Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Alexanders

Third cousins

The week began last Friday (well, weeks don't begin on Fridays, but you know what I mean) with the unveiling of the tombstone of Ian (Ziskind Aharon) Alexander, a second cousin of my mother-in-law on her mother's side. The burial was in the Eretz HaChaim Cemetery in Bet Shemesh about eight months ago. As the family is divided between Israel and the US, the unveiling was set to coincide with Yair's wedding. ("Divided" is definitely not the right word, as you will see presently.)

Though a Zionist all his life, with half of his family living here, Ian was not sure he was entitled to be buried here. It  was not a legal question, of course, but a question of "what was right." This modesty of his was a subject of eulogies both at the funeral and at the unveiling.

Yair and Aviva were married Wednesday evening. Yair is the son of Janet, the youngest of the Alexander children, and her husband Harvey. He is the first of Janet and Harvey's to be married. Both families immigrated from the US and the wedding had an ummistakable American flavor, though the overly-loud Israeli band seems to be unavoidable. Both families live in the same mid-sized suburban community (its website says 550 families), one that is often inaccurately stereotyped as being full of "rich Americans."

The photo accompanied the invitation
The third family event of the week was the aliyah of Edna, Ian's wife and the family matriarch, from Elizabeth New Jersey. She will be living quite near Janet and Harvey and we all wish her a successful integration into Israeli life.
At the anniversary party

Edna and Ian were married nearly sixty-seven years. They raised four daughters and four sons, one of whom is deceased. Three now live in Israel, three in New Jersey and one in California.

Ian's parents - Israel & Rose
Ian's father's mother and my mother-in-law's mother's mother are sisters. Ian himself had been born in London but his parents moved to the US when he was a baby and his brothers were born in Brooklyn.

Edna is New Jersey through and through.

Ian's grandparents - Avraham Alexandrovitch
and Fannie (Frumit) Lindenberg
Ian's grandmother arranged the marriage between the childless widower who lived in their building in London and her niece in Poland - my mother-in-law's parents - so it came to be that both Janet and my wife are named for Janet's great-grandmother. When you look at it by whom you are named for, third cousins can be not that distant.

The two oldest Alexanders, Meir and Zahava, came to Israel after high school, not long after my wife's parents moved their family here, so there was some contact between the British and American cousins, but it was not a particularly close bond until the next generation began growing up.

The Alexanders were my first contact with third cousins - certainly not my last - and we learned quickly enough that the particular ordinal number doesn't much matter.

The Alexanders and us 
When I took my first genealogy inventory of my wife's family about eighteen years ago, my father-in-law had a fair picture of the family, but not much detail. We made contact with both Meir and Zahava and the rest is history.

Zahava and Reuven's eldest son Esh-Kodesh was getting married soon and we were invited. The wedding of Kodesh and Inbal was our first exposure to the Alexanders. It was an outdoor wedding, so we could hear each other talk. I went from one to another asking questions (the usual genealogy stuff - names, places, dates, who is named for whom) taking barely legible notes and generally making a nuisance of myself. (Who is this guy, anyway!)

Reuven spoke at length under the huppah, with three year old Deror on his shoulders.

The date was 22 Elul 5757. The date on Yair and Aviva's invitation is 22 Elul, though the wedding didn't actually happen until after sundown.

We took an instant liking to Meir and Sharona and while still at the wedding, arranged that they and their four boys would visit with us during Sukkot. We have been back and forth a few Shabbatot since then. There have been more weddings and in between some bar mitzvahs.

Most of their family in the US tries to attend most of the events, so we have gotten to know them as well. (Oddly enough, the first time I met Sam was in the US because he attends the same shul as one of my Kwoczka cousins I was visiting with in New Jersey.)

The solidarity of the Alexanders has always impressed me and their family events were always fun. They usually seat us among the close family. A few others in my wife's family know some of them, but some do not at all.

In recent years, when it was difficult for Ian to travel, Edna would come and someone would stay in New Jersey with him.

Kodesh and Inbal
Talia was born about nineteen months after Esh-Kodesh and Inbal were married.

Eighteen months later, Kodesh was murdered by a local Arab while working as a civilian guard in a government office in Jerusalem. It was one of the first murders of what became known as the Second Intifada, which killed nearly nine hundred Israeli civilians and wounded over 5600 more. In addition to soldiers.

We attended the midnight funeral, here in Jerusalem. As I recall, there were a few hundred people. Inbal's father spoke at length. Kodesh was not yet twenty-six.

When Inbal married Ofer about a year later, Zahava sent us an invitation, then phoned to make sure we knew it was important to her that we come. ("Which side are you from?" "The dead husband's." A guaranteed conversation stopper.)

We have never been at an Alexander function since, where Inbal was missing. Ofer was there too, most of the time. Including at Ian's unveiling Friday.

At the wedding Wednesday, when I had the idea to write this particular blog, I asked Inbal if she minded my mentioning names. Her reply: "It happened, didn't it?"

Yes, it surely did. Talia is now fifteen.

And now
Pretty much everyone attended the unveiling. Edna, all the seven children and most of the spouses, including the one son-in-law I had never met. Most of the grandchildren living here in Israel were there. And their spouses. And great-grandchildren, some near the grave, watching and listening, others off to the side playing, not understanding what it was all about. A first cousin of Ian's on his mother's side and her family. They had just made aliyah recently. And your humble blogger, a second-cousin-once-removed-in-law.

Harvey ran the service and spoke, as he had at the funeral. Meir spoke, as did Zahava. I apologize for not remembering who else. Perhaps someone from the family can cover that in the comments section below.

Ian had been an airman and a flight instructor in WWII and the service was interrupted three times by helicopter overflights, as though planned.

And Edna, the new immigrant, spoke.

We left knowing we would all see each other again Wednesday. With the Alexanders there is always something in the pipeline. When they go their separate ways, they always seem to know when they will be together again.

(Special thanks to Edna and Janet for allowing me to present this post, using names - not having a clue what I would say about them.)

Housekeeping notes
I hope to be able to stick to my regular blogging schedule during the holiday season. I hope to have enough to say and the time to say it.

In the meantime, may everyone be blessed with a good holiday season and a good year, health and parnassa and may you be written and sealed in the Book of Life.

לְשָׁנָה טוֹבָה תִּכָּתֵבוּ וְתֵחָתִמוּ

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ruth: Our Mothers, Our Fathers, Our Cousins

DNA results are in for my cousin Ruth.

I think this is the one!
Our late mothers are first cousins and and both are named for their great-grandmother Basya Gordon. Though Ruth is quite close to me in age, I am not sure we ever met more than twice. Once was when we spent my sixth birthday in New York - an event made memorable because Cousin Bessie gave me a Mr. Potato Head. The other was the bar mitzvah nearly sixty years ago of Ruth's first cousin Mickey in DC.

Ruth's grandmother is the older sister of my grandfather.

I have just begun testing on my mother's side and Ruth is one of three to test, aside from two of my sisters and me. The other two are my first cousin Kay (our mothers are sisters) and Ruth's first cousin Judy. We have one more test being processed - that one is on my grandmother's side and should help divide the matches between my mother's two sides.

Ruth's Family Finder results have given us information of interest in several different directions.

Everyone in the bottom row has done a Family Finder test.

In addition to the Family Finder, which I'll talk about below, Ruth also did an MtDNA test. That would be the line leading up through Gershon Kugel's wife Zelda. We received the results a month ago. Her haplogroup is R0a4.

Ruth has nine exact MtDNA matches and four more that are one step away. Now that we have her Family Finder results, I looked to see if any of those are close matches. (Three of the nine exact matches have not done Family Finder tests.)

Of the ones who have, most do not match Ruth at all and a few are remote matches. One of the "one-step-away" group is a "third cousin - fifth cousin." As it happens, this is someone I know as a researcher and who is a Facebook friend as well. There is nothing obvious between these two women that would account for a good Family Finder match, but we'll exchange information and see if anything turns up. Of course, the closeness in the Family Finder match me be unrelated to the MtDNA match.

When Judy's results came in about six weeks ago, I was surprised to see that her first match after my sister Sarajoy and me, even before my first cousin Kay, was Cyndi Norwitz. Cyndi is a known fifth cousin of mine on my father's maternal side (Zelinka, from Slovakia) and has no known connections to my mother's side. (For instance, she does not match Kay at all.)

Normally, I do not get involved in matches with peoples' other sides, but this was most unusual so I introduced the women and they began a lively conversation, mostly about Judy's mother's family. I think Judy is hooked. Since we knew we would be getting results from Ruth soon, I suggested we wait to see whether Ruth matched Cyndi or not. If they have a good match and passed the chromosome browser test, we could proceed assuming that Cyndi is connected to the grandfather of Judy and Ruth. If not, we would assume the connection to Cyndi goes through Judy's mother.

Cyndi and Ruth are "third cousin - fifth cousin." Not as close as Cyndi to Judy, but not bad either. There are partial answers in the chromosomes.

Judy and Cyndi match Ruth twice
Here on the left, we see that Judy and Cyndi match on chromosomes 14 and 18

Ruth and Cyndi match Judy five times!

But here on the right, there are three additional matches - on chromosomes 7, 8 and 22.

This appears to be a contradiction, but in fact it is not. Remember we have two of each chromosome, one from the father and one from the mother. FTDNA's results do not differentiate between them. What these results are telling us is that on one hand, the matches on chromosomes 14 and 18 are mutual and come therefore from Eliyahu DovBer, the grandfather of Ruth and Judy.

The matches on chromosomes 7, 8 and 22 are on Judy's two sides. The matches with Ruth (orange) are on Judy's father's side and the ones with Cyndi (blue) are probably on Judy's mother's side. In addition, Cyndi matches Judy on chromosomes 3, 6, 11, 13, 15, 16 and 17 for a total of over 50 cM. These may be on Judy's mother's side as well - or they may be from someplace else entirely. Or they may be matches that Ruth could share, but she simply didn't get those particular bits of DNA.

Oh and to complicate it further - Ruth and Cyndi have some matches that they do not share with Judy. Those are about 25 cM on chromosomes 5, 8, 10 and 16. Here too, they could be from someplace else (Ruth's father?) or they could be part of the match with Judy that Judy just didn't receive.

Unpredictability of DNA
Ruth's match with her second cousin Kay is only about 155 cM, which looks more like a third cousin than a second. That probably has to do with the fact that the adjusting algorithm that FTDNA uses does not know that Kay has no Jewish DNA from her father's side.

On the other hand, we might think that Ruth's matches with my sisters and me should be about the same. We would be wrong. Ruth and I share 496 cM, while neither of my sisters shares as much as 350 cM with Ruth. That's a difference of over forty percent. I am also significantly closer than my sisters to Judy, about 28% closer than Amy but over 50% closer than Sarajoy. I seem to be very much a Gordon!

I must touch on my obsession with finding my connection to Adam Brown.

Adam and I have a strong DNA match. We both have Kugels from Pleshchenitsy, we both have Gordons and we both have connections to Borisov where my maternal grandmother's Rosenblooms come from. When Kay's results came in a few months ago, we saw that she, Adam and I share a segment of chromosome 6 of almost 11 cM, plus two segnments on chromosome 12 of nearly 13 cM.

I was sure that this was largely on the Gordon/Kugel side and was curious to see what was on the Rosenbloom side.

To my surprise, Judy and Adam are not a match. Ruth and Adam are defined as "fourth cousin - remote cousin" and have a couple of segments in common with me. Kay matches me on segments adjacent to those, but I don't think that is significant.

So maybe we have something with Adam on the Gordon/Kugel side, but for now the Rosenbloom side looks much more promising. We'll know more about that when we see the results for our Rosenbloom cousin.

I found it odd, to say the least, that my sisters and I have more that twice as much DNA in common with Ruth than we do with her first cousin Judy. That must come from somewhere.

Then I saw that Ruth is estimated to be a "second cousin - fourth cousin" to my father's brother and sister. And although she is a remote cousin to my father's first cousin Herb, she is not a match at all to my three second cousins on my father's side.

This almost has to come from my grandmother's side. Cyndi has no match with both Ruth and A. Betty/U.Bob, so it's not Zelinka side. I would expect my double second cousin Lee to have something matching, but no.

And even so, where is all this coming from on Ruth's end? From her father, I suppose.

Well, it also turns out that Ruth is a match with twenty-two Pikholz tests! Other than the five in my own personal family, there are only three who are not labelled "remote," two of those are from Rozdol and the third is a Pikholz by adoption, but like us, is from Skalat.

Before I start checking chromosomes for that, I want to find out a bit more about Ruth's father's family. I know his parents' names but not so much as his mother's maiden name. Ruth's parents were married in Brooklyn in 1936, so I have ordered the marriage record which should have his mother's birth name and perhaps where they came from. I have asked Ruth what she knows.

Asking is not always the way to go. Some years ago, one of the cousins sent out a genealogy questionnaire to that branch of the family. Both Ruth's older sister and her father himself reported that her parents were married in 1937 and here the database of the Italian genealogists lists the certificate in June 1936.

Oh how I love endogamy!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Ilan Stern, Ilan Pikholz

The eighteenth of Elul, which falls this week, is the thirty-eighth anniversary of the death of Ilan Pikholz, of Netanya. He was nearly forty.

Ilan is the older brother of Dalia, whom I have mentioned from time to time, generally in the context of DNA matches and analysis.

The younger of Ilan's two sons was the first person in our family DNA project, but I have rarely mentioned him because his test was a Y-37 (male line) rather than the autosomal (Family Finder) that everyone else is doing. That Y-37 test has been of critical importance as it is a perfect match both for my own Y test and for the Y-37 of the only male-line descendant of Nachman Pikholz (1795-1865).

But today's story is about Ilan's birth record, as seen through his Mandatory Citizenship file.

The card with the twelve Pikholz files
When the British Mandate mercifully ended with the establishment of the State of Israel, they turned over the files of those who had become citizens during the time of the Mandatory Government. Not all of them, only those from some time in 1933. And only about seventy percent of those.The existing files are held by the Israel National Archives here in Jerusalem. The whole set of files from 1933 are indexed on cards, arranged by surname. The fourteen thousand plus files from before 1933 are not even indexed.

The fourth line on the card shown Ilan, born 1936 in Hadera in file number 43356, with a note that his name was changed from Ilan Stern. What's that all about - and why, if he was born here in Hadera, was there a citizenship file at all?

The title page of the citizenship file is clear that the child is Ilan Stern whose name was changed to Pikholz  during the citizenship process.

But we know that Ilan and Dalia's parents are Zvi and Sarah Pikholz. Sarah's name was Kaner and Zvi's mother was a Leiter, so where does Stern come from?

There is nothing unusual about the birth certificate, shown below. Ilan was born in Hadera, 27 October 1936 to Zvi Pikholz age 30 and Sarah Pikholz age 26. The birth was registered on 14 November.

The Government of Palestine issued birh certificate number 102223, with everything recorded in both Hebrew and English. What could be simpler?

The file contains a letter dated 17 May 1938 from Salah (Sarah) Pikholz saying:

I hereby request to change the name of the child Ilan Stern to Ilan Pikholz, born 27 October 1936 in Hadera. At that time, I was married to Stern and he was a Polish citizen. At the same time, I request that you grant citizenship of Eretz Israel to the child, under the name Ilan Pikholz.

So this Stern is the father and he was not a citizen, so Ilan needed citizenship of his own? But we have the real-time birth certificate and the parents are identified as Zvi and Sarah Pikholz. Not Sarah Stern.

Another document in the file - dated 17 May 1938, the same day as Sarah's request for a name change - tells us more.
This "minute sheet" cited four additional documents which were presented in support of the request, but which are not themselves in the citizenship file.

1. Certificate of Naturalization for Berisch Stern, dated 12 August 1937. [This was after Ilan was born - IP].

2. Certificate of Naturalization for Hermann [Zvi - IP] Pikholz dated 13 November 1930.

3. A divorce certificate issued in Petah Tiqva on 7 February 1938.

4. A marriage certificate issued in Petah Tiqva on 9 February 1938.

Ilan, in the citizenship file
This was all very odd, to say the least. Sarah was married to Berisch Stern when Ilan was born, but the birth certificate identified her as Pikholz. If Zvi Pikholz was indeed Ilan's father, as indicated by the birth certificate, then why did Ilan need to undergo naturalization - Zvi had been a citizen since 1930!

And what was I to do with this? I couldn't just make a copy and send it off to Dalia without knowing what she knew of all this.

I phoned her husband, whom I have known since we both lived in Arad. He laughed.

The story, he told me, was typical of many from the days of the British Mandate. Jews could only immigrate if they had certificates and the British had severely limited those, despite the terms of the mandate granted them by the League of Nations to facilitate Jewish immigration.

Berisch Stern had a certificate and Hermann (Zvi) Pikholz did not. So the only way Sarah could enter the country was to present herself as the wife of Berisch Stern. It was a sham marriage, of course, and she was actually married to Zvi all along. Ilan's birth certificate reflected exactly that. But the naturalization authorites had to deal with the marriage to Berisch and the implied Stern surname for Ilan.

Everyone was party to the fiction and from mid-1938 it was all above board. And we know all this was a sham - because Ilan's son's Y-DNA is a perfect match for mine.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
This week is also the anniversary of the bar mitzvah of my friend Dov Gadot. Dov was my first long-term Israeli friend. We started working for Dead Sea Bromine Co. on the same day, thirty-seven years ago and we knew each other slightly before hand. Our jobs brought us into frequent contact, even though we were in different parts of the company. I left the job after five years.

We had nothing at all in common, but we were fast friends. The first three years, I lived in Yeroham and he in Arad. Then for the next eleven we both lived in Arad. We no longer worked together but we arranged to do civil patrols together. Arad became history for both of us and we spoke less frequently. But I would always call or send an email the week of his bar mitzvah.

I knew his wife and kids a bit. He and his wife were a couple from fifth or sixth grade.

This year, I wrote to Dov's widow, just to say that I am thinking of them. He would have been seventy-two. He was my friend.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Uncle Selig's DNA

Uncle Selig - again
One of the linchpins in my Pikholz research has always been a note from father that his grandfather had had an uncle, Selig Pickholz. I discussed Uncle Selig at some length here, here, in my Avotaynu article about Geni and at 31:57 in the recording of the panel discussion about online collaboration at our recent conference.

Here is our starting point, based on the records we have and the the fact that the only mentions of any Selig Pickholz in records are the births of Markus and Fischel Zeiler, the marriage of Fischel, the death on Marcus Pickholz and the birth of Izak Josef Pickholz.

There is one Uscher (=Asher, the Hebrew counterpart of the Yiddish Selig) Pikholz born 1885 but he is in a different corner of the family.

I have shown elsewhere that Selig cannot be the brother of Isak Fischel, so must be the brother of Rivka Feige

Uncle Selig's putative brother Berl had many children, and a number of his descendants are called Isak Josef. Like my grandfather's brother and the "original" Isak Josef, these are known as Josef, without the Isak. I am in contact with a very few descendants of Berl.

But Uncle Selig's line pretty much ends here. The two Zeiler sons both married and Markus had a daughter Bertha in 1896, but that's all we know. Then they disapper.

There is one other nagging question I have always had about Uncle Selig. Why did my father know that he existed? Why did he know that his grandfather - who died when my father was eight years old - have this particular relative? What was so significant about Uncle Selig that my father would have picked up this bit of information?  His one older living cousin never heard of Uncle Selig and the grandfather lived for a time in his parents' house.

Perhaps grasping at straws, I considered that the similarity between Uncle Selig's wife name - Kaczka - and my great-grandmother's name - Kwoczka - hinted at a relationship that would have made Uncle Selig doubly connected to my great-grandfather, but that was never really convincing.

His name is not really George, but I'll call him that because some of his family members have privacy issues that might be considered extreme. George is a Pikholz descendant whose family is described in the chart below. he did a DNA test last year and although he had a few fairly close matches - including with my father's sister and first cousin - I was not able to get a sense of his place in the overall family. He had relatively few matches altogether but that was due in part to the fact that his mother is not Jewish, so does not bring endogamy into play from her side.
Henryk, Meir, David, Anna's husband and at least two others were physicians

A few weeks ago, in the course of an inquiry George was making into the life of his Aunt Anna, he came across a handwritten Polish document dated 8 July 1929, which was labeled "birth certificate equivalent." Attached to it was a typewritten version. He sent it along to me for comment. He felt it must have had something to do with his father's schooling as he would have been eighteen at the time.

Polish records are harder to work with than Galician records, because they are generally formatted as straight text rather than the columns mandated by the Austrian government in Galicia.

But once I saw the typewritten version, it was simple.

This was the Polish version of the original Galician document, complete with the numbers and Polish-language headings at the top of each column.

It was pretty much standard information, nothing I didn't know. Except column 8. The "sandek or witness" was Selig Pickholz. One of the ancients had suddenly appeared in a 1929 document, that was essentially a transcription of David's 1911 birth record.

I mean, this was hardly likely to be some other Selig. We know of no other Selig. In 1911 he would have been in his eighties, not unheard of, but not where I would ever have expected to see him.

Is David's grandfather - George's great-grandfather - Uncle Selig's son Isak Josef, the one born in 1862? Dropping the Isak to become Josef would be no surprise - that's what they all did. His first son Maurycy was born in 1881, when Selig's Isak Josef would have been just past his nineteenth birthday - but his wife was born about 1864, so 1862 would be perfectly reasonable.

Josef has a granddaughter Chana and another Anna - perhaps named for Uncle Selig's wife, their great-grandmother.

So George would be my fourth cousin and Uncle Selig has living descendants. Maybe. And we have his DNA. Maybe.

Is there a way to be sure?

George's DNA - another look
George and I are not a DNA match. And he does not have a large number of Pikholz matches. But Aunt Betty, my father's sister, is estimated to be his "2nd Cousin - 4th Cousin." My father's first cousin Herb is estimated to be his "3rd Cousin - 5th Cousin." But no match at all to me or my cousin Terry.

The truth is, it's been awhile since I took a close look at George's matches and we have had new results in the last few months.

George is estimated to be a "2nd Cousin- 4th Cousin" to my double second cousin Lee, whose grandfather was Uncle Joe. And a "3rd Cousin - 5th Cousin" to my sister Amy and my father's brother Uncle Bob. On the other hand, he is remote to my sister Sarajoy and no match at all to my second cousin Rhoda and my third cousin once removed Ralph.

I guess that's about what we should expect from a fourth cousin.

I truly think this is right. But we do not quite have the documentation. Uncle Selig could have been the sandak for David without having been his great-grandfather. He could have simply been an esteemed, very old relative. But I don't think so. I think we have it right. I'd like to see one more bit of evidence. I cannot imagine where it might come from.

Why my father knew - revisited
This gives a new direction for the question why anyone ever told my father that his grandfather had an uncle Selig.

Uncle Selig was probably in his early eighties when David was born in 1911. My father was born twelve years later.  If he died in his mid-late nineties when my father was young and it was mentioned at home, my father might well have remembered. That kind of event makes an impression even on a child of four or five. Perhaps he even reached a hundred and that generated some talk in earshot of the young child.

I do not know that a death record for Uncle Selig would fill in the blanks, but it seems to be the next document to look for.

I am also interested in some additional DNA support and have asked several people close to George's side to consider testing. One has agreed thusfar, though has not actually done it.