Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Sharing Your Information

We in the genealogy community often have discussions about how much of our information we share and how frustrating it is when people do not include basic information such as ancestral surnames and geography in their profiles.

Steve Pickholtz asked to share his thoughts on the subject.

So far, I've taken the Family Tree DNA Family Finder test and the 23andMe test. (I also did FTDNA's Y-37 but that is another matter entirely.) My wife took the MyHeritage test and the 23andMe test.  Our daughter took only the 23andMe test. The tests we all took were for different reasons as explained below.

I took the FTDNA test because I am a member of the Pickholtz group and tere is an advantage when all group members use the same testing company.  The 23andMe test will be explained later.  My wife took the MyHeritage DNA test because her family has lived in the same town in New Jersey since before the Civil War.  As a matter of fact, her line can be traced back to Betsy Ross of American flag fame.   My daughter took the 23andMe test for medical reasons only.  She leaves the genealogy part up to me.  Because of a life threatening medical problem my wife has, as does a cousin on my side of the family, we wanted to know if either of us was a carrier to better help my daughter if she were to have children.

All three of these test come with a list of possible relatives, and their ranking DNA-wise to the tester.  That is great.  I know nothing about DNA, so with FTDNA results, I leave it to Israel Pickholtz to sort it out and make sense out of it.  (Israel, has a great understanding of this, and has done a great job interpreting their meanings).

So what is the problem!!!!!!!!!!!  Let me use 23andMe for the example.  This program asks if it can use your name or something else to identify you to the rest of the list members.  Initials or a made up name don't help me when I check the results.  Family names, what's so hard about giving these if you know them?  I look at these always to see if they match any of my known relatives.  Where did your relative come from?  This may not always be known, but if it is, why not give it.  If again, using 23andMe with my wife,  the closest relative based on her DNA came from Ireland.   Guess what, without knowing anyone's family names, nor where those relatives came from, the information didn't help me at all.

These problems can all be found to some extent in the three above programs and I am sure in others.  If you are really interested in learning your roots,  you must give some information.   For those interest in why I wrote this,  in using 23andMe, I found three relatives (not from the Pickholtz line), but from my mother's line.  Three of them gave their real last names which are in my family.  Family stories pay off if you remember the names and places.  They also mentioned family members who live in Philadelphia, where I was born.  What did I do, yes I contacted them and found out they are related.  Two were on my mother's side and one on my father's mother's side.

In closing------- help your self and other researchers by giving out some information.  Why hide it?

Housekeeping notes 
Order here.
European Jews have always married mainly within the tribe. Whether our numbers five hundred years ago in Europe were four hundred or four hundred thousand, the pool was limited. As a result, the members of the tribe today are all related to one another, multiple times.  This phenomenon, known as endogamy, makes Jewish genetic genealogy very difficult, often impossible. There is a similar phenomenon in some other population groups.

I was convinced that this brick wall is not as impenetrable as it seems, at least in some circumstances.

I believe that this book demonstrates that I was correct.

When I decided I wanted to write a book, I was not sure if I wanted to write a “How to” book or a “How I did it” book. The decision was dictated by the facts in the field. Different family structures, widely different numbers of living family members, and other similar factors dictated that writing “How to” would be irrelevant for most researchers.

“How I did it” is more likely to be helpful to the research community and more likely to instill the confidence necessary for such a project.

It is my hope that this book will encourage and inspire other researchers of their European Jewish families and other endogamous populations to say “I can do this!”

Monday, February 11, 2019

Politzer

Customers of Family Tree DNA are familiar with the match alerts we get from time to time, whether our own kits or the kits of members of our projects.
As I manage over a hundred kits, I am not about to stop what I am doing to look at these every time I receive one and in any case, I want to see how a match fits not just with me  but with other family members including those not close enough to warrant an alert. So nearly two years ago, I decided to look at all the new matches across my family members every few months. Then I write to the ones that look interesting and ask them to upload to GEDmatch to see if these matches are on shared segments.

Usually nothing much comes of it. Even when the DNA points to a very specific portion of my family, the match usually doesn't know any of my surnames or even my geography.

Last week I prepared the matches for the past four months and Sunday I sent out messages to the scores of matches who looked even a little bit promising. So let me tell you about Cynthia, who happens to be the wife of a fellow I actually know.

So I asked her to register for GEDmatch/Genesis and after it batched I looked at her top 20,000 matches using the Tier1 one-to-many search. She matches seventy-eight of my kits and I did some chromosome browsers to see how her matches line up in family groups. As usual I was looking for segments of over 10 centiMorgans with multiple meaningful matches with my families.

On chromosome 3, she matches seven of us - four of my parents' children, one first cousin and two second cousins, all pointing to my maternal grandfather's side. All we have there are the surnames Gordon and Kugel. And it was a small match anyway, so probably from a pre-1800 common ancestor.

Chromosome 5 showed a 12 cM match with a pair of second cousins in the Nachman Pikholz branch of the family. Not much with that either - but if Cynthia had the relevant surnames, it could have been nice.

Chromosome 6 had two segments of minor interest - one with some second and fourth Pikholz cousins of mine and another with one first cousin and three second cousins on my maternal grandmother's Rosenbloom side. Here too, we have no other surnames, but we do know that the
family lived in Borisov (Belarus) for at least half of the 1800s.

Both chromosomes 16 and 20 brought matches with small groups of my third and forth cousins on
the Pikholz side.

Chromosome 22 has seven descendants of my Pikholz great-great-grandparents. Both of these ancestors are Pikholz.

Then there is the X, chromosome 23. The relevant matches look like this.


The four nearly identical matches belong to two of my sisters, my father's brother and my fourth cousin Lydia. They all triangulate, so they are all from a common ancestor.

This cannot be from my grandfather, because Uncle Bob gets no X from his father. So we know it's my grandmother's side. So given Lydia, who is part of my grandmother's paternal grandmother's Zelinka family, how exactly does this fit together and who is the candidate for the common ancestor?
Uncle Bob is a third cousin to Lydia's mother
so we and Lydia are fourth cousins.
Nathan / Nahum Zeinka's fallen gravestone
Our most recent common ancestral couple are Isaak and Sari Zelinka, who were born in the mid-1780s. But Lydia's second-great-grandfather Nathan Zelinka received no X from his father, the source of the match between Lydia and Uncle Bob must be from Sari, Isaak Zeinka's wife.

Nearly two years ago, Uncle Bob's daughter Linda and I were in Slovakia, together with our fifth cousin on the Zelinka side, Cyndi and while in Zilina we met Lydia. In the course of taking down her family information, I asked if she knows anything about our third-great-grandmother Sari. Lydia said that she understood that her surname is Politzer. This made sense to me because many years ago, my grandmother had told me that her father was related somehow to Joseph Pulitzer - he of the prize. - but she had no idea how. I have tentatively recorded Sari as Politzer, pending some kind of actual documentation.

So last year, Lydia gave our third-great-grandmother a name and perhaps a family and now we have an actual bit of her DNA.

(Note, I could have seen this with an analysis of Lydia, having nothing to do with Cynthia, but I didn't - so I can thank Cynthia for that.

Caveat - it is theoretically possible that the segment comes from my grandmother's MOTHER's side and that Lydia has some unknown ancestry in Hungary, but I consider this to be a vanishingly small possibility.

The Matching Segments tool on GEDmatch does not include the x chromosome, but on Genesis it does. They call it "Segment Search" and it is on Tier1. There are about three dozen people who share that match with both Uncle Bob and Lydia and I suppose I should write to them. Maybe something else will turn up.

(What I don't understand is why Uncle Bob and Lydia do not show up on Cynthia's Segment Search. I'll have to speak to GEDmatch about that.)

Housekeeping notes 
Order here.
European Jews have always married mainly within the tribe. Whether our numbers five hundred years ago in Europe were four hundred or four hundred thousand, the pool was limited. As a result, the members of the tribe today are all related to one another, multiple times.  This phenomenon, known as endogamy, makes Jewish genetic genealogy very difficult, often impossible. There is a similar phenomenon in some other population groups.

I was convinced that this brick wall is not as impenetrable as it seems, at least in some circumstances.

I believe that this book demonstrates that I was correct.

When I decided I wanted to write a book, I was not sure if I wanted to write a “How to” book or a “How I did it” book. The decision was dictated by the facts in the field. Different family structures, widely different numbers of living family members, and other similar factors dictated that writing “How to” would be irrelevant for most researchers.

“How I did it” is more likely to be helpful to the research community and more likely to instill the confidence necessary for such a project.

It is my hope that this book will encourage and inspire other researchers of their European Jewish families and other endogamous populations to say “I can do this!”

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

A Story From The Neighborhood

Last week I was doing some work for a client involving - among other things - the family of a woman who died in 1953. This is not basically a Pittsburgh case, but this particular woman lived in Pittsburgh most of her adult life. About ten minutes walk from Chez Pickholtz.

Pittsburgh is a relatively easy place to do Jewish research. Ancestry has Pennsylvania death certificates for 1906-1966 and adds more every couple of years.

Carnegie Mellon University has The Pittsburgh Jewish Newspaper Project.
Searching for "Pickholtz" gives 678 results.
And the Rauh Jewish Archives at the Senator John Heinz History Center has burial records from seventy-eight local Jewish cemeteries, updated to 2009. In an inquiry this week, I learned that they "hope to do an update in the next few years, although the project is still in the planning phases, at the moment."
The combination of these three resources can be an extraordinary aid in Pittsburgh-area research, in addition to the standard sources such as census records, Social Security Death Index, immigration and military records.

I learned easily enough that the family of the woman I was interested in were active Tree of Life people. She and her husband are buried there, as are her sister and brother (who married a brother and sister). The home she shared with her husband and her married daughter is less than ten minutes walk from Tree of Life.

She and her husband had two daughters. One predeceased both of them and is buried at Tree of Life, as would be expected.

The other daughter was married and at some point they became affiliated with Beth Shalom, a Conservative congregation, much like Tree of Life, but about twice as far in the other direction. They are buried in the Beth Shalom cemetery. I see nothing that indicates that the husband had a prior affiliation with Beth Shalom, nor did the Rabbi's Assistant there find anything about his wider family. The husband's obituary names a sister who lived in Philadelphia. so perhaps he was not from a local family.

I wondered when and why they joined Beth Shalom. And I was not sure why this question bothered me.

The married daughter and her husband had one son, who died in his twenties, during the lifetime of his grandmother. In the course of my search, I saw the son's bar mitzvah announcement in the Criterion. At Beth Shalom. They were apparently there a long time. I wondered why. Not that it mattered.

I looked at the rest of the page and I saw that another boy was celebrating his bar mitzvah at the Tree of Life that same week. Maybe the fact that the date was taken was what brought them to Beth Shalom.

But the date wasn't taken by just a random Jewish boy from the neighborhood. The date was taken by the only non-relative I ever called "Uncle." (And his wife, also a non-relative, was one of two we called "Aunt.") I guess I was meant to know that.

Housekeeping notes 
Order here.

European Jews have always married mainly within the tribe. Whether our numbers five hundred years ago in Europe were four hundred or four hundred thousand, the pool was limited. As a result, the members of the tribe today are all related to one another, multiple times.  This phenomenon, known as endogamy, makes Jewish genetic genealogy very difficult, often impossible. There is a similar phenomenon in some other population groups.
I was convinced that this brick wall is not as impenetrable as it seems, at least in some circumstances.

I believe that this book demonstrates that I was correct.

When I decided I wanted to write a book, I was not sure if I wanted to write a “How to” book or a “How I did it” book. The decision was dictated by the facts in the field. Different family structures, widely different numbers of living family members, and other similar factors dictated that writing “How to” would be irrelevant for most researchers.

“How I did it” is more likely to be helpful to the research community and more likely to instill the confidence necessary for such a project.

It is my hope that this book will encourage and inspire other researchers of their European Jewish families and other endogamous populations to say “I can do this!”

Sunday, January 20, 2019

ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People - SALE!!

The sale will run from Tu BiShvat until Purim.

Order here.

 
European Jews have always married mainly within the tribe. Whether our numbers five hundred years ago in Europe were four hundred or four hundred thousand, the pool was limited. As a result, the members of the tribe today are all related to one another, multiple times.  This phenomenon, known as endogamy, makes Jewish genetic genealogy very difficult, often impossible. There is a similar phenomenon in some other population groups.
I was convinced that this brick wall is not as impenetrable as it seems, at least in some circumstances.

I believe that this book demonstrates that I was correct.

When I decided I wanted to write a book, I was not sure if I wanted to write a “How to” book or a “How I did it” book. The decision was dictated by the facts in the field. Different family structures, widely different numbers of living family members, and other similar factors dictated that writing “How to” would be irrelevant for most researchers.

“How I did it” is more likely to be helpful to the research community and more likely to instill the confidence necessary for such a project.

It is my hope that this book will encourage and inspire other researchers of their European Jewish families and other endogamous populations to say “I can do this!”

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Bit More Spira

In my most recent chapter of the ongoing saga "How Spira Became Pikholz," we saw how the perfect Y-DNA matches for 67 markers became a genetic distance of four or five when we upgraded to Y-111.

At that point, we had three Pikholz lines from Skalat in east Galicia, one of which is my own going back to my second great-grandfather Izak Fischel, born about 1810. I am a perfect match with a man we call "Filip" who goes back to Nachman Pikholz born about 1795 and one mutation away from Zachy, whose ancestor Mordecai Pikholz was born about 1805. We are not certain of the precise relationships among those three, though the two younger ones are probably brothers.


The three of us have reasonably close Y matches with two men named Spira and one named Spiro and it is clear to me that we were Spira before we were Pikholz. The question is, how long ago.

The  above chart shows the number of mutations between each pair of testers, for 37, 67 and 111 markers.

My guess was that we split from the other Spiras about nine generations ago. (There are no significant autosomal matches within the group of six.)

Last week, I saw another Spira descendant with a match to us. Like "Z-man," this new tester (who has not yet given permission to cite him by name) did a Y-37 test and he matches the same way that Z-man does. He has not done an autosomal test, but I have asked both him and his first cousin once removed to do that.

This is the new chart.
Upgrading both the new tester and Z-man to Y-111 might give us a clearer picture. If, for instance, they (or one of them) is closer to us than A. Spira and A. Spiro, it would tell us a bit more about the likely timing of the "split." It's time we think about doing that.

Housekeeping notes
I had a nice group at the meeting of the Rishon Lezion branch of the Israel Genealogical Society.


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Buried With Her Great-Aunt


A few days ago, a question was asked on the Facebook group Tracing The Tribe about burials of very young babies.

The question was general in nature, without mention of time or place.
If a Jewish woman had a baby that was stillborn,
would there be a funeral for the baby?
What if the baby died a few days after birth??


There were many replies in the comments, some anecdotal from personal family experience, some mentioning traditional Jewish practices at different times and places, some with mentions of Jewish law.

We have a Pikholz case like this and I chimed in:

This is the grave I referred to.















Joseph and Katie Pickholtz had four children, later known as Pickford. (I have mentioned this family before, most recently here.) Several of them are buried in Montefiore Cemetery in Philadelphia, in a plot belonging to the Deitelbaum family. Lillian Deitelbaum is the wife of Joseph's elder son Sam Pickford.

Among those in that plot is Joseph and Katie's daughter Ida Brown, who died in 1938 at age thirty-five after a very difficult life.

When I visited Montefiore Cemetery the first time, the cemetery office mentioned that there is an unnamed baby girl buried with Ida. The baby had died sometime in 1940 and I learned further that she is the daughter of Sam Pickford's older son.

Hence my response to the Facebook question. But while writing that response, it occurred to me that I had never looked for this baby among the Pennsylvania Death Certificates that Ancestry had acquired a few years ago. Initially, they posted death certificates for 1906-1963 and they have since added 1964-66.

I searched Surname=Pickford and Death year=1940 and there it was.
with a link to the original death certificate.

































The baby had a name - Marlene - with a middle name that looks like Arther. Together with dates of birth and death. She lived for five days. The doctor attended to her beginning the day before she was born. The parents are who we know them to be.

The baby's name is in a different hand and appears to have been added to the certificate later.




Housekeeping notes
I shall be speaking, in Hebrew, for the Rishon LeZion branch of the Israel Genealogical Society on Monday, 14 January at 7 PM at the Rishon LeZion Museum, 2 Ahad Haam Street. This is not a DNA presentation, though there are a few DNA references. The topic is


מֵעֵבֶר לְסָפֵק סָבִיר

מה שיודעים, לעומת מה שאפשר להוכיח

BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT

What We Know vs. What We Can Prove