Monday, December 31, 2018

Podwoloczysk Records - New Answers and New Questions

New records from AGAD
About two weeks ago, Mark Halpern of JRI-Poland posted the following, in reference to records from east Galician towns in the AGAD archives in Warsaw. 
Earlier this week, JRI-Poland processed and added a significant volume
of new and/or extended data. This includes about 8,000 new record
indices for eastern Galicia towns as follows:

-- Borszczow 1914, 1916-1929 M
-- Chodorow 1914-1929 M
-- Dunajow 1925-1934 D
-- Kopyczynce 1877, 1879, 1880, 1883, 1885-1914, 1916-1919 M
-- Lysiec 1919-1931 D
-- Mielnica 1898-1914, 1917-1929 M; 1910-1920 D
-- Podwoloczyska 1921-1934 M; 1920-1922 D
-- Sokal 1916-1935 D
-- Szczerzec 1917 B; 1916-1926, 1938, 1930-1932, 1934-1935 D
-- Zalozce 1914, 1916, 1920-1924 M; 1916, 1918-1921 D
-- Zbaraz 1914-1917 B; 1930-1937 M
Some of these towns are of interest to my Pikholz families and my Kwoczkas lived in Zalozce, but many of our families had left their home towns by the time we get to these records. There are some records that add a bit of information, but not much of real significance

But in Podwoloczysk, there are six records of interest, some answers and some raising new questions. (I keep expecting that new records will only provide answers, but no.)

1. The Kiwetz marriage
Tema Pikholz and Zvi Kiwetz, of Skalat, had twelve children almost all of whom lived into adulthood. Of those, only their son Yitzhak survived the Holocaust, losing his wife and three children. Another Holocaust survivor is the daughter of his brother Chaim and eventually that daughter was brought up by Yitzhak and his second wife in Haifa. The daughter was born in 1939 and I have met her, though the last time I looked for her I was not able to find her.

The new Podwoloczysk include her parents' marriage. We know them to be Chaim Kiwetz and Pinie Podhorcer, a variation of Podhoretz. She told me that her mother's mother was also a Kiwetz, a relative of her father.
In fact she is incorrect. Her mother Pinie Podhorcer is the daughter of Menachem Kiwetz and Ester Podhorcer. Her parents' fathers are brothers.

2. There are Picks in Zbarazh
When I first began looking at AGAD records nearly twenty years ago, I saw a Zbarazh couple Lewi and Malka Dwojre Pick with two children born in the 1850s. At the time, I had no idea if this Pick (sometimes Pik) family was part of the Pikholz family of Skalat so I recorded what I found. Soon enough I became convinced that this is not our family but I continue carrying them in my database. There are a few others as well, who probably fit together, but I have not put any work into this family.

I have not found any of them alive during or after the Holocaust, but frankly I have never really looked.

The new Podwoloczysk records include a marriage of a younger member of the Pick family - Israel Jakob Kahane born to Reisel Pick and her husband Nuchim Kahane in 1899. This is the youngest member of this family that I have run across.

3. Josef's son Chaim
Josef Pikholz of Klimkowce (the grandson of Nachman Pikholz of Skalat) who has been mentioned here from time to time, lost his wife Lane Feldman in 1885 at age thirty-two. Soon after, he married his first cousin Sure Elka Pikholz and we have birth records of the children they had together. We know nothing about any of them. (These are half brothers of Jacob Laor's grandfather.)

The new Podwoloczysk records include a 1926 marriage for Chaim. I have suggested to Jacob that he have a look at the Yad Vashem records to see if any of Chaim's family are listed under his wife's surname.
4. The death of Syma Pikholz
Josef's father Arie Leib (1829-1901) also lost his wife in 1885 and afterwards he married a woman named Syma Friedmann. They had a son Nachman David in 1891, about whom we know nothing. Jacob wondered not long ago whatever happened to Syma. We now have her death record; she died in 1920 at age seventy.
5. Is this our Chana?
The Podwoloczysk records have a 1920 death for Chana Halpern.  The record does not identify her parents or her husband or her house number or her home town but she appears to be the daughter of Gabriel (the son of Nachman) and Sara Pikholz of Husiatyn, the wife of Joel Halpern. Her age on the death record is 64 which means she was born about 1856.
The problem is that our Chana's father Gabriel died in 1852. So either this is not our Chana or the age on the death record is incorrect. For now, I am not going to attach this death record to our Chana, but I shall make a note that it might be our Chana with an incorrect age.

6. Brane's husband
This is the most problematic of the new records, so let me start with a bit of background. Chana Pikholz, whom I just mentioned above, and her husband Joel Halpern had a daughter Brane on 13 January 1893 in Podwoloczysk. 

In 1919, Brane had a son in Vienna. On the birth record she is identified unambiguously by her known birthplace and birth date. The father is not named.

That son, who went by Pickholz, ended up in Israel and I have visited his grave. The tombstone has the correct date of birth but the wrong year and identifies his father as Avraham. He has three children, all in Israel, who flat out refuse to talk to me - other than to say "We are not from Galicia. We are from Vienna!" If they would talk to me, I would ask about the identity and surname of Avraham, whether there were additional children, when their father came to Israel, what happened to Brane and more.

Be that as it may, the story seems clear. Brane was born in Podwoloczysk, went to Vienna, married Avraham and had a son in 1919.

But the new record in Podwoloczysk throws a monkey wrench into all of that.
On 29 September 1922, a Friday three days before Yom Kippur, in Podwoloczysk Brane Halpern the daughter of Joel Halpern and Chancie Pickholz, married Isak Siegel, the son of Chaim and Hinde Siegel. Brane's birth date is as we know it and Isak is a few months younger. (This is not the Isak Siegel of Bredowicz who is a Pikholz descendant himself.)

There is no mention in the record of her having been married previously or of her living in Vienna.

Perhaps there is an error someplace, though I cannot imagine where it might be. Might Isak and Avraham be the same person with a double name? I doubt it. What else might explain the documents?

Perhaps she didn't live in Vienna but went there to deliver her child, a child who did not have the benefit of married parents. Then she came home, married and returned to Vienna. Perhaps I should be looking in Vienna for Brane and Isak Siegel - maybe with additional children.

Housekeeping notes
I shall be speaking, in Hebrew, for the Rishon LeZion branch of the Israel Genealogical Society on Monday, 14 January at 7 PM at the Rishon LeZion Museum, 2 Ahad Haam Street. This is not a DNA presentation, though there are a few DNA references. The topic is

מֵעֵבֶר לְסָפֵק סָבִיר
מה שיודעים, לעומת מה שאפשר להוכיח
What We Know vs. What We Can Prove

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

A Letter from Soviet Russia - 1930

Souscha Chana (left) and
her step-sister Shayna Liba.
Photo probably from 1906-7.
A few days ago, I discussed a set of letters sent from Russia to Brooklyn New York ninety years ago, one of which described some of the hardships of life in Stalin's Soviet Union. Because of its general interest, I bring the translation here, in full. I am not sure who did the translation, but it was arranged by Cousin Ethel Klavan. I suspect that the translator had some problems with pronouns.

The letter was written by my grandmother's step-sister Sonya (Souscha Chana) Resnikov to her brother Yakov Bandes in Brooklyn. It is not clear where Sonya lived. She was not in Moscow or Penza (where her mother was).
My comments appear as footnotes.

30 September 1930

Dear Brother Yankev,1

May you and your wife and children live and be well!

I don't think it is necessary to tell you what a joy it was to get your letter. I got a letter from our mother which I am sending to you. You should know she keeps waiting to hear from you. If you would see how she looks, you would write to her often, as we do. I write to her twice a week, every week. If you wrote even once a month, it would ease her life in her old age.

Now I'll tell you the journey your letter took. First it went to Moscow to Bome2, as our son is called, and he sent it on to us in an envelope right away. When I wrote to him asking him to inquire at the post office as perhaps the letter had not yet been sent back. You will read the answer in Mother's letter. Now I will tell you why Bome got your letter and not Yoche3. Yoche, as you know, is a doctor. So she was sent away to a village to be a _________ in a sort of ________. One cannot refuse to go if told to. Her husband Monya is now in a "camp." He is an engineer but he is in the military reserve - a reservist commander and must go to a military camp every summer. Bome is in Moscow two years already, where he is a driver. Two years ago he took the examination for the university from which engineers and architects graduate. He passed his examinations but they did not accept him because he is not the son of a worker. Now he is a worker himself so perhaps they will accept him now. Meanwhile he is alone and doesn't have enough to eat. From here we can't send mail during the summer but an acquaintance of ours was going to Moscow so we sent him some food. That is why Mother asks if he received the parcel.

Now about us. We are living in a military area where Shaya4 is serving at this time. I am writing now because I have a chance to send the letter. For two years we really struggled. There were times when there was simply nothing to eat.  But now Shaya gets 100 ruble a month so he gives everyone what they need to buy in our cooperative - so we can live. One pound of meat costs 2 rubles and a pound of butter costs 25 kopecks and a glass of milk costs 20 kopecks and a pound of bread is 40 kopecks. A pair of shoes is 50 ruble. So you can see it is very hard to live but we are not dying of hunger. Bella5 is also serving. She wanted to study music but they had to sell the piano to live so she signed up and earns 30 rubles. So you can see, my dear brother, how it hurts me that my children have to work so hard.. But I hope that the children will still get the opportunity to go to Moscow and study there. Shaya would be able to get 100 rubles in Moscow too, and with Bella's 30 and Bome's 70 - but one room there costs 50 or 70 rubles a month and food also costs money - so they can't manage it. I hope my dear brother, you understand everything I am writing to you. Yoche sends mother 30 rubles. 

Mother writes in her letter that she received money from Bella from her salary. We all send a little. Twice a year Chaim Bentche6 sends $15. You realize she cannot live on that. That is the news here. Thank G-d I have very good children. They understand that they had to work. 

I thank you for your post card photos. If you can send a good photo - where we could see your faces well. It is hard to see the faces on them. One thing that we can see is that the children are tall. May they be well.

Jakov, if you want to send Mother money you should get Mother's address from Chaim Bentche. When he sends, it arrives with no problems. Write either to Mother or to Mera. Check if the money you sent before came back.

We wish all of you stay well. Regards from Shaya and Bella. Why don't you write to your sister? Answer right away. We look forward to getting your letters.

My comments:
The grave of Sonya, her husband & children
1. Yankev is a Yiddish pronunciation of Yaakov (=Jakob).

2. Bome (two syllables) is a common nickname for Avraham, which we know to be Sonya's son's name. He was born about 1911, so is not yet twenty when this was written.

3. I do not know who Yoche is. She is a doctor, as was Mera. And her husband was called Monya, surely a nickname.  Mera's husband is Max. So I thought Yoche must be (somehow!) Mera. But later Sonya mentions Mera by name, so Yoche must be someone else. I have learned that Sonya and Jakob had a sister - maybe that is Yoche. Mera is a half sister to both my grandmother and to Sonya/Jakob. ("Monya" is probably a bad transliteration and should be "Munya.")

4. Sonya's husband is Saveli (=Saul). The translator calls him "Shaya" (=Yeshaya") but looking at the Yiddish I see "Shiya" (=Yehoshua).

5. Bella is Sonya's daughter. Born 1914, so age sixteen when this was written.

6. Chaim Bentche is my grandmother's brother (aka Uncle Hymen), a step-brother of Sonya and Jakob. It is interesting that in discussing money, no one ever mentions either my grandmother Sarah (in Vandergrift PA) or Yenta's husband, Israel David Rosenbloom, who was with her in Penza.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Rosenbloom Envelopes From Penza

Testing artifacts
The age of genetic genealogy has featured two basic verbs - "spit" and "swab." It's how we submit our DNA samples to the testing companies. The two have one thing in common. The subject must be alive, or at least dead-but-not-yet-buried.

We would like to know the DNA of our dead ancestors and several analytical tools have helped with that. I have had success with GEDmatch's Lazarus based on a combination of descendants and non-descendant relatives. Others have phased a missing parent, using children and the available parent. Visual Phasing works out grandparents based on grandchildren. But these are indirect methods that don't produce the full set of chromosomes for the missing ancestor.

The genetic genealogy community has been talking and asking about artifacts almost from the beginning. Grampa's hat has a bit of hair. Can we do anything with that? Only if there are follicles - and it would be a special, expensive project.

But what about that same spit that we already use, if applied to an envelope flap or a stamp. On one hand, this DNA is protected from the elements. On the other hand, how do we even know that the envelope was sealed and stamped by the actual letter writer. More than five years ago, Roberta Estes wrote about her attempts to get DNA from her long-deceased father and serendipitously acquired letters mailed by her grandfather. Roberta writes:
At the time my grandfather mailed those letters to my father, in the 1960s, my grandfather was living alone, so he should have licked the envelope and the stamp himself.
I called Bennett Greenspan at Family Tree DNA.  He referred me to a private lab that “does things like this,” called Trace Genetics.  Before you start googling, the company was subsequently sold and has now been defunct for years.  However, at that time they were doing custom processing of private forensic samples.
Yes, anything like that is considered forensic.  Anything you have to extract DNA from before you can have it processed in a regular lab is forensic work.
So, I got an estimate, took out a loan, and told them to go ahead.  You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.  The cost was in the $2000 range FOR EACH ATTEMPT.  So, we tried the envelope first.  No DNA.  Then we tried the stamp.  We got DNA, but it was female, so we knew it was contaminant DNA.  Think of how many people handle an envelope in the processing and delivery of mail, not to mention all the people who had handled it since.
Then we tried a second envelope.  No dice.
TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS! With less than 50% chance of success! Even if it's the person we think it is. For most of us, that is off the table.

Letters from Penza 
We actually have nine envelopes sent from Penza (Russia) where my great-grandfather lived his last years. Sometime during or (more likely) after the First World War, my great-grandfather and namesake Israel David Rosenbloom left - or was exiled from - Borisov (Barysaw) in today's Belarus and ended up in Penza, 680 miles away. With him were his second wife Yenta and her daughter Sonia (Sousha Chana) Resnikov and her family. The daughter they had together, Mera, was probably with them at first but by 1929, she was a physician living in Moscow. Also in Moscow was Israel David's daughter Alta Kaplan, from his late first wife Etta Bryna.

Israel David and Etta Bryna had two other children in the United States - my grandmother Sarah in Vandergrift Pennsylvania and Chaim Benzion (Uncle Hymen) who lived in Brooklyn. There was correspondence between the family in Russia and the family in the US during the 1920s, but only Uncle Hymen's copies survive.

I have nine envelopes and five letters addressed to Uncle Hymen. Fortunately he opened most of them with a letter opener, so the sealed flaps are largely intact. I scanned the nine envelopes and sent them to a company who offers this service and between three and seven were considered suitable for DNA extraction. The ones I list here as "maybe" were the result of comments like "if this was your only sample for this person we would attempt extraction on it."
Three are considered suitable for DNA extraction. Maybe four others. The identity of Mendel Wolfson is unknown.

There are five letters. I have copies of the Yiddish originals and translations into English of all five. I think that they are numbered in the order they were translated. Translations were done by various people, all arranged and paid for by Uncle Hymen's daughter, Cousin Ethel Klavan.

Letter #1
A six-page letter dated 30 September 1930 and opens "Dear Brother Yankev," so it would have been
Lieber Bruder Yankev
written by the step-daughter Sonia Resnikov. She mentions writing to their mother - whom we know to have been in Penza - so she was elsewhere. We knew that her brother had come to the US but never had much success looking for him. She mentions his wife and children, whom we know nothing about. In any event, this doesn't appear to be from one of the nine envelopes. It is an interesting snapshot of life in Stalin's USSR and perhaps I shall post the translation separately.

I don't know why Uncle Hymen had this letter. Perhaps his step-brother lived with him for a time, though they are not together in the 1930 census. The same census has a Jacob Bandes family living on Eastern Parkway, about two miles away, who may or may not be the step-brother.

Letter #2
"Israel David Rosenbloom" in his own hand?
A two-page letter from Israel David Rosenbloom to his son Uncle Hymen ("Chaim Bentshe"). He mentions that his grandson "Alta's Jakov" visited, met a girl and married her and that they have a daughter, making him a great-grandfather. The implication is that this is the first great-grandchild. This daughter died in childhood, and we do not know exactly when she was born.

The family knows that Jakov's wife Fania Pinskaya was from Penza and this confirms my assumption on how that came about.

Letter #3
A letter that is less than a page and a half in the same handwriting as letter #2. The letter is undated but the translation is stapled to a copy of the December 1928 envelope. I am not sure if that attribution is correct. The letter thanks Uncle Hymen for the $10 that he sent for Passover, eight months earlier than the date on that envelope.

The letter concludes "Regards from Alte and her children. She already has 2 grandchildren from her two sons, both girls." The second granddaughter is still living (in Moscow) and she says that she was born 23 August 1928.
I think the handwriting is the same on all three of these letters.
Letter #4
Lieber Kinder - Dear Children
This two-page letter opens "Dear Children" is specifically signed "Your mother, Yente." It is confusing and that may be the fault of the translator. The date "27th" appears at the top. The handwriting is the same as in letters 2 and 3, so it appears that one of the couple did the writing for both of them.

Letter #5
This two-page letter is definitely from daughter Mera to Uncle Hyman and it is dated 13 October 1929. The translation does not cover the entire letter. Mera thanks him for sending regards with someone named Mendel and that may be the man whose name appears on the last envelope. Mera lived in Moscow, so perhaps none of the envelopes are hers.

The card
There is also a card which records the receipt in Penza of seventy-eight francs on 23 April 1929 by Israel David Rosenbloom. My cousin Katya translated the card and added "due to his illiteracy in accordance to his personal request it is signed by (signature)." The reverse side says that it was sent to my great-grandfather in Penza.

I assume that he may have been illiterate in Russian but surely he read and wrote Yiddish. Katya suggests that perhaps "he decided that in 1929 it was safer to pretend being illiterate." I mention this because it may be relevant to the question who addressed and sealed the Rosenbloom Penza envelopes

totheletter DNA
Recently there have been new developments. Blaine Bettinger blogged about this a few weeks ago and has since revised it with updates. Blaine himself has sent envelopes to an Australian testing company called totheletter DNA. This is the company to whom I showed my nine scans. Their testing process has multiple stages:
  • You send them scans of the front and back of the envelope and they tell you if it appears to be suitable for DNA extraction. That part of the service is free.
  • You place the order for A$781.50 (=US$559.90) and send them the envelope.
  • They attempt to extract DNA, which costs A$140 (=~US$100). That part of the cost is non-refundable, regardless of the results.
  • If the extraction is successful, the actual genotyping costs A$621.50 (~US$445). That is refunded if the extraction is unsuccessful.
  • The last A$20 is for the cost of returning the envelope to the customer.
The company will upload the autosomal results to GEDmatch (Genesis) as part of the service.

(MyHeritage has announced that they will be offering a similar service, but they have not yet said what their prices will be and what exactly they will be offering. Nor are they willing to give a timetable for providing these details.)

The Mission
I would love to try this extraction and genotyping on at least one of the envelopes, but US$560 each is beyond my budget. Perhaps some of my family members would like to step up and help out. I think I would send the three envelopes which they deem "suitable" and let the company itself choose the one that looks the best for a start. If that one shows matches with us - the fifteen tested great-grandchildren - of 600-1000 cM, we would know it is Israel David's DNA. If not, we could consider whether to try another. We have the advantage here of knowing that none of the other of the Penza Rosenblooms (except Mera who lived in Moscow) has any of our Rosenbloom DNA.

The three "suitable" envelopes. One even has a bit of a stamp.
Housekeeping notes
I shall be speaking, in Hebrew, for the Rishon LeZion branch of the Israel Genealogical Society on Monday, 14 January at 7 PM at the Rishon LeZion Museum, 2 Ahad Haam Street. This is not a DNA presentation, though there are a few DNA references. The topic is

מֵעֵבֶר לְסָפֵק סָבִיר
מה שיודעים, לעומת מה שאפשר להוכיח
What We Know vs. What We Can Prove

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Dawid Wolf Pikholz of Rozdol

To mark twenty years of the Pikholz Project - the goal of which is to identify and reconnect all Pikholz descendant wherever they are - let me revisit one of our first records. Because my older self has some things to say to my younger self.

Dawid Wolf and Rachel
Even before I met Ephraim Pickholz and Jacob Laor twenty years ago, they had ordered forty Pikholz birth records from the Lwow archives with the help of Alex Dunai. Those records covered the period 1829-1868. (Alex missed one more that I found later.)

Two of those records appeared to be the same couple, Dawid Wolf Pikholz and his wife Rachel. Their son Josef was born 3 January 1862 in house 222 and Meilech was born 16 December 1864 in house 65. Dawid Wolf's name appears in full on Josef's birth record but on Meilech's he is called "Wolf." There are no other births to this couple through the end of that set.

Much later we learned that Josef had nine children with his wife Beile Gitel Grunwald. The first two married and had children; the eldest, Rachel, has living descendants. The middle five died in childhood and for the last two we have only birth records (1897 and 1899). Josef died at the end of Passover in 1930, still in Rozdol. All we have for Meilech is his birth record.

We do not know when Rachel died, perhaps due to the absence of Rozdol death records before 1877. As Josef's eldest daughter was born in 1883 and carried the name of his mother, it appeared that Dawid Wolf's wife Rachel died sometime between 1864 and 1883, likely earlier than later.

And perhaps more important, we had nothing to indicate Dawid Wolf's parents, though we were only at the beginning of our research and had yet to understand the structure of the Pikholz family that lived in Rozdol.

Dawid Wolf and Feige Leah
Not long after that, Jacob Laor and I began our own project to acquire Pikholz records from the AGAD archives in Warsaw, particularly those from Rozdol and Skalat. Here we find five Rozdol
birth records with the father (Dawid) Wolf Pikholz and the mother Feige (Lea) Dorf or Friedman. The third and fourth died before the age of two. The birth years are from 1874 to 1883. The birth records before 1877 include less information than the later ones.

(The last of these births appears in the JRI-Poland index with the additional surname "Septimus" but I see no basis for this and I assume it is an error. I was not able to find anything that clarifies whether Feige Lea's surname is Dorf or Friedman - probably one is her father and the other her mother.)

Keep in mind that the first of these findings were nearly twenty years ago, well before I began speaking (preaching, even) about not recording conclusions that were not solidified. I made two assumptions - one that the two Dawid Wolfs are the same person with two marriages. The other was that Dawid Wolf - born probably 1840 or so, based the age of his son Josef who was born in 1862 - is the son of Moshe Pikholz and his wife Sara Steg.

Dawid Wolf's parents
Frankly I do not recall why I recorded Dawid Wolf as the son of Moshe and Sara. I may have noted that someplace. One of their descendants, Dina Ostrower, told me that they had ten children who reached adulthood and with Dawid Wolf, I had those accounted for. I have approximate birth years for some of those ten based on their death records - Fischel 1842, Gittel 1847, Josef and Perla 1854. I have recorded Dawid Wolf as the eldest.

I do not have birth or death records for Moshe and Sara, so I have no birth years or ages. Moshe's father Israel Yoel was born about 1807 and Sara's father the Rav of Skole was born about 1899. I do not know their mothers' ages. When Fischel was born about 1842, his grandfather Israel Yoel was thirty-five. That is a stretch but possible. An older brother - not so much.

But in my defense, I did not have all those dates when I recorded Dawid Wolf's parents as Moshe. And I had not yet formulated my policy of not recording what I was not sure of. I had not yet realized that once I record something, I will not revisit it unless forced to and my research heirs will likely never review it at all. This policy is the essence of my presentation "BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT - WHAT WE KNOW vs. WHAT WE CAN PROVE" which I will presenting in a few weeks in Rishon LeZion.

In the most recent batch of Rozdol records, the matter became settled.

Dawid Wolf Pikholz died on 20 January 1904 at age 64, so was probably born in 1839. His parents are clearly identified, not as Moshe and Sara but Israel Yoel and Jutte Chana, his supposed grandparents. He was not his parents' eldest but probably his parents' second youngest, followed by Juda Gershon (1842) who became the longtime rav of Lysiec. In truth, it makes much more sense. It moves his Chicago and Israeli descendants up one generation.

This leaves me two tasks. One is to make revisions to the Pikholz Project website. We'll see when I get to that. The other is Dina Ostrower's testimony that Moshe and Sara had ten children. Now I have only nine and I shall have to consider whether one of the unconnected Rozdol families fits in as the tenth.

Housekeeping notes
I shall be speaking, in Hebrew, for the Rishon LeZion branch of the Israel Genealogical Society on Monday, 14 January at 7 PM at the Rishon LeZion Museum, 2 Ahad Haam Street. This is not a DNA presentation, though there are a few DNA references. The topic is

מֵעֵבֶר לְסָפֵק סָבִיר
מה שיודעים, לעומת מה שאפשר להוכיח
What We Know vs. What We Can Prove

Thursday, November 29, 2018

When GEDmatch and The Testing Company Are Far Apart

I have autosomal DNA tests with four companies. I am not going to say which one this refers to. They can all say "This isn't us. Must be someone else."

When you test with the DNA companies, you know that you will have matches available to you. Some send you notices, some do not but allow you to look for yourself. When I see such matches for my own test results, I contact the owner of the matching kit and ask if the kit is on GEDmatch. That would give me a possibility to see who else in my family matches this kit. Is this new match on my father's side or my mother's side. Which grandparent or great-grandparent? The Hungarians, the Slovakians, the Galicianers or the Russians.

Some of these new matches reply, some do not. When they do, I take their GEDmatch kit and see how it lines up with my family. Usually nothing comes of it, but sometimes we get some sense of geography, if not specific family connections.

But sometimes the match does not show up on GEDmatch at all. And this problem is very common - perhaps 30% of the time - with one particular company. I have lost count of how many times I have written:
Unfortunately, despite what the company says, GEDmatch does not show a match with me at all. Or my brother. Or my sisters. Or my father's sister and brother. Or my first cousins.
Here is a recent example. The company labelled the match as a suggested "second cousin to fifth cousin." They said that we had shared 70.5 cM spread across nine segments, with the longest 13.5 cM. It looked worth an inquiry, though not particularly promising.

I wrote to the man and his wife came back to me with his GEDmatch number. I looked at his GEDmatch results andand I was nowhere on his one-to many. I tried on the Tier1 one-to-many, searching all his matches, not just the 2000 that is the GEDmatch limit. And there I was. A match with a total of 18.5 cM and a longest segment of 11.2 cM. There were only two segments.

I dropped the search threshold to 3 cM and found our match with four more small segments bringing the total to 32.5 cM. This is less than half of what the company showed. And the company's longest segment is 13.5 cM while GEDmatch shows only 11.2 cM.

But it gets worse.

The longest segment on GEDmatch is on chromosome 7, a segment where the company shows only 6.0 cM.  The company's longest segment is on chromosome 15; GEDmatch has nothing at all on chromosome 15.

In total, GEDmatch has six segments to the company's nine. Most of those segments are on different chromosomes entirely.

We know that there is much to be done as DNA for genealogy emerges from its infancy. Basic consistency would be a good place to start.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Cheryl - A GEDmatch Case Study - Part Two

Cheryl matches my families
A few days ago, I wrote about my neighbor Eric whose wife Cheryl has a promising match on GEDmatch with a Skalat Pikholz descendant named Gene. Aside from Gene, Cheryl has a number of other matches with my families.

There are five segments of interest, none very close, but together they may be useful, both for Cheryl herself and as examples of how to use GEDmatch.

Eric was here for a little over an hour, so after we looked at Gene, we went straight to the old reliable one-to-many search which looks at Cheryl's top 2000 matches. I was looking for segments of ten or more centiMorgans where Cheryl has multiple matches in my families. Segments smaller than ten cM may be real, but are certainly too far away to be useful for families such as ours where we have few surnames or records before 1800. And I use multiple matches because I want some evidence that the match is from "our side" and not from the other side of some second, third or fourth cousin.

The five segments of interest
On chromosome 1, Cheryl has about 11 cM with Aunt Betty and Uncle Bob, my father's sister and brother. This is not a large segment and we cannot tell whether this is on my grandfather's side or my grandmother's. And given that, the common ancestor probably lived well before 1800.

On chromosome 5, Cheryl matches my brother, one of my sisters and me on a segment of 10.7 cM. No cousins on either side, so this match could come from anywhere. And it is not large.

On chromosome 9, Cheryl matches my brother, three of my sisters, me and my second cousin Roz, on my father's father's side, with a segment of about 12 cM, plus a nearly-adjacent segment of about 5.6 cM. We all match each other, so we have triangulation. So this segment comes from either my grandfather's Pikholz father or his Kwoczka/Pollak mother, all from the Tarnopol area of east Galicia.

On chromosome 11, Cheryl has a segment of about 15 cM with two of my second cousins on my mother's side. One is Beth, whose grandfather is my grandmother's brother and one is Liya whose grandmother is my grandmother's sister. They match each other, so we have triangulation. My grandmother's descendants do not appear here, nor do Beth and Liya's two first cousins. Is there something here? Maybe. But we have only one surname in my grandmother's family - Rosenbloom from Borisov in Belarus.

Finally, on the X, Cheryl has 20.5 cM with Aunt Betty and 14.9 cM on the same segment with my cousin Roz. They triangulate, so this is a real match. Aunt Betty could not have gotten the X from her father's father and Roz would not be expected to match Aunt Betty's mother, so the match must be from the Kwoczka/Pollak side. We cannot know if it is from the same common ancestor as the segment on chromosome 9, but the possibility is intriguing.

Digging deeper with a better way
At this point, my discussion of last week on the GEDmatch Tier1 one-to-one kicks in. I told Eric that after he signs up for Tier1, he should see if any of Cheryl's matches beyond the initial 2000 can tell us more about these five segments.

But there is a better way. GEDmatch has a tool called "Multiple Kit Analysis." It is marked as NEW, but it has been around for quite awhile. And it is not a Tier1 tool, so it is freely available.

In the Multiple Kit Analysis there are two tabs. Choose the one on the right: "Manual Kit Selection/Entry." If I enter Cheryl's GEDmatch kit in the first box ("Kit 1"), I can compare her to all the kits I enter in the subsequent boxes, whether or not they are in Cheryl's first 2000 matches. For instance, if I enter all the kits from my mother's side, I can see if anyone besides Beth and Liya match Cheryl on the segment on chromosome 11. But entering all those kits by hand is tedious and prone to error. Here I have a short cut that Eric cannot use without knowing the GEDmatch numbers for all my relevant kits.

I use a free program called ShortKeys which I have set up to fill out this form for each of my families. When I did that for my Borisov family (the ShortKey code includes many Borisov residents who are not specifically related to me), I got one more second cousin on the segment with Beth and Liya - Liya's first cousin Lydia. This strengthens this segment as a useful connection between Cheryl and my grandmother's family beyond what we had on the basic one-to-many. Eric could have done this using the Tier1 one-to-many but I find this easier for matches with my families.
Cheryl matches Beth, Lydia and Liya together
That same search gave me another bit of information regarding my mother's side. On chromosome 5, we see the three 10.7 cM matches that I mentioned above - my brother, one sister and me. But we also have 12 cM with my first cousin Mike (line 5), on my mother's side. He triangulates with us here, so this is real.

There are no second cousins on the segment so we don't know which of my mother's sides is represented here.

Uncle Bob, Aunt Betty and Pinchas
line up together on chromosome 1
I also did the Multiple Kit Analysis for the other three segments - the ones that show matches between Cheryl and my father's side. On chromosome 1, where Cheryl's one-to-many showed a match with Aunt Betty and Uncle Bob, the Multiple Kit Analysis gave us one more name: my third cousin Pinchas. Pinchas' great-grandfather is the brother of my great-grandmother Jutte Leah Kwoczka, whose mother is a Pollak.

This match triangulates so it clearly comes from the Kwoczka/Pollak side - not Pikholz and not my grandmother's Hungarian/Slovakian families.

Chromosome 9 showed us nothing new, so we have only the original matches with my second cousin Roz. Maybe Pikholz, maybe Kwoczka/Pollak.
Five of my parents' children and our second cousin Roz (on line 6). Not large but definitely my father's father's side.

Chromosome 23, the X, gave us two new matches - Rhoda and Terry.
The two large yellow matches (20.5 cM) are Aunt Betty and Roz' first cousin Rhoda. The first green match is my second cousin Terry, with 15.2 cM. The second green match is Roz, with 14.9 cM. They all triangulate. This is clearly a Kwoczka/Pollak match.

This X match and the Kwoczka/Pollak match on chromosome 1 may or may not be from the same ancestral source.

The ball is now in Eric's court. He can do Matching Segments and write to others who share these matches. But perhaps more important, he can get some of Cheryl's first and second cousins to test, so he can see which of Cheryl's ancestors provided these segments.

When he comes back to me, I'll report it here.

Housekeeping notes
I shall be speaking, in Hebrew, for the Rishon LeZion branch of the Israel Genealogical Society on Monday, 14 January at 7 PM at the Rishon LeZion Museum, 2 Ahad Haam Street. This is not a DNA presentation, though there are a few DNA references. The topic is

מֵעֵבֶר לְסָפֵק סָבִיר
מה שיודעים, לעומת מה שאפשר להוכיח
What We Know vs. What We Can Prove

Monday, November 26, 2018

Cheryl - A GEDmatch Case Study - Part One

I see many people - both on Facebook and in personal correspondence - who have no idea what to do with GEDmatch matches or even if the whole GEDmatch experience is worthwhile. So here is the beginning of a case study.

Yesterday morning I received an inquiry from Eric, a  fellow here in the neighborhood. His wife Cheryl had just done a Family Finder test and he had uploaded the results to GEDmatch. It seems that one of her top matches is with someone in my Pikholz Project who appears on the GEDmatch one-to-one with a match of 124 cM and a longest segment of 40.5 cM. Eric wanted to know how this match sounds to me.

A single segment of 40 cM looks like a third cousin or closer - maybe a fourth. In any case, probably not something from the 1700s. In a word, promising.

I had a look and saw that this particular match is a Pikholz descendant from Skalat, a man named Gene whose mother is descended from Berl Pikholz (~1789-1877). Berl's precise relationship to the other Pikholz Skalat families of that period is unclear and there is no one to test for Y-DNA. Gene has Pikholz third cousins who have tested and his kit is managed by a cousin on his father's side. My obvious first suggestion was that Eric contact Gene's cousin (whose email appears on Gene's FTDNA kit).

Then I had a look. First of all, Gene is Cheryl's fourteenth best match on GEDmatch, though it is not obvious why the other thirteen are better matches.

I sorted on the "Longest cM" column and Gene is Cheryl's third longest matching segment.

I assumed that the other 84 cM in Cheryl's match with Gene is made up of  many small segments so I did a one-to-one between Cheryl and Gene . I was surprised to see that this showed only four segments, including one of 24 cM.

(The total is different - 89.7 cM as opposed to 124 cM - because one-to-many uses segments smaller that one-to-one. Perhaps the thirteen "better matches" don't have so many of these small segments.)

This looked promising, even though I could not tell if these four segments represent one, two, three or four different common ancestors. I also looked at Cheryl's other matches to my families and saw some of interest. I suggested that Eric come over so I could show him how I think he should proceed. He came later that day.

Although he is a regular reader of my blog, this was Eric's first hands-on interaction with GEDmatch's Tier1. We looked at Cheryl's matches on chromosome 22 using the Matching Segments tool, with the minimum set to 12 cM.

There are eleven kits which match Cheryl on parts of the segment she shares with Gene. (Gene is far and away her largest match.) They don't necessarily all match Gene, as some may match Cheryl's mother with others matching her father - and we have no idea which side Gene is on. I left it to Eric to triangulate to see which of the eleven match both Cheryl AND Gene. (One of those eleven is my father's cousin Shabtai and his kit does triangulate.)

Those eleven kits are listed with names and contact emails and I suggested to Eric that he contact at least the ones that triangulate. But first we did Matching Segments again, this time for the 24.3 cM segment on chromosome 2.

Here Cheryl has many more matches. What I wanted to see is whether any of the people she matches on chromosome 22 also match her on chromosome 2. That would hint  at the common ancestor being the same as on chromosome 22. There are none - at least not with 12 cM or more.

I left it to Eric to look at smaller matches as well as the matter of triangulation. I also left it to Eric to look at Cheryl's matches with Gene on chromosomes 8 (10.7 cM) and 15 (14.4 cM) in the same matter. To see if  any of them are the same people as those on chromosomes 2 or 22.

I suggested he do all this before contacting Gene's cousin - the one who manages his kit. My suspicion is that the cousin cannot help much with this, as he himself does not seem to appear among Cheryl's matches.

As a matter of due diligence, we also looked at Cheryl's matches with one of Gene's Pikholz third
cousins who shows up with a small match on the Cheryl's one-to-many. The third cousin indeed shows up with 5.5 cM on Cheryl's segment with Gene on chromosome 2 but the segment does not triangulate, so this is not meaningful.

This is meant to be a series, so I expect to be back with the results of Eric's efforts. I  also will have some things to say about Cheryl's matches with the rest of my family, perhaps later this week.

Housekeeping notes
With the help of my Russian-speaking colleague Galit, we have ordered a test from FTDNA during their current $39 sale, for a Pikholz descendant in St. Petersburg. He is a nephew of one of our mystery Pikholz descendants whose DNA results raised more questions than it answered.

We may have a second new one as well.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

(These) GEDmatch Inconsistencies - SOLVED

The problem
Last week I reported in this space about a problem I was having with GEDmatch. A match named Lauren had eleven matches with my families (using the one-to-many search) which her father George did not share, but were definitely not from her mother. When I dug deeper, I saw that George in fact matched all eleven when I used the one-to-one search.

I sent a link to that blog to the GEDmatch team and gave them the relevant kit numbers. Since then, I have been going back and forth with John Olson and I am pleased to report that we have a solution which John asked me to pass on to my readers.

How the basic one-to-many works
As we know, most of us endogamous folk have a few tens of thousands of matches on GEDmatch, but they only show the first 2000. (Early GEDmatch showed only 1500 matches, which proved inadequate.) "First" in this case means the lowest numbers in the "autosomal generations" column, which is the default sorting key. Other matches are available on the one-to-one searches, but when you manage a large number of kits, as I do, looking for those one-to-ones is not practical.

Most of my kits are given a name beginning with "*0Pikh..." so they will all sort together, near the top and I had always understood that when I sorted on the name column, they would show the first 2000 names from the entire match list. It turns out that this is not the case. The first 2000 matches are fixed and any sorting works only within that set of matches.

In this specific case, George's first 2000 matches go up to 3.9 generations while Lauren's go up to 4.5 generations.

Here are the last four matches of each of them:

George's matches with the eleven "missing" kits are all further than the last of the 3.9 generations that are displayed.

This may be a problem peculiar to endogamous populations where the number of matches is huge. Perhaps non-endogamous populations will have in their first 2000, matches that go to 5.0 generations or more.

And George may have more matches under 4.0 than most endogamous kits. But I see that I also go up to 3.9 generations and my two first cousins (not siblings) with one Jewish parent, both go to 4.4 generations. Frankly, 3.9 generations is not enough, nor is 4.4, so we need a way to enlarge the match list.

The solution
The way to solve this is by using the Tier1 one-to-many. Tier1 is a set of seven (at last count) GEDmatch tools which are available to those who make a donation to GEDmatch. This is not a subscription. You can do a single month for $10 each time you need it. (I think they deserve ten dollars a month just on general principle so am always signed in to Tier1.)

The Tier1 one-to-many gives you a choice among seven match limits, from a low of 500 up to 100,000. Both George and I have bit more than 40,000. My two first cousins with one non-Jewish parent have about 29,000 and 33,500 total matches. And it covers all the matches, with the same sorting capacity that I have gotten used to.

The 100,000 match limit search took me less than a minute, so it's not terribly burdensome.

So henceforth all my one-to-many searches will be with Tier1.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

GEDmatch Inconsistencies

MyHeritage and George
Every Sunday, I receive a notice of up to ten matches from MyHeritage. I write to the matches and ask them if they have GEDmatch numbers, so I can do a proper comparison with my whole family set. Last Sunday, one of my matches was with George.

A second-fifth cousin, with 83.8 cM and a longest segment of 21.2 cM
His daughter Lauren responded and gave me the GEDmatch numbers for her father and herself. I went to GEDmatch to see the match and to see who else in my family George matches - which parent, which grandparent, etc. I started with a one-to-one - just George and me.
Nothing at all over 7 cM. Certainly no longest segment of 21.2 cM.

This itself was no surprise. There are a few like this from MyHeritage every week. False match alerts.

Nonetheless I compared him to the rest of my family kits, using the one-to-many function. There were thirty-seven matches across my related families. But not my brother or my sisters. He matches my father's sister and her son but not my father's brother. Or any of my other first cousins. No second cousins on my father's side and four on my mother's side. And he matches a few more distant Pikholz descendants, both from Skalat and from Rozdol..

I ran the "new" one-to-one on Tier1 using the 5000-match threshold and it gave me the same thirty-seven matches.

GEDmatch and Lauren
While I was looking, I compared Lauren to my family kits on a GEDmatch one-to many. She has thirty-five matches with my group, including eleven matches that George does not have. Those eleven are three Pikholz descendants from Rozdol who are not particularly close to one another, my brother, my sisters Judith and Amy, Judith's son and her late twin's son and three other Skalat Pikholz descendants whose connection to me is unclear.

The >10 cM matches with my brother, sisters and one nephew are all on one segment, on the right side of chromosome 6. (My father's sister is on that same segment.) The others are all scattered. But the numbers for the group of eleven are not insignificant.

I figured that Lauren must have gotten those from her mother, so I looked at her mother's GEDmatch. There was one small, obscure match with someone who has nothng much to do with any of us. Lauren matches both of her own parents as expected, so where did she get these eleven matches?

One-to-one with George
I learned some time ago that occasionally a match with a single segment will not show up on the GEDmatch one-to many but will show up on the one-to-one.

So I looked at George's one-to-one matches with each of the eleven.

George - who has as expected, the same four matches on chromosome 6 as does Lauren - matches all eleven of Lauren's matches, even though GEDmatch does not show them on George's one-to-many.

This is not good.
This is not right

On one level, it is a question that I would like GEDmatch to address. Quickly.

But more importantly, at least for now, is that it is a phenomenon that we researchers have to be aware of. There are meaningful matches that show up on the one-to-one that do not show up on the one-to-many - not the old reliable version and not the new, improved Tier1 version.

Housekeeping notes
I shall be speaking, in Hebrew, for the Rishon LeZion branch of the Israel Genealogical Society on Monday, 14 January at 7 PM at the Rishon LeZion Museum, 2 Ahad Haam Street. This is not a DNA presentation, though there are a few DNA references. The topic is
מֵעֵבֶר לְסָפֵק סָבִיר
מה שיודעים, לעומת מה שאפשר להוכיח

What We Know vs. What We Can Prove

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Reviewing Endogamy - What Does it Mean?

But First Things First
This is Pittsburgh. 

Yet, evenso, somehow we always come back to the yellow Star of David.

(When my parents brought me home from the hospital, we lived half a block down Shady Avenue. Later, from when I entered second grade, we lived fifteen years about two minutes walk away from the Tree of Life.)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Why endogamy is different
We have been throwing around the word "endogamy" for some years now. Most people understand in a general sense that it means all Jews (as well as members of similar populations) are related to each other multiple ways and that we have tons of "matches" that are virtually meaningless, but not everyone understands how that translates to individual DNA matches.

A few days ago, someone asked me what I thought of this match, which comes from the GEDmatch on-to-one search.

The total of 118.3 cM looks nice. The typical non-Jew looks at Blaine Bettinger's Shared cM Project, sees:

...and says "This looks like Cluster #6 and the match is probably a half second cousin or a second cousin once removed." I have heard lecturers and read bloggers who say exactly that.

And I sit in the audience or at my desk and laugh at the simplicity of DNA in the non-Jewish world. This kind of thing is meaningless to Jews and Jews who use the Shared cM Project in this way, miss the point of the match.

We are related to each other in multiple ways. The matching 27.4 cM segment on chromosome 3 and the matching 39.6 cM segment on chromosome 18 may be from different ancestors. Perhaps one on the father's side and one on the mother's. Perhaps both from the same parent and grandparent but from different great-grandparents. Maybe even further back.

If the first three segments all come from one ancestor and the last three all come from another, Shared cM would say the two testers are third cousins twice removed (or 2C2R, etc) as in Cluster #7.

But, of course, the six matching segments could come from four or five or six different ancestors, none as close as third cousins and most much further.

Matching Ed
Michelle's father and Ed
Case in point, fresh in my memory. A couple of weeks ago, I received an inquiry from a woman named Michelle whose father matches my cousin Ed on four segments. She was asking me for information about his family.

GEDmatch said that they have 84.3 cM in common and that the estimated number of generations to the Most Recent Common Ancestor is 3.7. But that includes segments as small as 5 cM. Using segments over 7 cM produces only 58.9 cM and an estimated MRCA at 4.0 generations.

Ed's mother has tested and Michelle didn't mention matches with her, so it appeared that at least some of this match would have to be from Ed's father - who has no interest in any of this genealogy stuff.

Michelle's father and Ed's mother
It turns out that Michelle's father matches Ed's mother on only one of those four segments - the one on chromosome 9 - but she also has a nice segment of 15.3 cM on chromosome 1 with Ed's mother.

So about sixty-eight percent of Michelle's father with Ed is through his father. And since we have no testing for Ed's father's family, we cannot know how many ancestors are represented by the three segments with an (unimpressive!) total of 41 cM.

When I looked more deeply into the segments that Michelle's father has with Ed's mother on chromosomes 1 and 9, I see that both segments show multiple matches with descendants of my great-grandparents.

On chromosome 1, there are three matches of 12-16 cM and on chromosome 9 there are five matches of 14-19 cM. In each case there is also one descendant of my great-grandmother's two brothers - one from her brother Pinchas on chromosome 1 (~11 cM) and one from her brother Rachmiel on chromosome 9 (20 cM). In addition there is are small segments (<6 cM) with descendants of the opposite brother on each of the two segments.

So both these segments came from one or the other of the parents of my great-grandmother Jute Leah Kwoczka of Zalosce. Are they from the same Kwoczka/Pollak ancestor? Who knows!

(The segment on chromosome 15 has several cousins, including one with >12 cM - but there are no descendants of the Kwoczka brothers, so this may be a Pikholz segment. Or it may be Kwoczka.)

In short, what appears to the non-endogamous eye to have been a third cousin match between Michelle's father and Ed is no such thing. It is composed of multiple common ancestors, more distant than four generations, one both his father's and mother's sides.

This is endogamy and this is its challenge.

While we are remembering
This evening, 20 Heshvan, is the twenty-sixth yahrzeit for my mother's sister, Aunt Sadie Gordon. This was her letter home, published in Pittsburgh's Jewish Criterion in 1943.