Sunday, April 23, 2017

Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) 2017

Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) starts this evening.  Last year on Yom Hashoah, I listed the names of the nearly 100 family members I knew of who were killed in the Holocaust.  This year, I mention them again--as well as over 150 additional family members whose death I found evidence of over the past year.

It's been rather disconcerting (to say the least) to find vital records identifying another branch of my family--and then trace those relatives forward in time to find that all or most had been murdered during the Holocaust.  This is my one small way to make sure they are all remembered--all 259 of those currently on this list.
Concentration Camp Intake Form for (Avraham Yehudah) Leib Rutner, my fourth cousin twice removed

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Finding Mira--Creative Search Techniques

My great-great-great grandmother was Mira Halperin Lefand Marienhoff.  Although she came to America after the death of both husbands, I've found her using her maiden name as well as both of her married names--with varying spellings--in the seven years she lived in America before her death.  She did consistently use the first name "Mary" in America.

Mira lived in Pittsburgh for her entire time in America--her ship manifest had her joining her son Louis Leiffand there, she was enumerated in Pittsburgh in the 1910 census, and her 1913 death certificate was issued in Pittsburgh.  So it would make sense that she would be listed in Pittsburgh's 1912 city directory--right?
Mira in the 1910 census on Colwell Street--using a form of her first husband's surname

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Endogamy in Practice: Updated

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about how endogamy makes my known relatives share a lot more DNA with me than would be expected--and showed how much DNA they actually share, to help those with endogamous ancestry understand their own matches better.

It is more difficult (but not impossible!) to use genetic genealogy to find relatives when you are from an endogamous background, and how Ashkenazi Jews (AJs) are a typical example.  AJs married within the small pool of AJs for centuries, so we are all related to one another in multiple ways.  I see many people, adoptees in particular, using ISOGG's table with average amounts of shared autosomal DNA for various relationships to determine a match's actual connection.  While that table is a great help for the general population, if you're descended from an endogamous group, the relationships are generally vastly overstated.

Now that I've had even more cousins (with known relationships) test, I figured it was time for an update to give additional insight into how endogamy impacts shared DNA between relatives.  (And if you're a relative of mine who hasn't tested, please do--and you'll likely be featured in some upcoming follow-up!)
Some of my known relatives who have tested, displayed in FamilyTreeDNA

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Paul & Sonia Diamond at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Opening

My grandparents were Holocaust survivors; you can read about their experiences here (for my grandmother) and here (for my grandfather).  When the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) opened, Fox45 in Baltimore brought them to the museum to hear a reaction from the perspective of survivors.
Paul & Sonia Diamond with Jennifer Gilbert of Fox45 at the USHMM (screenshot)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Mysterious Uncle Leibish

My grandfather's uncle, Leibish Diamond, is a man of mystery.  He seems to have vanished into thin air once he came to America--at least as far as documents tell us.  I'd love some ideas of how I can figure out where he ended up.  (Please, please help me!)
Leib Dimend Ship Manifest, 1905

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sol Goldstein, 1923-2017

Sol Goldstein passed away this evening; he was a huge part of my family and my start in genealogy.  His wife was Jean Turk Goldstein, my grandfather's half first cousin; they had their grandfather Yechiel Suttleman in common.

When I was about 14 and was asking about how everyone was related, my father brought me over to Cousin Sol's house.  He had put together a family tree of the Suttleman family on long snakes of dot matrix printer paper, and that's how I learned about Yechiel Suttleman, his three wives, and how a lot of the cousins were related to me.  This was the first time my father realized he'd had a great grandfather in America; my grandfather's mother never came to America and was killed in the Holocaust.  It explained why my grandparents had accents but their (American-born) cousins did not.

(I also learned that I'd babysat for two of his grandkids--my half third cousins--when I saw their photos on his wall!)
Sol Goldstein

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Technique for Endogamous DNA Using GedMatch

I've written many times about how much more difficult genetic genealogy is when you're from an endogamous population, such as Ashkenazic Jewish as am I.  Since Ashkenazim are all descended from a relatively small group of people whose descendants all married within that group of descendants, we tend to share a lot of DNA--and the various genetic genealogy programs tend to predict matches are much more closely related than we actually are.  But there are ways to deal with that--and I'll discuss one below using my uncle's DNA.
My uncle's DNA Matches on GedMatch

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

First 23AndMe DNA Success--Take That, Endogamy!

Last night, I had my first DNA success on 23AndMe.  (I won't say it's my first 23AndMe success because of this.)  In the past, my proven connections have mostly been with FamilyTreeDNA matches, with a few successes on Ancestry.  But I figured I should take a look at new matches on 23AndMe to see who else has tested.

23AndMe doesn't allow for sorting by largest segment, but it did allow me to sort by how much DNA I shared with other users.
My Top 23AndMe Matches, Sorted by Shared Percentage of DNA

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Book of Sorrows & My Great Grandmother's Possible Sibling

Within the past few years, many parts of Ukraine have published volumes of "The Book of Sorrows" (Книга Скорботи), in which they catalogue civilians who were killed during WWII.  Each volume seems to cover a district, and within the district, individuals from each village/town/city are catalogued separately.
Some of the Rutners from Kolodne listed in the Book of Sorrows

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Lazovniks' Fate

My grandmother had told me of her grandmother, Ronia Lazovnik Bajcz/Baich.  She also mentioned Ronia's brother Shaya Lazovnik, but she didn't tell me much of anything about him or his family.  But now, thanks to a new document that appeared in Yad Vashem's database, I know about one of his sons, that son's family, and their unfortunate fate.

Lazovnik Family in the Rovno Ghetto, January 1942

Thursday, February 16, 2017

My Grandfather's Holocaust Story--From a Person he Saved

I've written several times about my grandfather, Paul Diamond, who used false papers to pass as a Ukrainian during WWII.  I recently received an email from a man who is researching the Jews from the village of Kupichev--which repeats some of my grandfather's story from the perspective of one of the people he saved.
My grandfather, Paul Diamond

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Reclaim the Records--An Interview

Have you ever had issues getting access to records that should be available by law?  Did you just give up?  Well, Brooke Schreier Ganz didn't give up--she began filing Freedom of Information requests and (when that didn't work) lawsuits.  And she's been winning.  Here's an interview I did with Brooke who founded Reclaim the Records to help get genealogists access to critical records.  She talks about her past successes, what she's working on now, and what's in the works.  Enjoy!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

RootsTech2017, Part 2 (Thursday)

(A link to my first post on RootsTech is here.)

On Thursday, I woke up super-early to get a tour of the (enormous) expo hall which was still slightly under construction.  There are hundreds of vendors, from the large genealogy companies to very small niche organizations.  You could seriously spend all week here and not leave.
Just a small part of the HUGE expo hall

Friday, February 10, 2017

RootsTech2017, Part 1 (Tuesday-Wednesday)

I've been at RootsTech for the past few days, and it's been a whirlwind (in a good way).  On Tuesday, I went to the new (just opened this week) Family Discovery Center in the Family History Library.
Family Discovery Center

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Library Success--Soupcoff Origins

Nearly a year ago, I wrote about Samuel Soupcoff, and my quest to find his town of origin, as it may help track my Supkoffs further back.  Samuel was quite prominent in Salt Lake City, with his 1919 passport application including an affidavit from the then-governor of Utah, attesting to his good character.  The passport actually mentioned a town, but I couldn't figure out where it was located--and scrawled handwriting didn't help matters.
Samuel Soupcoff. Town of Origin

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Extending the Extended Garber Family

I haven't had much documentation on my Garber family.  Per my grandmother, her maternal grandmother's name was Devorah Garber Fine who died around 1935 in what's now Shklyn, Ukraine.  Devorah had a brother Nathan who came to America, and his descendants were some of the few relatives that my grandmother had after she survived the Holocaust.  Since Nathan died in America, I was able to find his gravestone and death certificate and learned that my great-great-great grandparents were Chaim Asher and Chaya (nee Veiner) Garber and that they lived in Torchin.  But now I have more information about the Garber family.
Garber Family, Lutsk County Recruiting Department, Torchin Recruiting District, 1859-1862, Page 1

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Upcoming Talks--UT, CT, MD, FL (including Livestreamed from RootsTech)

February is shaping up to be a busy month for me!  I'll be giving talks in Utah, Connecticut and Maryland.  There's also a scheduled talk in Florida in April, so if you're spending Passover in Florida, come on by!

My talk at RootsTech will be livestreamed, so you can watch from wherever you are if you can't make it to Utah.

You can see the full list of RootsTech streamed sessions here.

Upcoming talks I'm giving are as follows:

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Updated Haplogroup Tree

Last March, I created a haplogroup tree, which looked at the haplogroups (via both y- and mtDNA) that my direct ancestors would have had.  With a few more relatives taking tests, I've been able to fill in a few blanks; here's what I have so far:

Monday, January 16, 2017

Mendel & Ita Rutners' DNA

Last summer I wrote about how an old 1999 posting on JewishGen led me to Ron in Australia, my third cousin once removed.  We've been corresponding, sharing family stories and photos.  During the recent FamilyTreeDNA sale, I asked Ron if he would test, particularly since my great-great grandmother Itta Farkas Rutner is on his direct female line, making him one of only two known descendants with her mtDNA.  We tacked on a FamilyFinder to get a better look at Rutner autosomal DNA as well.  Ron's FamilyFinder results just came in; his mtDNA results are still processing.

And we've been able to narrow down quite a bit of Rutner DNA.
Rutner DNA Based on Ron's Shared Segments

Sunday, January 8, 2017

My New 6th Cousin--Thanks to DNA!

About nine months ago, I got an email from someone named Avishay who had just received his DNA results.  One of his closest matches was my mother--and he noticed that I had listed Rutner as one of her ancestral surnames.  Rutner was also the maiden name of Avishay's mother.  (Avishay shares 149cM with my mother, including segments of 25 and 14cM.)  Her parents had both died when she was young, so she didn't know much about her parents--not even the names of her grandparents.  She did know that her father was one of eleven siblings, but she only knew the names of three of them.

Avishay told me his mother had been raised in Khust and that that his maternal grandfather's name was Avraham Rutner--and Avraham was quite a common name among my Rutners.  Between this and the DNA, I figured if I looked into Avishay's family, perhaps they'd end up connecting to my own.  Avishay knew that one of his mother's aunts was named Henche, and she had married someone named Yanko Hoch.
Helena Rutner Hoch Page of Testimony

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A Family Bible and My Great Grandfather's Death

Last week, my aunt and uncle had a Chanukah party at their house.  I asked my uncle (my mother's brother) if his mother had ever spoken about having aunts and uncles who were killed in the Holocaust, as my mother had never known that was the case.  He said that he knew that there were relatives killed, but "maybe the family Bible says something."  Family Bible?!?

It turns out my grandmother's youngest brother Herbie received a Chumash (Bible) from the Gemilas Chesed Sisterhood for his Bar Mitzvah.  And Uncle Herbie filled out some of the family information.
Joshowitz Siblings