Sunday, June 30, 2024

"Shoteh Ben Pickholz" Revisited

About four months ago, I received a note from Joel Maxman, with whom I had correspondence some years ago about our mutual connections to Zalosce, in east Galicia. This time he had something different in mind.

I'm reading a book by Itzik Manger called "The Book from Paradise" (in Yiddish, "Dos Bukh fun Gan-Eden"). He uses the expression שוטה בן פּיקהאָלץ, which I've never heard before. As you're the only person I've ever known with the name Pickholtz, I was wondering whether you have any idea what this means.

"Shoteh ben Pickholz," literally "fool the son of Pickholz," is used to mean dunce or knucklehead. It is a phrase I first heard fifty years ago or more, probably when I was on Kevutzat Yavneh, and never since. Eleven years ago, I blogged about finding it in Hebrew newspapers in 1920, 1954 and 1960 but I never heard of it in literature.

From the long-defunct newspaper HaZefirah 1920

Well, it turns out that not only the Yiddish writer Manger (1901-1969) used this rather disparaging phrase, but Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904-1991) and Solomon Rabinovitch (better known as Sholom Aleichem 1859-1918) did as well.

Rabinovitch is considerably older than the others so he may have been the person who coined the phrase - certainly neither Singer nor Manger certainly did. Or was it in use before Rabinovitch? It sounds very Galicianer and Shalom Aleichem was Russian, so I would not be at all surprised to see that someone else used it first.

These published authors used the phrase "Shoteh ben Pickholz"

My curiosity piqued, I asked my mother's second/third cousin (her great-grandparents are uncle-niece), a retired professor of literature at Tel-Aviv University if she knew the phrase and its origin. She has a vague recollection of hearing it, but nothing specific and no idea of its origin.

The man behind the Facebook page Yosl Teaches Yiddish knows the Sholom Aleichem usage, but again, no origin.

I tried contacting a well-known American Yiddish professor and although I know she saw my question, I have not (yet?) been favored with a reply.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Skalat - That Time of Year

The Skalat synagogue
As nearly every year, we gathered at the Skalat memorial in the Holon Cemetery, just south of Tel-Aviv. It is now eighty-one years since Skalat was declared Judenrein, free of Jews. 

As I have said here many tmes before, Skalat was where the eastern part of the Pikholz family lived a hundred fifty years ago. My own family left earlier, as even my great-grandfather Hersch Pikholz (~1853) was probably born in Podkamen, eighty-six km to the north. But his parents - both Pikholz - were born in Skalat.

The memorial meeting was a bit larger than in recent years, perhaps thirty people, including a few children whose great-grandparents had lived in Skalat. Bronia was the only actual Skalater in attendance. There are fewer every year. Tova (Giza) Zehavi was not up to the travel and I phoned her afterwards. All four of the Sarids were there and quite a few of the Segals. David (Dlugacz) Dekel, a Pikholz descendant was there but his sister was under the weather.

The Skalat monument in Holon

There was a collection for maintenance of the monument in Skalat. 

The memorial at the killing field in Novosielka, outside Skalat

A few people told bits of their parents' stories.  A few prayers, kaddish and of course a prayer for our soldiers protecting our country.

Same time next year.

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

The Mitochondrial DNA of My (Other) Great-Grandmothers

Following my recent discussion of the near-extinction of the mitochondrial DNA (U1b1) of my mother's maternal great-grandmother Etta Bryna, let's have a look at my other great-grandmothers.

Chana Kugel, my mother's paternal grandmother,

One of my second cousins on that side did a MtDNA test, so we know that Chana's haplogroup is R0a4. There are sixty-four people who have a perfect MtDNA match

Chana had two sons, my grandfather and Uncle Frank, who (being male) did not pass on any MtDNA.

The younger of Chana's two daughters, Aunt Rose, had three daughters. The eldest had two sons and a daughter and the daughter had only two sons. Aunt Rose's middle daughter had a son (who has declined to talk to me, even though we have a DNA match on Ancestry) and a daughter I know nothing about. Aunt Rose's third daughter had two children but no grandchildren.

Chana's first born, Aunt Mary, had three daughters and a son. The eldest had two daughters and two sons and one of the daughters has no children. The other daughter had eight children, six of them girls. One has two daughters, each of whom has one daughter. Three others have one daughter each. Of those one has only sons, and two are not married, but one is engaged. So Aunt Mary eldest daughter has at least three descendants who may keep the mitochondrial DNA going.

Aunt Mary's middle daughter died at age 20, with no children.

Aunt Mary's youngest daughter had two daughters and each of those has a granddaughter from a daughter.

So we have at present five carriers of Chana's mitochondrial DNA through Aunt Mary and maybe one from Aunt Rose. We know that Chana herself had two or three brothers, but do not know of sisters. Her mother's maiden name is unknown.

Regina (Rivka) Bauer, my father's maternal grandmother

This great-grandmother had two daughters. One had one daughter who had two sons and a daughter - but the daughter has no children.

The other, my grandmother, had two sons and a daughter and the daughter had only sons. The daughter (my aunt) did an MtDNA test and the haplogroup is H10a1b. She has twenty-four perfect matches.

So Regina's mitochondrial DNA is gone. She had four sisters. One died at age thirty and married but we know nothing about children. I visited her grave in Hungary two years ago and it mentions the husband (in both Hungarian and Hebrew) but no mention of children, so I am guessing there weren't any.

Another sister lived in Pittsburgh. She had a daughter, but my grandmother , who knew her well, never mentioned her son but not that daughter, so I assume the daughter died young.

The other two were killed in the Holocaust in their sixties. We have no knowledge of children.

Regina's mother, Fani/Feige Stern, had two sisters that we know of. One had four sons. The other had two sons and five daughters. One of the daughters died at age five and we know nothing about the other four. Feige Stern's mother was a Grunwald and her mother was a Hercz.

So for all practical purposes, we assume that Regina's mitochondrial DNA is gone. Or at least not accessible.

Jutte Leah Kwoczka, my father's paternal grandmother

Nearly ten years ago, the son of my grandfather's middle sister did a MtDNA test for me. The haplogroup is V7a. He had no exact matches but there were thirty-odd one step away. It occured to me that perhaps there had been a personal mutation - he or his mother - so I asked the granddaughter of my grandfather's eldest sister to do the test as well. I was right. She matched all those others. There are now 128 exact matches.

Jutte Leah had ten children: three sons who died in infancy or childhood, three sons with descendants, one son with no descendants and three daughters. Aunt Becky (#5), Aunt Mary (#6) and Aunt Bessie (#8) all were married with children. Aunt Becky had a son and a daughter and the daughter had a daughter with no children. She is the one who did the MtDNA test for me. But the mitochondrial DNA goes no further.

Aunt Mary had a daughter and two sons. Until recently, we had though that the daughter had no children, but we have learned that she had a son who was adopted out. He has been positively identified but there was no one to pass on the MtDNA.

Aunt Bessie had two daughters and a son. One daughter had no children; the other had a son and a daughter and the daughter has only a son.

So none of Jutte Leah's descendants can pass on her mitochondrial DNA. Jutte Leah herself had three brothers but no sisters that we know of. her mother's maiden name is Pollak.

Does any of this matter? I don't really know.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Mitochondrial DNA of Etta Bryna

I have discussed my mother's mother's mother, Etta Bryna bat Yehudah HaLevi, a number of times here, mostly regarding my unsuccessful efforts to learn her birth surname. But I shall take the opportunity of her 128th yahrzeit (6 Nisan) to look at something else.

Mitochondrial DNA (MtDNA) is different from other DNA because it is located in the mitochondria, not in the cell nucleus. It is passed from women to all their children, with very infrequent mutations. Men do not pass it on.

I did a Mitochondrial DNA test about a dozen years ago, so I know that Etta Bryna's MtDNA is the haplogroup U1b1. But being a male, I did not pass it to any of my children.

Two of my sisters have no daughters, so they have not passed it on. 

Two of my sisters have one daughter each. Those daughters have eight sons between them but no daughters. So they did not pass on the MtDNA.

One sister has two daughters but no grandchildren yet.

So we may have no continuing inheritance of Etta Bryna's MtDNA among my mother's descendants.

My mother's two brothers and one unmarried sister did not pass it on.

My mother's eldest sister gave birth to one daughter and she has one daughter who has one daughter, a teenager. At this stage, this young cousin may be the only one of my grandmother's descendants who can pass this on.

My grandmother had a brother who, being a man, did not pass on his mother's MtDNA.

My grandmother had two sisters who died young, with no children.

My grandmother's older sister in Russia had mostly boys. Of her two daughters who reached adulthood, one had no children and one had only a son.

So Aunt Ethel's teen-aged great-granddaughter may be the only descendant of Etta Bryna who can preserve the U1b1 MtDNA in our known family.

For a woman who had four adult daughters, as Etta Bryna did, I think that is unusual, especially since my mother alone had five daughters. Or maybe it's not unusual at all. (I will look at my other great-grandmothers in a separate post.)

Friday, March 8, 2024

Maybe Someone Will Find Me

In 1941, the Germans came to Skalat and nineteen year old Taube Pikholz got on a train going east and had no further contact with her family and community. All four of Taube's parents were named Pikholz.

Eventually, Taube married a local Moslem man named Boris Minolin. They had two daughters who died and afterwards two daughters Leonora and Naila, born in 1957 and 1959. Taube kept her name, with the Russian spelling Pikgolts. She said "Maybe someone will find me."

Leonora married a Jewish man named Mark Sokalski who lived in Uzbekistan. The Sokalskis were from Uman but had bought into the idea of the Jewish republic of Birobijan. When that didn't work out, they left and ended up in Uzbekistan. Mark and Leonora had a son and a daughter and Taube, now widowed, joined them in Uzbekistan.

In the meantime, Naila had two sons by two different non-Jewish men to whom she was not married. Naila too remained Pikgolts. "Maybe someone will find me."

Taube daughter of Leisor
In the early 1990s, the Sokalski clan made aliyah to Israel and lived in Netanya. Taube went with them. As far as the Sokalskis were concerned, Leonora and Taube were alone in the world, like foundlings.

About five years later, Naila and her sons joined them and soon after, Taube died. "Maybe someone will find me."

It took another eight years, but your humble blogger found them and arranged to meet Leonora. I knew who she was, several generations back.I had documents from the Polish archives.

Leonora was amazed. Among her reactions were:
"You can prove that my children are Jewish" and "Now the Sokalskis will know that I am SOMEBODY."

I told her about the annual Skalat memorial meeting at the cemetery in Holon and she came, with her son Boris and Naila. I had gotten a lot of background about the family in Skalat from an older man named Shammai Segal and when we met in the cemetery I asked him "Shammai, who is Taube Pikholz? You told me about her parents and brother and sister, but you never mentioned Taube."

Shammai replied in a far away voice and heavily-accented English, "Taube Pikholz. She went away. far away. Nobody knows where she went." I introduced him to Leonora and Naila and he called to his wife "Nehama, you remember Leisor Pikholz who lived across the street from you in Skalat? These are his granddaughters." And one said to the other "We have to go the cemetery and tell Mama." We remained in touch for quite a few years after this.

Some years later, Leonora phoned me. She was at the office of the Netanya Rabbinate, helping her daughter register for her forthcoming marriage and needed me to tell them that I could vouch for her Jewishness. And they asked me if anyone could vouch for them from Skalat. I gave them Shammai's phone number.

I enjoyed a bit of celebrity at the wedding.

And what about Taube's older cousin Sarah? She was born in 1905, so no one expected to find her in 2003. But in fact, Sarah had died at age ninety-five, in 2000. I knew who she was from the old records. She had indeed lived in Newark New Jersey and was buried next to her husband BenZion Aptowitzer in Elizabeth. A few days before writing these words, I attended the wedding of Sarah's great-grandson, not far from Jerusalem.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

My Pikholz Third Great-Grandfather

My great-grandfather is Hersch Pickholtz, who died in 1931 and is buried in Pittsburgh. Years ago, I saw from his tombstone that his father is Izak Yeroham Fischel. (Fischel is a Yiddish form of the Hebrew Yeroham. He was in fact known as Izak Fischel.) I was never able to get past that, but I did learn that Hersch's mother was also a Pikholz, so her father Izak Josef (~1784-1862) was eliminated as a possible father for Izak Fischel.

The only other Pikholz we knew who were old enough to be Izak Fischel's father are Berl (~1789-1877) and Leib (~1780-1844). The family all lived in Skalat, not far from Tarnopol in east Galicia.

I had done extensive work on the large family of one Mordecai Pikholz (~1805-1864) and using DNA, I had come to the conclusion - unproven - that he and Izak Fischel were brothers. I knew that Mordecai had daughters named Chana Chaje, Enie and Devorah and sons Chaim Yaakov, Shimon, Szulim and Aryeh Leib and I am in contact with some descendants of all of them but Enie.

Part of the evidence here was the perfectly matching Y-DNA of Dalia Kaplan's nephew and me, Dalia being a great-granddaughter of Mordecai's son Chaim Yaakov. The rest of the evidence is laid out in a two-part blog post here and here.

There was also a Mechel Pikholz (b. ~1833), son of Mordecai, who lived in Podolia, and really looked like he fit as a son of our Mordecai. Mechel is usually a nickname for Jachiel and that name showed up enough in the families to make Jachiel a candidate for the name of Mordecai and Izak Fischel's father.

Due to my conservative practices, I considered all this to be speculation and did not record it in my database, except in the comments.

This week began with an email from the inimitable Lara Diamond who had found a Pigholtz record that was not in the Ukraine database at JewishGen. This database includes Podolia and I had turned my attention to it recently.  Lara's find is the second record on this page.

This is a marriage record for the fifteenth of Tammuz 5602, 23 June 1842. (The record says 11 June and I assume that's the Julian date.) The groom is Rachmiel ben Hillel Doptir, eighteen years old. The bride, also age eighteen, is Sara, the daughter of Mordecai, who is in turn the son of Zvi Pigholtz.
Sara would therefore have been born in 1824. Our Mordecai was born in 1805 and the only birth years we have for his seven children are about 1823, 1829, 1830 and 1837, based on the ages in their death records. So Sara would fit in as perhaps Mordecai's second child.
Of course the exciting thing in this record is Zvi as the name of Mordecai's father. Though it is certainly not dispositive, my great-grandfather (born about 1853) is Zvi, as is Dalia's father who was born much later. The available death records for Skalat begin in 1826 and Mordecai's father Zvi could have died earlier. Or he could be missing from the records for some other reason.

I will take a deep dive into some of the newly available records - I am behind on that! - and well see if anything else comes up. For real proof that Zvi is my third great-grandfather, I am relying more on luck than on planning.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

The Heidenfelds

Years ago, when I was collecting names but not really doing genealogy, my paternal grandmother mentioned that her mother, Regina Bauer, had some cousins. First cousins, second cousins, it wasn't clear. Nana knew four names - Johanna Imber, Ethel Orkin, Stephanie Juhasz and Markus Pogany. She thought the four may have been siblings but wasn't really sure.

She knew that Mrs. Imber and Mrs. Orkin had lived in Pittsburgh (where we lived) and that Stephanie Juhasz and her daughters Vilma, Anna and Olga had lived in Paris. She wasn't sure about Markus Pogany, but perhaps he had remained in Hungary.

Eventually I began to work on the genealogy of the Bauers and one of my first steps was finding the Imber and Orkin death notices in the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle. Ethel Orkin, who died in 1963, was survived by her husband Harry and her sister Johanna Imber - so we know they are sisters. No children. The Orkins are buried in the same Poale Zedeck cemetery where Regina Bauer, and indeed my grandparents, is.

Johanna Imber died in 1980 and is described as "aunt of Olga and Edward Szabo, Rego Park, NY." I assumed that Olga is the daughter of Stephanie Juhasz, so Stephanie and Johanna are sisters, making three. No children mentioned for Johanna and no place of burial either.

Later when Ancestry made Pennsylvania death certificates available into the 1960s, I was able to see from Ethel's that her parents are Joseph Hydenfeld and Lina Leavy. That should be correct since her sister Johanna was the informant.

By this time, I had the names of Regina Bauer's four grandparents and I saw that neither Hydenfeld not Leavy was among them, so I began to suspect that she may have been further than a second cousin to these other women.

What I knew was that Regina's maternal grandparents were Salomon (Yehoshua Zelig) Stern from Paks and Bluma Grunwald from Perkata. They lived in Kalocsa. Regina's paternal grandfather was Lasar (Eliezer) Bauer, who lived in Kunszentmiklos.

I had a record showing a Lasar Bauer about the right age, married to Rosa Lowinger, but I had nothing to prove that this was the same Lasar. This Lasar lived in Kunszentmiklos but had been born in Apostag, about halfway from Kunszentmiklos and Kalocsa. (Many of the Bauers in Kunszentmiklos had been born in Apostag.) In the meantime, I was comfortable with Lowinger as a probable surname for Regina's grandmother.

I revisited all of this about eighteen months ago as part of my preparation for a cemetery trip to Hungary, where I founds ancestors and siblings of Regina in Kunszentmiklos, Kalocsa and Paks. I knew I would need some assistance and received it from my friend and colleague Beth Long, who is quite the expert in Hungarian Jewish genealogy, records and geography. Our joint efforts gave us the following.

1. Jozsef Heidenfeld of Osweicim Poland and his wife Magdolna (Lina) Lowy of Szecseny Hungary had six children. Stephania (1883), Eszter (1886), Johanna (1887), Markus (1888), Samuel (1890) and Hermina (1893). All the children were born in Budapest.

2. Magdolna/Lina's parents were Herman Lowi and Zilli Steinberg. But her 1912 death record calls her "Karolina" and her parents Armin Lowi and Czeczilia Brodi (I think).

3. Eszter became Ethel (Orkin), Markus changed his surname to Pogany, Samuel changed his name to Harmat.

4. Hermina married Iszak Rosenfeld of Munkacz. Samuel married Celia Braun of Arad (Rumania). Markus married Sara Sebok of Kalocsa. They certainly did not seem to be restricted to the Budapest area!

5. Markus died in 1969. We found neither death information nor children for Samuel and Hermina, which my be why my grandmother had never heard of them.

None of this helps me identify a connection with my great-grandmother. Unless perhaps Lowi is a variation of Lowinger. Lina Lowi was from Szecseny, which is north of Budapest and about 160 km on today's roads from Kunszentmiklos where Rosa Lowinger lived.

I recently joined the Facebook group Hungarian Jewish Genealogy and perhaps someone there will know something about this family.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Morris Pickholtz - born 1893, or 1892, or maybe both

Morris Pickholtz in London

Morris Pickholtz, Moshe ben Shemuel, married Miss Dora Deitch in London, 10 January 1928. The civil marriage record, from 16 December 1927, tells us that Morris was thirty-five years old and Dora thirty-seven. Both records say that it was the first marriage for each of them. The rabbinical record says he has no brothers.

I had a brief correspondence with some of Dora's family nearly twenty years ago and learned their death and burial information. They had no children.

Morris died in 1933 at age forty and Dora in 1948 at age seventy-three, so her age at marriage (37 in 1927) appears to be wildly false. Morris is buried in East Ham with a simple grave with no information. Dora is in Rainham with a normal tombstone that mentions her many family and friends. 

I was left to ponder who this Morris Pickholtz might be. I had his name Moshe ben Shemuel and a birth year 1892-3, which may be correct. Or not. 

Over the years I have accumulated a few references to people named Morris Pickholtz in UK whom I cannot connect to anyone else.


Morris the Woodcarver in Canada

We have a passenger list showing arrivals in Halifax 14 April 1911 which includes Morris Pickholtz, age 18. It says he is a woodcarver but there is a stamp over that saying "farm laborer." He is a Hebrew, born in England. We also see him at St. Albans which is a crossing point into the United States though I cannot tell which way he is going.

He also appears in the 1911 Canadian census, where it says he was born September 1892.

In 1914, he appears on a passenger list returning to England. He is listed as a farmer.

This could be the man who later married Dora Deitch.


Morris the Soldier

We have three documents indicating that he was awarded a medal for his service with the King's Royal Rifle Corps in France during WWI. No further information.