Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Small Segments (and Endogamy)

The issue of small segments
When we compare autosomal matches on the basis of individual chromosomes, there is a natural tendency to concentrate on the larger segments. If you match someone on 30 or 40 centiMorgans (cM), it is clearly a good match. Small matches of one or two cM get overlooked - often deliberately.

When I first began looking at segment matches, I wondered about that because all my DNA came from my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, even the smallest segments and if I match someone who got those same segments from his ancestors, perhaps both of us got them from a common ancestor.

After I raised this question several times at the GRIP course last summer, CeCe Moore convinced me otherwise by agreeing with me. That is, she agreed that these small segments - I prefer the term slivers - had to have come from somewhere in my past but since they are small, they probably came from so far back that searching for a common ancestor on that basis would not be a productive use of my time.

FamilyTreeDNA's chromosome browser starts showing matching segments with a minimum of five cM, but you can raise it to ten cM or lower it to three or even one cM. GEDmatch suggests seven cM, but you can change that to whatever you wish. But when you download raw data or total matches, you can pretty much do as you like.

There are researchers who begin any examination of matches by deleting all segments that are less than whatever minimum threshhold they set for themselves, never looking at those small segments again. Some go so far as to say that it is wrong to look at small segments.

When I met with Kitty Cooper and Gaye Tannenbaum in Salt Lake City last summer, we discussed the logic of starting with nine or ten cM but once you have a segment of that size, other smaller matches - perhaps even four cM - become relevant.

Not everyone takes this approach. One of the most consistent and convincing champions of using small segments is Roberta Estes of DNA Explained. Roberta has defended advocated the use of very small segments for triangulation and is rightly proud of her successes in having done so. Last week, Roberta posted a long blog after several weeks of laying the foundation. As you can see from what she writes, Roberta is a friend of this blog and I want to make a number of comments on what she wrote.

Moshe Hersch (And you thought we were finished with him!)
But first I want to show you something I found during the last few days in my own work which demonstrates the importance of very small segments.

Some weeks back, I concluded a discussion of two men named Moshe Hersch Pikholz, whom I thought might be the same man. Great-great-grandchildren of one (Charles and Leonora, second cousins to one another) and great-great-grandchildren of the other (Jane and Nan, also second cousins to one another) did Family Finder tests.

The maternal grandmothers of Charles and Leonora (sisters) are the daughters of two Pikholz parents whose relationship to one another is unknown. Aside from that, Leonora's maternal grandfather also has two Pikholz parents, in this case first cousins. So on one hand, Charles and Leonora have extra doses of Pikholz DNA, but on the other hand it makes it very difficult to say for certain which ancestor contributed what, moreso than with normal European-Jewish endogamy.

Nonetheless, I concluded that the genetic match between the two pairs of second cousins was good enough to demonstrate that the two Moshe Hersch Pikholz are indeed the same person.

This week, I took a closer look at chromosome 20 of the four cousins, using GEDmatch at a threshhold of 5 cM..
The bar graph is illustrative but it is not at all proportional.
In the first segment of chromosome 20 (the left side of the bar graph and the top row in the two charts above) Charles and Jane have a large match of 34.1 cM. Both match Leonora on the first part of that segment and both match Nan on the second part. Leonora and Nan do not match each other, but that is not a problem. I don't need all four to match.

The second segment (the right side of the bar graph and the second row in the two charts) is not so simple. Here we have a match of 60 cM between Jane and Nan, part of which matches Charles and part of which matches Leonora. Charles and Leonora are not a match. However nearly a quarter of Charles' match with Nan and Jane overlaps with Leonora's match with Nan and Jane. If this description is complete and correct, something must be wrong, because it is inconsistent.

I asked Roberta what she thought and she suggested that I lower the threshhold as far as possible. Perhaps, she suggested, there are some small segments that explain the inconsistency.

So I lowered the threshhold to one cM.

The long blue bar at the top right is the 60 cM match between Jane and Nan. The medium-sized blue bar at the right of the third line is the 24.5 cM match between Jane and Leonora. The bottom right where there is supposedly no match between Charles and Leonora, we see a series of about a dozen small matches in the same segment where Jane and Nan match. It is as though the long matching segment, to use Roberta's phrase, "has been chopped up." Or if you prefer, disintegrated.

If we ignore the red breaks, Charles' match with Leonora extends nearly all the way to the right end of Jane's match with Nan. Not only that, but Leonora's match with Charles extends Leonora nearly all the way to the left. If we count the small segments, all four line up very well together. To me it is clear that the 60 cM segment that Nan and Jane share came from Moshe Hersch (or his wife, assuming he had only one) and that it began to break down somewhere along the ancestors of Charles and Leonora, perhaps as early as their great-grandmother.

This may not always work so neatly and so conclusively, but to repeat a mantra of Roberta's, if you throw out the small segments even before you begin your analysis, you will never see this obvious result.

But that does not mean that I have totally signed on to Roberta's attachment to small segments. When you are talking about matches that are only small segments, the kind that do not overlap large ones, CeCe is probably right. It's generally not a productive use of my time to examine them.

That is even more valid when talking about endogamous populations where we know in advance that there are distant common ancestors simply by virtue of our being Jewish. For us, the strategy I discussed with Kitty Cooper, looking at smaller segments once you have a large match as an umbrella, is still the way to go. How large is large and how small is small is still a matter of personal preference - and mine is to be conservative. To quote myself in another context "If it might be wrong, it doesn't belong."

For the non-endogamous, such as Roberta, you can probably afford to be more liberal.

A Study Using Small Segment Matching, by Roberta Estes
I  am going to step through Roberta's blog and comment as I go along.

Sherlock Holmes is quoted as saying "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." That does not mean that if we have nothing to go on aside from DNA, then DNA must have contain a usable truth. Maybe yes and maybe no.

Roberta writes " So we need to establish guidelines and ways to know if those small segments are reliable or not." I say, very carefully. Different circumstances require different tools and also create different opportunities. I want to read what all the experienced experts have to say but then I want to make my own decisions for my own families. Usually I will write about those decisions and will entertain debate. Ridicule, not so much. Genetic genealogy is way too new to have hard and fast rules, especially ones that begin :You can't..."

Roberta is obviously correct when she says "assuming the position that something can’t be done simply assures that it won’t be." That is true for an individual project which discards small segments according to some rule, as well as studies on small segment research as a genre. Roberta says correctly "The only way we, as a community, are ever going to figure out how to work with small segments successfully and reliably is to, well, work with them." To that I add if you have a few cases that are proven based on small segments, there are almost certainly many others which are not proven because those small segments were never examined.

I am well-aware that my work is different from that of most others because I an not looking for "new" relatives, rather looking to figure out how the ones I know fit together.  One-name studies is a legitimate field with its own requirements and opportunities.

Finding three people who match on the same segment may be "the commonly accepted gold standard of autosomal DNA triangulation within the industry" but among the endogamous, we strive for the platinum standard. There are too many ways to be wrong if you have only three people using segments that are not large enough and not numerous enough.

Sometimes I want to get more than one trangulation within a potential family group. I suppose that has to do with endogamy. I think of these multiple triangulation scenarios like this.

Roberta's Sarah Hickerson article "was meant to be an article encouraging people to utilize genetic genealogy for not only finding their ancestor and proving known connections, but breaking down brick walls." Absolutely. Many of us read to find not only ideas but encouragement. And some of us write not to show how smart we are but to bring others to the point where they say "I can do this too."

Roberta, please note - for some of us 5-6 generations does not qualify as "low hanging fruit."  And still our small segments can be useful.

I can understand that FTDNA and the other companies must draw a line dividing matches from non-matches. But it would me very very helpful if we could get at our non-matches on FTDNA's chromosome browser. Not everyone is on GEDmatch.

I think that will do.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sam and Sarah, Ben and Sadie

My Denver third cousin Joe Pells was one of the last people to sign up for DNA testing during the big sale that FamilyTreeDNA had in December. Joe is the older brother of the late, great Betty Lee (Buzy) Hahn who introduced me to Skalat nearly fifteen years ago. I met Joe a few years back when one of his grandsons celebrated his bar mitzvah here in Israel.

When I first asked him to test, he was not keen on the idea, but now he has both an MtDNA maternal line test and an autosomal Family Finder in process. Joe's mother is the only all-female descendant of our great-great-grandmother, Rivka Feige Pikholz. I have no idea where that test might lead, but at least it will soon be in the system, available for potential matches.

Joe is also the first Family Finder test we have for descendants of my great-grandfather's sister Bessie. (For his other sister, Leah, we have one test and a second on the way.)

But none of this is why I am telling you this story. Joe wants to learn something about the family of his maternal grandfather, Sam Francis who died in Denver in 1963.

Sarah (later Sadie) Frankel, was born to Bessie Pikholz and David Lozel Frankel in December 1872 in Skalat  and arrived in New York in September 1891, about three months shy of her nineteenth birthday. She travelled with Dwore Pikholz, a cousin of some sort, whom I may write about in a few days. It is not clear whether they travelled together because they were cousins or just because they were two teenage girls from the same town.

According to what Buzy Hahn told me years ago, Sarah married Max Hochman and they lived in Baltimore. Max died while Sarah was pregnant with their son, who was born in July 1894. According to the story, the family sent Sarah's cousin Sam to the United States to marry her and he arrived after the birth. Sam gave the child his surname and the family name became Francis. They later had a daughter Jennie (Joe and Buzy's mother) and a son Max who died as a baby. Joe confirms this story.

I had found no documentation when I did this a few years ago..

A word about the surnames. Frankel is of German origin, indicating that the bearer (or his ancestors) came from France. Francos (pronounced Frantzos) is the Polish equivalent. Franzos, best I can make out, is a Germanized spelling of the Polish version. We assume, but do not actually know, that since Sam and Sarah - now Sadie - are some sort of cousins, Sam was originally Frankel, like his wife.

Oh, and Sam is actually Szulim (=Shalom) according to his tombstone. His parents' names are unknown.

So I went to work on the documents. I still see nothing about Max Hochman - not his marriage, not his death and not the birth of a son. But Joe wanted to know about his grandfather, Sam, Sarah/Sadie's second husband..

I have not found them in the 1900 census, but I do see Jennie's 1901 Manhattan birth in which she is called Frankel. So at that point they have not yet become Francis. They had by 1910.

In the 1910 census, we see Sam, Sadie, Jesse and Jennie Francis in Denver. Jesse is not the name that we know for the older son, but perhaps that was changed at some point. Or perhaps the census entry is wrong. Or they reported his Jewish name and the census taker heard it wrong. Fischel can sound like Jesse. Can't it?

But I was looking at the census records for something else. Immigration. Or Sam's birth.

The son Jesse was listed as being born in New York, not Maryland. But I do not see him in New York City by any name. Sam's immigration is listed as 1892, which is earlier than in the family narrative. Sadie's immigration year -  1891 - is correct. Sadie is 37 years old (correct), Sam is 35 (no birth record found). They are listed as being married for seventeen years, which is incorrect and that Sadie has borne two children, both living, also incorrect.

In 1920, Sam Francis is 45 (consistent), Sadie is 44 (having aged seven years in the previous ten) and Jennie's birth has moved to Colorado. Sadie's immigration is 1894 and Sam's is 1895. Maybe no one was home and the census taker interviewed a neighbor.

In 1930, the household has grown to include Jennie's husband and her son Joseph. Jennie's birth has returned to New York. Sam is 55 and Sadie is 58, having made up the lost years. Both were twenty-one when first married. Both immigrated in 1894. Who answered those questions? Maybe Jennie.

The 1940 census does not include immigration or marriage information, but we may note that Sam is 65 and Sadie is 64.

None of this helped me turn up a passenger manifest or birth record for Sam/Szulim.

Then Joe remembered Uncle Ben. This is why I am telling you this story.

It seems that Joe's grandfather Sam had a younger brother Ben, who lived in New York or New Jersey. His wife was also Sadie. Maybe that would lead us somewhere.

In the 1920 census, Benjamin and Sadie Francis appear with their three children in New York. Benjamin is 32, Sadie 29. The eldest child is seven. Both immigrated in 1903. He had applied for citizenship, but the only candidate that seemed to fit was born in "Kief Russia."

I may have had better luck with passenger lists. Benjamin Franzos, age nineteen, arrived in New York in 1903. He had come from Zagorze, which is very close to Zalosce. We actually have a Franzos married to one of my Kwoczka uncles, also from Zalosce and it will be interesting to see if there is a DNA match between her grandson and Joe. There are no records for Zagorze and no one in the Zalosce records that might be Sam's brother Ben.

My last stop was New York marriages and this is why I am telling the story. On 22 January 1912, Sadie Stern married Benjamin Francis in Manhattan. Joe ordered the record. Since Sam and Ben were known to be brothers, at least we could find out Sam's parents names, even if that took us no further.

The record arrived and the groom's name seems to be "Barry Francus," but the signature (which appears on the back, but which I brought forward to show you) says "Benj. Francis." That must have been what the indexers used.

The bride's name, Sadie Stern, is also clearer in the signature.

So Ben's parents are Josef Francis and Sara Halner or maybe Halsner. I suppose Ben has already transferred his  American "Francis" to his father who was Franzos or Francos or Frankel. No town name, just "Austrian Galizia." So we have kind of dead-ended with the mission Joe sent me to do.

But that is not why I am telling you this story.

Look at the bride's information.
Sadie Stern, Ben's wife, was born in Skalat Austrian Galizia. She said she was twenty-one when she married in 1912.

Her father is Marcus Stern. There are fourteen Stern records in Skalat. No Marcus, no Sadie.

Most of the Sterns here are the mothers and almost all fourteen come from someplace else.

Maybe we can learn something from Sadie's mother. And who might that be?
Well, knock me over with a feather. Sadie Stern, a bit player in this story, is the daughter of Ester Pickholz. And I haven't a clue who she is. We have nine Ester/Etie/Ettel Pikholz descendants from Skalat, born in the 1850-1877 range, but they are all accounted for. Either they died young or they are married to men who are not Marcus Stern.

Someone had a daughter Ester and didn't tell me! The genealogists' lament.

(I obviously need to find some grandchildren of Sadie who have some DNA to spare.)

I thought I was not going to turn up any more "new Pikholz descendants" from that period. What do I know?!

That's why I told you the story.

Housekeping notes
A friend of this blog, Roberta Estes, wrote an important blog a few days ago about small segments of DNA. It is long, but worth a read. I plan to dedicate a post to Roberta's thoughts, probably next Sunday. It's important and I need time to get my own thoughts organized.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Are Our Parents Related (to each other)?

Jewish endogamy - the notion that all European Jews share the same ancestors multiple times - means more than that we are all related. It also means we are related to ourselves, probably multiple times. We cannot test that directly, but we can get a handle on whether our parents are related to one another.

GEDmatch has a tool to do just that. It's probably the simplest tool they offer. No choices or options, just enter the kit number, click "submit" and the results appear in seconds.

As a control, we can look at six family members with one fully Jewisih parent and one fully non-Jewish parent. We would expect there to be no relationship at all between the parents in these six cases.

In fact, for all six, GEDmatch returned:
Largest segment = 0.0 cM
Total of segments > 7 cM = 0.0 cM
No shared DNA segments found
No indication that your parents are related.
We must note the words "No...found" and "No indication." That does not mean that they are definitely not related. Esther's father is from Rozdol and her mother is from nearby Drohobycz and I would expect them to show up as reasonably close. But Esther's kit produced the same negative results as the six. The same thing shows up for Dalia, whose parents are both from Buczacz.

As we know, DNA is diluted by half every generation and after five or six generations a person does not always carry traces of every ancestor. Some disappear, while others persist for many more generations. I do not know enough about Esther and Dalia's mothers' sides to say anything further.

Herb's parents' families, on the other hand, are from Skalat and Zalosce and I would expect a fairly close connection. His results show four segments shared by his parents.
Largest segment = 17.2 cM
Total of segments > 7 cM = 50.5 cM
Estimated number of generations to MRCA = 4.1
A bit over 50 centiMorgans and a most recent common ancestor about four generations before them. That is, of course, an estimate. Instead of fourth cousins, they could be sixth cousins four times over, with each of the four matching segments representing a separate cousinhood.

On the other hand, if we could test Herb's late brother and sister - or his parents themselves - we might find additional matching segments.

So let's look at two cases where we have full siblings who tested.

Aunt Betty's parents (my grandparents) have a single match of 12.1 cM on chromosome 8, running from 65,749,351 to 75,056,375. That would make them about sixth cousins.

Uncle Bob's kit shows a slightly larger segment, starting about three million earlier and ending in the same place as Aunt Betty's. His 12.4 cM shows my grandparents to be about halfway between fifth and sixth cousins.  If we had an actual test from my father, we might see them even closer.

My own test shows that my parents have a matching segment of 7.6 cM on chromosome 9.

My sister Amy has a matching segment of 7.8 cM on chromosome 1 and Sarajoy has one of 8.3 cM on chromosome 3. So the three of us together show our parents to have three matching segments of 23 cM, which would make them fifth cousins.

I am waiting for results of two other sisters, so the relationship between my parents might be closer. Or as I suggested with Herb's parents, each segment might represent a different seventh cousin.

Just for fun, let's look at a few others:

Pinchas, my third cousin on the Kwoczka side, has a segment on chromosome 8 that's about seventh cousin.

Charlie's parents are also about seventh cousins, with 8 cM on chromosome 6.

Bonnnie's parents have two matching segments on chromosomes 2 and 8, which may show them to be seventh cousins twice but may indicate a somewhat closer relationship.

Miriam's parents have a large matching segment (18.1 cM) on chromosome 2.

There are more in the seventh cousin range, so for now, Herb has the honor, such as it is, of the most closely related parents, and Miriam for the largest single segment. But we have about twenty more new kits in process.

In fact, Esther and Dalia are not the ony ones who show no indication that their parents are related. Quite a few other do not either. But this is in each case one child who must receive the same segment from both parents. Perhaps it is more unusual that Herb has four large matching segments, that Aunt Betty and Uncle Bob have the same matching segment or that my sisters and I each have a different matching segment.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Kunszentmiklos - The Bauers

I have mentioned my great-grandmother's Bauer family a few times, including here. My
father's maternal grandmother, Regina (Rivka) Bauer (right) was born in Kunszentmiklos Hungary in 1870, the third of seven children of Simon (Shemaya) Bauer and Fani Stern. We know the names of their fathers - Lasar Bauer and Salomon Stern - from their 1862 marriage record and we may have the name of Fani Stern's mother as well. That marriage record gives the ages of Simon and Fani (28 & 21), so we know more or less when they were born.

As I wrote here, we have had a collection of Kunszentmiklos records for the last fifteen years and some time ago I put a summary of them online.

Before Kunszentmiklos, the Bauers lived in Apostag and I have a collection of those records as well, but have not done anything with them.

As many of you know, I work with Facebook open and occasionally something important shows up unannounced.

Regina Bauer's mother Fani Stern was from Kalocsa, so I went to have a look. There is not much there, but I also had a look at Apostag and Kunszentmiklos.

Apostag also has very little, but for Kunszentmiklos there is a list of two hundred thirteen burials.

Nearly forty of those are Bauer or Bauer-related, among them both Simon and Fani, my great-great grandparents. With birth years, death years and grave locations.

Also appearing is their son, Lajos Bauer, 1875-1917.
I know the birth year to be correct, but had no idea about the year of death.

My father was named for him.

Some weeks ago, I was ruminating here on my father's name, Eliezer Yitzhak, and speculated that the Yitzhak might be from someone other than Uncle Lajos. I wondered if we would ever be able to answer that question, but if there is a legible tombstone in Kunszentmiklos, perhaps we can.

The information on the cemetery site includes only name, years of birth and death and grave location, with women identified by their husbands' names. No precise dates, parents' names or cause of death. Nor was it clear if the information came from death records or from the tombstones themselves. (Are the stones even there anymore?)

Ours are numbers 19, 36 and 37 but many others are probably cousins.

I did not succeed in getting a reply from the folks at the website, so I contacted a researcher I know in Budapest. This is a real "I know" as we met on the way to Salt Lake City last summer. He reads Hebrew and is proficient at tombstone photography. We discussed his going to Kunszentmiklos to photograph all the Bauer graves. He told me that the later set of death records - 1896-1939 - which I did not see before, is available at the archives in Budapest. He thinks those records are the source for the cemetery website, but with the additional information I am looking for.

He has given me a quote for the photography in Kunszentmiklos and will give me one for the archives, as well. My family members should be on the lookout for a fundraising letter from me in the next few days.