Sunday, March 18, 2018

I Have Never Seen A Record Like This

A few days ago, a girl from my high school class came to visit. Well, not just visit. She is going to see her brother and cousin in the US next week and wanted to bring them new information on her parents' families. This was my third inquiry from a high school classmate in the past month.

Her parents were older Holocaust survivors, with all that implies. Her father and his first wife were born in Pohorylce, in the Glinyani district of east Galicia (Tarnopol Province). Her mother was from a small village near Peremyshlyany, only a few miles away. We spent most of our time on her father's family and we found many documents in JRI-Poland, showing a large and heavily endogamous family.

Her father was born in 1900 and most of our searches were concentrated on the late 1890s and the following decade. (The Social Security Death Index has his birth nearly a full year later than the birth record that we found.)

As Galicia researchers know all too well, post-1876 birth records name the mother and her parents and usually the father, but never the father's parents. This makes it much more difficult to determine if, for instance, two males with the same surname are father-son, brothers, or perhaps cousins, uncle-nephew or something else. We do not have this problem with women, at least not to this degree.

In most of the records I have seen, the mother's parents are listed but with only the dominant surname. I have seen exceptions to that in Lwow, where the mother's parents are named, each by full birth name.

Peretz (aka Piotr) was born on 1891 to Blime Pikholz and Abraham Brandes. Blime's parents are identified as Perec Pikholz and Perl Nagler of Skalat. This is the only record we have which shows Perl's birth surname. Peretz is the only one born in Lwow.

But this is old news.

This week I saw something new.

In going through the JRI-Poland search results, we found the 1901 birth of her father's first cousin Chajm Moshe Baum, a name she knew. His father is Samuel Baum, the brother of her paternal grandmother after whom she herself is named. (Her own father is also Chaim Moshe.) The birth record names young Chajm Moshe's mother as Lea Weiz.

The record names the mother Lea Weiz and the father as Samuel Baum and adds the grandparents Chajm Moses and Fraide Baum. Not Weiz, the mother, but Baum, the father. And this is not an error, for my friend knows her grandmother to be the sister of Samuel Baum and knows her grandmother's parents to be Chaim Moshe and Fraide.

I have no idea why this was recorded like this. It was not like this on the other records we looked at from the same town in the same period. I am not inclined to examine additional records to see whether this is a unique record in that respect - I expect it is not. Why should it be? But then, why should it be at all?

In any case, it is a reminder to all of us to check all the family records, not just the index entries and not just a few representative family records. You never know until you look, what new information appears someplace where it shouldn't be.

Housekeeping notes
Friday morning I posted the following on Facebook.
I awoke this morning to find a notice from Mark Halpern that it is time to do more fundraising for indexing of AGAD records for JRI-Poland.
Even with all my DNA work and blogging, nothing energizes me more than new records from my main towns of interest.
The towns for which I am responsible which have new records are Rozdol, Skalat, Komarno, Skole, Zbarazh and Zalosce. The records include deaths, births and many more marriages than we are used to seeing. The Rozdol records include deaths for 1898-1914, some of which I have been looking forward to for at least fifteen years.

As more modern records become available, the fundraising becomes more difficult because people are less interested in what happened after their own (great-)grandparents left for greener pastures. On the other hand, I have found that the Excel files that donors receive are more important as married daughters bring new surnames into our families.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Nine Matching Segments With Tara

Tara (again)
I have discussed Tara's matches with my families here and here, but there have been some changes in the GEDmatch results and in any case, I'd like to develop and summarize it all in one place.

Tara approached me last summer with a match of 70 cM on chromosome 3 with my father's late first cousin Herb and a set of other family members within that large segment. This is a remarkably large segment with a total stranger.

Subsequently, I found three others in my family on that segment, but the GEDmatch "one-to-many" search does not see them. Those three are my fourth cousins Anna and David (half-siblings) and my third cousin Joe.

In the meantime, Tara's mother and her paternal grandmother have also tested, so we can see from whom Tara received her matching segments. Let's look at them one at a time.

Chromosome 3 (left)
It's a small segment and normally I wouldn't bother mentioning it, but it's right here in front of me. The five blue segments are my parents' children and the 12.5 cM green segment is my half second cousin Fred. The triangulation is good. So while this is not a large match, it does point someplace fairly specific - my Rosenzweig/Zelinka side from Trencin County Slovakia.

Tara's mother has this same segment. Her family lived in Romania - not close but not far. In any case, it is clearly not from a recent common ancestor.

Chromosome 3 (right)
Most of my family matches on this large segment are from Tara's mother. None are from her paternal grandmother. Vladimir and my third cousin Joe match neither, so must be from Tara's paternal grandfather. (Joe's segment is a bit to the left of Vladimir's, so they may come from different ancestors.)

The matches who show up on the one-to-many are all descendants of my great-grandparents so the common ancestor could be upstream from either the Kwoczkas or the Pikholzes. But when we add in Anna and David, we lose the Kwoczka option. So the common ancestor with Tara's mother feeds through my third-great-grandparents Izak Josef Pikholz and his wife Rojse, whose surname is unknown.

According to the "Matching Segments" tool at GEDmatch, there are eight kits that match both Tara's mother and my cousin Herb and are greater than 12 cM. Two are 12.7 cM and two (with a joint email) are 15.6 cM. The other four are in the 18-23 cM range and I have written them all. Maybe something will come of that.

Chromosome 6
The two matches on this nearly 11 cM segment belong to Steve and his cousin Jen. There are a few other smaller segments with these two matches. Steve wrote about his family recently and it seems to me that this match is on Steve's Werfel side. We know nothing about them except that they lived in east Galicia.

Tara received this segment from her mother.

Chromosome 8
This is a 13.3 cM segment. Lines 1,2 and 5 are my sisters and line 4 is my brother. Line 3 is my first cousin Kay on my mother's side. None of my second cousins on either side have this segment, so I cannot be more specific. The geography is Belarus/Lithuania.

Tara received this segment from her paternal grandmother.

Chromosome 23 (left)
These X segments are two of my sisters and me. The largest of the three is just over 16 cM. Since I get no X from my father, this must be on my mother's side. But with no second cousins, we cannot be more specific than that.

Tara received this segment from her mother. Her family lived in Romania and my mother's in Belarus and Lithuania, so this is likely very far back.

Chromosome 23 (right)
Lines 1 and 3 of this 11 cM segment are my sisters and line 4 is my cousin Kay, so all we get from that is that it's my mother's side. However another match in the same place shows up only on a one-to-one search.

That would be my second cousin Ruth, on my grandfather's side. So we know that on my side this is Gordon or Kugel. From Tara's side, this is her paternal grandmother.
Ruth has done a full MtDNA test, so we know that our great-grandmother Chana Kugel's haplogroup is R01a. I have suggested to Tara that she have her grandmother do a full MtDNA test.

Three more matches
The title of this blog refers to nine segments and I have summarized six. The other three are from Tara's grandmother but did not come down to Tara.

The five matches on the left are nearly 11 cM. The first of the five is my second cousin Terry on my Pikholz/Kwoczka side; the other four are two of my sisters, my brother and me. It probably represents a fairly distant common ancestor.
The four matches on the right are my second cousins Sam and Beth and my first cousins Kay and Leonard. Sam and Beth are first cousins, as are Kay and Leonard. Sam's segment is over 16 cM. This is a Rosenbloom segment, from Borisov Belarus, further back than our information. We know no other surnames in my maternal grandmother's family.

The last matching segment is on chromosome 12 and the five matches are between 9.4 and 10.5 cM. The problem is that they are all children of my parents. No cousins of any sort. So there is nothing we can do with that.

Housekeeping notes
I am still waiting on details for my presentations in St. Louis and Kansas City. 

There may be a third venue as well. Unfortunately it will not be Pittsburgh, even though I plan to be there anyway.

30 April 2018 – Jewish SIG of the St. Louis Genealogical Society,
Place, time and topic to be announced

2 May 2018 – Jewish Genealogical Society of Kansas City, Johnson County Central Resource Library, Carmack Room, 9875 West 87th Street, Overland Park Kansas
4:45 – Topic to be announced
6:30 – Additional topic to be announced

Monday, March 5, 2018

"The Company" - A Vent

The Company
Most of the 120-plus DNA kits in which I have a hand were done with Family Tree DNA, but I myself have tests with several other companies, as well. This bit of venting refers to one of these, which I shall call simply The Company.

Despite its excellent reputation, I have never found The Company to be particularly user-friendly. That would be an understatement.

They do send out announcements about my autosomal DNA matches but not in a form that I have found useful. So I decided to write to each and every one (using ShortKeys) on The Company response form as follows:
[The Company] says we are a DNA match. I don't put much stock in these automatic notifications - certainly not in their supposed precision - but occasionally they get something right.

If you have uploaded your results to GEDmatch, I'll be happy to compare your kit to my 110+ family kits even though I see no obvious connection.

I prefer correspondence by email rather than on [The Company]'s form and you can find me at .

Thank you.

Israel Pickholtz
I get a range of responses. Some send me their GEDmatch numbers or ask what GEDmatch is and how to register with them. I check these out and advise the matches what family directions we seem to match. None has really been identified to date.  

In some cases, GEDmatch does not even recognize us as a match, The Company's notice notwithstanding.

Some matches engage me in correspondence about surnames and geography, which either does or does not end with a GEDmatch analysis.

Some do not reply at all.

Of those who do reply, almost all do so on The Company's form, not by email so I do not actually hold the correspondence "in my hand."

So far so good, I suppose. (One of the side effects of inquiries based on automated notifications is that I keep redefining "so far, so good" to a lower bar, as time goes on.)

We have a problem
But now The Company has, as they say, jumped the shark*. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote to two matches, who wrote back using The Company's form. At least that what The Company told me when they wrote me "Dear Israel" emails with links to the responses. But when I follow the links, I get a notice that there has been an error.

The error page has a link for a "new message" and I figured I would use that to ask the match to write to me by email, but The Company does not allow me to actually write a new message on their New Message form.

They have a link to their Support Center, where they welcome me as someone else entirely. Someone I know. Someone who has not done any testing with The Company at all. There is no place on the Support Center site where I can ask for actual help, but I did get to a phone number from the "Contact us" link. The phone number brings up an automated response which advises me that they will not let me talk with a person or even leave a message. Franz Kafka in the flesh!

As it happens, I know someone at The Company, but he was not able to help either. And it is not his job to do so.

Then it gets worse
Earlier this week The Company notified me of additional matches in their usual "Dear Israel" letter. They know my name and they know my email address. I followed the link to the supposed match and I am greeted with a name that is not my own but belongs to the "someone else entirely" I mentioned above. Someone who has no DNA with The Company.

I was not able to reboot by logging out and logging in again - but then I never logged in to begin with. I just followed the link that The Company sent me.

I don't think they really want me as a customer.

* I have never used the term "jumped the shark" before and I hope I used it correctly here.