Saturday, December 30, 2017

Yartzeit of Paul & Sonia Diamond

The day that just ended, the 12th of Tevet, was the yartzeit (anniversary of death) for both of my Diamond grandparents--21 years apart.  My grandparents were both Holocaust survivors who went through incredible hardships, married while living in a Displaced Persons camp, moved to America, and then--in an entirely new country--started a family and a business.
My grandparents, Paul & Sonia Diamond

Monday, December 25, 2017

My 4th Great Grandmother's Maiden Name (aka I'm My Own Grandpa)

My great-great-great-great grandparents were Gershon and Tobe-Rifka Fuchs.  Tobe-Rifka died at some point between 1850 and 1869, and I've not found her death record; records relating to her use both the names Toba-Rifka as well as just Rifka.  I had records relating to several of her children, but none included her maiden name.
1919 Death Record of David Fuchs--mother is simply "Toba Rifka"

Sunday, December 24, 2017

RootsTech is Coming (and so is Purim)

RootsTech is now about 2 months out!  And it's looking to be an exciting year.  Keynote speakers announced so far include Dr Henry Louis Gates, Brandon Stanton (of Humans of New York), and Scott Hamilton.  And then there are the 200+ sessions over four days, the enormous expo hall, and the ability to network with many thousands of genealogists from around the world.  So check it out and get registered!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Two Sisters, Different Surnames

My grandmother's older brother, my Uncle Izzy, was born in what is now Kolodne, Ukraine.  He had told me about his two first cousins, Golda and Feige.  I wrote earlier about finding their birth records as well as Feige/Fani's marriage record and the birth of her children--but at the time I wrote that post, I hadn't yet found anything about Golda.  Well, it turns out that I already had records of some of Golda's children's births--but I didn't realize that at the time.
Birth Record of Aranka/Golda Joszovics

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Why, Oh Y?

When you're Ashkenazi Jewish, yDNA tests are often not as useful as they are for Western Europeans--or even Sephardic Jews.  yDNA is passed father to son, so it tracks with surnames; therefore a Williams or a McDonald male takes a yDNA test would expect many matches with surnames of Williams or McDonald.  But most Ashkenazic Jews haven't had surnames for longer than 200 years (some even less), so generally a yDNA test on an Ashkenazic male yields a match list of multiple completely unrelated surnames.

I've tested males in several of my surname lines, and no one had any matches with their own or similar surnames (other than known relatives).  But then a few months back, another Diamond popped up on my father's yDNA kit.
The first match is Uncle Leibish's grandson (my father's second cousin).  The second is this new match

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Reclaim the Records, Ukraine Edition

I've written before about my friend Brooke Schreier Ganz and her incredible work with Reclaim the Records, in which she uses Freedom of Information laws to get US vital records into the hands of genealogists.  Well, Brooke has a distant cousin in Ukraine who is trying to do the same thing there!

Alex Krakovsky is working to digitize records from Ukraine's archives to be freely accessible to researchers across the world.  However, some archivists are not allowing him to do this work--despite the fact that Ukrainian law clearly states that photography of records is permitted free of charge.

So, like his cousin Brooke, he is going to court!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

When Family Stories Are Proven Correct--Backed by DNA

I mentioned several months back that my father's first cousins Berly and Alvin mentioned that Simon Mitchneck, a famous Hollywood voice coach back in the day, was somehow related to us.  I'd researched the four Mitchneck brothers who came to America and discovered that they were from Torchin, in what is now Ukraine.  I found letters from their sister enclosed in Simon's passport applications that spoke about the family's desperate situation in the aftermath of World War I.
Simon Mitchneck's SS5

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Cousin Jack's British Military Service

Jack Landor, my grandfather's first cousin, left an incredible paper trail across the world.

He was kidnapped from what was then Poland as a child, lived in then-Palestine (under the British mandate), Turkey, and Italy, was caught as a stowaway on a ship and applied for citizenship of multiple countries, survived a shipwreck, and was deported from the United States before becoming an illegal immigrant by deserting his ship.  And he served in the US Navy near the end of World War II.

In addition to all of that, he was in the British Navy at the beginning of World War II--and I now have some of those records.
Cover of Jack Landor's British Seaman's Identity Card

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Incredible DNA Sales!

There are some incredible deals for DNA testing that are ongoing and upcoming.  If you've been thinking of testing, now is the time.  So here are the details and timing:

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Winter Talks in CA, VA, AZ & UT

As of now, I'm scheduled to give four talks this winter across the country.  All are DNA/endogamy-related, and they'll be in California, Virginia, Arizona & Utah.  Details are as follows:
i4GG Promotional Poster

Sunday, November 19, 2017

When You Don't Match A Cousin

I've written many times about how I always share way more DNA with known relatives than would be expected for given relationships, which isn't a surprise since endogamy is at play.  So when I asked my newly-discovered cousin Anne (who found me via my blog) to take a DNA test, I expected that we should share quite a bit of DNA.  After all, my grandfather was her half second cousin.

Well, Anne's results came in.  We do not appear on one another's match lists on FamilyTreeDNA.  I did a one-to-one comparison on GedMatch, which did show a small shared segment:
My DNA Comparison with Anne

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Book Review: "It's All Relative" by AJ Jacobs

I received a copy of AJ Jacob's new genealogy-focused book "It's All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree," and I ended up reading it straight through.  (I received this book for free; however, everything I write will be my honest opinion, good or bad.)  This book traces Jacobs' quest to create a World Family Reunion under the premise that everyone is a cousin--and in doing so gives a pretty good overview of many genealogical concepts.
AJ Jacobs' New Book

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Israel Tolchinsky's Soviet Military Record

Just three weeks ago, I wrote about the Soviet tribunal of my great-grandfather's half first cousin Israel/Vissarion Tolchinsky--and based on the outcome, I feared for what happened to this branch of the Tolchinsky family.  Thanks to a reader's direction, it turned out that not only did Israel Tolchinsky survive the outcome of this tribunal, but he received a medal for his military service in WWII.  And that post led Dmitry Pruss to point out that since Israel had been an officer in the Soviet military, he would have had an officer file--and he helped me to obtain it.
From Israel Tolchinsky's Soviet Officer File

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Cousin Jack, Leaving Clues--To the Diamonds' Previous Hometown?

I've written about my grandfather's first cousin Jack Landor before.  He lived an extremely colorful life and left a ton of documentation along the way.  (You can read about some of his crazy life at the following links, where he was caught as a stowaway on a ship and applied for citizenship of multiple countries, where he survived a shipwreck, and where he was deported from the United States before becoming an illegal immigrant by deserting his ship.)

Well, the latest documents I discovered about Cousin Jack show the importance of researching relatives of your ancestors rather than just your direct ancestors.  (And this isn't just because Cousin Jack lived such a crazy life.)  Jack's paper trail may have directed me to where my Diamond family lived before Biscupice (now Berezhanka)!

I recently received Jack's service file from his time in the United States Navy.
Cousin Jack's US Navy ID Card, 1944

Saturday, October 28, 2017

RootsTech2018 Contest: Win A 4-Day Pass to RootsTech ($279 value)

RootsTech2018 is coming up soon--February 28-March 3, 2018 in Salt Lake City.  I'll be there as both a speaker and an Ambassador.  This is my third RootsTech, and it just doesn't get old--as the largest genealogy conference in the world, there's something for everyone.  As an Ambassador, I am able to give away a free 4-day RootsTech pass to a lucky reader, which has a $279 value!  (If you already registered and you win, you can get a refund.)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Other Tolchinskys--Into WWII

Last week, I wrote about my great-great grandfather's half brother Hirsch Tolchinsky's family who had stayed in the Russian Empire, while my great-great grandfather and his family emigrated to America.  That post discussed a tribunal held for Hirsch's son Vissarion/Israel-Isser (in which Hirsch was referred to as Grigory) in 1922--whose verdict looked like it spelled disaster for the Tolchinsky family.

But Eugene Krasnov commented on my Google Plus account to let me know that it was not the last we would hear of the Tolchinsky family--or of Vissarion/Israel-Isser.
Medal Citation for Israel Tolchinsky

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Genetic Genealogy in San Diego--i4GG!

I live in Maryland.  And it gets cold here in December.  So why not go to....San Diego?  Yes, I'll be speaking at this year's I4GG--the all genetic genealogy conference!
My name is even spelled right! :)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Tribunal of the Other Tolchinskys

My great-great grandfather Hillel had a half brother named Hirsch.  I discuss his family and some of the documentation I have on him here.  While Hillel came to America with his family in the first decade of the twentieth century, Hirsch and his children stayed in what was then the Russian Empire.  They had very different fates--and I now have a set of documents that give a bit of insight into the hardships that Hirsch's family underwent as the Russian Empire became part of the Soviet Union.
Cover Sheet - Food Provisions Session of the Chernigov Guberniya Revolutionary Tribunal, Vissarion Tolchinsky

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Upcoming Talk on Ukraine Trip--Rockville, Maryland

I'll be speaking about my trip to Ukraine next Sunday (October 15, 2017) in Rockville, Maryland.  If you're in the Maryland/DC area, please come!  The talk is sponsored by the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington (JGSMD) and is free for members, $5 for non-members.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

75th Anniversary of Senkevychivka Ghetto's Destruction

Tonight starts the 75th yahrtzeit (anniversary of death) of those killed during of the destruction of the ghetto in Sienkiewicz√≥wka, Poland (now Senkevychivka, Ukraine).  Among those murdered were three of my great grandparents (Avraham Tzvi Diamond, Tzivia Zutelman Diamond and Avraham Bajcz), a great-great grandfather (Moshe Dovid Fine), a great aunt (Malia Bajcz) and great uncle (Shlomo Diamond).
My great-great grandfather, Moshe Dovid Fine.  Murdered 75 years ago today.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Mapping my DNA, October 2017 Edition

Enough of my relatives with known relationships have taken DNA test so that I'm able to attribute the vast majority of my genome to specific ancestors.  (If you're a relative of mine reading this, talk to me about how you can test and be included in future posts like this one and help fill in the gaps!)  Thanks to Kitty Cooper and her Chromosome Mapper tool for automating much of this!

Because of endogamy, I'm only including shared segments 10cM or greater.  This doesn't completely eliminate the chance that some of these segments are in common due to a relationship other than the known one, but it should help.  After removing those smaller segments, I'm able to attribute the following segments of my genome to specific ancestors:
Which Segments from Which Ancestor(s)?
So whose DNA helped me to make sense of this?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Harry's Granddaughter, A Blog Success

Back in October 2014 I wrote about my great-great grandmother's half brother Hirsch/Harry Marienhoff.  I had traced his descendants and believed there was only one still living, and although I had her name from her mother's obituary, I couldn't reach her.  That post ended with the words "I've tried contacting the person I think may be Catherine Anne, but I haven't received a response.  Maybe she'll eventually google herself and contact me?"  People talk about blogs being good "relative bait."  Well, it happened.
Birth Record of Hirsch (later Harry) Marienhoff, 1893

Saturday, September 23, 2017

RootsTech 2018. I'm Going--Are You?

I'm excited to announce that I'll be back at RootsTech this winter--both as a speaker and an Ambassador!  This will be my third year in a row attending this conference, and I cannot wait.  Why RootsTech?  The conference gives a great overview of that here (check it out!).
Disclaimer: I am a RootsTech 2018 Ambassador and received complimentary registration to RootsTech along with other perks.  But I would still say everything I did in this post if that wasn't the case!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Endogamy, A Closer Look (Part 3)

This is the third post in a series examining 355 pairs of my own relatives who have tested, looking at how much DNA each shares in total as well as the size of the largest segment.  (The previous posts in the series can be seen here and here.)

Everyone here has 100% Ashkenazic Jewish ancestry unless noted otherwise in the "Comments" column.  All numbers are as given by GedMatch with the exception of comparisons with Benjamin, JudithB, Shannon & Layla who are only on FamilyTreeDNA.

For each relationship section, I give the expected amount of shared centimorgans according to ISOGG.  I've also added in low/high ranges (at the 99th percentile) and average amounts shared according to the Shared Centimorgan Project (SCP) based on feedback to the first post.  In addition to looking at overall shared DNA for each pair, I also note the size of the longest shared segment.  Each relationship section gives the average amount of shared DNA and largest segment looking at those who have 100% Ashkenazic Jewish ancestry.

This post discusses people who have tested and who are known third cousins and more distant.  It also discusses some of those who are known to be related to one another in more than one way.  For those double cousins, I added the expected amounts of shared DNA for the two relationships for the ISOGG values.  I also added together the two low values, high values and average amounts given for the two relationships by the SCP.
Endogamy gives you lots of matches.  What does a true match look like?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

High Holiday Tickets

With Rosh Hashanah coming up this week, it seems an appropriate time to post these documents.  My Tolchin grandparents and Joshowitz great grandparents were long-time members of Gemulas/Gemilas Chesed Congregation (which used several different spellings for its name) in McKeesport, Pennsylvania.
High Holiday Ticket for my Great Grandmother, Esther Joshowitz, 1959

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Endogamy, A Closer Look (Part 2)

This is the second post in a series examining 355 pairs of my own relatives who have tested, looking at how much DNA each shares in total as well as the size of the largest segment.  (First post in the series can be seen here and the third here.)

Everyone here has 100% Ashkenazic Jewish ancestry unless noted otherwise in the "Comments" column.  All numbers are as given by GedMatch with the exception of comparisons with Benjamin, JudithB, Shannon & Layla who are only on FamilyTreeDNA.

For each relationship section, I give the expected amount of shared centimorgans according to ISOGG.  I've also added in low/high ranges (at the 99th percentile) and average amounts shared according to the Shared Centimorgan Project (SCP) based on feedback to the first post.  In addition to looking at overall shared DNA for each pair, I also note the size of the longest shared segment.  Each relationship section gives the average amount of shared DNA and largest segment looking at those who have 100% Ashkenazic Jewish ancestry.
I have a LOT of potential matches.  What do real matches look like?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Endogamy, A Closer Look (Part 1)

[Edited based on comments to include numbers from the Shared Centimorgan Project.]
Subsequent posts are at Part 2 and Part 3.

I've blogged before about how endogamy impacts my matches with known relatives--to hopefully allow for others to extrapolate how it will impact their own genetic genealogy analysis.  But I realized that I have a lot more data--many of my relatives who have tested are have known relationships to one another.  I currently have 355 pairs of relatives (all with at least some Ashkenazic Jewish ancestry) who are related to one another, and I can examine how much DNA each pair shares.

For each relationship section, I give the expected amount of shared centimorgans according to ISOGG.  I've also added in low/high ranges (at the 99th percentile) and average amounts shared according to the Shared Centimorgan Project (SCP).  In addition to looking at overall shared DNA for each pair, I also note the size of the longest shared segment.  Each relationship section gives the average amount of shared DNA and largest segment looking at those who have 100% Ashkenazic Jewish ancestry.

Everyone here has 100% Ashkenazic Jewish ancestry unless noted otherwise in the "Comments" column.  All numbers are as given by GedMatch with the exception of comparisons with Benjamin, JudithB, Shannon & Layla who are only on FamilyTreeDNA.
Marriage Within the Vizel Family (as viewed on

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

FTDNA & Hurricane Harvey

I blog about DNA a fair bit, and my testing company of choice (largely due to the chromosome browser and the ability to do Y and mtDNA tests) is FamilyTreeDNA, which is based out of Houston.

FTDNA has sent out the following announcement:

Sunday, September 3, 2017

When There Are No Records For Your Family's Town On JewishGen

On various Facebook groups, people regularly post saying that they've searched for their family on JewishGen but that there was nothing for that family's town.  Well, there's something those people can do about that!  JewishGen is overwhelmingly run by volunteers as are affiliated independent organizations like JRI-Poland--so why not be one?  You can help yourself and others.  Here's the type of information you may get for yourself (and others researching the same towns) and how you can do this.
Death record for my great-great-great-great grandmother, Tzipra Brandman--found via a JewishGen project I run

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Relationship Outlier

Blaine Bettinger runs the Shared Centimorgan Project in which he's collected thousands of data points for amount of DNA shared between people with known relationships.  He can give a range of DNA which has been observed to be shared for people with specific known relationships.  If you have a new DNA match, you can see how much DNA you share with that person and use Blaine's chart to identify potential relationships that are possible with that person.
Shared cM Project.  From  Used with permission.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

An Issue With Lazarus

I've written about Lazarus before, a tool available via GedMatch which allows for you to reconstruct a partial genome of a deceased ancestor using living relatives' DNA.  Lazarus requires you to put direct descendants of this ancestor into Group 1 and other relatives of that person in Group 2.  The idea is that if a segment is shared between a descendant of that individual as well as by one of his or her cousins, that segment can be attributed to the deceased ancestor (weeding out segments that come from other ancestors of those in Group 1).  Particularly when dealing with endogamy, there could be extra segments introduced, but that's not the point of this post.

Enough of my relatives have tested that I've been able to create Lazarus kits for multiple ancestors.  But I've been noticing some odd results for many of them.  Here's one example, in trying to recreate my grandfather's genome.
My Uncle's Shared Segments with Don

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Long Segment--But No Close Connection

Particularly when dealing with endogamy, where it is difficult to tell apart cousins who are actually relatively closely related as opposed to those who are very distantly related in multiple ways, a good metric to hone in on matches who may actually be related in genealogically-traceable time is the size of the largest shared segment of DNA.  I've had good success finding people who are actually related or at least are from a very close geographic proximity to one of my ancestral towns, even if we can't find the actual paper trail connection.

But sometimes those large segments may be passed down for many generations.  Several of my kits--all related on my maternal grandmother's side--share the same large segments with several kits administered by a man named Luc.
Luc's Tested Family Members--With DNA Shared With My Relatives

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Another Generation of Diamonds?

I had tested my father's Y DNA several years ago.  As is not uncommon for Jews (who have not had surnames for too long), he had no matches with the surname Diamond besides his second cousin who I'd also tested--but had lots of matches with lots of people with Jewish surnames.  But then about 2 months ago a new match popped up--with the surname Diamond.
The first match is Uncle Leibish's grandson.  The second is this new match

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Tkatch-ing Up to the Sanshucks

Through my Shpikov/Krasnoye project, I've obtained lots of vital records for both towns over the past few years.  After a first large batch of records helped me to unravel my Sanshuck and Brandman families, the few years' worth of records I got since then weren't too helpful--or so I thought.

Ukraine SIG obtained a large batch of records recently (an entire list of what they got can be seen here), and I got very excited to see some Krasnoye records listed which were new to our project.  My initial scan through the documents was disappointing, as I didn't see any Sanshucks or Brandmans.  But then I looked more closely.  There were vital events for some Tkatch brothers--and the names of those brothers, their wives, and their father exactly matched those of Krasnoye's Sanshuck brothers.  I looked back at records I'd transcribed previously and there they were again.
Marriage of Yitzchok son of Yisrael Tkatch (my 5th great uncle) and Reiza daughter of Dovid Grupenman, 1842
(This isn't from the latest batch of records since I can't share those images--but I've had this for a few years without knowing they were really Sanshucks!)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

IAJGS Conference, Days 2-3

(I'll be blogging about IAJGS2017 all week.  You can see all IAJGS2017 posts here and posts for all IAJGS conferences I've attended here.)

I made the highlights clip for Day 1!  You can see it here (I'm right at the beginning), and you can also see the whole talk if you have a LIVE! subscription.

On Monday (day #2) of the conference, I started off with a FamilySearch breakfast (shout out to them for including boxes of cold cereal & milk, so I was actually able to eat something) where they discussed the potential for FamilySearch and some of the project/SIG leaders to work together.  Some of the SIGs already have agreements for joint projects with FamilySearch.
My Second Talk of the Conference

Sunday, July 23, 2017

IAJGS2017, Day 1

(I'll be blogging about IAJGS2017 all week.  You can see all IAJGS2017 posts here and posts for all IAJGS conferences I've attended here.)

Today got off to an early (6:15AM) flight to Orlando.  We were at the hotel by 9:30, and then it was off for registration and to start the day!
All Registered!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

IAJGS2017 Coming Up!

I'm off to Orlando for the International Association of Jewish Genealogy Societies' annual conference!  I'll be doing several different kinds of presentations, including one of which will be livestreamed.  Details are as follows:

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Rosenfeld Connection

(Note: I'm giving three presentations at next week's IAJGS conference.  Hope to see some readers there!)

Back in August 2014, I wrote about two brothers (David and Chaim/Hyman Rosenfeld) who were related in some manner to the Diamond family.  When they came to America, they were on the same ship with Morris Dorfman (husband of my grandfather's Aunt Shaindel/Jennie) and some other relatives, and they were going to join their cousin L. Diamond, who was my grandfather's Uncle Leibish (Louis Diamond in America).
Rosenfeld Brothers' Ship Manifest; 1909

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Diamond Cousins Reunited, 100+ Years Later

Back in May 2013, I got my first FamilyTreeDNA FamilyFinder (autosomal) results back and contacted a predicted 1st-3rd cousin match.  Long story short (and you can read the long story here--it still gives me chills), my grandfather's aunt Shaindel was not killed in the Holocaust as had been recorded in my family tree since around 1990, but rather she was living in Detroit.  Jennie Diamond Dorfman (as she was known in America) had six children who lived to adulthood, seventeen grandchildren who lived to adulthood, and dozens of great- and great-great grandchildren.
My Grandfather's Aunt, Jennie Diamond Dorfman

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

PD Index for Jewish Ancestry--Some Wrinkles

I'm a geek.  And as a genealogist, genetic genealogy plays right into that--I can use my math and science background to leverage another tool to better understand my family's history.  The more relatives who have tested, the better fidelity I can get in understanding which DNA came from which ancestors which can then help me identify other relatives via DNA.  In doing this, I have tested a lot of cousins (around 50), and I'm still going--I just sent in 3 kits this week, and another relative is hopefully shipping his back directly right around now.
Some of my kits on GedMatch.  Yes, there are a lot.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Transition to Polish Rule

Earlier this month, I wrote about finding a letter in Simon Mitchneck's 1919 passport application from his sister Dora, detailing the hardships the family was enduring in WWI's aftermath.  Simon didn't take his planned 1919 trip, and he applied for another passport in 1922.  In this application, he included a translation of a letter from his sister Toba (who was getting married in 1919) which shows that things were still difficult.  At this time, the area around Torchin had transitioned for years as part of the Russian Empire to part of the newly-created country of Poland.  Here is Toba's letter.

Translation of Letter from Toba Mitchneck Hochman, Page 1 (1922)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Uncle Leibish's Grandson--With DNA Proof

I've been trying to find my grandfather's Uncle Leibish for a while (see here, here, here, and here).  About 6 weeks ago, I wrote about how I found his grandson.  Well, not only have I met his grandson, but I have genetic proof of our relationship (which also allows me to identify more Diamond-specific DNA).
Me with Uncle Leibish's Grandson

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Off to America!

A few years back, I emailed the few addresses I could find for the small village of Losinovka, just outside of what is now Nezhin, Ukraine.  My Tolchinsky family lived there, and I was hoping to find a contact who could help me with some ultra-local records.  I've since been in touch with a Ukrainian Orthodox priest who has an interest in history.  He was able to tell me that there was no Jewish cemetery in the village, but since the Jewish community wasn't much more than my Tolchinsky family, that didn't surprise me--they'd likely have been buried in Nezhin.  He also has been gracious enough to send me documents about my family when he comes across them in the local records.  The latest was incredible.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Upcoming Talk on Ukraine Trip--Kensington, Maryland

I'll be speaking about my trip to Ukraine this Thursday (June 15, 2017) in Kensington, Maryland.  If you're in the Maryland/DC area, please come!  It's free and open to the public.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

A Glimpse Into Post-WWI Turmoil

I mentioned in a previous post about how my father's first cousins recalled that we are somehow related to Simon Mitchneck.  In researching Simon and his family, I found many documents, including an application for a US passport submitted by Simon in 1920.  Enclosed in that application was the translation of a letter from his sister Dora.  This letter gives great insight into the hardships that people had at the close of World War I.  This letter was written from what is now Torczyn, Volhynia, Ukraine but which was (at the time the letter was written) part of the newly-formed Wolyn, Poland.
1919 Letter from Dora Mitchneck, Page 1

[Translation of letter received from Poland]

December 6, 1919

My Dear Brothers David, Samuel, Harry, Simon Mitchneck.
May you all fare well.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

150 Years of Rutners in Kolodne

There were a lot of Rutners in the town of Kolodne in what is now Subcarpathian Ukraine (formerly Austria-Hungary and Czechoslovakia).  And it seems that they were there for quite a long time.
1795 Tolerance Tax Census

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Galperin, Halper, Altu--Who Are You?

When my grandfather's Uncle Leibish came to America in 1905, his destination was the home of a man named "Schloime Galperin" at what looked like 30 Kilbern Street in Brooklyn.  I couldn't find a Kilbern Street, and I couldn't find Schloime anywhere, including in the 1905 New York State Census when searching for different variations of Galperin, Halperin and Alperin.  But since Schloime was listed as a friend of Leibish's travel companion rather than a relative (and then Leibish's line just got ditto marks), I didn't spent that much time and effort into a search.
Leib Blaustein and Leib Dimend Ship Manifest, joining Schloime Galperin, 1905

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Lazarus Issues

[Note: As of May 25, 2017, GedMatch has a beta fix to Lazarus which will hopefully be pushed out shortly.]

Lazarus is one of the Tier 1 utilities offered by GedMatch.  It allows you to recreate at least some of an ancestor's genome, based on living relatives who have tested.  It takes two sets of kits--one set consists of descendants of the ancestor whose DNA you're trying to recreate (Group 1); the second set consists of non-descendant relatives of that individual (Group 2).

The utility basically looks at all of the DNA of those Group 1 descendants--some of which is that of the ancestor of interest but some of which is also those of other ancestors--and what segments those descendants have in common with known cousins, nieces, nephews, etc. from Group 2.  Those common segments should all come from the ancestor whose genome is being recreated.  (There is always the possibility, especially in endogamous populations, that you're including segments that are not inherited from that ancestor, but you can also include segments only over a certain size to try to account for that--but that's not the issue being raised in this post.)

I've created Lazarus kits of several of my ancestors.  But recently I've noticed that GedMatch no longer does comparisons of Lazarus kits to others correctly.  As an example, I recreated the genome of my great grandfather, Avraham Tzvi Diamond.  I've included five of his direct descendants (Group 1) and three relatives who are not descendants (Group 2)--a great niece, a great-great nephew, and a great-great niece.
Chart showing relationships.  Group 1 individuals are blue, Group 2 are green, and the kit being Lazarused is purple

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Cousin Jack--Add Being Deported and Deserting to His Story!

Oh, Cousin Jack.  Every time I post about the crazy paper trail you left behind, I find another nugget and get to write about you again!

I've already posted about the early life of my grandfather's first cousin Jacob "Jack" Landor, in which he was kidnapped, naturalized at least twice and was caught as a stowaway--you can read about that here.  I also found that he survived his ship being torpedoed and shipwrecked and wrote about that saga here.

But there's still more.  Since Jack was a merchant marine, he appeared on many ship manifests coming into the United States.  The first was the one where he was caught as a stowaway and was deported, as I wrote about in my first post about Jack.  That ship arrived in New York on March 19, 1930.  But apparently Jack really really really wanted to come to America.
Jack Landor Manifest, May 1930

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Partially Endogamous DNA

I've written a lot about my 100% Ashkenazi Jewish (AJ) heritage and how that means I share way more DNA with known cousins than would be expected.  But what about people who have some AJ heritage but also have ancestors with other backgrounds?  Do they still need to account for endogamy?  To see how partial endogamy impacts amounts of shared DNA with relatives on the endogamous side, I looked at relatives who have tested who are partially AJ (including those that are 3/4, 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8 AJ) to see how endogamy impacts DNA they share with others.

Analysis of shared DNA for those with partial Ashkenazic Jewish ancestry (in blue) with known relatives (details below)