Friday, April 15, 2016

Julian's Father: Using Ethnicity Percentages

Each of the major DNA testing companies has an analysis of ethnicity based on their autosomal tests. They appear more based on statistics than on science and my feeling is that it's more a marketing tool than anything else, useful in a general sense, but not to be taken too seriously. These reports are meant for inquiries into deep ancestry, but many people use them to see if they had a Cherokee great-great-grandparent and such. I don't think that many people use them to solve twentieth century questions. Certainly not questions that are ancestor-specific.

Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) where I test, calls their analysis "My Origins" and here is what they show about me.
They have a breakdown by percentages and a map showing where those different groups are located today. As expected, they say I am 90% Jewish Ashkenazi with a bit of "Eastern Middle East" and a few margin-of-error types thrown in. My sisters are similar to me, but with small differences. As I say, useful in a general sense especially for people who have little idea of their ancestral backgrounds, but not to be taken too seriously.

Last week I spoke at the Israel Genealogical Society's Petah Tiqva branch, giving my usual basic DNA talk. I told the story of Joanna, the Polish woman whose grandfather Julian (1911-1986) was supposedly the illegitimate son of a Pikholz who was the estate manager in Klimkowce, not far from Skalat. The structure we worked out over time in our first foray into genetic genealogy was this:
The people who tested are Jacob and Joanna's uncle who insisted on anonymity. His kit is listed as Filip, who is in fact Joanna's son. Jacob himself was in the audience in Petah Tiqva. The reason this looked like a good bet for genetic testing was not only that the relationship is close enough to be doable, but also because even if DNA showed a slightly more distant relationship, there was no alternate explanation. Any DNA that "Filip" and Jacob have in common could not have come from anyone else as all of Joanna's family is strictly Polish.

You cannot go into all the possibilities in that kind of lecture, but in fact Jacob and I were always aware of one other possibility. We don't know if Josef was still alive when Julian was conceived. A grandson was named for Josef six months after Julian was born, so perhaps Josef could not have fathered Julian. But Josef had several sons who would have been in their twenties and there is a good chance that whenever Josef died, one of the sons became the estate manager in his place. So perhaps one of Josef's sons was Julian's father. (The sons, by the way, were not full-brothers of Jacob's grandfather. After Jacob's grandmother died, Josef married a Pikholz niece and the other sons were from her.)

It was, however, my best estimate that Josef himself was the father, especially since Julian named his first son Josef for reasons that no one in the family ever knew.

The DNA was ambiguous. Here are "Filip's" first six matches:
As is clear from the ancestral surnames on the right, four of the six are Pikholz descendants. The first three of those are Jacob and two of his cousins. (The fourth is my third cousin in Denver. I don't know why he is here.) All of them are called "2nd cousin - 4th cousin." I would have expected Jacob and "Filip" to be 2nd-3rd cousins, but in fact if you look at the shared centiMorgans, Jacob's connection is the weakest - both in longest segment and in the aggregate.

The weakness of the match between Jacob and "Filip" could be the randomness of DNA, but it also could be because Julian's father was one of Josef's sons. I preferred the former. Jacob himself was less certain.

So as the Q&A continued in Petah Tiqva, Jacob also mentioned that "Filip's" My Origins showed him to have only 17% Jewish Diaspora making it quite impossible for him to have had measurable Jewish DNA from any non-Pikholz source.

In any case, "Filip's" grandfather was a Pikholz and about twenty-five percent of his DNA should have reflected that - regardless of whether it came from Josef or one of his sons. Seventeen percent seemed to me beyond the norm. (I'd say "beyond a standard deviation" but that would imply that I know something about statistics.)

After I got home, I had a closer look. Here is "Filip's" My Origins:

Filip's "Ashkenazi Diaspora" component is 20%, not the 17% that Jacob had cited. FTDNA recalibrates these numbers from time to time. That's still less than what we would expect from someone whose grandfather was fully Jewish. I also called up Jacob's My Origins.

Jacob appears to be 86% Ashkenazi with another 14% that is probably Sephardic. Filip has none of the Sephardic or other Southern European  or Turkish..

If I had to decide between Josef and one of his sons as the father of Julian, based on the DNA results and the My Origins (remember, I am not a big fan of My Origins and no one really thinks it is a precise measure of anything), I would say it like this.

Filip got less than the normal 25% of his grandfather's DNA. So no wonder that Jacob's match with Filip is weaker than one might expect. But Jacob's match with Filip is not extraordinarily weak - not enough to account for both the 20%/25% difference and the addition of an extra generation, even an extra generation which comes from Josef's niece/wife..

So I will stick with "Josef himself is Julian's father." But then I don't know much about statistics. And I don't much trust My Origins. It may be that these ethnicity percentages can occasionally be used to address ancestor-specific questions from 106 years ago. Who knew?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Bauers and the Rosenzweigs

Autosomal results came in recently for Susan, my second cousin on my father's maternal side.

This is the structure of the family. The shaded names have tested and results are in. One more is not on GEDmatch yet.

We have two children and six grandchildren of my grandmother, a grandson of my grandmother's sister and now Susan a granddaughter of my grandmother's brother. All these are descendants of my great-grandparents Moritz Rosenzweig and Regina Bauer. Their mothers are Zelinka and Stern, respectively.

We also have tests from my father's second cousin, Shabtai, on the Bauer/Stern side and from Fred, the grandson of my grandmother's half-sister on the Rosenzweig/Zelinka side. Fred's Jewish DNA is all from Aunt Ella.

Susan's first matches, as ranked by Family Tree DNA, include all those known relatives plus a second cousin on her mother's side.

I set up a chromosome browser on GEDmatch for all eleven of Susan's matches on our sides to see if we could discern a significant amount of DNA from each of my great-grandparents' sides.

GEDmatch estimates Susan to be 2.4-2.6 generations from Aunt Betty and Uncle Bob and 2.7-3.1 generations from the seven second cousins. They have her as 3.2 generations from Shabtai and 3.3 from Fred.

On the right is the color code that GEDmatch uses to distinguish segment sizes. Remember, the sizes of the graphic bars are not proportional to the actual centiMorgans.

On the chromosome browser which follows, I marked Fred's matches with Susan in red and Shabtai's matches with Susan in blue. I didn't label any of the rest of us because it doesn't matter who is who for the purpose of this exercise.

I did not include the X chromosome because Susan is related through her father's father, which produces no X component.

Seven of Susan's chromosomes have matches with both Fred and Shabtai, eight with Shabtai but not Fred, four with Fred but not Shabtai and three with matches with neither. After triangulation, we can tell without much doubt that certain segments of our DNA come from one side or the other. Of course, we also have segments which are clearly on my grandmother's side, but since neither Shabtai nor Fred shares them, we cannot tell whether they come from the Rosenzweig/Zelinka side or the Bauer/Stern side.

Normally, I would say that we need to test additional cousins on each side, but Fred is an only grandchild and Shabtai has only one living sibling and no known cousins. We have a fifth cousin on the Zelinka side but she does not match Susan and we have a fifth cousin once removed on the Rosenzweig side, but his small match with Susan on chromosome 6 does not match any of the rest of us.

I really have to refresh myself on the use of Kitty Cooper's mapping tools. Doing this on all sides would help understand which ancestral couple provided what parts of our DNA but also what was the make up of the ancestors themselves.

Housekeeping notes
This Wednesday, 13 April, I am speaking about DNA at the Petah Tiqva branch of the Israel Genealogical Society. Seven o'clock at Yad Lebanim, Arlosorov 30. I'll be speaking in Hebrew. Signed copies of ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People will be available for purchase.

Seven weeks until my next programs, in London and Toronto. You can order books for pick-up there until 30 May.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Diamond Endogamy

A Joint Post with Lara Diamond of Lara's Jewnealogy

Dorit and Evelyne
Last week, Dorit sat in my office learning about DNA match analysis. Dorit has tested her mother Evelyne (nee Berger), her mother's sister and a few other relatives and has the benefit of another of her mother's family (Jason) who manages a few kits on his own. (Dorit's father's family is Moroccan and of less interest, at least for now.)

Dorit's tests were done with Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) as were some of Jason's and some of them have been uploaded to GEDmatch.

We went over the basic tools offered by FTDNA for autosomal analysis and looked at some GEDmatch tools as well. In the course of looking at Evelyne's matches in the GEDmatch Tier1 "Matching Segment Search" tool, I saw some segments that match any number of friends of mine in the world of DNA. And, of course, since all European Jews are related to one another multiple times, it cannot be otherwise.

(GEDmatch is free except for a few items in Tier1 which require a donation.)

Among those matches were several with the family of my friend and colleague Lara Diamond, who shows up on GEDmatch as less than four generations away from Evelyne.

I cannot keep track of all of Lara's family, but I did have a look the list of Evelyne's nine matches with people named Diamond. You can see them here on the right, edited to eliminate the personal names.

Five are Lara's family, marked in red. In addition to Lara herself, we see her father, paternal grandmother and uncle. And also her mother, who is not known to be related to Lara's father..

So Evelyne is related to Lara through both of Lara's parents.

But Lara's uncle is a suggested "2nd cousin - 4th cousin" while his mother, Lara's grandmother, is only a suggested "4th cousin - remote cousin." So in addition to Lara's paternal grandMOTHER, Evelyne is also related to Lara's paternal grandFATHER.

Five matches is just what a FTDNA chromosome browser can handle so I opened one for Evelyne and lined up Lara's five matches: grandmother, uncle, father, Lara herself and her mother.

I left the threshold at the default 5 cM and the results look like this. (I am displaying only those six chromosomes where there are two or more of Lara's family on the same segments.) I added to the display the sizes of the segments in cM.

The two matches on chromosome 5 show segments from both paternal grandparents. On the left, Lara's father and grandmother have similar segments - clearly her father received this segment from his mother. On the centromere Lara and her father have an identical segment which is not from the grandmother, so it must be from the grandfather.

On the right ends of chromosomes 7 and 15, Lara has segments which are clearly from her mother.

Chromosome 8 shows a large segment (18.57 cM) where Evelyne matches Lara's uncle, but less than half of that matches the grandmother. In fact, the grandmother, the uncle and Lara herself all have the same starting point (64,372,741) and the uncle, Lara's father and Lara's second segment all have the same end point (85,095,990). The grandmother's segment ends at the same point where Lara's second segment begins (70,702,700). So clearly, the uncle has two adjacent - or nearly so - segments, one that he received from his mother and one from his father.

But it's not so simple
But this raises another question. How did Lara inherit her segment on the left from her grandmother if her father doesn't have it as well?

The same question comes up on the left side of chromosome 15 where Lara and her grandmother have identical segments of 5.1 cM, but her father does not. I ran that question on the ISOGG Facebook group and Blaine Bettinger made the (obvious!) suggestion to lower the threshold. Here is what came up:

Lara's father has a match on chromosome 15 which is slightly smaller than those of his mother and daughter and the excess bits appear to be Identical By State (IBS) rather than properly hereditary. So far, so good.

The eight of Diamonds
But that does not resolve the anomaly on chromosome 8, where Lara still has a segment in common with her grandmother, but not with her father. (There is a school of thought to simply discard all the small segments of this sort, under the IBS banner, but I am not comfortable with that until it proves unavoidable.)

I did triangulation for the segments on chromosome 8. These are the segments pictured above.
Lara's match with her grandmother on chromosome 8 goes from 119,665.558 to 146,255,887. Lara's match with her mother begins at 154,984 and goes on to 146,255,887.

Lara's match with Evelyne is not from her paternal grandmother but from her mother.

Let's drop the threshold from 3 cM to 1 cM and see what happens.
Here we see that Lara's mother has three very small segments that did not appear before. The third of the three is 2.73 cM and it seems clear that Lara received those two right-most segments from her mother, with a bit of IBS detritus in between.

If we look at the same set of matches for Lara's family with Evelyne's sister,
the segments in question are very similar to the matches with Evelyne, but Lara's mother's match appears more complete.

My purpose here was to illustrate for Dorit the complexities of endogamous DNA, which the matches between these five members of Lara's family and Evelyne (and her sister)  show nicely. It is not my purpose here to figure out the multiple common ancestors shared by these two families. Perhaps we can do that later.

But let me give the floor to Lara, who will introduce her other family members into this analysis.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Five-Generation Charts - Parts 1 and 2 ..... and Devir Joins the IDF

This morning, my #4 son Devir was delivered into the hands of the Israel Defense Forces for the next three years.

I'll say some more about that below, but for now here he is when my #3 son was a new recruit.

Part three of the five-generation charts was a few days ago.

Part One
About a month ago, David Allen Lambert suggested on Twitter - @DLGenealogist - that we compose and post five-generation trees showing the longevity of our ancestors. I posted mine on Facebook at the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) and probably a few other groups.

Others ran with it, some with small changes, some the way David had set it up. Some took it out to an additional generation. I probably should have used different colored fonts for different decades. The fad ran for about a week or ten days.

Part Two
Then about ten days ago, J. Paul Hawthorne - whom I don't know - posted a similar chart for places of birth. Blaine Bettinger brought it over from Twitter to Facebook where it caught on quickly.

The structure there was to use a different fill color for each US state or country. Blaine's was actually pretty boring, as most of his were from a particular area of upstate New York.

I had done something similar for display at Devir's bar mitzvah six and a half years ago, using flags, so I figured that using flags rather than random colors would be meaningful. As I had done then, I considered each ancestor to have been born under the relevant flag of today. My chart looked like this.

The European countries from top to bottom are Ukraine, Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania and Belarus, but as Karesz Vandor so helpfully pointed out, Slovakia was not an independent state until 1993, so including it here would be very misleading.

If I had used the relevant countries when the ancestors were born, it would be too boring, as all my father's people were under Austro-Hungarian rule and all my mother's Russian. (Not as boring as Lara Diamond's all-Ukraine chart, to be sure...)

So I used that structure but added comments.
I could have gone a bit further and made this for Devir instead of for me. That would put an Israeli flag at the root and would add four Union Jacks and eleven Polish flags, in addition to a few more Slovakian and Ukrainian flags.

This is how it looked at Devir's bar mitzvah, only larger.

Devir and the IDF
Giv'at Hatahmoshet. Ammunition Hill. That's where the boys gathered this morning for preliminary processing. It's where a major battle was fought during the Six Day War, nearly fifty years ago.

There was a popular song about that battle, told in the voice of "the commander."
I was afraid the Jordanians would throw more grenades. Someone had to run from above and cover. I didn't have time to ask who would volunteer. I sent Eitan. Eitan didn't hesitate for a moment. He climbed up and began to fire his machine gun. Sometimes he would overtake me and I'd have to yell to him to remain in line with me. That's how we crossed some 30 meters. Eitan would cover from above and we would clear the bunkers from within, until he was hit in the head and fell inside
Eitan didn't hesitate for a moment.

But he ends with
I don't know why I received a commendation, I simply wanted to get home safely.
I simply wanted to get home safely. Our society has changed like that, from one end of the song to the other.

In 1997, the Israeli security cabinet authorized the Mossad to kill Hamas leader Khaled Mashal in Jordan, using poison. The poison was administered but the two agents were caught. In order to secure their release, The government of Israel had to provide an antidote to the poison and release Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin, who was serving a life sentence. I heard the head of the Mossad on the radio saying (and I speak from memory) "The most important thing is that our people were returned safely."

"No," said some of us,"the most important thing is that the mission failed." If the most important thing were that the agents were safe, they should have kept them home.

Many of us are old school like that. I think that most of the boys in our circles think like that - at least when left to their own devices and supported by their parents and their teachers.

I have told Devir that the most important thing is to complete the mission. The second most important thing is to keep themselves and those around them safe. And all this while remaining a ben Torah.

Go in peace and return in peace. You don't have to serve with distinction, but serve honorably. And be a ben Torah.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Extreme Ancestors - A Five-Generation Haplogroup Chart

Part Three
(Parts One and Two should be up in a few days.)

In the spirit of some other illustrative five-generation charts, Lara Diamond posted a chart of her ancestral haplogroups and others have followed suit. Mine looks like this:
The names on the right are the family members who tested for those particular ancestral lines.
I am on the far left and the chart goes back to my great-great grandparents. For male ancestors I show both paternal and maternal haplogroups. For female ancestors, who have no Y chromosomes, I cite just the maternal haplogroups.

The relatives who tested: Leonard is my first cousin, Herb is my father's first cousin. Ruth and Sam are my second cousins, Bruce and Shabtai are my father's second cousins and Lillian is my father's half second cousin. Joe is my third cousin.

This chart appears in a different form in Chapter Twenty-Two of my book ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People. Some of the comments below appear there as well, but there is some additional detail.

I did a Big Y test a few months ago and several Y-SEQ tests as part of a Y project organized by Rachel Unkefer and that has resulted in my Y being redefined to R-FCG20748 instead of the simpler R-M269. This is not a subject I understand well and my summer plans include meeting with Rachel in order to get a better handle on what this is all about.

So let's take the column on the right from top to bottom.

1. Isak Fischel Pikholz at the top in bright yellow is a perfect Y-67 match to two other Pikholz descendants whose known ancestors were born about 1795 and 1805. The Most Recent Common Ancestor(s) must be at least a generation before that.

There is one other person with a perfect match but his Family Finder is not a match to us, so the connection is obviously further back.

2. Rivka Feige Pikholz in light orange. Joe and Lillian have perfect matches with ninety-two other people, but we have not been able to do anything with that. Some have not done Family Finder tests, some provide no information, some don't respond and for some - despite all the good will and effort - we don't know enough on either side.

Rivka Feige's father is Isak Josef Pikholz whose yahrzeit is either today (Tuesday) or tomorrow depending on whether he died before or after sunset.
It says "Pik" but everything else fits including the house number
There is no doubt in my mind that Isak Josef has the same Y as the rest of us, but none of his three known sons have male lines to the present, so we cannot verify this.

When I wrote about Rivka Feige's haplogroup in the book, Lillian had not yet tested. She did so last summer and died six months later. Lillian's test has been critical for our project and this reinforces once again the urgency to test everyone you can as soon as you can. No one lives forever.

3. Mordecai Meir Kwoczka of Zalosce, son of Jutte Leah and Jossel. Bruce did a Y-37 test and has twelve matches that are one step away. One of the twelve is as close as a third-fifth cousin according to Family Finder. For our purposes, the Kwoczka family begins in Zalosce in the mid-1790s and for the time being it will stay that way.

4. Basie Pollak of Jezierna, daughter of Shimshon and Chaia Sara. Herb has no perfect matches, but has about thirty matches one mutation away who are all perfect with one another. That one mutation is in an area called the Coding Regions. The mutation itself is known as C6925Y. This showed me that our line had mutated away from theirs, perhaps within the last couple of hundred years. That made them worth following up. Unfortunately nothing has come of that so far. There is another second cousin I'd like to test, to see perhaps if the mutation Herb carries is as recent as his mother.

5. Ignatz Rosenzweig from Trencin County Slovakia. My grandmother had three brothers, but two had no children and the third has only granddaughters. My great-grandfather had three brothers, but we know of no male-line descendants among the survivors. We have no one to test. A newfound fifth cousin once removed who works across the walk from where I live has an all-male line to his grandfather, but that's as close as he gets.

6. Miriam (Mali) Zelinka from Trencin County Slovakia, daughter of Isaak and Sari. Here too we have no test candidates.

7. Shemaya Bauer of Kunszentmiklos Hungary. I have written about the Bauers a few times, including here. My father's second cousin Shabtai tested and has four matches one mutation away and twenty-two two mutations away. We know that the Bauer name goes back at least until the early 1800s and there are quite a few Bauers in Kunszentmiklos (Hungary) where my great-grandmother was born and in Apostag where the Bauers had lived previously.

None of Shabtai's matches have the surname Bauer. This would be almost unthinkable in western, non-Jewish populations, where surnames went back much longer and were more stable.

8. Feige (Fani) Stern of Kalocsa Hungary. I wrote about this family several times, including here. Aunt Betty did this test and found only eleven matches total, only three with zero mutations. All three did Family Finders and none matched. There is nothing remotely familiar in the geography of their ancestors.

9. Mordecai Gordon of Lithuania (Vileika/Myadel), son of Rachmiel and Diska. Leonard has five matches, two from a single family, with zero mutations and ten more one mutation away. Here too, none of them are Gordon. (Our Gordons go back into the early 1700s, according to two distantly-related researchers.)  One of the zero matches is with a Kapelowitsch family and we suspect a connection between a family of that name and our Rosenblooms, who lived not far from the Gordons. That suspicion appears to be supported by autosomal DNA.

The haplogroup for Leonard, Baruch and Shabtai is E-L117, despite the fact that the Gordons are from today's Belarus, the Kwoczkas are from east Galicia and the Bauers are from Hungary. If we look at the thirty-seven markers, the three families share twenty-one of them. The two that are closest genetically are the Bauers and the Gordons.

10. Basya. We know nothing of this woman and her family. My mother carries her name as does the mother of Ruth who tested for #12.

11. Gershon Kugel of Pleshchenitsy. He had at least two sons, but we know nothing of them, so have no one to test. 

12. Zelda. My second cousin Ruth did this test and has thirteen perfect matches. One of these, my research colleague Adam Brown, has Kugel ancestors from the same place. But this test looks at Mrs. Kugel, not the Kugel surname. Adam and Ruth are suggested fourth-remote cousins, so there may be something there.

13. Yaakov Rosenbloom of Borisov Belarus. Sam's test has a grand total of three matches, none close.

14. Shayna Liba. We have no one to test as we do not know what siblings my great-grandfather Israel David may have had.

15. Yehudah, the Levi. That is all we know of my great-grandmother's father, mother or siblings.

16. unknown. My great grandmother Etta Bryna died in her late thirties and no one knows anything about her.  We have fifteen perfect matches here, but one stands out. That is a third-fifth cousin according to Family Finder and his great-grandmother is Yenta Bryna. But we don't know enough to take this obvious connection further.

Housekeeping notes
Next up, 13 April in Petah Tiqva at 7 PM, Yad Labanim. In Hebrew.

Followed by:
and then
 with more planned for the summer.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

London Pikholz: Part One - Morris

The plan for a London set of Pikholz blogs has been sitting on my desk for at least a year and now that I am scheduled to speak in London on the first of June, it's about time that I present them. The first two - Morris and Jacob - are mysteries. Today I'll introduce Morris. Jacob will follow, probably next week. (I am pleased to say that Morris and Jacob do not appear to interact, so I can write about them separately.) Steve Pickholtz has been intricately involved in this whole London project.

Rather than tell the story and show the documents, I am going to do it the other way round. I'll present the documents in chronological order and then discuss the likely scenarios.

No. 1: The June 1893 birth record of Moses Rywen Pikholz in Strzeliska Nowe.

Moses Rywen (Moshe Reuven) was born to Ryfke Fenster and paternity was affirmed (at the far right) by Samuel Pikhoz (sic). We know that several of the children of this Samuel went to Argentina and one ended up in South Africa. One of the descendants told me some years ago that there was a brother Morris, but no one seems to know what happened to him. Two other children in this family are unaccounted for, Jack and Golde and we have neither ages nor age order for any of the three.

No. 2: A 1901 census record
Line nine: Seven year old Morris Pichols, born in Cape Colony (South Africa).

No. 3: A 1911 UK census record
Line 13: Morris Pickholtz, age seventeen, wood carver, born Whitechapel London

No. 4: Passenger list UK to Canada 1911
Morris Pickholtz, age 18, Hebrew race, wood carver but stamped "farm labourer"

 No. 5: 1911 Canadian census, June 9, Blandford Township, Ontario
Line 34, Morris Pickholtz, born September 1892, farm labourer, British race

No. 6: Record of WWI medal

Morris Pickholtz was awarded this medal. He served in France during the First World War.

I wrote to the Ministry of Defense some years ago to inquire about who he is (birth date, birth place, parents etc.) and what he did to warrant the medal. I did not receive a reply.

No. 7: 1919 passenger list to Canada
Bottom row - Pickholt Morris, age 29, born in Canada, race British, farmer

No. 8: The marriage of Morris Pickholtz and Dora Deitch, December 1927

We have several items here. The British marriage record above which shows Morris to be 35 years old, a photograph of the couple, and the authorization by the London Beth Din (below). The authorization on the left is dated January 1928 and gives Morris' name as Moshe ben Shemuel. The one on the right which was not completed is dated the same as the civil document, has no mention of the wife and calls Morris "Moshe ben Yaakov.."

I corresponded with Dora's family but no one was old enough to know anything about Morris. They had no children.

No. 9: The death of Morris, 1933

Three items showing Morris' 1933 death at age forty. His death certificate (above), his grave (right) and the Burial Society record (below).

There is no new information on any of them.

Dora died in 1948 and is buried elsewhere.

So, we have nine items here. a Galician birth record which may or may not be relevant, two UK census records, one Canadian census record, two passenger lists, one WWI medal and the marriage and death records. We are talking here about one, two or perhaps three men with the same name, born in 1892-3.

The marriage and death records are the same person, as the same wife is mentioned in both.

The name of the father on the marriage record matches the Galician birth record (Samuel). Despite the fact that the second given name (Reuven) is never mentioned, I ascribe a high probability to that birth record as being for this man. I have no other candidate among the other Pikholz birth records.

The "one Morris" scenario says he was born in east Galicia, went to Argentina/South Africa and somehow ended up in London before age seven. Then after the 1911 census, went to Canada where he became a farm laborer instead of what he had been before - a wood carver. Back to UK to serve in WWI and back to Canada afterwards. Returned to UK, married and died a few years later.

The holes in that start at the very beginning, his going as a young child to the southern hemisphere. Three of his brothers indeed did go there, but only in the 1920s. So he was unlikely to be the child from Capetown in the 1901 census, even though I note that the South American sons of Samuel have no idea what happened to their Morris.

Then there are the inconsistent birthplaces. I can see if the Canadians mistakenly thought he was born in England, but the 1919 passenger manifest says he was born in Canada. And the 1911 UK census has him born specifically in Whitechapel London. (FreeBMD lists no such birth.)

And would the Canadian census have listed his nationality as Canadian when he was fresh off the boat? I wouldn't think so, but I don't know anything about Canadian immigration policies.

And the differing birth dates bother me a bit. If they were the only issue, that would be one thing. But it's cumulative.

Once "one Morris" breaks down, the options are not clear. Is Morris from cape Colony the same as Morris in Canada? Not likely. But then we have no obvious conflicts in events, only in information. We do not have two marriages or two deaths, for instance, and each one disappears in tandem with the "one Morris" scenario.

I'll have to give this a think. Maybe when we get to see the 1921 censuses for Canada and UK. Ideas and strategies would be appreciated.

Housekeeping notes
1 June 2016, 7:00 – Guild of One-Name Studies, Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, ORT House, 126 Albert Street, Camden, London, NW1 7NE

3 June 2016, 4:30 – Ontario Genealogical Conference, International Plaza Hotel, 655 Dixon Road, Toronto:
Seminar on Genetic Genealogy, by invitation only

5 June 2016, 10:00 – Ontario Genealogical Conference, International Plaza Hotel, 655 Dixon Road, Toronto:
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned On the Journey

5 June 2016, 7:00 – Jewish Genealogical Society of Toronto, location TBA
Beyond a Doubt: What We Know vs. What We Can Prove:

24 July 2016, 1:30 – JGS of Maryland Hadassah, 3723 Old Court Rd., Suite 205, Baltimore
Beyond A Reasonable Doubt: What We Know vs. What We Can Prove

7-9 August 2016, TBA – 36th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, Seattle:
Lessons in Jewish DNA – One Man’s Successes and What He Learned On the Journey’s Lazarus Tool As It Applies to Two Kinds of Endogamy
Beyond a Doubt: What We Know vs. What We Can Prove

More in preparation. 'Nuff said.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Hottest Topic in Genealogy? I Think Not.

We who are fully immersed in the mikvah that is genetic genealogy like to say that DNA is the hottest topic in genealogy today. I have certainly said so. After RootsTech, I am sure it is not.

Furthermore, though it certainly should be, I think I understand why it isn't and what in fact is. And how those two things are connected.

Being a solo exhibitor, I did not have much opportunity to see a lot of RootsTech, but I did accost nearly everyone who came by and began by asking if they had done DNA testing yet. I was surprised that so many had not and were not even considering it. They seemed to think that it was strange that I was raising the question.

Those willing to discuss DNA testing thought it pointless - something that never really produces anything useful. I would cite results and revelations from my own experience and from those of others and to some passers-by I must have seemed like I was selling DNA tests rather than a book about DNA analysis.

Here I had bought our own hype and was expecting the general genealogy public to be - if not quite as enthusiastic as we were - at least intrigued by the potential and willing to look at what genetics might do for them. After all, these folks had defined themselves as more than beginners just by showing up.

Many of these folks were in the sixty-plus cohort and the idea that the results would come when the tests and the analytical tools improve and the database expands did not impress them, especially if they are on a fixed retirement-income.

What did interest them? The other big thing that was all around us. The story-telling. The products that would help them translate their genealogy work into a medium that would appeal to the younger generation. Not the next generation of genealogists, but their personal next generations who were not likely to continue the research, but who might want to see what Grampa has been working at all these years. The products that would suggest how their work might be presented and help them get it done.

So this is really two sides of the same coin. People see DNA as something really far into the future and would rather concentrate on bringing their own work into that future rather than just laying the groundwork for what some research heir might or might not be interested in doing. As an analyst, I am not sure what I can do besides bringing my own experience and learned lessons to encourage and inspire, but it seems to me that the testing companies should be targeting this market before it passes on. And those of us who recognize the importance of getting the older generation into the database, all the moreso. It's our communal heritage.

Story-telling and genetic testing can both be the hottest topics in our conversation.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Thoughts From Salt Lake City

As I have said before, I began my path to my book when I took a course in Practical Genetic Genealogy at GRIP nineteen months ago, and the experts said they did not know how to do the DNA of Jewish and other endogamous populations.

So yesterday, a non-Jewish woman with a Jewish line came to my booth at RootsTech. I was wearing my "how many Pikholz matches do YOU have" shirt and that's what she wanted to talk about. She has a few dozen Pikholz matches and she says we discussed this some time ago. I'll take her word for that.

So she tells me that among her matches is a suggested second-third cousin with Aunt Betty, my father's sister, and close ones with Uncle Bob and others. She consulted with one of the very top names in the field, who told her "Oh, that's a Jewish match, don';t bother with it. Nothing will come of it."

I am tempted to say that this is malpractice, but I have only hearsay to go on.

What it is, though, is a clear violation of the demand made of all credentialed genealogists to do a "reasonably exhaustive" search, even if nothing comes of it. Following up a DNA match of a suggested second-third cousin (even when we know it cannot be that close) must be part of a reasonably exhaustive search. Can we get some "likes" here on that particular declaration, especially from the professionals?

New story. We all know about elevator pitches. So yesterday when leaving RootsTech on the elevator to the third level parking garage, I actually did one. In an elevator. The fellow was interested in my story and one of his clients is a prominent supporter of genealogy, someone I know by reputation, who is also a cousin of the husband of my wife's third cousin Janet. This client has never done DNA.

We got off at the first level and continued talking, exchanged cards etc. Then I got back on the elevator and I said to the people there that I had just had a first-time experience - an elevator pitch in an actual elevator. So on the way down someone else tells me what company she is with and it turns out it's a piece of software that I bought but don't know how to use.

She will come to my booth to work with me on it this morning.

Two successful elevator pitches in the same trip down three floors.

More later.

Shabbat Shalom.

I should not have used the word "malpractice," a word which has legal significance.

I do believe that this story - if told accurately - does conflict with the requirement for a reasonably exhaustive search.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Off I Go

I ordered my pick-up for the ride to the airport for 3:45 tomorrow (Wednesday) morning for my 7:35 flight. I thought I had packed well, but the suitcase was awfully heavy, so I took out a few things and moved some others to the carry-on. We'll see what the folks at the airport say.

One of the things I left out is my army boots. I hope I don't have to deal with heavy snow, especially in Salt Lake City.

I have three new programs on my schedule - Palo Alto (8 February), Oakland (the ninth) and Denver (the tenth). The venue is not set for Denver - I hear there is a well-equipped room at Feldman's. The Denver program was put together very quickly by Linda Weinstein, with help from Joe Cahn. Logistics there will be handled by my wife's third cousin Gary Goldberg, whom I roomed with at the Conference in Boston two and a half years ago.

The two Bay-area programs are the work of JoAnne Goldberg and Preeva Tramiel and I appreciate their efforts in putting that together. The initiative was all JoAnne.

So tomorrow it's Pittsburgh and a few days with Aunt Betty and Uncle Ken. I had hoped to do a program in Pittsburgh, but no one picked up the challenge. Sunday will be Philadelphia, where I'll be meeting with a new-found indeterminate Pikholz cousin, together with my second cousin Rhoda. Steve will be at the program itself - maybe some others, I'm not sure. One of those I expect to be there will be featured in a new slide; she'll be pleasantly surprised, I'm sure. Mark Halpern, who organized the meeting, will also get a mention on that slide. (Rhoda just wrote to say they expect 8-12" of snow. Fun.)

Then off to New England in a rental car. On the way, I'll drop in on my eldest grandson who is in yeshiva in New Jersey. There are a few cemeteries I'd like to do on the way, but only if there is no snow on the ground.

Tuesday I'm speaking in Newington Connecticut and will see a second cousin on my father's side, whom I've not seen since our high school class' twentieth reunion. And my first cousin Leonard on my mother's side. who also lives in Connecticut. Organization there is Doris Nable.

Wednesday is the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston and the following the JGS of Greater Boston in Newton. I'll be staying Shabbes with Zale, an old friend from my Chicago days forty-odd years ago. Both the Boston programs were organized by Jay Sage, with Ginevra Morse representing NEHGS..

After Monday at my sister's in suburban Chicago, I'm off to Salt Lake City Tuesday. That evening I am speaking at the Family History Center and I hope some of the early arrivals for RootsTech will join us. The organizer there is Todd Knowles, who picked up on the initiative from Banai Feldstein.

RootsTech will run through the rest of the week, which concludes with a bloggers party at the home of one of the stars of the community. Shabbat will be an interesting challenge logistically.
Lest I forget, today, is the last day for ordering our genetic genealogy T-shirts and tote bags for hand delivery with no shipping. That's for people at RootsTech and my talks in the west.

Sunday is Tucson. I'll fly to Phoenix and drive from there (Thanks to Lara for that suggestion.)

After Denver I am back to Chicago with my son and family and a talk for the JGS of Illinois in Northbrook (Martin Fischer) and then home.

Before all that, this evening we are making an open house in honor of my newest granddaughter Nur, who is nearly six weeks old.

Talk to you all later. No promises exactly when.


Thursday, December 31, 2015

Stats and Summaries

It's not generally my way to summarize at the end of the Gregorian year when we have a perfectly good Jewish New Year for that purpose, but between the end of the FTDNA sale and my upcoming trip to the US, it seems a convenient time.

Ester Pikholz and Marcus Stern
I first ran into the family of Ester Pikholz and Marcus Stern about a year ago and reported on that here. They have a daughter Sadie born in 1889 who was married to a Benjamin Francis, whose brother Sam Francis was married to my grandfather's first cousin Sarah/Sadie Frankel. Sam and Sadie lived in Denver. I had no idea who this Ester is, where she was from, who are her parents.

I saw them again in some Social Security Claims records a few months later, but that didn't add much.

Finally, Steve Pickholtz saw a reference to Esther and Max (as they are called in US records) in a tree on Steve actually found four people there of interest, but only this one replied to my inquiries. Turns out that Esther and Max Stern had a number of children who married in the US around the time of WWI. Earlier this week, I heard from a great-granddaughter and we have been carrying on a lively discussion all week. She says that Esther died in New York, which means there should be a grave and a death certificate with information on her parents.

I'll be meeting with this great-granddaughter in Philadelphia before my talk there next month. More on all of that as it happens. (I have not put this family on my website because I hope to learn where exactly they fit in. No sense in doing extra work.)

The DNA in my project
There are now ninety-two people who have tested (or at least ordered tests) as part of my  family projects. All but one has done a Family Finder and others have done MtDNA and various levels of Y-DNA from
Y-37 up to my own BigY.

The chart on the right shows how that breaks down among my families and also notes how many ordered their tests after publication of ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People last summer.

There are eight Pikholz families of four or more generations who have not tested at all (not including the Sterns whom I mentioned above). Two of the missing eight are from Skalat, four are from Rozdol and two we can only guess at. There are also some smaller families and individuals but those do not seem to have living descendants.

There are quite a few in families who have already tested whom I am after to join the project. The excuses are many and varied.

Statistics from my personal matches
I have finally gotten past 5000 matches on Family Finder and as of today I have 5238, fifty-four of which are from the project. That would be 44 Pikholz, 2 Kwoczkas (we don't have results from the other two), two on my father's maternal side (the third has not sent in the kit yet) and all six on my mother's sides. So my remaining matches total 5184. Many of the testers in the project have more, some over 6000.

The statistics below are for my own matches.

I have six matches who are defined by FTDNA as suggested second-third cousins, what they call "close relatives." (That's aside from fourteen known relatives in that group.)

As is probably typical, though I haven't seen statistics, three of the six have not bothered to list their ancestral surnames and geographic areas. Of the three who have, only Jack S lists a familiar surname - Gordon, which is my mother's paternal side. I have been talking to Jack and although he insists we are closely related, I don't really see it in the numbers. Our longest match is under 30 cM, which is nice, but hardly blows me away.

David and Jack have the same surname, but except that name itself, the names they list do not match one another.

The interesting thing here - and I expect it is typical of Jewish matches - is that all six have about 3000 matches in common with me. That's 54-62% of all my matches which I share with these strangers. Those are very large numbers, it seems to me. (Others will say "I thought you matched EVERYONE!")

I did a chromosome browser to see how the six matched up with me in individual segments. This is not a scientific study - they may do better when compared to my sisters or cousins - but it is illustrative.

FTDNA's chromosome browser is limited to five matches, so I added David S at the bottom in orange, on the relevant chromosomes. The threshold here is matches of five or more centiMorgans. As you can see, there are some nice matches among the group - with me - on chromosomes 6, 9, 12, 15 and 18, plus some others.

Of course, this being endogamy, not all those are expected to be in the same directions. The group of three on chromosome six and the group of four on chromosome 18 may well come from different common ancestors, even though I match the same three people in both cases. It would help if we knew the ancestral names.

But these matches are small. How small? Here is the same chromosome browser with a threshold of 10 cM.
The only matches greater than 10 cM are on chromosomes 9, 14, 16 and 17 and aside from a very small overlap on 9, none of them match each other.

These are not close relatives of mine. And these six are seen by FTDNA as the closest  matches I have, aside from my known family!

Suggested second-fourth cousins
What FTDNA calls "Distant Relative" includes suggested second-fourth cousins and suggested third-fifth cousins. I have one hundred suggested second-fourth cousins, seven of whom are Pikholz descendants.

Of the remaining ninety-three, fifty-one have been kind enough to list their ancestral surnames. I keep thinking I should write the others and ask them, but I really don't have the time and patience. The ancestors listed by the fifty-one include less than a handful with names that match mine.

One that I wrote to replied dismissively that his ancestor is from a different city in the same country, less that seventy miles away. He concluded with "So we are related somehow, but figuring out how is very difficult." I am not sure how he hopes to do that figuring if we don't follow up matching names from matching countries.

Of the ninety-three, for about half, the longest matching segment is in the 16-17 cM range and another quarter in the 18-20 cM range. There are five between 26 and 35 cM and two of those are a father-and-daughter.

As far as the common matches, I only checked a few, but even the furthest of the suggested second-fourth cousins have about 3000 matches in common with me. That's endogamy for you.

This whole set is more likely to be fourth-fifth, even sixth cousins, probably multiple ways,  rather than seconds or thirds. One of the seven known relatives is a third cousin, the others are further out.
Eighty-two pages of "distant relatives," ten a page - 814 altogether.

I started this exercise thinking I would go as far as suggested third-fifth cousins, but now that I take inventory and see that there are 714 of those, I decided to leave it.

But just for sport, I looked an the number of common matches I have with the last five on the list. Three of them have 279, 278, 270 and 304 pages. The fifth is named McKenzie - he has 135 pages in common with me.

Housekeeping Notes
I am still working a couple of possibilities for west coast talks during the week following RootsTech. Not with Jewish genealogical societies. Stay tuned.

Mazal tov to fellow blogger Jeanette Rosenberg on being awarded OBE by Queen Elizabeth.

For anyone who wants genetic genealogy tote bags or T shirts without shipping charge, we just added a "deliver at RootsTech" option to our order page.

Sunday, December 20, 2015


The family
I introduced the family of Berl Pfeffer and his wife Lea Pikholz when I wrote about their son Leo the Spy three years ago and revisited them here a couple of months ago.

Lea is one of two known daughters of Simon Pikholz and his first wife Dwore Waltuch. After Dwore died at age twenty-three, Simon married her younger sister Chana, who ended up in the US, as did her four adult children.

As for Lea and Berl, they had twelve children, nine in Kopicienice in east Galicia and the last three in Czernovitz where Lea died in 1913. When Leo went to the US in 1923, the passenger list names his closest relative as his father Berl, in Vienna. Vienna doesn't seem to have a death record for him, so he may have gone elsewhere.
Wolf Leib (aka Leo) Pikholz is on the last line, as shown above, with his father's Vianna address.

One of the grandsons of Taube saw my post about Leo and that was the first I knew of Taube aside from her birth record. He filled in some of the other details. Of the twelve children of Lea and Berl, four died in childhood, five others grew to adulthood and had no children. Dwore lived a troubled life in the US with her son and we do not know what became of them. That left Taube and Joel.

I never saw a birth record for Joel, but his daughter Berta in Mexico City filed a Page of Testimony for him in 1999. Later I found Joel's Czernovitz marriage record to Mota Salter and Berta's 1912 birth record, also in Czernovitz. I had not been able to find anything further, but Taube's grandson told me that she had two children.
Simon Pikholz and his first wife, Dwore. He later married her younger sister and had additional children

A Tel-Aviv attorney I work with from time to time phoned me some weeks ago and reported that she saw an index reference to a Custodian of Abandoned Property file in the name of Amalie Pickholz.The file was from 1984.

I had first seen Amalie's name when the Central Zionist Archives accidentally allowed me to look at some Pikholz files in their basement. One of those showed that in 1962, Leo had written to the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem asking about his sister Amalie, who it turns out was living in Rumania. At some point she acquired or deposited assets in Israel, perhaps intending to come here later. Or perhaps she had lived here for a time. It was those assets that the Custodian of Abandoned property would have held.

The attorney had no idea what kind of assets were involved. It could be anything from a small bank account to a large building or a plot of land. Potential heirs would have to document what happened to all of her brothers and sisters, who had children, who their heirs would have been and where they are today. The assets would have to be substantial to make it worthwhile.

Additional inquiries revealed that Amalie had a deposit of cash of 1090 Israeli Sheqels, about $300. So much for that.

But it did remind me that I had a loose end regarding Joel's daughter Berta. I knew her name as Bertha Federmann from the Page of Testimony and I had the 1999 address as well.

Another Yad Vashem document tells us:

Joel Pfeffer was born in Kopyczince in 1885. He was a merchant. During the war he was in Caserne Dossin (Malines-Mechelen), Belgium. Deported with Transport XVII from Malines,Caserne Dossin,Camp,Belgium to Auschwitz Birkenau,Extermination Camp,Poland on 31/10/1942.

Joel was murdered in the Shoah.

This information is based on a Deportation list found in List of the Jews deported from Belgium - Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistence (sic)  at Mechelen / Malines.
I also had downloaded Joel's 9 November 1885 Kopicienice birth record from JRI-Poland, identifying his parents as we knew them to be.
A few years ago, I wrote to the address in Mexico that Bertha had given in 1999 but received no reply, nor was she to be found in the Mexican telephone directory. I made some efforts to find a death record or a cemetery entry, but I got nowhere and, being easily distracted, I left it for another time. At this point, I did not know the name of Mr. Federmann, Bertha's husband.

"Another time" came as a result of finding Amalie's $300 and I turned to the discussion groups at JewishGen where I learned that many Mexican death records were to be found at There were two - Berta and Szaja Chaskiel.

Berta Pikholz Pfeffer died at age 89, having been born in Cernauti Lituania, a naturalized citizen of Mexico, widow of Shaya Federman, daughter of Jacobo Pikholz and Matl Pfeffer. She died at 8:15 PM on 21 April 2001 in Acapulco. The informant and witnesses were not related to her.

On that day, 8:15 was after sundown so her date of death in the Jewish calendar is the twenty-ninth of Nisan.

There were several obvious errors in the death record, aside from spelling variations. Berta's name is "Pikholz Pfeffer" which implies that those were the surnames of her parents. In fact they are the surnames of her father's parents. Her mother's surname is Salter. That error is reflected in her parents names, where her mother is called Matl Pfeffer.

Berta's mother on her birth record
I do not know why Berta herself calls her father's wife "Nina" on the Page of Testimony. Her name is listed as Matl everyplace else, including Berta's birth record. Perhaps it was a nickname. More likely she was a second wife, not Matl at all. I'll have to look into that some time.

Cernauti is Czernovitz, but it is definitely not "Lituania," no matter who ruled and how the map was drawn.

Her father is listed as Jacobo rather than Joel and I assume that is an error, as every other document calls him "Joel."

Her husband Szaja Chaskiel Federman Kupermintz died at age 86. He was born in Bendzin Poland and his nationality was Polish. Berta Pikholz is named as his wife. His parents are David Federman and Zipora Kupermintz. He died at 9:30 AM, 10 September 1997, which is the eighth of Elul. Here too, the informant and witnesses are not family members.

One of these days I'll see if I can get cemetery photos and track down the children.

Housekeeping notes
My 26 January talk for the Jewish Genealogical Society of Connecticut will be at Temple Sinai, 41 W Hartford Rd, Newington. They haven't set the time yet.