Thursday, July 31, 2014

Breaking With Tradition

I was planning to blog my usual Sunday morning about the two programs I have attended these past two weeks, but it is too much, so I am putting this up now and will do the second half probably Monday.

The week before last was the course in Practical Genetic Genealogy at GRIP in Pittsburgh. It was a wonderful course with excellent instructors. I really wish I could bring up the lectures again in podcast form, but that is not an option.

If I had any illusions about there being some simple solution to the endogamy problem - endogamy being the tendency of certain groups to marry within a relatively small tribe - those illusions would be banished. To be sure, our three wonderful lecturers, Debbie Parker Wayne, Blaine Bettinger and CeCe Moore referred to Ashkenazi Jewish endogamy frequently, but it was generally as an example of where the usual rules do not work.

(I sat in the center of the front row and was rather undisciplined when it came to comments and questions, and all three of them were very graceful about it. As were the other students. And everyone was very concerned for me and my family because of the war going on in Israel.)

The course was well-structured and included homework, which we'd go over at the end of the following day.

If I had to name one lesson I took away from the course it is that although the smaller matching segments may indeed be real, they are probably more generations in the past and it is not an efficient use of my time to be looking at them. I should really be concentrating on only the larger matches.

Of course, that and getting more family members to test.

During the course, I received test results for my third cousin once removed, Ralph, and it showed some really nice matches that brought smiles to the lecturers as well. I'll probably discuss those matches in about two weeks.

Wednesday evening, I gave a talk to people from the entire program (the DNA course and the five others) on "Special Challenges of Jewish Genealogy." For the most part, they hadn't a clue about what we have to deal with as researchers, aside from our unusual alphabet. There were probably forty people in attendance and it was well-received.

I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that many of the people in the class take clients and want to upgrade their DNA skills in order to better serve their clients or widen their client base. That may work for the general population, but I wonder whether Jewish clients would be patient with all the difficulties and ambiguities. ("This is all I get for my money?") For now, I am sticking to the Pikholz Project and my other families, plus lending a hand elsewhere when I can.

I did not tweet or blog the course, but I did put a few things I learned at on Facebook:
Things I have learned at - everyone but me pronounces it "autozomal" as though it were written with a "z."

Things I learned at CeCe Moore says that the day is coming when we will be able to get DNA from more obscure sources. So Save and label your gf's false teeth, your gm's hair, your father's baseball cap etc etc. But NOT in plastic, which promortes bacteria.
And tell people (us!) you have it so we can create the demand.

Things I learned at Genealogists will stand in line for ten minutes to get M&Ms and bottled water.

Things I learned at The world of genealogy is full of old friends whom I haven't met yet.
The week as a whole was wonderful and I came away with a lot of old friends. I had had some contact with some of the students before the course, as well as exchanges with some of the instructors (from my course and others). Now I consider them my friends. A few have asked me a week later how things are going in Israel.

There should be a class picture here, but they have not been distributed yet.

I had a feeling of swimming with the big fish. I spoke briefly with Judy Russell, Cyndi sat next to me the first evening, Kikmberly Powell of the APG Quarterly was in our course, and more.

My new old friend Pittsburgher Elissa Scalise Powell put together a really nice program.

A bonus for the week was spending time with Aunt Betty and Uncle Ken, as I stayed there during the course and for three days beforehand.

Housekeeping Notes
Although I don't use it myself, I am sad to see the demise of The Master Genealogist. It's another step on the road that leads to only online trees, where we will no longer be able to maintain definitive databases distinct from illustrative websites.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

We're Not From Galicia - We're from Vienna

One of my favorite ancedotes when talking about my Pikholz research is about a fellow who lives across the road from where we lived until six years ago. His surname is Pickholz and he is about eighteen months older than I. He turned me down flat when I asked him years ago about his Pickholz ancestry. His excuse was "We are not from Galicia, we are from Vienna." Fancy people.

I got no further with his two sisters, who live in the Jerusalem area. We have crossed paths with the families of a couple of his kids as well, and no one has any interest in contact.

Fourteen years ago, I had some correspondence with Mrs. Heidrun Weiss of the Israelitischen Kultusgemeinde Wien (the Vienna Jewish community aka IKG) and she wrote, regarding the father of my neighbor:
"...Pickholz was born in 1919, June 1 in [Vienna] (2nd district, Taborstr.96). Mother Brane, father not [identified]. The birth is not official, that means it never was reported by mother or father, just by the nursing home."
I tried to follow up, but no information was available. So for nearly fourteen years I carried around this Brane Pickholz, probably born in the 1890s and nothing else.

I don't remember how many Pikholz descendants we had named Brane or Breine at the time, but even now we have only a dozen - ten from Skalat families and two from Rozdol. The only family where this name had any prominence is the Riss family, which I wrote about just two weeks ago.

Husiatyn - again
Logo for "The G" was designed by Assoc. Ed. Leo Albert
Lately I seem to be coming back to the small Pikholz family from Husiatyn again and again. In March, I wrote a blog post called "The Dead Man in the Zellermayer House" and I decided to expand it into an article for The Galizianer, the quarterly publication of Gesher Galicia. As it happens, the issue with that article came out a few days ago.

That article includes the following family diagram:

(A smaller version of this diagram appeared here when I discussed the Husiatyn Pikholz family back in January.)

As I reviewed the draft of the article, once again bemoaning the fact that we have no decendants of the two married children of Chancie and Joel Halpern, it occurred to me that perhaps their daughter Brane, born 13 January 1893 in Podwolocysk, just might be our mystery woman who gave birth in Vienna. in 1919.

Back to Vienna
I went back to IKG, asking if perhaps they had anything else on this birth or on the mother of the newborn. I mentioned the possibility that she might be the woman born in Podwoloczysk in 1893, and they came back to me with assorted forms to fill out - who I am, why do I want this information, where will I publish it, etc etc.

The actual birth record arrived some weeks later, and the mother is indeed identified as being born in Podwoloczysk on 14 January 1893. We won't quibble over the one day's difference.

There was no charge, but I sent a donation.

In my database, I added Brane's son, three grandchildren, twelve great-grandchildren and the two great-great-grandchildren that I know of. Surely there are more.

I wrote to my former neighbor and his two sisters on 12 June. None of them has replied thusfar. Wait until they find out I want some DNA.

Housekeeping notes
GRIPitt was wonderful. I had car and phone issues which detracted from the total experience, but that was not the fault of the program.

I gave a talk Wednesday evening on Special Challenges of Jewish Genealogy, which was very well received. Maybe thirty-forty people attended.
Earlier in the day, the rental car broke down while I was at the cemetery. Alamo was terrible about service and the only way I was able to get to my lecture was with the help of the eighty-nine year old woman who lived next door to the cemetery. At seven-thirty she drove me back to the college.

With Debbie Parker Wayne

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Some summarizing data on my DNA projects

As we get ready for registration for the GRIPitt course in Practical Genetic Genealogy this
afternoon (Sunday), it seems like a good time to summarize what kind of testing has been done for my family DNA projects. Unless I say otherwise, the test in question is a Family Finder (autosomal) test.

Today will also be the debut of my T-shirts, seen on the right. I have black and yellow, in additioon to the blue.

Thanks to Amy and Larry Kritzman for getting this done on time and Sarajoy for the graphics and some of the design.

My documented family 
First let me mention the close family members who have tested. Some of them are in more than one of my family lines.

Two of my sisters have done tests recently and we don't expect to see results for maybe six weeks. They, of course, are in all the lines that I am in.

My father's sister (aka Aunt Betty) is in all my lines on my father's side. She did both Family Finder and MtDNA. My second cousin Lee is also in all the lines on my father's side, as our grandfahers are brothers and our grandmothers are sisters.I had a few things to say about Lee's excellent DNA soon after his test results came it.

My father's first cousin Herb did both a Family Finder and MtDNA. My father's brother (aka U Bob) ordered a Family Finder test a few days ago, so that covers all but one of the living cousins of my father's generation. The last one is thinking about it.

Terry and Rhoda, daughters of my father's first cousins on the Pikholz side have tested. Rhoda's test is new. This means that of the six children of my great-grandfather Hersch Pickholz who had children, descendants of five have tested.

All those above are descendants of my great-grandparents Hersch Pickholz and Jutte Leah Kwoczka. Jutte Leah had two brothers and Baruch the grandson of one and Pinchas the  great-grandson of the other have also tested. Baruch also did the most basic Y (male line) test.

One other documented cousin on my father's side has tested. That would be Ralph, whose great-great-grandmother Leah was the older sister of Hersch Pickholz. His results are not in yet.

There are also connections on their other sides between Pinchas and Rhoda and between Herb and Ralph. That's endogamy for you - all that marrying within the tribe that makes the DNA very very hard to decipher.

My mother's family
On my mother's side, which I have only begun looking at, four cousins have tested - my first cousin Kay, my second cousin on my grandmother's side, Beth, and two second cousins on my grandfather's side Ruth and Judy. Ruth also did an MtDNA test. We do not yet have results for any of those tests.

Other Pikholz descendants from Skalat
Aside from my personal, documented family, we have eleven Skalaters who have done Family Finder tests. Those include:
  • a pair of third cousins with a Y-37 match to me  
  • two pairs of cousins, apparently part of the same family and also with a Y-37 match to me 
  • a set of two third cousins and a third cousin once removed
  • two individuals - Jane and david, whom we are having trouble connecting to anyone, though they are definitely Pikholz descendants from Skalat
We also have a Pikholz from Skalat who did the most basic Y-12 test, but has declined to do more. We have no one else in his family. the results of his Y-test are consistent with ours, but he only did twelve markers, so we cannot say much else.

Results are in for all of these.

Pikholz descendants from Rozdol
We have eleven Pikholz descendants from Rozdol families who have tested.
  • two second cousins froim a family that we can trace back only to about 1850
  • two third cousins and a second cousin to their parents
  • three descendants of the main Rozdol line - the one that traces back positively to the original Rozdol couple
  • one with a Pikholz maternal line back to his great-grandmother
  • two whose father are Pikholz on both sides. they share one side in common
Ambiguous Pikholz
We have two Pikholz descendants we have no ideaa how to place. I originally thought they were close to one another, that they were traceable to a specific Skalat family and that there would be another Y-37 match. Wrong, wrong and wrong.

Steve Pickholtz is a category of his own. His grandfather was adopted into the same Pikholz family as jane above and the adopting parents included the sister of the mother. Yet Steve also matches enough actual Pikholz descendants that we cannot ignore him.

Other non-Pikholz matches
Although our purpose in doing the DNA testing was to determine relationships withing the Pikholz families, we can hardly ignore someone who is not known to be a pikholz but who matches eighteen or twenty of ours.

We have about two dozen such people, mostly people who came to me. There are no doubt many more that I haven't chased after. Many of these have actually joined our surname project.

I have done chromosome browser analyses for many of these but have not been able to identify anything definitive. Maybe this GRIPitt course will change that. I have discussed a number of these analyses on this blog, over the past six or eight months.

Lines to my great-grandparents
Let me count out my great-grandparents, to see how many baases we have covered in Y and MtDNA tests.

My father's paternal grandparents:
  • I did the Y-37 that leads to Hersch Pickhilz and his father Isak Fischel
  • Herb's MtDNA leads to Jutte Leah Kwoczka and her mother Basie Pollak

My father's maternal grandparents:
  • Moritz Rosenzweig has no male line  descendant
  • Aunt Betty's MtDNA goes through her grandmother Regina bauer to Regina's mother Fani Stern
My mother's paternal grandparents:
  •  We have some people who can test the Gordon line, but no one wants to right now and it is not urgent
  • Ruth's MtDNA goes up through our great-grandmother Anna Kugel's mother Zelda
My mother's maternal grandparents:
  • We have Rosenblooms galore who can test for our great-grandfather Israel David Rosenbloom. No one has agreed to do so. yet.
  • I did the MtDNA for my great-grandmother Etta Bryna.
That's seven out of eight possible and five out of seven done - or in process. Good enough for now.

I don't have much WiFi access right now and there is much to do, so I shall close here. Big two weeks coming up.

While I was writing this, the good folks at GRIPitt accepted my suggegstion to make a brief presentation of the special challenges of Jewish genealogy. Something else to do in the next few days, but something I welcome.

Housekeeping notes
The handouts for my presentation at the IAJGS Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Salt Lake city is now available. The talk is entitled" Beyond a Doubt: What We Know vs. What We Can Prove."

See the handouts at

Sunday, July 13, 2014

It's Never Too Late

Last Thursday, the twelfth of Tammuz, was the eleventh yahrzeit of Professor Beatrice Riss Taft, the daughter of Josef Riss-Pickholz and Franziska (Freida Beila) Gottesman. Beatrice Riss Taft was born in Vienna in 1919 and is buried in Haifa.

Her father, Josef, changed his name from Pickholz to Riss about the time that Beatrice was born. His parents were Breine (sometimes Brane) Riss and Abraham Ahron Riss (1842-1933). (I'm not certain, but they both seem to have been Riss.) We do not know when Breine died, but we assume it was before the family came to Vienna. She must have been fairly young as there are grandaughters named after her in 1888 and 1889.

Josef died in 1938 and is buried in the same grave as his father. Franziska was killed in Auschwitz and her name was inscribed on Josef's tombstone after the war.

Breine and Abraham Ahron had seven children altogether during the period 1860-1882 and from one of the births we learn that Breine's parents are Rifka Pikholz and Gabriel Riss. We know of no other children for Ryfka and Gabriel and we can only guess at Ryfka's parents. (I have no idea!)

The seven children of Abraham Ahron and Breine are:
  • Wilhelm (Gabriel Wolf) ~1860-1925, lived in Vienna. He had two daughters, one killed in the Shoah and one who lived in Bolivia. (We cannot find the four Pikholz graves in Cochabamba).
  •  Rivka (1862-1919) married David Gottleib and had five daughters. Two died in childhood. Two of the other three married but had no children and one had a daughter we know nothing about.
  • Isidore died in 1937 and his wife was killed in the Shoah. We have been in intermittent contact with one child of each of their two sons, one in Germany and one in England.
  • Deborah (b. 1874) was deported from Thereisenstadt. She was married twice and had no children.
  • Moses married the daughter of his brother Wilhelm. They had two children and no grandchildren.
  • Josef had a son Egon and Beatrice. Egon's widow is largely responsible for the work on this branch of the family.
  • Rosche lived in Chicago and San Francisco and had a daughter from each of two husbands. She adopted the three children of the second husband from his first marriage. I believe the youngest daughter is still living, but she has not responded to my attempts at contact.
But our star today is Beatrice, who married her childhood sweetheart, Markus Taft, in 1986 at age 67 in Indianapolis.

The event and their story are commemorated in this article from the Indianapolis News from July 18 1986. My thanks to the Indianapolis Star for their permission to reproduce this article here. (Click on the article to see it larger.)

Housekeeping notes
In case anyone was wondering why I missed the last three weeks, my computer crashed and it took three weeks to recover the data. (Thanks to my wife's brother for the recovery.) I was able to work on my laptop, but I was too discombobulated to blog.

I leave for the US today (Sunday) and will be in Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Salt Lake City, returning home after three weeks. Pittsburgh is the GRIPitt course in Practical Genetic Genealogy and Salt Lake City is the IAJGS Conference on Jewish Genealogy.

I would like to think that I will keep the blog going during the time I am away.

The folks on the Conference Committee advise: 
July 25 - last day to register for IAJGS LIVE! if you want your access code in time to view all LIVE! conference programming as it is presented (whether you register for LIVE! by this date or later you will be able to enjoy 60 of the best conference programs whenever you like and as many times as you like until October 31, 2014).