Sunday, December 4, 2016

"Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?"

So far, two of the presentations I will be doing in the US this winter will be on the new topic

WHY DID MY FATHER KNOW THAT HIS GRANDFATHER HAD AN UNCLE SELIG?

Those two events are
22 January 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Maryland, Baltimore County Public Library, 1301 Reiserstown Road, Pikesville and
13 February 2017, 7:30 – JGS of Los Angeles, American Jewish University, American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive

This is the summary that they will be using for their announcements:
More than twenty years before Israel Pickholtz began doing serious genealogy, his father sent him a postcard with three bits of family information. One of those was that Israel's great-grandfather Hersch Pikholz had an uncle Zelig. That information was very important in Israel's research over the last two decades, research that was helped along by traditional sources and more recently by genetic genealogy.
 
But even as he was progressing in his research, Israel could not shake the question "Why did my father know this?" Israel says "My father was eight years old when his grandfather Hersch Pikholz died and they never had any real conversation. None of the cousins knew about Uncle Zelig, not even the older one who lived in the same house as my great-grandfather. My father himself did not recall why he knew this."

And did it even matter? Israel tells the story of his great-great-great-uncle, what he learned about his family and why now he thinks he knows how his father knew. And yes, it matters.
This presentation is available 23-26 January and 30-31 January in the Maryland, New Jersey, New York area, 1-2 February in the Pennsylvania, Cleveland area and mid-February in the NJ/NY area.

Of course, there will be presentations on DNA during this trip.

Housekeeping notes
I have an extra $10 Family Finder coupon, if anyone wants it. Contact me by email or Facebook PM. (Update: This was snapped up withing five minutes of posting.)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Ultimate Jewish Genealogy:

The City of Our Foreparents - Hevron
The first recorded purchase by our forefathers in what came to be known as Eretz Israel, the Land of Israel, was the Cave of Machpela in Hevron, which was purchased by Avraham as a burial place for his wife Sarah. The purchase - including the surrounding field - and the burial are recorded in the Torah portion that Jews everywhere read yesterday.

David Wilder reports on Facebook that more than 30,000 visitors spent Shabbat in Hevron yesterday to celebrate that purchase.

The Cave of Machpela is the burial place not just for Sarah, but also for Avraham and for Yitzhak & Rivka and Yaakov & Leah, and those couples at the top of our Jewish family tree lived in Hevron. So it is that a visit to Hebron and the Cave is an ultimate genealogy tour.

I have mentioned Hevron in this space on several occasions, with some detail here.

As it worked out, I had the occasion to be in Hevron last Wednesday and I made a long overdue visit to the cemetery in the Ramat Yishai neighborhood. Some years ago, I took it upon myself to record the main Hevron cemetery - that part that has been in use since 1967.

My Hevron Cemetery website, as it appeared until this week, with over two hundred graves and markers




















For awhile I had made a point of visiting the cemetery at least twice a year and updated the website and JOWBR accordingly. Today the Hevron cemetery serves the small neighboring community of Kiryat Arba and the even smaller Hevron community itself, so each update would be just a handful of new graves. But it has been two and a half years so I expected perhaps two dozen additions..

The Cave of the Patriarchs
Since my last visit, there are a lot more signs in the city directing traffic to the various Jewish sites and neighborhoods. Among other things, you no longer go down the narrow street in front of the Cave itself unless that is where you are heading. I did not stop there this time but went directly to the Ramat Yishai neighborhood at the top of the hill.

On previous visits, I would drive up the steep hill to the point where you turn left to the neighborhood and right to the cemetery. There were generally two soldiers and I would tell them where I was going, and be on my way. Now it is different. If you want to go to the cemetery you have to wait for them to call for an armed escort. As I waited, I watched the playful interaction between the soldiers and the Arab children who lived in the area.

Hallel Yaffa Ariel, May G-d avenge her blood
Eventually they said I could proceed and I let myself into the cemetery. Two armed soldiers  showed up a few minutes later and I apologized for taking them away from whatever else they had been doing. I felt a bit silly being guarded on what I considered to be friendly turf. The two soldiers followed me closely at first, asking questions, such as why are there stones on the graves. It turned out that these soldiers were not Jews but Druze and they were happy for the opportunity to learn about our burial customs. I pointed out to them several terror victims, including two father and sons killed in drive-by shootings. Although they were a few years ago, they knew of them. Of course they certainly remembered the terrible incident of the thirteen and a half year old Hallel Yaffa Ariel stabbed by a terrorist while in her bed only a few months ago. Her grave is at the top to the left of the Torah scrolls, right where you enter. You can't miss it. You mustn't miss it.



There is one new soldier - Major Benaya Sarel, who was killed in battle in Operation Protective Edge. His story (in Hebrew) can be found at the IDF site for fallen soldiers. He is survived by his parents, four sisters, three brothers and his fiancee.

The other new graves are down a flight of stairs to a new section next to the old rabbinic section. That required a bit of redesign of the web page and it now looks like this. (I know, it requires a more professional hand.)




Yosef Pachuau's epitaph is partly in Mizo
All the new graves - except one which I seem to have skipped - appear on the website with translations. Well, mostly with translations. Some years ago when some of the Bnei Menashe community began coming to Israel from India, a large contingent settled in Kiryat Arba. These are descendants of the tribe of Menashe who have been living in northeast India for more than 2500 years. They speak a language called Mizo and several of the newer graves have epitaphs in Mizo in addition to the Hebrew. GoogleTranslate doesn't do Mizo.

Others in the newest section are from the old Soviet Union, the US, Argentina, and elsewhere including of course native Israelis. Ashkenazim and Sepharadim. Old and young. Mostly men, some women. One whose stone is blank, but an epitaph of sorts appears on the wall next to the grave.



Housekeeping notes
We pray for all those affected by the terror fires here in Israel. We have just begun asking for rain and here we have another reason to do so. And may this scourge be eradicated from our land.

Program chairs - and people who know program chairs - please note. I have some available dates during my coming US trip, particularly the weekdays between 23 January and 2 February, in the east and midwest and perhaps 14-16 February in the NY/NJ area  Perhaps even Sunday the nineteenth. Several topics are available including the Lazarus-Endogamy talk which I presented in Seattle and a new one about Uncle Selig where DNA is not the main point of interest.

The following programs are set, with some others under discussion:

22 January 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Maryland, Baltimore County Public Library, 1301 Reiserstown Road, Pikesville
Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?
29 January 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Greater Philadelphia, Main Line Reform Temple 410 Montgomery Avenue, Wynnewood
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey
5 February 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Cleveland, Park Synagogue East, 27500 Shaker Blvd,  Pepper Pike
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey
10 February 2017, 11:00ROOTSTECH2017,
Jewish DNA: Successes and Lessons from the Journey
12 February 2017, 1:30 - Orange County JGS - details to follow.
13 February 2017, 7:30 - JGS of Los Angeles, American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive
Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Lichterman - Checking the Source


My g-gm's grave in Borisov
Etta Bryna - my great-grandmother
I wrote about the maiden name of my mother's mother's mother Etta Bryna Rosenbloom at length in the early days of this blog four and a half years ago and for those who want the details, it's worth a reread. She died probably in her late thirties and we know precious little about her. In addition to the information I presented back then, Renee Steinig found the death certificate of my grandmother's other sister in Islip, Suffolk County - but it lists both her parents' names as "unknown." The informant was the hospital.
Etta Bryna's tombstone

So I am still where I was then. Etta Bryna's father is Yehudah and he is a Levi. My conjecture that she is a Lichterman still runs up against a lack of any proof that the Lichtermans - a known Borisov family - were Leviim, but the gravestones of the known Lichterman men have no Hebrew. The traditional grave of their sister Gitta Lichterman Benenson (below) calls her father "Yosef" with no mention of his being a Levi.

This is where I have been holding for the past four or five years.

Gitta Lichterman Benenson
Our new project for several Borisov families 
Recently I joined forces with Galit Aviv to have a look at several Borisov famliies who appear to be connected to one another. These would be the Lichtermans, the Kaplanskys, the Benensons and the Rosenblooms. There are a couple of others which might belong here as well. To that end, we have added several people to the Rosenbloom Project that I set up at Family Tree DNA some years ago and are getting a few others to test - including a granddaughter of Gitta.

Galit - whom I have not met, but expect to see when I am in the US during the winter - is a good and resourceful researcher. Among other things, she came up with the following.














This is the 1908 death and burial record for Moshe Likhterman the son of R' Yudel
Map from the
JewishGen Gazeteer
Likhterman the Levi, in Slutsk. He is also called "the son-in-law of R' Eliyahu" followed by the odd notation "l'm24." The burial is next to someone named Yehuda who died a few month earlier. Could this be the brother of Etta Bryna? The fathers of both are Yehudah who is a Levi. And is that Yehudah next to him perhaps his father? And what is that odd notation "l'm24?"

Slutsk is some ninety miles SSW of Borisov, but that needn't indicate a problem. Certainly not if this Moshe held a rabbinic position.

The next step was obviously to see the actual Chevra Kadisha records, the book from Slutsk which is the source for the above record.

I contacted the people who had submitted the Chevra Kadisha records and no one was quite sure what the source was, except that it was in Israel and that the translators (from Hebrew) too were Israelis. So I had a look at the web site of the National Library, on the campus of the Hebrew University here in Jerusalem, hoping I would find it either there or at the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People which is now part of the Library.

The Manuscript Reading Room
The Chavra Kadisha book of Slutsk for the years 5439-5684 (1679-1924)




















The book is in the Manuscript Reading Room at the National Library, so that's where I went. It had moved since the last time I was there and is now in a pleasant room behind the cafeteria. Two young librarians, Ariel and Moriah set me up with a microfilm reader that had a scanner attached and brought out the film in a matter of minutes.
I saw that the transcription was faithful to the original text, with one small exception. (The original calls the deceased "yashish" which in modern Hebrew means elderly, while the translation is "venerable." But venerable was a more common meaning when the original was written.)

The original had the ל"מ (l"m) - left of center on the third line - but not the "24" which I assume was some sort of typographical error. But I didn't know what those initials meant or if they were significant.

Until suddenly I did. Because I had seen this before.

Four years ago, I wrote in this space about the correct name of Hersch Leib Pikholz of Rozdol and the solution to the problem was found in the records of what we call Kollel Galicia here in Jerusalem. The records in question are too poor quality to show here, but here is what I wrote in that earlier blog.
I was surprised to see that there were no contributions by anyone named Pikholz, despite the fact that Rozdol was the place that all the Pikholz families from that area had come from. There are no lists of Holocaust victims from Rozdol, but from our own records we know that there were Pikholz families there at the time. Certainly in the late 1920s. Eventually, I realized what had happened. The person in charge of collections for Rozdol, Pinchas Kerner, was himself a Pikholz son-in-law and he knew all the families personally, so instead of writing out the name each time, he simply wrote P"H as a personal shorthand.
l'm is shorthand for Likhterman!

R' Moshe's father-in-law Eliyahu is a Likhterman. I asked Ariel to have a look and he said "It wasn't uncommon for people to marry relatives." Maybe it's that simple.

But I don't think so. I read it differently. The rabbi Moshe ben Rabbi Idel the Levi Likhterman the son-in-law of R' Eliyahu Likhterman. How about Moshe (son of R' Idel the Levi) Likhterman? Ariel said he could see that possibility as well.

I think Moshe's father is a Levi but is not Likhterman. Moshe took the name Likhterman from his father-in-law. So Etta Bryna can be the sister of Moshe Likhterman without that being her maiden name - and the Likhtermans are not Leviim. The father of Etta Bryna and Moshe is. What is his - and Etta Bryna's - surname?

Now we go back to my grandmother's passenger list where she seems to be going to her "cousin J. Ben..." I demonstrated four years ago that this is Jacob Benenson, the husband of Gitta Lichterman. So is my grandmother calling a relative of her mother's sister-in-law (who lived in Slutsk!) "cousin?" Perhaps the cousin was Jacob and Etta Bryna is a Benenson.

I haven't a clue if the Benensons of Borisov are Leviim. Of the Benensons on Find A Grave, there are eight or nine men with photographs and Hebrew epitaphs. None say "Levi."

There are a lot of "if"s and "maybe"s in this highly speculative scenario and I am not about to jump to any conclusions. But for the first time in several years I see some possible movement in this part of the family. And some new possibilities. My instincts have been pretty good. Maybe we will learn something from the new DNA project and the new contacts.

Oh yes, I also looked at the burial record for the Yehudah who is buried next to Moshe Likhterman. He is someone not connected. Apparently they didn't number the plots, but recorded the locations according to the next grave over.

Housekeeping notes
Program chairs - and people who know program chairs - please note. I have some available dates during my coming US trip, particularly the weekdays between 23 January and 2 February, in the east and midwest and perhaps 14-16 February in the NY/NJ area  Perhaps even Sunday the nineteenth. Several topics are available including the Lazarus-Endogamy talk which I presented in Seattle and a new one about Uncle Selig where DNA is not the main point of interest.

The following programs are set, with some others under discussion:
22 January 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Maryland, Baltimore County Public Library, 1301 Reiserstown Road, Pikesville
Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?
29 January 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Greater Philadelphia, Main Line Reform Temple 410 Montgomery Avenue, Wynnewood
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey
5 February 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Cleveland, Park Synagogue East, 27500 Shaker Blvd,  Pepper Pike
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey
10 February 2017, 11:00ROOTSTECH2017,
Jewish DNA: Successes and Lessons from the Journey
12 February 2017, 1:30 - Orange County JGS - details to follow.
13 February 2017, 7:30 - JGS of Los Angeles, American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive
Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?
It's been awhile since I have mentioned my book, available at www.endogamy-one-family.com.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Moritz Rosenzweig, Eighty-Eight Years Later

My great grandfather Moritz Rosenzweig died 19 Heshvan 5689, eighty-eight years ago today.

With his wife Regina and children, ~1905




He was born 26 November 1858 in Domaniza, Trencin County, Slovakia to Ignac (Yitzhak Yehudah) Rosenzweig and Mali (Miriam) Zelinka. Both his parents' families had lived in Trencin County for several generations.

He had a sister who died just before her sixth birthday and three brothers, two older and one younger.
The towns in red are "ours," as is
Považská Bystrica (aka Vag Bestercze)











Moritz' mother Mali died in 1905 at age eighty and Ignac in probably 1917 at age ninety-six. Both are buried in Vag Bestercze.

In February 1885, Moritz Rosenzweig married Hermina (Chana) Schaefer in Budapest. They had a daughter Elvira and a son Siegfried (aka Aunt Ella and Uncle Fred). Hermina died in 1889 and the next year, Moritz married Regina (Rivka) Bauer of Kunszentmiklos. They had three children in Budapest - Sigmund, Albert Jules and Ilona (later Helen). Uncle Julie (later AJ Rosen) was named Yitzhak Yehudah in 1893, after his grandfather who lived another two dozen years.

In 1901, Moritz went to the United States, arriving in New York but bound for Allegheny Pennsylvania, now the North Side of Pittsburgh.












According to the passenger list, he was going to his cousin in Allegheny. I cannot read the name precisely and do not know who it might be.
 
The following year, Regina arrived in Allegheny with the five children and one year after that my grandmother was born. She was named Miriam (Margaret) after Moritz' living mother.

He became a US citizen in 1906. I see no evidence that he ever returned to Europe, not for his parents' funerals nor to visit his ninety year old father. (I checked both US passport applications and incoming passengers on Ancestry.)

Moritz worked as a cabinet maker and the family attended the (predominantly Hungarian) Poale Zedeck synagogue in the Hill District. He served on the building committee for the new building in Squirrel Hill and died at age seventy, just after the first High Holiday services were held in that building.

Housekeeping notes
I have just set for 12 February at the Orange County JGS.

Program chairs - and people who know program chairs - please note. I have some available dates during my coming US trip, particularly the weekdays between 23 January and 2 February, in the east and midwest and 14-16 February in the NY/NJ area  Several topics are available including the Lazarus-Endogamy talk which I presented in Seattle and a new one where DNA is not the main point of interest.

The following programs are set, with some others under discussion:
22 January 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Maryland, Baltimore County Public Library, 1301 Reiserstown Road, Pikesville
Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?
29 January 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Greater Philadelphia, Main Line Reform Temple 410 Montgomery Avenue, Wynnewood
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey
5 February 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Cleveland, Park Synagogue East, 27500 Shaker Blvd,  Pepper Pike
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey
10 February 2017, 11:00ROOTSTECH2017,
Jewish DNA: Successes and Lessons from the Journey
12 February 2017, 1:30 - Orange County JGS - details to follow.
13 February 2017, 7:30 - JGS of Los Angeles, American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive
Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Large DNA Matches of My Great-Grandfather

I have written about GEDmatch's Lazarus tool before - most notably here, here and here. (I had quite forgotten about the last of those three and very much enjoyed rediscovering it this week.)

I have also spoken about Lazarus in a talk I gave at the IAJGS Conference in Seattle, "GEDmatch's Lazarus Tool As It Applies to Two Kinds of Endogamy." (I would be happy to give that talk during my coming US trip - see below for available dates.) For that talk, I created a Lazarus kit for my great-grandfather Hersch Pikholz and that kit is the subject of the first of the three links above.

Fourteen descendants of Hersch who tested. Ten were used in Group 1.
Descendants of Hersch's sisters












To review, you create a Lazarus kit using descendants of the target in Group 1 and non-descendant relatives in Group 2. Of course, you cannot use people who match each other other than through the target. This produces a partial genome of the target, in this case my great-grandfather. For him we used ten descendants in Group 1, while Group 2 consisted of nine descendants of his sisters and half sisters and ten other cousins. The resulting Lazarus kit is 2742.4 cM.

I used that kit to see what I could learn about his relationships with other Pikholz descendants. In one case, it was a big help; in others it was just one more bit of vague, ambiguous evidence.

The cousins round out Group 2. Mordecai is a Pikholz, but we don't know the relationship.
Now I am ready for the next step. Who else is related to the partial genome which is the Lazarus kit of my great-grandfather Hersch Pikholz?

For that I turned to another of the GEDmatch Tier 1 tools -  the Matching Segment Search. This shows all the matching segments of a given kit, in a very convenient, visual format.


























The default for the search is 7 cM, but in order to make it more manageable, I set the threshold at 20 cM. I figured it was likely that the smaller matches would not lead anywhere. Remember, both of Hersch's parents are Pikholz and we have no other surnames in his ancestry. In the results above, 28 of 29 listed matches are known family members of my great grandfather. I have no idea who the other one is - but of course that is the purpose of this exercise.

The Matching Segment Search produced 230 results of 20 cM or more, 179 of which are our own. The remaining fifty one are on twelve segments but the majority of those appear to be "pile up regions."

None of the fifty one segments are as long as 30 cM.. With one exception, all the chromosomes with multiple matches come on the same segment.

There are a few matches where we have no corresponding Pikholz matches - matches that would have been necessary to create the Lazarus kit. I suspect that these are not real segments, at least not that big, but are compounded from smaller segments. Nonetheless, I am following them up.

The kwoczka announces that 
Hersch Pikholz' match said the secret word.
So far, I have written to twenty-six of these new matches - most of whom are not people I know. We'll see what comes of that. Eight have responded so far. The very first knocked my socks off by saying that her mother was from Berehove, a city in Sub-Carpathian Ukraine where one of my close Y-DNA matches comes from. There is some serious potential here regarding where we were before Galicia.. I hope that before long Lara Diamond will be organizing record acquisition from Berehove.

Another match for my great-grandfather's Lazarus kit has Beinenson ancestors from my maternal grandmother's home town of Borisov (Belarus) and he will be joining our project there.

Actually several of the responding matches have ancestry from Belarus, which is not an area we generally associate with the Pikholz family.


Anyone who cares to do a one-to-one with my great-grandfather is welcome to do so, using his kit LL557686.

Housekeeping notes
I have added a stop at the JGS of Los Angeles to my winter itinerary. See details below. (I did my basic DNA presentation for them fifteen months ago.)

Program chairs - and people who know program chairs - please note. I have some open dates for my US trip in the winter, including Sunday 12 February in the west. Weekdays are available between 23 January and 2 February, in the east and midwest. Several topics are available including the Lazarus-Endogamy talk which I presented in Seattle and a new one where DNA is not the main point of interest.

The following programs are set, with some others under discussion:

22 January 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Maryland, Baltimore County Public Library, 1301 Reiserstown Road, Pikesville
Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?
29 January 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Greater Philadelphia, Main Line Reform Temple 410 Montgomery Avenue, Wynnewood
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey
5 February 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Cleveland, Park Synagogue East, 27500 Shaker Blvd,  Pepper Pike
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey
10 February 2017, 11:00ROOTSTECH2017, Jewish DNA: Successes and Lessons from the Journey
13 February 2017, 7:30 - JGS of Los Angeles, American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive
Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?


FTDNA's big sale is on, led by the $59 price for Family Finder. Also reduced prices for the Y and MtDNA tests, together with coupons. If you are a family member, talk to me.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Count the Stars - Eduard Riss

Counting the stars
אחר הדברים האלה היה דבר-ה' אל-אברם במחזה לאמר; אל-תירא אברם אנכי מגן לך שכרך הרבה מאד....ויוצא אתו החוצה ויאמר הבט-נא השמימה וספר הכוכבים אם-תוכל לספור אתם; ויאמר לו, כה יהיה זרעך         (בראשית ט"ו)
After these things the word of the L-rd came to Avram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Avram: I am thy shield; thy reward will be very great... And He brought him outside, and said, Look now toward Heaven, and count the stars, if thou be able to number them: and He said to him, So shall thy seed be.   (Genesis 15)
Friday night during services, I spoke about the second verse above, which is part of what synagogues all over the world read the following morning. G-d makes promises to Avram and Avram says that so long as he has no children, the promises mean little.

Women performing for women.
Coming soon to Jerusalem.
There is some debate among the traditional commentaries about the meaning of "brought him outside." The great medieval commentator Rashi says that the literal explanation is that G-d brought Avram out of his tent so he could see the sky and attempt to count the stars. "So [innumerable] shall thy seed be."

Rashi goes on to suggest two other explanations. He suggests that G-d said "Get out of your astrology where the stars say that Avram will not have children for in fact Avraham will have children."

On a more fantastic level, Rashi says that G-d took Avram "outside the space of the world, above the stars" and told him to count the stars from that vantage point.

There are two versions of the Biblical punctuation on that verse and as I see it, one is more appropriate to Rashi's first explanation and the other for the third. That's part of what I am speaking about. (That, and that the more fantastic version seems more likely to be correct. After all, it was specifically described as a vision. And there was no need for a vision if the whole thing was "go outside and look at the stars.")

Malbim, who served as rabbi of a series of communities all over Europe in the 1800s, ran with the last of Rashi's ideas, which he referred to as "literal." I won't go into all the detail, but he says that since G-d has already told Avram that his seed will be numerous as the dust of the earth and that the "number" of dust is greater than the number of stars, He cannot be simply saying "count the stars" as a number.

He also pointed the obvious that by simply leaving his tent, Avram could not have seen "all the stars." For this, he would have to be  "outside the space of the world, above the stars."

Malbim says that G-d was saying (my translation here) "every one of your descendants will be an important world of his own and is to be counted on its own, just as G-d accounts for the stars with each as a world unto itself. And if one star were missing, it would affect the entire Creation. Similarly every Jew is a world unto himself and any who is missing affects the fullness (perfection) of the worldly structure.... and showed him that as G-d runs the world through the natural celestial system, with each star fulfilling its appointed purpose...," the importance of every individual, fulfilling his appointed purpose, is essential for the perfection of the universe.

That is why G-d adds "So shall thy seed be." Every one of critical importance, every one with a purpose.

A few days ago, I said a few words about this to my friend and colleague Lara Diamond and she said "Can you tie in genealogy?"

Eduard Riss
As it happened, at the same time I was having a look at Genteam's Vienna records for the first time in many months. Genteam made an announcement earlier this week about new records and I figured I should have a look.
I  did an "Overall Search" based on several spellings of Pikholz and got just over a hundred results, mostly births, deaths and marriages. They were transcribed extracts rather than records and often didn't even have the dates which surely appeared on the originals. Many were duplicates - one for the bride and one for the groom or one for the birth and one for the parent.

There were two for people I didn't know. This one for instance.

I have no idea who this Mina Pickholz is and although we have seen variations of Aberbuch in relevant records, this one doesn't seem to be connected to anyone we know.

The date does not appear, but it is on the "results" page, so I added it on the right.

This is the other:

We know the family well. His parents - who are uncle and niece - had two other children whom I had heard about from family members. After Vienna, they lived in Cochabamba (Bolivia, for the uninitiated), but the local community says they are not buried there.

For the benefit of those of you who have not been here before, Breine Riss is the older half sister of my great-grandfather Hersch Pikholz. One of her younger sons, Moshe married the daughter - Frania - of his eldest brother Wilhelm.

Moshe and Frania's son Egon (there are three Egon Riss among Breine's descendants) appears in the Vienna birth  records. His sister Bela does not, so they may have left Vienna by the time she was born.

Egon and Bela are my half third cousins on Frania's side and my half second cousins once removed on Moshe's side. Both were married, neither had children.

Now this record for Eduard has shown up. In Vienna, in 1910. Clearly a third child of Moshe and Frania. But no one had ever mentioned him. I suppose he died young and the cousins I have been in touch with did not know he existed. (I checked this week with a ~94 year old daughter of Frania's sister.) Now we know at least that - and that apparently he did not die while his parents were still in Vienna. We know he lived at least until 1913, because the record says that his name was changed from Pickholz to Riss in 1913.

It's important to us genealogists to identify these family members, even those who died as children, and to learn what we can about them. Besides, as the Malbim tells us, each individual, fulfilling his appointed purpose plays a role in G-d's universe. Like every star.

Housekeeping notes
Program chairs - and people who know program chairs - please note. I have some open dates for my US trip in the winter, including Sunday 12 February. Weekdays are available between 23 January and 2 February, in the east and midwest. Several topics are available including the Lazarus-Endogamy talk which I presented in Seattle and a new one where DNA is not the main point of interest.

The following programs are set, with some others under discussion:
22 January 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Maryland, Baltimore County Public Library, 1301 Reiserstown Road, Pikesville
Why Did My Father Know His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?
29 January 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Greater Philadelphia, Main Line Reform Temple 410 Montgomery Avenue, Wynnewood
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey
5 February 2017, 1:30 – JGS of Cleveland, Park Synagogue East, 27500 Shaker Blvd,  Pepper Pike
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned on the Journey
10 February 2017, 11:00ROOTSTECH2017, Jewish DNA: Successes and Lessons from the Journey

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Matching Nahum


My friend Leah Gedalia, the former President of the Israel Genealogical Society, was here for two hours this morning, to talk about the FTDNA and GEDmatch results of her husband. Nahum himself has no interest in any of this - and I have never met him.

My cousin Nahum?
Nahum's first eight matches on GEDmatch include two of my four sisters, my father's brother and sister and me. His seventeenth best match is also one of mine, my father's second cousin Shabtai on my grandmother's mother's Hungarian Bauer/Stern side.

The six in my family have a longest segment from 19.7 to 51.8 cM and those not from my family are all less than 17 cM. So ours are clearly more significant.

In FTDNA, Nahum lists his ancestral surnames as being from Saloniki and Serbia, but his mother is from Hungary, so a match with the Hungarian part of my family makes sense. There is no reason he should match my Belarus or Galician families closely.

So I followed my own protocol, first sorting on the "Name" column to get all of my kits together - Nahum matches forty-some kits in my project. I selected the six kits above, plus my other two sisters, my double second cousin Lee and my second cousin Susan. Also my half second cousin Fred on my grandmother's father's side. Lee's brother Marshal does not appear in Nahum's GEDmatch match list, though they are suggested fifth-remote cousins according to FTDNA.

I did not include Uncle Bob's daughter and Aunt Betty's son.

Chromosome 1 shows a set of matches, 10-18 cM on a single segment with seven of us including Fred. There is also a small match of 8-9 cM with Aunt Betty, Uncle Bob, Lee and me.

I left it to Leah to do the triangulation on her own, but these segments are lined up well and in any case, she is quite sure that none of them should be on Nahum's father's side.

So based on the match with Fred, this groups appears to come from my great-grandfather's Rosenzweig or Zelinka families, both of whom lived in Trencin County in western Slovakia. (Fred has only one Jewish grandparent - my grandmother's half sister - so there should not be any endogamous interference from his other sides.)

On chromosome 2, Aunt Betty and Shabtai have a matching segment of about 10 cM. They triangulate.

On chromosome 4, Shabtai has a segment of 10 cM which matches a segment of 7.2 cM with Aunt Betty. Surprise, Leah - Nahum's father has something to do with this.

Chromosome 5 has the very large matches - 51 cM, 44 cM and three in the 27-30 range. Plus 19.7 cM with Shabtai. Most of them line up well and here too I left it to Leah to do the triangulation but it looks good.














The only other interesting match is a segment of chromosome 21, where an 18.2 cM segment with Lee triangulates with a 10.1 segment with Susan. Susan has an X match with Nahum, which cannot come from our side, but must be from her mother or her paternal grandmother.

Next I looked at Nahum's matches with other parts of my projects - my other known Pikholz relatives, the Rozdol Pikholz family, other Skalat Pikholz descendants. There was nothing remarkable there, almost as though each match represents a completely different path to Nahum.

But one match stood out. Nahum matches my fourth cousin Anna, great-great-granddaughter of Uncle Selig, on five segments, one of which is on the large segment on chromosome 5 above. This is a smallish 6.92 cM segment which, by all logic, should be a false segment, Identical by State (or by Chance). Nonetheless, Leah will include that in her triangulation, just to be sure.

Matching Segment Search
Our next stop was GEDmatch's Matching Segment Search, one of the tools in their Tier 1 program, which requires a small donation.

I entered Nahum's kit and raised the threshold from 7 cM to 12 cM, to keep the results more meaningful and more controllable. He matches 5147 kits.

This tool shows all his matches arranged by chromosome, moving along each chromosome from left to right. The graphic shows the matches in colors which groups matching segments together. We wanted to see who else matches Nahum on the segments of chromosome 1 and 5 where Nahum matches my family.

The chromosome 5 segment looks like this.
There is an additional column with the emails of the matches, so Leah can contact them, but it looks to me that they are a bit too far to the right to be useful.

Our segment on chromosome 1 has many dozens of matches and I'll leave it to Leah to decide if she wants to follow them up. They all appear to be less than 20 cM, so not likely to be productive. But then our matches here are also under 20 cM.

There are only four matches with our segment on chromosome 2, where Aunt Betty and Shabtai match Nahum. I don't know how promising that is, but it's not a lot of work to send notes to four people. Especially since it's Leah doing the sending.

FTDNA matches
Finally, we looked at Nahum's matches on FTDNA, based on surnames. Leah considers it likely that the chromosome 5 match which seems to come from my Bauer/Stern side, is the one which will most likely pan out. Leah was not familiar with the search filter (on the top right of the match page) which uses ancestral surnames, so I showed her how that works. One of the drawbacks with this filter is that you cannot simply write "Stern" and expect to get a neat list of matching Sterns. The search will give you everyone with Stern in the name - whether at the beginning or at the end. Nahum has over a hundred Sterns, including my thirteen.

But first we looked at Bauer where we found eighteen matches that are not my family.  Most of those are not actually Bauer and the few left did not appear to have any relevance to us.

When we looked at Nahum's Stern matches, we picked three of the closer ones and ran a chromosome browser that also included Sarajoy and Aunt Betty. All three matched and two of them matched each other. (One of the three is a woman in Vermont whom I've been corresponding with about another, unrelated family matter.) Leah will write all three and check out others.

Finally, I mentioned that my great-great-grandmother Fani Stern may have been a Grunwald and Leah said that Nahum had Grunfelds. Those two need not be the same name, but could be, so we checked and saw that Nahum has six Grunfeld matches: Alice, Peter, Maxwell, Jeff, Julie and David. None of these matches is close, but we put them into chromosome browsers, just for fun. All but Alice match either Sarajoy or Aunt Betty and Jeff and Julie match one another. (I'm in a conversation with Jeff about some other part of my family.) So Leah will follow up with all of these too.

It was a good day's work. I'll add Nahum to my FTDNA project.

Housekeeping notes
Program chairs - and people who know program chairs - please note. I have some open dates for my US trip in the winter, including Sunday 5 February and Sunday 12 February. Weekdays are available between 23 January and 2 February. Several topics are available including the Lazarus-Endogamy talk which I presented in Seattle and a new one where DNA is not the main point of interest.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Let's See How This Approach Works

Dear Mr. Pikholz, 
I tested my DNA with Ancestry.com and I see on GEDmatch that I match twenty-six kits that have your email.
The names in my family are Cohen, Levy, Miller, Friedman, Blumenstein on my father's side and Goldstein, Goldberg, Feingold, Goldsmith and Kuperman on my mother's side.
Can you tell me how we are related? My GEDmatch number is A______.

Dear _______,
I manage about ninety kits and most weeks I hear from people like you who match thirty, forty, fifty and more. Those are generally weak matches with no segment larger than 15 cM. Usually 15 cM isn't much to go on, particularly when we have no surnames in common. (Much of that is on me because I do not have large numbers of surnames on my sides.)
I have begun suggesting that people do the following:
  1. If you are on Family Tree DNA, check the surnames of your matches with me, in the far right column and see if anything matches.
  2. Get on GEDmatch and search your kit using "one-to-many" but change the 7 to 15 or 20. That will eliminate the small matches. (You can always go back and look at those later.) Then sort on the "name" column. All my kits will come up together near the top. The middle part of the name tells you who is from which family, using the codes at http://pikholz.org/GEDmatchGroups.html .
Then we can talk, if you find anything significant.
For an example of how this can work, look at my blog post "Cousin Debbie" from last May. And note that although this was a very successful inquiry, we still were not able to be specific about the nature of our connection.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Lazarus: The Odd Case of the Son and His Mother

One of the talks I gave at the recent IAJGS Conference in Seattle is "GEDmatch.com's Lazarus Tool As It Applies to Two Kinds of Endogamy." This was a first-time presentation and the idea was three-fold:
  • to show some of the things you have to be careful of when creating a Lazarus kit in an endogamous population
  • to show how I used the Lazarus kit of my great-grandfather to further my research
  • to show how two the different kinds of endogamy - structural and personal - blend together to enable analysis that would otherwise be exceedingly difficult if not impossible
For those of you not familiar with the Lazarus tool (about which I have written several times, beginning here), GEDmatch reconstructs a partial genome based on DNA that is shared between that person's descendants and that person's non-descendant relatives. Needless to say, this must be done very carefully to ensure that matching DNA from other ancestral lines are not mistakenly included in the reconstructed kit.

My target here is my great-grandfather Hersch Pickholz, who was born in east Galicia in about 1853 and died in Pittsburgh in 1931. His parents are Isak Fischel Pikholz - whose parents and siblings are unknown - and Rivka Feige Pikholz - whose parents and (at least  some) siblings we know. We have DNA tests for three of Hersch's four surviving grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren.

Hersch Pikholz
My great-grandfather Hersch Pickholz has two sisters and two half sisters (from his mother) who have descendants who have tested for our project, plus one brother whose one identified grandchildren were killed in Europe.

Hersch Pikholz, his tested descendants, two sisters, two half sisters, parents and known grandparents

So this gives us fourteen descendants and nine non-descendant relatives, for a total - after some adjustments - of 1947.2 cM. To this I added the seven great-great-grandchildren of Hersch's mother's three brothers.
The addition of these seven non-descendant relatives, brings Hersh's Lazarus kit to 2558.9 cM. But it's not that simple. There is a Mordecai Pikholz who is undoubtedly related to both Hersch's father Isak Fischel and to Hersch's grandfather Isak Josef, but we have no idea how. Some of his descendants are already in the picture, as you can see in red below.

So Charlie's mother has one grandparent from Isak Josef and one from Mordecai. The same for Judy's father. Leonora's has four Pikholz grandparents, two from each side, and one of those - Cirl - has one parent from each side. But I am OK with this because as far as Hersch is concerned, Charlie, Leonora and Judy are all non-descendant relatives, therefore good for his Lazarus kit.

But as long as I have introduced Mordecai, I figured I may as well include his other three sons, each of whom has one descendant who has tested. Adding these three - Barbara,  Dalia and Lloyd - bring the total of Hersch's kit to 2742.4 cM.

Rivka Feige Pikholz, the mother of Hersch
At some point, while preparing the Lazarus talk, I realized that I already had enough information in hand to do a nice Lazarus kit for Hersch's mother Rivka Feige. So just for fun, I did. The twenty-three who tested in the chart at the top are all her descendants and the seven in the second chart are all her brothers' descendants. In this case, I decided to omit Barbara, Dalia and Lloyd.

Rivka Feige's test kit was a respectable 2189.5 cM. (Had I included Barbara, Dalia and Lloyd, it would have been 2708.9 cM. This is a large difference, which seemed to me to justify leaving them out.)

I then compared the two kits, Rivka Feige and Hersch, mother and son. Keep in mind that I have not included anyone who is known to be related to Hersch ONLY through his father Isak Fischel, and in fact it is highly unlikely that there is anyone who fits that category, since all these Pikholz are clearly related, closely. Not through some structural Jewish endogamy, but because these close cousins were marrying each other in the current generations.


The match between the Lazarus kits of Rivka Feige and Hersch is 1357.9 cM. That means that fully half of Hersch's Lazarus kit (2742.4 cM) does NOT come from matches to his mother. But we tested no one who is exclusively from his father's family. Even if we grant that Barbara, Dalia and Lloyd might be in that category, they only added less than 200 cM to Hersch's Lazarus kit.

This is the power of endogamy.

Again, let me remind you, dear reader, that this mother-son comparison was not the purpose of the Lazarus presentation. It was something that I looked at "just for fun" much as I looked at Hersch's predicted eye color just for fun. We have no photographs of Hersch Pikholz, even though he lived in Pittsburgh for nearly thirty years. Certainly nothing showing his eye color. But my grandmother kept waiting for a red-head grandchild, because Hersch had a red beard. This is what GEDmatch said about his eye color. Just for fun.
Last week, I mentioned my plans for a trip to the US before RootsTech. I am available for presentations then - in particular the full "GEDmatch.com's Lazarus Tool As It Applies to Two Kinds of Endogamy." #PROGRAMCHAIRS