Monday, October 6, 2014

Pikholz Women of the Early 1800s

The matter of ancestral women is a bugaboo of genealogists from most cultures, but as usual, it's more complicated with European Jews.  I would like to look at this within the context of the Pikholz Project, with perhaps an idea regarding all those DNA matches from non-Pikholz testers.

Given names
Let's start with one of the more obvious points and that is that we often do not even know the given names of some female ancestors, even though their husband's names are known.

Until recently, inscriptions on Jewish tombstones included the father's name but rarely the mother's name. So that source, so useful for fathers, is of no use for mothers. That may be a matter of traditional modesty, but it is more likely that since the father was more of a public figure, his name would have been how the deceased was known to the public - being also how he was called to the Torah.

So far as I know (and I have very limited experience) the same is true of kettubot, Jewish marriage contracts.

In my area of interest, east Galicia, early birth records named the parents and sometimes the maternal grandfather. Only in 1877 when Austrian law began to require the mother's parents names, did we learn the grandmother's given name.

When the mother's given name is unrecorded and there are no alternate sources, we have two problems - uncertainty and error. Uncertainty is self-explanatory - what you don't know, you don't know. I simply do not know the name of the mother of my mother's maternal grandmother. I can only speculate that perhaps my grandmother or one of her sisters bore her name.

The matter of error is more serious and here I plead guilty to a bit of systematic sloppiness. We have a marriage record for for Berl and Dwojre Pikholz in 1887, that was probably close to thirty years after their actual Jewish marriage. Berl's parents are Isak Josef and Rojse Pikholz and Dwojre's are Motie (=Mordecai) and Taube Pikholz. We know the couple Mordecai and Taube and have death records for both.

But this is the only record we have for Isak Josef and Rojse aside from Isak Josef's 1862 death record. Although I do not have documentation, I am quite sure that my great-great-grandmother Rivka Feige and her brother Selig are the children of this Isak Josef. But I have no indication that their mother was Rojse. Rivka Feige has no children or grandchildren named any form of Rojse, nor do we see any in our limited information about Selig.

Berl, on the other hand, has a daughter Rojse whose children were born from 1881.

Berl was a few years older than Rivka Feige and Selig, so it is quite possible that Rojse had died and their mother was a second wife. However, I have never laid that out before and the casual follower of the Pikholz Project could easily assume that Isak Josef's wife is always Rojse. (This is not an issue in my database, where Rivka Feige and Selig are not even attached to Isak Josef, because we have no documentation.)

There are likely a few similar cases in the Pikholz Project. Not many, mind you, but a few.

There are also several cases of Pikholz men whose names appear on birth records as fathers, but with two or three different mothers. In some of those cases, I think these are the same man, but I cannot record that as such. I can only write "probably the same as..."

Birth surnames
Even more common than women without given names are women without birth surnames.

So what is Rachel's maiden name?
Just recently, I sent my second cousin Ruth a copy of her parents' 1936 Brooklyn marriage certificate. Where it specifically says "Mother's maiden name," Ruth's father had written "Rachel." We had to find the marriage record for his sister to learn the mother's maiden name.

And often, when a form says "Mother's name" the surname given is her married name, which is usually NOT her birth name.

The Pikholz Project currently has with many such women with the surname "XXXXX."

Who is the Pikholz?
We also have couples in the old records where it is not clear whether the Pikholz is the husband or the wife or both. As we know, marriages were not always recorded with the authorities, so the children were given the mother's surname and often the father used it as well.

I think in the appropriate Given Name Analysis pages, I have recorded all these using no surnames for either of the couple and including both the husband and the wife.

The DNA angle
As I have mentioned here before, we have few dozen people whose autosomal DNA tests have shown matches to more than half of the thirty-odd Pikholz descendants who have tested. And there are surely many more. Over twenty have joined the Pickholtz Surname Project at FTDNA to allow me to include them fully in chromosome comparisons - some of which I have discussed here.

I refer to these families as "non-Pikholz" because they have no indication of Pikholz in their families. Some of them have known Galicianer ancestors and some do not. I have taken to explaining that although DNA shows that they and we have common ancestors, they are probably from the pre-surname period, likely the mid-late 1700s, so we cannot define the relationships using the usual tools.

But this period was upwards of two hundred years ago. That's six-seven, even eight generations ago, very much on the periphery of autosomal DNA's usefulness. Surely not all of these dozens of non-Pikholz matching families share common ancestors right about the time surnames were adopted. And it is almost certainly not all to be blamed on endogamy.

There must be something else. I think it's the women.

If the connections between these families and ours go through their women or our women or both, from slightly later, say the early 1800s, surely that would make more sense.

There might even be a way to find hints. The wife of Nachman Pikholz (~1795-1865) was Sure (=Sara). Her children are Moshe Hersch, Alte, Arie Leib, Itzik, Basie, Pessie, Ciril Abraham Getzel and probably Gabriel. Do any of the non-Pikholz families have a group of given names that might indicate common ancestors?

This would not be proof, but it might be a way to give us some direction. So how about it, non-Pikholz DNA matches?

My list of Pikholz women without surnames

1. Beile. Died in Skalat in 1841 at age sixty. Called "alien" on her death record. That's all we know. The first Beile births in the Skalat area are Henie Beile in the 1840s, Golde Beile on 1865 and several Sara Beile from the mid-1870s.

2. Bassie. Died in Kozowa in 1875 at age sixty. She was married to Moshe Hersch, the son of Nachman. Her children are Ari Leib, Simon, Taube Freude, Josef and Jacob.

3. Chaje Zirl. Married to Isak Elias Zellermayer and had a son Moshe Hersch in 1848. We only know her name from the son's marriage record.

4. Feige. Married to Berl (1789-1877), but she seems to be significantly younger. We have a Feige 1805-75 who may be the same person. Children are Moshe and Sara Bassie, perhaps others. Her husband seems to be the father of Peretz, but she seems too young.

5. Ryfka. Married to Gabriel Riss. That's all we know and this is from a birth to her daughter Brane, who also married a Riss. Brane had children in the period ~1860-1882.

6. Taube. Died in 1872 at age seventy. Married to Mordecai. Children are Chana Chaje, Enie, Dwojre, Chaim Yaakov and Arie Leib.

7. Sara. Married to Nachman (~1795-1865). As I said above, her children are Moshe Hersch, Alte, Arie Leib, Itzik, Basie, Pessie, Ciril Abraham Getzel and probably Gabriel.

8. Sara. Married to Gabriel (~1822-1852) a "man of Skalat" who lived in Husiatyn. Childen are Moshe, Chana and probably Schia. (It is possible that Sara is the Pikholz and Gabriel is not, but I don't think so.) I discussed this family in detail here

9. Eliezer (Leiser). (Yes I know he is not a woman, but bear with me.) Eliezer died in 1878 at age fifty-six and was married to Chana Chaje, the daughter of Mordecai and Taube (above).  We haven't a clue what his surname might have been but since he was a levi, we know he was not a Pikholz. He used the name as his own.

All these above are from Skalat or nearby. I do not see this problem in Rozdol.

One more category
Now that I think about it, as long as I am giving homework to our non-Pikholz DNA matches, let me list the known maiden names of some of the early Pikholz spouses. Perhaps some of those will fit someone.

In the Skalat area: Nagler, Rechel, Pollak (from Jezierna), Zellermajer, Glisner, Waltuch.

And from the Rozdol area: Steg, Rosenzweig, Kawa, Borek, Krut/Kraut. Also Kranter, a man who married an early Pikholz woman, whose parents are not yet identified.

Housekeeping notes
James Tanner wrote an important three-part series a few weeks ago which reinforces what I believe but never really put into words. It's worth a read, especially in our Jewish world where so much of what people call "proof" just isn't there.  Here is the best part.

Wishing everyone a happy Sukkot holiday. I shall not be communicating with people outside Israel from sundown Wednesday, our time, until Sunday morning..


  1. My maternal grandfather's father is Deutelbaum and his mom is the Zelinka that hooks into your Zelinka family and makes us 5th cousins. We know from DNA that we match in other ways though, including to most of your Pikholz family (recapping for readers who might not know). While most of our DNA match is through my dad (Poland, Belarus), we could still have connections other than the known one through my mom's side.

    My maternal grandfather's mother is Ida Milch (Milchova), also from Kotesova, Slovakia, the same place the Zelinkas are from. Her mom was Josefina Pollakova, so there is the Pollack you mentioned, though it's a common name so probably not the same family.

    That's the only match I have to one of your extra surnames at the bottom of the post. As for given names, I don't have that many to play with. Most I've put the Americanized versions.

    Maternal grandfather's side: Ida, Josefina, Frances, Fani (stepmom), Elizabeth, Josephine (granddaughter of the first one), Ernestine, Madeline.

    Maternal grandfather, Zelinka relatives: Anna, Rachel, plus Frances from above (and many others not in my direct line).

    Maternal grandmother's side: Margit Krieger, Hermina Goldburger. My grandmother and her mother from Kosice, Slovakia.

    Paternal grandfather's side: Jessie (orginally Gittle) Hassenpruch/Hassensprung, Julia (my great great grandmother and my great aunt), Hannah Gzochowsky. Warsaw.

    Paternal grandmother's side: Zira Shapiro (always spelled with a Z, sometimes Ziera), Celia (grandmother's sister, called Slate on the passage), Miriam Friedman (my grandmother). Cherikov, Mogilev, Belarus.

    1. I cheated a bit, Cyndi, by mentioning the Pollaks of Jezierna in this contact. That is not a Pikholz family but is in fact the family of my Pikholz grandfather's maternal grandmother.
      She had four children that we know of: Jutte leah (my g-gm), Pinchas and Rachmiel who have descendants I am in touch with, and Avraham Josef who died at age twenty-five leaving one child and a pregnant wife.

    2. Hi Cyndi,
      I think that my great-grandfather, Leopold Deutelbaum was Emanuel's brother. Leopold's Father was Jonas/Joseph and his Mother was Fannie Zelenka/Zelinka. My research indicates that Emanuel married twice (Ida was his second wife) and remained in Slovakia. Leopold was born in Kotesso, Hungary (now Kotesova, Slovakia) and came to the States in the late 1890's.
      Do you have more Deutelbaum information that we could share?

    3. Hi Susan! Your sleuthing skills in finding me were faster than Israel's in approving this comment. So, for anyone else reading this thread, yep, Susan and I are 3rd cousins and have connected. But if another reader has a Deutelbaum ancestor, I want to hear from you! If your ancestor is a Zelinka, both Israel and I want to hear from you.

    4. I did not blog for a few weeks so didn't see that this went to spam.

  2. Count me in. I match to 22 of your relatives, and my mother matches to 14, according to my recently-uploaded DNA data on Gedmatch.

    1. Meantime, I saw you wrote me directly and I replied there.