Sunday, March 2, 2014

Fiftieth Reunion, Genealogy, Young Cousin Matt, Geni - and More About Marla's family

My Class Reunion
The fiftieth reunion of my high school class (Taylor Allderdice, in Pittsburgh) is planned for the
No, I do not plan to attend
end of the summer. I never had much to do with my 462 fellow graduates during the two years I was there, but it's amazing what happens when you fill in your profile on the reunion website and write "Occupation: Genealogist."

This one writes to me and tells me what his family name was in Europe and throws in some Hebrew ("Shalom Chaver") for good measure. That one remarks on how interesting it must be for me. Others had questions about their families or how to do this or that.

There are also a few whom I approached, because their unusual surnames had some family connections with me. Or with my wife. In one case, a classmate has the same rare name as my wife's late husband. In another, the surname is almost surely from my ancestral town Skalat. (Actually, I think the family of my wonderful fourth grade arithmetic teacher at Linden School may also have been from Skalat.)

The truth is there may be some meaningful communal genealogy to be done among my classmates and others in my home community, based on their towns of emigration.

Zalosce and Podkamen
My great-grandfather, Hersch Pickholz, was probably born in Podkamen, though his family had been from Skalat. Other Pittsburgh families that I knew were also from Podkamen - the Klahrs and the Steins, for a start. But there are no Podkamen records, so I could not do anything on that front.

Hersch Pickholz married Jutte Lea Kwoczka from neighboring Zalosce and their older children were born there. His brother and one of his sisters also raised their families in Zalosce. When JRI-Poland came out with indexed birth from Zalosce for 1877-1890, I was eager to see them. I went through the lists and saw so many names that I knew from Pittsburgh, including from school and the neighborhood. Kweller, Lewinter, Papernik, Chotiner, our own Braun and Kwoczka, Charap, Schwadron, Wachs and others.

There must have been a lot of chain migration from the Zalosce area to Pittsburgh in the 1890s. I don't know if the chain was mostly intra-family or just people who knew each other. There is at least one person is my class whose (great-)grandparents were from two families on the list above.

After WWI, Rabbi Wolf Leiter, the son of the rabbi of Zalosce, came to Pittsburgh where he served until his death in 1974. His memoirs helped me solve a major family relationship in a different town. A story for another time.

Enter Matt
One of the girls in my class (I am allowed to say "girls" in this context even though the next big birthday will be 70, right? Nana always called her friends "The Girls.") tells me that her grandfather came from a town called Nasielsk, not far from Warsaw. The grandfather died here in Israel and is buried in Petah Tikva. She has never been here.

I am not sure how much effort I am interested in putting here, but I figure I can do a bit of poking around to see what comes up.

The grandfather is listed in the cemetery website and appears on JOWBR, with a photo.

His grave is the next section over from my parents, so it's easy enough to visit, next time I am there.

Anyway, just as she and I are corresponding, I meet Matt. Matthew Saunders is newly married to Jessica Gordon, whose late father David is my first cousin. Jessie and Matt were visiting from New York and spent Shabbes here, together with her brother and sister-in-law Ari and Bobbi, who live here in town with their baby daughter Devorah. We had a lovely time, full of Torah and genealogy, as Matt is very much into both of these.

So Friday afternoon we are sitting at the computer talking and Matt says something about his grandfather's having come from Nasielsk. I had him write a note to the girl from my class right there on the spot. We'll see if that leads anywhere.

Matt and I also discussed, which he uses. Some of my thoughts on that appear here. It turns out that despite what Geni says, Matt and my mother-in-law are NOT related. There is a chain leading from one to the other, but as soon as I saw that it depends on a "brother-in-law relationship" in the middle, I knew they could not be truly related.

Speaking of Geni
Which reminds me, I received a note from an experienced genealogy researcher in the US purporting to show how we are related. I removed the names aside from my own, leaving the initials of the fellow who sent me this.
As you can see, there are twenty-one steps here from him to me, including half a dozen in-law relationships, which jump bloodlines It misspells my name and includes a photograph of me that I don't think I have ever seen before; I certainly didn't authorize its use on Geni.

It's hard to take this stuff seriously. But we have to, if only to protect ourselves. And laughter can be oh so effective.

Leftovers from last week
After posting last week, I added a comment, which I revisit here with some illustrations and further explanation.

If Marla and her brother match nineteen Pikholz descendants between them, but their mother matches only seventeen, we must consider that there are some who would match on Marla's father's side. (There are also two that only the mother matches, but that is not a problem.)

The four that the mother doesn't match are Bonnie, Gene, Gadi and Micha. Bonnie and Gene are third cousins from Skalat and Gadi and Micha are from Rozdol. The only interesting overlap involving those four is on chromosome 19, where Bonnie has a 5.97 cM match with Marla and Gadi has a 6.33 cM match, with a large overlap between them.

Marla as background, from top to bottom:
Marla's brother, mother, uncle, Bonnie, Gadi
In fact all four of Marla's group match the entire length of chromosome 19, so I thought that perhaps there was some kind of testing anomaly such that Marla's mother did not match Gadi and Bonnie.

But I ran them against Marla's uncle - who as I say matches them with Marla as a background. But he in fact does not match them on chromosome 19 at all, even though FTDNA calls them remote matches.

Here with Marla's uncle as background,
Bonnie and Gadi disappear entirely.

So it is clear to me that at least Bonnie and Gadi match Marla on her father's side.

Marla's father is deceased so we have to see if she has anyone else on his side who can test.

Her brother did a Y-37 test last week. It was always a longshot, but their surname has a meaning that is related to wood and maybe around 1800 two brothers chose different wood-related names, perhaps as a reflection of their family occupation..There was no match. Too bad. I liked the theory.

Oh, and one other thing for the consideration of the professional explainers. Since both Bonnie and Gadi have an overlapping match on chromosome 19 on Marla's father's side, a chromosome check of either Gadi or Bonnie that includes the other should show that both match Marla and her brother.

Gadi matches Marla and her brother,
on their father's side, but not Bonnie
Bonnie matches Marla and her brother
on their father's side, but not Gadi
So does this mean that Bonnie and Gadi are on different sides of Marla's father?

So much to learn.

Housekeeping notes
1. As a result of what I consider a nearly-confirmed relationship with Marla's family, I had a look at how her family connects DNA-wise with some of the other non-Pikholz families who also match with many of us. We have had an ongoing discussion among half a dozen such families the last few days and I would like to think that we will eventually nail something down. As I write this, several others of the non-Pikholz have joined our surname project at FTDNA, making it easier to do these comparisons.

2. I ordered four books from Amazon to help prepare for the course on Practical Genetic Genealogy in July. Matt brought one of them. My cousin Linda will be here next month and already has the other three. I am really placing alot of faith in this course.

GRIPitt has spaces available in some of the other courses.

3. PIT-ORD flight booked. ORD-SLC-ORD flights booked. International flights will wait until I am more certain of when I want to travel. Prices are way higher than last year.- more than 50% higher.


  1. Maybe it's a different Israel Pickholtz. Your middle name isn't David.

    1. My second given name is indeed David. I have mentioned my namesake, Israel David Rosenbloom, here before.

      In any event, I whited out the names in the chain and the last half-dozen lead to me.