Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pamela Weisberger - חבל דאבדין ולא משתכחין

The Aramaic phrase in the title is from the Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, page 111a. Rashi explains that it means that it is a tragic loss when a great person dies and there is no one to replace him.

All the talk in the world of Jewish genealogy today is of the passing Friday of Pamela Weisberger. We say that the cemeteries are full of people whom we once thought couldn't be replaced. Pamela is probably as close to such a person as anyone most of us will ever know.

Barely thirty days ago in Los Angeles
There is no need for me to weigh in on the acute loss to her husband Ken and to her three children. Nor is there any need for me to speak to Pamela's many job descriptions and accomplishments in the world of genealogy.

I also need not speak about what the so-premature death of a friend and colleague does to all of us in our sixties who think we have all the time in the world. Especially so close on the heels of the high holidays.

But I shall say a few things about my own relationship with Pamela.

Mea Shearim
Our first contact was maybe fifteen years ago. She sent me a photograph of a building in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem which she said that some relative of hers had donated to a synagogue or a yeshiva seventy or eighty years earlier. There were two signs attesting to this in the photograph. She wanted me to find the building and make some general inquiries about the family.

I found the building easily enough, in a prominent place on Mea Shearim Street itself. One of the signs was still there. (It isn't any more and no one seems to know where it is.) The building was being used as a yeshiva and there was also a store of some sort using part of the ground floor. I made some inquiries and passed them on.

Eventually, Pamela made contact with these Krishevsky and Eisner relatives and on two or three occasions I went with her to visit them. I was there to translate. Some of them understood the connection, others didn't really. They were all very pleasant visits. Pamela - classy that she always was - would change into a long skirt, shawl and hat, so as not to make anyone uncomfortable.

We were going to go to see them just before the Conference here in Jerusalem in July. We had it pretty much set up, but we had some miscommunication (strictly my fault!) and it didn't happen. We figured it would keep until next time.

I don't know if there is anyone in Pamela's family who will tell the Mea Shearim relatives. I called one of them. She will tell the others. She asked for Pamela's Jewish name and her father's. They will light a candle for her soul. I said I'd try to find out. They don't really know her, but she cared about them and they reciprocated.

Gesher Galicia
I was not a joiner back then, but Pamela decided I should be a member of Gesher Galicia. I  am not sure who else was involved in the decision but one day Pamela informed me that I (a non-member) had been co-opted to the Gesher Galicia Steering Committee. And what size T-shirt did I want.

When Gesher Galicia was incorporated in 2009, I served as Secretary and as such was a member of the Board, with Pamela as President.

Gesher Galicia had become Pamela's show and most of us were happy to be role players. It worked well, but now it will all be very different. Not just a change in titles.

We had some common research interests - mostly in Skalat and nearby Grzmaylow, but also apparently in our Hungarian families. Every couple of months, Pamela would feed me some Pikholz reference that she'd run across while doing something else. We were friends that way.

On her first visit to Israel, I took her to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron and we visited the Hevron cemetery together.

In the "Acknowledgements" section of my recently published book "ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People" under the heading "Encouragement," the second item is
I spoke of my plans for a DNA testing project to Pamela Weisberger while she was visiting Israel in 2012. She encouraged me to submit a presentation for [the IAJGS Conference planned for the following summer in] Boston. I did and it was well-received, though even when I presented my talk, I had very few results to report. From there it has been a runaway train.
Pamela and her daughter Lily appear in Chapters Eleven and Eighteen, where I looked at some people who have many DNA matches with Pikholz descendants. We surely have multiple common ancestors - probably within the last three hundred years.

Pamela welcomed my suggestion to speak to JGSLA in August despite the fact that they had  already done an August program, and was instrumental in setting up a Phoenix talk the next day. She posted about it on Facebook here. The photo at the top of this page is from that post. She was always classy.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Another Option for GEDmatch's Lazarus Tool

I have written about the Lazarus tool on GEDmatch as have Blaine Bettinger and others. In fact, there is a Facebook group dedicated to the subject.

Lazarus is a tool which helps you recreate - in full or in part - the genome of someone who cannot himself be tested. Usually because he is long dead.

Lazarus is one of the "Tier 1" tools  which require a contribution to GEDmatch. (They do very important work and the contribution is definitely warranted, even if all you use are the standard tools.)

The idea behind Lazarus is that you look at the target's descendants and see what segments match other known relatives who are not descendants. For instance, if I have segments that match my father's sister or brother, then those segments must have come to me from my father. For a Lazarus of my father, I would be in what they call Group 1 and my aunt and uncle would be in what they call Group 2. My sisters would also be in Group 1 and they would allow us to recreate additional bits of our father's genome.

Adding other relatives of my father to Group 2 - his first and second cousins, for instance - allows us to enlarge his Lazarus kit even more. Unfortunately we do not always have enough kits of these cousins to give us a significant number of matches with Group 1.

Furthermore, in the case of endogamous families, where people are related fairly closely in mutiple directions, this must be done very carefully. I discuss this issue in detail in Chapters Fifteen and Sixteen of my book "ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People" and I after that I show practical uses of several Lazarus kits.

The form at GEDmatch tells us:
Group two is a list of kit numbers for available remaining relatives of the target Lazarus person we wish to deduce the atDNA. That will be brother/sisters, parents and cousins.
The implication here is that Group 2 must not include descendants of the target. This is stated specifically on Facebook and in other discussion groups.

The reason for this exclusion is that the members of Group 1 carry the DNA of both the target and the target's spouse (the other parent of the descendants). You want to be sure, therefore, that no one in Group 2 might share DNA with the target's spouse, DNA which would be mistakenly attributed to the target's genome.

There is, however, an exception. When the target has children from multiple spouses who are not related to one another.

Let us take as an example our forefather, the Biblical Jacob, who had thirteen children from four women. Leah gave Jacob seven children: Reuven, Shimon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zevulun and Dinah. Jacob had two children - Joseph and Benjamin - with Leah's sister Rachel. Jacob had four additional sons with his two concubines, Bilhah (Dan and Naftali) and Zilpah (Gad and Asher).

For the purposes of this analysis, I shall ignore the fact that Jacob was a first cousin of Leah and Rachel, in addition to other family connections. I shall also ignore the Rabbinic tradition that Bilhah and Zilpah were sisters of Rachel and Leah.
So let's say that Jacob's family has just returned to Egypt after burying him in his family plot in Hevron and Reuven says "Too bad we didn't do a Family Finder test on Dad while he was alive."

Levi, who was always particuarly conscious of his lineage, says "Well, half the DNA of each of us comes from Dad. We should be able to work with that."

Judah wasn't so sure. "We'd have to figure out a way to see what came to each of us from Dad and what came from our Moms. But we would probably need to phase our DNA using some other relatives."

Joseph, the worldly, practical one, said that he heard that GEDmatch had a new tool called Lazarus (whoever he is) which allows recreation of a dead person's genome based on matches between descendants and other known relatives. The descendants go in Group 1 and the other known relatives go in Group 2.

Dan, whose deaf son Hushim had whacked off the head of Jacob's only brother Esau when he misunderstood all the wild gesturing over the ownership of the burial plot, pointed out that they were not likely to enjoy any cooperation from Esau's kids.

"So," Reuven sighed, "We have only ourselves to work with. And we are all candidates for Group 1. It says that right here in the instructions."

"No so," said the learned, analytical Issacher. "Group 2 have to be people who are not related to the other parent of the descendants in Group 1. Generally that means not descendants of Dad. How about if we put the nine children of Leah and Rachel (who are sisters) in Group 1 and the four sons of the concubines in Group 2. Joseph and Benjamin cannot be in Group 2, because Rachel and Leah share DNA that would then be misattributed to Dad."

Dan, Naftali, Gad and Asher hated being reminded that they were the sons of concubines. When they were young, some of the others teased them by calling them "porcupines." But they couldn't argue with Issachar's logic.

"In fact," Issachar pointed out, "the DNA of the four half-brothers would be even better than the DNA of Esau's disgusting sons or even Uncle Esau himself, because the half-brothers are a full 50% from Dad." The porcupines were proud of that designation.

"Let it be written so" said Judah and Joseph in a rare moment of agreement.

Housekeeping notes
My next two speaking appearances are in Hebrew - 27 October at the IGS Jerusalem branch and 28 October in Carmiel. "ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People" will be available for purchase and signing. After those two events, the Israeli price will go up from NIS 120 to NIS 140 (plus shipping from Israel).

Outside Israel, books and genetic genealogy T shirts and tote bags are available at .