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 Ukrainian (and other) Records on FamilySearch--From Home

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.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Current DNA Sales

Both FamilyTreeDNA and Ancestry have ongoing sales on DNA tests!  (Affiliate links are below; if you buy using these affiliate links, I get a small commission, and you do not pay any more than you would otherwise.)

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

February Talks - VA, AZ, UT

I have four talks coming up in February.  All are DNA/endogamy-related, and they'll be in Virginia, Arizona & Utah.  Details are as follows:


Sunday, February 4, 2018

Polish Schoolchildren's Signatures

Anyone who had family in what was Poland of 1926 (which includes parts of modern-day Ukraine and Lithuania, as well as much of modern-day Poland and parts of what used to be Russian Empire, Galicia, Czechoslovakia and East Prussia among others) needs to be aware of an incredible resource hosted by the Library of Congress.

In 1926, in honor of America's 150th anniversary of independence, Polish schoolchildren wrote their signatures in "admiration and friendship for the United States."  Children of all religions participated--Jewish names are interspersed with Ukrainian, Polish, and Czech children's names.
Page of signatures from schoolchildren in Horochow, Poland (now Horochiv, Ukraine), 1926

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Rutner Family Hungarian Passport

My great grandmother Esther Rutner Joshowitz had only one sibling who came to America--her brother Adolph (also known as Abraham).  Adolph/Abraham was born in Dulfalva, Hungary (today Dulovo, Ukraine), married Amalia "Mali" Kassirer and had two sons in Budapest, moved to Paris, and then emigrated to America.  His wife and two sons later joined him in Pennsylvania, and Adolph's daughter Helen was born in America.

Adolph's second son, Emile, gave me copies of some family documents back in the early 1990s--among which were the passport on which he, his mother, and his brother Max used to emigrate to America.

Although at the time this passport was issued, Dulfalva was in Czechoslovakia and Petrova (Amalia's birthplace) was in Romania, Amalia's passport was Hungarian.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Who Was My Great-Great-Great-Great Grandmother?

I've written before about my great-great-great-great grandmother, Shayna Basya Halpern, whose death record says that she lived to the age of 107.  But now I'm questioning whether she was actually my 4th great grandmother.
Death Record for Shayna Basya Halpern, 1911

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Ashkenazic Jewish Shared DNA Survey

Ashkenazic Jews and those with Ashkenazic ancestry often share significantly more DNA with one another than would be expected because of endogamy; Ashkenazim all descend from a small group of people whose descendants all married one another--so we're all cousins many times over.  I've looked at how endogamy manifests in my own family (here, for example), but there are many others who have tested pairs of known relatives who could contribute data to our understanding of how having Ashkenazic DNA impacts amounts of shared DNA.

[There will likely be follow-on surveys to gather similar data on Sephardic and other Jewish subgroups.]

I was inspired by Blaine Bettinger's Shared cM Project which looks at distributions of shared DNA between people with specific known relationships.  But Ashkenazim don't always fit into Blaine's bins because of endogamy.  Getting a better understanding of how having Ashkenazic DNA impacts shared DNA should help those who are trying to understand how close an unknown match actually may be.

So I need your help to let me know how much DNA your known relatives who have DNA tested share with one another.  The more sets of known relatives and information we have about the DNA that they share we know, the better we will be able to understand how endogamy impacts how much DNA Ashkenazim share with one another.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Baruch Hersch Rutner's Vacillating Mother

Baruch Hersch Rutner was my great-great grandmother's brother.  Or maybe her half brother.  He doesn't seem to have known which it was himself!
Birth of Burich Hers Rutner, 1871