Tuesday, May 22, 2018

No Jews in Skalat

According to Yad Vashem's Pinkas Kehillot, there were 3256 Jews in Skalat in 1890, out of a total population of 5889. Now there are none. The Germans - with the willing, enthusiastic help of the local Ukranians - killed as many as they could. The last of the official killing was on the holiday of Shavuot, seventy-five years ago. Some were left hiding in the forests, but the community was gone. Skalat was declared Judenrein.

The old shul, eighteen years ago.
More recently a warehouse
In some sense, the community lives on among the survivors and their descendants, a group in which I count myself even though no ancestor of mine has lived there for nearly 150 years. I have been attending the annual memorial for Skalat for eighteen years, the day after Shavuot, at the town monument in the cemetery in Holon. Part of a row of monuments which includes other "Pikholz towns" (Zbarazh and Husiatyn) and a couple of my mother's ancestral towns (Pleshchenitsy and Vilieka).

Since the illness and passing of Chaim Braunstein, Zvika Sarid has been running the ceremony, such as it is. Until this year, it has been his mother Yocheved Sarid who has made the phone calls to remind everyone. Her husband Yitzhak died twelve years ago and her older brother Motel Weissman died four years ago at age ninety. And now in her ninety-second year, Yocheved has passed the phone-calling duties to Edna Nakdimon of the second generation.

The last few times I have written about the Skalat, I found it depressing. The number of actual survivors who are well enough to attend has dwindled and participation of the second and third generation has waxed and waned. Mostly waned. We barely reached twenty two-three years ago. I was pleased to see that the numbers were up this year. We were thirty

Yocheved spoke about her own experiences during the dark days. Tova Zehavi - known to everyone as Giza - talked about finding life in the forest, beginning with the Kol Nidre service there. Bronia spoke about the day the Germans came. I do not remember hearing Giza and Bronia speak at such length during previous memorials.
Yocheved with the microphone, Bronia in blue, Giza in between
Yocheved's four children were all there as was her sister's son and grandson, the latter a captain in the army, in uniform. Shammai Segal's family was well-represented, as usual, including grandchildren.

Henia is one who has not attended for several years. A monument to her father's town of Jawarow is in the same row. Her mother was born in Skalat but is no longer well enough to attend the memorial. Henia is finishing a book about her mother Tonia's Kaczor family. I helped her with some of the research eight or ten years ago. Now she is ready to do DNA. I suggested she do her mother's as well, while she still can. Who knows what might turn up.

So this is where we meet. Once a year. We all said kaddish together.

There are no Jews in Skalat. May their memory be for a blessing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

More Rozdol Solutions

Following my recent post about the critical 1901 Pinchas Pikholz death record, Mark Halpern sent me the Excel file with the full set of newly indexed Rozdol records - 1898-1914 deaths and 1903-1916 marriages.

There are nine marriages which include people named Pickholz, all of them people I know. The new records fill in birth dates and names of the spouses' parents. Some of that is new. Some of the birth dates are not what I have from the actual birth records, but there is always a risk in trusting birth information from death records..

Two of the marriage records are particularly valuable as they identified the parents of the Pickholz grooms. In both cases the men are over fifty years old and reflect the 1915 registrations of Jewish marriages that had no doubt been held years earlier.

One is Dawid Pickholz and his wife Tauba Gitel Muhlrad for whom we have four chldren born 1888-1903. The other is Israel Pickholz and his wife Gitel Bauer for whom we have six children born 1886-1902. These two men are brothers, the children of Abraham Pikholz and Taube Kraut of what I call the IF3 family. I already had their birth records but had nothing to connect those two adult men to those specific births. Until now.

There are thirty-two newly indexed births. Twenty-three are young children, all but three I already knew of. In some cases I already knew they died because there were notes to that effect on the birth records. I have recorded the three new ones and will get them onto the project web site when I have a chance.

The adults are between the ages of thirty and eighty-five. Five of the nine have no new information except death years and ages. A sixth is Pinkas whom I discussed earlier this week.

Then there are the other three.

Sara Rosenzweig is the wife of (Israel) Hersch Leib Pikholz. He was born in 1835 and according to this index entry, she would have been born about 1837, so this should be an easy call - especially as there is no one else it can be.

The birth records of her children show her parents as Israel and Golda, but the parents here are Markus and Rojse. My guess is that the death record is wrong - perhaps in the transcription, perhaps in the original. But until the scan of the original is available, I cannot make a judgement.

Dawid Wolf Pickholz died in 1904 at the age of 64, so he would have been born in about 1840. His parents are Israel Joel (known to have been born in 1807) and Itta Chane. Looks pretty straight-forward. The problem is that I know him to be the son of Israel Joel's eldest son Moshe. But maybe not. It certainly makes more sense for Dawid Wolf to have a thirty-three year old father than a thirty-three year old grandfather. (Until now we had no age for Dawid Wolf, whose eldest son was born in 1862.)

Moses' descendants said he had ten children and we know of nine besides Dawid Wolf, so if he is not Moses' son, there is likely another who has not been identified.

I expect that the death record is correct and I will have to move Dawid Wolf up one generation, but I will have to locate my notes that led to the original decision. (Dawid Wolf has known living descendants in Chicago.)

Sara Pickholz died in 1909 at age 69. Her parents are Isak and Feige.

This is a perfect match for a birth record from 13 October 1840 for Sara Bikholz who was born to Izig and Feyga in house 295, a house where Pikholz births took place over many years.

But it is not simple at all. On 7 July 1840, Sara Rifke Pikholz was born to Izak and Feige, also in house 295.

This is part of the Isak-Feige problem that I alluded to earlier this week. There may be two couples named Isak and Feige Pikholz and these two birth records are for two different children. (To be clear, the existence of these two birth records is not the only thing pointing to two identically-named couples, but it is the one in front of me now.)

The problem is complicated and over many years I have come to believe that it is intractable. But perhaps the death records can tell us something. This one, in the name of Sara, is the only one I have seen so far. I have not seen one for Sara Rivka in the families of her probable descendants. There is one child definitely named for her in 1911, but that is after this 1909 death record. If there were a Sara Rivka from one of the descendant families, born before this 1909 death record, I could say with confidence that Sara and Sara Rivka are two different people.

The odd thing is that there is no reference at all to "Sara" other than the birth and the death. It would be a tough sell to say that a woman known as Sara Rivka in all her documents would be just Sara at birth and death, even if we could explain away the second birth record.

There may be a solution here, but I believe that if I find it, it will be from some place unexpected.

Monday, May 14, 2018

I Have Waited Nearly Twenty Years For This Record

Throughout the life of the Pikholz Project, we have taken as axiomatic that all the Pikholz families from Rozdol are descended from Pinkas and Sara Rivka. Two sons are documented - Israel Joel (1807-1882) with 798 known descendants and Aron (1818-1883) with 81 known descendants.

Anther presumed son is David, the father of Hersch. Hersch was born in 1835 and his mother is Gittel Kraut. And there is evidence of a Samuel, though I have long suspected that Samuel is David's middle name.

There is evidence of a son Berl, about whom we have no information and no known descendants.

And we have four families headed by a couple named Yitzhak and Feige from this first generation. It may be, however that there are two couples - Yitzhak who married Feige and Feige who married Yitzhak, both having children at the same time, all named Pikholz. (For my own convenience, I call these families IF1, IF2, IF3 and IF4.

We also have two families headed by Pinchas, one of whom may have been born to Yitzhak and Feige in 1832 or perhaps to Israel Joel. And a Gittel born about 1840. And another Yitzhak of unknown parentage born in the 1850s.

This has been my best guess of the structure for more than a dozen years.
The four red bars are my conjecture.

Both Hersch and one of the two Pinchas have sons named David Samuel born in 1860 and 1861, and it has been my feeling that Hersch and this Pinchas are brothers. But there was no documentation. Pinchas has a grandson named Pinchas who was born in 1904 and I have long hoped that a death record for Pinchas would identify his parents by name. But we only had access to death records until 1897 - and there is no death record for this Pinchas. So I waited. and waited.

Every time Mark Halpern announced new records from the AGAD archives being released to JRI-Poland, I would ask him about Rozdol deaths. And I waited.

And I worried because even if there were a record, it may not identify his parents.

A couple of months ago, Mark announced a large set of new records and this time it included Rozdol deaths for 1898-1914. This morning, Mark announced that those Rozdol records are now indexed. I went straight to the death record for Pinchas. And here it is.
From the JRI-Poland index. The actual record is not yet available, but this is good enough.

Pinchas died in 1901 at age seventy and his parents are David Samuel and Gittel. Not only is Pinchas definitely the brother of Hersch, but we now have documentary evidence that their father David is in fact David Samuel, as I had suspected.

I can now get to work merging the two families in my database and my web site. The merged family will have eight generations and 271 documented descendants.

The new records include thirty-one other Rozdol deaths with the name Pikholz from this period. There are likely others from married daughters. Plus nine marriages during the period 1909-1916. I will wait with all those until I see the Excel version. Today I celebrate.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Sometimes We Rethink

For several years now, I have been giving a presentation which includes the statement
Because once I, the family expert,
write it down, will it ever
be seriously re-examined?
If I say something is so, will my research heirs question my decision - if indeed they ever see it as a decision? Will even I myself reconsider it without some new overwhelming piece of evidence?

The theories
One of the first things I decided to check out when I began working with this new-fangled DNA thingee was the matter of the four Pikholz descendants who lived in Podolia, outside our usual east Galicia. The four - Necha, Moses, Chaim and Yakov - all appeared to have been born 1868-1878 and I had the feeling they might be siblings.

Moses, from Nemerow, boarded a ship in Hamburg bound for New York via Liverpool. That is the last we see of him. We never even see him arriving in either port. Or any other.

Necha, also from Nemerow, married Ruben Rechister of nearby Braclav and they emigrated to the US where she was known as Nellie Rochester. The Rochesters lived for about twenty years in Kansas City then most of the family moved on to California.

Chaim lived in nearby Tetiev where he and his family were killed in a pogrom in 1919.

Yakov was born in 1878 in Tulcin and has a living grandson who immigrated to Israel from Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. We actually have Yakov's birth record which shows his father as Mikhail the son of Mordecai.

I had two non-competinng theories about who these people were. First the obvious possibility that the four are siblings. Second, we have a known Mordecai Pikholz born about 1805 in Skalat and it appeared to me that Yakov's grandfather is likely this same Mordecai.

Testing the theories
So after my "Immediate and Stunning Success" as outlined in Charper One of my book "ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People", I decided that I could test both theories using DNA. I could not test any descendants of Moses or Chaim, but I was in contact with Yakov's grandson and some of the great-grandchildren of Necha, whom I suspected were second cousins once removed to Yakov's grandson.

Second cousin once removed is eminently testable using autosomal DNA. And of course since we already had Y-DNA for Mordecai from Skalat, Yakov's line would be easy enough to compare.

Yakov's grandson did both tests, the autosomal Family Finder and the male line Y-37.

I was in touch with the families of two of Necha's grandsons - brothers. The elder has two children and the younger, four. The elder brother's daughter promptly agreed to test and I figured we were on the way to proof. They were the sixth and seventh Pikholz descendants  to test for our project.

The end of the theories
When the results came in, what looked like a simple confirmation, turned out quite the other way. The Y-DNA of Yakov's grandson did not match Mordecai of Skalat. It was not even close.

Both Family Finder tests showed some matches with the other Pikholz family members, but they did not match each other at all. Whatever they were, it was not second cousins once removed.

I did not get what I had hoped for but I got the truth. "No" is also an answer and this was a DNA success.

In the meantime...
The number of Pikholz descendants who tested increased from seven to about eighty and with it, the number of Pikholz matches for both Yakov's grandson and Necha's great-granddaughter..

We began using GEDmatch as our standard for analysis, rather than the less useful tools that Family Tree DNA provides. For instance, a one-to-one comparison of Yakov's grandson and the Rochester great-granddaughter is not exacty non-existent.
There are twenty-two segments totalling some 60 cM with the three largest segments only 6.1, 5.8 and 4.6 cM. Certainly not much more than nothing.

We found a woman named Sheva Pikholz Weinstein from Nemerow, about the same age as Necha Rochester, with a living granddaughter in North Carolina. If Sheva and Necha are sisters, then we can test possible second cousins once removed. In fact, Family Tree DNA shows Sheva's granddaughter and Necha's great-granddaughter as suggested third-fifth cousins with a longest segment of 27 cM and a total of 80 cM.Blaine Bettinger's Shared cM Project says that second cousins once removed share on average 123 cM, with a high of 316 cM and a low of zero. Our match looks low but not outrageously so.

Lara Diamond has some preliminary data for an Ashkenazic Shared DNA Survey which shows second cousins once removed sharing an average of 170 cM, with a high of 446 cM and a low of zero. In this context our match is certainly to small to qualify.

GEDmatch shows Sheva's granddaughter and Yakov's grandson with a longest segment of 14.8 cM with a total of 50.6 cM. This is well below second cousin territory.

A second Rochester test
I have been saying ever since those first tests that perhaps the Rochester great-granddaughter is an outlier and that her cousins might give us better resuts. Eventually one of those cousins tested, a male, with MyHeritage.

He uploaded to GEDmatch and his match with Sheva's granddaughter are even weaker than his cousin's. A total of 65.2 cM with a longest of 15.5 cM. And only one segment that he shares with both his cousin and Sheva's grandaughter, and that shared segment is only 8.3 cM.

So it looks definitive that Sheva and Necha are not sisters. They are likely cousins but could be aunt and niece. The matches we see are reasonable for second cousins twice removed.

An unexpected conclusion
This throws a monkey wrench into one of the more obvious conclusions, one I hadn't even been looking at. I have assumed all along - though I never wrote it as such - that whatever the status of Chaim and Yakov, Necha was the older sister of Moses, both being from Nemerow. That is the kind of conclusion that many researchers would record as fact and never given it another thought.

If however, as it seems, that Sheva and Necha, both from Nemerow, are NOT sisters, then perhaps Moses is Sheva's brother, not Necha's. Or perhaps Moses is the brother of neither Sheva nor Necha. This is an unexpected result of the rethink and another good example of why we must proceed with caution before drawing concusions. Because if I write it down, will anyone ever question it? Will even I revisit it?

And what of Yakov?
When Yakov's grandson tested, we had almost no experience with Pikholz Y-DNA. We have since determined that three known Skalat male lines are precise matches in the "R" haplogroup and that four known Rozdol male lines are also precise matches in a different part of the "R" haplogroup.

Only one other person with the Pikholz surname has done a Y-DNA test and he is also "R." We don't know how he connects to any other Pikholz family.

Yakov's grandson is J-M172. The records call his male line ancestors "Pikholz" (or Pikgolts), so it does not appear that the name Pikholz came from a maternal ancestor, in the Galician way. Yakov's mother's surname is known so it is pretty clearly that there is no such scenario.

I think it is time to bite the bullet and label Yakov's grandson as the product of a non-paternal event - an adoption or some other event that broke the Pikholz male line. Label in my own mind. Label as a "maybe" in the comments. Certainly not to label a certain NPE. But I think that;s what we have.

I still think that Yakov's grandfather Mordecai is likely the Mordecai (b.1805) whom we know and Yakov may well be the brother of Necha. Or Sheva. But I haven't a clue how we might demonstrate that. (Come to think it, I have an idea. We'll see if it goes anywhere.)

Monday, April 30, 2018

My One St. Louis Grave

One of our regular stops when we visited my mother's family in Washington DC, was at my grandfather's sister, Aunt Rose Shapiro, on Missouri Avenue. Aunt Rose, who was a bit younger than my grandfather, was widowed before I was born. She and Uncle Max had three daughters, Bea, Jean (known to everyone as Tootsie) and Ann.

I assume that Bea was named after my grandfather's paternal gradmother, as was my mother. Tootsie carried the name of my grandfather's maternal grandmother (for whom we have MtDNA results - thank you Ruth!) and I assume that Ann was named for my grandfather's mother Anna Kugel who died no later than 1904. I am not sure if these names were shared by Uncle Max' family or if the girls had middle names that I am not aware of.

Bea and Tootsie both lived in the DC area. We often visited with Tootsie and her family, so I knew her well. I met Bea maybe twice - never her husband and children. But Ann lived in St. Louis and we never saw her. Her married name is Garland (previously Gallant) and she has a daughter and a son, neither of whom I ever met. The son has what must be a unique name and I tried to contact him a few years ago, to no response.

Ann died in 1974 at age 55. Cancer.

So finding myself in St Louis this morning, I went to her grave. It is part of a family plot - her husband's family - but he himself is not there.

Perhaps I'll try her son again.

Ann in the foreground, behind her are her husband's relatives.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

There Could Have Been A Lesson Here - May Still Be

About ten days ago, I received a note from someone I will call "F," referring to the GEDmatch kit of my second cousin Susan. My email is on her kit and F thought he was emailing Susan herself.

So this is the sum total of what F wrote:
Looking at the surnames on family finder I got an idea how we might be related.
The mother of my grandfather on my maternal line was called Karolina Bauer

and conceived with an unknown man Joseph Bauer. Does this fit with anything in your family tree?
Bauer is my father's maternal grandfather's name and twenty years ago, I acquired copies of all the availlable Bauer vital records from Kunszentmiklos. I put them into my genealogy database and composed a simple html display which begins thus:

I looked for F's Joseph with a daughter Karolina and found nothing, but when I tried "Lina" I found this 1882 marriage record:

The groom is Gaspar Heisler, 25, the son of Jakov and Czilli Heisler. The bride is Lina Bauer, 29, daughter of Jozsef Bauer and Betti Heisler. My correspondent F had not mentioned the name Heisler, which was common to both the bride and the groom, nor did he say anything about geography.

F's match with Susan is undeniable. FTDNA shows a total of 56 cM with a longest segment of 26 cM. The longest segment is impressive, even if the total is not. FTDNA says they are suggested second-fourth cousins. But Susan is one of nine descendants of my great-grandmother Regina Bauer in our generation who have tested, plus my father's brother and sister and a grandson of Regina's brother. And none of those seemed to match F on Susan's long segment.
I found that F is also on GEDmatch and he only matches Susan, Aunt Betty and Uncle Bob, whose matches with F are small. And not on the same segment as Susan's, which is 25.8 cM.

At first it struck me as odd that Susan had this 26 cM segment with F, which none of the rest of us shared. But it isn't really. Is it very unusual that Regina passed this particular segment to one of her three children? Hardly. Or that it came to Susan but not Shabtai? Not at all.

So I began preparing my soapbox to make the case yet again for testing everyone because you  never know what might show up. But before that I reported back to F.

F confirmed that his Karolina was indeed called Lina. But his Lina was born in 1900, while ours was a twenty-nine year old bride in 1882. He doesn't know the geography but is making inquiries. 
F's Karolina may indeed be part of our family and Susan's shared segment may indeed be from the Bauer's. But I am not at all sure, so the soapbox is both relevant and conditional. But no occasion to preach about "test everyone!" should be ignored.
While I was at it, I ran the GEDmatch Matching Segments for both Susan and F to see who else matches both of them on that segment. There are five who match that segment - plus two more, a brother and sister - who match F on the segment but match Susan of about double the size of the segment. I wrote to the six matches. Two responded so far. They don't know anything helpful.

Housekeeping notes
I'm on my way to the US now. I'd be pleased to see any of you at the following three events.

30 April 2018, 7:00 – Jewish SIG of the St. Louis Genealogical Society, Holocaust Museum & Learning Center Theater, 12 Millstone Drive, St Louis Missouri
Using Genetics for Genealogy Research
(Lessons in Jewish DNA – One Man’s Successes and What He Learned On the Journey)

2 May 2018, 6:00 – Jewish Genealogical Society of Kansas City, Johnson County Central Resource Library, Carmack Room, 9875 West 87th Street, Overland Park Kansas Lessons in Jewish DNA – One Man’s Successes and What He Learned On the Journey

8 May 2018, 7:00 – Youngstown Area Jewish Federation and the Mahoning County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical SocietyJewish Community Center of Youngstown, 505 Gypsy Lane, Youngstown Ohio
Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?
(because genealogy is more than names and dates)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

How Close Are We - GEDmatch and Known Matches

A few days ago, Liza Lizarraga called our attention on Facebook to a year-old blog about the "generations" column in the GEDmatch "one-to-many" results. In her blog GenGenAus, Cate Pearce tells us how the generations that GEDmatch shows us line up with her own reality. I had never seen this blog or any other form of this analysis.

Above are my own one-to-many matches with four people in my Pikholz project. I am not sure how I am related to them, but I call them "my fourth cousins". The first two are known to have multiple Pikholz ancestors, but the approximations that GEDmatch shows (in the red box) do not help much.
Yet some people want them to be useful - even definitive - and the occasional poster on Facebook or in discussion groups will ask "What does 4.7 generations mean, exactly?" Well, there is no "exactly" once you get past parent/child relationships. And beyond that, Cate shows us what her actual family matches look like:
Gen 2.3 1C1R (first cousins once removed)
Gen 2.5 1C1R (first cousins once removed) Again, this makes sense: my cousin is a generation older than me, his grandparents, which is 2 generations, are my great-grandparents, which is 3 generations. Therefore, the Gedmatch Generation is calculated as being between 2 and 3 = 2.5
Gen 2.6 1C1R (first cousins once removed) 2C (second cousins)
Gen 2.9 2C (second cousins)
Gen 3.0 2C (second cousins)
This is the ideal scenario, with the common shared ancestors for me and my match both being 3 generations back.
I figured it would be useful to do something similar for endogamous populations and felt that it would be more user-friendly to put it in a structure like Blaine Bettinger's Shared cM Project. So with Blaine's kind permission, I prepared an analysis of my 1184 known family relationships, shown in the chart below. (There are more data points on the way, waiting to get a few more kits onto GEDmatch.)

This chart has no claim on precision. The averages do not include those matches which do not show in the traditional one-to-many search on GEDmatch, what we call "the zeroes."

Some do not show up because they do not meet the conditions for a match. Some are good matches but have only a single segment and for some reason GEDmatch does not display these. Some are matches but do not fit into the 2000-match limit which GEDmatch imposes.

Multiple known relationships are listed by the closest one and there is no special acknowledgement of my double second cousins.

I also show the sample size, which does not include the "zeroes."

I would be really pleased to have some more data. Anyone in the endogamous community who wishes to join in can download the simple Excel form at www.pikholz.org/GenerationsForm.xlsx. Needless to say, privacy will be maintained. And you do not need to identify the specific matches, just the relationships.
Housekeeping notes
I just took DNA from the wife of my boss forty years ago. She told me back then that she is a Pikholz descendant and now I know that her third-great-grandparents are Mordecai Pikholz and his wife Taube. I still don't know how Mordecai and my second-great-grandfather Isak Fischel are connected. Maybe brothers. I have been after her to give me DNA for years.

I'd be pleased to see any of you at the following three events.

30 April 2018, 7:00 – Jewish SIG of the St. Louis Genealogical Society, Holocaust Museum & Learning Center Theater, 12 Millstone Drive, St Louis Missouri
Using Genetics for Genealogy Research
(Lessons in Jewish DNA – One Man’s Successes and What He Learned On the Journey)

2 May 2018, 6:00 – Jewish Genealogical Society of Kansas City, Johnson County Central Resource Library, Carmack Room, 9875 West 87th Street, Overland Park Kansas
Lessons in Jewish DNA – One Man’s Successes and What He Learned On the Journey

8 May 2018, 7:00 – Youngstown Area Jewish Federation and the Mahoning County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical SocietyJewish Community Center of Youngstown, 505 Gypsy Lane, Youngstown Ohio
Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?
(because genealogy is more than names and dates) 

JRI-Poland still needs considerable funds for the new indexing projects. Among the towns I am responsible for, Skalat and Skole are far from their goals, but Rozdol, Komarno, Zbarazh and Podkamen need funds as well. See instructions for donations here - and don't forget to say which projects you are supporting. And let me know what you have contributed.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

A New Twist In The "Joseph Leisor" Story

The background
Three years ago, I introduced readers to the story of Joseph Leisor Pikholz, probably a second cousin of my grandfather. Then last year, after we received access to the latest batch of Skalat records, I discussed Joseph Leisor's father Simon, after his death record appeared with a date years after I assumed he was dead.

Joseph's wife's Katie's unmarked
grave in Upper Darby PA
Joseph, who had four children in Philadelphia during the period 1901-1906, disappears entirely about that time. His children show up in orphanges or living with his in-laws in 1910, after the wife died (in 1909), so I assumed that Joseph had died.

Joseph's older sister Dora had gone to the US with my grandfather's first cousin Sara Frankel, who had ended up in Denver, so I had this cockamamie theory that Joseph had gone to Denver to join family and look for work. I brashly predicted to Steve Pickholtz - who had taken the lead on this inquiry - that we would find that Joseph had died in Denver or en route, probably while his wife was still alive. I even considered that he had died even before the youngest child was born and that "Leonard J." would turn out to be in memory of Joseph Leisor.

That theory blew up when I found that Joseph was definitely alive in 1909-1910, involved in some matters that are better not spoken of. There is also an indication that he had spent some time in Pittsburgh before that.

Then I found this in Ancestry's collection of World War One Draft Registration Cards:

Joseph Lewis Pickholtz, born 1 October 1881, registered for the draft in Kansas City Missouri in 1918. He is married to "Elsie L," is in the junk business and is "tall," brown-haired and missing three fingers on his right hand. "Lewis" is a reasonable substitute for "Leisor" and the birth year is correct, though not the full date.

And then he disappears again. Neither he nor Elsie shows up in the 1920 census or anyplace else. I wondered if he was on the way to Denver.

The new twist
As I mentioned in my last few blogs, I am speaking in St. Louis and Kansas City in four weeks and I will have some time in Kansas City in between. So I wondered out loud if there is something I can do while there to advance my research and mentioned the draft card to the organizers. Nancy Reicher took up the challenge and sent me this:
This looks like our Joseph, though there is no identifying information other than the middle initial. Getting married. In Golden Colorado, half an hour from Denver. In 1915, three years before the Kansas City draft card.

Is Lena Lipchitz the same person as "Elsie L" - or yet another wife?

And I don't see any Lipchitz or similar in either Denver/Golden or Kansas City in either the 1910 or 1920 census.

So maybe my instincts were correct. He had gone to Denver. Now what? Perhaps I can find a Lipchitz family in the Denver area, who knows this family. Working on it.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

I Have Never Seen A Record Like This

A few days ago, a girl from my high school class came to visit. Well, not just visit. She is going to see her brother and cousin in the US next week and wanted to bring them new information on her parents' families. This was my third inquiry from a high school classmate in the past month.

Her parents were older Holocaust survivors, with all that implies. Her father and his first wife were born in Pohorylce, in the Glinyani district of east Galicia (Tarnopol Province). Her mother was from a small village near Peremyshlyany, only a few miles away. We spent most of our time on her father's family and we found many documents in JRI-Poland, showing a large and heavily endogamous family.

Her father was born in 1900 and most of our searches were concentrated on the late 1890s and the following decade. (The Social Security Death Index has his birth nearly a full year later than the birth record that we found.)

As Galicia researchers know all too well, post-1876 birth records name the mother and her parents and usually the father, but never the father's parents. This makes it much more difficult to determine if, for instance, two males with the same surname are father-son, brothers, or perhaps cousins, uncle-nephew or something else. We do not have this problem with women, at least not to this degree.

In most of the records I have seen, the mother's parents are listed but with only the dominant surname. I have seen exceptions to that in Lwow, where the mother's parents are named, each by full birth name.

Peretz (aka Piotr) was born on 1891 to Blime Pikholz and Abraham Brandes. Blime's parents are identified as Perec Pikholz and Perl Nagler of Skalat. This is the only record we have which shows Perl's birth surname. Peretz is the only one born in Lwow.

But this is old news.

This week I saw something new.

In going through the JRI-Poland search results, we found the 1901 birth of her father's first cousin Chajm Moshe Baum, a name she knew. His father is Samuel Baum, the brother of her paternal grandmother after whom she herself is named. (Her own father is also Chaim Moshe.) The birth record names young Chajm Moshe's mother as Lea Weiz.

The record names the mother Lea Weiz and the father as Samuel Baum and adds the grandparents Chajm Moses and Fraide Baum. Not Weiz, the mother, but Baum, the father. And this is not an error, for my friend knows her grandmother to be the sister of Samuel Baum and knows her grandmother's parents to be Chaim Moshe and Fraide.

I have no idea why this was recorded like this. It was not like this on the other records we looked at from the same town in the same period. I am not inclined to examine additional records to see whether this is a unique record in that respect - I expect it is not. Why should it be? But then, why should it be at all?

In any case, it is a reminder to all of us to check all the family records, not just the index entries and not just a few representative family records. You never know until you look, what new information appears someplace where it shouldn't be.

Housekeeping notes
Friday morning I posted the following on Facebook.
I awoke this morning to find a notice from Mark Halpern that it is time to do more fundraising for indexing of AGAD records for JRI-Poland.
Even with all my DNA work and blogging, nothing energizes me more than new records from my main towns of interest.
The towns for which I am responsible which have new records are Rozdol, Skalat, Komarno, Skole, Zbarazh and Zalosce. The records include deaths, births and many more marriages than we are used to seeing. The Rozdol records include deaths for 1898-1914, some of which I have been looking forward to for at least fifteen years.

As more modern records become available, the fundraising becomes more difficult because people are less interested in what happened after their own (great-)grandparents left for greener pastures. On the other hand, I have found that the Excel files that donors receive are more important as married daughters bring new surnames into our families.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Nine Matching Segments With Tara

Tara (again)
I have discussed Tara's matches with my families here and here, but there have been some changes in the GEDmatch results and in any case, I'd like to develop and summarize it all in one place.

Tara approached me last summer with a match of 70 cM on chromosome 3 with my father's late first cousin Herb and a set of other family members within that large segment. This is a remarkably large segment with a total stranger.

Subsequently, I found three others in my family on that segment, but the GEDmatch "one-to-many" search does not see them. Those three are my fourth cousins Anna and David (half-siblings) and my third cousin Joe.

In the meantime, Tara's mother and her paternal grandmother have also tested, so we can see from whom Tara received her matching segments. Let's look at them one at a time.

Chromosome 3 (left)
It's a small segment and normally I wouldn't bother mentioning it, 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.

Tara's mother has this same segment. Her family lived in Romania - not close but not far. In any case, it is clearly not from a recent common ancestor.

Chromosome 3 (right)
Most of my family matches on this large segment are from Tara's mother. None are from her paternal grandmother. Vladimir and my third cousin Joe match neither, so must be from Tara's paternal grandfather. (Joe's segment is a bit to the left of Vladimir's, so they may come from different ancestors.)

The matches who show up on the one-to-many are all descendants of my great-grandparents so the common ancestor could be upstream from either the Kwoczkas or the Pikholzes. But when we add in Anna and David, we lose the Kwoczka option. So the common ancestor with Tara's mother feeds through my third-great-grandparents Izak Josef Pikholz and his wife Rojse, whose surname is unknown.

According to the "Matching Segments" tool at GEDmatch, there are eight kits that match both Tara's mother and my cousin Herb and are greater than 12 cM. Two are 12.7 cM and two (with a joint email) are 15.6 cM. The other four are in the 18-23 cM range and I have written them all. Maybe something will come of that.

Chromosome 6
The two matches on this nearly 11 cM segment belong to Steve and his cousin Jen. There are a few other smaller segments with these two matches. Steve wrote about his family recently and it seems to me that this match is on Steve's Werfel side. We know nothing about them except that they lived in east Galicia.

Tara received this segment from her mother.

Chromosome 8
This is a 13.3 cM segment. Lines 1,2 and 5 are my sisters and line 4 is my brother. Line 3 is my first cousin Kay on my mother's side. None of my second cousins on either side have this segment, so I cannot be more specific. The geography is Belarus/Lithuania.

Tara received this segment from her paternal grandmother.

Chromosome 23 (left)
These X segments are two of my sisters and me. The largest of the three is just over 16 cM. Since I get no X from my father, this must be on my mother's side. But with no second cousins, we cannot be more specific than that.

Tara received this segment from her mother. Her family lived in Romania and my mother's in Belarus and Lithuania, so this is likely very far back.

Chromosome 23 (right)
Lines 1 and 3 of this 11 cM segment are my sisters and line 4 is my cousin Kay, so all we get from that is that it's my mother's side. However another match in the same place shows up only on a one-to-one search.

That would be my second cousin Ruth, on my grandfather's side. So we know that on my side this is Gordon or Kugel. From Tara's side, this is her paternal grandmother.
Ruth has done a full MtDNA test, so we know that our great-grandmother Chana Kugel's haplogroup is R01a. I have suggested to Tara that she have her grandmother do a full MtDNA test.

Three more matches
The title of this blog refers to nine segments and I have summarized six. The other three are from Tara's grandmother but did not come down to Tara.

The five matches on the left are nearly 11 cM. The first of the five is my second cousin Terry on my Pikholz/Kwoczka side; the other four are two of my sisters, my brother and me. It probably represents a fairly distant common ancestor.
The four matches on the right are my second cousins Sam and Beth and my first cousins Kay and Leonard. Sam and Beth are first cousins, as are Kay and Leonard. Sam's segment is over 16 cM. This is a Rosenbloom segment, from Borisov Belarus, further back than our information. We know no other surnames in my maternal grandmother's family.

The last matching segment is on chromosome 12 and the five matches are between 9.4 and 10.5 cM. The problem is that they are all children of my parents. No cousins of any sort. So there is nothing we can do with that.

Housekeeping notes
I am still waiting on details for my presentations in St. Louis and Kansas City. 

There may be a third venue as well. Unfortunately it will not be Pittsburgh, even though I plan to be there anyway.

30 April 2018 – Jewish SIG of the St. Louis Genealogical Society,
Place, time and topic to be announced

2 May 2018 – Jewish Genealogical Society of Kansas City, Johnson County Central Resource Library, Carmack Room, 9875 West 87th Street, Overland Park Kansas
4:45 – Topic to be announced
6:30 – Additional topic to be announced

Monday, March 5, 2018

"The Company" - A Vent

The Company
Most of the 120-plus DNA kits in which I have a hand were done with Family Tree DNA, but I myself have tests with several other companies, as well. This bit of venting refers to one of these, which I shall call simply The Company.

Despite its excellent reputation, I have never found The Company to be particularly user-friendly. That would be an understatement.

They do send out announcements about my autosomal DNA matches but not in a form that I have found useful. So I decided to write to each and every one (using ShortKeys) on The Company response form as follows:
[The Company] says we are a DNA match. I don't put much stock in these automatic notifications - certainly not in their supposed precision - but occasionally they get something right.

If you have uploaded your results to GEDmatch, I'll be happy to compare your kit to my 110+ family kits even though I see no obvious connection.

I prefer correspondence by email rather than on [The Company]'s form and you can find me at IsraelP@pikholz.org .

Thank you.

Israel Pickholtz
I get a range of responses. Some send me their GEDmatch numbers or ask what GEDmatch is and how to register with them. I check these out and advise the matches what family directions we seem to match. None has really been identified to date.  

In some cases, GEDmatch does not even recognize us as a match, The Company's notice notwithstanding.

Some matches engage me in correspondence about surnames and geography, which either does or does not end with a GEDmatch analysis.

Some do not reply at all.

Of those who do reply, almost all do so on The Company's form, not by email so I do not actually hold the correspondence "in my hand."

So far so good, I suppose. (One of the side effects of inquiries based on automated notifications is that I keep redefining "so far, so good" to a lower bar, as time goes on.)

We have a problem
But now The Company has, as they say, jumped the shark*. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote to two matches, who wrote back using The Company's form. At least that what The Company told me when they wrote me "Dear Israel" emails with links to the responses. But when I follow the links, I get a notice that there has been an error.

The error page has a link for a "new message" and I figured I would use that to ask the match to write to me by email, but The Company does not allow me to actually write a new message on their New Message form.

They have a link to their Support Center, where they welcome me as someone else entirely. Someone I know. Someone who has not done any testing with The Company at all. There is no place on the Support Center site where I can ask for actual help, but I did get to a phone number from the "Contact us" link. The phone number brings up an automated response which advises me that they will not let me talk with a person or even leave a message. Franz Kafka in the flesh!

As it happens, I know someone at The Company, but he was not able to help either. And it is not his job to do so.

Then it gets worse
Earlier this week The Company notified me of additional matches in their usual "Dear Israel" letter. They know my name and they know my email address. I followed the link to the supposed match and I am greeted with a name that is not my own but belongs to the "someone else entirely" I mentioned above. Someone who has no DNA with The Company.

I was not able to reboot by logging out and logging in again - but then I never logged in to begin with. I just followed the link that The Company sent me.

I don't think they really want me as a customer.

* I have never used the term "jumped the shark" before and I hope I used it correctly here.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Hawaii - in the Purim Spirit

My father was born ninety-five years ago today, the thirteenth of Adar, the day before the holiday of Purim, on the Fast of Esther. (My grandmother used to cite his birthday as "Esther Taynis.")

Twenty years later, he found himself in Hawaii and points west, courtesy of the US Army Signal Corp.

Gen. Wainwright returning
 from Japanese captivity

My father was there for President Roosevelt's visit. I don't know if his photography appears anywhere, but his press pass is above.

"Points west" included the USS Enterprise and I remember him watching the old TV series "Victory at Sea" on Sunday afternoons and occasionally saying "I took that picture." but that is for another day.

This is about Hawaii where he was based, with a nod towards Purim. Even if the events depicted below have nothing to do with the actual Purim. The artifacts below are from a file folder of my mother's labelled "Lawry's army things."

First, for background regarding Purim, there is this.
Shpiel is a Yiddish word meaning “play" or "skit." Thus, the Purim shpiel (more accurately spelled Purim spiel, and, alternatively, Purim schpiel) is a special performance or presentation that takes place on Purim. 

This holiday takes place in the Spring and features joviality, shpiels, and the recitation of Megillat Esther (the Book of Esther), which tells of the saving of the Israelite people from Haman, who was planning to murder them all.s festive activity started out as family, holiday entertainment and turned into professional performances — sometimes so vulgar that they were banned — for a paying public. In many cases, the Purim shpiel has become an outreach tool for American Jewish synagogues and communities.
And there is this:
A person is obligated to ‘spice’ himself on Purim until he cannot distinguish between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai” (Talmud Megillah 7b).

Drinking on Purim is such a peculiar anomaly. It seems to fly in the face of everything Judaism teaches us the entire rest of the year. Doesn’t drunkenness lead a person to reckless, uninhibited behavior – practically the antithesis of the ethical lifestyle outlined in the Torah? It almost seems as if the Sages decided to give us one day off – that after a year of reserved, moderate behavior we can loosen up and run wild, only to sober up right after and come back to our usual senses.
So what kind of non-Purim Purim spiels did my father see? There was the Honolulu Community Theater.
And they also presented these.

 And there were outside troupes.
Gertrude Lawrence and Werner Klemperer. I've heard of them!

Moss Hart, Dina Merrill and Robert Downey. I've heard of them too.

And these sound familiar too.

And there were the manly sports.

Hey look, there's my father playing for the Giants!
And they made some of their own entertainment.

Oh, and the classic Purim sport - drinking? Sure, but no straight shots.

Then it was over.

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