Monday, February 15, 2021

Narrowing It Down Using The X

As I have mentioned before, every few months I review the newest autosomal matches on my many Family Tree DNA kits to see which are the best candidates to investigate further with GEDmatch. Maybe a third of those respond to my inquiries and of those perhaps one or two, maybe three, will show anything useful. On this last round, I sent out about eighty-five inquiries and was surprised how many people got back to me in the first forty-eight hours. This is the story of one of these.

The match is a woman named Donna who was adopted and is looking for information that might lead her to her birth parents. One of her two matches with my families was this, a quite ordinary segment of 16 cM with seven Pikholz descendants.

Jean, Sarajoy, Judith and Amy are my sisters. Uncle Bob is my father's brother. Roz is my second cousin on my grandfather's side. Marshal is my double second cousin - our grandfathers are brothers and our grandmothers are sisters. The seven matches triangulate; they all match one another. So this looks to be pretty straightforward. This segment comes from either my great-grandfather Hersch Pikholz or my great-grandmother Jutte Lea Kwoczka.

But this segment is from chromosome 23, the X.The chromosome that never passes from father to son.

Roz gets to our great-grandparents through her mother and grandmother, so both Kwoczka and Pikholz are viable sources for her segment. But the others are all from sons of our great-grandparents, so they would have no X from Hersch Pikholz. Which means this is a Kwoczka segment.

But that cannot be right either. Uncle Bob would have to have received the segment from his father, which is clearly impossible. Uncle Bob received this segment from his mother. That option works for my sisters and for Marshal, but Roz has nothing to do with my grandmother's Hungarians and Slovakians. The Pikholz and Kwoczka families lived in the Tarnopol area of east Galicia.

If this sounds familiar, it should. Three and a half years ago, I discovered a segment shared by two supposedly unconnected parts of my families, one being my grandmother's Hungarians and the other the Galicianers on the non-Pikholz/Kwoczka side of the family of my cousins Rhoda, Roz and Pinchas. 

I have since found about forty strangers who share this segment with matches of anywhere between twelve and twenty centiMorgans. I wrote all of them, but have not gotten any firm leads on how, when and where my two families connect. It is a good ways back, as the families have been in the same places since the mid or late 1700s, but it's recent enough to preserve this 20+ cM segment intact.

Wendy and Carolyn, at JGS Maryland, 2016,

my earliest cousins on this segment

I have also written about this segment of chromosome 21 here, here and most recently here.

My guess is that the same ancestor who gave us the segment on chromosome 21, gave us the newfound X segment, though I cannot prove it. Until now, I have had seven surnames to work with, five from the Hungarians and two from the Galicianers. Of course there was no reason to assume that the common ancestor actually used one of those seven names - if he (or she) used any at all. But they were starting points. 

Now, we know that two of those lines are completely irrelevant. The X cannot be from my third-great-grandfather Lasar Bauer or his wife Rosa Lowinger, because it could not have been passed to Cousin Shabtai Bauer. One of the forty "strangers" has a Bauer ancestor, so that was a candidate for chromosome 21. But it cannot be for the X.

The others are still possibilities simply because we do not have other known descendants of those families who might share the segments in question. We can neither confirm nor eliminate them. Here are the earliest known ancestors in each family.

On the Hungarian side:

Salomon/Yehoshua Selig STERN ~ 1805-1862, son of Izak Leib of Paks could have received this segment from his unknown mother.

Jakob GRUNWALD of Perkata whose daughter was born about 1806 could have received the segment from his unknown mother.

Fani/Feige HERCZ, Jakob Grunwald's wife, could have received the segment from either parent.

On the east Galician side:

Shimon Leib ZWIEBEL, ~1825-1910, son of Isak, from the Tarnopol area, could have received the segment from his unknown mother.

Ester Chava LEWINTER, ~1831-1907, from the Tarnopol area, could have received the segment from either parent. She is Shimon Leib Zwiebel's wife.

I would love to see some tests from any of these families. Zwiebel is probably the easiest place to start.

It feels like progress. I'll certainly notify the forty-odd strangers.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Playing The Role Of My Grandfather, With Stops Along The Way

(~8 years later)
My bar mitzvah
Sixty years ago yesterday, I celebrated my bar mitzvah. As was customary in that time and place, I did the Torah reading, the Haftarah (from the prophets), gave a speech in both Hebrew and English and conducted the musaf. The first two people who were called to the Torah - the Kohen and the Levi - would not have been members of my family. The other five surely were and would have included my father. But the only one I remember specifically is my maternal grandfather Raymond (Yerachmiel ben Zvi) Gordon, who was called up third. (My other grandfather died when I was nine.)

My grandfather was a very old man at the time. Nearly seventy-five. Well maybe not so "very old."

I wore a tallit (prayer shawl) bought for me by Aunt Ethel and Uncle Kenny, whose story appears here. It has long been lost.

I was taught by an Israeli teacher from my school and it was several years before I realized how substandard the teaching was.

The tape 

A few days later, Wednesday or Thursday, my father sat me down at his desk and recorded me doing the readings and the speech. I had hoped that the tape was lost years ago, during one of my parents' moves, like the tallit. It would have been really bad according to my present standards and I surely would have found it embarrassing.

No such luck. It turned up three years ago. During this very week! As a genealogist who could never throw out such a thing, much as I didn't want anything to do with it, I had someone make it into an mp3. Only one person has heard it - my son Eliezer. He said "It wasn't as bad as I expected."

Thirty-four years ago in Arad, my sister Devorah walked over - maybe twenty minutes - to hear me read my bar mitzvah. That would have been typical for her. We spoke very briefly on that occasion. I never saw her alive again. She was killed three days later. Today is her yahrzeit. Her story is here.

Snow in Hevron
Then there was the Shabbat twenty-one years ago that my mother and I paid a surprise visit to my friend and one-time roommate Zvi Ofer (who died this past summer) and his wife Celia, in Kiryat Arba, near Hevron. It was my bar mitzvah week and I prevailed on Levi, who ran the service in Kiryat Arba and whom I have known for years, to let me read, which he did. I have seen him maybe fifteen times since and he always says 'You remember the last time I saw you, when it snowed and you read your bar mitzvah?

The story of that adventure is here.

There may be a few more memorable Shabbat Bar Mitzvah stories, but those are the ones that come to mind.

Yesterday was the bar mitzvah of my daughter Merav's third son Shelomo (aka Shloimie) Brand. My
With Yudi & Naomi
Torah reading. As is customary in his shul, he read only the Haftarah. He will be speaking at a small week-night affair this week.

(Before anyone asks, let me say that the masking was adequate.)

I quite like their shul, though I rather stick out in the crowd of black or round fur hats and big beards (mine is on hiatus). They always treat me respectfully and the rabbi makes a point of mentioning me by name when he has his mishebayrach. Some of them also know that I can teach them a thing or two about proper Torah reading.

I, the maternal grandfather, was called up third. And it was only at that moment that I realized that my own maternal grandfather was called up third for the exact same reading at my bar mitzvah sixty years ago.

Hasdei Ovos Synagogue, Upper Modiin
After the service there was a kiddush and just before the rabbi spoke, he told me that he would introduce me to say something. (I really dislike being put on the spot like that.)

So I spoke about the coincidence with the two maternal grandfathers doing the same thing sixty years apart and the significance of carrying on traditions, even unintentionally. We read the Ten Commandments yesterday and I referred to the first chapter in Ethics of the Fathers where it tells us that Moshe received Torah at Sinai, and passed it to Yehoshua, Yehoshua to the Elders and so on down the generations. But I pointed out that there are less formal traditions. It doesn't say anywhere that we are supposed to name our kids after our ancestors, but that has been a traditional Jewish practice for ages. etc etc. (Or - as an afterthought - like my sister walking across town to hear me read.)

Afterwards, the rabbi, the Torah reader and a few others hung around and we mixed it up discussing some intracacies of Torah reading. A great day all in all.