Sunday, May 29, 2016

Before Galicia

Nearly three years ago,  I posted a bit of speculation whereby our Pikholz families -  both the Skalaters and the Rozdolers - came to Galicia in the late 1700s from Visk, in Maramaros County Hungary. This town is now called Vyshkovo and it is in Ukraine, just north of the Romanian border. Khust is 10 miles NNW and Sighet is 23 miles ESE. I don't know much about this mountainous area of Sub-Carpathia, though one of the outposts of our Rozdol family, Skole, is only 68 miles to the north.

The speculation was based on the fact that a Hungarian (non-Jewish) family named Pikolcz lived in the town. They were landowners - some kind of minor nobility - who had fallen on hard times and I wondered if perhaps our family had lived on their lands and when required to take surnames, took Pikholz as their own.

There are no records for Vyshkovo for that period so the whole thing was left in the realm of speculation these past fifteen years.

For the past few months, I have been watching in awe as my friend, colleague and sometimes collaborator Lara Diamond blogs week after week at Lara's Jewnealogy about her families' records. It seems like every month she adds another ancestor. (When is the last time I did that!) Most of the events in her records were after 1895, but some were records that documented births decades previous. I knew that the towns she was looking at are in today's southwest Ukraine, but had once been Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

When I told her my Vyshkovo story, she said that not only are her two primary towns very close to Vyshkovo ("right across the river") but that quite a few of them were for people named Pikkel. Maybe these folks had something to do with me. Maybe if we actually lived in Vyshkovo, we were one family.

Lara had transcribed the records into a spreadsheet. They included 102 Pikkel birth records, twenty-six marriage records and and forty-six death records. Almost all of them were from the towns Vajnag and Talaborfalva, now known as Vonihove and Tereblya. Talaborfalva is nine miles from Vyshkovo and Vajnag is maybe half that. Though it no doubt seemed like longer considering that they had to get down from the mountain.

I entered all of those plus the entries in the JewishGen Hungarian SIG database and at that gave me a total of seventy-four men and sixty-four women with the birth names Pikkel or variant spellings. After sorting out the relationships as best I could, I have eighteen men and twelve women from Lara's lists whose parents are thus far unknown, plus another fourteen from the JewishGen lists. The rest I was able to organize in to families. There is nothing in the way of given names that indicates a connection to our Pikholz families, but there wouldn't be since we would have long gone our separate ways.

I did nothing more than glance at Yad Vashem or American records, or even the post-1895 Vyshkovo records - there is time enough to do that if this pans out. The new Yad Vashem site is not working well, but I looked for people named Pikkel who submitted Pages of Testimony for other people named Pikkel and there are twenty-eight of those. I hoped that would give me some candidates for Y-DNA testing since I have very clear Y results for both our Rozdol and our Skalat branches.. So far I have one candidate in suburban Chicago, whose phone goes to voice message.

I also wrote to about ten Pikkel on Facebook, with one response so far. He is not relevant.

And I succeeded in contacting one person who had submitted a tree on Ancestry. He referred me to a family member in New York State who confirmed that her family is from Vajnag, but so far no Y-DNA candidate.

So this is all very preliminary. But I find it quite exciting. More as it happens.

Housekeeping notes

I'm off to London and Toronto on the first of June. (Looks like I may need a sweater and a raincoat.) The offer to order (signed) books for pick up in those two places expires 30 May. The savings in shipping is significant. Order here.

The summer is falling into place. I'll be speaking in Buffalo Grove Illinois, Baltimore, Fairfax Virginia, Charlotte and Durham North Carolina, Cincinnati and perhaps another venue or two, before heading to Seattle for three presentations at the IAJGS Conference. See details here.

You can order books for Seattle pickup here. I'll have books with me at the other venues.

I shall also be giving an evening presentation during the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) on 20 July.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Let Me Say It Once Again - Siblings!

Less than a year ago, in a tail-end segment in a larger blog, I discussed the importance of siblings' testing.

The case at hand then was our fourth cousins Anna and David, two of the three living great-great-grandchildren of Uncle Selig Pikholz. Or more precisely, the demonstration that they are indeed our fourth cousins.

Anna and David are half-siblings and both have all their Jewish DNA from the father that they share.

Many of us have a tendency to test one person from each family, then move on to known first and second cousins, in order to get a genetic picture of our families. Partly it's a matter of budget. Who has funds available to test everyone. And besides, we tell ourselves, how much different will one sibling be from another. And if I have two, do I really need the third? And the fourth?

Many of us did that back in the pre-genetic days when the biggest thing was interviewing relatives. Who has time to get to everyone? And how different will one older relative be from another. We know they can and will be different, but we rationalize because we really cannot get to everyone.

Many of us did the same with records. When the AGAD records - for east Galicia - became available in the archives in Warsaw, we often saw hundreds of relevant records in the index. Our budgets were limited so we'd order one or two of each family. The parents are the same from one to another, so what's the point of spending money for another six births to the same couple.

The same is true for DNA. As this is important, I am going to quote myself verbatim before adding a new point.

If we look at the chromosomes below, we see that Anna matches everyone in my family except my sister Sarajoy and me. Her brother does not match the two of us nor does he match our second cousins Rhoda and Terry.

On Chromosome 8, both have a nice set of matches with Aunt Betty, Uncle Bob and Herb - who, remember, are their third cousins once removed.

Both have very large matches with Marty on Chromosome 15 - Anna's is 50 cM!

But Chromosome 3 is remarkable. Anna's brother has a nice set of matches with five of us, two of which are a bit more than 20 cM. But Anna has seven matches, all over 30 cM and four of them are 57-69 cM! This is huge for four fourth cousins and three third cousins once removed. And keep in mind that Sarajoy and I are not there at all.

If Anna were not known to be a cousin, these numbers would jump off the page - but only by looking at the largest segments or the individual chromosomes.

In fact, if we only looked at the Family Finder match list (on the right), we would see nothing remarkable at all. We would not even see that Anna's matches with us are significantly different from her brother's.

There are lessons here galore. Lessons about looking specifically at the large matches. Lessons about looking at the chromosomes, not just at the total cMs and the overall suggested relationships. 

And perhaps most important is the lesson about testing cousins and siblings. Before Anna tested, her brother's results were anything but inspiring. If someone had said "Why do we need her? We have her brother!" look what we would have lost out on. 

And even with Anna, if all we had from our side had been Uncle Bob, Terry, Rhoda, Lee, Judith, Sarajoy and me, it would have been a fine test collection of seven people but we would have missed the best results. 
In the meantime, we have one new test, Lee's brother Marshal. Does he matter? Could he possibly make the case stronger than it already is? Let's have a look.

Lee's matches with David and Anna on FTDNA
Marshal matches only David - and FTDNA considers it much weaker than Lee's.
Marshal's match - such as it is - adds nothing.

Let's look at GEDmatch, where Lee has that 31.3 cM segment with Anna and 9.8 cM with David on chromosome 3 and another 9.2 cM with Anna on chromosome 21.

What does Marshal have? 
Marshal matches David, but not on the chromosomes where Lee has his significant matches. And Marshal doesn't match Anna at all.

So indeed, why do we need Marshal in this analysis? (In fact, no one pushed him to take the test after lee had done so. Marshal decided that on his own.)

But this is the wrong question. This test was ordered for Cousin Margie, their mother. She was not able to do it and after she died, Lee took her test. I assume that was a random decision - Marshal could have taken it then. If he had, Lee could have said (we all could have said) "Marshal has tested, why do we need another one?" From where we are now, we know the answer to that. Lee had this wonderful match with Anna that Marshal didn't. Like three of my sisters who match Anna, while Sarajoy and I do not. And David's unremarkable matches do not compare to Anna's.

So let me say it again. Test siblings. As many as you can. As many as will cooperate. As many as your budget will allow. And even moreso, test a variety and a multitude of first cousins. Test every second cousin. as many as you can. Don't say "Josh already tested."

This is probably not the last time you will hear me on this particular soapbox.

Housekeeping notes
The deadline for ordering "ENDOGÀMY: One Family, One People" for pick-up in London on 1 June or in Toronto at the Ontario Genealogical Society Conference is 30 May.

I shall be speaking in Buffalo Grove Illinois on Thursday 14 July. Time and address to be announc3d.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Cousin Debbie

In the course of putting together my summer travel schedule, I did some emailing with Deborah Long, the founder of the Triangle Jewish Genealogical Society in North Carolina. I shall be speaking for them on Sunday 31 July in Durham. (Program directors please note: The Thursday before and the Monday after are still available.)

Debbie did a MtDNA test more than six years ago, but only recently did the autosomal (Family Finder) and her match list came in at the end of April. She sent me a note with all the enthusiasm of the new DNA researcher (including the required exclamation points) showing me that we are second-fourth cousins. She gave me access to her data at FTDNA and I saw that in addition to me, Debbie is a suggested second-fourth cousin to three of my four sisters, my father's sister (Aunt Betty) and my double second cousin Lee. But her best match with my family - and her third best match overall - is Lee's brother Marshal, who is a suggested second-third cousin.

I fiddled a bit within the limited reach of the FTDNA chromosome browser, then helped her upload to GEDmatch where I could do this properly. The matches on GEDmatch are different. Two of her three best matches with my family are Pinchas and Bruce, descendants of the brothers of my great-grandmother Jutte Leah Kwoczka. They are 3.6-3.7 generations away on GEDmatch but only suggested third-fifth cousins on FTDNA. Other matches of under four generations on GEDmatch are Marshal and Lee, Aunt Betty, two of my sisters and my second cousin Susan on my grandMOTHER's side. (Susan is also a second cousin to Marshal and Lee.) FTDNA has Debbie and Susan as suggested fifth-remote cousins.

Debbie and the Kwoczkas
I decided to do several chromosome browsers on GEDmatch, with different combinations of my family and Debbie. First I did the Kwoczkas. I used Pinchas, Bruce and Pinchas' nephew Ben, plus the thirteen (of fourteen) descendants of Jutte Leah that Debbie matches. The results were weak, but there are two of some note. On all the following charts, note that the start and end points are often identical from match to match.

Chromosome 4 has a nice grouping of Pinchas, Ben and Bruce, but without any of Jutte Leah's descendants. The segment is small - not quite 6 cM. Nothing to get excited about, but worth noting, perhaps for future reference. Perhaps, for instance with better results for one of Debbie's relatives.

Chromosome 9 has a match of just over 10 cM with Bruce and matches just under 10 cM with (Aunt Betty's son) Ed, my father's brother Uncle Bob, followed by Aunt Betty, my second cousins Rhoda, Marshal and Lee. Nothing remarkable here, but it does appear that Debbie and the Kwoczkas have a common ancestor.

Debbie's ancestrral surnames and geography:
  • Auerbach [Poland],
  • Chonig [Poland],
  • Dobrzynski [Poland],
  • Galas [Poland],
  • Kozlowski [Poland],
  • Landau [Poland],
  • Munk [Hungary Slovakia],
  • Praskier [Poland],
  • Weisz [Hungary Slovakia]
do not point to anything meaningful vis-a vis the Kwoczkas.

Debbie and Nana
Since there was nothing obvious between Debbie and my Pikholz side, I had a look at my grandmother's side, which also includes Marshal and Lee whose mother is a double first cousin of my father. Nana is Bauer and Stern on her mother's side and Rosenzweig and Zelinka on her father's side.

Outside Marshal, Lee and the descendants of my grandmother, there are only a few others who have tested. Susan, our second cousin, Shabtai - a second cousin of my father on my gm's mother's side, and Fred - a half-second cousin of ours on my gm's father's side. (Fred's grandmother is his only source of Jewish DNA.)

I do not see my 5C1R on the Rosenzweig side among Debbie's matches and although my fifth cousin Cyndi on the Zelinka side is a fifth-remote with Debbie on FTDNA, I do not see a match between them on GEDmatch.

This time the chromosome browser was much more helpful.

Chromosome 2 has a segment with significant matches between Debbie and everyone in the group except Susan, Shabtai and my sister Amy. (Well, Ed's isn't exactly significant, but it's there.) Most are in the 19.5-20.5 cM range and aside from Ed, they all have the same starting point. The significant match is Fred. His match tells us that this segment comes from Nana's father, either the Rosenzweigs or the Zelinkas. Both those families are from Trencin County Slovakia, back into the 1700s.

But we can get more specific, using the matches on the X chromosome.

Here we see Aunt Betty, Uncle Bob and all four of my sisters, with some of those segments identical. This cannot come from my father's father because the X cannot go from father to son. It could come from Nana's mother's side, but nothing hints at that as a source. That leaves Nana's father's side, as on chromosome 2 above, and it cannot be from his Rosenzweig father. It must be, therefore, from my great-great-grandmother, who is a Zelinka. And the line from her to the common ancestor with Debbie cannot have a father-son on either Debbie's side or ours. Since both our side and Debbie's almost certainly have another woman or two on the way to the common ancestor, I do not expect that person to be either a Zelinka or one of Debbie's Munks.

In citing her ancestral surnames, Debbie mentions Munk from Slovakia. She specifically mentioned the town of Baán in Trencin County..According to the JewishGen Communities database, Baán is the Hungarian name for what is now known as Bánovce nad Bebravou, located at 48°43' N 18°16' . This is Zelinka-Rosenzweig territory, though we do not have anyone in that particular town, so far as we know. But now with Debbie, it seems we do.

Descendants of Rivka Feige Pikholz
I ran a chromosome browser on GEDmatch which includes the descendants of my great-grandfather Hersch Pikholz, one descendant of each of his two full sisters and four descendants of one of his two half-sisters. (The other has no matches with Debbie.) The common ancestor here is my great-great-grandmother Rivka Feige Pikholz.

Debbie has no matches to speak of involving Hersch's two full sisters. There are, however, matches involving Lillian and Erika - a granddaughter and a great-granddaughter of Hersch's half sister Breine Riss.

First of all, Debbie has three segments of 5-6 cM - on chromosomes 1, 3 and 16 - where she matches both Lillian and Erika. So we see a common ancestor between Debbie and Rivka Feige (or perhaps her first husband).

Second, Debbie has matching segments with Lillian and my second cousin Rhoda on chromosome 7. These segments of are also in the 5.5-6 cM range. If these are legitimate segments, they too point to Rivka Feige.

On chromosome 11 (above), Debbie has matching segments of about 7.3 cM with Erika, Uncle Bob, one of my sisters and me. This too, points to a common ancestor for Debbie and Rivka Feige, though once again, the segments are small.

Finally, as an afterthought, I did the same chromosome browser again, adding three kits of descendants of Rivka Feige's two brothers who are not known to have additional Pikholz ancestry. That showed Debbie with one more matching segment in the 8.7-10.3 cM range. This is a segment on chromosome 19 and it includes Jane, three of my sisters and me.

Let us keep in mind that with all the matches of this sort, we cannot see how exactly they match Debbie without getting tests from some of her first and second cousins.

Due Diligence
I ran a chromosome browser on my mother's side - two first cousins and two second cousins on each side. There was nothing significant there with us, but Debbie has two small matches with my two second cousins (first cousins to each other) on my grandfather's side. On chromosome 15, the two matches are nearly 10 cM and have the same starting point. On chromosome 16, the two matches are identical - 5.62 cM. If these are real segments, they are probably on the Jaffe side of those cousins' grandfather. But likely a very long time ago.

Debbie matches thirteen of the fourteen Rozdol Pikholz descendants according to GEDmatch, with three at 4.0 generations or closer. (FTDNA shows only seven matches, with one as close as suggested third-fifth cousin.) Nothing particularly significant there, though there is a <10 cM match with two second cousins on chromosome 9 and another with two 1C1R of chromosome 16. The relevant surnames here aside from perhaps Pikholz, are Blum and Mensch.

Finally, I checked Debbie's matches with the rest of the Pikholz families, descendants of Nachman (b.1795), Peretz (b.1820), Mordecai (b.1805) and a few others whose lineage is unknown. Chromosome 1 has a match of about 8 cM with Irene and Gili, great-granddaughters of Peretz. Chromosome 13 has small overlapping matches with Jacob, Maciej and Maxine, descendants of Nachman.

Debbie also has two sets of matches on the X chromosome - one with Thelma and Daphne who are not know to be related, the other with Ron and Charlie, also not known to be related. These - and the Nachman/Peretz matches - are no doubt indicative of common ancestry, but probably no more than vestigal, from quite long ago.

Housekeeping notes
My London program with Debbie Kennett is barely three weeks away. It is under the joint sponsorship of the Guild of One-Name Studies and the JGS of Great Britain. Order tickets at

London will be followed immediate by the Ontario Genealogical Society Conference in Toronto, where I will be giving several presentations.

Those who want to order "ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People" for pick-up in London or Toronto, signed and with no shipping charge, may do so here until 30 May.

You can also order for pick-up at the IAJGS Conference in Seattle, where I'll be giving three presentations. Deadline for Seattle order is 10 July.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Olga's Testimony

It was a few days before Hanukkah twelve and a half years ago and I was in the library at Yad Vashem when I first laid eyes on the testimony of Olga M. Pickholz-Barnitsch. I had first seen her name four years earlier in the bibliography of an article in the Journal of Historical Review, citing two articles she had written in the Yad Vashem bulletin. I did not know who she was or what became of her; I assumed that she was born Olga Pickholz and Barnitsch was her married name. I certainly did not know that she had submitted a testimony of her own that covered more than thirty pages of typewritten Polish.

The cover of Olga's personal testimony 12 March 1959
Dr. Olga Barnitsch of Ramat Hasharon Israel, born 27 June 1914 in Lwow, gave testimony which mentioned, in addition to her own family, the following surnames:

Tennenbaum, Zellermayer, Liebling, Kurzrok, Markel, Oberlander, Friedman, Igel, Lippmann, Migden, Schwefelgeist, Switajlo, Monis, Mehrer, Parnas, Landesberg, Rotfeld, Hoch, Bader, Linsker-Hafter, Buber, Hausmann, Tauber, Axer, Teichholz, Hescheles, Aleksandrowicz, Koch, Weigl, Rentschner, Schranz, Maleszewska and others.

The opening passage identifies her father as Maurycy Pickholz, the son of Jozef of Grzymalow. and Zisli (Gruber). From the opening line we learn that Michalina Pickholz took the name Olga Barniczowa during the war and her husband was Leon Auerbach of Stanislawow.

Later on page four, she names her Migden, Lippmann and Schwefelgeist cousins.

It was many years later, after our DNA project bore fruit, that I was able to identify Michalina/Olga as my father's third cousin, a great-granddaughter of Uncle Selig.

This is the family as we came to know it, down to Olga's generation.

But I am not here on this Holocaust Memorial Day - Yom Hashoah - to tell the story of the family structure. I am here to tell you that this week, Anna Mecik, the daughter of Olga's cousin David, has completed a translation into English of Olga's personal testimony. A copy has been submitted to Yad Vashem.

You can find Olga's testimony linked from this page, as a Word file. If I may say so, this is a good day to read it.

The population registry knew that Olga had died in 1964 at age fifty, however had no idea where she was buried. But the sole remaining Migden cousin knew and a few years ago I visited her grave at the very back corner of the Old Ramat Hasharon Cemetery.

The inscription reads:

Here lies buried
bat Moshe
Died 18 Kislev 5725
TNZB"H (May her soul be bound in life)
In memory of
Who were killed in the Shoah 5700-5705
May G-d avenge their blood

Anna Mecik, my fourth cousin, has begun working on a translation of Olga's report on the crimes against the Jews at the camp at Stutthof.