Monday, November 30, 2015

Guest Post: Cousins and Siblings, Another Look

All My Foreparents is pleased to host Lara Diamond, President of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Maryland who blogs at Lara's Family Search and will serve as an Ambassador at RootsTech in February. Take it away, Lara!

Inspired by Israel Pickholtz's post comparing the amount of shared DNA in his endogamous family--and the different amounts with cousins between siblings--I decided to look at my own family's DNA matches.

Both my mother and her brother have tested with FamilyTreeDNA's FamilyFinder.  Three of their known second cousins once removed have tested, as has a second cousin and a known third cousin once removed.

Two of these second cousins once removed are descendants of my great-great-great grandparents Yehoshua Zev and Mira (nee Alpern/Halperin) Lefand--and my mother & uncle's great-great grandparents.

Ken is a descendant of their son Nechemia/Hamay Laffend:
Ken's relationship to my mother and uncle
Myron is a descendant of another son, Meyer Leffand:
Myron's relationship to my mother and uncle
And my mother and uncle are descendants of their daughter Pesha Riva Lefand Tolchin.

Two Supkoff cousins also tested--Pat, a second cousin of my mother and uncle, and Ben, a second cousin once removed to all three, both descendants of Yeshaya and Zlata Tzipra (nee Sanshuck) Supkoff (formerly Zubkis).

Pat is descended from Yeshaya & Zlata Tzipra's son Louis:
Pat's relationship to my mother and uncle
Ben is descended from their daughter Frances.  Note that Ben is doubly related, as his great grandmother Frances Supkoff married her first cousin Ben Supkoff, son of Yeshaya's brother Yossel.
Ben's relationship to my mother and uncle
And lastly, a third cousin once removed of my mother and uncle, Jonathan, tested; he is an Eizikovics cousin, related on my maternal grandmother's side.  Note that Jonathan's great grandmother Reiza was born an Eizikovic and married one as well, and they were likely related prior to marriage, so he has an extra dose of "Eizikovic" in his ENA.

Jonathan's relationship to my mother and uncle

And here they are, laid out in a traditional box-chart, with those who tested in yellow.

So how do all of these cousins' DNA overlap with my mother's?  (The two numbers for each person are number of matching segments greater than 5cM and total matching cM.)
My mother's DNA segment matches with 5 known cousins

My mother and her three known second cousins once removed who have tested have a wide variety of shared DNA--from Ken with whom she shares 281cM over 14 segments to Ben, with whom she shares only 128cM over 7 segments--even though he's should have an extra dose of Supkoff from his two Supkoff great grandparents.  Myron falls somewhere in the middle with 181cM shared with my mother, but divided over 12 segments.  Note that while Ken and Myron are related to my mother in the same way and have nearly the number of segments, Ken's segments are significantly larger than Myron's--giving a total more than 50% more shared cMs than Myron.

Note: Although all Myron, Ken and Ben are all 2C1R to my mother, Myron and Ken are one generation ABOVE her and Ben is one generation BELOW her. That should not matter in the kind of analysis I am doing here.

Pat, a known second cousin, shares 182cM with my mother over 9 segments.  Even though Ken is another step removed from my mother than Pat, he is a much stronger match.

And then there's Jonathan, a known third cousin once removed.  My mother shares 160cM with him, over 6 segments, a pretty strong match for that level of relative.

My uncle is obviously related to each of these five individuals in the same way as my mother.  But how do the amounts of shared DNA vary between these two siblings and the five known cousins?
My uncle's DNA segment matches with 5 known cousins

Looking at the known second cousins once removed, my uncle shares less DNA with Ken than does my mother--but he shares more with Ben than she does. He shares significantly more DNA with Myron than my mother does (232cM vs 181cM)--even though Ken and Myron are both descendants of Yehoshua Zev and Mira Lefand.  His match with Pat is a better one than my mother's.

And although both my mother and uncle each share approximately the same amount of aggregate DNA with Ken, the DNA they share is different.  My mother has large segments shared with Ken on chromosome 2 (26.72cM) and chromosome 3 (43.14cM) which do not overlap with my uncle's shared segments at all.  My uncle has large segments shared with Ken on chromosome 9 (40.38cM) and chromosome 18 (23.69cM) where my mother's DNA doesn't match Ken's at all.  And while my uncle's large segment in common with Ken on chromosome 7 (50.02cM) is impressive, my mother has all of that in common with Ken--plus a bit more--57.15cM in total.  And my grandfather would have had all of these segments in common with Ken.  So while the aggregate sum is a great tip-off, it's important to look at all of the shared segments individually.

Jonathan's DNA has much less in common with my uncle than with my mother.  While my mother shared 160cM with Jonathan, a very decent match, my uncle only has 79cM in common.  Had I only tested my uncle (which was originally the case--my mother only tested in the last few months) [This is the punchline - IP], I would have discounted Jonathan of a match of much interest.

In summary:

Mother Uncle Relationship
Ken 14/281 8/243 2C1R
Myron 12/181 12/232 2C1R
Ben 7/128 10/144 2C1R
Pat 9/182 10/221 2C
Jonathan 6/160 3/79 3C1R

So my conclusions?  Similar to Israel Pickholtz, my Ashkenazi family has much better matches than would be expected in a typical non-endogamous family.  And as he has also stressed, testing siblings can potentially get good matches that one wouldn't have gotten with only one sibling's test.  My uncle's much better match with Myron and my mother's significantly stronger match with Jonathan show that clearly.

Thank you, Lara, for sharing your DNA experience in the critical area of siblings and differing cousins. 

Housekeeping Notes
On 1 December at 10 AM Pacific Standard time, I am to be interviewed about my book "ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People" on "A Savory Spotlight" with Sherry McNeil Savory and Tina Sansone. You can hear it in real time at and there are podcast links on the left of that so you can listen later.

I should be able to announce more of my US speaking schedule next week.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Who Is This Samuel?

A few weeks ago, I began a blog about AGAD records with these lines:
A couple of weeks ago, I received a note from Rita, a Skalat Pikholz descendant in the US. She had just seen her mother's 1912 birth record in JRI-Poland, without a link to an actual scan. She wanted to know about getting the actual record.        
With that she opened a door for me which - while not exactly overgrown with shrubbery - was a bit rusty.
Then I went on to discuss AGAD and its records. But Rita's mother's birth record has a story of its own.
I moved the record to just below the headings for convenience. It is in fact the fourth record on the page.

Malka Chana was born to Chaja, the daughter of Leib and Ryszi Pickholz on 13 September 1912. The family has always known her date of birth to be one day earlier, but this sort of thing happens not infrequently. On the far right, the father is named as Szymon Figur. But here is where it gets strange.

This, on the right, is where the father confirms his paternity. 

Szymon (pronounced "Shimon") is the Hebrew equivalent of Simon. That is not a signature. The signature is below and it says "Samuel Pikholz" not "Szymon (or Simon) Figur."

We know that sometimes the signature is of the person himself, which this does not appear to be.

Sometimes the father is not present when the record is made and someone else attests to the father's paternity. In this case, Szymon went to the US before WWI on the Rijndam and his wife and daughter followed only after the war, 
but he sailed on 12 July 1913 from Rotterdam, so that would not explain anything.

His closest relative in his country of origin is his wife Clara (Chaje) in Kozowka.
 The person he is going to in the US is his Bril (brother-in-law) Louis Feier (Feuer).

His birthplace is Kosowke Austria (east Galicia).

So it's definitely the right man on that ship.

And besides, Chaje has only one brother - Shoil - and has no uncles or cousins named Samuel. Nor is there a Samuel in the family of Old Nachman Pikholz, which we have determined with the help of DNA to be closely related. So who can this be?

Did Szymon Figur suddenly adopt his wife's surname as his own? That happened from time to time, but Szymon Figur is never seen as Pikholz anyplace else. And although we say that spelling doesn't count, it's odd that if he took his wife's name, he was signing as "Pikholz" while the same document shows Chaje's parents as "Pickholz."

And although we know that Szymon was known as Sam in the US,
Shimon ben Menahem Mendel and Chaja bat Aryeh Leib
there is no reason to think that he began calling himself Samuel or Sam while still in Europe. That would have been very unusual, as Samuel is not a secular name like Markus or Herman.

In fact, when he went to New York ten months after this birth record, he was clearly going by Simon Figur. No Samuel and no Pikholz.

So we are kind stuck here. My instinct is to say that Szymon Figur signed his name as Samuel Pikholz, but I am far from convinced. I have not opened a new "Samuel Pikholz" in my database. Maybe something will turn up, though I cannot imagine what.

Housekeeping notes
On 1 December at 10 AM Pacific Standard time, I am to be interviewed about my book "ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People" on "A Savory Spotlight" with Sherry McNeal Savory and Tina Sansone. You can hear it in real time at and there are podcast links on the left of that so you can listen later.

My winter speaking tour is coming together slowly but nicely. It will include a presentation at the prestigious New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston on 27 January at 6 PM. My thanks to Jay Sage for setting that up.

Anyone who has access to FORUM - the quarterly of the Federation of Genealogical Societies - can see an excellent review of my book by Julie Cahill Tarr in the Fall 2015 issue (volume 27, issue 3). I hope to get their permission to post it here and elsewhere.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Second Cousins and Siblings

In the course of the lecture that I have been giving about DNA analysis and endogamy, I make the point that it is important to test as many family members as possible and particularly first and second cousins.

I show a slide based on Wiki of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy which shows estimates of shared DNA for various relationships.

I emphasize that second cousins share on average only about 212.5 cM or 3% of their DNA, which means that they do NOT share nearly 97%. Second cousins are people that many of us know and have grown up with. Sometimes we even resemble one another. So by not testing second cousins, we lose alot of information.

Some months ago, Blaine Bettinger did a non-scientific (self-selected) survey of peoples' known relationships and showed that second cousins share about 246 cM on average. That's more like four percent, still not very much.

I was curious to see how endogamous families were different from non-endogamous families. (I am talking about general populations, not cases where close cousins married one another in the last few generations.)

So I did my own mini-non-scientific study. No cherry-picking. (Note, the comparisons below are for segments of five or more cM.)

Here I compare four second cousins to my own results.

The two numbers for each person are number of matching segments and total matching cM.

Sam is on my mother's mother's side. Ruth is on my mother's father's side. My mother's parents are from Belarus/Lithuania, but apparently Ruth's father is a Galizianer, hence the much larger match with her.

Marty, Terry and I are mutual second cousins on the Pikholz side.

We see that Sam, Marty and Terry match me in the general range suggested by ISOGG and Blaine's study. Ruth, as I explained above, has a greater level of matching.

For purposes of comparison, I asked Roberta Estes if she would share some of her second cousin data and she readily agreed.

Roberta was comparing her mother Barbara and two of her mother's first cousins, Donald and Cheryl, to a second cousin named Rex. The closest of her three matches - Donald with 10 segments and 191 cM - is lower than the weakest of my matches - Marty, eleven segments and 223 cM.

So, at least in this bit of anecdotal evidence, my endogamous family has much better matches than Roberta's - which makes it much more difficult to make sense of it all. I added a slide into the newest version of my presentation, in order to make that point.

Roberta's data shows something else. Cheryl is Donald's sister and her matches - both number of segments and total cM - are a third less than her brother's. So we see another demonstration of the importance of testing siblings.

I have made this point before, most dramatically at the end of this. But for sport, I ran another Pikholz second cousin Rhoda (who is also a second cousin of Terry and Marty) against my sisters and me.
Here the number of segments that we match Rhoda is in a small range - 12-15. But Jean's total cM is 217, significantly less that Sarajoy, Judith and me. Amy has only 141 cM. Imagine if we didn't know that Rhoda is a second cousin and we had only Amy's results to compare to her. We would have seen 35-49% less matching DNA.

So please folks, test your second cousins. Test your first cousins. Test your siblings. As many as you can and as many as your budget allows. Oldest first.

And while FTDNA and Ancestry are having sales is a good time.

Housekeeping notes
The Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) has announced a course in Advanced Genetic Genealogy to be held 17-22 July in Pittsburgh. Registration is 2 March and I shall be on tenterhooks until then.

(Last time they let me give an evening presentation about Jewish genealogy. Perhaps they'll let me give one this time on Jewish DNA.)

If that works out and if my speaking proposals for the IAJGS Conference in Seattle are accepted, I'll have two weeks in between - 24 July-5 August - when I'll be in the US and available.

But before all that, I have registered for RootsTech in Salt Lake City (3-6 February) as an exhibitor, with books and genetic genealogy T-shirts and tote bags for sale. Needless to say that my booth will only be open only until mid-afternoon Friday. (The local Extended Stay is about twenty minutes walk from Chabad's synagogue.)

I am also putting together a lecture tour for about ten days before and after RootsTech. Three of the four Sundays are taken, but most of the weekdays are available. Anyone looking for a presentation on genetic genealogy - Jewish societies, non-Jewish societies and groups that are not genealogy-based - please contact me by email. Tell your friends.
Finally, I have an article in the newest issue of the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly. I told much of that story here, a couple of years ago.

Friday, November 13, 2015

DNA Is Good...

... but not usually this good.

I introduced the Baar-Riss family last year.

This writes the conclusion to Chaper Twelve of "ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People."

Sunday, November 8, 2015

My Atttention Turns Again to AGAD

A couple of weeks ago, I received a note from Rita, a Skalat Pikholz descendant in the US. She had just seen her mother's 1912 birth record in JRI-Poland, without a link to an actual scan. She wanted to know about getting the actual record.

With that she opened a door for me which - while not exactly overgrown with shrubbery - was a bit rusty.

Stop me if I have said some of this before.

Back in the early days of the Pikholz Project, Jacob Laor and I ordered searches of the Rozdol, Skalat and Zbarazh records for anything that had to do with Pikholz. These records are held by the AGAD (Archiwum Glowne Akt Dawnych = the Central Archives of Historical Records) in Warsaw. They found quite a few birth records for us but they only reported on the records where the father was the Pikholz. We placed orders several times and eight or ten other people joined in.

Then JRI-Poland added AGAD to their records project and they began indexing records. At first they had an ordering system which worked pretty well. Then about nine years ago, a new director took over at the Polish State Archives and everything stopped - the indexing, the ordering and some of the cordiality. We were left to place our orders on our own, from the existing index.

The first time I tried that, I found the bank charges high and the process a pain in the neck. I realized that the way to do this efficiently was to offer other people the opportunity to join me. It evolved into a system where I placed three or four orders a year and I acquired a large of records for myself, but certainly not all that I wanted. At first those records came on paper, but eventually they went over to scans. The scans were generally better quality than the paper.

In the meantime, the Polish State Archives found themselves with another new director and they began the process of making newer records available. Records are transferred periodically from the Civil Records Office to the archives only after one hundred years after the newest record in that particular book. But they cannot be indexed until after they are microfilmed, fumigated and whatever else archivists do. A significant backlog developed.

AGAD also decided to link the online index to scanned records so the need to order became redundant. But here too, there was a lag. So now there are older records scanned and online, newer records scanned and online, newer records indexed online but not scanned and probably newer records that have not yet been indexed. I was not able to keep up with what records were at what stage.

On top of that, I began linking records to the Pikholz Project website but that was a tedious process and I only did a few of the smaller towns. Not yet the ones from Skalat and Rozdol, for instance.

And of course, I was so heavily into DNA research, blogging and other aspects of genealogy that I had little time for the AGAD records.

When I heard from Rita, I decided I really should start catching up. I started going through the smaller towns, downloading scans in order to prepare them for linking to the Pikholz Project site. (That's more work than you would think.)

Now I still have no idea where AGAD is holding regarding scanning and linking the records that are already indexed or how soon they might have what other records indexed or in preparation for indexing.

In the meantime, I have begun preparing an Excel file with a list of records I want to order. Maybe I'll ask if others are interested.

But in the meantime...
... I found Uncle Selig's death record. Or at least the index reference. This is the brother of my great-great-grandmother, who has played such an important role in my research. He is featured in Chapter Seven of my book "ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People" and in fact the book is dedicated to his memory. He also appears prominently in the presentation I have been giving.

The scan is not linked, but I can order it from AGAD.

My father knew that his grandfather had an Uncle Selig Pikholz and I never understood why he knew that. When we found Uncle Selig alive in 1911, I considered that he may still have been alive during my father's lifetime. But not if he died in 1913. So I still don't know why my father knew of him.

So I'll be working on AGAD records for the next few weeks and if I can get a definitive response about AGAD's plans to upload scans, I'll know how to proceed.

Other things
Tuesday is twenty years for Nana. I wrote about her family here.

I have submitted three proposals for the IAJGS Conference in Seattle this summer, but I will only go if they schedule me for the first half of the week. Meantime, their website seems to have misplaced two of the three proposals.

Melody Amsel Arieli interviewed me about the book.

I am putting together a series of presentations in the US during the winter. Details to follow.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Perfect Y

There are three Pikholz descendants from Skalat who have done Y-DNA tests: Zachy, "Filip" and I. The Y is passed down from father to son. Zachy's Y, which was done for 37 markers, represents his third-great-grandfather Mordecai Pikholz who was born about 1805. "Filip's" is 67 markers and represents his great-great-grandfather Nachman Pikholz who was born about 1795. Mine is also 67 markers and represents my great-great-grandfather, Izak Fischel Pikholz who was probably born around 1815-20. We can only guess about how Nachman, Mordecai and Izak Fischel are related.

The three of us match perfectly at 37 markers and Filip and I match perfectly at 67. These are the first rows on my match charts.

At 67 markers, we have no one else at zero genetic distance or even at a distance of one. There is one match with a genetic distance of two and two more at four.

At 37 markers, we have no one at zero or one, other than our own. There are two at a genetic distance of two and a whole string at three.

Then a few weeks ago, we received a new match.
Alex is a perfect match with the three Pikholz Y-DNA tests. I wrote to him and he turns out to be part of someone's project and she's the one who responds in his name. That means we have a common ancestor and apparently not long ago. Y-DNA stays the same from father to son, but there are occasional mutations - perhaps every six or seven generations. That's the minimum here, since we know who our own people are. FTDNA says that there is a 96.74% chance that he has a common ancestor with Filip and me within six generations. For seven generations, that goes up to 98.16%.
Just to the left of center, we see that Alex did a 111 marker test and also a Family Finder test. (It says "FF.") So we could see how he matches us on Family Finder - and the answer: not at all! At least not at the FTDNA threshhold. We got Alex onto GEDmatch and there too, Alex had very little in common with the Pikholz descendants.

That surprised me until I remembered that Filip and I do not match on Family Finder either. (Zachy has not done Family Finder.) Sometimes that's just the way it is.

Perhaps some day we will have more on Alex' family and more on our own and we can get closer to that common male-line ancestor. Almost certainly before we had surnames.

Housekeeping notes
I had not been planning on attending the IAJGS Conference in Seattle this summer because of the proximity to Tisha beAv. Last week, I had a change of heart and submitted a proposal. There will be two more, both on DNA-related subjects. But I will leave Seattle Wednesday morning, so my participation will depend on having my proposals accepted and being assigned speaking time(s) on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday.

My talks in Jerusalem (Tuesday) and Carmiel (Wednesday) went nicely and family members participated both days. My sons Renanel and Devir were there Wednesday and Devir had two of his friends come with him. It's good when the nineteen year olds are interested.