Saturday, December 8, 2018

Letter from Bergen Belsen

My great-uncle, Izzy Joshowitz, was my grandmother's older brother.  He was born in what was then Czechoslovakia (and is now Ukraine) and came to America when he was 7 years old.  During World War Two, he was an officer in the Army Air Corps.  As the war ended, he was sent to Bergen Belsen, where he met some cousins (who he had never before met in person, as they were born in Europe after he left to America) who had survived.

Recently, his daughter Randi went through some old boxes in her mother's attic, and she found the following letter:
Letter from Bergen Belsen

Sunday, December 2, 2018

An Incredible Resource for Russian Empire Records/Discussion: j-roots

If you have ancestors who lived in what was the Russian Empire, you must know about j-roots.  Check out the below guest post that talks about this resource and how English speakers can best interact with it.

The following is a guest post from Dmitry Pruss.  Dmitry Pruss lives in Salt Lake City. A native of Moscow, Russia, he holds a Ph.D. degree in Molecular Biology and works in the field of human genetics. Since 2006, his projects included solving heritable disease riddles by combining DNA testing with the classic kind of a gumshoe genealogy. Dmitry is a volunteer moderator of the Onomastics section of the Jewish Roots portal, and a contributing editor of Avotaynu magazine.

Did your great grand uncle attend college in Odessa or St Petersburg? Did you great grand aunt take apprenticeship exams for a pharmacist or a midwife ? Was their cousin sent to Siberia for anti-government agitation - or perhaps a petty crime? Or maybe an ancestor's signature graced a shul petition, or a plea to the authorities asking for a fire or famine relief?
The old country Jews interacted with the Czar's oppressive government in a myriad ways, always having to prove who they were, where they hailed from, who were their kin. Along the way, they left priceless breadcrumbs of genealogy information. It is still there in Eastern Europe's archives. The vital records may have been lost as the local archives went up in flames during WWII (note from Lara: Many do still exist though, as you can see in many of my blog posts), but the authorities hoarded up so much paperwork in their quest to suffocate the Jews, that the tales of your family are still preserved in as unlikely places as Moscow where millions of police file cards catalog all the brushes of the Jews with the system, or the Kremlin of the ancient capital of Siberia, overflowing with correspondence about prisoners and exiles.

Over a nearly decade of its existence, Jewish Roots portal (http://j-roots.info/) has become the leading force in Russian Jewish genealogy research. It is busy uncovering and digitizing new genealogy sources in the archives of the former Russian Empire, and building a valuable help base of advice on genealogy searches, both for the online investigators and for those doing their research on the ground, in the archives, libraries, and cemeteries.
Just one example from j-roots

Sunday, November 25, 2018

1864 Volhynia Relatives--Maybe

Earlier, I mentioned that I went through some 1860 census addenda that Alex Krakovsky put on his Wikipedia page.  (If you have ancestry from Ukraine and haven't checked out this page, go look now.  Google Translate is your friend.)

In addition to finding a Diamant, there were also some other familiar names in the 1862-1865 list.
Veiner, Volhynia Guberniya Revision List Addendum, 1864

Monday, November 19, 2018

Colwell Coincidence

My sister grew up in Baltimore; her father grew up in Baltimore and her mother grew up in McKeesport, Pennsylvania.

My brother-in-law grew up in Monsey, New York; his father grew up in Monsey and his mother grew up in Columbus, Ohio.

There's no reason to think their families would have had any previous connection.

My sister and brother-in-law now live in Baltimore with their 4 children.  I've done some research on my brother-in-law's side of the tree for those 4 children.  And it turns out that these two families may have known one another a century ago.
"Yallen" Family; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; 1910 Federal Census

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Rebbetzin Nechama Dina Schneerson's Parents' Marriage

While I typically blog about my own family, sometimes I find records that will be of interest to others, so I write about them.  In June, I wrote about a Chabad link I found when going through records in Nezhin--the 1883 death record of Yisrael Noach Schneerson, son of the Tzemach Tzedek and himself the Nezhiner Rebbe.  And at that point, people said they wanted to see more Chabad-related records.

I've found another Schneerson record that is quite interesting.
1876 Schneerson Marriage

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Rosenfeld Connection - Test Everyone!

I recently received an email from a woman named Susan.  Susan had asked her first cousin Francine to take a DNA test, and when Susan uploaded Francine's results to GedMatch, she noticed that Francine shared a very large segment with two kits I administer--for my cousins Berly and Paula.

Berly and Paula are first cousins to my father through their Diamond mother, and they are sisters to one another.  My initial thought was that the connection was going to be through their father, and I was going to forward the email onto them.  But I looked at Francine's results first.  Right away, I realized that this shared DNA was via my Diamond side; both my father's first cousin Stephen (also a first cousin to Berly and Paula) as well as their second cousin once removed, Patty, all shared relatively large segments of that same chromosome.
DNA Shared by Francine & My Known Relatives


Sunday, October 28, 2018

Pittsburgh's Jewish Community & HIAS

I had a post on a genealogy success story nearly completed, and I was planning to finish it today.  But in light of what happened in Pittsburgh yesterday, that post will wait.

I would not be here today if it weren't for the Pittsburgh Jewish Community (on my mother's side) and HIAS (on my father's).

My mother's parents were born in Pennsylvania.  My maternal grandfather was born in and grew up in Pittsburgh; both of his parents, all four of his great grandparents, and one of his great-great grandmothers emigrated to Pittsburgh.  My maternal grandmother's parents emigrated to nearby McKeesport, where my grandmother was born.

My grandfather's family was very involved with Pittsburgh's Jewish Community.  My great grandfather was president of Pittsburgh's Shpikover Society, and my grandfather's whole family was very involved in Pittsburgh's Keser Torah Congregation.
Keser Torah Silver Anniversary Committee (1935), Pittsburgh, PA
(My great grandfather is second from the left in the back row)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

My 5th Great Grandmother, Chava Lefand

This past summer, I found the death record for my 5th great grandfather, which gave me his father's name.  I've also found the name of his wife, my 5th great grandmother.

My great-great-great-great-great grandmother was Chava Lefand.  I do not know her maiden name, but her father's name was Volko/Volf.
Chava Lefand, 1882 Poll Tax, Nezhin

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Photo Genealogy and My Great-Great Grandmother's Photo

After my grandmother passed away in 2015, my cousin Michael found some photos in her basement.  Many were the originals for photos we had copied earlier.  Some were new (to me).
Fine Family - New Photo

Thursday, October 11, 2018

RootsTech 2019--Win A 4-Day Pass to RootsTech

I'm excited to announce that I'll be back at RootsTech this winter--both as a speaker and an Ambassador!  I'll be giving on class on Jewish genealogy and another on endogamy.  This will be my fourth 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!).

As an Ambassador, I am able to give away a free 4-day RootsTech pass to a lucky reader, which has a $299 value!  (If you already registered and you win, you can get a refund.)

Monday, October 8, 2018

November/December 2018 Presentations--In CO, OH, VA, NY, CA, WA & MD

My November/December 2018 will be subtitled, "Who Needs Weekends, Anyways"?

I'll be speaking all over the country, and hopefully some of the people who read this blog will live nearby and can attend at least one of these sessions.  Come by and say hi!  You can see the full list of upcoming talks, scheduled into 2019 here.

So here are some details.
Me speaking a few years back at OGS

Sunday, October 7, 2018

DNA & Naming Patterns Find Another Fuchs Branch (I Think)

Back in November 2016, a new match popped up on FamilyTreeDNA.  This person, IK, shared some very large segments with several of my family members.  Despite the fact that everyone involved here is 100% Ashkenazic Jewish (so endogamy abounds), these large segments imply that there is an actual close relationship.
DNA IK shares with some of my family members (showing matching segments of 10cM and higher)

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Bringing it back to Uman

Last December, I wrote about how Alex Krakovsky was working to open up Ukraine's archives.  In addition to suing (and winning), he's also made a page to put scanned documents from the archives online.  No, they're not in English.  But yes, they are awesome.  More are being added all the time, so keep checking to see if your family's towns are represented.

But in any case, I was looking through the list of scanned documents when I saw revision lists (censuses) from Haisyn/Gaisyn.  My Zubkis family was registered in Kuna, just outside Haisyn, so I went through these.  First I reviewed 158 pages of the 1851 census--and there was not a Zubkis to be found.  So then I started on the the 92 pages in the 1850 census--and on pages 29-31, I hit the jackpot.
Zubko Family 1850 Cover Sheet

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Religious Excuse Note from Court, 1869

This time of year, I'm having to take an awful lot of time off work for all of the holidays.  In addition, sunset is getting earlier and earlier, so I need to leave earlier and earlier on Fridays as well to get home well before Shabbat starts.  Generations of my family have had to ask for postponements of various events that conflict with religious observances.  And here's an early example:

Religious Excuse Note, Nizhyn, 1869

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Rosh Hashanah, 1935

Rosh Hashanah is coming up next week.  So I wanted to share a family Rosh Hashanah card with readers.

My grandmother's first cousin was Chaiky Wollich Chechman, who grew up in Sienkiewiczowka, Poland (now Senkevychivka, Ukraine).  Chaiky and her husband Mendel, as well as their young daughter Devorah, were all killed in the Holocaust.  But in 1935 things were still good, and they sent out cards to their friends and relatives.
Front of the Chechman 1935 Shana Tova Card

Sunday, September 2, 2018

My 11th Great Grandfather, and Kraków

Since I was already in Warsaw, I took a high-speed train to spend a whirlwind 24 hours in Kraków.  One of the first things I did after dropping off my backpack was to head to the Remah Cemetery.

My 11th great grandfather (yes, you read that right--it helps when you can connect to a rabbinic line) was buried in Kraków in 1640.  Rabbi Joel Sirkis, also known as the BaCh, after his Bayis Chadash writings, served in many communities in the area, the final as a Rabbi in Kraków.  He even has his own page on Wikipedia.
Me at the grave of Rabbi Joel Sirkis

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Diamant Discovery!

Alex Krakovsky added some more scanned Ukrainian documents to his awesome Wikipedia page.  No, they are not in English.  But yes, it's also worth learning how to at least read names in Russian.  Because there is some awesome stuff here.

As a side note, recent regulations are stopping Alex from doing this incredible work.  Check out some of his videos such as this one on his Facebook page--and make sure others know about what's happening.

Alex recently added two census addenda from the 1860s for Volhynia.  These are additions to a main census, but there are still a lot of names.  I initially went through the first file, which covers 1862-1863 and didn't find any of my family surnames.  So I then looked at the second, which covers 1862-1865.  And here I found something intriguing.
Diamant, Volhynia Guberniya Revision List Addendum, 1864 (page 1)

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

IAJGS2018 - Part 4 (JewishGen Updates)

This is the fourth in a series of posts about IAJGS2018.  You can read other posts I've made from this and other IAJGS conferences here.

JewishGen held an evening event, where many exciting new developments were unveiled.  Avraham Groll opened the session, presenting JewishGen's Volunteer of the Year.
Avraham Groll of JewishGen


Monday, August 20, 2018

IAJGS2018 - Part 3

This is the third in a series of posts about IAJGS2018.  You can read other posts I've made from this and other IAJGS conferences here.

Since I woke up early (thanks, jet-lag!), I walked down the block to the Monument Commemorating the Evacuation of Warsaw Ghetto Fighters.  It was kind of oddly placed, since it's currently right in front of a perfume store.  I then continued walking to see a remaining fragment of the ghetto wall, which is currently in the middle of a parking lot.
Monument Commemorating the Evacuation of Warsaw Ghetto Fighters

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Spelling Doesn't Matter in Genealogy

These days, names have a set spelling.  I cringe when someone spells my name "Laura."  But it wasn't always that way--spellings of names used to be much more fluid and wasn't a big deal.

But often people researching a family disregard individuals with names not spelled the way in which they are accustomed.  They insist that those individuals with other spellings simply could not be the right family, so they miss clues that truly are connected to their own family members.

Well, I was recently indexing an 1892 death register from the Munkacs district (then Hungary, now the area around Mukacheve, Ukraine), and it's a great example for how fluid name spellings could be.  With only 7 deaths recorded on this page, 4 of the deceased (all young children) had surnames spelled differently from their father's surname.
Page of Munkacs Area 1892 Death Records

Thursday, August 16, 2018

IAJGS2018 - Part 2

This is my second post about my time at IAJGS2018.  You can read other posts I've made from this and other IAJGS conferences here.

Sunday evening, I went to Umschlagplatz, from which over 250,000 Jewish Warsaw residents were deported to death camps.
Umschlagplatz in Warsaw

Monday morning started early, at 8AM.  I was fully armed with a large cup of coffee.  The first two talks were DNA-related.  First, Adam Brown spoke about the huge Avotaynu Project he is doing, concentrating on Y-DNA.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

IAJGS2018 - Part 1

I'm just back from IAJGS2018 in Warsaw!  I'm extremely jetlagged, but the trip was very worth it.  This will be the first of several posts I plan to make about the trip.  You can read other posts I've made from this and other IAJGS conferences here.

I made a few non-genealogical stops on my way to Warsaw, but I also learned about the Jewish communities in those locations--and their fascinating histories.  My first stop was in Helsinki, Finland.
The Shul (Synagogue) in Helsinki

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sara Rivka / Shayna Basya - Solved

Back in January, I wrote about how I was no longer sure that my 4th great grandmother was Shayna Basya Halpern.  I'd found a birth record for a Yisrael Wolf Halpern whose father was given as Yitzchok son of Yisrael Halpern--my great-great-great-great grandfather.
Birth of Yisrael Wolf Halpern, 1870

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Who was Devorah Tolchinsky? (aka How Blogging Helped me Find Two More Ancestors)

I've viewed 60 years' worth of Nezhin birth, marriage & death records (no, I don't sleep well) in the past few weeks.  I found multiple records for Tolchinskys who were registered in Lubny but living in Nezhin from around 1866.  All of these people are descended from my great-great-great grandfather Shimon Tolchinsky, and I've been able to fit them into my tree.  Well, all except one.

Devorah Tolchinsky Death - Full Page

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Nezhin Metrical (Vital) Records

I've mentioned how I've been going through the Nezhin Uzed records that are available for viewing on FamilySearch.  The records are surprisingly complete from the 1850s all the way until the Russian Revolution in 1918 with only a few missing years.

(Note via Dr. Bert Lazerow-- The names of the child and the father that in years missing from the records can sometimes be picked up from the indices.)
The kinds of records found here--this is my great-great grandmother's birth record!

For others researching the Nezhin area, I've gone through all of these records and notated how to jump to a specific year's records as well as how complete that record set is.  Note that for some years there are duplicates of some record sets, so I list all of those (sometimes one set is more complete or in better shape than another).  You'll need a free account on FamilySearch to view the records.

If you don't have family from Nezhin, still check these out to see what Russian Empire metrical record books actually look like.  You can also see if there are filmed records for your town by following these directions.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Taking it Back...To My 7th Great Grandfather

Earlier in the week, I excitedly posted that I had discovered my 5th great grandfather's death record--and that in doing so, I'd discovered the name of my 6th great grandfather.  Well, that was nothing.
1854 Nezhin Death Records

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Discovering my 6th Great Grandfather

Now that I can access lots of Nezhin vital records and tax poll censuses from home (see if your own town's records are covered by following the directions here), I've been slowly going through them.  And there are many thousands of images.

The vital records start in the 1850s, and in the 1858 death records, I found an exciting (to me) record.
Meir Lefand Death Record, 1858

Thursday, July 12, 2018

IAJGS2018 in Warsaw!

IAJGS2018 is coming up in just under a month.  This year it's in Warsaw, and I'll be presenting and mentoring.  If you're a regular blog member who will be attending, please come by and say hi!

Here's where and when I'll be speaking:

Sunday, July 8, 2018

My Step Great-Great Grandmother's Arrest and Acquittal

Newspapers can be a wonderful resource to get insight into ancestors' lives, beyond the brief facts noted in census records, ship manifests and the like.

My great-great grandfather, Yechiel Suttleman, was married three times; his third wife, Ida Himelfarb Suttleman, was the only spouse who came to America.  There are lots of family stories about how the family made moonshine and had the younger kids sell it (since they'd be more likely to be let off if/when caught).  But the January 5, 1923 edition of Baltimore's Evening Sun mentioned how Ida herself had been arrested for possessing moonshine.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Where Did Yankel Marienhoff Go?

I've been tracing the children of my great-great-great grandmother Mira Halpern Lefand Marienhoff for years.  I had the birth records for a set of twins born to Mira and her second husband, Yitzchok Marienhoff; Yaakov/Yankel and Chava Marienhoff were born in Nezhin on July 1, 1887.

Birth of Yaakov and Chava Marienhoff

Sunday, June 24, 2018

An 1883 Chabad Connection

My Lefand, Tolchinsky and Halperin ancestors lived in what is now Nizhyn, Ukraine.  Since recently many Ukrainian vital records went online (including those of Nizhyn/Nezhin!!), I've been going through all of the town's metrical (vital) records from the comfort of my home.  I've gone through these records on microfilm, but the writing is much easier to read on my laptop--plus, I'm not limited in seeing them at a Family History Center during the hours they're open.

As I was browsing through these records, I saw a familiar surname that wasn't one of my family's.
Death Record of Yisrael Noach Schneerson

Monday, June 11, 2018

Finding Liba/Elizabeth/Lizzy--Found!

Yesterday, I wrote about how I'd finally found a post-1910 mention of my great-great grandmother's half sister.  This sister emigrated to America as Liba, was enumerated in the 1910 census as Elizabeth and then was married and was enumerated in 1920 as Lizzy.  In 1920, she was married to Frank Trachtenberg, and they had two children: Margery and Edward.  And then I couldn't find them again.

I'd searched for the family using wildcards in the surname to try to find them if Trachtenberg had been horribly mis-transcribed.  I tried just searching for them as a family group without a surname as well--but I found no family with a Frank, Elizabeth/Lizzy, Margery/Marjorie and Edward/Eddie/Ted.

I'd asked for readers to help.  And Kira Dolcimascolo came through.  She pointed out that Frank and Elizabeth's grandson had posted on an Ancestry message board back in 2008.
https://www.ancestry.com/boards/surnames.trachtenberg/6.1/mb.ashx


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Finding Liba/Elizabeth/Lizzy (A Bit More Than Before)

My great-great-great grandmother Mira Halperin Lefand Marienhoff was married twice and had at least eleven children (in addition to a number of stepchildren).  Five years ago, I did a series of posts about most of those children and what I knew about them at that point.  I'd managed to trace descendants of all of Mira's children who came to America--with the exception of one.  I simply could not find any trace of Liba Marienhoff (who became Elizabeth in America) after the 1910 census, when she was living in Pittsburgh.  You can click here to see what I knew at that point (and until about a week ago).

But now I've found her--and how I did this highlights how spelling of names, especially among immigrants, was simply not important to them.  So try as many possibilities as possible to try to find your family.  Sometimes it's the key to solving a long-time mystery. 
The "Levants" and Tolchinskys in the 1910 Census, Pittsburgh, PA

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Accessing Eastern European Records on FamilySearch--From Home

I've often been asked how I find so many documents from various parts of Eastern Europe--many of which have appeared in blog posts.  This is the first in what will be a series of posts describing how to find Eastern European records for your own ancestors.  While these posts will generally concentrate on how to find Jewish records in Eastern Europe, many of the strategies will also be applicable to records for other religions.  (Note that in the Russian Empire, most record sets were recorded separately by religion.)  The entire series can be seen here.

(This is an update of a post which talked about how to see LDS records on microfilm, because of all of the digitization that has been done.)

FamilySearch recently announced that all of their filmed records from Ukraine are now available for free, from your home!  But how do you best figure out what records may be available on FamilySearch for your ancestral towns?  Here are some tips (which are applicable to all locations, not just Ukraine).
Lots and lots of documents are available!  (Yes, you can zoom in.)

Sunday, May 27, 2018

My Great-Great Uncle's Death Certificate--From Dachau

At the end of 2016, I discovered the fate of my great grandmother's brother, Mendel Fuchs; you can read the little I know of his life here.

A few weeks ago, I went to the Holocaust Museum in Washington.  The museum has access to an International Tracing Service (ITS) terminal, and I asked the wonderful person working there to look for records of several relatives.  And he found a record for Mendel.
Mendel Fuchs Death Record

Thursday, May 10, 2018

My Genetic Genealogy Interview, WBAL-TV

A few weeks back, I was interviewed by Mindy Basara of WBAL-TV, Baltimore's local NBC affiliate, on genetic genealogy.  The result aired last night.



Sunday, May 6, 2018

Ashkenazic Shared DNA Survey: Data by Ashkenazic Percentage

Thank you to everyone who has contributed data about shared DNA in people with Ashkenazic ancestry!  I have 4990 data points to analyze, and that should help the entire genetic genealogy community  (I'm still collecting data--you can find out more about the project and how to contribute here).

This iteration looks at how shared DNA will differ depending on how much (documented) Ashkenazi DNA each individual has.

There are four tables below:
  • Table 1 looks at all 4990 data points, regardless of Ashkenazic percentage
  • Table 2 looks at those data points where both individuals are documented to be 100% Ashkenazic
  • Table 3 looks at those data points where one individual is documented to be 100% Ashkenazic and the other 50% Ashkenazic
  • Table 4 looks at those data points where both individuals are documented to be 50% Ashkenazic

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Malka Vizel Fuchs Berkovics, Midwife

There's often little insight into the lives of our female ancestors.  If they even list a profession, it is usually "housewife" or "at home."

But I now know the profession of my 3rd great grandmother, Malka Vizel/Wizel Fuchs/Fux Berkovics.
Birth of Hers Fux, January 24, 1887

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Painting my DNA - Happy DNA Day!

Happy DNA Day!  I've posted before about mapping out which segments of my chromosomes could be attributed to specific ancestors.  But there's a new tool out which makes doing this even more straightforward!  Check out DNA Painter.
My Painted DNA Segments, April 2018

Sunday, April 22, 2018

My (Possible) 4th Great Grandfather

Back in March, I wrote about discovering my 3rd great grandfather's name--Leibish Diamant.  What I didn't mention then is that I think I may also have my Diamond/Diamant 4th great grandfather's name.  I'm just not positive.  Here's what I have; please let me know your thoughts!
Yankel Diamant Death, 1859

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Esther Rutner's Actual Birthdate

My great grandmother was Esther Rutner Joshowitz; my middle name is Esther in her memory.  She used various birthdates both in European documents as well as in American documents, ranging from 1881 to 1889.  Birth months were all in the winter but spanned the period from December through March.  I assumed that the actual date would be closer to 1881, since women tend to make themselves younger than their actual age.  I was wrong.
Eszter Rutner Birth, March 1889

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) 2018

Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) starts this evening.  For the past two years, I listed the names of the 250+ families members I've found who were murdered in the Holocaust.

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.

I'm currently going through a new batch of records which unfortunately I think will generate more names for next year's list.  But for now, remember these 259, and the millions of others.
Front Row L-R: Yosef Wollich, Mendel Chechman, Devorah Chechman; Back Row L-R: Sara Fine Wollich, Moshe Wollich, Chaike Chechman.  All were murdered in the Holocaust

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Early-On Rutner/Joshowitz Connections

Sometimes you wonder how your ancestors met.  With my great grandparents, it looks like their families were friends from quite early on.

My great grandfather was Josef Joshowitz.  Josef's parents, Chaim and Mindel, had a son Smil Hers in 1889; Smil Hers only lived until the age of two, so I never knew he existed until recently when I was transcribing record books for JewishGen.

Smil Hers Joszovits Birth, 1889


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

My Twice-Married Great-Great Grandparents

I've written before about how in Austria-Hungary, many couples had a religious wedding and were considered fully married by their communities; however, they never civilly registered their marriage, so their children were considered illegitimate.  In fact, I believed my great-great grandparents (Shmuel Moshe Rutner and Rochel Fuchs) were in this situation, as their children whose births were registered in civil records only listed a mother.
Birth of Mendel Fuchs (Rutner), 1900

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sima Diamond, the Maiden Widowed Divorcee

My great-great grandfather was Hillel Diamond.  My great-great grandmother was his wife Hinda, but there were rumors that Hinda was not Hillel's first wife.  Those rumors were correct--and that first wife had an interesting backstory.
From the Marriage Record of Hillel and Sima Diamond - Hebrew Side

Monday, March 5, 2018

Taking the Diamonds Back--Another Generation

I've gotten many of my family lines back centuries, but the Diamonds have always been a brick wall.  I knew my great-great grandfather (Hillel), and that was it.  My grandfather had told me the names of some of Hillel's children and had also said that there was a rumor that he had been married before he wed my great-great grandmother Hinda.

Well, the rumors were true--and by verifying them, I've gotten back another generation in the Diamond family.
Yankel Diamant Birth Record

Sunday, March 4, 2018

RootsTech2018!


Wow, what a week!  I started out by flying to Phoenix where I spoke to Arizona Jewish Historical Society's Phoenix Jewish Genealogy Group. It was a great group with some good questions about endogamy. As a bonus, I got to hang out with Emily Garber.  And then off to Utah and RootsTech!

I flew into Salt Lake City, dropped off my bags, and went straight to the Family History Library. Mondays with Myrt was broadcasting, and lots of genealogy friends were in with her or hanging around outside, and it was great to catch up with everyone.  We then went out to lunch (I found an apple that I could eat—SLC isn’t the most kosher-friendly city in the world), and then I went back to the library for the next few hours. 
Mondays with Myrt (and a lot of my genealogy friends)

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Some Day I'll Find It, The Mitchneck Connection: Using Lazarus to Predict Relationships

I've mentioned before that various family members have stated that we were related to Simon Mitchneck, a famous Hollywood voice coach.  I've written about finding letters from Simon's sister enclosed in Simon's passport applications that spoke about the family's desperate situation in the aftermath of World War I.  Records of Simon and his three brothers (who emigrated to America) consistently named their father as Shia and their mother as Leah/Lea Goldberg/Goldenberg.  I do know that they do have some sort of connection to the Halper family (which also may be my great-great grandmother's maiden name).

And back in December, I wrote about how Simon Mitcheck's great nephew contacted me after seeing his family discussed on the blog--and how the DNA that the great nephew shared with known descendants of Hillel and Hinda Diamond demonstrated that the family stories of a relationship were correct.

After seeing this post, Simon's nephew "M" (the father of the gentleman who contacted me) agreed to test.  His results came in, and again, there are multiple large segments shared with varying descendants of Hillel and Hinda Diamond.  Descendants of Hillel and Hinda Diamond share anywhere from 7.3cM to 119.6cM with him, so predicting the true relationship is difficult--particularly because we are dealing with Ashkenazic Jewish DNA, which is intrinsically endogamous.  (In the chart below, D, L, Berly, Paul & Stephan are 100% Ashkenazi; Beth and David are 50% Ashkenazi; Liz, Patty and Debra are 25% Ashkenazi; M is 100% Ashkenazi.)
DNA Shared by Tested Descendants of Hillel & Hinda Diamond with M.  (Orange boxes represent tested individuals)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Megillah & Friday Night Dinner at RootsTech!

If you're Jewish and will be at RootsTech in just over a week, please come to Megillah readings!  RootsTech has been gracious enough to let us use a room in the Salt Palace Convention Center for Megillah!  In addition, we will be getting together for a (kosher) Friday night dinner--RSVP requested.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Ashkenazic Jewish Shared DNA Survey - Initial Results

Updated data here.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed data about shared DNA in people with Ashkenazic ancestry!  I have 4000 data points to analyze, and that should help the entire genetic genealogy community  (I'm still collecting data--you can find out more about the project and how to contribute here).

So far I've been going through and finding anomalies in the data and contacting those submitters (if they left email addresses) to clarify some things.

I'm going to do some deeper statistical analysis once I get the data cleaned up, but meanwhile, here is a high-level look at the data so far.  This data contains entries regardless of the percentage of Ashkenazi DNA (later posts will break down shared DNA based on how much Ashkenazi ancestry the testers have).  This is using very rough data, but I wanted to get some initial information out there to hopefully help inform people while I work on cleaning the data and then analyzing results.