, due to the geography of some of the other subjects in the project, our being in Vyshkovo makes much more sense than our being in Skalat and Rozdol, so the pending Pikkel test results become that much more important.

Spira
We have three Y-DNA tests for Pikholz lines from Skalat. Each line goes back 200-220  years and the results are identical, as identified by FTDNA using STRs. But we also have a non-Pikholz who matches us. This is a man named Spira. His test was initiated by  Ellen Zyroff, the mother of his daughter-in-law, and at the conference in Seattle Ellen and I had a chance to chat.

Rachel Unkefer's project has him as an immediate "neighbor" to us.

The Friday before I left for the US, I received a note from Dr. Jeffrey Paull, who does work on rabbinic Y-DNA lines, that another Spira had tested with results that matched ours perfectly on 37 markers. (Our tests are 67 markers.) This new Spira, who had tested at Jeff's request, claims descendancy from the Megalleh Amukot, Rabbi Natan Neta Spira who was born in Cracow in 1583 and claimed a Sephardic heritage. The paper trail for this man is being verified. He is also in Rachel's project.

One of the sessions I attended at the IAJGS conference in Seattle included a presentation by Janet Billstein Akaha on her Speyer/Spira/Shapiro project. Perhaps the Pikholz line was a version of Shapiro four hundred years ago.

I attended one of Jeff Paull's Seattle talks Monday morning

Conversos
Tuesday  evening, I attended a presentation on "Converso Genealogy Project; Tracking the Diaspora of the Iberian Forced Converts." The extract describes it as follows:
The objective of this multi-tiered project is to consolidate the works that have been done on the large segments of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews who were converted to Catholicism during the 15th century. Some fled and joined Jewish communities in the East and others established communities in Western Europe and in the New World, many were lost to recorded history. The project will  garner information on their Diasporas as well as the genealogical information required to match up contemporary descendants of those forced converts to their ancestors.
The project intends to gather in one place, information that has been scattered in multiple sources, languages and countries throughout the world for centuries. We will find a home for all the work that historians, researchers and serious genealogists have done. Aside from the obvious contribution to Jewish genealogy, this will equip historians with data enabling them to rewrite entire chapters of Jewish history.
I am not going to say more, because as we say in Hebrew, he who adds only detracts.

The star of this show as far as I was concerned was Genie Milgrom, but she was joined by Professor Avrum Gross, Brooke Shreier Ganz and Sallyann Sack-Pikus, each bringing a different talent to the project. The importance of this project cannot be overstated and we will surely read and hear more of it in the near future.

Genie did point out that next Sunday we mark Tisha BeAv (postponed from Shabbat), a day of fasting and mourning for the Temples, but also the day which marked the Inquisition in 1492. It is also the reason I left the conference early - I have a problem doing Tisha BeAv abroad.

Non Como Muestro Dyo
I spent the Shabbat before the conference in the Seward Park neighborhood of Seattle. This was arranged by Varda Epstein's friend Michael Behar, from picking me up at the airport after my Thursday midnight arrival to taking me to the conference hotel at six Sunday morning. I have long known that the Seattle community was Sephardic, but I didn't really know what that meant in practice. My own familiarity with Sephardic services is based on Moroccans, Kurds and what they call "Yerushalmim." The community in Seattle is more from Rhodes and Turkey - Michael being from both communities. His father's Turkish side says the name comes from the Spanish town Bachar, which is how their name is spelled in Hebrew.

The services were very much like what I am familiar with, though some of the melodies are similar but not identical and others are completely different. They do not use the heavy wooden case for the Torah that I am used to here, but an Ashkenazi-type scroll with special cloth wrapping. They include some Ladino translations within the standard prayers and they sell some of the honors according to a Ladino ritual. Their Hebrew is precise in terms of accented syllables and shewa na and that carries over into their English speech, which we Ashkenazim generally don't. And it was unusual to my ears to hear the proper Sephardic Hebrew with American accents.

And I wondered how much of this was shared by my own probably-Sephardic ancestors. 

Here is Part Two.. And Part Three. And Part Four. And Part Five.