Sunday, March 26, 2017

Violating My Own Rule? - Mina's Parents

Israel's Rule
There is a presentation that I have given a few times and will be reprising (with updates and revisions) at the IAJGS Conference in Orlando, called

Beyond a Doubt: What We Know vs. What We Can Prove

which explores the question "What do you do when the hard proofs just aren't there, but you are as sure as you can be what they would show if you could find them?" An integral part of that presentation is this slide.
That "one more piece of evidence" is often no simple matter.

Rita's Family
Rita and I go back to the beginning of the Pikholz Project. Her Pikholz family is from the Skalat area, like mine, and she knew most of the descendants of her great-grandfather Arie Leib Pikholz and his wife Ricie Epstein, including those here on the right.

Sara Beile, also known as Soltche, went to the United States in 1907.

Sophie's husband went to the US in 1909 and went back to bring his wife and daughter. Chaje's husband (Rita's grandfather) went to the US in 1913. Apparently the plan was that Sophie's family and Chaje and her daughter would follow soon after, but the First World War intervened and travel was impossible.

In the meantime, Sophie's husband died and eventually the two sisters, each with a daughter, sailed to the US on the Aquitania, arriving at Ellis Island 22 February 1921.

Note that Sophie and Mina are Pickholtz. That's because Sophie's husband was her cousin, Solomon Pikholz. Ray and Mina's daughter "GGR" (the fake name she used on her DNA test) thought that Sophie and Solomon were first cousins, but there was no documentation and no one had any idea who his parents were.

(On the right are Ricie, Chaja, Arie Leib, Sophie and Mina, about 1911.)

I dealt with that like this:
That's how this has stood for years.

Solomon and Sophie get married
Last week, Mark Halpern announced some new records in the JRI-Poland index and while looking at them, I noticed some records that I had downloaded earlier but had not gotten around to recording - or even looking at.  This, for instance.
Groom: Salomon Pikholz, son of Ojzer Pikholz and Chaja Dwora Zlotnik, born 28 February 1879.
Bride: Sossie Epstein, daughter of Ryssi Epstein and Leib Pikholz, born 1880. (She herself said 1881.)

Hey, I know these people! Not only that, but I know him from before.
A birth record for Salmen, same mother, same birthdate.

And the same father acknowledging paternity.

We have two older sons for this couple, both known only by their death records - Jacob who died in 1900 at age 34 and Isak who died in 1882 at age ten.

Based on the eldest known son's birth in 1866, Ojzer was probably born about 1841. As it happens, we have no other Ojzer, but we do
have an Ajzer, who died in Vienna 21 April 1893 at age 51. So he was born about 1842. Vienna records show he was from Kozivka, which is where Arie Leib's family lived. 

He is buried in an unmarked grave.

Right about here.

So it looks like Arie Leib's mystery brother is Ojzer, buried in Vienna. What's the story? The family moved to Vienna, the father died and the son went back to Galicia to be raised by a family member? Maybe that'e why Rita's cousin Benny (Ray's brother) "knew" that Solomon's father was Arie Leib's brother Simon. Because he raised him? Simon had a son Ojser born 1893 in Kozowka, so that actually makes sense.

"My grandparents were cousins"
When I first met some of the Rozdol Pikholz descendants, they all knew to tell me that their grandparents, Berisch and Golda, were both Pikholz. First cousins, in fact.

But as I proceeded to document the family, that turned out not to be the case. Isak and Pinchas were not brothers and their wives had nothing to do with one another or with the Pikholz family.

Isak's parents are Dawid and Serka and Pinchas' parents are Hersch Leib and Sara. Berisch and Golde are not first cousins. They may well be second cousins, but I cannot even prove that beyond a doubt.
Which brings us back to Mina's parents Sophie and Solomon. Everyone says they were first cousins. But maybe not. No one - except Mina as a child - knew Solomon, who had died in Europe. Maybe "cousins" was understood to be first cousins but was actually second cousins or first cousins once removed. Or even uncle and niece.

More than likely they were indeed first cousins, but as I say so often, once I write that down, the subject will be closed and no one will even re-examine it. So which of these do I choose? 
 Even if I am really really convinced, my own rule says "one more piece of evidence." 

Might DNA help?
There are three people in this close family who have done autosomal tests - Rita, Mina's daughter "GGR" and Ray's daughter Thelma. Before we factor in Mina's double dose of Pikholz DNA, the three are simply second cousins to one another. GGR is also a third cousin to the other two.

The wiki at the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) tells us that a typical second cousin match would be 212.5 cM. All three matches here are well above that, moreso than I would expect from second cousins, even in an endogamous population.

I am in the midst of preparing some new statistics from my own families for Blaine Bettinger's Shared cM Project, and of seventy-three pairs of known second cousins, I am seeing an average of 395 cM total and an average longest segment of 50 cM. Rita's match with GGR is 30% above my average for total cM and Thelma's two matches are very close to my average.

Mina's father, Solomon Pikholz
So GGR's double dose of Pikholz DNA does not show up at all with Thelma and I really cannot say if the 513 cM that GGR shares with Rita says anything about the degree of cousinhood of GGR's grandparents. There is nothing here that qualifies as "one more piece of evidence." But I have no idea where such evidence might come from.

So although I now know that Solomon's parents are Ojzer Pikholz and Chaya Dwora Zlotnik,  I cannot in good conscience say that Ojser is definitely the brother of Arie Leib. Though I am pretty sure he is. But both Rita and Mina's grandson are really quite certain they are, so I guess I will go with it - rule or no rule.

As an aside, Rita wondered if the 1914 marriage was an actual marriage or just one to "regulate" an earlier Jewish marriage, perhaps in preparation for emigration. (After all, Mina was born in 1903!) This is easily settled.
Please click so you can see this properly.
Solomon's 1909 passenger list says he is married to Sophia and he is going to his sister-in-law, Soltche. So Solomon and Sophie were married by 1909 and the 1914 marriage was indeed a formality. Rita says it probably had to with his having been drafted and she needed the formal marriage to get spousal benefits.

Housekeeping notes
Dates and times for the 37th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy have been published. Here are mine.

 –   Monday 24 July 9:45-11:00, Room Swan 9  
Beyond a Doubt: What We Know vs. What We Can Prove
–   Monday 24 July 2:00-3:15, Room Osprey 2
Lessons in Jewish DNA – One Man’s Successes and What He Learned On the Journey
–  
Tuesday 25 July 2:00-3:15, Room Osprey 2
GEDmatch.com’s Lazarus Tool As It Applies to Two Kinds of Endogamy
–    Wednesday 26 July 8:15-9:30, Room Swan 8
Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

For the doubters on this morning's post

This morning I posted about a problem I am having with FTDNA results that appear to be skewed in favor of more recent tests.

There are doubters who think that all these odd results are within the norm.

Here is some additional detail. Not comprehensive, mind you, but enough in my mind to make the point.

Dan has a match with someone named MG who is called 2-3 cousin. The match is 135 cM with a longest segment of 12 cM. 

Amy has 139 cM and a longest of 15 cM and is called a 3-5 cousin. Sarajoy has 139 cM with a longest segment of 12 cM. She is called 4th cousin-remote cousin.

Dan has a 2-4 match with a fellow named Mark. The total is 143 cM and the longest is 8 cM.

Jean has 149 cM with a longest of 23. She is called a 3-5 cousin. Sarajoy has 145 cM total with a longest of 8 cM. She is called 5th cousin-remote cousin.

These are unambiguously wrong.

You cannot convince me that Michael and Dan who match with 135 cM and a longest of 9 cM  can be called 2-3 cousins, when the same Michael matches Jean and Sarajoy with 131 cM and a longest of 9 cM are 5th cousins-remote cousins.

etc.




Six Siblings - Part Three: Close Matches

Something is wrong with the matches at Family Tree DNA. At least with the matches they call "Close Matches," which is what they define as "2nd Cousin - 3rd Cousin."

For the last year or more, I have been getting project administrator notices like this

that appear to be seriously skewed towards the newer tests. That is, one sibling who tested recently seems to be getting lots of these while others who tested earlier are getting many fewer. I discussed this with Janine at RootsTech and she sent me to the Help Desk people. All they have been able to say - and I paraphrase here - is that different siblings match different ways.

But this evades the question.

Just to make it clear, everyone I am discussing here has the same settings for notifications, but that shouldn't even matter. It's not a matter of notifications, it's a matter of the actual matches.










I ran the numbers for three sets of full siblings - my paternal second cousins Marshal and Lee, my maternal second cousins Sam and Beverly and my own siblings, a group of six. I could have done Aunt Betty and Uncle Bob, but neither of them is what I'd call a recent test.

I looked at the matches through the filter shown on the right.

I removed the known cousins who are third cousins or closer from the numbers below, though it really shouldn't matter.

The absolute numbers are large, but this an endogamous population.

Lee's test was received at FTDNA on 2 April 2014. He has 41 close matches.

His brother Marshal's was received nearly two years later on 11 February 2016. He has 89 close matches.

89 vs 41. Hmmm. More than twice as many. Maybe it's an outlier.

Sam's test was received 12 January 2015 and he has 29 close matches.

His sister Beverly's test was received 5 December 2016, also nearly two years later. She has 95 close matches. More than three times as many as Sam. Another outlier?

My brother Dan's test was received in Houston on 7 January 2017. He has 103 close matches.

The dates and numbers for the rest of us:
  • Sarajoy 8 July 2014, 31 close matches.
  • Amy 9 July 2014, 30 close matches.
  • Jean 31 December 2014, 26 close matches.
  • Judith 5 February 2015, 27 close matches.
  • My own kit was received 30 March 2011 but that was for my Y and MtDNA tests. My first autosomal matches were 13 May 2012. I have 22 close matches.

I'm no statistician but it appears obvious that the recent tests are getting close matches that the earlier ones are not getting. The siblings angle isn't the issue - it's just the way to make the proof argument.

I can't be the only person with results like this. What say the rest of you who have tested full siblings, both recently and say two years ago?

If it's just me, they can try to ignore me.
And if two people do it, in harmony, they can try to ignore both of us.
And if three people do it! ... They may think it's an Organization!
And can you imagine fifty people a day? I said FIFTY people a day.... Friends, They may think it's a MOVEMENT,
How about it, FTDNA? What's wrong and how are you going to fix it?

Previous posts in the Six Siblings series are here and here.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

New Skalat Records from the Excel File

About two months ago, Mark Halpern of JRI-Poland sent me a spreadsheet with 695 Skalat deaths during 1908-1915. That list includes sixteen people named Pikholz and at least two other Pikholz family members with a different surname. Most of the sixteen are listed without names of parents or spouses, so it is not always clear who the deceased is. The index also does not include towns of origin, at least not for our entries, but those may appear on the actual records.

The entries have ages, of course, and also house numbers. The actual records have always had house numbers, but they were usually not included in the index.

One of those records solved a major issue for me and I discussed it here.

Mark tells me that these records will probably be indexed and uploaded to JRI-Poland in another month or so, but in the meantime, I have done what I can with what I have. (The Excel files are sent to town leaders and donors in advance of the indexing, so you might want to consider donations for your towns of interest.)

The headings on the latest Excel file
(There is also a list of 1152 Skalat births for 1898-99, but there appear to be no Pikholz listed.)

Aside from the one I wrote about last month, several of the 1908-1915 raise some interesting questions, so I want to describe them all here, the interesting and the children who only interested their immediate families.

I have not updated the website with this new information and new people. I think I'll wait until I can get the actual records.

Szymon Pickholz, d. 1908
This man died in house 899 at age 78. So he would have been born about 1830, though we should not assume ages on death records to be precise. We do not have other Pikholz records in this house.

We know of one Shimon Pikholz from Skalat born before 1879 and whose death is not more or less known. That one was married to Dwore Waltuch who died ar twenty-three in 1861 after bearing two children. Shimon then married her younger sister Chana. Chana went to New Jersey in 1892 and four of her children lived there as well. Her youngest was born in 1885 in Skalat.

Three of those children had at least one son, all born in New Jersey. One was born in 1933 and was named Shimon; he was his father's only son. One was born in 1906, was named Shalom after Shimon's brother and was called Samuel in the US. One was born in 1901 and was named Sam, but we have no idea what his Jewish name was.

I had always assumed that Chana went to the US after her husband died (why no death record circa 1890?) and that Sam (1901) was likely named for him. I always wondered why the one born in 1906 was not named for his grandfather Shimon. So now I have exchanged that question for another - assuming that this 1908 death record is this Shimon, why did his whole family go to the US in the early 1890s, while he stayed behind for at least fifteen years. Was there a divorce?

For the time being, I am going to record this death record with a note that this is probably the Shimon who married the Waltuch sisters. Probably, but not certainly. I may change my mind later. Though I cannot imagine what evidence may yet appear that would help me do that.

Josef Pickholz, d. 1909
This man died in house 597 at age forty-seven, so he would have been born about 1862. We do not know the house number. Nor do we have a precise date of death.

We actually have a Josef Pickholz born in Skalat in October 1862, that being the son of my great-grandfather's Uncle Selig. The problem is, this Josef - Isak Josef, to use his full name, which he himself did not do - lived not in Skalat but in neighboring Grzmaylow. Is that a problem? Maybe. The actual record may shed light on that.

We have another Isak Josef - almost certainly called Josef like all the others - who was born in Skalat in June 1863. But he was only 45-46 in 1909. On the other hand, his younger children were born in house 587. Perhaps when we see the actual record, the house number will look more like 587 than 597. That would make it easy. I can hope, no?

The seven children
Seven Pikholz children died in Skalat during this period.
  • Ettel Pickholz had a stillborn son in 1909. I cannot identify Ettel.
  • Henia Breina the daughter of Tobias died at age 2 in 1910 I know this family.
  • Tobias' brother Getzel lost a ten-day old infant son in 1911.
  • Tobias lost a four-month old daughter in 1912.
  • Nine-year old Berl died in 1915. We have his birth. He was born and died in house 587.
  • One-year old Debora died in 1915. I know this family, more or less.
  • One-year old Moses died in 1915. I have no idea who he is.

Ruchla Gittla Pickholz, d. 1910
This is a Pikholz spouse, age 55. Her maiden name is Qualer or Kwaler and she came from Zalosce, which makes me think that her family is very close to mine. She and her husband Leib (who is named in the death record) had six children in Skalat, three or four of whom died in childhood. We have no idea what became of the others. We have no idea who her husband's parents are.

Ester Pickholz, d. 1914
Ester Rosenstrauch Pickholz died at age seventy. She and her husband Kopel (~1842-1903), whose Pikholz parents are unknown, had eight children, six of whom died in childhood. The other two were killed in the Holocaust and we know of no surviving descendants.

Udla Pickholz, d. 1915
This woman was eighty years old, died in house 912 and we have no idea who she was. We may never.

Etel Pickholz, d. 1915
This woman was forty-three yers old, and I haven't a clue who this is, nor whether Pickholz was her birth name or a married name. She died in house 530, which does not tell us anything.

Jacob and Henie Malke Pickholz, d. 1915
This married couple died in 1915, 162 records apart - probably representing six or eight months. He was fifty-nine and she was sixty-four. They did not die in the same house. We know this family well.

When I first saw these entries, I thought I would simply record their years - Jacob ~1855-1915 and Henie Malka ~1851-1915. But it isn't quite that simple. According to family tradition, Jacob and his sister Sarah are twins.

We think we have Sarah's grave in Vienna and according to the Vienna database, she died on 8 March 1914 at age 54. That puts her birth about 1860. My upcoming Slovakia/Hungary trip includes a day and a half in Vienna and I hope to have a look at the grave itself. For now, it opens up a new problem - twins born five years apart.

The Ratzensteins, d. 1911 and 1914

The index includes Antschel Josef Ratzenstein (62) and Elias "Racenstern"(42). These are known to be father and son. Antschel's mother-in-law is Alta Pikholz, the daughter of Nachman (~1795) and his wife Sara. We have Elias' birth record and the dates match.

Now can we please get Rozdol death records for the years after 1901!


Housekeeping notes
I am speaking Thursday here in Israel.
16 March 2017, 7:30 – IGRA, Beit Fisher, 5 Klausner Street, Raanana (in English)
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey

I have had four proposals accepted for the IAJGS Conference in Orlando 23-28 July. No times or dates yet. But if anyone wants me to speak in the US before the Conference, now is the time to speak up.

And for the attention of any program chairs (or anyone who knows program chairs), I'll be available in the US late April-early May of 2018. Another bar mitzvah in Chicago.

Finally, 
HAPPY PURIM
to these celebrating today (Sunday) and to those of us in Jerusalem whose holiday begins this evening.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Mendel (Morris) Pickholtz, 5657-5717 (1896-1957)

Twenty-fifth anniversary, 1946
My grandfather died on the ninth of First Adar - that's Monday evening - sixty years ago. He has been dead almost as long as he lived.

Everyone thought I was too young to go to the funeral, or even the unveiling - something I resented until, well forever. He had had a serious heart attack just before I was born and there was some concern that I would bear his name, but happily he recovered. He kept the extra name "Chaim" that was added during the illness.

In the end, it was a "cerebral vascular accident." Twelve hours from onset until death. I knew without anyone's telling me.

They lived in this house since sometime in the 1930s until I think 1952.
From the 1940 federal census
 
Sometime in the 1940s, my grandmother's mother moved in with them, until her death in 1950.

My father and Aunt Betty both went to their weddings from that house.
The family lived in Zalosce, east Galicia, and my grandfather's first seven siblings (four of whom survived childhood) were born there. Maybe the next two as well, but Zalosce birth records are available only through 1890, so we are not sure. My grandfather, the youngest was born in Bogdanowka, in house 95, on the holiday of Hoshanna Rabba, during Sukkot.

This Jezierna birth record is from the All Galicia Database of Gesher Galicia















Within a few years, the family began it's multi-stage migration to the Pittsburgh, where his father's sister had settled in the 1880s. My great-grandmother came last with the three youngest children, not through Baltimore or Ellis Island like the others, but through Montreal and the St. Albans Vermont border crossing.


























With U. Dave (center) and U. Joe (right)
My grandfather was in the wholesale grocery business on Miller Street with two of his brothers, Uncle Joe and Uncle Dave, a business which closed when Uncle Joe turned sixty-five. I remember being there.

The children of the three brothers (the eldest, Uncle Max, had no children) were close in age and that and the business connection made my father's generation and mine closer with them then with the three sisters' children, who were older. (Not to mention that my grandfather and Uncle Joe married sisters!)

My grandfather had first cousins in Pittsburgh on both sides of his family, but the family connection didn't survive much after that first generation - until I began doing genealogy.

1953. Getting ready for the first seder on Northumberland Street, after leaving the house on Phillips Avenue.
I share the head of the table with my grandfather. Six people in this picture are still with us.




The Pittsburgh Jewish Criterion (thanks to The Pittsburgh Jewish Newspapers Project) recorded many of the key events in his life, including his regular listing as Vice-President of the Poale Zedeck Men's Club (and my grandmother's as President of the Sisterhood). Here are a few.






And finally...

Not mentioned are Aunt Becky and Aunt Bessie who predeceased him.
May his soul be bound in life. תהא נפשו צרורה בצרור החיים.

Housekeeping notes
I am speaking here in Israel in English - 16 March 2017, 7:30 – IGRA, Beit Fisher, 5 Klausner Street, Raanana
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey

I have had four proposals accepted for the IAJGS Conference in Orlando 23-28 July. No times or dates yet. But if anyone wants me to speak in the US before the Conference, now is the time to speak up.

And for the attention of any program chairs (or anyone who knows program chairs), I'll be available in the US late April-early May of 2018. Another bar mitzvah in Chicago.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fun With Online Trees

My friends and colleagues know my aversion to online trees.

A first cousin of my wife's grandfather did a Family Finder test for me last year. She is as old as dirt. But even she was not yet born in the 1730s.

A week or so ago, I received a notice from FTDNA that someone added her to an online tree. There was a link which didn't work.

Eventually I found it. She was linked by name and kit as married to a man born in 1730 and they had a daughter born in 1735. (That's a good trick in itself!)

I wrote to the woman behind this tree and she insisted that although she knows this woman is My Wife (which she isn't), this tree is correct because it came up automatically. AND IT IS CONNECTED TO THE VILNA GAON!! Well then, what more can I say!

We went back and forth on this a few times. At some point she wrote "But I did assume that the link could be established back that far through MtDNA. Mother to mother, to mother."

But my wife's grandfather's cousin didn't do MtDNA!

Good luck to you. Doncha just love the fealty to technology? And the unbounded unfounded confidence.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Six Siblings - Part Two: Who Is Closest To Whom

A week before he died two months ago, my brother gave me DNA. That gives us the whole set of six siblings. (A seventh was killed in an accident thirty years ago, but her identical twin is one of the six, so we count the set as complete.)

Part One - Origins is here.

Other than the randomness of DNA and the fact that siblings can be significantly different from one another (TEST THEM ALL, PEOPLE!), I am not sure about the value of this kind of analysis except to sate the curiosity of the family members themselves. Some have actually asked, which is more interest than they generally show, so here are some bits of data. Once again, the tables are in age order.

This table shows who matches whom how well, according to the FTDNA algorithm.

All four of the girls match Dan best of all.  After that, it's pretty random.

Dan and I match Sarajoy best and then Judith.

The unshaded matches are all called "full siblings" by the FTDNA algorithm. The shaded matches are called "Full siblings, Half Siblings, Grandparent/Grandchild." Each of the six of us has at least one match that doesn't quite pass the FTDNA threshhold for unambiguous "full sibling." But of course, that is not meaningful, except to show the randomness of DNA.

It is also interesting considering my blog a few days ago in which two nephews - sons of the identical twin sisters - are submitting Family Finder tests to see if they show up as half siblings.

Here are my first eleven matches - the five siblings, followed by my father's sister and brother Aunt Betty and Uncle Bob, then four first cousins.

Note that Aunt Betty, Uncle Bob, Kay and Linda all are rated as possible half siblings to me by FTDNA. These boundaries are far from clear and I often laugh when I hear people speak of these numbers as having absolute meaning - especially, but not only, in endogamous populations.

These are the numbers behind the "ratings" in the first table above.











This shows how many centiMorgans we share with one another in total and how big are our largest segments with one another. Look for patterns at your peril.

Dan and Sarajoy share both the most DNA (2891) and the largest segment (253). Dan's second largest total is with Judith (2652), but his longest segment with everyone else is longer than with her (162). You can pick out other anomalies, but they are not really anomalies because there is no reason these numbers should line up in patterns. Not only is it randomness, but the totals are not that different from one another.

Then there is the matter of Aunt Betty and Uncle Bob - which of us is closer to which of them.
Uncle Bob's first match is his daughter Linda and Aunt Betty's is her son Ed. That's pretty basic. Then their match with each other. Followed by the nieces and nephews. The tenth match for each is their first cousin Herb, not shown on the chart above. Nothing much to see here except perhaps that Amy is the closest of us to Aunt Betty and the second closest to Uncle Bob.

Finally the four first cousins. Ed and Linda on my father's side and Leonard and Kay on my mother's side. (They are first cousins to one another.)






Here I have included the centiMorgans because the differences are significant.

Kay is either first or second for all of us, with only one match below 900 cM. FTDNA considers her a possible half sibling with all of us except Judith.

Leonard is either last or next-to-last for all of us, with only one match over 900 cM and one as low as 592 cM..He is a possible half sibling only with Sarajoy.

This begs the question how close a match is Kay to Leonard. For both it's their top match, with 1126 cM total and a longest segment of 76. I'd be curious to see how their siblings would fit into this analysis, but unfortunately they are all deceased.

Ed is the top cousin for Judith and Amy, with more than 1000 cM but he is last for Sarajoy, Dan and me with less than 800 cM. Linda is over 850 cM with all of us. 850 cM is what the ISOGG wiki gives as the average for first cousins. On average we are above that and I don't thinks it's a matter of  endogamy.

In our own family we have some other first cousins: Herb with Aunt Betty and Uncle Bob, Beth with Beverly and Sam, Rhoda and Roz, Ruth and Judy and in the wider Pikholz families Gloria and Marvin, Sharon and Karen and the two Riss cousins. And some others in process. But I am not going to look at their numbers here.

Housekeeping Notes
I have two presentations coming up here in Israel. One in Hebrew in Rishon LeZion, but we have not yet set the date. The other in Raanana in two weeks.
16 March 2017, 7:30 – IGRA, Beit Fisher, 5 Klausner Street, Raanana (in English)
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey

For the attention of any program chairs (or anyone who knows program chairs), I'll be available in the US late April-early May of 2018. Another bar mitzvah in Chicago.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The DNA of the Seventh Sibling

A few weeks ago, I began a series about the DNA of my own siblings after the Family Finder results of my recently deceased brother came in. (I have been busy with other things and have only done that single post, but I'll get back to it soon.) As I reported then, our full set of DNA comes from my brother, my four sisters and me - six altogether.

But in fact, we are seven.

We lost one thirty years ago this past week.

I wrote about that terrible day in one of my very first blogs, five years ago and I shan't repeat it now.

This morning (Friday) some of us - including three of her four children and four of her nine grandchildren - met at the grave in Arad and then went for breakfast together.

The intersection was redesigned a few years ago and now is much safer. It includes two stoplights.

The grave needs some repair. The lettering has been repainted a few times. The empty section in front is now largely filled with new graves, so her children - kohanim - can no longer stand as close as they could when we chose the site.

This whole area is now filled with graves.
Of course, we never took her DNA. But we have it because she and Judith are identical twins. We think. It seems there is some debate about whether the "identical" part is in fact proven, though that seems obvious to anyone with eyes and ears.

So yesterday Judith asked me if any of Carol's children have tested. She considered that might help solve the "identical" question. So this morning she asked Avi and Michal if one of them would test. Avi swabbed this morning and I'll send it in next time there is a sale.

Judith herself has three boys and will get a Family Finder from one of them. If the girls are identical, the tests will show the first cousins as half-siblings.

Both twins are married to kohanim who have some geography in common. I am not sure if I want to go there, but they can decide this themselves. (Both fathers are alive and well and can test if they wish.)


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Beyond A Doubt - Another Resolution


Presented most recently to JGS Toronto,
JGS Maryland and IAJGS Seattle
I have a lecture about dealing with things we are quite sure about but do not have the supporting proof. It may not even be available.

In that presentation, I break the general question into seven considerations and give an example of each. For each example I decide to accept the conclusion into my family database or to reject it for lack of sufficient evidence.

Example #5 deals with the family of Gabriel and Sara Pikholz of Husiatyn. They had a son Moses in 1851 and I have been quite convinced that this is the same Moshe who married Chana Muhlrad in Skalat and together they had eight children in the period 1874-1894.

I also believed that this Gabriel is the son of Nachman Pikholz who was born about 1795.

I discussed this family in some detail three years ago.

This is the family of Moshe who I would like to think is the Moses born in 1851.















Moshe's granddaughter Miriam Reiner told me that her grandfather had "died young," well before she was born in 1913, but could not be more specific. In fact, I found an 1894 death record for a Moshe Pikholz in Skalat, which seemed to make everything fit - but for one little problem. The Moshe in that death certificate was fifty-seven years old so could not have been born in 1851.

On the other hand, we had no unaccounted-for Moshe born around 1837, so the death record may have simply had the age wrong.

But I could not justify a decision to say that Moses from Husiatyn was indeed the father of the Skalat family and in the conclusion to my presentation, I left the matter unsettled.

A couple of weeks ago, Mark Halpern of JRI-Poland sent me a spreadsheet with 695 Skalat deaths during 1908-1915. That list includes twelve people named Pikholz and at least two other Pikholz family members with a different surname. Most of the twelve are listed without names of parents or spouses, so it is not always clear who the deceased is. For instance, there is a Josef Pikholz who died in 1909 and I am not sure if this is the one born 1862 or the one born in 1863.

The index also does not include towns of origin, at least not for our entries, but those may appear on the actual records.

The entries have ages, of course, and also house numbers. The actual records have always had house numbers, but they were usually not included in the index.



Moses Pickholz who died in 1908 at age 57, so would have been born 1851. This is a perfect fit for Moses from Husiatyn. So perhaps he is not the father of the Skalat family and there are two separate Moshes.

But the house number is 23. Six children of Tobias - Moshe's son - and two of his grandchildren were born in that house. Surely this must be Tobias' father.

Furthermore, the new spreadsheet has a four month old daughter of Tobias dying in that house in 1912.

So I can now say without reservation that the Moshe who had the family in Skalat was indeed the son of Gabriel and Sara and was born in Husiatyn in 1851. That leaves me with an 1894 death record for a different fifty-seven year old Moshe Pikholz in Skalat - who on earth is that?

I'll write about some of the others in that spreadsheet in a subsequent post.

Housekeeping notes
My daughter-in-law in New Jersey had a baby boy a few hours ago. I am not going to chance a flight home after a Thursday berit, so I am in the NJ area a few more days. If anyone in NJ/NY wants a program Wednesday 15 February, Thursday 16 February or Sunday 19 February, please let me know and we'll see what we can put together.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Lydia in Columbus

Less than a week after learning of the existence of my Rosenbloom/Kaplan second cousins (described here), I went to see my second cousin Lydia in Columbus Ohio. This was last Wednesday and I was on my way to a Thursday evening speaking engagement for JGS Michigan.

Lydia is eighty-two, was born in Moscow and has been in the US for twenty-two years. Why Columbus? Her late husband has relatives there. We were both very excited about the meeting.

As I mentioned last week, she has pictures. Her grandmother, for instance, a bit older than the mid-1920s photograph that we have.

There is some difference of opinion about when Alta died - whether 1968 or 1973. But everyone agrees she was ninety-three. That's well into my lifetime and long after her younger sister, my grandmother, died in 1959. We should be able to check Alta's date of death as the whole family is buried together in Moscow's Vostrikovsky Cemetery.

I had always figured that Alta was born about 1880, as she had at least two grandchildren when contact was lost in 1929. I was quite sure she was several years older than my grandmother Sarah, because the younger brother (Uncle Hymen) was called Chaim Benzion because previous sons had died in childhood or infancy. There was not much room for multiple sons unless they were between Alta and Sarah.

Lydia says - and I think this is apocryphal - that when Alta was older, she would often be found wandering around Moscow and when asked her name, she would say "Alta Rosenbloom from Borisov." That's how the grandchildren came to know her maiden name and birth place. I have my doubts because her children - also born in Borisov - outlived her, and surely knew her history.

We took out pictures, she in a well-kept album that had been smuggled out of Russia and I on my laptop. We had identical pre-WWI photographs. Alta as a younger woman with her father - my namesake
- Israel David Rosenbloom, for instance.

She had the same majestic picture of Israel David that had hung om my grandmother's wall. It had hung on Alta's wall as well. And there were others.

But she had some that she could not identify.
 My grandparents in Vandergrift Pennsylvania, with their four older children. Mother was not yet born, so this would have been late 1924 or early 1925. And Lydia has an original baby picture of my mother, sitting on a stool.

She had one of Uncle Hymen and Aunt Becky with their two sons, taken probably 1926 before their daughter was born. And of course she had no idea who these people were. But she had preserved them in her album nonetheless.

We knew that Uncle Hymen had had some contact with at least his father until 1929, but it was now clear to me that the two sisters were also in contact. I had no expectations of my grandmother who never spoke of Russia and in her depression with small-town life far away from her family, burned some of her own pictures. But there it was. Well into the 1920s.

The labeling I cited last week on the picture of Uncle Hymen with Aunt Alta's family, is not completely correct. The younger daughter Sonya could not have been in that 1914 photograph as she was not born until after WWI. Apparently there was another sister who died and whom no one remembers. And the older girl in that one might be the half sister Aunt Mera, rather than Alta's older daughter Etta Bryna (Esfira in Russian).

Odd about that. All three surviving siblings, Alta, Sarah and Hymen named their first daughters Etta Bryna, after their mother. My Aunt Ethel and her husband adopted a daughter after a dozen years of marriage. She later had two naturally. Uncle Hymen's Ethel had no children and adopted a son. Esfira too had no children, but raised her husband's son from his previous marriage.

It was a joyous meeting, but far from complete. We will find a way to do this again and I hope to talk to the others in the family. Lydia gave me DNA. Her mother is not Jewish, so all her Jewish DNA is Rosenbloom and Kaplan. And she told me proudly "I did giyur" showing me a conversion certificate issued in Columbus. For now, her son - born 1965 - is not interested in any of this and in any case was not in town when I visited.

So here, if I have it right, is what we have added to our Rosenbloom family. Lydia's grandfather Lev was probably named Yehudah after Etta Bryna's father.
The following evening, my second cousin Reuven Rosenbloom and his wife came to hear me speak and on Shabbat I had lunch with a Rosenbloom cousin of the next generation.

Housekeeping notes
The Cleveland audience was excellent and included several Pickholtz descendants. They say there were 55-60 people and there were lots of questions. Earlier in the day, I had said kaddish with two of the Cleveland Pickholtz brothers and then went to the cemetery where their parents are buried. Their mother's stone setting is planned for Mothers' Day.

I am writing from Salt Lake City, I want to get some research in at the library tomorrow (Tuesday) and Wednesday, before RootsTech begins. I am speaking Friday at eleven o'clock.

Sunday I am off to California for the last two presentations of this trip. No Rosenblooms there, but there are some younger generation Pickholtz cousins who might show up.

12 February 2017, 1:30 – Orange County JGS Temple Beth David, 6100 Hefley Street, Westminster, CA 92683
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey

13 February 2017, 7:30 – JGS of Los Angeles, American Jewish University, American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive
Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?

And I am speaking back home on 16 March, in Raanana. In English.