Monday, July 27, 2015

Galicianers From Russia

Another year of mourning the Temple in Jerusalem and the loss of sovereignty that came with it. And another reminder that what we read ten days ago is still relevant.
Have you not done this to yourself, in that you have forsaken Hashem your God as he led you on the way? What business have you on the road to Mizrayyim (=Egypt) to drink the water of the Shihor? And what business have you on the road to Ashshur (=Assyria) to drink the water of the River? Your own wickedness shall correct you and your regression shall reprove you.
Yirmiyahu (=Jeremiah) 2, 17-19
Alliances are temporary and trust in the nations is folly. Always was and always will be. Tempting though it may be to think otherwise.

Yesterday's fast is behind us and this week's blog is a day later than usual.

Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007
Last week, the genealogy community heard about a new database available on, a database of the sort that most of us thought we would never see. The government has been chipping away at the Social Security Death Index for several years now due to some spurious privacy issues, so imagine our surprise to see a Social Security database with more information than before. It doesn't cover everyone that SSDI has, but it includes parents' names in both the data and the search.

Here is the way Ancestry introduces it. (The red emphasis is mine.)
This database picks up where the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) leaves off by providing more details than those included in the SSDI. It includes information filed with the Social Security Administration through the application or claims process, including valuable details such as birth date, birth place, and parents’ names. While you will not find everybody who is listed in the SSDI in this database, data has been extracted for more than 49 million people.
Information you may find includes:
  • applicant's full name
  • SSN
  • date and place of birth
  • citizenship
  • sex
  • father's name
  • mother's maiden name
  • race/ethnic description (optional)
You may also find details on changes made to the applicant's record, including name changes and life or death claims. You may also find some unusual abbreviations or truncated entries for county and other names and punctuation errors in the data. These are in the original; we have not altered the text.
I started with Pikholz, Pickholz and Pickholtz.

Under Pikholz, there are two listings. One man who I knew spelled his name that way in the US. The other is a woman whom we know - the listing is her mother's maiden name. This woman's Social Security document gave her precise birth date which may or may not be correct and a confirmation of a middle name for her mother, which fits oral testimony from a descendant named for her.

Under Pickholz there are twenty-one entries, mostly Pickholz spouses. I know twenty of them, though I must check to see if any of them have information that I don't have already.

The one I have never heard of is Kalman Szapiro, born in Skalat in 1916, died in 2001. His mother is Marian Pickholz. The record also showed that Kalman became Karl in 1959 and that subsequently Szapiro became Schapiro and Shapiro. As usual, I turned to Renee Steinig for her people-finding expertise and she came up with a funeral home in Florida. I wrote to them asking if they would give me contact information for next of kin or at least pass on a letter from me. (An obituary had no family information.)

There are other kinds of follow-up to do, which I'll try to get to in the next week or so.

The Pickholtz entries
I moved on to Pickholtz where there are thirty-two entries. Among those is Max Greenberg about whom I blogged a few weeks ago. This new document could have saved me a lot of work finding him!

Most of the rest I know, but again, I must check for new details.

Another one caught my attention - Sady Francis, the daughter of Max Stern and Esther Pickholtz.

It took some time until I realized that I had first seen this woman last winter and had even blogged about her. Her husband's brother is the husband of my grandfather's cousin. This new document reminded me that I still have work to do on those two couples.

A completely new one is Abraham Izen, the son of Joseph Izen and Sophia Pickholtz, born in 1882 in "Charkoff, Soviet Union." That
would be Kharkov, a large Ukrainian city that was in the news a few months ago as part of
the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. In 1882 it was unambiguously Russia.

Though Kharkov is not near Galicia, we have another Pikholz family there, the three children of Rose Pickholtz and Jack Lipschultz. One of those three, a daughter Sylvia, was supposedly born in 1890. Unfortunately Sylvia';s great-granddaughter dropped off my radar about ten years ago. We know nothing further about this Kharkov family, but age-wise Sophia Pickholtz Izen may well be a sister of Rose Pickholtz Lipschultz. Or not.

Work to do on that. There is no indication on the document where Abraham Izen lived in the US, but his Social Security card begins with "561," so he would have signed up for a Social Security card in California.

The last of the thirty-two was also from Russia, but from a place of greater interest: Nemerow.  Mollie Wilder was born 12 May 1902 in "Nemrov, Soviet Union" to Benjamin Weinstein and Sheva Pickholtz. She died in 2001. Nemerow is in Podolia, south east of Skalat on the road to Odessa. Russia, not Galicia.

We know Nemerow as the birth place of Nellie Rochester (Necha Pickholtz) of Kansas City Missouri and Pomona California. She and her family went to California soon after 1920 but left behind a married daughter whose family remains in Kansas City today. In fact, one of Nellie's great-granddaughters, Joyce, tested for our DNA project. Joyce's matches with the other Pikholz descendants are few and weak. Now we have this "Sheva" as a probable sister to Nellie.

A probable brother Moses was last seen boarding a ship to London and New York.

Again, Renee jump-started my research, finding New York marriage records on Family Search for Abraham (b. 1892) and Samuel (b. 1900) Weinstein, sons of Benjamin Weinstein and Sadie Pickholtz. They are almost certainly be brothers of Mollie.

Among the other bits and pieces that Renee found is an Ancestry tree by Mollie's granddaughter. We have already made preliminary contact. Her father is living and I have already mentioned that I'd like his DNA. If he is a second cousin once removed to Joyce, that should be an easy match.  In the meantime, I have introduced Mollie's granddaughter to Joyce and we'll see how that develops.

Much work to do.

Housekeeping notes
ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People had a nice write up in "Nu, What's Nu" (a weekly genealogy newsletter by Gary Mokotoff of Avotaynu) yesterday and I am looking forward to some proper reviews as well.

A reminder, the pre-release discount expires on 3 August.

I have a few more talks set, both in the US and here at home. The schedule looks like this:
16 August, 1:30 – JGS of Maryland Hadassah, 3723 Old Court Rd., Suite 205, Baltimore
17 August, 7:30 – JGS of North Jersey YMCA, 1 Pike Drive, Wayne NJ
20 August, 6:30 – Bnai Sholom Congregation, 949 10th Avenue, Huntington West Virginia
23 August, 1:30 – South Suburban Historical and Genealogical Society and Illiana JGS, 3000 West 170th Place, Hazel Crest Illinois
25 August, 7:30 – JGS of Los Angeles, American Jewish University
26 August, 7:00 – Phoenix JGS, Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center,
Arizona Jewish Historical Society, 122 E Culver St, Phoenix
30 August, 2:00 – JGS of Long Island, Mid-Island Y-JCC, 45 Manetto Hill Road, Plainview NY
27 October, 6:00 – IGS Jerusalem, Yad Ben Zvi, Ibn Gevirol 14 (Hebrew)
28 October, 7:00 – Carmiel, Yad Labanim, Hativat Yiftah 48. (Hebrew)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Two Very Different Kinds of Endogamy

Two endogamies
The wiki of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) defines endogamy as
the practice of marrying within the same ethnic, cultural, social, religious or tribal group. In endogamous populations everyone will descend from the same small gene pool. People will be related to each other in a recent genealogical timeframe on multiple ancestral pathways and the same ancestors will, therefore, appear in many different places on their pedigree chart. Endogamy can be the result of a conscious decision or cultural pressure to marry within the selected group but also occurs as a result of geographical isolation (for example, in island communities). 
This pretty much fits with what most of us mean when discussing the difficulties of Jewish genetic genealogy, though some might question the term "recent genealogical timeframe." For serious  research, the issue of endogamy is not a problem of recent genealogical time (the last two-three hundred years) but rather the gene pool of European Jews as it existed twenty generations ago. Each person had 220 ancestors twenty generations ago, which would generally be about five to six hundred years back. This number is something north of one million, which is undoubtedly more than the number of European Jews who lived at that time.

This shirt and others
are available at
In this sense, endogamy is not qualitatively different from the pedigree collapse that exists in non-endogamous populations, for they too reach a point when they run out of possible
unique ancestors. The real difference is that our repeated ancestors are more recent and far more numerous. This endogamy has us all related multiple times even though we may not be aware of it at all.

That is also what creates the illusion that people are closer than they actually are. Two people with several small amounts of matching DNA representing distant cousinhood, may appear to be more closely related because the total amount of matching DNA fits a closer relationship.

Let me repeat, the parties to such marriages are related multiple times through distant cousinhood of which they are probably totally unaware.

This, however, is not the endogamy that the average researcher thinks of when the term first comes up. The average Jewish researcher hears the term "married within the tribe" and says "My (great-)great-grandparents married cousins." To be sure, this too is endogamy, but it is of a different type.

Close cousin marriages
I refer here to marriages on the order of first or second cousins, an uncle and a niece or a first or second cousin once removed. Sometimes a bit more distant. These are generally deliberate choices, whether of the bride and groom themselves or more likely their parents.

These relationships can be useful in analyzing genetic test results. For instance, a person born of a marriage of first cousins will have on average 25% of his DNA from each of the great-grandparents that the parents share.
The percentages below 50% are averages.
That is the same percentage (on average) that each parent has from those same great-grandparents. As a result, for the purposes of examining those two great-grandparents, the child can serve as a stand-in for the parents. His DNA would not be diminished by the additional generation.

The Pikholz Project's most extreme known example of what I would call "personal endogamy" is Leonora, whom I have mentioned here before. Leonora's mother Taube left Skalat as the Germans approached in 1941 when she was eighteen, and fled east, ending up in Tajikistan, where her two daughters were born. All four of Taube's grandparents are Pikholz. Her father's parents are first cousins. Her mother's parents' relationship is more complex. I discuss this family in Chapters Six, Thirteen and others, in my book ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People.

There are a number of reasons for a culture of cousin marriages. Sometimes it was as simple as a small Jewish community with little contact with outsiders. Expanding that circle a bit, we have parents contracting marriages for their children with the people they know best - their siblings and close cousins, people they trusted, people whose life expectations and religious customs were like their own.

Related to that, a man (or a widow) matches his youngest son with his eldest granddaughter. The family provides a perfect shelter for the young couple.

Of course there are issues of business and property. Keeping it in the family by marrying within the family is a time-honored tradition. We see it among royal and other upper-class families and it happened among the regular folks as well. Similar to that is what we often see in rabbinic families, the closest thing to Jewish royalty.

We know of many instances in the 1800s where a woman dies leaving a husband with young children and the family assigns him a new wife either from his own family or from the wife's family. Dwojre, the wife of Simon Pikholz, dies in 1861 at age twenty-three leaving two young daughters. Simon then marries her younger sister with whom he has a string of additional children. (I discuss the DNA of this family in Chapter Thirteen.)

Sometimes those second spouses - "replacement spouses," if you will - are already related. My grandfather's first cousin Sara Frankel was in the US and pregnant with her first child when her husband died. The family back in Skalat sent a cousin of hers to marry her - though we have still not figured just how she and the second husband/cousin are related.

I believe that a similar situation occurred among my own Skalat ancestors, as I discuss in Chapter Twelve.

On my mother's side, after my grandmother's brother lost his wife in the 1940s in the US, his widowed sister-in-law married him so that (according to my mother) some strange woman wouldn't spend his money, depriving her niece and nephews of their rightful inheritance. (I learned four years ago that his children had never heard that explanation!)

When Josef Pikholz of Klimkowce lost his first wife, his children were raised by his second wife who was also his niece. This kind of thing happened all the time. It was part of the social safety net of the era.

Yet another phenomenon was explained by a Lithuanian archivist at a talk at one of the IAJGS conferences eight or nine years ago. (I apologize for not remembering her name or the specifics of her talk.) She was addresssing the question why many marriages took place in towns where neither the bride nor the groom lived. Her explanation, this non-Jewish archivist: "Sheva berachos." The seven days of feasting after a wedding. It seems that during this period, the families would round up all the available young people ("young" meaning anywhere from about twelve years of age) from both families and match them up for additional weddings held there on the spot.

And I haven't even mentioned the possibility that cousins from the same gene pool living in the same place may have been attracted to one another, without the intervention of the parents.

All these cousin marriages create an endogamy that is known to everyone at the time and is recorded in some form in the family tradition, though not always correctly. The grandchildren of Rozdolers Berisch Pickholz and his wife Golde Pickholz always knew that their grandparents are cousins and assumed that meant "first cousins." They are wrong. Second cousins is most likely correct, but third is also a possibility.

The difference
Both these types of endogamy contribute to the difficulty of identifying specific ancestors and the path that any segment of DNA may have taken as it traversed the generations.

But they are not the same. The first kind of endogamy, the one that causes pedigree collapse, represents a dispersal of DNA segments among the ancestral lines of any individual or family. My sixth great-grandmother's DNA comes to me from eight, ten, twelve or more directions, each traversing a different set of my ancestors on its way to me. Good luck figuring them out, identifying the ancestors on each path and the relatives that are generated from each specific path.

What I called above "personal endogamy" is quite the opposite. Instead of diffusion, it creates convergence. My great-grandfather's parents were both Pikholz (we don't know exactly how they are related) so he carries something of a double dose of Pikholz DNA. His Pikholz-ness is more intense. And if there were additional Pikholz cousin marriages in his background - as in the case of Leonora's mother - that intensity is magnified. Although that can make it harder to be precise in our genetic analysis, it can make it easier to do a more general genetic analysis.

If an outsider appears to match my great-great-grandparents who were born two hundred years ago and who are closely related, all we need to know is the match to the family. In any event we usually cannot be so precise as to match the individual. Furthermore, this personal endogamy is strong enough that it smothers the older more diffuse endogamy. It can take what was quite impossible and make it manageable. With the right strategy, that can sometimes be enough.

The results of my great-grandfather's Lazarus kit (Chapter Eighteen) show some of that.

Note: Last week I received Avotaynu's Spring issue, which includes an article by my down-the-block neighbor Zev Kalifon, on the subject of endogamy. I had written this blog post earlier and the two seem to fit together nicely. I will suggest that Avotaynu Online might want to run them together.

Housekeeping notes
I can add to my US speaking tour a joint program of South Suburban Historical and Genealogical Society and Illiana Jewish Genealogical Society, 3000 West 170th Place, Hazel Crest Illinois, on 23 August at 1:30.

That is in addition to
16 August, 1:30 – JGS of Maryland Hadassah, 3723 Old Court Rd., Suite 205, Baltimore

17 August, 7:30 – JGS of North Jersey YMCA, 1 Pike Drive, Wayne NJ

25 August, 7:30 – JGS of Los Angeles, American Jewish University

26 August, 7:00 – Phoenix JGS, Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center,
Arizona Jewish Historical Society, 122 E Culver St, Phoenix

30 August, 2:00 – JGS of Long Island, Mid-Island Y-JCC, 45 Manetto Hill Road, Plainview NY

and a couple of others in the works.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Chone and Max

As I have said on many occasions, the Pikholz families come from two towns in east Galicia - Skalat and Rozdol. Any others are presumed to have come from one of these towns. Usually it is not hard to tell which.

Then there is the family I call CHONE. (That's a nickname for Elkhonon and is pronounced with two syllables.) It refers to Elkhonon Reuven Pikholc who was born in 1888 in "Lenkow, near Poltava." This would be easier to define if there actually were a town called Lenkow near Poltava - which is in Ukraine well east of Galicia. Even east of Kiev. If there is, I have not been able to identify it. The family could have come from either Skalaters or Rozdolers.

According to the birth records of his sons, Chone was married to Rosa Wajnstejn of Bialystok and Bialystok is where their three sons were born in the period 1914-1921. The eldest son Max (=Mordecai) changed his name from Pikholc to something more Israeli-sounding. I am in touch with his daughter, who - for my purposes - represents her two younger brothers. All three live in the United States.

It is recorded that Chone's father is Nachum Leib and with that, the road to the past ends. Nachum as a Pikholz given name is nearly unique. So are Elkhonon and Reuven. In short, I have no idea who this family is and I have not spent much time on it. Max had a brother, whose name he did not remember, who died in Bialystok at the age of four. Another brother, Moshe, was born in 1921 and died in the late 1940s, perhaps in Warsaw.

When we began looking at DNA, this family seemed like an obvious candidate both for a Y chromosome test and for a Family Finder autosomal test. Max' daughter began working on her brothers as she could not do the Y test. The brothers were very concerned with privacy and when, after two and a half years, one agreed to test, he did so under an assumed name.

In fact, after he did the tests, he delayed a number of months before releasing the results, which meant he couldn't even see them himself. For that reason, this family's results are not discussed in my book ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People which is now available for preorder.

Now, however, the results have been released, though I do not have permission to do analysis on GEDmatch. So let's see what we have.

His Y-37 test shows his paternal haplogroup to be R-M124, not at all similar to either of our known Pikholz families. That does not mean that there is anything amiss in the family genealogy. Chone could have gotten his Pikholc surname from his mother. Or his father Nachum Leib could have gotten it from HIS mother. Those are the easy, normal answers.

More complex explanations could be adoption or some non-paternal event. Not to mention that his Pikholc name could have arisen independently of our own.

Autosomal DNA (Family Finder)
Of his more than five thousand Family Finder matches (about ten percent more than I have), Max' son matches thirty-one Pikholz descendants. But he has 113 matches before he reaches his first Pikholz. That first one is Gene, a descendant of Peretz Pikholz and
they are suggested second-fourth cousins, with shared segements of about 114.4 cM, the largest being just over 17 cM. His next three matches are with Charlie, my third cousin Joe and my second cousin Lee - all these suggested as third-fifth cousins with 74-104 shared cM. His largest match with each of those three is 13-14 cM.

I did a chromosome browser showing how those four match Max' son and except for a small segment on chromosome 16, there are no matching segments. On chromosome 16, we see a match with Charlie and Lee, but they do not triangulate, so Charlie matches on Max' side and Lee on Max' wife's side - or vice versa.

Max' son has eight matches that are suggested fourth-remote cousins. One is in the same family group as Gene, but they have no matching segments. Two are from the Riss family, but they too have no matching segments.

I compared Charlie, Dalia, JudyT and Nan - all descendants of the Isak Josef - Mordecai & Taube complex - and found some interesting results.  On chromosome 17, Dalia and Nan have nearly congruent, triangulated segments of 11-13 segments.

On chromosome 10, Charlie (13.6 cM), Judy (12.2 cM) and Nan (6.6 cM) have overlapping, triangulated segments with Max' son. These two seem to show that the family of Chone is part of that family group, though the evidence is certainly short of overwhelming. Considering that Chone's son is Max/Mordecai, if I had to guess, I would say that either Chone's mother or paternal grandmother was a daughter of Mordecai and Taube. But that is hardly more than speculation. Anything further would require documentation of the sort that we don't have. Of course, tests by additional family members could also be useful.

It appears, at least, that this family is a real part of the Pikholz family and not someone who comes at us from the presurname period in the early 1700s. And the Family Finder matches are with very few Rozdolers, so I think we can cross off that possibility.

Housekeeping notes
I participated in the IAJGS Conference here in Jerusalem for four days last week. The lectures were short this year - forty-five minutes instead of the usual seventy-five - and I attended two or three each day. I spent alot of time speaking with peoiple, meeting old friends, etc. And I was interviewed about ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People by a few Israeli publications.

I was also able to help people with their personal DNA analyses and sat at length with a few others discussing DNA testing and analysis in general.

The air conditioning was devastating but we were compensated with free coffee and tea.

I split much my time between the Israel Genealogical Society table and the Avotaynu Online table. (I have to get more involved with them.) Adam Brown gave an interesting talk Thursday afternoon about a budding Avotaynu Online project to do a genetic census of the Jewish people, because the endogamy factor guarantees that we are in fact one people.

I spoke briefly with Max Blankfeld of FTDNA who was selling test kits. Max is my closest Family Finder after my first twenty known relatives, but we haven't a clue how we connect. It is no doubt a large number of distant connections.

And I bought a one-year subscription to the My Heritage database.

Wednesday, six bloggers - including Dick Eastman - went out to lunch together.

Next year the Conference is in Seattle, but it ends the day before the Tisha beAv fast, so I do not plan to attend.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People

For three years, I blogged nearly every week. A few months ago, that changed. I posted four blogs in January and six in March, but only one each in February and April and two in May. There was a reason for that. I was temporarily busy with something else.

It's time to tell you.

ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People tells you of my successes thus far in making sense of my families' DNA tests, despite the problems of generations of marriages within the tribe. My own story is a Jewish story and my examples are Jewish examples, mostly from east Galicia. But the principles are relevant for other endogamous populations as well as for the general genetic genealogy community.

Although the nature of my research and the structure of my families are probably very diffferent from yours, I believe that you can learn from my experience. I am here to inspire you to say "I can do this!"

ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People, published by Colonial Roots, will be officially launched at a meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Maryland on 16 August and is available for preorder now.

Sales through the website are being coordinated by Gold Medal Ideas, who have come out with a special line of genetic genealogy T-shirts and accessories. Those too are available on the site.

Meantime, I shall be hanging out much of this week at the IAJGS Conference here in Jerusalem.