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

I found a Yad Vashem Page of Testimony for Helena Rutner Hoch who had lived in Chust (now Khust) and who was born in Velatin (now Velyatin).  This gave Avishay his great grandparents' names--Efrayim and Rachel (nee Farkash) Rutner.  Avishay contacted the woman who filled out this page, and he is now in touch with second cousins!  But that still didn't connect him into the greater Rutner family

Through JewishGen's Subcarpathian SIG, I've been getting lots of records from the area (I've personally transcribed over 11,000 records--if you want to help, let me know!)  And look what was in the Velyatin records:
Abraham Leopold Rutner Birth
Abraham Leopold Rutner was born 1904 to Ferencz and Rachel (nee Farkas) Rutner.  Looks like this is Avishay's grandfather's birth record!  Sure enough, Ferencz (the Efrayim that was mentioned in Helena's Yad Vashem page) was born in Darva, which is Kolodne, where my Rutner family lived for generations.  But still no connection to my Rutners.

And then I got marriage records from Velyatin.
From Fisel Rutner's Marriage Record
Fisel Rutner (Fischel is the Yiddish version of the Hebrew Efrayim) married Rachel Farkas in 1904 in Velyatin.  Fisel's parents are given as Izsak/Icik Rutner and the late Szura Lebovics of Dulfalva (today's Dulovo).  I know them!

Izsak/Icik was a son of Avraham Leib Rutner (which makes sense, since it must be for whom Avishay's grandfather was named).  Avraham Leib was a first cousin to my great-great-great grandfather Mendel.  So Avishay is my sixth cousin!

This shows how DNA can be used in conjunction with documentation to find even relatively distant cousins--even when dealing with Ashnekazic/endogamic DNA.  And now Avishay's mother has a tree that has grown from a shrub that stopped at her parents to one that includes all of her great-great grandparents and most of her great-great-great grandparents!

Note:  I'm on Twitter.  Follow me (@larasgenealogy).

Want to get future blog posts emailed to you automatically?
Enter your email address:


  1. Amazing indeed. I thought finding connection to 4th cousins is almost impossible. Thank you for sharing

  2. It really is something when you can help someone who was in the dark about her family roots ! Great research stuff.

  3. Wow, great work, Lara! Avishay and his mother must be thrilled!

  4. Hello Lara: I attended your presentation for the Fairfax Genealogical Society at the Northern Virginia Jewish Community Center back in Sept. I am working with a Jewish client, and I may have taken him about as far as I can, and I also have another question for you. Can you email me at