For several years now, I have been giving a presentation which includes the statement
Because once I, the family expert,
write it down, will it ever
be seriously re-examined?
If I say something is so, will my research heirs question my decision - if indeed they ever see it as a decision? Will even I myself reconsider it without some new overwhelming piece of evidence?
One of the first things I decided to check out when I began working with this new-fangled DNA thingee was the matter of the four Pikholz descendants who lived in Podolia, outside our usual east Galicia. The four - Necha, Moses, Chaim and Yakov - all appeared to have been born 1868-1878 and I had the feeling they might be siblings.
Moses, from Nemerow, boarded a ship in Hamburg bound for New York via Liverpool. That is the last we see of him. We never even see him arriving in either port. Or any other.
Necha, also from Nemerow, married Ruben Rechister of nearby Braclav and they emigrated to the US where she was known as Nellie Rochester. The Rochesters lived for about twenty years in Kansas City then most of the family moved on to California.
Chaim lived in nearby Tetiev where he and his family were killed in a pogrom in 1919.
Yakov was born in 1878 in Tulcin and has a living grandson who immigrated to Israel from Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. We actually have Yakov's birth record which shows his father as Mikhail the son of Mordecai.
I had two non-competinng theories about who these people were. First the obvious possibility that the four are siblings. Second, we have a known Mordecai Pikholz born about 1805 in Skalat and it appeared to me that Yakov's grandfather is likely this same Mordecai.
Testing the theories
So after my "Immediate and Stunning Success
" as outlined in Charper One of my book "ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People
", I decided that I could test both theories using DNA. I could not test any descendants of Moses or Chaim, but I was in contact with Yakov's grandson and some of the great-grandchildren of Necha, whom I suspected were second cousins once removed to Yakov's grandson.
Second cousin once removed is eminently testable using autosomal DNA. And of course since we already had Y-DNA for Mordecai from Skalat, Yakov's line would be easy enough to compare.
Yakov's grandson did both tests, the autosomal Family Finder and the male line Y-37.
I was in touch with the families of two of Necha's grandsons - brothers. The elder has two children and the younger, four. The elder brother's daughter promptly agreed to test and I figured we were on the way to proof. They were the sixth and seventh Pikholz descendants to test for our project.
The end of the theories
When the results came in, what looked like a simple confirmation, turned out quite the other way. The Y-DNA of Yakov's grandson did not match Mordecai of Skalat. It was not even close.
Both Family Finder tests showed some matches with the other Pikholz family members, but they did not match each other at all. Whatever they were, it was not second cousins once removed.
I did not get what I had hoped for but I got the truth. "No" is also an answer and this was a DNA success.
In the meantime...
The number of Pikholz descendants who tested increased from seven to about eighty and with it, the number of Pikholz matches for both Yakov's grandson and Necha's great-granddaughter..
We began using GEDmatch as our standard for analysis, rather than the less useful tools that Family Tree DNA provides. For instance, a one-to-one comparison of Yakov's grandson and the Rochester great-granddaughter is not exacty non-existent.
There are twenty-two segments totalling some 60 cM with the three largest segments only 6.1, 5.8 and 4.6 cM. Certainly not much more than nothing.
We found a woman named Sheva Pikholz Weinstein from Nemerow, about the same age as Necha Rochester, with a living granddaughter in North Carolina. If Sheva and Necha are sisters, then we can test possible second cousins once removed. In fact, Family Tree DNA shows Sheva's granddaughter and Necha's great-granddaughter as suggested third-fifth cousins with a longest segment of 27 cM and a total of 80 cM.Blaine Bettinger's Shared cM Project
says that second cousins once removed share on average 123 cM, with a high of 316 cM and a low of zero. Our match looks low but not outrageously so.
Lara Diamond has some preliminary data for an Ashkenazic Shared DNA Survey
which shows second cousins once removed sharing an average of 170 cM, with a high of 446 cM and a low of zero. In this context our match is certainly to small to qualify.
GEDmatch shows Sheva's granddaughter and Yakov's grandson with a longest segment of 14.8 cM with a total of 50.6 cM. This is well below second cousin territory.
A second Rochester test
I have been saying ever since those first tests that perhaps the Rochester great-granddaughter is an outlier and that her cousins might give us better resuts. Eventually one of those cousins tested, a male, with MyHeritage.
He uploaded to GEDmatch and his match with Sheva's granddaughter are even weaker than his cousin's. A total of 65.2 cM with a longest of 15.5 cM. And only one segment that he shares with both his cousin and Sheva's grandaughter, and that shared segment is only 8.3 cM.
So it looks definitive that Sheva and Necha are not sisters. They are likely cousins but could be aunt and niece. The matches we see are reasonable for second cousins twice removed.
An unexpected conclusion
This throws a monkey wrench into one of the more obvious conclusions, one I hadn't even been looking at.
I have assumed all along - though I never wrote it as such - that
whatever the status of Chaim and Yakov, Necha was the older sister of
Moses, both being from Nemerow. That is the kind of conclusion that many researchers would record as fact and never given it another thought.
If however, as it seems, that Sheva and Necha, both from Nemerow, are NOT sisters, then perhaps Moses is Sheva's brother, not Necha's. Or perhaps Moses is the brother of neither Sheva nor Necha. This is an unexpected result of the rethink and another good example of why we must proceed with caution before drawing concusions. Because if I write it down, will anyone ever question it? Will even I revisit it?
And what of Yakov?
When Yakov's grandson tested, we had almost no experience with Pikholz Y-DNA. We have since determined that three known Skalat male lines are precise matches in the "R" haplogroup and that four known Rozdol male lines are also precise matches in a different part of the "R" haplogroup.
Only one other person with the Pikholz surname has done a Y-DNA test and he is also "R." We don't know how he connects to any other Pikholz family.
Yakov's grandson is J-M172. The records call his male line ancestors "Pikholz" (or Pikgolts), so it does not appear that the name Pikholz came from a maternal ancestor, in the Galician way. Yakov's mother's surname is known so it is pretty clearly that there is no such scenario.
I think it is time to bite the bullet and label Yakov's grandson as the product of a non-paternal event - an adoption or some other event that broke the Pikholz male line. Label in my own mind. Label as a "maybe" in the comments. Certainly not to label a certain NPE. But I think that;s what we have.
I still think that Yakov's grandfather Mordecai is likely the Mordecai (b.1805) whom we know and Yakov may well be the brother of Necha. Or Sheva. But I haven't a clue how we might demonstrate that. (Come to think it, I have an idea. We'll see if it goes anywhere.)