Wednesday, November 22, 2017

My First "False Father" Event

The False Father
What do you call a situation where the father isn't who he was expected to be? On the few occasions when I needed to refer to such cases, I would call it a "false father" situation. Then I got into genetic genealogy and learned that the experienced folks call it a Non-Paternity Event, so I went with that. Until I began writing this post, when I looked it up on the ISOGG wiki. They define it thus:
Non-paternity event is a term used in genetic genealogy to describe any event which has caused a break in the link between an hereditary surname and the Y-chromosome resulting in a son using a different surname from that of his biological father.[1] The definition excludes minor changes in the spelling of the surname, and is implicitly limited to events after the relevant branch of the surname became hereditary. 

They cite more than a score of synonyms and more than a dozen scenarios, including such innocuous instances like "Surname switch."

So I am going back to "false father" and changed the title of this post accordingly. It's much less cumbersome than "misattributed parentage event."

Anyway I am here to tell you about my first false father case. I have helped out on a few, but it's not anything I have run across in my own research or my own families. I am writing this with the permission of the people involved, after changing or omitting all identifying information. For the purpose of this post, it doesn't matter whether I have a connection to this family or how they came to approach me.

This is the basic family structure.

The Problem
Fred Goldfeld's daughter Bonnie took an autosomal DNA test some time ago. A few months ago, Harvey's daughter Elaine took an autosomal test with the encouragement of her husband Rick. My impression is that Rick is the one who is interested in genealogy - Elaine, not so much.

Elaine and Bonnie are, ostensibly, first cousins. Here is how GEDmatch sees them. (All the comparisons in this case are based on GEDmatch kits.)

They have no common segments of 7 cM or more and six segments in the 3-7 cM range.

According to the most recent iteration of Blaine Bettinger's Shared cM Project, first cousins share an average of 884 cM and 95% of first cousins share between 619 and 1159 cM. Clearly Bonnie and Elaine are nowhere near those numbers. In fact the segments they share are likely Identical By State (IBS) and do not represent any common ancestry whatsoever. (Bonnie's mother Peggy is not Jewish, so there is no intrusion of endogamy from her side.)

One of the two women is not the daughter of the Goldfeld brothers, Fred and Harvey. At least one of them, perhaps even both. Which?

Fred and Harvey are long dead, as is Harvey's wife Phyllis. All the children here are in their fifties and sixties. The entire family lives in a large US city which has probably never had as many as 30,000 Jews.

Another test, by George
The obvious way to proceed was to ask Bonnie's brother or Elaine's siblings to test. Elaine's older brother George took an autosomal DNA test - here too, I am not sure he is particularly interested in genealogy and my contact was his wife Cheryl.

George's top match is his sister Elaine, as expected, followed by his first cousin Bonnie. But let's look at the numbers.

The Shared cM Project tells us that the average pair of full siblings share 2629 cM and that 95% of full sibling pairs share 2342-2917 cM. Elaine and George share 1929.5 cM which is below full sibling territory but well within half-sibling territory which is on average 1760 cM.

Since this is sensitive and I am new at this analysis, I asked CeCe Moore and Lara Diamond to review my logic. Both agreed that we are looking at half-siblings.

We see on the right the one-to-one comparison between George and Elaine. There are no significant green areas making it clear that they do not share two parents. (The yellow areas are segments where we see one common parent.)

Elaine and George share 118.9 cM on the X chromosome which must indicate that they have the same mother, since George gets no X from his father. Elaine and George have different fathers.That explains why Elaine and Bonnie are not related.

Fred and Harvey
George's second match is his first cousin Bonnie; they share 636.1 cM. As I wrote above, first cousins share an average of 884 cM and 95% of first cousins share between 619 and 1159 cM, so George and Bonnie are at the lower end of that range. Half first cousins, on the other hand, share an average of 440 cM and 95% of first cousins share between 235 and  665 cM. George and Bonnie are at the high end of that range.

So are George and Bonnie full first cousins or half first cousins? If the former, it's because their fathers, Fred and Harvey are full brothers. If the latter, Fred and Harvey are half brothers -  another false father case. CeCe and Lara differed on this question.

I decided to attempt to solve this question by looking at George's other matches and seeing what they share. Beforehand, I had to have a look at the geography. I knew from the documents that I had seen, that Fred and Harvey's mother Rivka was born in eastern Russia as were both her parents. Their father, Irving, was born in the US and all I could see was that his parents were from "Russia." I went into the JewishGen Family Finder and looked up their surname Goldfeld. There is one Goldfeld researcher and he said they were from Vilna. Since the name is rare, I figured that Irving Goldfeld's father Abraham was also from the western part of Russia, what is now Lithuania and Belarus.

I manage over 110 GEDmatch kits for my own families and it has become something of a joke on the Jewish genealogy groups on Facebook that most European Jews match several dozen of my kits. George matches over forty of my family kits. But seven segments stand out.

He has three segments on three different chromosomes which match my Jaffe cousins, from Borisov in Belarus. These matches appear to come from Irving's Goldfeld side. Neither Bonnie nor Elaine share these matches.

My three Jaffe cousins, two first cousins to one another and the daughter of a third

George has two segments which match my Kwoczka cousins who lived in Zalosce, near Tarnopol. These appear to come from Rivka's family, who lived a bit further east. Neither Bonnie nor Elaine shares these matches.
The lower chromosome has a segment of about 9.5 cM, so I decided to include it.

George has a match with nine of my family members on chromosome 21, about which I have written before. This group consists of two apparently unrelated parts of my family, one from the Tarnopol area, the other from Hungary. This also appears to be from Rivka's family. Neither Elaine nor Bonnie shares this match.

Finally, George matches a segment which appears to come from the other side of two of my second cousins. That family lived in Schedrin, in today's Belarus so is probably a Goldfeld match. Elaine does not share it, but Bonnie does. 

The yellow match here is Bonnie, the two greens are my Schedrin cousins..

If Bonnie and George both match a segment that comes from the Goldfeld side, I can conclude that Fred and Harvey are full brothers. This is far from 100% convincing.

A better way to check this out is to get Bonnie's brother Michael and George and Elaine's younger brother Norman and younger sister Karen to take autosomal tests. They would likely have less ambiguous results than the George-Bonnie match.

Elaine's father
After preparing my analysis and conclusions, I met with Elaine, her husband Rick, George and his wife Cheryl using GoToMeeting, which allowed me to show them the imges above and more. I asked them in advance, as I had during earlier emails with Rick, if they are prepared for whatever we might find. Rick assured me that all they wanted was the truth and that whatever it is, they could handle it.

So I explained to them that Elaine's father was not Harvey and showed them the proofs. Rick said that Elaine is still the same Elaine, no matter who her father was.

I suggested again that testing Norman and Karen might clarify the status of Fred and Harvey, but they were not sure if they wanted to tell the younger siblings anything at all.

And Rick asked me if I could tell them anything about the man who fathered Elaine.

I went back to GEDmatch and used their tool "People who match one or both of two kits" to find Elaine's matches which George does not share.  There were, of course, many - Most of them have Jewish-sounding surnames, so there is that. About fifteen of them matched on segments greater than 25 centiMorgans. The longest was just over 50 cM and there was another over 40 cM.

The one over 50 cM came with another of over 20 cM and they triangulated. I wrote to both. The smaller one answered, but she knows nothing that can help. The person with the 50+ cM has not yet responded. Perhaps she will later.

I suggested to Rick that he might want to contact the remainder of the fifteen.

Housekeeping notes
I had a nice turnout Sunday evening for the Israel Genealogical Society meeting in Kefar Sava. It was a lively, Hebrew-speaking crowd and with the questions we went well over the allotted time.

Next up, the genealogy series at Yad Vashem, in partnership with the Central Zionist Archives.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Mazal Tov - Uncle Selig Gets Married

The find
From the JewishGen SIG announcements from Friday.
Gesher Galicia is pleased to announce the addition of new sets of
Jewish records on the All Galicia Database

Tarnopol (Ternopil)
- Jewish marriages, 1859-1876. State Archive of Ternopil Oblast
(DATO), Fond 33/1/716. (379 records)
 I went in and used the new "Records Added in the Past Month" function and this came up.
I am assuming that the wife's name is Rachel.

The only Selig Pikholz we have is the brother of my great-great-grandmother Rivka Feige Pikholz. I have written about him in this space numerous times, most recently here. I even have a presentation called "Why Did My Father Know that His Grandfather Had an Uncle Selig," which I gave at JGS Maryland last winter and at the IAJGS conference in Orlando.

This find - and it is not a full document, only an simple index record - answers and documents several open points and opens the door to a possible significant new development.

Identifying Uncle Selig
This is definitely Uncle Selig, not only because there is no one else, but because the age (43) in January 1874 fits his 1830 birth year (based on the age in his death record.)

Many years ago, I concluded that Uncle Selig's (and therefore Rivka Feige's) father is Izak Josef Pikholz (~1874-1862), who was known as Josef. This was based on the fact that Uncle Selig named his son Itzig Joseph right after Old Izak Josef died and the fact that Rifka Feige had a grandson called Joseph Yitzhak but who was actually born Isak Josel.
I also have DNA evidence, as I discuss in Chapter Seven of my book "ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People."

But I never had an actual document. Now I do, for the marriage index calls him "son of Josel Pikholz."

Of course that also verifies the identity of my own third-great-grandfather, even though that has been settled in my mind for probably eighteen years. I can now totally ignore the fact that Selig was born when his father was at the relatively advanced age of forty-six. We finally have a document.

Uncle Selig in Tarnopol
Uncle Selig and his wife Chana lived in Skalat, where most of the Pikholz families lived. Chana died 11 September 1873 at age forty-five of cancer (raka).

But later in life, Uncle Selig lived in Tarnopol. And his youngest son Meir, who was born about 1872 or maybe 1874, is listed as being from Tarnopol, not Skalat where Selig and Chana lived. After visiting Meir's grave in Vienna a few months ago, I suggested:
The thing is Uncle Selig's wife Chana died of cancer in September 1873 at age forty five, so she could have had a son in 1872 but not 1874. Of course Meier could be from a second wife, but we have no evidence that Uncle Selig remarried and certainly none that he remarried so quickly after Chana died.
Except that Meir was born in Tarnopol and Chana died in Skalat, where the family lived. Maybe Uncle Selig married a second time, this time to a woman from Tarnopol. And they lived in her hometown. Where Meir was born.
So do we reopen the question if Meir was born to Chana in 1872 or the twenty-four year old second wife in 1874? That marriage was 21 January, so birth the same calendar year was certainly possible.

But we do know that Uncle Selig married a woman from Tarnopol and that is likely why he lived there from the time of that marriage.

And speaking of the second wife...
This young woman is Rachel Nagler (b. ~1849) and he married her barely four months after his first wife died.That sounds like the standard practice when a widow or widower is left with young children. (For this reason I believe that Meir is the son of Chana. We know of no other "young children.")

The new spouse is often from within one of the families.

So who might Rachel Nagler be? Peretz Pikholz (~1820-1873) is the son of Berl Pikholz (~1789-1877). We do not know how he is related to my Pikholz families. Perhaps Berl is the brother of Old Izak Josef - or a cousin or a nephew. Peretz was married to Perl Nagler (~1823-1904). Selig's wife Rachel is surely related to Peretz' wife Perl, a niece or cousin, perhaps.

Perhaps this points to a Pikholz-Nagler connection that is more substantial than the Peretz-Perl marriage. Perhaps the actual record will tell us something. Thus far, the folks at Gesher Galicia are not encouraging regarding getting an actual record from the Tarnopol archives.

Housekeeping notes
I have three talks coming up, all here in Israel. All are in Hebrew.

19 November 2017, 7:00Israel Genealogical Society, Bet Sapir, Sderot Yerushalayim 2 (second floor), Kefar Sava.
Lessons in Jewish DNA – One Man’s Successes and What He Learned On the Journey

8 January 2018 as part of the Yad Vashem / Central Zionist Archives series “From Roots to Trees” at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. 
5:30-6:15 – The Importance to Genealogy of Understanding Jewish Culture and Customs
6:16-7:00 – Using Genetics for Genealogy Research

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Scoring A Big DNA Win - For My Cousins

Dealing with Family Tree DNA "Close Match" alerts

I manage over a hundred family DNA kits, almost all with Family Tree DNA. So I get many scores of these notices every week. Not only each person, but since, for instance,  Dan is a member of all five of my projects, I get all of his notices five times. Others are members of multiple projects and for them too I get multiple notices.These notices of "Close Matches" means matches that FTDNA considers to be suggested second-third cousins.

A few months ago, I decided to deal with these alerts in a systematic fashion. As I wrote in detail at the time, I decided to download as an Excel file all the matches during the month of May for each of my project members. Then I arranged them in separate Excel files by group: my mother's side, my grandmother's side, the Rozdol-Pikholz side, etc. That's a lot of work by itself but after that I had to sort by the names of the new matches to see who may have interesting matches with several people within each of my groups.

I wrote to the ones that looked promising, asking them to give me their GEDmatch numbers so I could have a proper look. Some replied, most did not. Some gave me their GEDmatch numbers, others did not care to share this secret information with me. Others needed help even creating GEDmatch numbers. Oh, and a few would send me a list of all the GEDmatch kits in their families.

I looked at each one against all my kits - after sorting on the "Name" column of their match lists so all mine would come up together near the top  - and created 2-D Chromosome Browsers. For most I would do two or three Chromosome Browsers for different parts of my families.

There were some successes, of the sort that determined that so-and-so is definitely connected to my family through my great-grandfather's Rosenzweig or Zelinka sides or my maternal grandmother's Rosenblooms. Most were either vague or turned out to be scattered across the family with no direction at all. I wrote about the successes for May and repeated the experiment for the June alerts, writing about those successes as well.

Since then I have been busy with other things - including holidays - but I finally decided to look at all the alerts for July-August-September, limiting the analysis to my mother's side and my paternal grandmother's side. There were about 125 worth looking at just on my paternal grandmother's side.

I got some of that done before the Sukkot holiday and during the Intermediate Days at the beginning of last week but it was very frustrating and I was not even getting the level of successes that I had previously with the Duncans and Robbie and Sam and the others.

I worked on the responses from my mother's side last night and this morning sent out analyses of the GEDmatch kits of about thirty of these supposed matches. One of those was for a woman named Barbara Jo Strauss, who had nine matches with people on my mother's side. People who appear in the Borisov Project that I am doing with Galit Aviv Sisto.

It turns out Barbara is the sister of Mark Strauss whom I met two years ago the day of my book launch at JGS Maryland. He was there with his wife's brother's wife who is a Skalat Pikholz cousin of mine. Mark is an experienced genealogy researcher with a good working knowledge of DNA and it was he who responded when I first wrote Barbara last week.

Barbara's results
I reported to Mark that Barbara had two Borisov matches of interest, plus a third which I considered marginal at best.

The three green bits on chromosome 1 are 11-12 cM. The first is my second cousin Sam, the second my first cousin Kay and the third my second cousin Inna. That means one representative of each of the three children of my great-grandparents Israel David and Etta Bryna Rosenbloom.

This is not impressive at barely 12 cM but it is definitely a valid match. (Kay has no Jewish DNA on her father's side, so that pretty much eliminates the endogamy factor.)

We have only the one surname Rosenbloom on my grandmother's side, so it's really not much to work with - like so many others of these alerts analyses.

Chromosome 6 has a slightly stronger match - 14-15 cM - with four of my parents' children, my first cousins Kay and Leonard and a second cousin Liya. No one from Uncle Hymen's family. This too appears a legitimate match, though it was also unlikely to lead us anywhere absent some Borisov or Rosenbloom knowledge from Mark.

There was one other match I didn't even mention to Mark. A segment on chromosome 10 of near-identical 13.5 cM matches with five of my parents' children, but with not a cousin to be found, it was quite useless.

The one I thought marginal is on chromosome 12. There Barbara has matches of nearly 15 cM with my father's sister, my brother, one of my sisters and my second cousins Rhoda and Marty, who are sister and brother. Together with those are smaller matches with my other three sisters and me.

So that is a match on the east Galician Pikholz or Kwoczka side and those never go anywhere, as we have so little to work with in the way of surnames.

I reported all of this to Mark in my usual generic fashion, without all the names and numbers. His response was:
Ok.  If you give me the kit numbers of a few of the most significant matches, I can see which of my cousins also match those same segments to narrow geography and surnames.
 So I did.

Mark then asked me for more detail about Rhoda because she is Barbara's best match among my project members - 90 cM total with a largest segment of 41.1 and 11.1 cM of X to boot.

Mark's reply included:
They all share my paternal grandmother’s Berkowitz family in common, originally from around Humenne, in Eastern Slovakia, near the border with Ukraine. Other known surnames are Eichler and Burger.
For some reason I do not recall, I had discussed Rhoda's mother's family with her a couple of years ago and remembered that someone was from Slovakia/Hungary. Rather than hunt through my correspondence, I copied Rhoda on my reply to Mark. A few minutes later Mark told me that Rhoda's maternal grandmother was indeed an Eichler with the correct geography. He and Rhoda share a fourth-great-grandfather "Moyzes Eichler, who was born in 1785 in Hencovce, Slovakia."

And Rhoda (who carries the name of our second-great-grandmother Rivka Feige Pikholz) just told me that her youngest daughter has taken an interest in genealogy.

So that is a success for Mark's family and for Rhoda. For me it's a collateral success and a good reason to continue plugging away at the FTDNA Alerts. Of course, it helps when the person on the other end of the conversation understands the material.

Perhaps I'll send a notice about this blog to all those whom I've been talking to about alerts this month.

Housekeeping notes
Cousin Debbie's sister's DNA results just came in. She does not have the big segment that Debbie shares with us, but when we get her on GEDmatch, we'll see if perhaps she has some other matches of interest that Debbie does not.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Our Genetic Portrait - Part Three

In  my posts last week and the week before, I introduced DNA Painter and described how I identified segments that my family received from specific ancestors of my father and from each of my mother's parents. The segments are pretty much low-hanging fruit - easy to identify and confirm.

This week, I added five additional relatives on my father's side. The results from one of them quite surprised me. Which is why I am writing this.

Reminder - this profile is called "Israel Pickholtz family," not just "Israel Pickholtz." I saw no reason to use only my own segments when my brother and four sisters have segments from those same ancestors which can only enhance my map. That decision required calling this profile "female" because my sisters have a paternal X, even though I myself do not.

My second cousin Susan
The segments from Susan
When I went after the low-hanging fruit on my father's side, I  produced fifteen segments on my grandmother's mother's side and six on my grandmother's father's side. In fact there was one other group which I could have done and didn't - and that would be my grandmother, without regard to which of her parents they came from. I corrected that today, with my second cousin Susan. (I also have two double second cousins, but they are not much use for this, though they are valuable as matches.)

So Susan has now added another fifteen segments to the map. They are not as specific as I'd like, but we take what we can get. They represent what comes from my grandmother - and to Susan, from her grandfather.

Pikholz fourth cousins
The early Pikholz family itself is complicated. I included two great-grandchildren of my great-great-grandmother's brother Uncle Selig in my first round, but the descendants of her other two brothers are Pikholz in muliple directions so are not useful for this exercise. All except two - Nan and Jane, who are second cousins to one another and fourth cousins to me. What we share with them is common to our second great-grandparents Rivka Feige and Moshe Hersch.

Together Nan and Jane added eight segments to the ten I already had. Two of those are on each of chromosomes 1 and 22  and the others are on chromosomes 5, 14, 18, 20. Some of those do not rise to the level of "certain" and one is merely "possible," that being the match on chromosome 5.

The Kwoczka cousins
The segments here come to us from Jutte Leah, my great-grandmother. I had eleven segments from Pinchas, my third cousin, and another nineteen from my father's second cousin, Bruce. But I also have three third cousins once removed who had tested, Pinchas' niece and nephew, and a granddaughter of Bruce's first cousin. The truth be told, I did not expect to get much from them.

Ben added two segments - one of 16 cM on chromosome 9 and one of 26 cM on chromosome 20. The latter overlaps a smaller segment which I already had from his uncle Pinchas. With Ben in, his sister did not add anything else. (I knew from before that her matches with us were not as good as Ben's.)

Robin was the surprise. She added eight segments. They totalled 154 cM, with the largest segment 32 cM. My first contact with Robin was after she tested and that was how we found each other. I had my doubts about how much her results would contribute, but 154 cM is impressive.

Once again we learn the lesson - test everyone.

There is one oddity. More than an oddity, actually. Here is chromosome 10.
 Robin's segment falls within Bruce's segment, but Robin and Bruce do not match each other there - or anywhere else on chromosome 10. So they must have received those segments from different people. It is possible that one of these segments comes from some outside endogamous source. But it is also possible that one received this segment from Rachmiel's mother and the other from his father. (The same as Jutte Leah's mother and father.)

Robin's matches with Jutte Leah's descendants on that segment are with Aunt Betty, Herb, Lee and Roz.

Bruce's matches on his segment are Aunt Betty, Rhoda, Marshal, Lee and my sisters Amy and Judith.

The appearance of Aunt Betty and Lee on both segments gives me pause. For that matter since Rhoda and Roz are first cousins, that is also a problem, for their grandmother only received the segment from one of Jutte Leah's parents. So let's have a look.

The Roz-and-Rhoda problem is not really a problem because Roz' match with Bruce is not in the same place as either of Rhoda's two matches with Robin.

But there is no way we can avoid the problem with Aunt Betty and Lee. Their matches with Robin are within the same range as their matches with Bruce. They must be matching on their other chromosomes - the one from their other parent.  If say they both match Bruce on the Kwoczka line, then somehow Aunt Betty matches Robin on my grandmother's side and Lee matches her on his father's side. Those matches could be on any of Robin's ancestral lines - except the one through Rachmiel Kwoczka.

I must go back and downgrade Robin's segment to "possible" or maybe delete it entirely. Bruce's match seems more likely so perhaps I can call it "very likely," but since my policy is to be conservative, I'll go with "possible" for both Bruce and Robin.

(I wonder how many other matches are like that. Better not ask.)

The total from Jutte Leah Kwoczka now looks like this:

Wishing everyone an easy and meaningful Yom Kippur.
גמר חתימה טובה

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Our Genetic Portrait - Part Two

In my post last week, I introduced DNA Painter and described how I identified sixty segments that my family received from specific ancestors of my father. The ancestors concerned are three of my father's grandparents, two of his great-grandmothers and one second great-grandfather. The segments are pretty much low-hanging fruit - easy to identify and confirm.

Reminder - this profile is called "Israel Pickholtz family," not just "Israel Pickholtz." I saw no reason to use only my own segments when my brother and four sisters have segments from those same ancestors which can only enhance my map. That decision required calling this profile "female" because my sisters have a paternal X, even though I myself do not.

Mapping my mother's side
My mother's side is quite a different story. Not only do we have few known ancestral lines, but we have no test results from third or fourth cousins. Since all we have are second cousins (plus two first cousins, Kay and Leonard), I can only use DNA Painter to attribute segments to my grandparents, Rachmiel Gordon and Sarah Rosenbloom. I have no idea what they received from which of their parents.

There are now 132 identified segments on my mother's sides, which is an update since last week.

On the Gordon side, we have two second cousins on GEDmatch - Judy and Ruth. They are first cousins and their grandmother is Rachmiel Gordon's older sister. Andrea, the daughter of Judy and Ruth's first cousin, has also tested is new to GEDmatch and she adds nine segments that Ruth and Judy do not have.. And there are two third cousins who tested but have declined to upload to GEDmatch.

We have six tests on the Rosenbloom side, three from my grandmother's older sister Alta and three from her younger brother Hymen (Chaim Benzion). Here is the  structure of the family - both sides together. Those who have tested and uploaded to GEDmatch are in yellow.

The Gordons
I started with Judy and Ruth. Judy has twelve matches with us - "us" being the eight grandchildren of my grandparents. Ten of those twelve have enough good matches that I consider them certain. On chromosome 5, Judy has a match with Kay and a similar-sized match with my sister Sarajoy. Normally I would reject that as being not good enough, but the fact that Kay's father has no Jewish DNA gives her a bonus since there is no endogamy from that side. Nonetheless, I rated this match "very likely" rather than "certain."

On chromosome 9, Judy has a match with me, a similar match with my sister Judith and a much smaller match with my brother Dan. I would like to see more people here, especially either Kay or Leonard, so here too I rated it "very likely."

Next I looked at Ruth's matches with us, ignoring those which she shares with Judy and which I had already recorded. There are fifteen. Ruth's total match with me is nearly 500 cM, much higher than we would expect from a second cousin, and I suspect that her father has significant Galitzianer in his background. (His parents died when he was young, so we really don't know.) Here Kay and Leonard become more important. Matches which include them, I regard as certain . Matches which do not, I downgraded to "very likely" because there is a non-negligible possibility that this such matches come from our fathers rather than our Gordon mothers.

I also downgraded a match between me and Ruth because although Leonard is there, his match is much smaller. It simply doesn't feel certain. All told, Ruth has eight certain matches with us and seven "very likely."

Andrea has nine matches but six of them are only with my mother's children. I marked those as "very likely" rather than certain. I left a comment in those cases.

This is the set of matches between Ruth, Judy and Andrea and my grandparents' eight tested grandchildren.

The Rosenblooms
A bit of background on my grandmother Sarah's family. She and her sisters and brother were born in Borisov in what is now Belarus. Her father Israel David Rosenbloom appears in the 1874 revision list in Borisov so I assume that's where his family had lived. His wife Etta Bryna - whose surname is unknown - could have been from anywhere.

My grandfather Rachmiel Gordon was born in Dolginov which is not far away and it is possible, even likely, he had some family in Borisov. Sarah's sister Alta married Berl Kaplan whom we think was from Borisov, but we are not sure. Uncle Hymen married in Pittsburgh - to a woman from Schedrin, also Belarus, but over a hundred miles from Borisov.

So I decided that I could not set matches that did not include any of Uncle Hymen's grandchildren as "certain" due to the possibility that there was some kind of connection between Sarah and Alta's husbands' families.

But it is more complicated yet. Louis Jaffe, Judy and Ruth's grandfather, was also from Borisov, so I had to be on the lookout for matches that might have included his family mixed in with the Rosenblooms.

I will spare you all the detail, but there are a lot of segments that required analysis and decisions. These are the results of the six Rosenbloom second cousins - three from Alta's granddaughters and three from Uncle Hymen's grandchildren. (Hovering over and clicking on the segments gives much additonal information.)

Lots of segments here. Quite a few overlapping segments as well, because a match with one of Alta's granddaughters may be similar to but different from a match with one of Uncle Hymen's grandchildren. This is not trivial, even if there is some (unnecessary) duplication.

If you look at the segment at the far right end of chromosome 19, you will find a similar match on the Gordon set above. Here is the chromosomal view.

The green match is from Judy. The brown match is from Lydia and Inna.

These are not distinct Gordon and Rosenbloom matches. Judy triangulates here with Lydia and Inna. Like some kind of general Borisov segment. And who know how many more are similar, but we cannot identify them. I rated it as "very likely" but I'm not even sure what that means in this context.

And can you imagine, there are people who would do this automatically!! Endogamous populations are hard to do well. Anyone can do them badly.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Our Genetic Portrait - Part One

DNA Painter
A few months ago, I came to the conclusion that I have been spending entirely too much time on the trees and not enough on the forest. I would hear from people who think they may be related to my family and I'd look at their GEDmatch kits, comparing them to my 110+ project members looking for segments with multiple matches of 10 centiMorgans or more to see what patterns would show up.

Most of them showed some direction, but nothing really specific, appearing mostly to be too far back in time to do anything with, especially without the benefit of common surnames, geography or multiple family kits

I decided I needed to do some chromosome mapping in order to attribute particular chromosomes to specific ancestors. I had used Kitty Cooper's wonderful Chromosome Mapper a few years ago, but I was far from comfortable with it. I circled the Chromosome Mapping course at GRIP next June and wondered if it would relate to the specific issues of endogamy.

A couple of weeks ago, someone on Facebook mentioned a new tool called DNA Painter and I decided to give it a try. This is a report on my first efforts. The chart below shows my first 183 segments - 60 on my father's side and 123 on my mother's side. And there will be more.

In the course of creating this map, I have been in contact with the developer and he has welcomed my comments and questions. There is a lot to like here.

The data comes from the GEDmatch one-to-one and X-one-to one results.

What you are probably supposed to do is take all your matches with a particular person and copy them into the Painter, but this is not a responsible way to deal with families from endogamous populations.

For us, we have to go segment by segment, analyzing each one, looking for matches with multiple people that are based on more than "I match cousin so-and-so, so we must be related IN THE MOST OBVIOUS WAY." Not necessarily. I'll get into that in greater detail on my mother's side.

First note that this profile is called "Israel Pickholtz family," not just "Israel Pickholtz." I saw no reason to use only my own segments when my brother and four sisters have segments from those same ancestors which can only enhance my map. That decision required calling this profile "female" because my sisters have a paternal X, even though I myself do not.

I decided to take the next, obvious step - the ancestral matches of my father's sister and brother, Aunt Betty and Uncle Bob, since all their ancestors are also my ancestors. But their matches are not the same as my father's matches (as represented by his children), so there will be places where the final map will include segments from both my grandfather and my grandmother AT THE SAME PLACE. This is a good thing, because it fills out the ancestors, but it will require extra care when some new person comes into the picture with a match that needs defining.

Mapping my father's side
I began with my fourth cousin Anna, the great-granddaughter of Uncle Selig about whom I have written several times.
This chart may be familiar to you from my DNA presentations.
The circled matches on Anna's chromosomes 3, 8 and 15 are definitely from our second great-grandmother Rivka Feige Pikholz and are the basis of the demonstration that Anna and her half-brother David are descendants of Uncle Selig. I also included Anna's matches on chromosome 21, as these are clearly from the same source.

But I tend to be conservatiive, so on chromosome 15 where Marty and Anna share 50 cM, I decided to record as certain only the 22.6 cM that Anna shares with Marty and Herb. The rest of Anna and Marty's long segment I recorded as "possible," though I could have chosen "very likely." Here is how that segment appears in full.

Another set of Rivka Feige matches came from my father's half second cousin Lia who contributed five segments to the map. These are the Rivka Feige segments from Anna and Lia.

Note that on chromosome 15, one segment is pink rather than red. That is Marty's "possible" segment.

The second easy match was with Debbie from North Carolina, whom I wrote about in May 2016. She has one large match with us on chromosome 2 and and another on the X. The first is definitely from my second great-grandmother Mari Zelinka and the second is either from her or from my grandmother's Bauer/Stern side, but since I have seen no other indication this might be the case, I attributed the segment to the Zelinkas and called it "very likely."

Together with two segments from my fourth cousin Milan in Prague, this is what we have from Mari Zelinka.

There is also a single segment in purple which we received from Mari Zelinka's father - based on a match with my fifth cousin Cyndi Norwitz on chromosome 18.

Two other easily identifiable ancestors on my father's side are my great-grandmothers Regina Bauer and Jute Lea Kwoczka. The first I established using fifteen matching segments with my father's second cousin Shabtai and the second using nineteen segments with my father's second cousin Bruce and another eleven with my third cousin Pinchas. Here is how those appear.

This gives me a total of sixty segments of low-hanging fruit on my father's side, supposedly representing 36% of my the ancestral DNA from that side.

But in fact that is not correct. As you can see clearly on chromosomes 3, 8 and 18 there are overlapping ancestors. Different versions of the same segment from different ancestors. Here is where I have to be very careful when I want to look at matches with new people. And the 36% is nםt representative of all the ancestors on my father's side - it just refers to segments which have at least one ancestor represented.

Perhaps I shall redo the map later, so I can show a separate set of chromosomes for each of my paternal grandparents.

My mother's side is a different story entirely and I hope to tell you about that next week.

For now I shall wish you all a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous 5778 and that you and your families should be written in the Book of Life.

לשנה טובה תכתבו ותחתמו

Housekeeping notes
When I visited the cemetery in Vienna a few months ago, I reported that several of the family graves had no tombstones or had tombstones in very bad condition. I was kind of hoping that close family members might address this and I can now report that one actually did. The grandson of Isidor Riss sent me photographs of the stone he put up for Isidor (who died in 1937) and his wife Ernestina who was killed in Auschwitz. 

In other news, I had a look at my Ancestry DNA matches for the first time in a long time and dropped a note to a woman named Andrea whom I didn't recognize but who seems to be fairly closely related. Turns out she is the daughter of a second cousin on my mother's paternal side. I knew her name but we have never met. I asked her to join GEDmatch and she said she would. Meantime we are now Facebook friends.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Issues With GEDmatch - A New Example

Last night, I received an inquiry from Banai Feldstein, whom I am sure many of you know, reporting that her mother has a new match with one of my people. His name is Marty and his Family Finder results came in maybe ten days ago. He is her fourth closest match over all on GEDmatch and she thought it worth a look. 
Family Tree DNA is in the same ballpark.

Marty is my second cousin on the Pikholz side. Marty's sister Rhoda and first cousin Roz do not appear on Banai's mother's match list at all. (Banai herself does match Rhoda and Roz, which indicates something from her father.)

Banai's mother's match of 22.4 cM with Marty overlaps a match with a match of 13 cM with Herb who is a first cousin to our fathers - so there seems to be something on our joint Pikholz/Kwoczka side. But none of the other cousins are there and it appears fairly obscure.

I did a one-to-one and the results were different.
The total of 133.6 became 70.4 and "estimated generations to MRCA" went from 3.4 to 3.8. This is not a threshhold thing - or if it is, it is pretty obscure. If I drop the threshhold to 4, total cM is 141.6 and at 5, it's 124.5 cM.

So we decided to leave it for now, but this is another internal inconsistency with GEDmatch data. Their stack has become worrying and it cannot serve their image well among users.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Progress - The Problem Is Acknowledged

Nearly six months ago, I wrote in this space about a problem at Family Tree DNA that had been bothering me for a year or more. I added a few more bits of evidence later that same day.

The problem, which I first noticed in the "Close Match Alerts" they they send every two or three days, was that people who tested more recently were being called as better matches than people who had tested earlier, despite what their own numbers were saying.

Here are three matches between a man named Mark and three of my siblings. My brother, whose test was received in Houston on 7 January 2017, matches Mark with 143 cM total and a longest segment of 8 cM. FTDNA calls him a "second cousin - fourth cousin."

My sister Sarajoy, who tested in July 2014, matches the same Mark with 145 cM total and a longest segment of 8 cM. FTDNA calls them "Fifth cousin - Remote Cousin."

My sister Jean, who tested in December 2014, matches Mark with 149 cM with a longest segment of 23 cM. FTDNA calls them "Third Cousin - Fifth Cousin."

Something is clearly wrong. It is as though the algorithm was changed but only for people who tested more recently.

If you look at the comments in my March blog, you will see that Lara Diamond - a serious DNA researcher by any standard - had noticed the same phenomenon.

I had some half-hearted correspondence with FTDNA's Help Desk, but it was all dismissed as the randomness of DNA. Then last winter I sat with Janine Cloud at RootsTech and got more specific. She sent me back to the Help Desk and there it remained for the last six months.

At the IAJGS Conference in Orlando, I sat with Bennett Greenspan - the Man Himself - and he asked me to forward my anecdotal data to him personally. Yesterday he acknowledged that the problem is real and that they would be addressing it, though not immediately. I'll mark it for follow-up in sixty days.

In the meanime, my second cousin Marty's test arrived in Houston this week and I'll be looking to see if his matches are significantly different from those of his sister Rhoda, who tested way back at the beginning.

Now if we could get GEDmatch to acknowledge their problems, we would be getting somewhere.

Housekeeping Notes
I am speaking on Thursday 7 Spetember for IGRA in Modiin at seven thirty. The address is Yigal Yadin 41, ground floor and I'll be speaking (in English) on
Lessons in Jewish DNA – One Man’s Successes and What He Learned On the Journey

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Why Do We Test? - the JewishGen Version

JewishGen is a fine organization which has been working for the last thirty years serving - even forging - the community of genealogy researchers with Jewish ancestors. As they themselves tell us, they are "[p]rimarily driven by volunteers" which often means an uneven level of expertise.

Last week, a woman whom I shall call R, posted the following question on the DNA Testing Discussion List.
"Is there any reason to do or not to do the Big Y test?  What would we learn? "
I was taught to begin answering with brevity and only when pressed, go into detail. I replied:
If we need to know what we expect to learn before testing, we wouldn't test
much and we'd learn even less.

So much of my own progress has come from tests that my project members did before I had any idea what results were expected. This is especially the case when you consider that the database of tests has been growing by leaps and bounds in the last few years. You test now and three or five or a dozen years later some new test helps you solve some problem you didn't even know to describe when you tested. And when it comes to testing the older generations, the rule is always DO IT NOW. Even if you haven't a clue what you are after.

So R asked her question on the discussion list and I replied.

The anonymous "Moderator on Duty"chimed in as follows:
Your comment, which you should feel free to send privately to R if you're so inclined, would likely be read as disparaging her question, even if you didn't mean it that way. We will not be posting it.
For the record, we all know what to expect most of the time, and it doesn't stop us from living our lives. In the world of scientific research, grant applications generally require a statement of what the applicant expects to find. Statistical comparisons require a null hypothesis, i.e., an expected result, against which to measure the experimental results. And even infants know what to expect; they react more when they encounter something different from their previous experience. So R's question was a perfectly reasonable one.
A few minutes later, the JewishGen Helpdesk sent the following:
Your issue has been received by JewishGen and assigned #10995. A volunteer will follow-up with you as soon as possible.
You can view this request's progress online here:
I am guessing this had to do with the above exchange, but I have no idea and I never requested intervention. The link they suggested didn't work.They have acknowledged my follow up inquiry, but they still haven't told me what the "inquiry" was about.
As it happens, Blaine Bettinger - one of the top genetic genealogists - had just initiated a discussion on Facebook a couple of days earlier which included this:
I've noticed an interesting misconception among genealogists when it comes to DNA; namely that we must approach DNA testing or our DNA test results with a research question in mind. But that misses out on 95% of the fun of DNA!
The response to Blaine's post was overwhelmingly in favor of testing for its own sake, without knowing what will come of it.

I don't know who the anonymous moderator is. I do know that when the discussion is about opinions, research strategies and other non-fact-based matters, the moderators have to understand that there are many legitimate approaches.

Oh, and I did write to R directly. She had no problem with any of what I said in my original response.

Housekeeping notes
I am waiting for a time and an address for a talk I have been asked to give in Modiin (in English) on 7 September.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tara and Cousin Herb

Tara's matches
It began last Thursday mornng with a note from professed newbie Tara in Toronto. It seems that when she sorted her GEDmatch results by "longest segment," her top four matches all pointed to my email address.

The first of the four, with a longest segment of 70.7 cM is my father's late first cousin Herb. The other three are my sister Amy, my brother Dan and I. Worth a look? I'd say so. I mean who has a longest segment of 70 cM with a stranger?

Tara matches forty-one members of my project, but it is an eclectic group. All six of my parents' children were there, but not my father's sister and brother. And despite my X match, which is from my mother's side, there is only one second cousin from that side.

I did a few chromosome browsers and distilled the results to a single chromosome of interest - chromosome 3.

The small bit on the left side of the centromere is something I wouldn't bother mentioning, but it's right here in front of me. The five blue segments are my parents' children and the 12.5 cM green segment is my half second cousin Fred. The triangulation is good. So while this is not a large match, it does point someplace fairly specific - my Rosenzweig/Zelinka side from Trencin County Slovakia. That does not fit Tara's surnames or geography, which is largely Romanian.

The action is on the other side, where we begin with Herb's 70 cM segment in orange. On the left side of that segment, my sister Amy has 39 cM. On the right side of Herb's segment on lines 5 and 7, my sister Judith and my second cousin Terry have ~23.5 cM, my sister Sarajoy (line 6) has nearly 20 cM and the mysterious Vladimir (line 8) has 13.5 cM. On lines 3 and 4, my brother and I have ~36.5 cM that begins overlapping with Amy's segment then runs to the far right end like the others on the right. Finally my second cousin Rhoda (line 9) has a 9 cM segment that falls under Amy's and a 23.7 cM segment like mine and Dan's but not as long.

Tara's Romanian geography does not fit our eastern Galicia, nor does she have any of the very few surnames we know on the sides we share with Herb.

Of course, the thing is that if Herb has a legitimate 70 cM match with Tara, I would guess that the MRCA would not be expected to be much before 1800.

Herb's chromosome 3 on the segment that matches Tara
Before anything else, I did a triangulation to see whether all eight of the Pikholz descendants actually match Tara and Herb in the same places - or whether perhaps Herb and Co. match Tara on one of her parents and some of us match Tara on her other parent. I did that by comparing all eight (plus Tara) to Herb. Tara is on line 4 and the black vertical lines mark the ends of her match with Herb. That is the area we are interested in for triangulation.

Amy is on the left. Judith, Terry and Sarajoy are on the right. Rhoda, Dan and I overlap both sides. This is the same as our match with Tara above, so the triangulation works. Vladimir matches Herb, but not here, so he is no longer part of this analysis. He does match Tara, but the common ancestor is through her other parent.

Matching Segments
My next move was to look at Tara's Matching Segments analysis to see who else matches her long segment with Herb. (I have referred to Matching Segments before. It is a GEDmatch tool on Tier1 which requires a small donation.) I decided to limit this search to segments of 13 cM or more, but I was really interested only in those over 15 cM.

These are the results with personal information redacted and my family in red. (In this case, there is no significance to the colors on the bar graph.)

I added in the small segment from Rhoda. Eliezer is Judith's son and Avi is Judith's twin's son, so I had excluded them from the chromosome browsers above.

I also added in my fourth cousins, the half-siblings David and Anna (the second and third from the top) even though they are only about 11 cM. They did not show up on Tara's chromosome browser but they did show up here. Same thing with my third cousin Joe. In all three cases they show up on a one-on-one with Tara, with a single matching segment. (GEDmatch probably has some obscure rule that explains this.)

All three triangulate with Herb.

What is significant with all three is that they are not descendants of my great-grandmother, so Tara's segment with Herb and Co. appears to be a Pikholz match, not a Kwoczka match. (There is a reason I say "appears to be" but I won't go into that here.)

Just for fun, I ran Tara on the fancy one-to-many at Tier1 and the three single-segment matches don't show up there either. Not even when I raise the limit from 2000 to 5000. Furthermore, the 2000-match Tier1 search does not give all the normal matches that the regular 2000-match search shows. Much as I love GEDmatch, sometimes you have to look at something half-a-dozen ways to get a full picture and then hope you got it right.

Triangulating Tara's non-Pikholz matches with Herb
I did one-to-ones between Herb and each of the twelve people in the above list whose matches with Tara are 15 cM or more. Leah and the three in the "Elisha group" do not match Herb at all, so they are on Tara's other side.

E, J, Carol, Steven and Ryan match more or less according to their matches with Tara, though Ryan's is about 30% larger.

The other three - L, Harriett and Joseph - match Herb on no more than 10.5 cM of their matches with Tara. What about the rest? Who knows. It will require further inquiry.

What happens next?
Before I draw any conclusions and even before I write to any of these matches, Tara's mother has agreed to test. Probably her father too. That should clarify whether Tara's long match with Herb is from one of her parents or is perhaps - as is likely - a composite, part from her father, part from her mother. The "Are Your Parents Related" tool on GEDmatch shows her parents unrelated to one another on chromosome 3, so we needn't worry about that.

Oh, and Tara has a paternal grandmother who is willing to test. Anyone in Montreal who can help with this?

Meantime, Tara has joined our surname project at FTDNA.