Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fun With Online Trees

My friends and colleagues know my aversion to online trees.

A first cousin of my wife's grandfather did a Family Finder test for me last year. She is as old as dirt. But even she was not yet born in the 1730s.

A week or so ago, I received a notice from FTDNA that someone added her to an online tree. There was a link which didn't work.

Eventually I found it. She was linked by name and kit as married to a man born in 1730 and they had a daughter born in 1735. (That's a good trick in itself!)

I wrote to the woman behind this tree and she insisted that although she knows this woman is My Wife (which she isn't), this tree is correct because it came up automatically. AND IT IS CONNECTED TO THE VILNA GAON!! Well then, what more can I say!

We went back and forth on this a few times. At some point she wrote "But I did assume that the link could be established back that far through MtDNA. Mother to mother, to mother."

But my wife's grandfather's cousin didn't do MtDNA!

Good luck to you. Doncha just love the fealty to technology? And the unbounded unfounded confidence.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Six Siblings - Part Two: Who Is Closest To Whom

A week before he died two months ago, my brother gave me DNA. That gives us the whole set of six siblings. (A seventh was killed in an accident thirty years ago, but her identical twin is one of the six, so we count the set as complete.)

Part One - Origins is here.

Other than the randomness of DNA and the fact that siblings can be significantly different from one another (TEST THEM ALL, PEOPLE!), I am not sure about the value of this kind of analysis except to sate the curiosity of the family members themselves. Some have actually asked, which is more interest than they generally show, so here are some bits of data. Once again, the tables are in age order.

This table shows who matches whom how well, according to the FTDNA algorithm.

All four of the girls match Dan best of all.  After that, it's pretty random.

Dan and I match Sarajoy best and then Judith.

The unshaded matches are all called "full siblings" by the FTDNA algorithm. The shaded matches are called "Full siblings, Half Siblings, Grandparent/Grandchild." Each of the six of us has at least one match that doesn't quite pass the FTDNA threshhold for unambiguous "full sibling." But of course, that is not meaningful, except to show the randomness of DNA.

It is also interesting considering my blog a few days ago in which two nephews - sons of the identical twin sisters - are submitting Family Finder tests to see if they show up as half siblings.

Here are my first eleven matches - the five siblings, followed by my father's sister and brother Aunt Betty and Uncle Bob, then four first cousins.

Note that Aunt Betty, Uncle Bob, Kay and Linda all are rated as possible half siblings to me by FTDNA. These boundaries are far from clear and I often laugh when I hear people speak of these numbers as having absolute meaning - especially, but not only, in endogamous populations.

These are the numbers behind the "ratings" in the first table above.

This shows how many centiMorgans we share with one another in total and how big are our largest segments with one another. Look for patterns at your peril.

Dan and Sarajoy share both the most DNA (2891) and the largest segment (253). Dan's second largest total is with Judith (2652), but his longest segment with everyone else is longer than with her (162). You can pick out other anomalies, but they are not really anomalies because there is no reason these numbers should line up in patterns. Not only is it randomness, but the totals are not that different from one another.

Then there is the matter of Aunt Betty and Uncle Bob - which of us is closer to which of them.
Uncle Bob's first match is his daughter Linda and Aunt Betty's is her son Ed. That's pretty basic. Then their match with each other. Followed by the nieces and nephews. The tenth match for each is their first cousin Herb, not shown on the chart above. Nothing much to see here except perhaps that Amy is the closest of us to Aunt Betty and the second closest to Uncle Bob.

Finally the four first cousins. Ed and Linda on my father's side and Leonard and Kay on my mother's side. (They are first cousins to one another.)

Here I have included the centiMorgans because the differences are significant.

Kay is either first or second for all of us, with only one match below 900 cM. FTDNA considers her a possible half sibling with all of us except Judith.

Leonard is either last or next-to-last for all of us, with only one match over 900 cM and one as low as 592 cM..He is a possible half sibling only with Sarajoy.

This begs the question how close a match is Kay to Leonard. For both it's their top match, with 1126 cM total and a longest segment of 76. I'd be curious to see how their siblings would fit into this analysis, but unfortunately they are all deceased.

Ed is the top cousin for Judith and Amy, with more than 1000 cM but he is last for Sarajoy, Dan and me with less than 800 cM. Linda is over 850 cM with all of us. 850 cM is what the ISOGG wiki gives as the average for first cousins. On average we are above that and I don't thinks it's a matter of  endogamy.

In our own family we have some other first cousins: Herb with Aunt Betty and Uncle Bob, Beth with Beverly and Sam, Rhoda and Roz, Ruth and Judy and in the wider Pikholz families Gloria and Marvin, Sharon and Karen and the two Riss cousins. And some others in process. But I am not going to look at their numbers here.

Housekeeping Notes
I have two presentations coming up here in Israel. One in Hebrew in Rishon LeZion, but we have not yet set the date. The other in Raanana in two weeks.
16 March 2017, 7:30 – IGRA, Beit Fisher, 5 Klausner Street, Raanana (in English)
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey

For the attention of any program chairs (or anyone who knows program chairs), I'll be available in the US late April-early May of 2018. Another bar mitzvah in Chicago.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The DNA of the Seventh Sibling

A few weeks ago, I began a series about the DNA of my own siblings after the Family Finder results of my recently deceased brother came in. (I have been busy with other things and have only done that single post, but I'll get back to it soon.) As I reported then, our full set of DNA comes from my brother, my four sisters and me - six altogether.

But in fact, we are seven.

We lost one thirty years ago this past week.

I wrote about that terrible day in one of my very first blogs, five years ago and I shan't repeat it now.

This morning (Friday) some of us - including three of her four children and four of her nine grandchildren - met at the grave in Arad and then went for breakfast together.

The intersection was redesigned a few years ago and now is much safer. It includes two stoplights.

The grave needs some repair. The lettering has been repainted a few times. The empty section in front is now largely filled with new graves, so her children - kohanim - can no longer stand as close as they could when we chose the site.

This whole area is now filled with graves.
Of course, we never took her DNA. But we have it because she and Judith are identical twins. We think. It seems there is some debate about whether the "identical" part is in fact proven, though that seems obvious to anyone with eyes and ears.

So yesterday Judith asked me if any of Carol's children have tested. She considered that might help solve the "identical" question. So this morning she asked Avi and Michal if one of them would test. Avi swabbed this morning and I'll send it in next time there is a sale.

Judith herself has three boys and will get a Family Finder from one of them. If the girls are identical, the tests will show the first cousins as half-siblings.

Both twins are married to kohanim who have some geography in common. I am not sure if I want to go there, but they can decide this themselves. (Both fathers are alive and well and can test if they wish.)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Beyond A Doubt - Another Resolution

Presented most recently to JGS Toronto,
JGS Maryland and IAJGS Seattle
I have a lecture about dealing with things we are quite sure about but do not have the supporting proof. It may not even be available.

In that presentation, I break the general question into seven considerations and give an example of each. For each example I decide to accept the conclusion into my family database or to reject it for lack of sufficient evidence.

Example #5 deals with the family of Gabriel and Sara Pikholz of Husiatyn. They had a son Moses in 1851 and I have been quite convinced that this is the same Moshe who married Chana Muhlrad in Skalat and together they had eight children in the period 1874-1894.

I also believed that this Gabriel is the son of Nachman Pikholz who was born about 1795.

I discussed this family in some detail three years ago.

This is the family of Moshe who I would like to think is the Moses born in 1851.

Moshe's granddaughter Miriam Reiner told me that her grandfather had "died young," well before she was born in 1913, but could not be more specific. In fact, I found an 1894 death record for a Moshe Pikholz in Skalat, which seemed to make everything fit - but for one little problem. The Moshe in that death certificate was fifty-seven years old so could not have been born in 1851.

On the other hand, we had no unaccounted-for Moshe born around 1837, so the death record may have simply had the age wrong.

But I could not justify a decision to say that Moses from Husiatyn was indeed the father of the Skalat family and in the conclusion to my presentation, I left the matter unsettled.

A couple of weeks ago, Mark Halpern of JRI-Poland sent me a spreadsheet with 695 Skalat deaths during 1908-1915. That list includes twelve people named Pikholz and at least two other Pikholz family members with a different surname. Most of the twelve are listed without names of parents or spouses, so it is not always clear who the deceased is. For instance, there is a Josef Pikholz who died in 1909 and I am not sure if this is the one born 1862 or the one born in 1863.

The index also does not include towns of origin, at least not for our entries, but those may appear on the actual records.

The entries have ages, of course, and also house numbers. The actual records have always had house numbers, but they were usually not included in the index.

Moses Pickholz who died in 1908 at age 57, so would have been born 1851. This is a perfect fit for Moses from Husiatyn. So perhaps he is not the father of the Skalat family and there are two separate Moshes.

But the house number is 23. Six children of Tobias - Moshe's son - and two of his grandchildren were born in that house. Surely this must be Tobias' father.

Furthermore, the new spreadsheet has a four month old daughter of Tobias dying in that house in 1912.

So I can now say without reservation that the Moshe who had the family in Skalat was indeed the son of Gabriel and Sara and was born in Husiatyn in 1851. That leaves me with an 1894 death record for a different fifty-seven year old Moshe Pikholz in Skalat - who on earth is that?

I'll write about some of the others in that spreadsheet in a subsequent post.

Housekeeping notes
My daughter-in-law in New Jersey had a baby boy a few hours ago. I am not going to chance a flight home after a Thursday berit, so I am in the NJ area a few more days. If anyone in NJ/NY wants a program Wednesday 15 February, Thursday 16 February or Sunday 19 February, please let me know and we'll see what we can put together.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Lydia in Columbus

Less than a week after learning of the existence of my Rosenbloom/Kaplan second cousins (described here), I went to see my second cousin Lydia in Columbus Ohio. This was last Wednesday and I was on my way to a Thursday evening speaking engagement for JGS Michigan.

Lydia is eighty-two, was born in Moscow and has been in the US for twenty-two years. Why Columbus? Her late husband has relatives there. We were both very excited about the meeting.

As I mentioned last week, she has pictures. Her grandmother, for instance, a bit older than the mid-1920s photograph that we have.

There is some difference of opinion about when Alta died - whether 1968 or 1973. But everyone agrees she was ninety-three. That's well into my lifetime and long after her younger sister, my grandmother, died in 1959. We should be able to check Alta's date of death as the whole family is buried together in Moscow's Vostrikovsky Cemetery.

I had always figured that Alta was born about 1880, as she had at least two grandchildren when contact was lost in 1929. I was quite sure she was several years older than my grandmother Sarah, because the younger brother (Uncle Hymen) was called Chaim Benzion because previous sons had died in childhood or infancy. There was not much room for multiple sons unless they were between Alta and Sarah.

Lydia says - and I think this is apocryphal - that when Alta was older, she would often be found wandering around Moscow and when asked her name, she would say "Alta Rosenbloom from Borisov." That's how the grandchildren came to know her maiden name and birth place. I have my doubts because her children - also born in Borisov - outlived her, and surely knew her history.

We took out pictures, she in a well-kept album that had been smuggled out of Russia and I on my laptop. We had identical pre-WWI photographs. Alta as a younger woman with her father - my namesake
- Israel David Rosenbloom, for instance.

She had the same majestic picture of Israel David that had hung om my grandmother's wall. It had hung on Alta's wall as well. And there were others.

But she had some that she could not identify.
 My grandparents in Vandergrift Pennsylvania, with their four older children. Mother was not yet born, so this would have been late 1924 or early 1925. And Lydia has an original baby picture of my mother, sitting on a stool.

She had one of Uncle Hymen and Aunt Becky with their two sons, taken probably 1926 before their daughter was born. And of course she had no idea who these people were. But she had preserved them in her album nonetheless.

We knew that Uncle Hymen had had some contact with at least his father until 1929, but it was now clear to me that the two sisters were also in contact. I had no expectations of my grandmother who never spoke of Russia and in her depression with small-town life far away from her family, burned some of her own pictures. But there it was. Well into the 1920s.

The labeling I cited last week on the picture of Uncle Hymen with Aunt Alta's family, is not completely correct. The younger daughter Sonya could not have been in that 1914 photograph as she was not born until after WWI. Apparently there was another sister who died and whom no one remembers. And the older girl in that one might be the half sister Aunt Mera, rather than Alta's older daughter Etta Bryna (Esfira in Russian).

Odd about that. All three surviving siblings, Alta, Sarah and Hymen named their first daughters Etta Bryna, after their mother. My Aunt Ethel and her husband adopted a daughter after a dozen years of marriage. She later had two naturally. Uncle Hymen's Ethel had no children and adopted a son. Esfira too had no children, but raised her husband's son from his previous marriage.

It was a joyous meeting, but far from complete. We will find a way to do this again and I hope to talk to the others in the family. Lydia gave me DNA. Her mother is not Jewish, so all her Jewish DNA is Rosenbloom and Kaplan. And she told me proudly "I did giyur" showing me a conversion certificate issued in Columbus. For now, her son - born 1965 - is not interested in any of this and in any case was not in town when I visited.

So here, if I have it right, is what we have added to our Rosenbloom family. Lydia's grandfather Lev was probably named Yehudah after Etta Bryna's father.
The following evening, my second cousin Reuven Rosenbloom and his wife came to hear me speak and on Shabbat I had lunch with a Rosenbloom cousin of the next generation.

Housekeeping notes
The Cleveland audience was excellent and included several Pickholtz descendants. They say there were 55-60 people and there were lots of questions. Earlier in the day, I had said kaddish with two of the Cleveland Pickholtz brothers and then went to the cemetery where their parents are buried. Their mother's stone setting is planned for Mothers' Day.

I am writing from Salt Lake City, I want to get some research in at the library tomorrow (Tuesday) and Wednesday, before RootsTech begins. I am speaking Friday at eleven o'clock.

Sunday I am off to California for the last two presentations of this trip. No Rosenblooms there, but there are some younger generation Pickholtz cousins who might show up.

12 February 2017, 1:30 – Orange County JGS Temple Beth David, 6100 Hefley Street, Westminster, CA 92683
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey

13 February 2017, 7:30 – JGS of Los Angeles, American Jewish University, American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive
Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?

And I am speaking back home on 16 March, in Raanana. In English.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Six Siblings - Part One: Origins

A week before he died last month, my brother gave me DNA. That gives us the whole set of six siblings. (A seventh was killed in an accident thirty years ago, but her identical twin is one of the six, so we count the set as complete.)

I would like to look at some aspects of our group results in a few blog posts and I'll start here with an easy one: origins. In general, I'll show the siblings in age order.

myOrigins on the far right, ancientOrigins at the bottom left
Now the truth is, I don't pay much attention to the whole ethnicity thing. It isn't really precise - how can it be, especially wiuth European Jews. And this new "ancientOrigins" thingee that FTDNA shows us - well until today I had never even looked at it.

So what do we have? Let's start with the new one and pretend that it is meaningful.

I don't need a statistician to tell me that the six of us are cut from the same cloth. Mostly farmer, some invader, a bit of hunter-gatherer. No one is far from the averages.

What about ethnicity, what FTDNA calls "myOrigins?"

The basic Ashkenazi Jewish ethnicity is without question, ranging from my 90% to Dan's 99%, with the girls in between. That's who we are according to FTDNA's standards.I would not be surprised, though, if some of the Ashkenazim in their database contain significant Sephardic heritage that no one knows to classify properly.

The European, West African and Central Asian are all one-offs ranging from 1% to 3%. We can probably ignore them.

What FTDNA calls "Asia Minor"
The three Middle Eastern categories show at least two of us in each one. The 5% that Jean and Sarajoy show in Asia Minor (Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan on the FTDNA maps) is probably real, representing Jews who are probably Sephardic.

I don't know how different that is from the "Eastern Middle East" category that includes Judith (5%), Amy (1%) and me (8%). The map shows this to be Egyot, Jordan, Lebanon. My eight percent seems like a lot,
especially compared to all the others, but these things are not meant to be precise. Perhaps "entertainment value" is an appropriate term. I don't think much of any claims of precision in differentiating between Eastern Middle East and Asia Minor.

If this analysis is telling us anything, it's that our family is Ashkenazic, flavored with some Sephardic ancestors - more than likely people who left Spain or Portugal and settled in various Mediterranean locations. The North African elements are surely in that category as well.Tegular readers will recall that I discussed our possible (probable?) Y-DNA line here.

Part Two is here,.

Housekeeping Notes
Speaking at the JGSs in Detroit and Cleveland in the coming days, then off to RootsTech and California.

2 February 2017, 7 PM – JGS of Michigan, Farmington Community Library – Main Branch – Auditorium,32737 W. Twelve Mile Rd. Farmington Hills, MI 48334
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey

5 February 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Cleveland, Park Synagogue East, 27500 Shaker Blvd,  Pepper Pike
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey