Monday, October 13, 2014

The DNA of Adam

On Thursday (Friday for those of you still living in Exile), we conclude the yearly Torah cycle and begin again with the Creation. On Shabbat we will read about the Creation in greater detail, ending with the list of Adam's "begats" through the ten generations until Noah.

It seems appropriate, therefore, to write this week about my indeterminate cousin Adam and his DNA.

Adam and I have been in touch for probably a dozen years, beginning with the discovery that we both have Kugel ancestry from Pleshchenitsy, now in Belarus. (With all the holiday food this week, it's a good time to write about kugel as well.)

My mother's father Rachmiel Gordon is the son of Chana Kugel, the daughter of Gershon and Zelda. The only Pleshchenitsy documents we have are revision lists. All we know of the family is that Chana seems to have had three brothers, Aharon, Yaakov and probably Zalman. Yaakov was married. So given that Adam is not descended from this specific family, the closest he can be to me is a fourth cousin.

Skipping ahead for a moment, when Y DNA testing (male line) became available, Adam tested a number of Kugel descendants from Pleshchenitsy and reported that there are several distinct Kugel families from Pleshchenitsy - if they are related to one another it is not on the male line.

Adam also tells me that he has Gordon connections, but I do not know exactly what those are. Any connection we would have there would be more distant than fourth cousins.

We have another angle with Adam, as one of his ancestors is a Kapilevich from Borisov. A probable relative on my mother's mother's Rosenbloom side went to a person called "A. Kaplowitz" upon arrival in New York in 1911, so that is another  possible connection between us and Adam.

When I did my first autosomal DNA test, Adam came up as a suggested third cousin. Closer than I would have expected, but certainly reasonable if we are connected in several directions .Now that I am up to about 3400 Family Finder matches, Adam is my seventieth closest by relationship and thirty-seventh closest by total centiMorgans. We have 131.62 cM in common. My sisters have much less - 107.32 and 81.94 cM respectively.

Adam, from Belarus and Poland, and I from Galicia, Belarus and Slovakia, met three years ago at the inaugural meeting of the Sub-Carpathian SIG at the IAJGS Conference in Washington DC.

But I was busy on my father's side, while Adam is clearly on my mother's side. More than likely on both of my mother's sides - so this was not a connection I was pursuing.

The closest living relatives in my mother's generation are her third cousins so if we want to test on my mother's side, we would be looking for my first and second cousins, not anyone in her generation. (Actually, my mother's father has four living second cousins and one of those did an autosomal test with 23 & Me, but we don't have access to those results and matches.)

I only have three living first cousins on my mother's side and we have no idea where one of them is. One of the other two - Kay, the daughter of my mother's sister - did a Family Finder test and we saw the results three months ago. Adam and I have matches of 6 cM or higher in eight segments and Kay matches us in four of them.

Those four segments appear on the three chromosomes 6, 12 and 13.

However, Kay does not match Adam on 13, so he must be on my father's side there.

And the matches with Amy and Sarajoy are a bit of a mix, so there is some "mother's side / father's side" going on here. Endogamy! (Kay's father's side has no Jewish DNA, so at least we are spared complications there.)

But at least we have chromosomes 6 and 12 to work with and the question is, is Adam on my mother's mother's (Rosenbloom) side or on my mother's father's (Gordon & Kugel) side. For this we have second cousins.

My grandfather top right.
Aunt Mary bottom left.
The easy side is my grandfather's side since we begin with the assumption of a Kugel relationship. On that side, we have tests results from Judy and Ruth, first cousins to each other and second cousins to me via my grandfather's sister Aunt Mary, who is their grandmother.

Judy's results came first and I was surprised to see that FTDNA does not consider her a match with Adam at all and when I run them together against me or Kay, we see no overlap. Of course, once you get to third and fourth cousins, there is no guarantee that there will be significant DNA matches. Third cousins overlap on average 0.78% and fourth cousins only about 0.20%. (I am using the percentages provided by 23 & Me.)

Ruth is a bit better - she has 89.11 cM that match Adam. The only match that seems to fit us is on chromosome 6. There she matches Adam, Sarajoy and me, but not Kay and Amy. Oops. That seems to indicate that perhaps Adam matches me and Sarajoy on chromosome 6 on Ruth's FATHER's side, which we already know seems to match my father's side somehow.

So it appears that if Adam is connected to me on my Kugel/Gordon side, there must be some DNA that my grandfather received and passed on, but which his sister Aunt Mary did not - at least not to Ruth and Judy. My grandfather had another sister and a brother, but I am not in contact with any of their descendants.

More likely is that the connection with Adam is on my mother's mother's Rosenbloom side.

On that side, my grandmother had one brother in the US with children. We have no contact with the two who remained in Russia and two others died soon after arriving in the US, with no children. That one brother had two sons with children - one with six who have thusfar declined to test and one with three, one of whom has tested.

Beth's results came in about a week ago. Unfortunately I have not been able to get her into a project, so I cannot check her directly against Adam.

Beth has nice matches with Kay (394.98 cM), with my sisters (347.28 & 325.36 cM), with me (245.29 cM), but nothing with any of us and Adam together.

So it may be that the whole idea of Adam's being on my mother's side is totally wrong!

Which leaves my father's side.

We saw some hints of such connections on chromosomes 6, 12 and 13, where Kay seems to be on my mother's chromosome and Adam on my father's. So let's see what else we have on Adam and my father's side.

Adam and I have eight matching segments. All of those are matched by Amy or Sarajoy or both.

My father's first cousin Herb matches Adam on five segments, but none which match me.

There is this on chromosome 1. These are my matches with (in order from top) Adam, second cousins Rhoda and Terry, Aunt Betty and third cousin Pinchas on my g-gm's Kwoczka side. There is no room on the chart, but Amy and Uncle Bob match the segment on the far right.
This looks nice, but the problem is, none of the others match Adam except me, even though almost all the matching segments are identical. So the whole group matches me on my father's side, except Adam who, by process of elimination, matches on my mother's side. But we know there are no matches with Ruth, Judy and Beth.


This whole post is rather anticlimactic. I really thought we would be able to figure out at least part of my connection to Adam. When I got my first results two-plus years ago, I was excited to see Adam on my match list as a suggested third cousin. There were nearly fifty people in that category and Adam was the only one I knew and the only one where I had even an inkling about the nature of our matches.

So what do I have now? Endogamy. Lots and lots of endogamy. Just when I think I am beginning to understand what I am doing.