Wednesday, February 24, 2016

London Pikholz: Part One - Morris

The plan for a London set of Pikholz blogs has been sitting on my desk for at least a year and now that I am scheduled to speak in London on the first of June, it's about time that I present them. The first two - Morris and Jacob - are mysteries. Today I'll introduce Morris. Jacob will follow, probably next week. (I am pleased to say that Morris and Jacob do not appear to interact, so I can write about them separately.) Steve Pickholtz has been intricately involved in this whole London project.

Rather than tell the story and show the documents, I am going to do it the other way round. I'll present the documents in chronological order and then discuss the likely scenarios.

No. 1: The June 1893 birth record of Moses Rywen Pikholz in Strzeliska Nowe.

Moses Rywen (Moshe Reuven) was born to Ryfke Fenster and paternity was affirmed (at the far right) by Samuel Pikhoz (sic). We know that several of the children of this Samuel went to Argentina and one ended up in South Africa. One of the descendants told me some years ago that there was a brother Morris, but no one seems to know what happened to him. Two other children in this family are unaccounted for, Jack and Golde and we have neither ages nor age order for any of the three.

No. 2: A 1901 census record
Line nine: Seven year old Morris Pichols, born in Cape Colony (South Africa).

No. 3: A 1911 UK census record
Line 13: Morris Pickholtz, age seventeen, wood carver, born Whitechapel London

No. 4: Passenger list UK to Canada 1911
Morris Pickholtz, age 18, Hebrew race, wood carver but stamped "farm labourer"

 No. 5: 1911 Canadian census, June 9, Blandford Township, Ontario
Line 34, Morris Pickholtz, born September 1892, farm labourer, British race

No. 6: Record of WWI medal

Morris Pickholtz was awarded this medal. He served in France during the First World War.

I wrote to the Ministry of Defense some years ago to inquire about who he is (birth date, birth place, parents etc.) and what he did to warrant the medal. I did not receive a reply.

No. 7: 1919 passenger list to Canada
Bottom row - Pickholt Morris, age 29, born in Canada, race British, farmer

No. 8: The marriage of Morris Pickholtz and Dora Deitch, December 1927

We have several items here. The British marriage record above which shows Morris to be 35 years old, a photograph of the couple, and the authorization by the London Beth Din (below). The authorization on the left is dated January 1928 and gives Morris' name as Moshe ben Shemuel. The one on the right which was not completed is dated the same as the civil document, has no mention of the wife and calls Morris "Moshe ben Yaakov.."

I corresponded with Dora's family but no one was old enough to know anything about Morris. They had no children.

No. 9: The death of Morris, 1933

Three items showing Morris' 1933 death at age forty. His death certificate (above), his grave (right) and the Burial Society record (below).

There is no new information on any of them.

Dora died in 1948 and is buried elsewhere.

So, we have nine items here. a Galician birth record which may or may not be relevant, two UK census records, one Canadian census record, two passenger lists, one WWI medal and the marriage and death records. We are talking here about one, two or perhaps three men with the same name, born in 1892-3.

The marriage and death records are the same person, as the same wife is mentioned in both.

The name of the father on the marriage record matches the Galician birth record (Samuel). Despite the fact that the second given name (Reuven) is never mentioned, I ascribe a high probability to that birth record as being for this man. I have no other candidate among the other Pikholz birth records.

The "one Morris" scenario says he was born in east Galicia, went to Argentina/South Africa and somehow ended up in London before age seven. Then after the 1911 census, went to Canada where he became a farm laborer instead of what he had been before - a wood carver. Back to UK to serve in WWI and back to Canada afterwards. Returned to UK, married and died a few years later.

The holes in that start at the very beginning, his going as a young child to the southern hemisphere. Three of his brothers indeed did go there, but only in the 1920s. So he was unlikely to be the child from Capetown in the 1901 census, even though I note that the South American sons of Samuel have no idea what happened to their Morris.

Then there are the inconsistent birthplaces. I can see if the Canadians mistakenly thought he was born in England, but the 1919 passenger manifest says he was born in Canada. And the 1911 UK census has him born specifically in Whitechapel London. (FreeBMD lists no such birth.)

And would the Canadian census have listed his nationality as Canadian when he was fresh off the boat? I wouldn't think so, but I don't know anything about Canadian immigration policies.

And the differing birth dates bother me a bit. If they were the only issue, that would be one thing. But it's cumulative.

Once "one Morris" breaks down, the options are not clear. Is Morris from cape Colony the same as Morris in Canada? Not likely. But then we have no obvious conflicts in events, only in information. We do not have two marriages or two deaths, for instance, and each one disappears in tandem with the "one Morris" scenario.

I'll have to give this a think. Maybe when we get to see the 1921 censuses for Canada and UK. Ideas and strategies would be appreciated.

Housekeeping notes
1 June 2016, 7:00 – Guild of One-Name Studies, Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, ORT House, 126 Albert Street, Camden, London, NW1 7NE

3 June 2016, 4:30 – Ontario Genealogical Conference, International Plaza Hotel, 655 Dixon Road, Toronto:
Seminar on Genetic Genealogy, by invitation only

5 June 2016, 10:00 – Ontario Genealogical Conference, International Plaza Hotel, 655 Dixon Road, Toronto:
Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned On the Journey

5 June 2016, 7:00 – Jewish Genealogical Society of Toronto, location TBA
Beyond a Doubt: What We Know vs. What We Can Prove:

24 July 2016, 1:30 – JGS of Maryland Hadassah, 3723 Old Court Rd., Suite 205, Baltimore
Beyond A Reasonable Doubt: What We Know vs. What We Can Prove

7-9 August 2016, TBA – 36th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, Seattle:
Lessons in Jewish DNA – One Man’s Successes and What He Learned On the Journey’s Lazarus Tool As It Applies to Two Kinds of Endogamy
Beyond a Doubt: What We Know vs. What We Can Prove

More in preparation. 'Nuff said.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Hottest Topic in Genealogy? I Think Not.

We who are fully immersed in the mikvah that is genetic genealogy like to say that DNA is the hottest topic in genealogy today. I have certainly said so. After RootsTech, I am sure it is not.

Furthermore, though it certainly should be, I think I understand why it isn't and what in fact is. And how those two things are connected.

Being a solo exhibitor, I did not have much opportunity to see a lot of RootsTech, but I did accost nearly everyone who came by and began by asking if they had done DNA testing yet. I was surprised that so many had not and were not even considering it. They seemed to think that it was strange that I was raising the question.

Those willing to discuss DNA testing thought it pointless - something that never really produces anything useful. I would cite results and revelations from my own experience and from those of others and to some passers-by I must have seemed like I was selling DNA tests rather than a book about DNA analysis.

Here I had bought our own hype and was expecting the general genealogy public to be - if not quite as enthusiastic as we were - at least intrigued by the potential and willing to look at what genetics might do for them. After all, these folks had defined themselves as more than beginners just by showing up.

Many of these folks were in the sixty-plus cohort and the idea that the results would come when the tests and the analytical tools improve and the database expands did not impress them, especially if they are on a fixed retirement-income.

What did interest them? The other big thing that was all around us. The story-telling. The products that would help them translate their genealogy work into a medium that would appeal to the younger generation. Not the next generation of genealogists, but their personal next generations who were not likely to continue the research, but who might want to see what Grampa has been working at all these years. The products that would suggest how their work might be presented and help them get it done.

So this is really two sides of the same coin. People see DNA as something really far into the future and would rather concentrate on bringing their own work into that future rather than just laying the groundwork for what some research heir might or might not be interested in doing. As an analyst, I am not sure what I can do besides bringing my own experience and learned lessons to encourage and inspire, but it seems to me that the testing companies should be targeting this market before it passes on. And those of us who recognize the importance of getting the older generation into the database, all the moreso. It's our communal heritage.

Story-telling and genetic testing can both be the hottest topics in our conversation.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Thoughts From Salt Lake City

As I have said before, I began my path to my book when I took a course in Practical Genetic Genealogy at GRIP nineteen months ago, and the experts said they did not know how to do the DNA of Jewish and other endogamous populations.

So yesterday, a non-Jewish woman with a Jewish line came to my booth at RootsTech. I was wearing my "how many Pikholz matches do YOU have" shirt and that's what she wanted to talk about. She has a few dozen Pikholz matches and she says we discussed this some time ago. I'll take her word for that.

So she tells me that among her matches is a suggested second-third cousin with Aunt Betty, my father's sister, and close ones with Uncle Bob and others. She consulted with one of the very top names in the field, who told her "Oh, that's a Jewish match, don';t bother with it. Nothing will come of it."

I am tempted to say that this is malpractice, but I have only hearsay to go on.

What it is, though, is a clear violation of the demand made of all credentialed genealogists to do a "reasonably exhaustive" search, even if nothing comes of it. Following up a DNA match of a suggested second-third cousin (even when we know it cannot be that close) must be part of a reasonably exhaustive search. Can we get some "likes" here on that particular declaration, especially from the professionals?

New story. We all know about elevator pitches. So yesterday when leaving RootsTech on the elevator to the third level parking garage, I actually did one. In an elevator. The fellow was interested in my story and one of his clients is a prominent supporter of genealogy, someone I know by reputation, who is also a cousin of the husband of my wife's third cousin Janet. This client has never done DNA.

We got off at the first level and continued talking, exchanged cards etc. Then I got back on the elevator and I said to the people there that I had just had a first-time experience - an elevator pitch in an actual elevator. So on the way down someone else tells me what company she is with and it turns out it's a piece of software that I bought but don't know how to use.

She will come to my booth to work with me on it this morning.

Two successful elevator pitches in the same trip down three floors.

More later.

Shabbat Shalom.

I should not have used the word "malpractice," a word which has legal significance.

I do believe that this story - if told accurately - does conflict with the requirement for a reasonably exhaustive search.