Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Wendy and Carolyn

About a week ago, I received an inquiry about a week ago from a woman named Wendy who begins:
Hi Israel,

I am trying through a process of elimination to figure out my mom’s fathers side. Through Gedmatch, there are 3 relatives that you tested who have matches with my mom. She doesn’t know who her father is but she is 20+% Ashkenazi.
She gave me her mother Carolyn's GEDmatch kit number and the three of my kits that she matches and the chromosomes where the matches occur. I didn't pay much attention to the three people she mentioned but went straight to Carolyn's match list where I saw that she actually matches thirty of my kits.

In looking at the list of thirty, I saw that one was a match of nearly 12.5 cM with my father's second cousin Shabtai. This would be on my grandmother's mother's Hungarian side. I did a chromosome browser for that part of my family and quickly saw that all the action is on chromosome 21, at the far right end.

To remind everyone, Susan is my second cousin, Aunt Betty is my father's sister and Sarajoy is one of my sisters. So this is a nice family group. Not a large segment and probably not much use for someone looking for a birth father, but it does hint at geography as we know our Bauers were in the same area since the 1700s.

So I reported to Wendy:
This group points to my pgm's mother's family. her father is a Bauer from Apostag and Kunszentmiklos in Hungary and her mother is a Stern from Kalocsa.

I don't have more but that will give you some direction.
I also saw in the match list that Carolyn has matches with two second cousins on my father's father's (Galician) side, Rhoda and Roz who are first cousins to each other. But there were no matches with other of my Pikholz second cousins. There is, however, a match with my third cousin Pinchas. Pinchas is a third cousin to Rhoda and Roz as I am but is also a third cousin to them in a direction having nothing to do with me - their Zwiebel and Lewinter families, also from the same area of east Galicia. (It could be a Kwoczka match, but no other second cousins of mine appear.)

So I did a chromosome browser for just those three. And got this:

OK. So Carolyn has a match with the Zwiebels or the Lewinters.

Then I realized that this too is chromosome 21 and that a chromosome browser for both groups gives me this:

This really looks like one group, especially when I note that my start point (41,302,925) is the same as Shabtai while my end point (45,746,864) is the same as Pinchas.

I triangulated the two groups just in case one matchs Carolyn of her mother's side and one on her father's side. (This was unlikely as Carolyn's mother has no known Jewish ancestry.) The two groups triangulated perfectly.

So it appears clear that someplace back in genealogical time there is common ancestry between Shabtai's Hungarian Bauers or Sterns and the east Galician Zwiebels or the Lewinters. Back in time, but recent enough that segments in the 11-13 cM range were preserved in both groups.

Here's to endogamy. Even if it doesn't help Carolyn very much.

Carolyn and Wendy live in Maryland and both plan to attend my presentation at JGS Maryland at 1:30 on the twenty-fourth. That's at Hadassah, 3723 Old Court Road, Suite 205. Come join us. It's my one non-DNA talk other than Seattle. Maybe they'll meet their cousin Pinchas, if he comes.

Beyond A Reasonable Doubt:
What We Know
 What We Can Prove

Housekeeping notes
I'm off to the US for the next four weeks. GRIP, the IAJGS Conference, programs in half-a-dozen places, some private mentoring on Y-DNA and meeting with a few relatives I haven't seen in forever.

Perhaps the most exciting thing will be meeting a male-line descendant of the Pikkel family from Vajnag, which is across the river from Vyshkovo. If you have forgotten the significance of that, review this blog from six weeks ago. I'll have a DNA test kit with me.

I'll blog as I can.

Thursday, July 7, 2016


I could call this post Herb's MtDNA (Part Two) because it's the continuation of something I wrote more than eighteen months ago. I even wrote at the time "I hope there will be a Part 2." But it's worth starting this from scratch. You can go back and reread Part One later.

Prologue - Mutations in Y-DNA
Back when I first started looking at DNA, I had a brief discussion with Bennett Grerenspan of Famliy Tree DNA about the rate of mutations in Y-DNA. At the time, Zachy Pickholz and I had a perfect Y-37 match and I was trying to get a handle on how my g-g-gf and his g-g-g-gf are related. FTDNA's TiP Report said that there was a ~93% chance of having a common ancestor six generations ago and I did not find that answer satisfying.

Bennett  responded:
[T]his is about as close a percentage as you can expect from [Y] DNA since mutations happen unpredictably.
[F]or example I am 36 of 37 with my own father, dad having passed a mutation to me that he did not pass to my brother.
In time, Zachy upgraded to Y-67 and we added a third line from Filip. We all matched perfectly at Y-67 even after 200+ years, so I was not going to spend much time worrying about mutation rates.

Aunt Becky and Aunt Mary
My great-grandparents, Hersch Pickholz and Jutte Leah Kwoczka had seven children who survived childhood.
The seven children in birth order

Aunt Becky and Aunt Mary, being the two older girls, were apparently close. They even crossed the ocean together, barely into their teens, to join Uncle Max. They were the two I never met. Aunt Becky died first, long before I was born and Aunt Mary, though she died last almost exactly forty-one years later, had moved to Florida before I was born. I knew the four brothers and I remember going to see Aunt Bessie before she died in 1953.

Uncle Max had no children. The other three brothers were in business together and their children were mostly the same age cohort - younger than the children of the three sisters - so I knew those cousins (both in my father's generation and in my own) well. And Uncle Joe and my grandfather married sisters. That is why I never knew my second cousin Roz, Aunt Becky's younger granddaughter, even though she lived in the neighborhood and was in my brother's high school class!

I had, however, developed a relationship with Aunt Mary's younger son Herb, though until recently we had met only once, when I was fourteen. When I started with DNA testing, my first priority was the older generation and I was comfortable asking Herb to do both a Family Finder and an MtDNA (Mitochondrial) test on his mother's line.

Herb's Mitochondrial DNA (MtDNA)
MtDNA is passed by the mother to all her children. Males have it but do not pass it on.

Mt great-grandmother, Jutte Leah Kwoczka, had two brothers, so only her descendants are useful for MtDNA in that line.

Aunt Becky and Aunt Bessie each had one son whose only daughters have since done Family Finder tests for our project. But their MtDNA would be their mothers' sides, so they would not help us here. Each of the aunts also had a daughter with one daughter each, but I am not in touch with either of them. One of those is Roz.

Herb's sister had no children.

So Herb is the only source we have for MtDNA in that line - my Kwoczka great-grandmother of Zalosce, my Pollak great-great-grandmother of Jezierna and my third-great-grandmother for whom all we have is a given name, Chaie Sara.

Herb initially did the lowest level MtDNA test and later I upgraded him to the full test.

He has no perfect matches. But as of nineteen months ago, he had thirty matches at a genetic distance of one.  That is, he and they are the same, but one mutation away. That number has grown from thirty to fifty-five but I shall continue referring to them as "the thirty."

It occurred to me then that if the thirty are one group, perhaps the mutation that Herb carries is fairly recent, since he has no exact matches. In MtDNA terms, that can be two or three hundred years ago or it could have originated as recently as Aunt Mary or my great-grandmother. But if it is recent, then I should treat the thirty as if they were exact matches to Herb, for the purpose of further inquiry.

I asked one of the thirty, someone I know who lives here in Israel, to check those matches and when he did not respond promptly, I asked another of the thirty - Dr. Richard Pavelle - who agreed immediately

Dr. Pavelle was a perfect match for the other twenty-nine, which means that our line broke away from theirs. (In theory, they could have broken away from us, but since they are thirty and we are one, that is highly improbable.) I confirmed that by looking at the actual mutations. Herb has one extra mutation: something called C6925Y.

Herb's mitochondrial mutations, representing my Kwoczka great-grandmother's maternal line

So I went to work on the thirty. First I looked at the Family Finder matches of those who had done that test. I didn't see any point in chasing after people who were remote matches or no match at all. There were only a handful of the thirty who were third-fifth cousins or closer to Herb. There was next to nothing coming from any of them in response. I also contacted the nine who had not done Family Finders - FTDNA was willing to offer them a special price. No takers.

The effort petered out, as expected. After all, there was a good possibility that our line had separated from theirs two hundred or more years ago, so what was the point. We didn't know enough to chase down relatives that far back anyway.

Yet in the back of my head was this nagging feeling that maybe our mutation was very recent. Really really recent. I could call Roz - still in the neighborhood - and have an awkward conversation which would end up costing me a few hundred dollars for nothing. Keep in mind, that in the last two years, I have become acutely aware of the importance of doing Family Finders for as many people as possible, so I'd have to have Roz do both tests.

I had spoken with Roz' cousin Rhoda - who had already tested - so I knew that Roz had no Internet or email, but Rhoda gave me her phone number.

Then FTDNA had their Mothers' Day sale with a package for MtDNA and Family Finder. I called Roz. She knew who I was, knew (from Rhoda, I suppose) that I was working on the family genealogy with the help of DNA and was only too happy to oblige.  I ordered the kit and promised to see her when I come to Pittsburgh for GRIP-July.

FTDNA's track record on getting results on time leaves much to be desired, but Roz' Family Finder results were nearly two weeks early. Roz' results were what I had expected and I have not had the time to look more deeply. I phoned Roz and set up to go to dinner the Monday of GRIP. And I wrote Rhoda.

I also redid the numbers for the Lazarus talk I am preparing for Seattle, to include Roz.

Roz' MtDNA results came in a few hours ago - also nearly two weeks early. She matches Herb at a genetic distance of one. She is a perfect match with the entire group of thirty - now fifty five. Herb's mutation is his and his alone. We cannot know if it was  created by my great-grandmother Jutte Leah or by Aunt Mary. In any case, it ends with Herb.

It looks like we have threaded the needle here and Roz' test was not money thrown away. What it does mean it is that the group of thirty could include some relatives close enough to make the effort worthwhile. We have pretty much pinpointed the MtDNA mutation. Now how do I use this to our advantage?

I'll see Debbie Parker Wayne soon enough - perhaps she'll have some tricks to suggest. I hope there will be a Part Three.

Housekeeping notes
Last call for ordering books in advance for Seattle.  I will have some with me, of course, but if you order now, you are guaranteed my having one signed for you.

Once again, my speaking schedule begins in Buffalo Grove Illinois next Thursday and is laid out in full here.

I submitted two proposals for RootsTech, to be held in Salt Lake City the second week in February. If that works out, I'll be available for speaking, probably with new material. Anyone interested, please drop me a note.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Some Call Me Rude

When I was young and had to speak in class, it became a joke among my classmates and even a teacher that I'd say too much, go into too much detail.

Years later, I had a boss who criticized me more than once for "writing telegraphically." He'd tell me that the people for whom I was writing - often the Board of Directors - didn't understand the background as well as I thought and I have to spell it out for them in greater detail.

Finding the middle ground has always been an issue for me, both in speaking and in writing.

This morning, I posted the following on my Facebook timeline and in several genealogy groups of which I am a member.
Dear Fellow Researchers,

When you write to me that you match fourteen of my project kits at GEDmatch, but it only takes me sixty seconds to see that you match thirty, forty, fifty or more, you are being fundamentally unserious. I will respond, but it will be a response fitting for a beginner. If you are insulted, I am sorry - which is not the same as "I apologize."

I got quite a few likes and words of encouragement, both in the comments and privately. Apparently I am not the only person who is occasionally faced with this phenomenon.

I also received responses from more than a few people - a minority, to be sure - who called me rude, mean-spirited or worse, from people who thought I was discouraging new researchers and from people who hoped never to match any of my kits and promised not to contact me if they did.

As anyone who follows political journalism knows, when you have to explain yourself, you are already in trouble. But here goes anyway.

I am used to this kind of inquiry. I get several every week, though usually not adoptions. Most of them tell me whom they match in my families, but some, like this one, send me to look them up myself. (Truth is, many an inquirer has given me a list of matches and only after responding in detail do I learn that actually there are many more matches, making my reply meaningless.)

So here is the essence of my response, edited for privacy. With comments in blue.
Before I forget, I wrote about a [Father's name] in my blog maybe a year ago. You should be able to find it there easily enough. I do not recall all the details but maybe there is something useful.  allmyforeparents.blogspot.com
Should I have taken the trouble to cite the specific blog post from last year rather than sending her to look it up? Maybe, but I thought she might benefit from seeing other things on my blog. 
First, to do this, you must be thorough. Saying you have twelve matches with my project when in fact I see thirty - two dozen of which are Pikholz descendants - is not productive.

It's more than "not productive." It's a waste of time. Mine and hers. I can spend an hour responding to her twelve matches, explaining who is connected to whom and who is just a cousin of my mother-in-law. I can point out that there are close relatives of those twelve whom she does not match, perhaps drawing some conclusions, when in fact she does match them. She simply didn't mention them. This is not always a question of sorting. There were more than twelve matches even with the default results.

Perhaps I should have made her a list of the thirty matches. And the ancestors on their "other sides."
Second, GEDmatch shows [you have] no matches closer than 4.5 generations and as we know, Jewish matches are never as close as they appear in aggregate numbers. So we are talking about fourth-fifth cousins at best and likely further. Considering that we rarely know surnames back that far, this is a low probability inquiry. Not where I'd invest my time and resources, if it were me.
Just telling it like it is.
Third, you have has to be able to do a chromosome browser on your matches, usually in family groups - which is relatively easy in this case. That chromosome browser will clarify if there are matches with groups. Without that, those 12 or 24 or 30 are all individuals with no connection to one another.
At this point, sometimes I will say "if you do not know how to do this..." and some of those retort "of course I know how to do a chromosome browser." Sometimes ya just can't win. But usually this is where I find out if the person wants some direction or wants someone to do their work.

And by way of clarification, I added:
On the other hand, if you matched me and my four sisters (which you don't) that group of five would not mean more than any one of us alone.
I suppose I could have explained this in more detail.

I concluded with:
Come back to me if you want some direction.  My GEDmatch codes are at
That will chase her away for sure! 
Or she will ask for direction.
Or she will reply "But how are we related?"

And let me conclude with this word of support, from someone on Facebook whom I do not know: