Monday, March 30, 2015

Matching Sandee

I manage sixty-eight family autosomal kits on GEDmatch, with six more either in the lab or expected there soon. It is no wonder, then, that I get more than a dozen inquiries a week from people who find matches. Many have very little information and others have some meat on them. These range from:
Dear Mr. Pikholz,

WE ARE COUSINS! I have a match with you on GEDmatch. Can you tell me how we are related?
Israel, I have seen your work on Facebook and I know you are very busy. I have matches with twenty-eight of your kits and my sister has thirty-four. Our GEDmatch kit numbers are [redacted] and [redacted]. Here is a list of the best of our matches: [redacted]

My families ancestral surnames are: [redacted]

Can you suggest how we might be related and how I should proceed?
I have a boiler-plate response, to which I add comments as relevant. Here is that response in its current incarnation:
Let me explain who I am and why I am here. That will help you understand why there are things I know about, while other things are way out of my orbit. And why I am not diving into this with you as enthusiastically as you might like..

Most people do genetic genealogy in order to find new relatives, either for their own sake or in order to help move back in time. That is not what I am doing. My main genealogy interest is the single-surname Pikholz Project, which has as its mission to identify and reconnect all Pikholz descendants.

The Pikholz families divide into two groups, both from east Galicia, one (mine) in Skalat and one in Rozdol. If the two are connected it involves people who lived at least two hundred years ago. We have about eighteen Pikholz families from Skalat, some going back to the edge of the pre-surname period and a few where we dead-end more recently. I am trying to use DNA to see how they fit together. I have a number of successes under my belt and several theories that should be testable when the newest batch of results comes in.

Among the Skalaters alone, I have over forty people who have done Family Finder and more on order.

So you see that I have limited interest and resources to get back much further right now, even though there are a few dozen non-Pikholz who match thirty or more of my people, almost surely from the pre-surname period. (I can get a dozen inquiries like yours in a typical week.)
I don't mind answering specific questions, such as "Is UB related to Sam", but if you want me to do the work (the only guarantee is my best effort), I will have to turn the meter on. (I am a professional genealogist.
In general, chromosome browser on GEDmatch is the best way to go to find patterns.
Some never reply. Some thank me and go on their way. Some expect me to do the work for them, which accounts for the bit about turning on the meter.

The more serious inquirers actually do some work, but invariably their results are all over the genealogical map. If they match any of the dozen descendants of my Pikholz great-grandparents, chances are they match at least eight or nine. They usually match a few of the descendants of Nachman Pikholz and Peretz Pikholz and Moshe Hersch Pikholz and Mordecai Pikholz and sometimes Uncle Selig Pikholz. They often match a few of the dozen Rozdol Pikholz descendants or my Kwoczka cousins or the two first and four second cousins on my mother's side or the two on my paternal grandmother's side.

Or my mother-in-law.

But because they are all over the map, it is very hard to say anything useful. Another untraceable relative from the period before records and surnames, with a common ancestor in the early or mid-1700s at best.

Then early last week there was Sandee.
Hi Israel,

I am on ancestry, Family Tree DNA, and GED match.  You and I are 4th cousins, according to ftDNA.  More interestingly,  I have matches of varying closeness to 29 of the people you manage on GED.  Now I am curious.  How can this be?  I have looked at your family tree and nothing jumps out at me.  I also have tested my mtDNA, and apparently that is not where we relate.  My family is primarily from Ukraine, Poland and Romania.  

I did compare in the chromosome browser.  I wish I had a better understanding of what it means.  

My name is ... Sandee ....  I would be interested in your take on this.  I hope you will be kind enough to respond.  My email is [redacted].  

My best,

My boilerplate response did not scare her off and in fact she went to work on the chromosome browser and although it took a few days, I was finally able to see her results - which she sent me as a pdf file. My first impression was that she matched well in Skalat, but not everyone. Her results seemed more focused. She also sent me her ancestral surnames, which were not familiar to me and did not line up geographically with my people.

I asked her to run it again, but leaving out the Rozdolers and my mother's family. And my mother-in-law. That left mostly the Skalaters. When I saw those newer, cleaner results, I suggested we speak. It seemed more efficient than writing it all out, with explanations and discussion.

We went through them together chromosome by chromosome. We pretty much ignored the matches that were smaller than 5 cM, though it is hard to ignore a column of six or seven of them all in the same place.  We looked at matches of 5-10 cM only when we had a few on the same segments. And we took note of the segments that were larger than 10 cM. 

Sandee's matches were indeed well-focused. There were very few matches with descendants of Old Nachman or Peretz, none with even two on matching segments. There was no trace of the descendants of Moshe Hersch except Leonora. Nothing either from the two great-great-grandchildren of Uncle Selig. A few matches of over 10 cM with the second cousins Craig and Ron, but never together. Very little of Vladimir or Joyce and neither of the Kwoczka cousins. And of my known Pikholz third cousins, Elaine was there and Joe was not.

But Sandee does have many matches with my sisters and me. And alot with Aunt Betty, but not with Uncle Bob. Quite a bit with Herb and some with Dalia, Lloyd, JudyT and Sam's daughter. And as I mentioned, Leonora. And some with my second cousins Terry, Rhoda, Marty and especially Lee - but less than I would have thought. These results had "Descendants of Mordecai and Taube" written all over them, but not only.

Aunt Betty, my sisters and me, without Terry, Rhoda and Marty looks like my grandmother's side, which includes Lee as well. It looks like Sandee's connection with us has to do with my grandmother's Slovakian-Hungarian side, in addition to a Galician connection through Mordecai or Taube. And since Sandee's matches include Cousin Shabtai and not Cousin Fred, that seems to point to my grandmother's maternal (Hungarian) side.

The matches with Herb are interesting, especially where Sandee matches him and Dalia together. There seems to be a connection somewhere between Herb's father's family and someone on Dalia's other side. Sandee could fit in there too, especially since Elaine's great-grandfather and Herb's grandfather are brothers.

It was a well-spent half hour on the phone. It is normal to expect that distant connections of this sort involve multiple common ancestors, but I have not seen someone whose results are so focused, particularly so heavily weighted to one of the Pikholz lines. So far it doesn't mean anything. We have not done proper triangulation. And until Sandee can get some of her cousins to test, we cannot know where we should be looking for a paper trail on her side.

But I really like where this is going and especially how it is getting there.

Housekeeping notes - literally, for a change
NOTICE: We leave Egypt this weekend. May you all find it real and meaningful. And a joyous occasion.

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