Sunday, September 29, 2013


I would like to lay out some numbers on our DNA project. (Please don't say "So what does this mean?" I will take it as a complaint, not a question.)

Last week, I told the Pikholz descendants that I would be posting about the DNA results we have received until now. After preparing a draft, we received results for three more Family Finder tests and one Y-chromosome test.

So what follows has been completely rewritten and includes results that no one has seen yet.

Family Finder (autosomal) test results

We have actual autosomal test results in hand for twenty-five people - twenty-two from "group a" above and three more from "group e." That means that each person can match up to twenty-four other people in our group. The twenty-two all have Pikholz (that specific spelling) listed in FTDAN among their ancestral surnames, so it is easy to locate them.

So let's see how that works out.

I match only twelve, but my aunt matches sixteen and my father's first cousin eighteen. There are only four that neither of them matches - oddly enough none of those are on the Rozdol side.

Only three people match fewer people than I (eight, eight and five), but two of them have non-Jewish "other sides" which means they don't have the background noise that the rest of us have.

The average tester has 14.4 matches.

The two of the three non-Pikholz we have so far have sixteen matches, higher than the average number of matches within the Pikholz testers. The third has only thirteen matches and nothing close, but he joined our group on his own initiative. He has a cousin with good, close matches and I hope she will be joining our group soon.

The two people with the most matches are Lloyd from Skalat (twenty-one matches) and Micha from Rozdol (twenty matches). Micha, by the way, has two documented second cousins once removed (third cousins to each other), but his test shows him as a suggested fourth cousin to both. This is unusual, as it more often happens that people appear closer than they actually are.

Y-chromosome (male-line) tests
Several people who have tested have done their non-Pikholz male lines. I shall not be including those in this discussion.

Eight people have done Y-chromosome tests, four from Skalat, three from Rozdol and one whom I think is Skalat.  That last one is non-trivial as he has seventeen autosomal matches within our group.

Both Lloyd and Micha have done Y-chromosome tests, but Micha has only tested at the most basic level thusfar.

Among the Skalaters, I and two others have an identical haplogroup (R-M269) and we are pretty sure that one of them is my fourth cousin once removed.

The other is a bit of a puzzle, for while he and I are perfect matches at 37 markers - which indicates that we very likely have a common ancestor about six generations ago - he is the person who has only five autosomal matches, and none with my immediate family. His known cousin has only eight autosomal matches, also with none to my own family. What probably happened here is that particular branch of that particular family did not pass on its Pikholz DNA well. Other branches might have, but there are few of those and they have not tested.

Lloyd's haplogroup is something else entirely - E-M35.1. His case is unusual as his grandfather's birth record shows both his parents to be Pikholz. We know the lineage of the mother, but not the father. When the mother went to the US, she was married to someone who is not a Pikholz and it is possible that the birth record may be in error regarding the father's surname, thus explaining the different haplogroup.

Further explanations
I think I'll forego further explanations here, at least for now. Tiptoeing around certain privacy demands makes it difficult to communicate.

I'll write to people individually, based on their own results.

This, by the way, is well worth a read -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I am giving a serious look at attending a course called Practical Genetic Genealogy which will be held at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh the week preceding the next conference in Salt Lake City.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


About a month ago, the following announcement showed up on several of the JewishGen discussion lists.
This is just the beginning. It continues on for several more paragraphs.
Note the reference to the All Galician Database as AGD, not to be confused with AGAD, the Warsaw archives which holds most of the available vital records for east Galicia in the late 1800s.

Having interests in most of the towns with the new records, I decided to have a look. Their drop-down menu did not include Skalat and Podwoloczysk (or for that matter Brzezany) among its choices, so I did a search for Pikholz records from Grzymalow, which is quite near Skalat.
The actual search. (I added the red arrow for the readers' convenience.)
The search produced thirty-two results, six of them from Grzymalow, the rest from elsewhere in east Galicia. Thirty-one showed the name Pikholz  - one was Pekules, which is reasonable as a sound-alike. I already had most of these records and I have actually met some of those mentioned in the Grzymalow school records. And it turns out I get the same thirty-two records regardless of which town I ask the system to search.

I would like to tell you about the four which I  am planning to order, all from the Podwoloczysk.records in the AGAD archives.
Prof. Jonas Zellermayer came to Israel form Vienna when he was twenty-four and lived here 
for nearly seventy years. His son-in-law was my boss thirty-five years ago.

Everything we have here lists his father as Avraham, without the second name, so we now know that his father was actually Avraham Yitzhak. One odd thing with this family - we know much  about Avraham's family, but not his parents' names. We know the names of the grandparents and his Pikholz great-grandparents, his mother's three brothers and two sisters, but we know neither the name of his Pikholz mother nor that of his Zellermayer father.

But now we know, as their marriage record was the great surprise of this new set of indexed
records. Jonas'  father Abraham Eisig was the son of Zalmen Juda Zellermayer and Ettel Pickholz.

The fact that he came from Liczkowce may also prove useful as we have several Zellermayer-Pikholz connections and it is not at all clear if there is a larger family story to be told.

In fact, at least three of the four  records I cite here are in some way connected to Zellermayers. 

In the meantime, I sent the marriage entry to the two granddaughters of Abraham and Basie and as a result had my most significant interaction with either of them in some years. Those two granddaughters are, by the way, named after Basie's parents Don and Rifke.

We have a Pikholz couple named Gabriel and Sara who lived in Husiatyn. They had a son Moshe in 1851 and a daughter Chanzie. Gabriel, who was described as "from Skalat" died in
1852 at age thirty in a house associated with a Zellermayer family. Our only knowledge of Chanzie is that she was married to Joel Halpern and lived in Podwoloczysk, which we learn from the 1887 death record of their young son Isaak and the 1893 birth record for their daughter Breine. We know nothing further of Breine.

The new records include the 1911 marriage of their previously unknown daughter Jente to Schamschon Duwid Sirki, son of Mechel and Ester. Thusfar, I have not found other references to the surname Sirki, but it would be great if we can find some descendants.

And this one must be related too. In 1896, we have the Podwoloczysk marriage of Wolf Feldman, age 29, son of Hirsch and Male of Tarnopol to Etie Golde Pikholz, the thirty-two year
old daughter of Gabriel and Breine of Husiatyn.

This cannot be the same Gabriel above - that one died 1852 and this one had a daughter in 1864. Nor can it be any other Gabriel we know. And although we do not have any ther couple named Gabriel and Breine, we do have the one Gabriel with a granddaughter Breine and another whose mother is Brane. It all seems to revolve around Husiatyn.

I haven't a clue how this couple fits in, but the existence of the marriage record opens the possibility of finding some Feldman descendant.

So I must see if I can find anything else of the Sirki and Feldman couples - nothing so far. I will also order the four records themselves from AGAD, as these are not online.

I plan to see if others want to order anything, so that I can put together a larger order, so I asked if any other new records will be added to the All Galicia Database in the coming weeks. (No sense in placing an order and finding out two weeks later that it could have been bigger.) The answer I received was "Nothing that would be from AGAD."

One other odd one. A couple of weeks ago, Jurek, a research colleague in Sweden was
looking at a 1938 telephone directory that Logan Kleinwaks had just uploaded to his wonderful site. There was a listing - apparently a business - for "Pickholz i Wachs" in Skalat. The telephone number is 8. Nothing else but the street name.

This is very strange, as there are no other Wachs in Skalat, at least during the earlier period for which we have records.

But we do have some sort of undefined relationship between the Wachs family of Zalosce-Podkamen and my own Pikholz family  who lived in that same area. So I cannot just ignore this.

I have asked one of the surviving Skalaters here if she knows anything about this business or the families involved and I plan to ask others as well.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
If you missed my piece about Uncle Kenny last year, you might want to have a look. His yahrzeit is Monday.

Friday, September 13, 2013


This week, I am posting Friday rather than early Sunday, because I want to get this up before Yom Kippur. On the other hand, I will likely have what to say afterwards, so please tune back again Sunday for my additional comments.

Last year, after the holidays, I was having a conversation with Dan, a younger fellow (maybe forty-two?) in my shul, about the holiday service. He often serves as hazzan for musaf on one of the two days of Rosh Hashanah and I generally read the Torah.

On Rosh Hashanah, we crown Hashem as King and I always liked that as a powerful service, fitting for a Divine Coronation. It has been awhile since I have participated in a service in that spirit, as the folks in our shul seem to prefer a soft and sweet service, arms waving in the air, etc etc.

And I said to Dan that one of my great regrets is that none of my sons has ever heard what I always considered the really great High Holiday service that I first heard forty-five years previous. Bits and pieces of that service.used to show up here and there and from time to time, but it was usually as a poor imitation - due both to the limits of the hazzan and the limits of the smaller congregations.

Dan asked me  what great service I was referring to and I told him that it was at the yeshiva in Kerem beYavne. I was not a student there, but the first year I was here, I was on a work-study program on neighboring Kevutzat Yavne.
The afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, one of my friends in the yeshiva came over and told me that I really must come the next day, as the service there was remarkable. So I did.

And I went again for Yom Kippur and again the next year for both holidays.

The hazzan was only a few years older than I, but he had a remarkable set of melodies, designed for a large,  participating congregation, which came across as extremely powerful. The hazzan himself never repeated any words, but the rest of he yeshiva seemed well rehearsed and provided a wonderful background. There were parts when it felt like the roof would lift up.

And Dan said "Do you know who that hazzan is?" When I said I didn't he continued "That's Emanuel's father and he is still there every year." Emanuel is a thirty-ish fellow in our shul and I  asked him if his father is really the hazzan I had heard so many years before. I did a few of his
tunes and he shook his head in recognition. Yes, his father, who lives here in Jerusalem, goes
back to Kerem beYavne every year for the holidays and it's just like it always was.

"So is there a way I can go for Yom Kippur next year" I asked him, "with Devir?" Emanuel said this was probably easy enough to arrange - I mean it's not like we need to be fed or anything.  (My wife does not fast well and stays in bed the whole day, so she doesn't really care where we are. Not like Rosh Hashanah, which might be a problem if Devir and I were to go away.)

So it's set. Forty-six years later, we are going. It's less than an hour's drive and we haven't decided if we will eat here or there, but we are actually going ahead with it. They'll give us couple of beds in the dormitory, which will be fine, as long as both are not top bunks. (I have never done "top bunk" and do not care to start now.)

Check back here Sunday, as I plan to add a section about what actually happens.

In the meantime, I want to thank all my readers for looking in over the past year - even if no one comments. And please forgive me if anything in this blog warrants it. I have probably gotten a fact wrong here or there, misspelled a few names, misquoted or perhaps even given more serious offense.

Gemar hatima tovah.

So, you ask, what actually happened?
Forty-five years later, the actual facility is pretty much what it was. The iron beds, which were old then, are still there, in the same rooms. Yes, the rooms have air conditioning, but you still have to go outside to get to the bathrooms.

We ate at home, but that was more than an hour earlier, so we had a bit more in the dining room. The kind of institutional setting that even the army no longer has.

To be sure, I say all this with the greatest respect, both for the institution which values simplicity and the largely overseas student body which finds it adequate.

In the evening we went from six-something until about ten-thirty, with a talk by the Rosh Yeshiva for the better part of an hour. We started at 6:45 in the morning and went until 2:45, then reconvened at 4:15 until probably a quarter to eight.

The service was, of course, not exactly as it was then. There are melodies that hadn't been written back then which were incorporated into the service – even a bit of Carlebach. And even in this old, traditional place, there were some melodies whose chief value was that people knew them from some other traditional use. But these were used just once, not over and over.

Speaking of "over and over," we were reminded that even though some prayers appear multiple times in the course of the day, there are some melodies which belong in certain places but not in others. So many places do too much homogenization for my taste.

It was a pleasure to hear certain things done right after so often hearing them done wrong.

The whole congregation, the several hundred voices, all know how it is supposed to be done and everyone unabashedly plays his part. That's where the power comes from.

The high points that I remembered were all there, pretty much as I have remembered them. I had a bit of a scare on "vechol maaminim," a long piece which is often done with a series of tunes. The one I specifically remembered only showed up at the very end, after Devir had decided that it wasn't going to come.

He has a really nice bit of "vechol maaminim" on the words "Hamamlich melachim velo hameluch" (He crowns kings but retains sovereignty) where he (with the whole congregation) quite suddenly switches briefly to the high part of Hatikvah, to make the point that our own government must remember at whose pleasure it serves.

Am I glad we went? Absolutely. Will I go again? I don't know. The itch has been scratched.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Why are we even talking about Hungary?

Twelve years ago, I was looking at the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) and came across a group of people named Pikolcz. I followed this up (I don't remember how, exactly) and came upon a fellow named Ron in the Chicago area who told me that this was his mother-in-law's family. Hungarians. Not Jews.

His first response was as follows:
Thank you for your note.
While I do not know if the families connect I can tell you that the minister in Visk of the Reformed Evangelical Church there (Lajos Jozan) told us that the Pikolcz name in Visk is of the earliest families in the town dating back to the beginnings of the church there in 1200.

It is told that they descend directly from one of the seven tribes in the origins of the Hungarian Nation.

The spelling Pikolcz is quite rare in Hungary and is centered pretty much around Visk now Vyskovo.

I am sorry I don't have more but information from the Ukraine is not very plentiful.
The Hungarian name is pronounced..   Peeekholts  Although in the US it kind of became Pickles.

My paternal family came from Scotland thru Ireland to the US just after the civil war.
There were seven original Hungarian tribes? Who knew!

In follow up correspondence, Ron wrote:

My wife's mother is a Pikolcz and here is a little twist on things.They lived in the Carroll Avenue Hungarian neighborhood of Chicago and next door to them was another family also spelled Pikolcz. My wife's grandfather claimed that there was no connection between the two families however they were the only two with the spelling of Pikolcz in the whole US in the 1950's.

While My wife's grandfather came from Visk the other family came from Romania. An interesting part of geography is that now Visk is only 5 miles from the Romanian border.

I do feel that they were related in some form from way back.

My wife's great grandfather was the only Pikolcz to survive from a plague that struck the town. This is one reason there are not many descendants from the Hungarian Pikolcz family.

One thing that intrigues me is the fact that your family came from Galicia. Was that is a region close to the former Hungarian border with Poland? If so that would have been fairly close to Visk. My wife's grandfather would ride on his horse into the surrounding hills during winter and would cut trees just over the border in Poland and haul them down the mountain to Visk. If they were in the same proximity then it is very interesting on the spelling between the names. As far as I know there is no Hungarian translation for the meaning of the name Pikolcz. Which in some records was spelled Pikolc. Not being familiar with Jewish naming patterns I wonder if your family did not
originate in the Visk area from early times and pick up the name there.
[emphasis mine - IP]

I should also tell you that there was a very large Jewish population in Visk before the war. Their families can be traced back many generations most likely well before the 1700's and much earlier there. As a population they were second in numbers to the Evangelical (Calvinist) population there.

The church is Visk is the original building built by King Istvan in the 1200's and was Catholic till the 1500's. It is said that Martin Luther himself preached from the pulpit there and shortly after the church became Lutheran for a short period of about 5 years. It is after this that they became what it is now Hungarian Evangelical and Reformed referred to as the Reformatus Church.

The original building still stands and is used today. Only the roof was burned off when the Tatars invaded Visk.  They did not have hold of the area like Western Hungary and only occupied there a short while using the church as a horse barn.

The only other period of non use is when it was when religion was not allowed.. after W.W.II But now the church is very active again.

Across the river Tisza from Visk is Bustyhasza and it is my understanding that a very large Jewish Cemetery exists there. My wife's grandmother worked for a jeweler when she lived in Visk. They were Jewish and very close. When the family passed away they willed acreage to her, but since the Pikolcz family left in 1914 and never returned the land was never claimed.
So Visk, or Vyshkove as the Ukrainians call it, is tucked into that corner of Ukraine near the present-day borders with Hungary and Rumania, not far from Khust. Its records, such as they are, would be in the Ukrainian archives in Uzhgorod - hardly the jewel of the State Archival Service of Ukraine. Visk is at 48 03 N, 23 25 W.

The idea that we came to Galicia from Hungary appealed to me. After all, the fact that we were Galicianers during the 1800s doesn't mean that we weren't someplace else in the 1700s. These Hungarian Pikolcz were apparently some kind of minor nobility who had fallen upon hard times and Jews lived on their land. Then when the Jews had to take surnames, they - like many freed slaves in the United States - took the name of the landowner. This was pure speculation on my part and we had no way to prove it one way or the other.

Apparently we would not find vital records in Visk, but perhaps land or tax or census records or books of residents? Something showing our ancestors there, even if only recognizeable by the group of given names that we find in early-1800s Galicia.

Over the years it was on the back burner. I would come back to the question from time to time, but there was no real way to do anything. Ron is on my mailing list, but it's rare when Visk gets a mention.

A whirlwind named Marshall

A couple of months before the DC Conference two years ago, Marshall Katz - a name I had not heard before - announced the formation of the "Sub-Carpathia Portal and Research Group mail list." I confirmed that Vyshkove is within the boundaries of this group, I joined and participated in the SIG meeting in DC.

Marshall's Conference biography reads:
Marshall Katz, since retirement from the U.S. Government, has applied his talents to creating numerous KehilaLink web sites for the villages and towns of Sub-Carpathia, Ukraine. His paternal grandfather is from Klyucharki (Várkulcsa), not far from Mukacheve (Munkács).

Of particular importance was, in 2011, Marshall was instrumental in the establishment of JewishGen's newest Special Interest Group (SIG)---the Sub-Carpathia SIG. He further created a web site "portal" for the Sub-Carpathia SIG which routinely receives visitors from around the world.

Marshall is also a retired USAF Chief Master Sergeant (E-9) and is married to Helen E. Fields, formerly of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 
Well, he certainly looks like a sergeant and he is a yinzer to boot, now living in Harrisburg. And he does tend to take charge.

He has personally visited the area in each of the last three years. These were working visits, with 325 towns and villages and 198 cemeteries covered thusfar, including photographs of all the tombstones in those cemeteries.

He is the force behind the SIG's website which includes lists and documents  and maps and photographs. He is looking to add family histories, testimonies and interviews, more photographs and translations, a gazetteer and is putting together a team to translate tombstones. (Yes, I have agreed to participate in that.)

He hopes to have a list of towns for his next visit soon and is working on records issues, to help make those available to researchers.

Marshall is aware of our interest in Vyshkove and we hope that he will turn up information of use to the Pikholz Project.

Then there is DNA

As readers know, for years it was my belief that the Pikholz families from Skalat and Rozdol are unrelated. The given names in the early 1800s did not overlap. The families just seemed different. But it was also significant that the two towns are three hours drive apart and I just couldn't see how Sara Rivka Pikholz came to leave Skalat to marry Pinkas in Rozdol.

So I'm thinking there are two separate families.

But the DNA says otherwise, as I have written a few times. I have no doubt that we are talking about one family and some of the Rozdol d escendants seem to be more closely related to Skalaters than two hundred years ago, and vice versa.

But if we consider that perhaps we were in Visk in the late 1700s and the family moved north - some to Rozdol (102 miles away) and others to Skalat (151 miles away), it makes alot more sense.

Add to that, the fact that Moshe, the eldest grandson of Pinkas and Sara Rivka in Rozdol and the father of more than 750 descendants, married Sara, the daughter of the long-time rav of Skole R' Juda Zvi Steg. The Stegs have a Hungarian branch. Perhaps Sara Rivka's match with Pinkas had its origins in connection with the Hungarian Stegs. (Note to self - Find out where the Hungarian Stegs lived circa 1800.)

I really like that as a scenario, even though I cannot prove a word of it.

The ball moves to Olga's court

One of the Conference speakers was Olga Muzychuk, the Deputy Head of the State Archival Service of Ukraine. She seemed very open to inquiries and I have asked her how we might get some relevant information from Uzhgorod.

More as it happens.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


About four years ago, I was contacted by an attorney in the UK who was looking for two heirs of a woman named Margaret, with a distinctly non-Jewish-sounding surname. She wanted me to find a man named Ziv and a woman named Miriam, both with common surnames.

She had addresses for Ziv in the Tel-Aviv area and for Miriam in Haifa and there was a provision that if Miriam had predeceased Margaret, her portion was to go to her husband Dubie, a common nickname for Dov. There was no such provision regarding Ziv.

She had no other identifying information.

Of course, I found neither at the suggested addresses. If I had, there would be no story to tell.

I did find a Miriam with the correct surname at another address on the same street, but her husband was Yitzhak. There was no answer at the telephone number that was in the book.

I telephoned someone else the apartment building and was told that they had retired and moved to somewhere in Tel Aviv. Eventually I found someone in the building who had a phone number and I called and spoke to Yitzhak, a retired professor of (I think) chemistry. He told me all I needed to know.

They were indeed the couple I was looking for. Ziv was actually Zvi and he was Miriam's late brother. Zvi's wife had died some years before, so Margaret - he called her Peggy - had not mentioned her. (Ziv and Zvi look similar in Latin letters, but in Hebrew, צבי and זיו are not similar at all.)

It seems that Peggy had come from England to their native Hungary as an au-pere before the War and had worked with them as children. She did not know what had happened to them, but eventually found them here in about 1968 and they renewed their friendship. They visited each other more than once. Miriam had been wondering why she had not heard from Peggy recently.

Zvi had predeceased Peggy, so his share of the inheritance returned to the estate.

All that remained for me to do was to get a death certificate for Zvi and to report all this to the client.

Oh, and the bit about Yitzhak's being called Dubie? That came from the pajamas he had as a child. They had teddy bears on them.

This is part of wrapping up my trip to the US. The one clear failure of the trip.

When I was young, I tried to gather information on my family history. But I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't speak to the available elders, including my grandfather's brothers. (I knew them, but not to have an actual conversation.) And when I did speak to the elders, I never really knew what I should be asking.

Nonetheless, I acquired the reputation among the family as the one who knew something.

Twenty years ago, we all met in Pittsburgh to celebrate my grandmother's ninetieth birthday. Among those there was my first cousin Karen, who lived (still does) in Alaska. Needless to say, we didn't see much of each other and I didn't know her kids at all.

But Karen's nine year old daughter Merissa had none of the reservations that I had had at her age (and beyond) and she spoke to me about getting a copy of the family tree I had supposedly done. I didn't want to tell her that I hadn't done anything in the preceding twenty years and that all I had were some old hand-drawn charts and a packet of notes collected over the years, so I told her that I would get it in order and get back to her.

Once home, I got a copy of Brothers' Keeper from a neighbor and began what has become my life's work. And my profession.

Everything I have done regarding genealogy came from that one request from Merissa, whom I have not seen since. Without her, maybe I would have taken up genealogy. More likely not.

My recent trip to the US included a Sunday evening bus from Pittsburgh to Indianapolis, with a fify-five minute stopover in Columbus Ohio, where Merissa now lives. I told her I'd be coming through at ten-thirty and she said she'd come to meet me. (She was to be returning from Alaska that morning, so a night meeting was no easy thing.)

I was really looking forward to this. Bought something to give her. And some pictures. And sandwiches - figuring I didn't want to deal with food service at Greyhound Columbus. And I wanted a picture of us together, so I had my camera in easy reach.

The bus was more than an hour late leaving Pittsburgh and the driver split the passengers into two groups. Our group would not be stopping in Columbus. I don't think I ever stood up a date before and this was a really painful experience telling her we'd have to cancel.

Eventually we did stop in Columbus, but it was way too late to drag her out. So I ate both sandwiches.

Next time we'll do it better.

Merissa turns twenty-nine on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, this Thursday. Happy birthday, girl. I owe you.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
DNA Notes

A few hours ago, we received autosomal DNA results from at least five seven Pikholz descendants. It will take me a day or two to analyze, but two things are clear.

1. Joanna's story has legs.

2. The Rozdol and Skalat families are totally cross-matched, to the point that the idea of two separate families is obviously wrong, the idea that there are two distinct branches of the Pikholz family is probably wrong and the axiomatic belief that all the Rozdolers are descended from one couple may well be wrong.

There is much work to be done.