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.