Sunday, December 30, 2012


Seventeen years ago, "IN Jerusalem," the local insert in the Friday Jerusalem POST, published an essay that I had written about a month earlier.

At the time, I lived ten minutes south of Bethlehem. Now I am to the north and west, still about ten minutes away but half that is traffic and stop lights. Getting there today is a security issue. Not so much that it is dangerous but that the army won't let you just drive in.

Here is the essay. The corny headline is theirs, not mine. Click on it to see a larger version.

For that reserve duty, we reported directly to Bethlehem, where we received our uniforms and equipment. By the time we were finished, the quartermastery had been moved to Gush Etzion and it was from there that we were discharged.

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Housekeeping announcements:

I am scheduled to speak for the Israel Genealogical Society on Wednesday, 9 January in Haifa on:

The meeting is at the Pisgat Ahuzzah Retirement Home, 6 Sinai Street (corner of Moriyah). Doors open at six-thirty, my lecture is at seven-fifteen. The lecture is in Hebrew.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


As I say from time time in discussing the two Pikholz family groups - one is from Rozdol and one is from Skalat, and we know of no connection between the two.

Except this.

The late Alexander "Sandy" Pickholtz is a descendant of the main Rozdol family, the one we call RavJG. This famiy begins with the original Rozdol couple, Pinchas and Sara Rivka. Their son Israel Joel (1807-82) and his wife Jutte Chana had a son Moshe, probably their eldest. (Another son - probably the youngest - was Rav Juda Gershon, after whom I have named this family.)

Moshe was married to Sara Steg, the daughter of R' Yehudah Zvi Steg, the longtime rav of Skole. They had ten children, the ninth was Meshullam Zisha Pikholz, who died in 1879 at age 23, less than  a month after his twenty-two year old wife Gittel Rachel Tischenkel. Their five year old son died a few months later. Their younger son, Baruch Bendit, was raised by Meshullam Zisha's sister Perl and her husband Shimshon Tanne.

Baruch Bendit and his wife Rose Weinstock went to New York in 1902 with their two eldest children Gittel and Meshullam Zisha. In New York, the children became Gladys and Irving and six more were born.

Irving married New York-born Judith Alexander, who was described to me by family members as a card carrying Communist. They were divorced in 1946. Irving and Judith had a daughter then a son, Alexander born in July 1929. 

Alexander was a student at the University of Denver. The night of 3 January 1950 (15 Teveth 5710 - sixty-three years ago this coming Friday), he and three other students were involved in a truck-car crash in Pittsfield Illinois, near the Missouri border. Alexander and another twenty year old, John Nunan of the Bronx, were killed. I suppose they were heading back to Denver after their winter break.

Alexander was buried at New Montefiore Cemetery in New York.  I imagine his mother wrote the inscription - A STALWART AGAINST FASCISM.

Back in Denver, Sandy had a friend, a fellow student named Lenny Pike. Lenny married a young Denver woman named Nan Francis. Nan (Actually Louanne, but no one called her that) was born in Denver and was the daughter of Phil Francis (Isak Fischel, for you Pikholz afficianadoes). Phil's mother was Sadie Francis (originally Sarah Frankel) and she was married to her cousin Sam Francis.

Sadie/Sarah was the daughter of David Lozel Frankel and Bessie Pickholtz, my great-grandfather's sister. The family had come to Denver years earlier because Sadie's younger brother Jake suffered from tuberculosis . They were involved in the founding of the well-known sanitorium in Denver.
So Nan, Lenny Pike's wife is a Skalat Pikholz descendant. And they gave their second son the middle name Sandy, after Lenny's good friend who had been killed in an accident a few years earlier.

I am told that my third cousin Nan, who died in 2001, did not know her great-grandmother's maiden name, so never realized the additional significance of her son's name. And I guess none of the other Denver cousins ever mentioned it.        
So a Skalat Pikholz descendant is named for a Rozdol Pikholz as the name of Sandy Pickholtz is carried on by the son of his good friend Lenny Pike. But there is one more oddity. I do not have Sandy's death certificate, but here is the online  reference from the State of Illinois database.
Sandy Pickholtz, the twenty year old stalwart against fascism, died in Pittsfield Illinois. In Pike County.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Passing 10,000

No, I do not have ten thousand followers on Twitter. Nor do I have - or want - ten thousand Facebook friends.

But as of a couple of weeks ago, I do have over ten thousand entries in my genealogy database. This is not a huge number but it is a milestone of sorts so I am pleased to celebrate it..

My genealogy database - Brothers Keeper 5.2 for DOS
No, I do not have ten thousand relatives. Nor do my wife and I have ten thousand relatives combined. Some of those entries are parents of spouses. Some are affiliated families. Some are not relatives, but look like they might be so I included them in order to note that I have checked them out and found them wanting. Some are surely duplicates.

Some are what I call "Placeholders." That would be entries like "Original Pjkholz" who makes sure I don't lose track of any of the Pikholz families. Another placeholder would be "Unconnected Pjkholz" whose children include "Shoah Pjkholz," Old_European Pjkholz," "Vienna Pjkholz" and others and some of these have additional placeholders for "children."

(No, those are not typos. I deliberately write "Pjkholz" rather than "Pikholz" for the placeholders in the Pikholz families so as not to inflate the surname count. There are thirty-eight Pjkholz and Pjckholz. And they all have wives with made up names.)

 There are quite alot of wives and a few husbands whose birth surnames are unknown. Some people record these folks with the surname "Unknown." Others use a version of the name of the known spouse, making it easier to keep track of them. I prefer to use XXXXX, xxxxx, xXxXx etc with each variation representing a specific family. But I don't always remember to differentiate, so the numbers are not precise. There are over eight hundred of those.

There are also people whose given names we do not know. Some of that - but certainly not all - is due to the Holocaust. I assign the adults given names MAN and WOMAN and the children are SON, DAUGHTER or CHILD.  Occasionally I get cute and write HOMBRE, MUJER etc for South Americans.

I did counts of descendants for each of our ancestral families last week and here are the results, with the spouses in parentheses. Remember, these are descendants, so do not reflect the number of people who were called by these names.

In my father's family: Pikholz 4043 (1666), Kwoczka 292 (147),  Rosenzweig 158 (80), Zelinka 422 (210), Bauer 145 (62). I am working on the Zelinkas now (as I wrote last week), so there will be significantly more soon. And there are Rosenzweigs to add, as well. The Bauer numbers do not include other Bauers from the town where my great-grandmother was born, because I have not yet tried to fit them together coherently.

In my mother's family: Gordon 450 (228)  and Rosenbloom 169 (71). Other members of the extended Gordon family have done research, but have not shared the details, so this family is quite a bit larger than what my data shows.

In my wife's father's family: Silberstein 407 (178), Scharf 143 (64), Buchalter 235 (114),  Diamond 101 (51), Hammer 241 (98).

In my wife's mother's family: Baum 336 (119), Lindenberg 326 (140).

Note that in many of those family lines, I am not in ongoing contact with many of the descendants, so there may be quite a few births and marriages which have not been recorded.
Here are the birth surnames which appear fifty times or more, including variations:
PIKHOLZ - 1451
GORDON - 142
COHEN - 86
BAUM - 51
ROTH - 50

Interestingly enough, when I began the Pikholz Project fourteen years ago, someone asked me how many people I thought had ever had the birth name Pikholz and my guess then was 1200-1500, based on nothing at all. So I am now holding at 1451.

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Housekeeping announcements:

I am scheduled to speak for the Israel Genealogical Society twice this week, both in Hebrew:

On Wednesday 19 December at Bet Frankfurter (Derech Bet Lehem 80) in Jerusalem on:
Doors open at 18:30, my talk at 19:00.
On Thursday 20 December in Raanana, Hashachar Library, Hazon Ish 90. 
The topic will be:
Doors open at 18:30, business meeting at 19:00, my talk at 19:30.

I am also scheduled to speak in Haifa on 9 January, on the same topic as in Raanana..
Check times and address at

Sunday, December 9, 2012


 Cyndi Finds Me Through JewishGen Family Finder

 One of the most important parts of the JewishGen website is the JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF) which they describe as follows:
The JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF) is a compilation of surnames and towns currently being researched by over 97,000 Jewish genealogists worldwide.  It contains over 500,000 entries: 125,000 ancestral surnames and 17,000 town names, and is indexed and cross-referenced by both surname and town name.  The JGFF was originally created in 1982, and is maintained by JewishGen.
Researchers should check the JGFF for genealogists with similar research interests, and can then contact them for an exchange of information.
These are my JGFF listings on my father's mother's side
I have listed fifty-six surname-town combinations that I am interested in, including a few alternate spellings. On more than one occasion, people have looked up their names and towns and have made contact with me after seeing matching information.

JewishGen has a Value Added program for people who contribute a hundred dollars or more a year, which includes an alert system. If someone adds a name and town of interest to me, the system notifies me. That is what happened when Cyndi listed her Zelenka family from Kotesova Slovakia fifteen months ago.

(To give you an idea how JewishGen has grown in the last fifteen years, Cyndi's is researcher number 499,018. I am number 5627.)

We exchanged emails a few times over the course of a year, but hadn't really done much.  She was on my "to do" list all that time, but there were always many items ahead of her. Then she began speaking to me about DNA.

Cyndi had tested with a different company, but began pushing me to do a DNA comparison on a free site called (At the same time, someone here in Israel was pushing me towards GEDmatch on the Pikholz or Kwoczka side.) GEDmatch had us as fifth cousins.

The Bob Hanscom Data

I have mentioned Bob Hanscom here a couple of times. Bob has two Wilhelm relatives in his family, who came from Trenscin County in western Slovakia. Fani Wilhelm (b. 1785) married Nathan Joseph Rosenzweig, the brother of Nana's great-grandfather Simon. Julianna Wilhelm (b. 1824) married Moses Zelinka, the brother of Nana's grandmother. So in the course of his research, Bob sent me extracts of all the Zelinka and Rosenzweig records that he found. 

This was eight-nine years ago and his information has provided the basis for the Rosenzweig and Zelinka trees on my web site.

But I never had much in the way of actual documentation and for the most part, the people mentioned in the records were generally from the early and mid-1800s.

The first Zelinka we have is Leopold / Levko whose son Jacob had children in the 1780s. Among Jacob's children were sons Joseph and Isaak. Isaak is Nana's great-grandfather. Joseph has a daughter Francza, which is the name of Cyndi's great-great-great-grandmother. Cyndi is missing documentation of the parents of her Francza, but the DNA test showing us to be fifth cousins fits her being the daughter of Joseph.

In the course of going over this material, I found that Bob had given me additional information five years ago, which for some reason I never wrote down. That newer material indicates that there is documentation for Cyndi's Francza.

More Zelinkas

I then went back to JGFF, to see who else was interested in Zelinkas from Kotesova. There are five, aside from Cyndi and me - four of those with online contact information.

I contacted those four and received alot of information from them, bringing their families down to the present.

Sometimes, something comes up that pushes everything aside and last week, the Zelinkas was just that. I entered over three hundred new people and I am not yet finished. The older Zelinkas had more sons than daughters, so the name (including variations such as Selinka) appears very often. As I write this, I have recorded 329 descendants of Leopold Zelinka and 162 spouses. There are also twenty-four who are probably descendants, but we are not sure how.  

One hundred twenty were born with the name Zelinka and another seventeen Selinka, so that surname is now nipping at the heels of Gordon as the second most common name in my database.

As I say, there is more I have not yet entered, so consider this an introduction. There will be more in a few weeks.

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Housekeeping announcements:

I am scheduled to speak for the Israel Genealogical Society on 19 December at Bet Frankfurter in Jerusalem on:
I am also speaking 20 December in Raanana and 9 January in Haifa. The topic will be:

 All three talks will be in Hebrew. Check times and addresses at

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Hersch Leib Pikholz, of Rozdol, died on 26 November 1880 - two days before Hanukkah - at age 45. It was a Friday.  The year was like this year, with the first candle Saturday night. He was buried Sunday. The yahrzeit later this week is the reason I am writing about him today..
Hersch Leib is (more or less - it's a complicated story for another time) the head of a family which I call IF1, and a number of his descendants follow the Pikholz Project research.

Hersch is the Yiddish equivalent of Zvi, or occasionally Naftali. Leib is the Yiddish equivalent of Yehudah or Aryeh. So he would have been called Hersch Leib, but his proper, formal name was most likely Zvi Yehudah or Zvi Aryeh.
All the documents we have that relate to him say "Hersch Leib" and the daughter who was born after he died was called Ciwye Libe. Seven of his ten children died in Europe (probably all in Rozdol) and we do not have gravestone images for them. One went to New York and is buried there. Another went to South America and we have a grave for his son Hersch in Johannesburg. (There is one daughter for whom all we have is a birth record, so we know nothing about her.)

Shelomo ben
Israel Zvi Yehudah

Israel Zvi Yehudah
ben Shemuel
Both graves use the name Yehudah rather than Aryeh, for Leib, but they also introduce a third name - Israel - in front of Zvi.

Furthermore, though sons Solomon and Avraham had sons named Hersch Leib, one daughter had a son Israel Leib and another son and daughter each had a son named Israel Hersch.

On the other hand, on the birth records for his daughters' children, his name always appears as Hersch Leib (no Israel). And these were records created after Hersch Leib died.

So despite the fact that the records generated in his lifetime, the death record and the birth records of the daughters' children all say Hersch Leib, there is obvious credence to the name Israel, both on gravestones and among certain descendants.

My guess here is that the name Israel was added during his illness - he died of typhus - and his children were not completely settled on whether to preserve it as part of his name.

Yitzhak ben Avraham Ilan in Holon
But there is another problem. His son Avraham was killed in the Holocaust, but Avraham's son Yitzhak came to Israel before the war and changed his name from Pickholz to Ilan. As is common in that generation, Yitzhak's gravestone commemorates his family who were killed in the Holocaust, including his father "Avraham ben Israel." No Zvi, no Yehudah.

Yitzhak's daughter named her younger son after her great-grandfather Hersch Leib, but did not use his full name. She called him Aryeh. Not Yehudah. She said that's what her father had given her as the second part of Hersch Leib's proper name.

Of course, it would have been simple - and probably correct - to dismiss this Aryeh as an error, since Yitzhak did not know his grandfather Hersch Leib, while Solomon and Shemuel and the others did. But since there is someone walking around with this name, perhaps due to an error, I wanted to clear it up. Unfortunately there seemed to be no additional source of information on the matter.

But in fact, there is. Not direct proof, to be sure, but convincing nonetheless.

Kollel Hibat Ziyon in Mea Shearim,
where the collection records are held
Beginning about a hundred seventy-five years ago, there was an organization in Galicia which collected money to send to Galicianers living in Jerusalem in the most miserable conditions. Most of the records of those collections were lost when the Old City of Jerusalem fell to the Arabs in 1948, but the records for the last fifteen years before 1939 exist and are eminently accessible.

These collection records are pretty simple - just a list of names in Hebrew and amounts donated by each person. No other identifying information or addresses or anything - just the date of the collection. Some of these collections were done annually, some several times a year, depending on the community.

A sample page, from Brzesko
(Brigel). Rozdol pages are
very poor quality.
In the case of Rozdol, I was surprised to see that there were no contributions by anyone named Pikholz, despite the fact that Rozdol was the place that all the Pikholz families from that area had come from. There are no lists of Holocaust victims from Rozdol, but from our own records we know that there were Pikholz families there at the time. Certainly in the late 1920s. Eventually, I realized what had happened. The person in charge of collections for Rozdol, Pinchas Kerner, was himself a Pikholz son-in-law and he knew all the families personally, so instead of writing out the name each time, he simply wrote P"H as a personal shorthand.

As it happened, there were three of these Avraham P"H in Rozdol and he distinguished among them on his collection lists by the fathers' names - Avraham ben David, Avraham ben Pinchas and Avraham ben Hersch Leib. But on at least one occasion, he wrote Avraham ben Zvi Yehudah. Not only did Pinchas Kerner know the family well, but he was receiving the contribution from Avraham himself.

I believe that settles it. I have not told Aryeh's mother that she gave her son the wrong name.