Sunday, December 8, 2013


My father's second cousin, whom I'll refer to as Baruch, is the great-great-grandson, in an all male line, of Jossel Kwoczka (~1794-1849) and his wife Jutte Lea. Baruch's surname should be Kwoczka, but his father changed it.

Jossel and Jutte Leah were called Kwoczka on their death records, but we do not know how far back the name goes. All the Kwoczkas lived in Zalosce and it appears that they are all descended from this couple or perhaps a couple who lived a generation or two earlier. I discussed this family about a year ago.

Baruch's grandfather Rachmiel Kwoczka had an older sister named Jutte Leah, my great-grandmother. Rachmiel and Jutte Leah had a brother Pinchas, who was also married to a Jutte Leah. Her father was a Zwiebel and her mother a Lewinter, but I have always had a strong feeling that the two Jutte Leahs could be traced back to a single namesake.

The question of the two Jutte Leahs is very much a back burner issue, mostly because there is so little documentation available for Zalosce.

There are additional children in all these families
So about eighteen months ago, I asked Baruch to do some DNA testing. I wanted an autosomal test to nail down the fact that my Jutte Leah is in fact the sister of his Rachmiel, which is now clear. And I asked him to do a Y-DNA because of his male line. I was not specific enough and he only did the very basic twelve-marker test, which does not lead us very far. It is sufficiently vague that he has 313 perfect matches, but of course that number would shrink drastically if he had tested for 25 or 37 or 67 or 111 markers. (The standard is 37 and I myself did 67.)

Nonetheless, every once in awhile, I'll have a look at Baruch's matches to see if anyone interesting shows up. A month ago, one did – a man named LeWinter in the US. I saw from his information on the match page that he had done a Y test with 111 markers, but had not done an autosomal test. There was an email address. I wrote.

He listed his most distant male-line ancestor as a Lewinter from Tarnopol, the provincial capital not from Zalosce.

I started putting together the scenario in my head. If Baruch and this LeWinter are in fact a good Y match, it means they have a common male-line ancestor. Without an autosomal test for LeWinter or at least a higher level Y test for Baruch, we could not tell how far back the common ancestor might be, but Tarnopol and Zalosce are so close that it would be reasonable to think that two hundred years ago is quite possible. That is about when the Jews of Galicia adopted surnames and we could have two brothers, one became Kwoczka and one Lewinter. Or maybe one took a surname from his wife. This looked like it might lead to a huge breakthrough.

I wrote and got a response, from the mother. He himself isn't very interested and this is all her doing. She sent me the grandfather's SS-5 form, where he applied in his own hand for a Social Security number. His parents, writes the grandfather Louis Lewinter, are Berel Lewinter and Yetty Lewinter. Yetty. There is Jutte again. Maybe even Jutte Leah. This could be really close family. Born 23 July 1895 in Tarnopol.

Nothing from my side was familiar to her. I was hoping she would know of our Zwiebel-Lewinter couple, whose descendants lived in Pittsburgh. But no. But also not necessarily important.

I went to JRI-Poland and looked up births of Lewinters anywhere near 1895, anyplace in Tarnopol province. After all, Louis may not have meant Tarnopol the city, just the general area.

There was one good match. Nachman Leib – Leib becomes Louis easily enough. Born 29 July 1895 – off by six days. Born in Tarnopol itself. So far so good. The mother is Jutte Dyne, the father is Berl.  It's certainly the right man. 
One problem. Jutte Dyne is the daughter of Nachman and Menie LEWINTER and Berl's surname is MANDEL. Louis – Nachman Leib – got his Lewinter surname from his mother. That happened often in east Galicia as the Jews did not always record their marriages with the civil authorities. That means my cousin Baruch's Kwoczka male line is a match with a family named Mandel. He may be related to the Lewinters, but not in that male line.

Too bad. Maybe the next DNA match will pan out.

The youngest Jutte Leah
Sometimes things work out right without being planned. I am writing this on Wednesday evening, the last night of Hanukkah. The second of Teveth. That is the fifth birthday of the youngest Jutte Leah. Her family calls her Lakie. She is the great-great-great-granddaughter of Jutte Leah Zwiebel and Pinchas Kwoczka, which makes her my third cousin twice removed.

Her mother made the decision to choose that ancestral name while sitting in my office about a month before Lakie was born. And it just happened to work out that I am sitting in my office writing this on her birthday.

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Housekeeping notes
1. The Fall AVOTAYNU is out. Next week I plan to write about my response to the two articles from the Summer issue on collaborative online genealogy, including a few outtakes from my earlier drafts.

2. The call for papers for the Salt Lake City conference came out this week.

While the program committee will consider all submissions, we have
identified some focus areas in which we are especially interested.
These include Genealogy and Jewish History related to World War I,
Jews of the Western United States, Technology in support of
genealogical research, Immigration and migration over the ages and
Ethical considerations in genealogy.

The conference will kick off one day shy of the 100th anniversary of
the start of World War I (Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on
July 28, 1914, one month after the assassination in Sarajevo of
Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria). Many of us have ancestors who
served in the armies of the various nations engaged in this conflict.
The War and subsequent fighting for control of Eastern Europe
devastated much of Europe including the Jewish heartland in the Pale.
It stimulated a wave of Jewish migration and resulted in the Balfour
declaration, calling for "the establishment in Palestine of a national
home for the Jewish people". If you would like to submit a speaking
proposal related to the "War to End all Wars" please do so.

I'm not sure I have anything to say on those topics, but I have until 15 January to come up with something. 

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