Thursday, December 28, 2017

MyHeritage Announces Mandatory Citizenship Files Acquistion

Thursday evening I received an email announcement in Hebrew from MyHeritage, announcing that they have approximately 67,000 petitions for naturalization from the British Mandatory Government in Palestine, for the period 1937-1947.

I never renewed my MyHeritage subscription after a one trial year, but since I have extensive experience with the Mandatory Citizenship records, I figured I should at least see what they are offering.

The twelve Pikholz files are all on one index card
The Israel National Archives used to be five minutes from home, so I was a frequent visitor. There is an index of their files from about 1933, on microfilm. Each frame is an indexcard and they are arranged by surname, using some sort of Soundex. All the spellings of a name are listed on the same card or set of cards. The cards are supposed to have given name, year of birth, town of birth and file number but sometimes the birthplace or year is missing.

The file number enabled me to order the specific file. They say that about a third of the actual files were lost, perhaps trashed by the British before they left. The pre-1933 files were lost even before the index was made. Remember, these are British files, so everything is in English, though some of the forms are in Hebrew as well.

A few years ago, the National Archives moved across town to a place much less accessible and with no convenient parking and about the same time the indispensible research assistant Helena (whom I ran into at the mall just this week) retired.

But they made an attempt to put whatever they had online. Sometimes this proves successful. So this MyHeritage announcement should be an excellent development, at least for anyone who has their paid membership.

I followed the link in their promo letter and searched "Pikholz" in both their Hebrew and English versions and wrote the name in both languages. All the searches gave me the same twenty-one results, though they were presented slightly differently from one version to the other. Six of the twenty-one are Buchholz, so there are actually fifteen.
The Hebrew version has the same information, though they write Fischel as Faisal.

The blue lines are links, all of which lead to their subscription page. I was not able to enlarge the image on the left.

Their list of fifteen includes the last four on the index card above, plus Mordechaj from Bialystok on the third line of the index card, but the birth year is 1912 instead of 1914. I have that file and it says 1914, so MyHeritage's 1912 must be a mistranscription.

The seven entries on the index card which MyHeritage does not have include several whose naturalizations were definitely in the 1937-1947 period which My Heritage says it covers.

Of the ten which My Heritage has and the index card does not, five are women:
Cyla Pikholz Dlugacz. I know her children. She is in her husband's file as they married in Skalat before their immigration. MyHeritage calls her "Chila."
Chaya Sara Bitan. She is the first wife of Dr. Fischel Pickholz and is mentioned in his file. MyHeritage spells her maiden name "Betten." 
Blanka Rindenan (1922). This should be Rindenau. She is the first wife of Gustav from the index card and is named in his file.
Betty Hilsenrath (1910). She is the first wife of Mathias (on the index card) and is named in his file 
Dora Neuman (1912). She appears in the file of her husband Josef Neuman and they have a daughter Esther Thema. I have to find out who they are. She was from Tarnopol. One of their character witnesses is a Queller, which is a Zalosce name. We have a Pikholz-Qualer marriage, so she may be from that family.
 And the five men that MyHeritage has and the index card doesn't.
Dr. Pickholz (1875). I would think that is Eliezer Haniel who discovered oil in Kibbutz Hulda, but he was born in 1880. Close enough? Maybe. So why isn't he on the index card?
Fischel Pickholz. No birth year. This is Ephraim, the older brother of Wolf from the index card. We went to Galicia together seventeen years ago. I have no idea why he is not on the index card.
M. Pickholz appears in the citizenship file of Benjamin Swierdlin as a character witness.
Finally, there are two files in the name of Moshe Pikholz, though MyHeritage uses the spellings Pikholz, Pikholtz, Pinkholz and Pikhole. One is listed as born 1871 and the other 1926. I do not know who they are.
This appears to be a useful database, though no one should see it as complete. The National Archives has more. Of course, it requires a subscription.

Housekeeping notes
On 8 January, I shall be giving two presentations for the genealogy course run by Yad Vashem and the Central Zionist Archives, "From Roots to Trees." Both in Hebrew.
5:30-6:15 – The Importance to Genealogy of Understanding Jewish Culture and Customs
6:16-7:00 – Using Genetics for Genealogy Research

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Cousin Herb's Y-DNA

My father's first cousin Herb Braun was the third person to test for my family DNA project. That was five and a half years ago. We had met once, when I was fourteen but had been emailing for a few years about family history.
We met a second time, in 2013

Herb's mother is my grandfather's older sister, so he carries the mitochondrial DNA of my Kwoczka great-grandmother and Pollak second great-grandmother. At first he did the Family Finder (autosomal) test alone and then did the basic MtDNA. Later I upgraded him to the full MtDNA. That test led do a second family test, which I wrote about last year.

Herb's Braun (then Brunn) family lived in Zalosce (east Galicia, about twenty miles NNW of Tarnopol) where the Kwoczkas also lived and I figured that since the families might have other connections in the near background, I should probably test his Y-DNA as well. I ordered a Y-67 after he died last year at ninety-seven and we were fortunate that his initial swab was good enough for this fourth test.

Herb's results at 67 markers show 133 matches, one at a genetic distance of one and three at a genetic distance of two, with nothing that stood out to me. (At 37 markers, he is a genetic distance of four with our cousin Bruce who tested for the Kwoczka male line.)

One of Herb's GD-2 matches is Gary Simon, whose sister is married to a first cousin of mine. But more important, Gary's wife Judy is one of the administrators of the Y-DNA project that both Gary and Herb belong to.

Gary has a terminal SNP called Y-18621 and Judy asked me if Herb could test for that SNP with Y-SEQ. Herb, of course, can no longer test for anything and his two sons predeceased him. But I am in touch with one of his two grandsons and he agreed to my request to do the Y-SEQ test.

I guess we'll see what happens.

Join projects. It can help you and as it helps others.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Uncle Max' Middle Name - Possible Success from FTDNA Match Alerts

Uncle Max
My grandfather Mendel (Morris) Pickholtz was the youngest of seven children. I knew two of his brothers, Uncle Joe and Uncle Dave, well. The three brothers were in business together and most of their children and grandchildren were the same age cohort as my grandfather's. I didn't know the three sisters, though I remember meeting Aunt Bessie once, shortly before she died. Aunt Becky died before I was born and Aunt Mary lived in Florida. The sisters' children were older, so they were not as close to us as the brothers' children.

Then there was Uncle Max, Mordecai Shemuel. He was the eldest and the only one of the brothers whose English betrayed his European upbringing. He and Aunt Sadie had no children and they lived in Canonsburg (Washington County), where he was a jeweler, rather than in Pittsburgh where everyone else was. Eventually they moved to Florida but maintained the house in Canonsburg and spent some of the summer there. We would make a pilgramage every summer and play in the yard while my parents sat with them in the kitchen talking about who knows what. We never saw any of the house beyond the kitchen and the bathroom and I never realized that there was much more to the house than that. Eventually a share of Uncle Max' will enabled my parents and sisters to move to Israel.

Uncle Max outlived all his brothers and two of his sisters. After his wife died, he spent some time with family in Pittsburgh but I was out of the house by then, so I didn't really know him. He almost certainly knew the answers to many of the genealogy questions that I have struggled with for years. But no one asked him and he wasn't one to talk.

Someone who was talking was my grandmother. One afternoon when I was in maybe eighth or ninth grade (it was after my grandfather died but before she remarried), I was at Nana's house on Northumberland Street (she lived on my way home from school in those years, so I occasionally stopped in) and for no good reason, she told me that her mother-in-law had borne ten children, not just the seven who came to Pittsburgh. I didn't ask questions much as a child and though I wondered about the other three, but I never asked.

Doing genealogy
I had begun to show an interest in the family history so before moving to Israel, Aunt Betty took me to the two family cemeteries in Pittsburgh and I learned the names of the fathers of my father's four grandparents - Isak Yeroham Fischel Pickholtz, Mordecai Meir Kwoczka, Yitzhak Yehudah Rosenzweig and Shemaya Bauer, assuming the spellings of the surnames as I knew them. At the time I knew of no one in the family who bore the names of the first two, but noted the similarity of Uncle Max' Mordecai Shemuel to his grandfather Mordecai Meir.

In time, largely through JRI-Poland, I learned more of the family names, including my grandfather's two brothers who died before their second birthdays. And one nameless brother who died at birth. That accounted for the ten that Nana had told me about forty years earlier.
So all four of the grandparents are named for in the subsequent generation, though two of those children died young. Uncle Joe was named for his great-grandfather and my grandfather for his uncle Mendel Kwoczka. I have no idea where Aunt Mary and Uncle Dave's names came from, perhaps the parents of Isak Fischel or some non-ancestral relatives.

But Uncle Max is a bit of a puzzle. I figured that since the name Mordecai Meir was important, they wanted to use it again after the older brother died, but made a change to protect against the "evil eye." That was not unheard of. So why pick Shemuel as a second name?

In fact, they didn't. His birth record has it reversed. He was born Samuel Mordche so this must have been more than a name substituted to fool the "evil eye."

It is not a name I see anywhere else in the close-ish family. There is a death in 1835 for three year old Samuel Kwoczke, parents not listed, but that seems like a stretch. I filed that question - together with Miriam and David - as unknown, perhaps unknowable.

FTDNA Match Alerts
I have written about my new strategy regarding the FTDNA autosomal match alerts - here and here. A few weeks ago, I had some interesting matches with a man named Alan Kronisch who has kindly alloewed me to quote from our correspondence.

Two weeks ago I wrote:
> What I am looking for is segments of >10 cM with multiple matches.
> On chromosome 6, you have a segment of ~23 cM four of my parents'
> children, my father's sister and two second cousins (brother and
> sister) on my father's father's side.Plus ~17 cM with a half second cousin of
> my father. This is a Pikholz segment, as all of those I list are descendants of
> my g-g-gm Rivka Feige Pikholz, the daughter of (Izak) Josef Pikholz, b.
> ~1784 in Skalat, east Galicia. (We know nothing of his wife.)
> Do you have cousins who might test in order to pinpoint this from your side?
> On chromosome 8, you have > 11 cM with my aunt and uncle, one second
> cousin and one third cousin. The family here is Kwoczka, my g-gm. (Her
> mother is the Pollak from Jezierna). The Kwoczkas lived in Zalosce, not far
> from Jezierna.
> This is a weak segment probably from before 1800. I say that both because it
> is only 11 cM and because I have only four people on this segment. (I have
> about twenty family members who are Kwoczka descendants.)
The Kwoczka/Pollak segment is here:
Weak but real. About as best as can be expected from that distance.

And here is the Pikholz segment which also includes a double fourth cousin who is descended from Rivka Feige's brother. It is a better segment than the one above, but because the Pikholz family is so intertwined with itself, it is hard to say anything meaningful.

Alan's reply included this:
My father’s father was Moshe (Moe/Morris) Mordecai Kronisch, born 1896, Zborow, Galicia. He was the only child of Shmuel Kronisch and Esther Rosie Pollak. His grave confirms “ben Shmuel”  but I have found no record of Shmuel in the archives other than on Moe's birth record. I am investigating the possibility that Shmuel was also known as Shulim Kronisch. There are records for 2 Shulim Kronischs along with possible clues. One of them died in 1897 which is consistent with family lore. The other’s mother was a Goldstein which is an ancestral surname of another autosomal match (2nd-3rd cousin) of mine.
Esther (b. 1877 Zborow, d. 1960 Los Angeles) was the daughter of Mordecai Schmeil Pollak (b Zborow) and Gittel Gruber (b~1850 Plaza Weilka).
(Emphasis mine - IP)
Mordecai Schmeil Pollak from Zborow, nine miles from Jezierna (aka Ozerna). His daughter Esther is a contemporary of Uncle Max, whose grandmother is a Pollak. This looks excellent. Both Alan's second-great-grandfather and Uncle Max may have been named for a common ancestor. And Uncle Max' name may have no direct connection to his grandfather Mordecai Meir Kwoczka.

JRI-Poland does not have specific Jezierna records. There is a woman names Sara Beile Pollak (parents Juda Ber and Chane) from Jezierna who had children in Zalosce. Her husband was Moses Wolf Ambos. And a Hena in Lwow who looks like Sara Beile's sister.

This is my first movement of any sort on the Pollak family.

JRI-Poland has 598 Pollak (exact spelling) records in Tarnopol Province, over forty of them in Zalosce. Plus 39 within 10 miles of Jezierna on the All-Galicia Database. Mine from Jezierna and Alan's from Zborow could me connected to any (or all) of them. I am going to let Alan run with this for now.

Perhaps Alan has some cousins whose tests could help clarify some of this.

Uncle Max, who I knew at the time to be Mordecai Shemuel, was my grandfather's eldest brother and had no children. Nana's eldest (half) brother, Uncle Fred was Shemuel. He too lived a long life but had no children. I gave my third son the middle names Shemuel Mordecai to cover them both, not knowing that this was the correct order of Uncle Max' birth name. Less than a year later, one of my sisters named her third son Shemuel Mordecai, for the same reason.

It may be a better reason than we know.

Housekeeping notes
This week's project is going over the Match Alerts for October and November.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Julius Lichterman / Joseph Davis

This blog is dedicated to my mother's first cousin Ethel Rosenbloom Klavan, the daughter of Uncle Hymen. Her fourth yahrzeit is this Thursday, 12 Kislev. It is one of my self-imposed kaddish days.
The disappearance of Julius Lichterman
My maternal grandmother Sarah Rosenbloom Gordon arrived in the United States before the First World War. She had been born and raised in Borisov - Russia then, now Belarus - as had her siblings and probably at least one of her parents. She died when I was eleven and we never had any meaningful conversation. And she never talked to her children about the past.

Left: Lichtermans. Right: Gordons.
Center: U. Hymen.
Her three younger full-siblings preceeded her across the ocean. Her unmarried sister Rachel Leah (Rosa) died the tenth of December 1910 (2 Kislev), according to her death certificate at age twenty-five . We think she was a bit younger. She was not married and had no children.

Another sister Shayna Liba (Sadie) was married to Julius Lichterman (Uncle Hymen referred to him as Zisal and the Lichtermans confirm that this is their Julius, the son of Joseph and Nechama.) She died the first of May 1916 (28 Nisan) and the death certificate says she was twenty-three. She was certainly in her late twenties. There were no children.

As I say, we know she was married to Julius Lichterman but the death certificate - which says "married" - has no space for spouse's name. Nor is there a space for "informant," though surely that would have been Julius.

After Sadie died, Julius disappeared. No one knew what happened to him. His own Lichterman family said he was so distraught at the death of his wife that he broke off contact with everyone, never to be heard from again.

My grandmother's brother, Chaim Benzion (Hymen), was the youngest and I knew him fairly well. Most of my discussions with him about family history were together with his daughter, Cousin Ethel Klavan.

It is my opinion that there was some sort of cousin relationship between the Rosenbloooms and the Lichtermans and I discussed the two families together here and here.Therefore I am interested in Julius as a family member, not just as an in-law. The Lichtermans said they were from Borisov, but were probably from a nearby town and when my grandmother arrived in the US, she said she was going to her cousin, who was married to Julius' sister.

The Rosenbloom sisters were active in revolutionary circles back in Russia and my own theory was that after their side won, Julius went back to what he expected to be the new socialist paradise. But I have no evidence of this.

In the course of my research, I have never located a marriage record for Julius and Sadie. The indispensible New York City Italian Genealogical Group site (searched by Steve Morse's site) has a marriage of Julius I. Lichterman and Bertha Kosminsky in 1909. But he is someone else, as we see in the actual marriage record.

Julius Lichterman as Joseph Davis
I looked up Julius Lichterman on the immigration and naturalization pages at and found fifteen entries.  Several refer to a man born 1877, naturalized in Pennsylvania, crossed the border at Niagara Falls in 1914 and was married to Bertha. That would be the man in the previous paragraph, although the ages are not quite the same.

Several others refer to a man born 1898 in Vilna who arrived in the US in 1919 and was naturalized in 1928. Not our guy.

Others appear on undated naturalization index cards in New York and Pennsylvania with no informaation. Not good for much.

One is for a man born in 1883 in what Ancestry's transcribers call "Barieve." He crossed the border from Mexico to California in 1945. The age sounds right and the birthplace looks like a bad transcription of Borisov.
I cleaned this up a bit. There is nothing interesting on the second page except his signature.

He is indeed from Borisov. He is also known as Joseph Davies. (His signature looks more like Davis.) He was entering the US "to resume residence" at an address in Los Angeles. It seems to say that he was in California from 1909, though I cannot make out the actual location. "To resume residence" sounds like he had been away for some time, not on a vacation or business trip.

Is this "our Julius?" Well, for starters in seems unlikely that our Julius was in California from 1909 while his wife lived in New York until her death in 1916. But he is from Borisov and the age is right. On the other hand, perhaps he was in California when she died and that could explain why "mother's name" on his wife's death record was written in a different hand, probably later.

This Julius Lichterman died in Los Amgeles of 27 April 1949. He is listed in the California death index twice, once as we know him and once as Joseph Davis. (Not Davies.) The Social Security number is the same in both entries.

The death certificate tells us nothing at all, though it confirms both names.
We ordered the SS-5 from Social Security - thanks to Galit Aviv for helping with both these documents. All they could give us was the Numident version, not the original inn his own hand..

Also not useful.

I am not sure how to proceed. He seems like a loner. I expect that neither the cemetery nor a probate search would help.

It all looks so mysterious. Perhaps he was working for an intelligence agency or something.

I have more important fish to fry.
With Cousin Ethel Klavan and her son Ross, Jerusalem
May her memory be for a blessing

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Genetic Genealogy of Our Heirs

To mark the twenty-fifth anniversary year of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, the August issue of their magazine Shemot included essays by a number of genealogy researchers on what to expect in genealogy twenty-five years hence.

I was asked by their editor, Jessica Feinstein, to contribute to this issue.

My contribution follows. The paragraph breaks are not how I planned them but everything else is pretty much as I wrote it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

My First "False Father" Event

The False Father
What do you call a situation where the father isn't who he was expected to be? On the few occasions when I needed to refer to such cases, I would call it a "false father" situation. Then I got into genetic genealogy and learned that the experienced folks call it a Non-Paternity Event, so I went with that. Until I began writing this post, when I looked it up on the ISOGG wiki. They define it thus:
Non-paternity event is a term used in genetic genealogy to describe any event which has caused a break in the link between an hereditary surname and the Y-chromosome resulting in a son using a different surname from that of his biological father.[1] The definition excludes minor changes in the spelling of the surname, and is implicitly limited to events after the relevant branch of the surname became hereditary. 

They cite more than a score of synonyms and more than a dozen scenarios, including such innocuous instances like "Surname switch."

So I am going back to "false father" and changed the title of this post accordingly. It's much less cumbersome than "misattributed parentage event."

Anyway I am here to tell you about my first false father case. I have helped out on a few, but it's not anything I have run across in my own research or my own families. I am writing this with the permission of the people involved, after changing or omitting all identifying information. For the purpose of this post, it doesn't matter whether I have a connection to this family or how they came to approach me.

This is the basic family structure.

The Problem
Fred Goldfeld's daughter Bonnie took an autosomal DNA test some time ago. A few months ago, Harvey's daughter Elaine took an autosomal test with the encouragement of her husband Rick. My impression is that Rick is the one who is interested in genealogy - Elaine, not so much.

Elaine and Bonnie are, ostensibly, first cousins. Here is how GEDmatch sees them. (All the comparisons in this case are based on GEDmatch kits.)

They have no common segments of 7 cM or more and six segments in the 3-7 cM range.

According to the most recent iteration of Blaine Bettinger's Shared cM Project, first cousins share an average of 884 cM and 95% of first cousins share between 619 and 1159 cM. Clearly Bonnie and Elaine are nowhere near those numbers. In fact the segments they share are likely Identical By State (IBS) and do not represent any common ancestry whatsoever. (Bonnie's mother Peggy is not Jewish, so there is no intrusion of endogamy from her side.)

One of the two women is not the daughter of the Goldfeld brothers, Fred and Harvey. At least one of them, perhaps even both. Which?

Fred and Harvey are long dead, as is Harvey's wife Phyllis. All the children here are in their fifties and sixties. The entire family lives in a large US city which has probably never had as many as 30,000 Jews.

Another test, by George
The obvious way to proceed was to ask Bonnie's brother or Elaine's siblings to test. Elaine's older brother George took an autosomal DNA test - here too, I am not sure he is particularly interested in genealogy and my contact was his wife Cheryl.

George's top match is his sister Elaine, as expected, followed by his first cousin Bonnie. But let's look at the numbers.

The Shared cM Project tells us that the average pair of full siblings share 2629 cM and that 95% of full sibling pairs share 2342-2917 cM. Elaine and George share 1929.5 cM which is below full sibling territory but well within half-sibling territory which is on average 1760 cM.

Since this is sensitive and I am new at this analysis, I asked CeCe Moore and Lara Diamond to review my logic. Both agreed that we are looking at half-siblings.

We see on the right the one-to-one comparison between George and Elaine. There are no significant green areas making it clear that they do not share two parents. (The yellow areas are segments where we see one common parent.)

Elaine and George share 118.9 cM on the X chromosome which must indicate that they have the same mother, since George gets no X from his father. Elaine and George have different fathers.That explains why Elaine and Bonnie are not related.

Fred and Harvey
George's second match is his first cousin Bonnie; they share 636.1 cM. As I wrote above, first cousins share an average of 884 cM and 95% of first cousins share between 619 and 1159 cM, so George and Bonnie are at the lower end of that range. Half first cousins, on the other hand, share an average of 440 cM and 95% of first cousins share between 235 and  665 cM. George and Bonnie are at the high end of that range.

So are George and Bonnie full first cousins or half first cousins? If the former, it's because their fathers, Fred and Harvey are full brothers. If the latter, Fred and Harvey are half brothers -  another false father case. CeCe and Lara differed on this question.

I decided to attempt to solve this question by looking at George's other matches and seeing what they share. Beforehand, I had to have a look at the geography. I knew from the documents that I had seen, that Fred and Harvey's mother Rivka was born in eastern Russia as were both her parents. Their father, Irving, was born in the US and all I could see was that his parents were from "Russia." I went into the JewishGen Family Finder and looked up their surname Goldfeld. There is one Goldfeld researcher and he said they were from Vilna. Since the name is rare, I figured that Irving Goldfeld's father Abraham was also from the western part of Russia, what is now Lithuania and Belarus.

I manage over 110 GEDmatch kits for my own families and it has become something of a joke on the Jewish genealogy groups on Facebook that most European Jews match several dozen of my kits. George matches over forty of my family kits. But seven segments stand out.

He has three segments on three different chromosomes which match my Jaffe cousins, from Borisov in Belarus. These matches appear to come from Irving's Goldfeld side. Neither Bonnie nor Elaine share these matches.

My three Jaffe cousins, two first cousins to one another and the daughter of a third

George has two segments which match my Kwoczka cousins who lived in Zalosce, near Tarnopol. These appear to come from Rivka's family, who lived a bit further east. Neither Bonnie nor Elaine shares these matches.
The lower chromosome has a segment of about 9.5 cM, so I decided to include it.

George has a match with nine of my family members on chromosome 21, about which I have written before. This group consists of two apparently unrelated parts of my family, one from the Tarnopol area, the other from Hungary. This also appears to be from Rivka's family. Neither Elaine nor Bonnie shares this match.

Finally, George matches a segment which appears to come from the other side of two of my second cousins. That family lived in Schedrin, in today's Belarus so is probably a Goldfeld match. Elaine does not share it, but Bonnie does. 

The yellow match here is Bonnie, the two greens are my Schedrin cousins..

If Bonnie and George both match a segment that comes from the Goldfeld side, I can conclude that Fred and Harvey are full brothers. This is far from 100% convincing.

A better way to check this out is to get Bonnie's brother Michael and George and Elaine's younger brother Norman and younger sister Karen to take autosomal tests. They would likely have less ambiguous results than the George-Bonnie match.

Elaine's father
After preparing my analysis and conclusions, I met with Elaine, her husband Rick, George and his wife Cheryl using GoToMeeting, which allowed me to show them the imges above and more. I asked them in advance, as I had during earlier emails with Rick, if they are prepared for whatever we might find. Rick assured me that all they wanted was the truth and that whatever it is, they could handle it.

So I explained to them that Elaine's father was not Harvey and showed them the proofs. Rick said that Elaine is still the same Elaine, no matter who her father was.

I suggested again that testing Norman and Karen might clarify the status of Fred and Harvey, but they were not sure if they wanted to tell the younger siblings anything at all.

And Rick asked me if I could tell them anything about the man who fathered Elaine.

I went back to GEDmatch and used their tool "People who match one or both of two kits" to find Elaine's matches which George does not share.  There were, of course, many - Most of them have Jewish-sounding surnames, so there is that. About fifteen of them matched on segments greater than 25 centiMorgans. The longest was just over 50 cM and there was another over 40 cM.

The one over 50 cM came with another of over 20 cM and they triangulated. I wrote to both. The smaller one answered, but she knows nothing that can help. The person with the 50+ cM has not yet responded. Perhaps she will later.

I suggested to Rick that he might want to contact the remainder of the fifteen.

Housekeeping notes
I had a nice turnout Sunday evening for the Israel Genealogical Society meeting in Kefar Sava. It was a lively, Hebrew-speaking crowd and with the questions we went well over the allotted time.

Next up, the genealogy series at Yad Vashem, in partnership with the Central Zionist Archives.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Mazal Tov - Uncle Selig Gets Married

The find
From the JewishGen SIG announcements from Friday.
Gesher Galicia is pleased to announce the addition of new sets of
Jewish records on the All Galicia Database

Tarnopol (Ternopil)
- Jewish marriages, 1859-1876. State Archive of Ternopil Oblast
(DATO), Fond 33/1/716. (379 records)
 I went in and used the new "Records Added in the Past Month" function and this came up.
I am assuming that the wife's name is Rachel.

The only Selig Pikholz we have is the brother of my great-great-grandmother Rivka Feige Pikholz. I have written about him in this space numerous times, most recently here. I even have a presentation called "Why Did My Father Know that His Grandfather Had an Uncle Selig," which I gave at JGS Maryland last winter and at the IAJGS conference in Orlando.

This find - and it is not a full document, only an simple index record - answers and documents several open points and opens the door to a possible significant new development.

Identifying Uncle Selig
This is definitely Uncle Selig, not only because there is no one else, but because the age (43) in January 1874 fits his 1830 birth year (based on the age in his death record.)

Many years ago, I concluded that Uncle Selig's (and therefore Rivka Feige's) father is Izak Josef Pikholz (~1874-1862), who was known as Josef. This was based on the fact that Uncle Selig named his son Itzig Joseph right after Old Izak Josef died and the fact that Rifka Feige had a grandson called Joseph Yitzhak but who was actually born Isak Josel.
I also have DNA evidence, as I discuss in Chapter Seven of my book "ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People."

But I never had an actual document. Now I do, for the marriage index calls him "son of Josel Pikholz."

Of course that also verifies the identity of my own third-great-grandfather, even though that has been settled in my mind for probably eighteen years. I can now totally ignore the fact that Selig was born when his father was at the relatively advanced age of forty-six. We finally have a document.

Uncle Selig in Tarnopol
Uncle Selig and his wife Chana lived in Skalat, where most of the Pikholz families lived. Chana died 11 September 1873 at age forty-five of cancer (raka).

But later in life, Uncle Selig lived in Tarnopol. And his youngest son Meir, who was born about 1872 or maybe 1874, is listed as being from Tarnopol, not Skalat where Selig and Chana lived. After visiting Meir's grave in Vienna a few months ago, I suggested:
The thing is Uncle Selig's wife Chana died of cancer in September 1873 at age forty five, so she could have had a son in 1872 but not 1874. Of course Meier could be from a second wife, but we have no evidence that Uncle Selig remarried and certainly none that he remarried so quickly after Chana died.
Except that Meir was born in Tarnopol and Chana died in Skalat, where the family lived. Maybe Uncle Selig married a second time, this time to a woman from Tarnopol. And they lived in her hometown. Where Meir was born.
So do we reopen the question if Meir was born to Chana in 1872 or the twenty-four year old second wife in 1874? That marriage was 21 January, so birth the same calendar year was certainly possible.

But we do know that Uncle Selig married a woman from Tarnopol and that is likely why he lived there from the time of that marriage.

And speaking of the second wife...
This young woman is Rachel Nagler (b. ~1849) and he married her barely four months after his first wife died.That sounds like the standard practice when a widow or widower is left with young children. (For this reason I believe that Meir is the son of Chana. We know of no other "young children.")

The new spouse is often from within one of the families.

So who might Rachel Nagler be? Peretz Pikholz (~1820-1873) is the son of Berl Pikholz (~1789-1877). We do not know how he is related to my Pikholz families. Perhaps Berl is the brother of Old Izak Josef - or a cousin or a nephew. Peretz was married to Perl Nagler (~1823-1904). Selig's wife Rachel is surely related to Peretz' wife Perl, a niece or cousin, perhaps.

Perhaps this points to a Pikholz-Nagler connection that is more substantial than the Peretz-Perl marriage. Perhaps the actual record will tell us something. Thus far, the folks at Gesher Galicia are not encouraging regarding getting an actual record from the Tarnopol archives.

Housekeeping notes
I have three talks coming up, all here in Israel. All are in Hebrew.

19 November 2017, 7:00Israel Genealogical Society, Bet Sapir, Sderot Yerushalayim 2 (second floor), Kefar Sava.
Lessons in Jewish DNA – One Man’s Successes and What He Learned On the Journey

8 January 2018 as part of the Yad Vashem / Central Zionist Archives series “From Roots to Trees” at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. 
5:30-6:15 – The Importance to Genealogy of Understanding Jewish Culture and Customs
6:16-7:00 – Using Genetics for Genealogy Research

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Scoring A Big DNA Win - For My Cousins

Dealing with Family Tree DNA "Close Match" alerts

I manage over a hundred family DNA kits, almost all with Family Tree DNA. So I get many scores of these notices every week. Not only each person, but since, for instance,  Dan is a member of all five of my projects, I get all of his notices five times. Others are members of multiple projects and for them too I get multiple notices.These notices of "Close Matches" means matches that FTDNA considers to be suggested second-third cousins.

A few months ago, I decided to deal with these alerts in a systematic fashion. As I wrote in detail at the time, I decided to download as an Excel file all the matches during the month of May for each of my project members. Then I arranged them in separate Excel files by group: my mother's side, my grandmother's side, the Rozdol-Pikholz side, etc. That's a lot of work by itself but after that I had to sort by the names of the new matches to see who may have interesting matches with several people within each of my groups.

I wrote to the ones that looked promising, asking them to give me their GEDmatch numbers so I could have a proper look. Some replied, most did not. Some gave me their GEDmatch numbers, others did not care to share this secret information with me. Others needed help even creating GEDmatch numbers. Oh, and a few would send me a list of all the GEDmatch kits in their families.

I looked at each one against all my kits - after sorting on the "Name" column of their match lists so all mine would come up together near the top  - and created 2-D Chromosome Browsers. For most I would do two or three Chromosome Browsers for different parts of my families.

There were some successes, of the sort that determined that so-and-so is definitely connected to my family through my great-grandfather's Rosenzweig or Zelinka sides or my maternal grandmother's Rosenblooms. Most were either vague or turned out to be scattered across the family with no direction at all. I wrote about the successes for May and repeated the experiment for the June alerts, writing about those successes as well.

Since then I have been busy with other things - including holidays - but I finally decided to look at all the alerts for July-August-September, limiting the analysis to my mother's side and my paternal grandmother's side. There were about 125 worth looking at just on my paternal grandmother's side.

I got some of that done before the Sukkot holiday and during the Intermediate Days at the beginning of last week but it was very frustrating and I was not even getting the level of successes that I had previously with the Duncans and Robbie and Sam and the others.

I worked on the responses from my mother's side last night and this morning sent out analyses of the GEDmatch kits of about thirty of these supposed matches. One of those was for a woman named Barbara Jo Strauss, who had nine matches with people on my mother's side. People who appear in the Borisov Project that I am doing with Galit Aviv Sisto.

It turns out Barbara is the sister of Mark Strauss whom I met two years ago the day of my book launch at JGS Maryland. He was there with his wife's brother's wife who is a Skalat Pikholz cousin of mine. Mark is an experienced genealogy researcher with a good working knowledge of DNA and it was he who responded when I first wrote Barbara last week.

Barbara's results
I reported to Mark that Barbara had two Borisov matches of interest, plus a third which I considered marginal at best.

The three green bits on chromosome 1 are 11-12 cM. The first is my second cousin Sam, the second my first cousin Kay and the third my second cousin Inna. That means one representative of each of the three children of my great-grandparents Israel David and Etta Bryna Rosenbloom.

This is not impressive at barely 12 cM but it is definitely a valid match. (Kay has no Jewish DNA on her father's side, so that pretty much eliminates the endogamy factor.)

We have only the one surname Rosenbloom on my grandmother's side, so it's really not much to work with - like so many others of these alerts analyses.

Chromosome 6 has a slightly stronger match - 14-15 cM - with four of my parents' children, my first cousins Kay and Leonard and a second cousin Liya. No one from Uncle Hymen's family. This too appears a legitimate match, though it was also unlikely to lead us anywhere absent some Borisov or Rosenbloom knowledge from Mark.

There was one other match I didn't even mention to Mark. A segment on chromosome 10 of near-identical 13.5 cM matches with five of my parents' children, but with not a cousin to be found, it was quite useless.

The one I thought marginal is on chromosome 12. There Barbara has matches of nearly 15 cM with my father's sister, my brother, one of my sisters and my second cousins Rhoda and Marty, who are sister and brother. Together with those are smaller matches with my other three sisters and me.

So that is a match on the east Galician Pikholz or Kwoczka side and those never go anywhere, as we have so little to work with in the way of surnames.

I reported all of this to Mark in my usual generic fashion, without all the names and numbers. His response was:
Ok.  If you give me the kit numbers of a few of the most significant matches, I can see which of my cousins also match those same segments to narrow geography and surnames.
 So I did.

Mark then asked me for more detail about Rhoda because she is Barbara's best match among my project members - 90 cM total with a largest segment of 41.1 and 11.1 cM of X to boot.

Mark's reply included:
They all share my paternal grandmother’s Berkowitz family in common, originally from around Humenne, in Eastern Slovakia, near the border with Ukraine. Other known surnames are Eichler and Burger.
For some reason I do not recall, I had discussed Rhoda's mother's family with her a couple of years ago and remembered that someone was from Slovakia/Hungary. Rather than hunt through my correspondence, I copied Rhoda on my reply to Mark. A few minutes later Mark told me that Rhoda's maternal grandmother was indeed an Eichler with the correct geography. He and Rhoda share a fourth-great-grandfather "Moyzes Eichler, who was born in 1785 in Hencovce, Slovakia."

And Rhoda (who carries the name of our second-great-grandmother Rivka Feige Pikholz) just told me that her youngest daughter has taken an interest in genealogy.

So that is a success for Mark's family and for Rhoda. For me it's a collateral success and a good reason to continue plugging away at the FTDNA Alerts. Of course, it helps when the person on the other end of the conversation understands the material.

Perhaps I'll send a notice about this blog to all those whom I've been talking to about alerts this month.

Housekeeping notes
Cousin Debbie's sister's DNA results just came in. She does not have the big segment that Debbie shares with us, but when we get her on GEDmatch, we'll see if perhaps she has some other matches of interest that Debbie does not.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Our Genetic Portrait - Part Three

In  my posts last week and the week before, I introduced DNA Painter and described how I identified segments that my family received from specific ancestors of my father and from each of my mother's parents. The segments are pretty much low-hanging fruit - easy to identify and confirm.

This week, I added five additional relatives on my father's side. The results from one of them quite surprised me. Which is why I am writing this.

Reminder - this profile is called "Israel Pickholtz family," not just "Israel Pickholtz." I saw no reason to use only my own segments when my brother and four sisters have segments from those same ancestors which can only enhance my map. That decision required calling this profile "female" because my sisters have a paternal X, even though I myself do not.

My second cousin Susan
The segments from Susan
When I went after the low-hanging fruit on my father's side, I  produced fifteen segments on my grandmother's mother's side and six on my grandmother's father's side. In fact there was one other group which I could have done and didn't - and that would be my grandmother, without regard to which of her parents they came from. I corrected that today, with my second cousin Susan. (I also have two double second cousins, but they are not much use for this, though they are valuable as matches.)

So Susan has now added another fifteen segments to the map. They are not as specific as I'd like, but we take what we can get. They represent what comes from my grandmother - and to Susan, from her grandfather.

Pikholz fourth cousins
The early Pikholz family itself is complicated. I included two great-grandchildren of my great-great-grandmother's brother Uncle Selig in my first round, but the descendants of her other two brothers are Pikholz in muliple directions so are not useful for this exercise. All except two - Nan and Jane, who are second cousins to one another and fourth cousins to me. What we share with them is common to our second great-grandparents Rivka Feige and Moshe Hersch.

Together Nan and Jane added eight segments to the ten I already had. Two of those are on each of chromosomes 1 and 22  and the others are on chromosomes 5, 14, 18, 20. Some of those do not rise to the level of "certain" and one is merely "possible," that being the match on chromosome 5.

The Kwoczka cousins
The segments here come to us from Jutte Leah, my great-grandmother. I had eleven segments from Pinchas, my third cousin, and another nineteen from my father's second cousin, Bruce. But I also have three third cousins once removed who had tested, Pinchas' niece and nephew, and a granddaughter of Bruce's first cousin. The truth be told, I did not expect to get much from them.

Ben added two segments - one of 16 cM on chromosome 9 and one of 26 cM on chromosome 20. The latter overlaps a smaller segment which I already had from his uncle Pinchas. With Ben in, his sister did not add anything else. (I knew from before that her matches with us were not as good as Ben's.)

Robin was the surprise. She added eight segments. They totalled 154 cM, with the largest segment 32 cM. My first contact with Robin was after she tested and that was how we found each other. I had my doubts about how much her results would contribute, but 154 cM is impressive.

Once again we learn the lesson - test everyone.

There is one oddity. More than an oddity, actually. Here is chromosome 10.
 Robin's segment falls within Bruce's segment, but Robin and Bruce do not match each other there - or anywhere else on chromosome 10. So they must have received those segments from different people. It is possible that one of these segments comes from some outside endogamous source. But it is also possible that one received this segment from Rachmiel's mother and the other from his father. (The same as Jutte Leah's mother and father.)

Robin's matches with Jutte Leah's descendants on that segment are with Aunt Betty, Herb, Lee and Roz.

Bruce's matches on his segment are Aunt Betty, Rhoda, Marshal, Lee and my sisters Amy and Judith.

The appearance of Aunt Betty and Lee on both segments gives me pause. For that matter since Rhoda and Roz are first cousins, that is also a problem, for their grandmother only received the segment from one of Jutte Leah's parents. So let's have a look.

The Roz-and-Rhoda problem is not really a problem because Roz' match with Bruce is not in the same place as either of Rhoda's two matches with Robin.

But there is no way we can avoid the problem with Aunt Betty and Lee. Their matches with Robin are within the same range as their matches with Bruce. They must be matching on their other chromosomes - the one from their other parent.  If say they both match Bruce on the Kwoczka line, then somehow Aunt Betty matches Robin on my grandmother's side and Lee matches her on his father's side. Those matches could be on any of Robin's ancestral lines - except the one through Rachmiel Kwoczka.

I must go back and downgrade Robin's segment to "possible" or maybe delete it entirely. Bruce's match seems more likely so perhaps I can call it "very likely," but since my policy is to be conservative, I'll go with "possible" for both Bruce and Robin.

(I wonder how many other matches are like that. Better not ask.)

The total from Jutte Leah Kwoczka now looks like this:

Wishing everyone an easy and meaningful Yom Kippur.
גמר חתימה טובה

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Our Genetic Portrait - Part Two

In my post last week, I introduced DNA Painter and described how I identified sixty segments that my family received from specific ancestors of my father. The ancestors concerned are three of my father's grandparents, two of his great-grandmothers and one second great-grandfather. The segments are pretty much low-hanging fruit - easy to identify and confirm.

Reminder - this profile is called "Israel Pickholtz family," not just "Israel Pickholtz." I saw no reason to use only my own segments when my brother and four sisters have segments from those same ancestors which can only enhance my map. That decision required calling this profile "female" because my sisters have a paternal X, even though I myself do not.

Mapping my mother's side
My mother's side is quite a different story. Not only do we have few known ancestral lines, but we have no test results from third or fourth cousins. Since all we have are second cousins (plus two first cousins, Kay and Leonard), I can only use DNA Painter to attribute segments to my grandparents, Rachmiel Gordon and Sarah Rosenbloom. I have no idea what they received from which of their parents.

There are now 132 identified segments on my mother's sides, which is an update since last week.

On the Gordon side, we have two second cousins on GEDmatch - Judy and Ruth. They are first cousins and their grandmother is Rachmiel Gordon's older sister. Andrea, the daughter of Judy and Ruth's first cousin, has also tested is new to GEDmatch and she adds nine segments that Ruth and Judy do not have.. And there are two third cousins who tested but have declined to upload to GEDmatch.

We have six tests on the Rosenbloom side, three from my grandmother's older sister Alta and three from her younger brother Hymen (Chaim Benzion). Here is the  structure of the family - both sides together. Those who have tested and uploaded to GEDmatch are in yellow.

The Gordons
I started with Judy and Ruth. Judy has twelve matches with us - "us" being the eight grandchildren of my grandparents. Ten of those twelve have enough good matches that I consider them certain. On chromosome 5, Judy has a match with Kay and a similar-sized match with my sister Sarajoy. Normally I would reject that as being not good enough, but the fact that Kay's father has no Jewish DNA gives her a bonus since there is no endogamy from that side. Nonetheless, I rated this match "very likely" rather than "certain."

On chromosome 9, Judy has a match with me, a similar match with my sister Judith and a much smaller match with my brother Dan. I would like to see more people here, especially either Kay or Leonard, so here too I rated it "very likely."

Next I looked at Ruth's matches with us, ignoring those which she shares with Judy and which I had already recorded. There are fifteen. Ruth's total match with me is nearly 500 cM, much higher than we would expect from a second cousin, and I suspect that her father has significant Galitzianer in his background. (His parents died when he was young, so we really don't know.) Here Kay and Leonard become more important. Matches which include them, I regard as certain . Matches which do not, I downgraded to "very likely" because there is a non-negligible possibility that this such matches come from our fathers rather than our Gordon mothers.

I also downgraded a match between me and Ruth because although Leonard is there, his match is much smaller. It simply doesn't feel certain. All told, Ruth has eight certain matches with us and seven "very likely."

Andrea has nine matches but six of them are only with my mother's children. I marked those as "very likely" rather than certain. I left a comment in those cases.

This is the set of matches between Ruth, Judy and Andrea and my grandparents' eight tested grandchildren.

The Rosenblooms
A bit of background on my grandmother Sarah's family. She and her sisters and brother were born in Borisov in what is now Belarus. Her father Israel David Rosenbloom appears in the 1874 revision list in Borisov so I assume that's where his family had lived. His wife Etta Bryna - whose surname is unknown - could have been from anywhere.

My grandfather Rachmiel Gordon was born in Dolginov which is not far away and it is possible, even likely, he had some family in Borisov. Sarah's sister Alta married Berl Kaplan whom we think was from Borisov, but we are not sure. Uncle Hymen married in Pittsburgh - to a woman from Schedrin, also Belarus, but over a hundred miles from Borisov.

So I decided that I could not set matches that did not include any of Uncle Hymen's grandchildren as "certain" due to the possibility that there was some kind of connection between Sarah and Alta's husbands' families.

But it is more complicated yet. Louis Jaffe, Judy and Ruth's grandfather, was also from Borisov, so I had to be on the lookout for matches that might have included his family mixed in with the Rosenblooms.

I will spare you all the detail, but there are a lot of segments that required analysis and decisions. These are the results of the six Rosenbloom second cousins - three from Alta's granddaughters and three from Uncle Hymen's grandchildren. (Hovering over and clicking on the segments gives much additonal information.)

Lots of segments here. Quite a few overlapping segments as well, because a match with one of Alta's granddaughters may be similar to but different from a match with one of Uncle Hymen's grandchildren. This is not trivial, even if there is some (unnecessary) duplication.

If you look at the segment at the far right end of chromosome 19, you will find a similar match on the Gordon set above. Here is the chromosomal view.

The green match is from Judy. The brown match is from Lydia and Inna.

These are not distinct Gordon and Rosenbloom matches. Judy triangulates here with Lydia and Inna. Like some kind of general Borisov segment. And who know how many more are similar, but we cannot identify them. I rated it as "very likely" but I'm not even sure what that means in this context.

And can you imagine, there are people who would do this automatically!! Endogamous populations are hard to do well. Anyone can do them badly.