Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Descendants of Chana Chaje Pikholz

I last wrote about the family of Mordecai Pikholz (~1805-1864) and his relationship to Izak Fischel Pikholz, my second-great-grandfather, about two months ago - here and here. I am pretty sure that they are brothers but I have nothing conclusive.

Here is the structure as we know it.
The purple-shaded area is the family of Chana Chaje.
People in yellow in parentheses have tested. For instance Dalia, a descendant of Chaim Yaakov.
Judy, Charlie and Leonora are also descended from Isak Josef on the top left.
In my posts two months ago, I discussed the Family Finder results of Ruth (at the bottom in green). We now have results for her first cousin Dana and their third cousin Moshe. (Ruth and Dana are also second cousins  as their non-Pikholz grandmothers. are sisters.)

Mordecai's eldest daughter Chana Chaje (~1823-1896) was married to a man named Eliezer (~1822-1878). We do not know his surname but he was a Levi, a family tradition backed by Moshe's Y-37 test. He may have had a generic Levite surname such as Segal or Halevi, or it may have been something else. In any event, the family was known as Pikholz, including Eliezer himself as we see in his death record, where he is listed by the nickname "Leiser."
Moshe's autosomal matches
Moshe has interesting segments with multiple matches on five chromosomes.

On chromosome 4 he has matches of nearly 11 cM with descendants of Rivka Feige, my g-g-gm, from her first husband Gabriel Riss. This is pretty clearly a Riss segment. Of course we have no idea who Moshe's common ancestor with the Riss family might be.

On chromosome 11, Moshe has a segment of nearly 29 cM with Ruth, 17-20 cM with Charlie and Nan and 12 cM with Dana. Charlie is a descendant of both Mordecai and Izak Josef, while Nan is a decendant of only Izak Josef. Izak Josef has no Y-DNA descendants, so we can tie him to Mordecai only through autosomal match such as this.

On chromosome 13, Moshe has a segment of 31.5 cM with Ruth and 16.3 cM with Dana. I would guess that this segment came from Eliezer the Levi, Chana Chaje's husband, rather than from Mordecai Pikholz or his wife Taube. This makes it less likely that Eliezer is closely related to the family in some other way, such as through Mordecai's wife Taube.

On chromosome 18, Moshe has 43 cM with Leonora and 42 cM with Dana on largely overlapping segments. (Leonora and Dana have a match on that segment of 38 cM, with a smaller segment almost immediately adjacent.) These are three mutual third cousins. Lara Diamond's Ashkenazic Shared DNA Survey shows third cousins sharing a longest segment anywhere from zero to 91 cM, with an average of 26.66 cM. (Her sample size is 397.) So this layman thinks that a single segment of over 40 cM is large and a share of that size among three mutual third cousins is fairly rare. This segment is probably from Eliezer the Levi.

Finally on chromosome 20, Moshe has a segment with Leonora of 60 cM including nearly 57 cM with Dalia.
The segment also includes matches of 24-32 cM with my cousins Fred and Herb, Barbara and Dana - and smaller segments with three cousins who are strictly Izak Josef descendants and my cousin Roz. These matches add weight to the connected nature of the families of Mordecai and Izak Josef, but without shedding much light.

I also ran Moshe's prominent segments on the Matching Segments Tool at GEDmatch and found quite a few non-Pikholz on most of them. I will probably write to those above whatever threshhold I set - perhaps 25 cM - and if the past is any indication, those who bother to respond will tell me that they don't know anything. But if even one can add to our knowledge, it is worth the effort.

Dana's autosomal matches
I discussed Ruth's matches previously but since she and Dana are so closely related (both first and second cousins) I cannot discuss Dana without mentioning Ruth.

On chromosome 4, Dana and Ruth have a matching segment of nearly 40 cM. Leonora matches a bit more than half of that segment. On the other end of that segment, Judy has a
match of nearly 20 cM, my father's sister has a match on just over 20 cM and my cousin Rhoda has a match of 12 cM. Those last three match Dana and Ruth either through Izak Josef or because Izak Fischel and Mordecai are brothers.

On chromosome 5, Dana has 27-28 cM with two of Izak Josef's descendants and 11 cM with one of my cousins. Ruth shares part of that. That is another segment shared by Mordecai and Izak Josef's descendants.

Looking further at chromosome 5, I saw two large-ish matches with strangers on the Matching Segments Tools.
Two strangers match this segment with Dana and Izak Josef descendants. I wrote to them.

Dana's matches on chromosomes 13 and 20 are covered by what I wrote about Moshe above.

On chromosome 18, Dana has the one large segment with Moshe and Leonora that I discussed above plus one more with Charlie of 25 cM together with smaller matches with Ruth and Nan.

The general overview
Dana's matches with the Isak Josef and Isak Fischel descendants are sronger than Moshe's but weaker than her close cousin Ruth's. My feeling is that the difference between Dana and Ruth is just the vagaries of DNA, while the difference between the two women and Moshe is real. Perhaps if Dana's brother tested, he would be closer to Ruth than Dana is. Perhaps if Moshe's sister tested, she might be closer to Dana and Ruth than Moshe is.

The one I really want to test is Esther, the granddaughter of Tema. She is one generation older than the other descendants of Chana Chaje, though she is chronolocally younger than some of them. Esther seems to have moved since my last contact with her.

Four years ago, I wrote about three or four marriages between the Pikholz family and the Zellermayers. I expect that there is something further here - perhaps Izak Josef's wife. I am not sure at this time how I might determine that.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Revealing The Depths

My "toe in the water" moment for DNA was a Y-37 test over seven years ago, but it was a year later that I became serious and ordered a Family Finder and I really don't do much on the Y side. That is mostly done by Rachel Unkefer, whose team is working on the line in which I am a subject.

Nonetheless, my first big success was after another Pikholz descendant from my g-g-gm's town of Skalat tested at my request and our Y-37's matched. His g-g-g-gf Mordecai Pikholz was born about 1805 and my g-g-gf Izaf Fischel Pikholz was probably a bit younger. I am fairly sure that they are brothers.

A third Pikholz descendant from Skalat tested as well. He goes back to Nachman Pikholz, born about 1795. I tend to think that Nachman is a cousin or an uncle of the other two, but I really don't know. What I do know is that all three of us have upgraded to Y-67 and our matches are perfect.

The Genetic Distance of zero (on the left) signifies a perfect match over 67 markers.

Two years ago at the IAJGS Conference in Seattle, a colleague Madeleine Isenberg Ellen Zyroff told me that her mehutan fits this group as well. His ancestral surname is Spira and they came from Sub-Carpathian Hungary, later Czechoslovakia.

His haplogroup is R-A9700, differentiated from R-M269 due to results of SNP tests. Mine is R-A9700 as well.

I had previously discussed the possibility that the Pikholz family might have lived in Sub-Carpathian Hungary before arriving in Galicia, so this made sense to me, though I have no actual evidence. Then following the Seattle Conference, I wrote a blog post on the subject, including the following:
The Friday before I left for the US, I received a note from Dr. Jeffrey Paull, who does work on rabbinic Y-DNA lines, that another Spira had tested with results that matched ours perfectly on 37 markers. (Our tests are 67 markers.) This new Spira, who had tested at Jeff's request, claims descendancy from the Megalleh Amukot, Rabbi Natan Neta Spira who was born in Cracow in 1583 and claimed a Sephardic heritage. The paper trail for this man is being verified.
I refer to this second Spira at "the Z-man."

Since then, a third Spira has appeared at a genetic distance of 1, as has a Weinstein descendant. The latter has not replied to my several attempts at contact. He is a "2" to the third Spira, so their mutations are different.

There is also someone with a genetic difference of 2 from us, from that same area. He too has done SNPs and is in haplogroup R-A9700.

The Z-man does not appear here because he has only tested for 37 markers, not 67 like the rest of us.

 Jeff Paull is still working on the Z-man's putative connection to the Megalleh Amukot, whose "known" male line descendants include Rav Pinchas of Korets (1728-1790). But what appears clear, almost beyond a doubt, is that before we were Pikholz, we were Spira. And not so far back either. Now, when we have a Pikholz-side match with someone new, I include Spira as a surname of possible interest.

The Megalleh Amukot angle intrigues me. He was a kabbbalist and the Encyclopedia Judaica says he was

"intoxicated" with numbers; he was concerned less with using the qualities of numbers in order to elucidate matters of Kabbalah and halakha than in employing the Kabbalah as material for showing his great power with different numerical combinations, and there is no doubt that he had an extraordinary mathematical mind.

Well, having a great affection for numbers myself, I am willing to accept him as a male-line ancestor, with open arms. Not to mention that I already have a grandson named Neta.

 My son's Hassidic rabbi in Chicago says that it is appropriate to mention such an illustrious ancestor on my tombstone. (Note to self...)

Today, the thirteenth of Av is the yahrzeit of the Megalleh Amukot, Rav Natan Neta Spira. Three hundred eighty-five years ago. He is buried in Cracow.

The stone says that it was said of him that the prophet Eliyahu spoke with him face to face.

They say that he wrote two hundred fifty-two commentaries on the word "Vaethanan," which is this week's Torah reading.

I bought his two-volume book on the Torah and don't understand a word of it.

May his memory be a blessing for all of us, descendants and non-descendants alike.

Housekeeping notes
Family Tree DNA sent me a notice last night offering to upgrade me to Y-111 for only $29 and I have taken them up on it.

Sunday, July 8, 2018


I have long said that one of the advantages of a surname such as Pickholtz is that it is both uncommon and unusual, so most anyone who has ever met one of us will remember. Since I have been working with genealogy records, I can add to this that many people recognize the name and send me references that I otherwise might not see.

The newly released AGAD records at JRI-Poland have produced several of these in the last two weeks.

The great Logan Kleinwaks sent me two records. The first is a marriage record from Chodorow, a town which I do not think appears in any of my family records.

I know the father of the groom, Aba Pickholz from Zurawno but this is the first I have seen his wife or any children. And here his son Mojzesz Jozef is being married.

The second is a death record from Bobrka, which appears in a few Pikholz records, mostly in regard to spouses.

On 20 January 1920, Nuchym Pickholz the son of Abraham and Taube died at age 76. They have him marked as a female, but that has to be just a clerical error.

We actually have someone who nearly fits, in this 1855 birth record..

Nachim Bikholz, the son of Abraham and Taube was born in house 295, a known Pikholz house. So this is the birth of the man who died almost sixty-five years later at age seventy-six. Wait, that cannot be right. The age on the death record almost certainly wrong and I will probably record it as such.

So Logan gave me two records which added significant information about people I already knew.

Early last Friday morning I received a record from Mark Jacobson who was working on Boryslaw records. The first is a death record for a woman we know.

Sara Tallenberg (sometimes Thalenberg), the wife of David Samuel Pikholz, died on 4 June 1920 at age 83.

Mark came back to me a bit later with a Drohobycz death record for someone who is clearly her son. As Mark said a couple of times as we discussed it, "This family definitely wanted to be found today."

Pinkas died 15 May 1921 at age sixty. His parents are clearly identified. But although I have birth records for this couple beginning 1865, I do not have this older child. At least if I do, I do not have him attributed to these parents.

As I discussed a few weeks ago, we have a number of David Samuel in the Rozdol Pikholz family. Three of them have sons named Pinkas and all three of those have death information. So this must be someone else.

There are two Pinkas who are about the right age for the death record (based on the ages of their children) whose parents are unknown. The first lived in Stryj with his wife Feige Nestel and their first child was born probably 1877 or 1888. They have living descendants.

The second was married to Esther Neuman. They lived in Zydachow and had four known children, the first was born in 1890 and lived for two days. Their second child was named David Samuel and he lived to age five and a half. I have no idea what became of their two younger children. The David Samuel angle was intriguing, but I had nothing to connect this man in Zydachow to Drohobycz. But a second look made it clear.

The Pinkas who died in 1921 in Drohobycz lived, in fact, in Zydachow. It says so right on the death record.

So we now have four David Samuel Pikholz from the Rozdol area, with sons named Pinkas, after the patriarch of the Rozdol Pikholz family.

As Mark said, "This family definitely wanted to be found today."

"Today." Last Friday. The Torah portion we read yesterday begins "Pinehas ben Elazar ben Aharon Hakohen..." So on Friday we identified this Pinkas.

The one whose unnamed first son was born on the second day July 1890. The 24th of Tammuz, 128 years ago yesterday.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

64.2 centiMorgans

A few weeks ago, Beth Long - Hungarian researcher extraordinaire - asked me to join a project she was working on regarding a woman born during the Holocaust but has no idea who her parents are. More on this another time, perhaps with a guest blog by Beth herself.

But there is one corner of this project which warrants a spotlight now. One of my favorite soapboxes.

The woman - we'll call her the Holocaust Baby - did a DNA test at Ancestry and uploaded her results to GEDmatch where she found a number of matches of interest. Two of those - male first cousins to one another - match her in the 220-260 cM range. (All the DNA information cited here is based on GEDmatch on-to-one searches with the standard threshold of 7 cM. These do not include the X chromosome.) That is second cousin territory.

A third first cousin tested and his match is 336 cM.

There are several segments where these three cousins match the Holocaust Baby, particularly on chromosomes 7 and 8.

The first question was which side of these cousin is relevant, their grandmother's side or their grandfather's side. Beth tested two second cousins on their grandfather's side (orange) and their matches with the Holocaust Baby are less than 50 cM.

Wrong direction.

The connection with the Holocaust Baby must be on their grandmother's side. Beth built trees and went after the relatives.

The grandmother had a brother (green) and two of his grandchildren tested. One matches with 323 cM, also second cousin territory.

The other, with only 64.2 cM - well, who knows!

A second cousin once removed of the original three testers (in blue) is in the testing process.

The grandmother had a sister (pink) with a living grandson from her first husband and two great-grandchildren from her second. They would be second cousins and second cousins once removed to the original blue testers.

Here too, the sizes of the matches point to an as-yet-unidentified sibling of the blue grandmother, though 423 cM is high for a second cousin. But of course these Jewish families are subject to the vagaries of endogamy, where people are related multiple ways.

We have proceded beyond this and results there are not in, but that is not the point of this article. The green second cousin with the 64.2 cM match is way out of line with everyone else. I expected that he is not really a second cousin. The genetic father (or grandfather) is not who he is supposed to be.

But that is simple enough to confirm. We compared the 64.2 cM cousin to the rest of his known cousins, his green close cousins and the blue and pink second cousins..

At 64.2 cM he may not look like a second cousin to the Holocaust Baby, but he matches everyone else quite well. He has a particularly large match with his first cousin, at 1158.6 cM. So there is no misattributed paternity here. This man is a second cousin to the Holocaust Baby - at least as much of one as the the others with the "normal" matches..

Here is what Blaine Bettinger's Shared cM Project says about second cousins.

64.2 cM is way below the expected 213 cM for second cousins. It is below the 95th percentile which goes as low as 99 cM. Note that the pink cousin who matches the Holocaust Baby with 423 cM is also outside the 95th percentile, but in the other direction. And these two match each other within the norm.

So the lesson here is that norms are just that - norms. The ninety-fifth percentile still excludes five percent and five percent of the matches will be out there on the fringes. It is easy to say "This doesn't look like a good match." Easy - even lazy.

For this project it doesn't matter, but I would be curious to see what kind of match the Holocaust Baby would have with Mr 64.2's siblings, if he has any.

I have said this before. You have to test everyone. I expect I will find opportunities to say it again.