Sunday, December 30, 2012


Seventeen years ago, "IN Jerusalem," the local insert in the Friday Jerusalem POST, published an essay that I had written about a month earlier.

At the time, I lived ten minutes south of Bethlehem. Now I am to the north and west, still about ten minutes away but half that is traffic and stop lights. Getting there today is a security issue. Not so much that it is dangerous but that the army won't let you just drive in.

Here is the essay. The corny headline is theirs, not mine. Click on it to see a larger version.

For that reserve duty, we reported directly to Bethlehem, where we received our uniforms and equipment. By the time we were finished, the quartermastery had been moved to Gush Etzion and it was from there that we were discharged.

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Housekeeping announcements:

I am scheduled to speak for the Israel Genealogical Society on Wednesday, 9 January in Haifa on:

The meeting is at the Pisgat Ahuzzah Retirement Home, 6 Sinai Street (corner of Moriyah). Doors open at six-thirty, my lecture is at seven-fifteen. The lecture is in Hebrew.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


As I say from time time in discussing the two Pikholz family groups - one is from Rozdol and one is from Skalat, and we know of no connection between the two.

Except this.

The late Alexander "Sandy" Pickholtz is a descendant of the main Rozdol family, the one we call RavJG. This famiy begins with the original Rozdol couple, Pinchas and Sara Rivka. Their son Israel Joel (1807-82) and his wife Jutte Chana had a son Moshe, probably their eldest. (Another son - probably the youngest - was Rav Juda Gershon, after whom I have named this family.)

Moshe was married to Sara Steg, the daughter of R' Yehudah Zvi Steg, the longtime rav of Skole. They had ten children, the ninth was Meshullam Zisha Pikholz, who died in 1879 at age 23, less than  a month after his twenty-two year old wife Gittel Rachel Tischenkel. Their five year old son died a few months later. Their younger son, Baruch Bendit, was raised by Meshullam Zisha's sister Perl and her husband Shimshon Tanne.

Baruch Bendit and his wife Rose Weinstock went to New York in 1902 with their two eldest children Gittel and Meshullam Zisha. In New York, the children became Gladys and Irving and six more were born.

Irving married New York-born Judith Alexander, who was described to me by family members as a card carrying Communist. They were divorced in 1946. Irving and Judith had a daughter then a son, Alexander born in July 1929. 

Alexander was a student at the University of Denver. The night of 3 January 1950 (15 Teveth 5710 - sixty-three years ago this coming Friday), he and three other students were involved in a truck-car crash in Pittsfield Illinois, near the Missouri border. Alexander and another twenty year old, John Nunan of the Bronx, were killed. I suppose they were heading back to Denver after their winter break.

Alexander was buried at New Montefiore Cemetery in New York.  I imagine his mother wrote the inscription - A STALWART AGAINST FASCISM.

Back in Denver, Sandy had a friend, a fellow student named Lenny Pike. Lenny married a young Denver woman named Nan Francis. Nan (Actually Louanne, but no one called her that) was born in Denver and was the daughter of Phil Francis (Isak Fischel, for you Pikholz afficianadoes). Phil's mother was Sadie Francis (originally Sarah Frankel) and she was married to her cousin Sam Francis.

Sadie/Sarah was the daughter of David Lozel Frankel and Bessie Pickholtz, my great-grandfather's sister. The family had come to Denver years earlier because Sadie's younger brother Jake suffered from tuberculosis . They were involved in the founding of the well-known sanitorium in Denver.
So Nan, Lenny Pike's wife is a Skalat Pikholz descendant. And they gave their second son the middle name Sandy, after Lenny's good friend who had been killed in an accident a few years earlier.

I am told that my third cousin Nan, who died in 2001, did not know her great-grandmother's maiden name, so never realized the additional significance of her son's name. And I guess none of the other Denver cousins ever mentioned it.        
So a Skalat Pikholz descendant is named for a Rozdol Pikholz as the name of Sandy Pickholtz is carried on by the son of his good friend Lenny Pike. But there is one more oddity. I do not have Sandy's death certificate, but here is the online  reference from the State of Illinois database.
Sandy Pickholtz, the twenty year old stalwart against fascism, died in Pittsfield Illinois. In Pike County.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Passing 10,000

No, I do not have ten thousand followers on Twitter. Nor do I have - or want - ten thousand Facebook friends.

But as of a couple of weeks ago, I do have over ten thousand entries in my genealogy database. This is not a huge number but it is a milestone of sorts so I am pleased to celebrate it..

My genealogy database - Brothers Keeper 5.2 for DOS
No, I do not have ten thousand relatives. Nor do my wife and I have ten thousand relatives combined. Some of those entries are parents of spouses. Some are affiliated families. Some are not relatives, but look like they might be so I included them in order to note that I have checked them out and found them wanting. Some are surely duplicates.

Some are what I call "Placeholders." That would be entries like "Original Pjkholz" who makes sure I don't lose track of any of the Pikholz families. Another placeholder would be "Unconnected Pjkholz" whose children include "Shoah Pjkholz," Old_European Pjkholz," "Vienna Pjkholz" and others and some of these have additional placeholders for "children."

(No, those are not typos. I deliberately write "Pjkholz" rather than "Pikholz" for the placeholders in the Pikholz families so as not to inflate the surname count. There are thirty-eight Pjkholz and Pjckholz. And they all have wives with made up names.)

 There are quite alot of wives and a few husbands whose birth surnames are unknown. Some people record these folks with the surname "Unknown." Others use a version of the name of the known spouse, making it easier to keep track of them. I prefer to use XXXXX, xxxxx, xXxXx etc with each variation representing a specific family. But I don't always remember to differentiate, so the numbers are not precise. There are over eight hundred of those.

There are also people whose given names we do not know. Some of that - but certainly not all - is due to the Holocaust. I assign the adults given names MAN and WOMAN and the children are SON, DAUGHTER or CHILD.  Occasionally I get cute and write HOMBRE, MUJER etc for South Americans.

I did counts of descendants for each of our ancestral families last week and here are the results, with the spouses in parentheses. Remember, these are descendants, so do not reflect the number of people who were called by these names.

In my father's family: Pikholz 4043 (1666), Kwoczka 292 (147),  Rosenzweig 158 (80), Zelinka 422 (210), Bauer 145 (62). I am working on the Zelinkas now (as I wrote last week), so there will be significantly more soon. And there are Rosenzweigs to add, as well. The Bauer numbers do not include other Bauers from the town where my great-grandmother was born, because I have not yet tried to fit them together coherently.

In my mother's family: Gordon 450 (228)  and Rosenbloom 169 (71). Other members of the extended Gordon family have done research, but have not shared the details, so this family is quite a bit larger than what my data shows.

In my wife's father's family: Silberstein 407 (178), Scharf 143 (64), Buchalter 235 (114),  Diamond 101 (51), Hammer 241 (98).

In my wife's mother's family: Baum 336 (119), Lindenberg 326 (140).

Note that in many of those family lines, I am not in ongoing contact with many of the descendants, so there may be quite a few births and marriages which have not been recorded.
Here are the birth surnames which appear fifty times or more, including variations:
PIKHOLZ - 1451
GORDON - 142
COHEN - 86
BAUM - 51
ROTH - 50

Interestingly enough, when I began the Pikholz Project fourteen years ago, someone asked me how many people I thought had ever had the birth name Pikholz and my guess then was 1200-1500, based on nothing at all. So I am now holding at 1451.

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Housekeeping announcements:

I am scheduled to speak for the Israel Genealogical Society twice this week, both in Hebrew:

On Wednesday 19 December at Bet Frankfurter (Derech Bet Lehem 80) in Jerusalem on:
Doors open at 18:30, my talk at 19:00.
On Thursday 20 December in Raanana, Hashachar Library, Hazon Ish 90. 
The topic will be:
Doors open at 18:30, business meeting at 19:00, my talk at 19:30.

I am also scheduled to speak in Haifa on 9 January, on the same topic as in Raanana..
Check times and address at

Sunday, December 9, 2012


 Cyndi Finds Me Through JewishGen Family Finder

 One of the most important parts of the JewishGen website is the JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF) which they describe as follows:
The JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF) is a compilation of surnames and towns currently being researched by over 97,000 Jewish genealogists worldwide.  It contains over 500,000 entries: 125,000 ancestral surnames and 17,000 town names, and is indexed and cross-referenced by both surname and town name.  The JGFF was originally created in 1982, and is maintained by JewishGen.
Researchers should check the JGFF for genealogists with similar research interests, and can then contact them for an exchange of information.
These are my JGFF listings on my father's mother's side
I have listed fifty-six surname-town combinations that I am interested in, including a few alternate spellings. On more than one occasion, people have looked up their names and towns and have made contact with me after seeing matching information.

JewishGen has a Value Added program for people who contribute a hundred dollars or more a year, which includes an alert system. If someone adds a name and town of interest to me, the system notifies me. That is what happened when Cyndi listed her Zelenka family from Kotesova Slovakia fifteen months ago.

(To give you an idea how JewishGen has grown in the last fifteen years, Cyndi's is researcher number 499,018. I am number 5627.)

We exchanged emails a few times over the course of a year, but hadn't really done much.  She was on my "to do" list all that time, but there were always many items ahead of her. Then she began speaking to me about DNA.

Cyndi had tested with a different company, but began pushing me to do a DNA comparison on a free site called (At the same time, someone here in Israel was pushing me towards GEDmatch on the Pikholz or Kwoczka side.) GEDmatch had us as fifth cousins.

The Bob Hanscom Data

I have mentioned Bob Hanscom here a couple of times. Bob has two Wilhelm relatives in his family, who came from Trenscin County in western Slovakia. Fani Wilhelm (b. 1785) married Nathan Joseph Rosenzweig, the brother of Nana's great-grandfather Simon. Julianna Wilhelm (b. 1824) married Moses Zelinka, the brother of Nana's grandmother. So in the course of his research, Bob sent me extracts of all the Zelinka and Rosenzweig records that he found. 

This was eight-nine years ago and his information has provided the basis for the Rosenzweig and Zelinka trees on my web site.

But I never had much in the way of actual documentation and for the most part, the people mentioned in the records were generally from the early and mid-1800s.

The first Zelinka we have is Leopold / Levko whose son Jacob had children in the 1780s. Among Jacob's children were sons Joseph and Isaak. Isaak is Nana's great-grandfather. Joseph has a daughter Francza, which is the name of Cyndi's great-great-great-grandmother. Cyndi is missing documentation of the parents of her Francza, but the DNA test showing us to be fifth cousins fits her being the daughter of Joseph.

In the course of going over this material, I found that Bob had given me additional information five years ago, which for some reason I never wrote down. That newer material indicates that there is documentation for Cyndi's Francza.

More Zelinkas

I then went back to JGFF, to see who else was interested in Zelinkas from Kotesova. There are five, aside from Cyndi and me - four of those with online contact information.

I contacted those four and received alot of information from them, bringing their families down to the present.

Sometimes, something comes up that pushes everything aside and last week, the Zelinkas was just that. I entered over three hundred new people and I am not yet finished. The older Zelinkas had more sons than daughters, so the name (including variations such as Selinka) appears very often. As I write this, I have recorded 329 descendants of Leopold Zelinka and 162 spouses. There are also twenty-four who are probably descendants, but we are not sure how.  

One hundred twenty were born with the name Zelinka and another seventeen Selinka, so that surname is now nipping at the heels of Gordon as the second most common name in my database.

As I say, there is more I have not yet entered, so consider this an introduction. There will be more in a few weeks.

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Housekeeping announcements:

I am scheduled to speak for the Israel Genealogical Society on 19 December at Bet Frankfurter in Jerusalem on:
I am also speaking 20 December in Raanana and 9 January in Haifa. The topic will be:

 All three talks will be in Hebrew. Check times and addresses at

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Hersch Leib Pikholz, of Rozdol, died on 26 November 1880 - two days before Hanukkah - at age 45. It was a Friday.  The year was like this year, with the first candle Saturday night. He was buried Sunday. The yahrzeit later this week is the reason I am writing about him today..
Hersch Leib is (more or less - it's a complicated story for another time) the head of a family which I call IF1, and a number of his descendants follow the Pikholz Project research.

Hersch is the Yiddish equivalent of Zvi, or occasionally Naftali. Leib is the Yiddish equivalent of Yehudah or Aryeh. So he would have been called Hersch Leib, but his proper, formal name was most likely Zvi Yehudah or Zvi Aryeh.
All the documents we have that relate to him say "Hersch Leib" and the daughter who was born after he died was called Ciwye Libe. Seven of his ten children died in Europe (probably all in Rozdol) and we do not have gravestone images for them. One went to New York and is buried there. Another went to South America and we have a grave for his son Hersch in Johannesburg. (There is one daughter for whom all we have is a birth record, so we know nothing about her.)

Shelomo ben
Israel Zvi Yehudah

Israel Zvi Yehudah
ben Shemuel
Both graves use the name Yehudah rather than Aryeh, for Leib, but they also introduce a third name - Israel - in front of Zvi.

Furthermore, though sons Solomon and Avraham had sons named Hersch Leib, one daughter had a son Israel Leib and another son and daughter each had a son named Israel Hersch.

On the other hand, on the birth records for his daughters' children, his name always appears as Hersch Leib (no Israel). And these were records created after Hersch Leib died.

So despite the fact that the records generated in his lifetime, the death record and the birth records of the daughters' children all say Hersch Leib, there is obvious credence to the name Israel, both on gravestones and among certain descendants.

My guess here is that the name Israel was added during his illness - he died of typhus - and his children were not completely settled on whether to preserve it as part of his name.

Yitzhak ben Avraham Ilan in Holon
But there is another problem. His son Avraham was killed in the Holocaust, but Avraham's son Yitzhak came to Israel before the war and changed his name from Pickholz to Ilan. As is common in that generation, Yitzhak's gravestone commemorates his family who were killed in the Holocaust, including his father "Avraham ben Israel." No Zvi, no Yehudah.

Yitzhak's daughter named her younger son after her great-grandfather Hersch Leib, but did not use his full name. She called him Aryeh. Not Yehudah. She said that's what her father had given her as the second part of Hersch Leib's proper name.

Of course, it would have been simple - and probably correct - to dismiss this Aryeh as an error, since Yitzhak did not know his grandfather Hersch Leib, while Solomon and Shemuel and the others did. But since there is someone walking around with this name, perhaps due to an error, I wanted to clear it up. Unfortunately there seemed to be no additional source of information on the matter.

But in fact, there is. Not direct proof, to be sure, but convincing nonetheless.

Kollel Hibat Ziyon in Mea Shearim,
where the collection records are held
Beginning about a hundred seventy-five years ago, there was an organization in Galicia which collected money to send to Galicianers living in Jerusalem in the most miserable conditions. Most of the records of those collections were lost when the Old City of Jerusalem fell to the Arabs in 1948, but the records for the last fifteen years before 1939 exist and are eminently accessible.

These collection records are pretty simple - just a list of names in Hebrew and amounts donated by each person. No other identifying information or addresses or anything - just the date of the collection. Some of these collections were done annually, some several times a year, depending on the community.

A sample page, from Brzesko
(Brigel). Rozdol pages are
very poor quality.
In the case of Rozdol, I was surprised to see that there were no contributions by anyone named Pikholz, despite the fact that Rozdol was the place that all the Pikholz families from that area had come from. There are no lists of Holocaust victims from Rozdol, but from our own records we know that there were Pikholz families there at the time. Certainly in the late 1920s. Eventually, I realized what had happened. The person in charge of collections for Rozdol, Pinchas Kerner, was himself a Pikholz son-in-law and he knew all the families personally, so instead of writing out the name each time, he simply wrote P"H as a personal shorthand.

As it happened, there were three of these Avraham P"H in Rozdol and he distinguished among them on his collection lists by the fathers' names - Avraham ben David, Avraham ben Pinchas and Avraham ben Hersch Leib. But on at least one occasion, he wrote Avraham ben Zvi Yehudah. Not only did Pinchas Kerner know the family well, but he was receiving the contribution from Avraham himself.

I believe that settles it. I have not told Aryeh's mother that she gave her son the wrong name.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Salomon Mensz
יהודית מנש בנארי, ממשפחת פיקהולץ מרוזדול

Twelve and a half years ago, I found a Page of Testimony for Salomon Shemuel (Klar) Mensz of Lwow, born 1865. The Page was submitted by his daughter Yehudit Mensz Benari of Petah Tiqva, in 1957. Salomon's wife was identified as Sara Rivka Pickholz, age 77.

Sara Rivka Pickholz Mensz

I pressed the link for other pages submitted by the same person (complicated by the fact that sometimes Yehudit's name was transcribed "Benari" and sometimes "Ben Ari) and found the Page for Sara Rivka, which did not mention her maiden name Pickholz.

It did tell us that she had been born in Rozdol in 1864 and that her parents were Aharon and Gittel. Sara Rivka is, as I have mentioned before, the name of the matriarch of the Rozdol Pikholz families and the dates are such that this new Sara Rivka could have been a granddaughter, but was more likely a great-granddaughter.

Although we have the Rozdol birth records for that period, I do not see a birth record for Sara Rivka. Nor do I see any other references to her parents Aron and Gittel or to any brothers and sisters she may have had.

The Page also said that Sara Rivka had five children and Yehudit submitted Pages of Testimony for the other four - Arnold (Aron) and his wife Ella, Jetty Roza/Rachel and her husband Natan Lew, Marek (Mordecai) and his wife Sara and Pawel (Pinchas). She also submitted a page for an undefined cousin, Fanka Pikholz-Kranter, who had been born about 1900, supposedly in Lwow, though I have not found a birth record in Lwow or anywhere else.

I continued to search the Yad Vashem website and found that additional pages had been submitted in 1997 by Uriella Eran, apparently Yehudit's daughter. (Here too, many of the Pages had been transcribed as Ariella, which complicated the search.) I located Uriella and her husband in a retirement home and went to see them. Her brother Amos and his wife joined us.

None of them had ever heard the name Pickholz and they could not tell me anything about Sara Rivka's family, neither her parents nor her siblings (if she had any).

Uriella told me that she had a younger brother Rafi who had been killed the day before Pesach 1948, in the War of Independence at age twenty-one. Rafi is buried in Kiryat Anavim, near Jerusalem.

Yehudit died 11 Kislev 5732 and I am posting this exactly forty years later. She is buried on Kibbutz Ein Harod, where she had lived for most of her adult life.

It turns out that one of the three sons of Yehudit's eldest brother Arnold survived the Holocaust and he has three children living in Poland.

In the meantime, I have acquired the birth records for all five of Sara Rivka's children. They were all born in Lwow, which is good, because Lwow birth records list not just the mother's parents, but also the mother's mother's maiden name.
28 July 1901 birth record from Lwow - Josefa, daughter of Salomon Mensch and Sara (Sali) Pikholz
Here is the birth record for Yehudit, using her birth name Josefa. Her children did not know that given name, but did know that she was sometimes called Pepi, which can be a nickname for Josefa. Her mother is Sara Pikholz, daughter of Gittel Pikholz and the late Aron Kranter. No mention of Rozdol.

The birth record for Aron (Arnold) from 1890 lists his mother as Sara Kranter, daughter of Aron Kranter and Gittel Kranter of Rozdol.

The birth record for Jetty Roza (Jente Rachel) from 1892 shows Sara Kranter, daughter of Aron Kranter and Gittel Pickholz of Rozdol.

The birth record for Marek from 1894 says "Sara Krater (Grater)" daughter of Aron Krater (Grater) of Rozdol and Gittel Pikholz.

Finally, the birth for the youngest brother Pawel from 1904 says Sara Kranter, daughter of Aron Kranter of Rozdol and Gittel Pikholz.

So despite the variations in the records, we know that Sara Rivka's parents are Aron Kranter and Gittel Pikholz. Fanka, the undefined cousin whom I mentioned above seems to be a niece of Sara Rivka, as she uses both of those surnames.

This is the only Rozdol family where the top couple is a Pikholz woman and a non-Pikholz man. It is clear from the names that they are descendants of the known couple Pinchas and Sara Rivka, but how they might be connected is anyone's guess. We may never know.

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Housekeeping announcements:
I am scheduled to speak for the Israel Genealogical Society on 20 December in Raanana and 9 January in Haifa, both in Hebrew. The topic will be:
Check times and addresses at

We are working on a December date for a Jerusalem talk on:
Details to follow.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


First a word of prayer for our people in the south, for those who fight to protect them and for wisdom.for those making the decisions.

Click to enlarge.

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There are two people in the Bible who are called - in the singular, by direct address - Beruch Hashem, Blessed of the L-rd. (In fact, the word "beruch" appears only in that context.)

The first was Avraham's servant (traditionally identified as Eliezer) who was called Beruch Hashem by Lavan the Aramean in the Torah portion which we read the Shabbat before last.

The second was Yitzhak, who was called Beruch Hashem by the Philistine king Avimelech in the Torah portion which we read just this past week.

Eliezer Yitzhak is my father's name and his yahrzeit follows those two readings, falling on Monday this week - 5 Kislev. It has been thirty-two years; he was in his fifty-eighth year.

He was named for the younger brother of his maternal grandmother, Lajos Bauer, who was a high-level government official and almost certainly still alive at the time. It is quite possible that only the "Eliezer" came from Lajos Bauer, whose birth record has only the one name. If that is the case, the "Yitzhak" may be from Isak Fischel Pikholz, my father's great-grandfather. But I am speculating.

When my father was in his early forties, my parents began speaking of aliya, though they had never even spoken to us of wanting to visit Israel. Nothing came of it at the time and a few years later, at forty-six, he had his first heart attack.

Two years after that, they made the move, together with the five girls. (I was planning on coming a year later, but it ended up being two. My brother stayed in the US.) He got a good job with Motorola in Tel-Aviv, working in English, but he never felt he fit in among the Israelis. In particular he struggled with the language, especially at work, where his co-workers insisted on practicing their English when speaking to him.

After three years, they took the two younger girls and went back. My parents rented out their apartment and continued paying their Israeli medical insurance, figuring that after my father retired, they'd come back.

They lived in Skokie Illinois and my father went to work for Motorola, at their headquarters in Schaumberg, eventually becoming a liaison between Schaumberg and the Tel-Aviv office. So we would see him a few times a year, whenever he came to accompany someone from Motorola Israel on a visit to an African or Iranian customer. And there were a couple of additional heart attacks.

At Amy & Ron's wedding, Skokie
During his recuperation from one of them, he grew a beard.

One summer he was here, in order to go to Africa with someone from Motorola, but he spent the time in hospital in Petah-Tikva. I visited him there and took the opportunity to pin him down on the matter of cemeteries, a subject he had refused to discuss before.

He insisted on going back to Pittsburgh for Rosh Hashanah that year. He knew the end was coming. They were to be in Pittsburgh in November for my cousin Ellen's wedding and he decided to make a kiddush in our shul - no reason, just because. Then he died. My mother called to cancel the kiddush and to arrange for a memorial service there instead.

It was Wednesday night when my father died and the logistics were such that the burial in Petah-Tikva would not be until early afternoon Monday. There was a service in Pittsburgh on Sunday and those in the US sat shiva from then. We sat here after the funeral Monday.

My mother asked that my army friend Rabbi Chaim Tabasky do the funeral. He spoke of Yaakov Avinu who came and then left and was brought back by his children. Thirty days later, R' Simon Kantarof did the unveiling. There may be a tape recording of that someplace.

Nana visited Israel twice after that. On one of those two visits, she asked me to say kaddish for my grandfather, and eventually for her when the time came. My grandmother outlived my father by fifteen years.

She died 28 Heshvan - that was Tuesday of last week. It was her ninety-second birthday. They got up from shiva on my father's yahrzeit.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Machsike Hadas Cemetery, Pittsburgh
My father's paternal grandmother, Jutte Lea Kwoczka, was born in Zalosce (east Galicia) about 1855 to Mordecai Meir Kwoczka and his wife Basie Pollak of nearby Jezierna. Basie died in 1889 and Mordecai Meir probably died during the period 1862-1876, for which there are no death records available.

Jutte Lea and her husband Hersch Pickholz named their first son Mordecai Mayer. That was 1877. He died a year later and the name Mordecai was reused for their second son.

Hersch and Jutte Lea went to the US in 1903-1904 and four of their children travelled with them. The other three children went a bit earlier, on their own. The whole family lived in Pittsburgh.

Jutte Lea had a brother who apparently never left Zalosce and two of his daughters settled in Pittsburgh. In the course of my research, I learned that the brother's name was Pinkas and that he named his first son Mayer - or perhaps Mordecai Mayer. This son died in his second year, about the same time as Jutte Lea's son.

One of Pinkas' two daughters in Pittsburgh also had a son Mordecai Meir, known as Max.

When limited Zalosce records became available on JRI-Poland, I made an inventory of the Kwoczkas. There was not enough information to put all of them into a tree, but it appeared that the initial couple was Josel (~1794-1849) and Jutte Leah (~1795-1855). Since we have just that one couple in that period and since my great-grandmother Jutte Leah was born the same year that the older Jutte Lea died, I have been assuming that my great-great-grandfather Mordecai Meir is a son of the older couple Josel and Jutte Leah.

In the course of my inquiries and research, I found a Rachmiel Kwoczka of Zalosce, born about 1864. He and his wife Feige Franzos had seven children 1889-1907, some in Zalosce and some in New York. I met a few of their descendants, but none knew much about the family history. My natural assumption was that Rachmiel was another brother of my great-grandmother Jutte Lea.

When I did a round of New York cemetery visits with my son Eliezer, six years ago, I saw the grave of Rachmiel Kwoczka in Mt. Hebron Cemetery. His father's name appears as Mordecai, without the Meir.

That's a problem. It is certainly a possibility that a father's name on a gravestone is incomplete. Rachmiel's wife Feige predeceased him, but one would think that his children would know his father's full name - at least from hearing him called to the Torah. Maybe it was just a space problem on the stone, but I'd think that unusual.

The other possibility, of course, is that Rachmiel's father Mordecai and Jutte Leah's father Mordecai Meir are two different people. But that would almost certainly necessitate another older couple alongside Josel and Jutte Lea.

So I decided to record Rachmiel as the brother of Jutte Lea (and Pinkas), with a very large asterisk.

Rachmiel's grandchildren would, therefore, be my father's second cousins. I have become quite close with the youngest of those (who lives in New Jersey) and I freely refer to him as my father's probably second cousin, though he is a few years younger than I. (I'll call him "B" here.)

About six months ago, I began doing some DNA testing, among the Pikholz families. Some of that testing - which I discussed a couple of months back - produced suggested relationships as results, without giving a clue about the direction of those relationships. In order to narrow it down, I asked my father's sister to test, figuring that people who matched me but not her would be on my mother's side. Then I asked my father's first cousin Herb, helping me figure who matched on my father's father's side and who on my father's mother's side.

More recently, I asked B if he would test, as well. I thought that might resolve the question of the two Mordecais and also hoped it might show us some additional Kwoczka or Pollak connections. It took me awhile to put this proposal to him in a convincing manner, but he did the tests and we now have preliminary results.

B shows up as a suggested second cousin for my aunt, for Cousin Herb and for me. In their cases, the range is "first cousin - third cousin" and in my case it is "second cousin - third cousin." I could not ask for more perfect results.

So now we know. There is one Mordecai and his name is Mordecai Meir - no asterisk needed. Rachmiel's stone is incomplete. B is indeed my second cousin once removed. (I really have to introduce him to Pinkas' descendants in Pittsburgh and Baltimore.) And I can point to a DNA victory.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Housekeeping note:

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Under the heading on the right "WHO AM I AND WHY AM I HERE," I say "no partisan politics." That does not mean I cannot address a political question from time to time and indeed there are some Israel-related political blogs under the "OTHER PEOPLES' STUFF" heading further down the page.

The question of expatriate voting in US elections has been in the news both in Israel and in some US discussions during this election season and I have stated from time to time that - although I have the same right to vote as any other US citizen - I choose not to. Having been asked to explain that position, I have decided to do so here. And now.

Although I this is my fortieth year here in Israel, I remain very much attached to some aspects of the US experience and in particular I am a US-politics junkie. I read, watch and listen to much political content on the Internet and I am sure that I can name more US Senators than members of our own Knesset. (I used to follow Israeli politics closely, but  I pretty much tune it out until just before elections.)

My interest in US politics is not just because the US government has important interactions with Israel and not just because the US and Israel are both important parts of what we used to call "the free world," but also because the size, wealth and power of the US are all relevant to the general well-being of the rest of us. So it is in our interests for the US to be doing well.

The total population of US expatriates is small and in the case of those in Israel is diluted by the fact that most come from states like New York, New Jersey, California and Illinois which are not really competitive at the presidential level. (A person who is a citizen but has no operative address may only vote for president, not for Congress or local offices.)

But I ignore all this and take a pass on the right to vote.

Israel does not have absentee balloting. Well, it's not quite that absolute. There are mobile ballot boxes (we vote with a paper ballot here) that go around to army bases and they get to the most obscure places.  There is also a process for voting by Israelis who are abroad in government service - embassies, consulates etc. And for some class of sailors on merchant vessels. There may be some other categories I have forgotten, but all in all, it's a small number of people.

That is why we don't have summer elections - because certain parties worry that their voters are abroad on vacation. (Dates for early elections are traditionally negotiated among the parties, not set unilaterally by the government as in the UK, for instance.)

There are, however, huge numbers of Israelis living abroad. People who have been living abroad for years and who have no intention of returning. Our  system is proportional, with each party receiving Knesset seats according to its share of the vote.  (It isn't quite that simple, but that is the general idea.) There are enough Israelis abroad to account for probably ten or fifteen Knesset seats - maybe more - out of 120. Their interests are not our interests and their considerations are by and large not our considerations.

These expatriate Israelis could vote, of course, if they came here but they rarely do. At least not for the purpose of voting.

From time to time, some politician, often in concert with a media-type, tries to advance the idea that Israelis abroad should be allowed to vote. (They generally throw in "Like in normal countries.") It starts with the idea that they mean Israelis who live here but are away temporarily, but there is no controlling that once it gets started.

And the next thing you know, it will be done by email. What could possibly go wrong!

I am 100% against that kind of initiative, as I don't want to see large numbers of Israeli expatriates trying to affect our Knesset, for motives that have nothing to do with what is good for us.

It would be inconsistent of me to maintain that position while voting as an expatriate in US elections.
It's as simple as that.

Not everything you can do, should you do.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


I wrote a few weeks ago about errors in online databases and promised there would be a few more examples. The example then was based on transcription of the original record and policy about approximating ages. This time it's something different.

A few years ago, I found a set of records in JRI-Poland for the children of Jakob Pikholz and his wife Henie Malka Ginsberg of Skalat - ten in all.
There are actually nine children here - the first one has two records, six weeks apart. That has to be some kind of error. Perhaps the second was meant to be a death record, as we have nothing further on this daughter. But that's not the one that prompted this post.

Of the remaining eight, Jente came to Israel in 1943 after her husband was killed. She had a daughter who chose to live out her days in Poland and another daughter here in Jerusalem. The daughter here in town has a daughter whom I know and who was, in fact, here in my office last week. Here Jente was known as Jetty and her documents show her to have been born 12 June 1883, rather than the 18 June 1880 that is on the birth record. Using the date on her birth record, she was a few weeks short of ninety when she died.

The seventh child, Szyje Isak, was a butcher in Skalat and was killed in the Holocaust. I know nothing about his family. In fact the only information I have beyond the birth record is from a Skalater who lived here and mentioned him among the people he had known.

The sixth child, Abysch Abraham, died in Skalat before his fourth birthday.

The second child, Perec, who was named for his paternal grandfather, went to the United States in 1902 and was known there as Barney. He married and had a son and a daughter and I am in touch with his granddaughter. Barney died in 1940 in his sixty-second year, but the gravestone says "Age 66 years."

We have a 1912 New York marriage record for another daughter, called Rose, who could be either Bassie Rosa or Raze. The marriage record has her as twenty-six years old, which is closer to the age of Raze, so I have recorded her that way.

She also appears in a 1907 passenger list as Rosa, age twenty-two. We know that she and her husband Sam Greenberg had a son Max in about 1915, but we know nothing further of them. The curse of common names.

For the other children of Jakob and Henie Malka, we have nothing but birth records, so we have no idea what happened to any of them. Had they died in childhood, there would likely be notes on the birth records. So their lives are a large question mark, with no good prospect for solution.

Back to the results from the JRI-Poland search, where we see a few inconsistencies in spelling and in the names themselves, but nothing noteworthy - with one exception. Raze's mother is not listed as Henie Malka Ginsberg, but as Henie Malka BLEICH of Touste. Normally, I would guess that Henie Malka's parents were Ginsberg and Bleich, but we learned from the first births that she was from Skalat, so Touste is a problem.

At first I acquired only one or two births from each family, but as my budget allowed, I ordered the others.
This is what came for Raze. (Click to enlarge.) Sorry for the quality, that's what there is.
There are five births on this page. (It's a ledger, so some of the center is lost in the spine.) Raze the daughter of Jakob Pikholz and his wife Henie Malka is the fourth, the one with the X in orange on the left. She was born 28 July 1884. The mother's name is in the red box near the center. I cannot make out Henie Malka's father's name, but her mother is Szeindel Bleich of Touste. Our Henia Malka is the daughter of Abysch and Leie Marjem Ginsberg of Skalat.

The solution is on the next line, where we have the birth on 30 July of Isak Ber, the son of Wolf Rubin and his wife Sussel. Susse's parents (in the blue box) are Abysch and Leie Marjem Ginsberg of Skalat.

The recording clerk simply mixed up the mothers' parents of the two newborns.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


I wrote the following article for the Israel Genealogical Society's quarterly Sharsheret Hadorot about four and a half years ago.

Two Brief Stories From One Week
Israel Pickholtz
It Came to Pass Last Fall
One evening, when I was busy with a thousand and one things, a young man phoned me from London. He introduced himself as the son-in-law of one of the Pikholz descendants, from a family I knew, but was not in touch with. He asked for some information about the Pikholz Project website that I had built and wanted me to show him how to get to a particular group of pages. I did not ask him much since I still had a thousand things to do. I answered him and forgot all about it. I did not even ask him his name or the name of his wife.

That particular family was descended from Yosef ben Yeroham Fischel Pikholz from Skole in east Galicia. Yosef was born about 1865 and his wife was Raisel Langenauer from Rybnik. They had ten children, five of whom survived childhood, and I have quite a bit of information on their living descendants. My information is not up-to-date, and in fact was not even up-to-date when I first received it some eight years ago. From what I was given, the five children of Yosef Pikholz had 227 descendants, with some using Pickholz while others used Langenauer as their family name.  

Yosef and Raisel had a son named Avraham Chaim Langenauer, who is buried in Raanana. He and his wife Henie have 153 descendants, including five children, four of whom are still living. Their second daughter has seven children and I know of sixty-eight of her descendants but keeping up-to-date with them is no small task.  

On Friday, less than two hours before Shabbat, the third son of that second daughter telephoned from London. This man is a great-great-grandson of Yosef and Raisel. "My son-in-law spoke with you earlier this week," he began, continuing with questions about the family ancestors. He was particularly interested in the name and date of death of Raisel Langenauer's mother. I did not have the information at hand but before Shabbat I found her parents' names and sent them to him. After Shabbat, I continued searching my files as well as other sources and sent him additional information on the Langenauers, including some that differed from printed sources.  

Sunday morning I received an email from London telling me that they did not need any further information. I was told that their daughter and son-in-law had decided to name their daughter Rachel, after the maternal grandmother of the grandmother Henie. This name descended five generations at once, landing on a baby girl of the sixth generation, in London. I wished them mazal tov and explained that I had not realized that this was the purpose of their inquiry. The Londoner said he would send me a proper list of descendants.

And in the Very Same Week
Jim, my second cousin in the United States, was killed when a careless driver hit his motorcycle.  His wife was hospitalized in serious condition. Jim was eighteen years younger than I, and my father was eighteen years older than his first cousin, Jim's father. Actually, I did not know him at all, as I left town at age nineteen. His family then moved to Louisiana, where he lived and died. We saw each other once in the intervening years. I spoke with his wife in the hospital more times than he and I had ever spoken.

Yosef Pikholz, not the one from the first story, who lived in Skalat, in east Galicia was one of the earliest recorded Pikholz. He died in 1862 at age seventy-eight. From his death record, we learned that his name was actually Yitzhak Yosef. Soon after his death, two family members were born and were named Yitzhak Yosef and a third was born in 1879. We know nothing about the first two but the third went to the United States and his descendants never knew that he had two names. Like his namesake, he was known simply as Yosef. Others named after the original Yosef received only the single name, probably because the double name was not something that the younger grandchildren knew about.

I do not know the names of the parents of my great-great-grandmother but I believe that her father was the original Yitzhak Yosef.   In 1890, another Yitzhak Yosef was born in east Galicia. His younger brothers were David, Jim's grandfather, and Mendel, my grandfather. I knew Uncle Joe well. I even knew that his name was Yosef Yitzhak and that is indeed what it says on his tombstone. In fact, he was another Yitzhak Yosef who went by Yosef but in his case the Yitzhak was preserved as a second name. Uncle Joe died in 1965 and a few months later the last male of my generation entered the family. They called him Yosef Yitzhak, James Joseph in English and Jim, for short.

Double names tend to deteriorate over generations and of course the Holocaust thinned out the family, so Jim is, for now at least, the last person to bear the full name of our likely ancestor.

Our Fathers' Names
By and large, people today do not continue to use their ancestors' names, as they once did. They do not like old-fashioned names and do not see the value in passing them along to the next generation. Some choose names with a similar meaning or a similar sound or even just the same first letter. Or they will use the old name as a second name, after choosing something more modern. Double names are sometimes dismantled and a child receives his own double name, derived from two different people.

Yet there are still those who reach as far back as six generations for a name. Sometimes parents think they are honoring the memory of some recently deceased relative but in doing so they perpetuate a name and an ancestor long gone.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

(both last week)

The yahrzeit for Jim, whom I mentioned above, is 2 Heshvan. That was Thursday of last week.

The yahrzeit for Ellen, a first cousin on my mother's side, is 4 Heshvan. She died two days after Jim, following suffering many years with a brain tumor and the results of treatments and operations.

May their memories be for a blessing.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


When I was in the first stages of my Pikholz research, I searched the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) for anyone with our surname. Some of those who turned up were people I could easily identify and some were not. One of the latter was Leo W. Pickholz, born 24 April 1894 who died in January 1971. The Social Security number had been issued in New York State and his last residence was in New York City (zipcode 10024). His location for last benefit was undefined, which often means he lived outside the US.

I ordered his SS-5 (the application for a Social Security number, filled out in his own hand) and found that his parents were Berl Pfeffer and Lea Pickholz. He listed his birthplace as Austria without a town name and his birth year was listed as 1892, rather than 1894.

I did not yet know Berl and Lea, but as I saw other documents, it became clear to me that Leo had some connection to the family of Simon Pikholz and his wife Chana Waltuch - what we call the DORA family.

When the Ellis Island data became available, I found him listed as "Wolf Pikholz" with the additional information that his nearest relation in his country of origin was his father in Vienna and that his own birthplace was Kopyczynce.

When birth records became available for that town, we found that Berl and Lea had nine children there during the period 1882-1895, at least four of whom died in childhood. The eldest, Dwora, turned up later in New York, with a curious story of her own. Joel had a daughter in Chernovitz in 1912 and was killed in Germany. Joel's daughter lived in Mexico, but we have not succeeded in tracing her family. There was a son Marcus, who I think was a musician or a conductor in Belgium, perhaps going by the name Marcel Pfeffer. (Dwora and Joel also went by Pfeffer.) And there was Wolf Leib, born 24 April 1892 - we know him as Leo.

Those birth records showed Lea's parents as Simon Pikholz of Skalat and his wife Dwora Waltuch. Dwora died in 1861 at age twenty-three leaving young Lea and even-younger Breine about whom we know nothing. Simon then married Dwora's sister Chana and they had nine children, several of whom lived in NJ-NY. A descendant of one of those remembers her Pfeffer relatives very vaguely.

I also found an inquiry by Leo in 1962 and living in New York, about his sister Amalie, who had last been seen in Brasov Rumania during the war. He wanted to know if she had ever contacted the Jewish Agency about making aliyah. Recently we found that Amalie - followed by Julie and Maurice were born to Berl and Lea in Czernovitz.

There is a 1913 death for a Lea Pickholz in Czernovitz and I am guessing that this is Leo's mother.

Upon arrival  in 1923, Wolf Leib Pikholz
declares his intention to become a US citizen.

Wolf Leib announced his intention to become a US citizen immediately upon arrival in New York and received citizenship in 1928.

In 1931, Leo became engaged to Sophie Wechsler, but instead, in 1932, he married Frances Wechsler (perhaps related to Sophie, but they had different parents).

From the NY Times, 8 March 1931

Frances died of a brain tumor in 1944 and is buried in Beth David Cemetery, in Elmont NY. She had no children. Leo is not buried with her.

I spent some time looking for a grave for Leo, but could find neither a grave nor a death record. The Department of Health in New York searched and could not find a death certificate.

Then quite out of the blue, Arny Pickholz - of the Cleveland family - received an email asking:

Is there a Leon P[ickholz] in your family that worked overseas for the US Government? 
He worked for the Pentagon/Defense Intelligence Agency in the old West Germany.

A follow-up inquiry led me (and Arny) to a man who wrote - about someone in Boca Raton, whose name I do not have permission to use, so I will call him A:

"A" was a kid from Brooklyn (Williamsburg) who walked the point at the Battle of the Bulge. His first wife ... was in a kinder transport to England.
"A" was Pentagon/Defense Intelligence Agency for almost 40 years; all in West Germany.
I wrote to "A" and he responded:
[Leo] was a member of our organization, in Europe, for many years before retiring to Lugano, Switzerland.
My late wife and I visited him there, but lost track of him shortly thereafter.
I have taken steps by contacting other members of our former organization in the hope that they can provide additional information which may help to identify Leo Pickholz, who may the man you are seeking.
I next inquired of the Jewish community of Lugano. After an extensive search, they located a grave for Wolf-Leib Pickholz, his original name. The location is "2-76," but they have no date or next of kin and there is no marker.

I never heard further from "A" but he is still in the phone book for Boca Raton, so I emailed him again a few days ago to see if any of his former colleagues can flesh out Leo's life. This much we know - he was a widower of fifty-two with no children in 1944. Perhaps at that time - though perhaps earlier or later - he began working for US Defense Intelligence and apparently remained there quite a long time. He was certainly a German-speaker. Earlier he referred to himself as a jeweler (in Vienna) and a furrier (in NY).  He was living in New York in 1962 and was still unsure about the fate of one of his sisters, Amalie, who had been living in Brasov Rumania.

And his grave has no marker.