Monday, July 17, 2017

Where Was Simon? And Why?

Shimon Pikholz - Simon or Szymon on some of his documents - lived in Skalat and was
married to Dwore Waltuch who bore two daughters before she died in 1861 at age twenty-three. Skalat birth records begin in 1859, so we don't have one for Lea. Breine was born 14 January 1860. We have a large  family for Lea and her husband Berl Pfeffer, but the only trace we have of Breine is her birth.

As often happened when a widower was left with small children, a second marriage was arranged within the family - in this case, Dwore's younger sister Chana. Chana and Simon had five children who lived to adulthood (one of them died unmarried at age twenty-five) and several others died in childhood. All were born in Skalat, the last in 1885.

Simon himself was the son of Mordecai (b. 1805) and Taube Pikholz and based on the age of the first wife, I assume he was born around 1835.

Lea Pfeffer had children in Kopycienice (e Galicia) and in Czernovitz, where she died in 1913. Her husband Berl Pfeffer and children later moved to Vienna.

Chana's daughter Rifka went to the US in early 1891, married Max Rosenbaum and took the name Beatrice.

Dwore - named for her aunt - went to the US later in 1891 (together with another Pikholz, a first cousin of my grandfather. She went by Dora in the US.

Chana and son Mordecai/Max went to the US in 1892.

The youngest, eighteen year old Joseph, was in New Jersey on 1899 but we have no record of his travel from Europe.

As for Simon, we have nothing to show that he crossed the ocean and he had no presence in the United States. But neither do we have a death record for him in Skalat or anywhere else.

Rivka had only daughters and granddaughters, so didn't name after him. Dora had a son Samuel, but his Jewish name is Shalom, after Simon's brother.. Max had a son Shimon, but he wasn't born until 1933. And Joseph's son Sam has no Hebrew on his tombstone so we can only guess at his name.

So for years, I had assumed that Simon died in Skalat, probably just before his family began its piecemeal emigration. And that for some reason there was no death record.

Then  this.
Szymon Pickholz, house 899 Skalat, died 20 December 1908 at age 78.

This cannot be anyone else, even though I have nothing else in this house. Born in 1830 works.

So why was he in Skalat sixteen years after his wife went to the US? Was there a divorce or a separation? Now I return to the youngest son Joseph who appears in New Jersey in 1899 at age eighteen without ever appearing on a passenger list. Maybe Simon brought his youngest son to the US and the transcribers wrote the names so badly that they are unrecognizable. Then Simon returned to Skalat - when? why?

Is there a way to know?

(I have been in touch with descendants of four of Simon's children, including Lea Pfeffer, but only one has given DNA for our project. But that one has proven very valuable.)

Housekeeping Notes
Tuesday I go to Moscow to meet the third of my newfound second cousins on my mother's mother's Rosenbloom side. The three are first cousins to one another, which makes for good DNA. Another one in Moscow - the sister of the one I visited in Nuremberg - is too ill to see me, but her daughter will probably get her DNA and I'll visit another time.

It's a quick visit, but since it's on the way to the US, it doesn't add to my travel expense so I can do it again pretty easily.

Then Orlando where I am giving four presentations and several mentoring and translation sessions. And I'll be debuting a new T-shirt in the "My Kind of Acid" line.

And after that a quick weekend in Chicago which will include an unveiling for my brother a week from Friday.

Way too much to do before I leave.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Sibling Reunion?

Earlier this week, Lara Diamond posted about the reunification of her family with the descendants of her grandfather's aunt. This sparked a seriies of "me too" posts and comments.

Here is another version of the classic sibling reunification story, one in which I was tangentially involved, nearly twenty years ago. One with a different ending. (And with names changed to protect privcy.) 

An American genealogist was helping someone find what happened to her father's eldest sister, Feige Abramowitz. Feige's maiden name was unique and her birth date and birth place were known. Her husband was Shemuel (=Samuel) Abramowitz. This was in the late 1990s. Feige would have been ninety-one. The family "knew" she was killed, but didn't have any testimony or documentation.

A typical ITS card. (Can any such report ever be "typical?")
She asked me to have a look at the International Tracing Service card index at Yad Vashem. (This was before the major release of ITS records nearly ten years later.) I found a record that this same Feige Abramowitz - identified by maiden name, parents' names and birth date - applied for entry into the United States in 1947. The trail ended there. The Red Cross looked into the case, but reported back in a cryptic sort of way that they could not tell the family anything. 

We tried everything we could think of, including searching the Social Security Death Index using nothing but her birth date, but nothing looked right. Of course she could have died before 1962, when the online SSDI begins. Or perhaps she had not died at all.

Then we searched SSDI by the husband's birth date and found a Sam Abrams, who had lived in a large city in the Midwestern USA. Shemuel Abramowitz as Sam Abrams? With the same birth date? Looked promising. 

In that particular city, I had a third cousin who knew all the old Jewish women. I asked my cousin if she knew a Feige Abrams, about ninety-one, the widow of Sam. "You mean Phyllis," she said. "What do you want of her?"

A meeting was set up, very carefully, with the social workers in the retirement facility where Phyllis Abrams lived. Eventually she told her story. 

Feige Abramowitz was dead, killed in Poland. 

Sam survived. He met a fellow survivor in Poland and they married. She had no identification papers so he gave her his dead wife's identity. She spent fifty years in the United States terrified that someone might find out she had lied on her immigration papers and that she would be sent back to Poland. 

I'm thinking that the Red Cross had already figured that out.

Housekeeping notes
My own cousin reunion tour continues next week. I reported earlier on finding my grandmother's older sister's family and on meeting second cousins in Columbus Ohio and Nuremberg Germany. Next week Moscow where I plan to meet two more second cousins. With DNA kits in hand.

Then Orlando.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Regina Bauer's Chromosome 21

A couple of weeks ago, I described my new approach to handling the alerts I get from Family Tree DNA for Family Finder matches. I had some minor successes but it was a lot of work. My June inquiries - which related to test results received during May - produced two good but non-specific results, one for the families of each of my grandmothers. And responses are still trickling in.

Since the Pikholz family is much larger and less well-structured than some of my others, I decided to concentrate my July inquiries on my grandmothers' families. One of them produced this match with Robbie from Chattanooga.

One of the interesting things here, before even looking at the numbers, is that Robbie has no other segments in common with any of the nine kits on chromosome 21.

The first three are my brother, one of my sisters and I. Aunt Betty is my father's sister. Shabtai is my father's second cousin on my grandmother's mother's side and Susan is my second cousin. This group of six matching segments points to the family of my great-grandmother Regina Bauer. Her father's family - the Bauers - lived in Kunszentmiklos Hungary and before that in Apostag. Her grandmother was probably a Lowinger. Regina's mother is a Stern from Pacs and Kalocsa Hungary and additional surnames are Grunwald and Hercz.

Robbie's other three matches here are on my father's father's side. Rhoda and Roz are my second cousins, first cousins to one another. Pinchas is my third cousin, the great-grandson of the brother of my great-grandmother Jutte Leah Kwoczka. But these three have an additional connection that has nothing to do with my family - the Zwiebel and Lewinter families from Tarnopol - and that is the source of Robbie's match.

These two groups triangulate; there is a common ancestor between the two groups. 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 12-21 cM range were preserved in both groups.

If this looks familiar, it should. I wrote these two sentences almost exactly one year ago. About a smaller version of the same segment.
Carolyn and her daughter Wendy at JGS Maryland last summer
The only person missing here is my brother who tested a few months later. But it's the same segment. The match is with Carolyn.

Carolyn and Wendy are trying to identify Carolyn's father, a man who left her some clues on chromosome 21. Something to do with the Bauers or the Sterns and the Zwiebels or the Lewinters.

And, it turns out, Robbie has exactly one segment over 5 cM that matches Carolyn and that is, of course on chromosome 21.
Unfortunately Robbie doesn't know anything about this corner of his ancestry.

As I mentioned above, some of the responses from last month are still trickling in. Sam, for instance. He was travelling so he got me his GEDmatch number a bit later. I looked at his matches last week and saw a few bits related to my mother's side. Plus a set of six on a segment of about 17 cM on chromosome 17, but it was just my father's children,  sister and brother, there were no cousin matches to help us be more specific. I write this:
> Well, there are a few places where you have matches that point to my
> mother's mother's Rosenblooms from Borisov (Belarus). Nothing huge, but
> it's there. Unfortunately, we have no other surnames there to work with.
> There is a segment of not quite 10 cM which includes my father's sister, three
> of my father's children a second cousin on my gm's side and a second cousin
> of my father on my gm's mother's side. Those would be Bauer, Stern,
> Gurnwald, Lowinger and Hercz from Kunszentmiklos, Kalocsa and elsewhere
> in Hungary. Not very strong, but it's there.
> Maybe something with my p-gf's mother's Kwoczka from Zalosce in east
> Galicia.
> There is a nice segment of ~15-16 cM with my father's sister and brother plus
> four of my father's children, but no cousins, so it's hard to say more.
> Thank you for particiipating.
> Israel P.

Minutes after concluding my analysis of Robbie's single segment, an email came from Sam.
> Well thanks for your response!
> I'm pretty new at this. Where do we go from here?
I reviewed his matches and what do you know, that "segment of not quite 10 cM" is on chromosome 21.

It's a smaller version of Robbie and Carolyn's segment. Roz is missing because her 5.9 cM match is under the threshhold and simply didn't show up in Sam's results.

And like Robbie, Sam matches Carolyn here and no where else, using the standard threshhold.

Sam also has a small triangulated 7-8 cM segment with Rhoda and Shabtai on chromosome 7, showing once again that the two families have a history.

Eventually this wall will crack. And my approach to the alerts is working.