Monday, 25 January 2021

Almost like an Auntie

11 Underwood Street
This pair of houses is at the end of a terrace in Underwood Street, in Mile End New Town in the East End of London. The house on the right is number 13, with a confectioner's shop on the ground floor - a veritable 'corner shop', very convenient for any children living nearby, and there were a few, next door at number 11.  This house seems to have played a significant role in the lives of my Frankenstein family in their early days in London.

Mutual ignorance
At this point I ask you to bear in mind that 10 years ago, neither I nor anyone else in my own Frankenstein branch knew of the existence of the family of Rachel Frankenstein, who is the central character of this part of the family story. Nor did we know of the existence of Abram Rajn's family, and how they are connected to us. The ignorance was total, and mutual.

None of us knew anything. The links which appear to have been so strong 100 years ago had grown weaker over the generations, and all but disappeared. All but: the one exception was a vestige of a family Tree reconstructed by Rajn and Boll cousins in the USA, who knew they were linked to each other by the two Frankenstein sisters, Tauba and Rywka Laja. They also knew there were more Frankenstein cousins somewhere, but they didn't know who we were, or where to find us. You can see how we found each other here: Finding more new cousins.

Since then we've got our collective heads together, rummaged through archives, searched the far corners of the internet, walked the streets, shared photos, you name it. We even have a Facebook Group with over 100 members, all Children of Frankenstein ....

Back to number 11
I introduced the house in a couple of posts two years ago - It's Rajning Cousins, and 11 Underwood Street - I but didn't go on to write up the stories of the people involved.

Here's what we know so far. First, the dates we have are:

1905: baby Jacob
The first mention we have of the house is in March 1905, when baby Jacob is born there to Morris Lefcovitch and his wife Rachel Leah Frankenstein. 

Rachel's father Israel Jacob had died in Poland some time in the mid-late 1870s, and her mother Sarah came to London a few years later with Rachel, and her siblings Boruch (Barnett) and Bajla (Betsy); Rachel's older brother Jonah (Jacob) was already there - his first child Moses was born in London in 1879. Rachel and Morris were not in this house in the 1901 Census - they were in Spelman Street, another place that figures repeatedly in the family story - so they must have moved to Underwood Street some time between that Census and the birth of baby Jacob in March 1905.

Rachel and Morris are still there in April 1911, when the next Census was taken, and we have no documents showing them anywhere else until they set off for (another) new life in Australia in January 1913.

But before they go, they play host to a couple of family events that allow us to firm up our understanding of how some of the members of our Frankenstein clan relate to each other. 

1907: Abraham and Bloomah
The first occasion is the marriage of Abraham Isaac Ray and Bloomah Freedman in 1907 (see
It's Rajning Cousins)

Abraham Isaac Ray, aged 22, is our Abram Icek Rajn, b 1883 according to the Polish records, and he is marrying Bloomah Freedman, also 22. His father, "Harris Barnett Ray", is Hersz Ber Rajn, who had died in 1894. Hersz Ber was originally married to Tauba Frankensztajn, and she is the mother of Abram. However, she died in 1887, and Hersz Ber re-married, this time to Tauba's younger sister Rywka Laja Frankensztajn.

But first, why are the happy couple both down as of "11 Underwood Street"? The Lefcovitches haven't moved out, indeed they are still there in 1911, as we've seen. Is there a family connection? Specifically, is there a Frankenstein connection? Is Rachel Frankenstein Lefcovitch connected to Abram's mother, Tauba Frankensztajn Rajn? It turns out we've asked this question before, and the answer is: Yes.

In Two stones: son of Leib, we pulled together all the clues, and concluded that these two families are indeed one. The link between the characters in this story is that Rachel's father Israel Jacob turns out to be a brother of Wolek, the father of Tauba and Rywka Laja. So Rachel is a first cousin to the two sisters, and first cousin once-removed to Tauba's son Abram. So it made sense for her to host his wedding. She's almost like an Auntie to him.

1916: Freda and Aaron
In Is this the Missing Link? we looked at the marriage a few years later of Aaron Hyman and Freda Rayne (1916).  Freda is the daughter of Rywka Laja Frankensztajn and Hersz Ber Rajn, which makes her a half-sister to Abram. In fact, I am reliably advised that because they have the same father, and their mothers (Tauba and Rywka Laja) are sisters, Abram and Freda should be ranked even closer - they're three-quarter siblings.

There was also a what-house-is-it clue in that marriage. Freda's husband-to-be Aaron Hyman gave as his address 28 Blythe Street, which we recognised as the home of Barnett Frankenstein. Barnett of course is the brother of Rachel Frankenstein Lefcovitch. So Freda has the same relationship to Barnett as Abram does to Rachel - they're first cousins once-removed. He's almost like an Uncle to her.

1912: Fanny and Lewis
Then, in August 1912, just a few months before they set off for Australia, Morris and Rachel Lefcovitch play host to another happy couple - Louis Allerhand and Fanny Shalinsky - see Another Link in the Chain.

Fanny is a shadowy figure. She appears in the 1901 Census as a grand-daughter of Rachel's mother, Sarah Frankenstein. She is shown as born in Gombin, the family's home-town, around 1887, but we know little about her parents. We see on the Certificate that her father was Samuel Shalinsky, but we have found no further trace of him either in Poland or in England. As for her mother, we have to presume that she was a daughter, as yet unidentified, of Sarah and Israel Jacob. In other words, Fanny's mother is a sister of Rachel Frankenstein Lefcovitch.

Fanny is not with Sarah's family in London in the 1891 Census, so a working assumption is that her mother had died in Poland some time in the 1890s, and Fanny - probably no older than 10 or 12 - was sent over to live with Grandma Sarah. In the 1911 Census Sarah is around 70, and boarding with an unconnected family, but I have not yet found Fanny. Sarah died in June 1912.

All this suggests that when the time came for Fanny to marry Lewis Allerhand in August 1912, it made sense for the bride and groom to be staying at the house of Morris and Rachel Lefcovitch. After all, Rachel really was her Auntie.

1912: Uncle Morris
And there's one more touch that cements the relationship between our two Frankenstein branches. One of the witnesses to Fanny Shalinsky's marriage is Morris Frankenstein. This is Moszek Boruch, a brother of Tauba and Rywka Laja. If you've been paying proper attention, you will recall that Morris's father Wolek is brother to Fanny's mother's father Israel Jacob.

All of which makes Morris a first cousin to Fanny's mother (whoever she is). So he's a first cousin once-removed to Fanny herself, and thus a very suitable witness to her marriage. He's almost like an Uncle to her.

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Genetic Groups on MyHeritage: 5 What Next?

In previous posts I've put down some First Thoughts on MyHeritage's new Genetic groups, discussed their Ethnicity Estimates and Historical Maps and found them both wanting, and had a first look at how the Groups themselves shape up in my own family, and found them very promising indeed. 

Here's a few ideas for next steps.

1 Match info
First off, MyH should add the Genetic Groups to the information it gives us about all our matches. This information is already quite substantial, but the GGs have the potential to add even more value to it. Up front, in the Match List, just below the Estimated Relationships, there's plenty of room:

2 Match filter
Next, add a Filter for 'Your Genetic Groups' 
at the top of the Match List, so that we can see in one list all matches who share a particular GG with us. Once again, there is plenty of room. This could be very revealing, and lead to immediate progress in tracing family connections.

3 Group info on segments
Let us see the segment information on which the Genetic Groups are based. This could be via an option to display a GG label on segments in the Chromosome Browser, for instance. This would immediately help us to distinguish maternal matches 
from paternal ones, and could even help us to further narrow down how these matches are related to us.

4 Maternal/paternal labels on segments
Once we have identified our closest maternal and paternal matches, MyH could possibly even automate the allocation of maternal and paternal sides to individual segments, thus taking the 'bucket' procedure used by FTDNA to a whole new level.

5 Pile-up info
MyH say they have taken segments of all sizes into account when compiling the Genetic Groups. I presume this includes the pile-up regions that are the bane of Ashkenazi Jewish genetic genealogy. 
Could it even be that the pile-ups themselves are pointing towards the Genetic Groups? For instance, could membership of a given GG be determined by a combination of specific pile-ups on specific chromosomes? If this is what is happening, MyH has all the info needed to identify this association for us.

6 Timeline
Following on from (5), might it then be possible to suggest a timeframe for the formation of these Genetic Groups? This could contribute towards our understanding of the patterns of migration of the AJ community, in particular the movement from Western Europe towards the East during medieval times, and even the origins of the community itself.

7 Time to MRCA
In turn, could (6) even lead us towards an estimation of Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor(s), for any given pile-up region? Where and when did a particular pile-up segment originate?

8 Location, location, location
How local can we get? In her original article - all of two weeks ago! - Roberta Estes said that MyH had "absolutely nailed" her Dutch ancestry, pinning one of her Genetic Groups down to an area 20 miles square.  I don't expect quite this level of precision for AJs - but ..... ???

9 Third Parties
I would love to see what our friends at DNA Painter and Genetic Affairs can dream up. I have in the past asked Jonny Perl at DNA Painter if they could find a way for AJs to identify our individual pile-up regions. Maybe he could offer us the option of colourising our Genetic Groups in the Chromosome Browser display? And Genetic Affairs' AutoClusters do not seem to be working for AJs as well as they do for non-endogamous groups. Can Evert-Jan Blom find a way of including MyH's Genetic Groups in the cluster information he gives us? We would then be able to see to what extent there is a correlation between the clusters, which are based on shared matches, and the GGs, which are based on shared segments - ie, actual DNA.

That's probably enough to be going on with.

Genetic Groups on MyHeritage: 4 The Tales They Tell


The Genetic Groups assigned to myself and my brother by MyHeritageDNA
NB: Confidence levels: High - Medium - Low

Genetic Groups (First Thoughts) are the most significant new feature of the recent upgrade to MyHeritageDNA. They are doing something that I don't think is even on the radar of any of the other consumer-oriented DNA companies. They compare the autosomal DNA of thousands of people at the segment-level, and where they find sufficient similarities, they assign us to specific Genetic Groups. I think this approach has huge potential for those of us who are looking to uncover our genetic background, at both individual and community levels, and also for those seeking to discover new - or long-lost - family connections.

Not ours, but theirs
But first, let's dispose of 
the Ethnicity Estimates and Historical Maps presented to us by MyH as part of this "upgrade".

In previous posts (Who I Am and Who I Am Not, and Mapping the Past, or Not) I have been highly critical of both features. They are based on faulty logic, and are consequently highly misleading. Both purport to tell us about our ancestry, but in fact both are based not on our own genetic history but on that of the people we have DNA matches with. The "ethnicities" and maps are not ours, but theirs.

This pseudo-science culminates in the absurdity of a map of Europe in the period 1600-1650, which appears to portray Britain as being home to a substantial proportion of the continent's Ashkenazi Jews. At this time, of course, there weren't any Jews in Britain at all. Jews - all Jews - had been excluded from the country for over 300 years.

Both features should be consigned to the bin marked "In need of urgent attention". At the very least they both need to display a Genetic Genealogy Health Warning, prominently and immediately. Maybe something along the lines of: "These Ethnicities and Maps can seriously damage your understanding of your genetic origins. Remember: they are not yours, they are those of your matches."

Genetic Groups
The Genetic Groups, on the other hand, appear to be built on a sound scientific basis. I shall look at what I think these Groups can bring to our family history research, and suggest ways in which the concept could be developed.

The chart at the top shows the Groups that have been assigned to myself and my brother. Both our parents were from Ashkenazi Jewish families, our mother's side from Poland and our father's from Belarus. I'm hoping that we can make some sort of sense out of these Groups. Are some of them paternal side, and some maternal? Is there a geographical logic to them? Or are they all one indistinguishable mess, as most of AJ genetic genealogy seems to be?

Note that MyH gives a us 'Confidence level' for each of these Groups, of High, Medium or Low. In the charts I have shown these in bold, normal, and italic script respectively.

I have been classified in 5 Genetic Groups, my brother Brian in 6 - the same 5 as I have, with one extra. For GG5215 and 5052, we are both High Confidence; I am High for GG5043 and Medium for 5073, whilst Brian is the other way round. We are both Medium for GG5032. Meanwhile Brian has a Medium for GG5227, which I don't seem to have at all.

So far, not so far. Brian and I are very similar, but not identical.

The cousins show up
However, I think there are indeed some interesting things to discover when we look at how some of our cousins show up.

Genetic Groups for myself, Brian and some of our cousins
NB: blue - paternal side, pink - maternal side

Brian and I have 14 known cousins on MyH-DNA, 7 on our paternal side (blue in the chart, from various places in Belarus), and 7 maternal (pink, from Central Poland 100km West of Warsaw, on or near the Vistula River). In the blue corner they range from Katy, a 1C1R (first cousin once-removed) to Gerald, a 3C1R. Katy shares all our ancestral families on the paternal side, the 2Cs represented here all share Ilyutovich and Levin, but not Schreibman, and the 3Cs share only Levin.

In the pink corner the cousins we have on MyH at the moment are a little more distant. The 4Cs share only Frankenstein, whilst the 3C-4C*2s are all closely related to each other - Arlene and Sandra are sisters, Daniel K and Laurie are also siblings, children of Sandra. This line is related to us twice over, via two brother/sister Frankenstein - sister/brother Zegelman marriages over 150 years ago.

As far as we know, there is no connection between our paternal and maternal sides, until our parents got together, of course. However, FTDNA does insist on telling us that a number of our matches there match us on both sides. We presume this is down to general AJ endogamy, especially given the geographical separation between the two sides over at least the past 200 years.

The resulting charts are intriguing; please note I am not necessarily looking at the Groups in order from left to right:

GG5215: nobody in the pink corner (maternal side) is in this Group, and there are only 2 blues; only one of these blues - Katy - has a High Confidence rating. She is our only Schreibman match on MyH at the moment. We can therefore confidently classify GG5215 as our Schreibman Genetic Group.

GG5073: has no pinks, but all the blues are there. GG5073 is therefore paternal, and associated with Belarus. Furthermore, the only High-rated cousins are the Ilyutoviches, who were from Lida in NW Belarus. Katy, who shares Ilyutovich, is Medium-rated, as are the 2 Levin cousins, who do not. Brian is High, I am Medium. This is our strongest Ilyutovich Group.

GG5052: is present across both blues and pinks - but all the pinks are High-rated; amongst the blues, only the Levins are High, whilst some of the Ilyutoviches are Low. This is clearly our main Frankenstein/Zegelman Group, and is based in West Central Poland. It could be that our Levins have a connection with this area that we do not (yet) know about. Or it could just be more general AJ endogamy creeping in.

GG5043: all cousins bar Katy share this Group. Only Gerald of the blues is rated High; on the pink side, only the double Frankenstein/Zegelman cousins are High. I am High, Brian is Medium. I don't think we yet in a position to definitively allocate this Group to paternal or maternal, to Belarus or to Poland.

GG5032: Brian and I are both Medium. No-one in either blues or pinks is rated High. All the pinks are in this group, but only half are Medium, the others are Low. On the blue side it is a bit more nuanced. All the Ilyutoviches have it, whereas of the others, only one Levin does, and he is Low. There are 2 Highs, Daniel and his nephew Jeffrey, one of whose lines is Rothstein from Miedrzyziec Podlaski in Eastern Poland, not far from the border with Belarus. So, more endogamy, but leaning towards E Poland.

GG5227: Brian is Medium, whilst I don't have this Group at all. The only others who have this Group are the two Rothsteins, and three of the Frankenstein/Zegelmans, but they are all weak. I'm guessing Central Poland for this one, maybe tending towards the East.

Strangeness and Litvaks
GG5031: this one is strange, as whilst neither Brian nor I have this group at all, most of our cousins on both sides do. Of the blues, Katy is High, and all the Ilyutoviches are Medium, as is Beatrice of the Levins. Of the pinks, all the Frankensteins and Zegelmans, bar Angela, appear, but at a lower rating than the blues. Katy's High rating is intriguing; this Group is clearly not a Schreibman Group - Brian and I would be there if it were. Katy's father's family is from Lithuania, and we have no known connection there, although Lida, our shared Ilyutovich area, is close to the Lithuanian border, and often came under Lithuanian influence. Maybe some of the other cousins have Litvak connections; we know little of their Trees outside how they connect to us.

As you would expect, there are further Groups like this last one that have some cousinly representation, but that Brian and I are absent from. However, there are not many of them, and our cousins' presence in them is sparser than in the Groups that we do share with them.

OK. That's a first analysis of our Genetic Groups. Fascinating, although at the moment I don't see much more that we can do with them. 

What next?

Friday, 8 January 2021

Genetic Groups on MyHeritage: 3 Mapping the Past, or Not


MyHeritage AJ Genetic Group 5215, distribution 1850-1900

Ashkenazi Genetic Groups
MyHeritage has discerned 24 distinct genetic groups for Ashkenazi Jews, based on their analysis of the autosomal DNA of the people who have tested with the company. I must say before we even start, that I don't think this has ever been attempted before. It is a huge advance on the vague, confusing and inaccurate "Ethinicity Estimate" approach that they and other companies have been using up till now.

I must also say that unfortunately, the most visually appealing element of the initial roll-out of Genetic Groups, the historical distribution maps, are presented in a highly misleading way. This post attempts to explain how this happens.

My 5 GGs
MyH has allocated me to 5 of the 24 AJ groups, which in itself is of interest. It suggests that I do not have much, if any, genetic affinity to the members of any of the other 19 groups. In other words, AJs are not all related to each other. It suggests that our endogamy is within our own genetic groups, and not across them. Which makes sense, but also raises an intriguing issue: many of these AJ Genetic Groups appear to cover quite wide geographical areas (see the map in the post First Thoughts), and many of these Groups appear to be in the same areas at the same time. How did they manage to keep the groups genetically distnct? Did they not inter-marry?

Also of interest, to me at least, is the fact that I do not appear to connect to any of the Sephardic Groups. That knocks that family myth on the head.

From Trees to Maps
One of my AJ groups is numbered 5215. About half the people in Genetic Group 5215 have posted family Trees on MyH. The company has used the location information included in these Trees to map the geographical distribution of the ancestors of group members over time. 

The map above purports to show where the ancestors of the members of Genetic Group 5215 were living in the period 1850-1900. There are other maps for each of the 50-year periods between the years 1600 and 2000, and it is highly instructive to see how the distribution of population shown on these maps evolves over the years.

A bit of a puzzle
The families of all 4 of my grandparents are documented in Eastern Europe in the period shown on this map - my mother's side in Central Poland, and my father's in Belarus. The map above shows a just a light smattering in Belarus, some in Central Poland, some in the Austria-Hungary area, and stronger concentrations in the Netherlands and in Britain. Were my 5215s really more concentrated in England than in Belarus or Poland in the late 19C? This is a bit puzzling, because we know that the mass immigration of Jews from Eastern Europe to the UK only began after 1880, and the bulk of it was after 1900. So why does the map suggest otherwise?

A little look at Belarus
Before we delve further into this, let's have a closer look at Belarus.

When we zoom in on Belarus in the 1850-1900 map, we can see that the 5215s are indeed represented in my three paternal-side areas - my Schreibmans and Zaturenskys are from Pinsk (bottom left), my Levins from Gomel (Homyel, bottom right), and my Ilyutoviches from Lida (upper left). But there are some wide open spaces in between. Some of my other Genetic Groups have even less presence in Belarus, so this might still be an indicator that this is indeed where my families are from. Unless, of course the pinpointing of these three areas has arisen at least in part from the information I have put into my own MyH Tree - in which case, we're going round in circles.

Pause for thought
At this point, we should pause, and remember where the information that has gone into these maps comes from. MyH has found that amongst the people who have tested with them, there are 1330 whose autosomal DNA is sufficiently aligned to justify the creation of a Genetic Group specifically for them, GG5215. Just under half of these - 623 - have Trees on MyH. The company has combed those Trees for whatever ancestral date and place information it can find, in particular births, marriages and deaths. It then maps this material in 50-year periods. So far, so good.

However, what they have not done, and cannot do, is DNA-test all the ancestors that appear on those Trees. They may not all be GG5215s. In fact, we know that many of them are not; for a start, they have allocated me to 4 other AJ Groups. The descendants who have tested may show sufficient genetic characteristics to warrant being allocated to this Group, but many or most of them will also have ancestors from other AJ Groups, or who are not AJ at all.

For instance
A couple of examples from my own case will illustrate this point. As I mentioned before, half my ancestors are AJs from Poland, half AJs from Belarus. I have both sides documented in those places back to +/- 1800. So I would be happy to accept that GG5215 covers both areas, and both sides of my family. But none of my genetic ancestors were in western Europe or the UK in that period, and I very much doubt that any of the AJ ancestors of other members of the group were there either, for the reasons outlined above. So what is the genetic connection between GG5215 members and these places? It can only be that some of them have ancestors who were not AJ. So I'm expecting to see evidence of non-AJ ancestors in the Trees of at least some of my fellow GG5215 group members, and specifically of ancestors from Western Europe and Britain.

Close to home
And I don't have far to look. Consider my 1C1R (first cousin once-removed), Katy. We share my paternal line - her grandfather was my Uncle Mick, my father's brother. Mick married Margaret, a non-Jewish English woman, so although Katy got enough of the characteristic GG5215 DNA from Mick to qualify for the Group, she also has 25% English ancestry through her grandmother Margaret. MyH have picked her English ancestors up from her Tree, and put them on the 5215 map. Where they don't belong.

And this is all exacerbated by the fact that people with English ancestry can generally take their lines much further back that AJs can, with the exception maybe of a handful of rabbinical lines, and this applies to places as well as names. So when you look at the earlier maps for GG5215, you find that the places where records are available show up much more strongly than those where they're not. And the further back you go, the greater the disparity, and the more skewed the results will be. 

Reductio ad Absurdum
And you end up with this absurdity:

MyHeritage AJ Genetic Group 5215, distribution 1600-1650

But there weren't any Jews in England in 1600-1650.

They had been expelled in 1290 and were not re-admitted until 1656. (See From Expulsion to Readmission, by Ariel Hessayon, for the background to both of these episodes). And even then they were mostly Sephardim, originating from Spain and Portugal, not AJs - including no doubt my GG5215 ancestors - who to the best of our historical knowledge, originated in Germany, moved towards the east in the late Middle Ages, and were by 1600 well established in Poland and probably settling in Belarus as well.

So whilst these maps do represent my GG5215 ancestors, to the best of our limited collective knowledge, they also represent the ancestors of all members of 5215 who have Trees on MyH. And this includes those of their ancestors who were not 5215ers, or not Jews at all, and could have come from anywhere, especially, it seems, from Southern England and the Netherlands.

So it's not my ancestors on these maps, it's theirs.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Genetic Groups on MyHeritage: 2 Who I Am and Who I Am Not


Who I am not
Well, that looks interesting. Under the heading 'Your ethnicity results', MyHeritage appears to be informing me that in addition to being 91% Ashkenazi Jewish, I am 2.9% Celtic Fringe, 2.8% Middle Eastern, 1.9% Mizrahi Jewish, and 1.1% West Asian. I must say that this comes as a bit of a surprise, as we have always considered ourselves to be 100% AJ, my mother's side coming from Poland and my father's from Belarus.

At first glance the 2.9% figure seems to be suggesting that one of my great-great-great-grandparents might have been from one of the Celtic areas of Britain. However, I have researched all 4 of my grandparents' lines back to this level - to 1800 or earlier - and as far as I can tell there's no sign of an Irishman anywhere. There's Leweks and Jankels, Movshas and Chaims, but absolutely no Paddys. There's no indication that anyone from Ireland, Scotland or Wales migrated to Poland or Belarus, married a local Jew, and forwarded their DNA down through the generations. And the same goes for the other "ethnicities" that I seem to have been allocated.

Something's not quite right.

Who they are
The list is wrongly labelled. Look at the subheading under 'Ethnicities' at the top. This is not the distribution of my own ethnicity. It's the distribution of ethnicities across all of the people who match me. It's not who I am, it's who they are.

Which could be of interest in its own right, of course. How come I share DNA with over 2000 people whose DNA has a strong element of Irish, Scottish and Welsh?

How it comes about
Let's do a mind exercise.

This is what my Ancestor Chart, back to my 16 great-great-grandparents, looks like, with me at the bottom. Yours will be similar.
Now here's the Descendant Tree for one of these couples, Shmuilo Gronim Ilyutovich b 1825 and his wife Tauba Belagratsky (they are at the top here, and this chart also shows their parents). They're from Lida in NW Belarus. I've taken it down as far as my own generation.

The chart is illegible because there are 83 of us in my generation. At least those are the ones I have been able to trace, there may be a few more yet to be discovered. There are also a number of people down the generations who I have been unable to follow through, and there will certainly be some who have slipped through the net entirely, especially in 19C Belarus where the records can be patchy to say the least. But I do have names and places for the intervening generations of all the 3Cs shown here. None of these cousins, nor any of their Ilyutovich ancestors, were in Ireland, by the way. However, one or two of them may well have married people with Irish ancestry, once they reached countries where there was Irish immigration as well as Jewish, such as the UK or the USA.

Now consider that this is the Tree for only one of my g-g-g'parent couples. There are seven more couples at this level, each of which may well build up through the generations as this one does. Even if they "only" come down to half the size of this family, say to an average of around 40 in each family in my generation, that is potentially another 300 or so 3Cs.

I have developed some of these families to a similar level to this one, and the same arguments apply. However there are a few families I know little about. Those 40 potential 3Cs may well exist in these families, I just don't know anything about them. I have no idea who their ancestors married, or who they had children with. Did they move elsewhere in Poland or Belarus? Did they emigrate? Were they killed in the Holocaust? Might one of them have married an Irishman or woman?

What about his brothers and sisters?
But there's more. Take Shmuilo Gronim, for instance. He was one of seven children. I have information on just two of his brothers, and that dries up around 1900. I have no idea what happened to them or any of their families. Some of them may have had descendant charts as fully populated as that of Shmuilo. Their descendants would be 4Cs to me, and there could be another 400 potential cousins out there. I have no idea if they even exist, let alone whether any of them might carry any Irish DNA.

And of course, we can repeat this exercise for the siblings of each of my 15 other g-g-g'parents. There could be another 400 unknown 4Cs in each of those families. That's 6000 more cousins. As if I didn't have enough already.

Celtic Connections
And there's a good chance that somewhere along the line, an ancestor or two of at least a few of these unknown thousands might have married a Celt. And when a descendant of theirs in the 2010s or 2020s takes a DNA test with MyHeritage, their Celtic DNA will show up in their results, along with whatever AJ DNA has come down to them.

It's not me that has Celtic DNA, or Middle Eastern, or Mizrachi, or West Asian - it's my matches.

What about my brother?
My brother also has his DNA on MyH. Here's his Ethnicity results:

Oh? Wot, no Irish?? My brother has a similar number of matches to me with Celtic ethnicity, over 2000 of them. However, he doesn't seem to share any of their DNA. He also has more West Asian, plus a trace of Central Asian that I don't have, but none of my Mizrachi.

Of course, although my brother and I received our DNA from the same two parents, we only actually coincide on 36% of it. The other 64% of my DNA consists of segments that he doesn't have, and vice-versa. This explains why our match lists can seem so wildly different, outside of known cousins. Even with known cousins we share significantly different amounts with many of them, and often share on different segments.

So it shouldn't be surprising that we see a difference in the ethnicities of some of our respective matches. I have segments, some of which my brother doesn't have, that I share with matches who have Celtic, or Mizrachi, origins. Conversely, he has segments that I don't have, that he shares with matches who have Central Asian origins.

Again, it's not us, it's them.

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Genetic Groups on MyHeritage - 1 First Thoughts


MyHeritageDNA have introduced 'Genetic Groups', a new feature which I think could have a huge impact on our understanding of Ashkenazi Jewish (AJ) history in general, and of our own families' histories in particular. The same will undoubtedly apply to other groups across the world.

MyH has published an account of how they have put these Groups together. Briefly, they base them on the segments of DNA, including very small ones, that you share with other people. These patterns of shared segments can be regarded as the signature of a Genetic Group. These shared segments must have come from a common ancestor, who may well date from long before any of the ancestors that most of us can trace by traditional genealogical methods. MyH then combines this shared segment information with the historical and geographical information contained in those people's Family Trees.

This technique will not point directly to a specific common ancestor, but the fact that you share a Genetic Group with someone should help narrow down the field, and may suggest likely areas for further research. It should eventually provide a more reliable, and potentially much more informative, indicator of ancestral origins than merely looking at shared matches, or vague "ethnicity estimates". 

My Genetic Groups
The map above shows the geographic reach of the 5 AJ Genetic Groups that they have found for me, based on shared segments and the date and place information my matches have included in their Trees. Of course, not everyone has a full Tree, but when the numbers of people providing this information are high enough, MyH can begin to see patterns emerging. These patterns show that people who match me on particular segments tend to have ancestors that come from particular geographic areas.

You can see immediately from the map that these Genetic Group areas cover distinct territories. There are two Groups in smaller regions that have a definite western bias, running from the Netherlands across to Poland; one of these reaches a bit further north than the other. Another Group has an eastern bias, reaching from Poland to central Russia. One of the Groups seems to cover much of the map, stretching most of the way across from Germany to Ukraine. The fifth Group is centred in the East, across Belarus and Lithuania. My matches in each of these Genetic Groups share a DNA signature with me that corresponds with these areas of origin. You can almost see the Litvaks and the Polacks peeking through.

My mother's parents both came from central Poland, and my father's from various places in Belarus. Jews came into these areas from Western Europe during the Late Middle Ages, moving gradually eastward over a period of several centuries. You can sense the pattern of this migration even in the roughly-drawn areas on this map. I have documented Trees back to 1800 or so for the male lines of the families of each of my four grandparents, but I do not as yet know where any of these families were living before they moved east, nor when they moved. Any source that can suggest answers to this is worth looking at.

My initial thoughts are that a common ancestor for me, with someone who is in one of the more western groups, will probably date from medieval times, and will be correspondingly hard to trace. Matches from the two groups that cover the eastern areas may well trace back to more recent times. My Polish matches could come from any of the five groups, as the map shows that all five of them include the central part of Poland.

I'll be looking more closely at my five Genetic Groups, from the geographical, historical and genetic perspectives. What can they tell me about the stories of my ancestral families?

NB: Roberta Estes has posted an excellent guide to using this feature, on her DNAeXplained site: Introducing Genetic Groups at MyHeritage

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Moshe Chaim, Czar of Pinsk: #17 Shipped to Peoria

Shipped to Peoria Illinois by Sloan and Shelton
Throughout the story of Dora (see #10 There's more to Dora .. and thereafter) I have been trying to establish the identity of her first husband. Every reference in her own documents, and in those of her children, refers to him as Joseph Kawin. That seems pretty clear, then. 

However, I have not been able to find a single document that shows them together, nor any that refers to him in his own right, apart from a couple of entries in Directories for Peoria, in 1890 and 1896. By 1898 the entry is for Dora Kawin, "widow of Joseph". This suggests he died some time in 1896-98. However, searches on the usual online sites reveal no references to a Joseph Kawin dying in Peoria or anywhere else during that period. Nor is there a marriage record for Joseph and Dora, in Peoria or anywhere else. Nor any records of the births of their children - Abraham in 1888, Sam in 1889, both of whom appear as born in Peoria, or at least in Illinois, in later documents.

Or Jacob?
At the same time, there are abundant references to a Jacob Kawin, born in 1862, who came to the USA in 1871 with his mother and siblings, to join up with his father who had emigrated earlier. The whole family is in the 1880 Census in Peoria. Jacob got himself naturalised, and started up a business with his brother Nathan, and they are in and out of the Directories and the newspapers through the 1880s and into the 90s. Nathan married in 1885 in Chicago, but there does not appear to be a marriage record for Jacob.

What we do find, however, is a death record for him - or at least, his headstone, in the Mount Sinai - ie, Jewish - section of the Springdale Cemetery in Peoria. He died in 1897. Just about the time we believe Joseph Kawin, husband of Dora, died.

Was this a coincidence? That the only two J Kawins in Illinois both died in the same year?

I went back to the Peoria Directories, and looked a little closer. I found that from around 1886, Jacob seems to have left the family home, and he no longer appeared as a partner in the business. 'Kawin Bros' had become 'Kawin & Co', run by Nathan, and Jacob was nowhere to be seen.

Or William, John or George?
Then a suspicious series of one-off Kawins started appearing in the Directories. Over the course of a few years we find William, John, George, and Joseph, all making fleeting appearances, with a variety of occupations and addresses - but no sign of Jacob.

This led me to conclude that maybe some of these mysterious Kawins might in fact be Jacob in disguise. Could they all, including Joseph, be the same person?

Was Dora's husband really Jacob, even though her records always referred to him as Joseph? I convinced myself that this was the most likely explanation, and added him to my Tree as Jacob, as he was known in his family. And I wrote up Dora's story accordingly.

Then I found this:

It's the headstone for Irene Kawin, Nathan's daughter, who died in Chicago in 1976. There are a couple of other names on it, female Kawins: Gertrude and Helen. I didn't recognise them - Nathan's other daughter was called Ethel - and I thought they might be connected to a Chicago Kawin family that I had noticed, but which didn't seem to be related to the Peoria Kawins. In any case, my focus is on Dora and on finding out who her husband is, rather than on any wider Kawin family.

Nothing doing here. I switched my attention elsewhere for a while.

A few months later Gertrude cropped up again, and this time she drove a horse and cart through my interpretation of Dora's story:

The marriage of Jacob Kawin and Gertrude Goldstein in Chicago. This immediately caught my attention, because Jacob's brother Nathan had married a Goldstein - Lotte - a few years earlier. The Kawin brothers had married Goldstein sisters. Don't ask me why I hadn't noticed this before, but I hadn't.

Later censuses show Gertrude with a daughter Helen, born in 1894. So this Helen must be the third person on the headstone above. And then I found directories and newspaper articles showing Jacob and Gertrude running a Kawin & Co business in La Salle, halfway between Peoria and Chicago, in the early 1890s. So the reason Jacob stops showing up in the Peoria Directories, is, he wasn't living there any more.

Where does this leave Dora?

Joseph the Elusive
Well, she clearly wasn't married to Jacob. She must have been married to Joseph, as the documents insist. So, why did I persist in ignoring the evidence? Why had I been unwilling to accept that Jacob was Jacob, and Joseph was Joseph? And that Dora was only married to one of them?

In my defence, please remember that I had not been able to find a single record of a type that might be expected to show them together, such as a Census. Indeed, the only Census they would both have been present for was the 1890 one, and that is not available to us - it was destroyed in a fire. Directories in some places show the name of the spouse, bracketed alongside the head of household; not so in Peoria. I could find no record of their marriage, or of the birth of their children. To obscure matters further, Joseph appears to have masqueraded as George for a couple of years, in the Directories at least. And then, I could find no record of Joseph's death, just later references to Dora as "widow of Joseph".

And of course the mysterious Jacob and the elusive Joseph both seem to have died in the same year: 1897. However, I have no death record for either of them, only the headstone for Jacob in Peoria, with minimal information.

Going Local: Peoria
Time for a change of plan. How about local information sources? Was there anything available at town or state level, that hadn't been opened up to the websites that I had been using?

Well, yes.

I found that the Peoria County Office has an online database of births, marriages and deaths, that covers the period I am looking for. I didn't find a marriage for Joseph and Dora, but they may have married in Chicago. Maybe it was not possible to have a Jewish wedding in Peoria; I have not yet checked establishment dates for Peoria synagogues, but I have seen elsewhere that couples sometimes had to travel to other towns to get a kosher marriage.

Sam and Moritz
But I did find a couple of birth records for them, that do name them both. This is the one for Sam:

Several points of interest:
- Dora and Joseph on the same document!
- Sam is shown as Dora's 3rd child; Abraham was born a year or so earlier, although there doesn't seem to be a record for him. This suggests that there must also have been another, earlier, child, that didn't survive.
- the address, 303 Gallatin Street, is confirmed by Directory entries for 1890 and 1891.
- Dora's maiden name, Zaturensky, is shown as 'Darengsky'. Love it!

There is another birth record, for Moritz, b 1894, shown as Dora's 4th child. He does not appear in the 1900 Census, where she says she had had 4 children, of whom 2 were living; these must be the two living with her, Abraham and Sam. The two who did not survive would thus be this Moritz, and the putative earlier child mentioned above.

Mr Kawin
And then I had a look in the deaths database.

- no given name, not even an initial!
- 36 years old, so born 1861; died 24 Dec 1897
- married
- 13 years in Illinois, so immigrated 1884 or earlier
- ill with tuberculosis for 5 years
- died at 221 Howett Street, in Peoria
- buried in the Jewish Cemetery, in Peoria

It has to be Joseph, all the dates fit with what we have seen for him in other documents. In particular, it shows him in Illinois only since 1884, whereas we have a passenger manifest for Jacob's immigration in 1871.

Further, I have just come across Joseph's entry in the 1897 Peoria Directory - as Joseph Kavan - that shows him at this address, 221 Howett Street. So he died at home, not in a hospital. Earlier Directories have him as a peddler, but the 1896 and 1897 lists show no occupation for him. It looks like his illness must have prevented him from earning a living.

It's puzzling that no given name is shown, as Dora was almost certainly in Peoria at the time of his death, and you would have thought that she would have been the informant.

If only we could find a similar record for Jacob.

Jacob in the Records
He's not in the Peoria death records, which were entered by hand in a register book, in chronological order, as they were reported. You have to assume that if a death is not in this book, it didn't happen in Peoria.

So where did he die? I tried Chicago. He doesn't appear in any Chicago - or other Illinois - records available online, so I tried the Illinois State Archives. They wouldn't let me in. Literally: 'the server where this page is located isn't responding'. I checked with people in the USA, and they can get in OK. Apparently some US archives are blocking access from Europe; it's something to do with the GDPR data protection scheme. Some kind friends did a look-up for me - but Jacob isn't there.

Jacob in the Trees
Time for an indirect approach. What had other researchers found? I had another look at references to Jacob in online Trees, and came across something I had noticed before - that a couple of them had him dying in San Antonio, Texas. Moreover, they had a specific date, 10 Feb 1897. This is the date shown on his headstone, and sometimes headstones can be wrong; however the Trees didn't show any other source to corroborate either the date or the place. I had not given much credence to San Antonio, presuming it probably referred to someone else. Why should he go to Texas? It's a thousand miles away. Maybe they were trying to expand their business down there? However, there don't seem to be any Kawins in the records there.

Going Local: San Antonio
Nevertheless, I checked San Antonio, expecting either I'd be blocked, as in Chicago, or draw a blank, as everywhere else. And guess what - they too, like Peoria, have a database, with records available which do not appear on the usual sites.

And guess what again?

In the entries for February 1897, there he is: J Kawin, 34 years old, married, native of Illinois. As far as they go, these biographical details more or less fit our man. It also tells us he'd been ill for a year, and had been in San Antonio for 9 months, which implies in turn that, if this is him, he'd have left Peoria around May 1896.

But, as we've seen, "our" Jacob's headstone is in a cemetery in Peoria, over 1000 miles away. Can this really be the same person?

What does the right-hand page tell us?

He died of heart failure due to pneumonia, on the 10th of February, which is the date that appears on his headstone and in the Trees I had seen. I have since seen that San Antonio was promoting itself as a spa resort around that time, with a couple of "Hot Sulphur Natatoriums". If Jacob had fallen ill a year or so earlier, around February, and then gone down to San Antonio in May - maybe he'd gone to take the waters?

He died at 503 Pinto Street, which seems to be a residential address, and his body was ...... Shipped to Peoria.

Jacob and Joseph
So here we have it. Issue resolved. Jacob and Joseph are two different people. Jacob died on 10 Feb 1897 in San Antionio, Texas, and Joseph died in Peoria 10 months later, on 24 December. Jacob's body was taken 1000 miles across America to be buried in the Jewish section of Springdale Cemetery in his home town Peoria; Joseph was buried in the "Jewish Cemetery" there, which may well be a reference to the same burial ground.

Joseph was the husband of Dora, my great-grandmother's sister. Jacob was not, and is probably not related to me at all.

Next steps
I now have to go back through all the material I have gathered on these families, everything I have written, the Trees I have constructed, the DNA matches I have attempted to analyse, review it all and re-write where necessary.

And attentive readers will recollect that there are still a number of documents I have not yet been able to find. I do not have passenger manifests for either Joseph or Dora; I do have one for Jacob, by the way, but I don't need that now, do I? I do not have a marriage record for them, nor birth records for their son Abraham or for the mysterious first child, nor a death record for the latter. Of course, some or all of these things may not have happened in Peoria, or in Illinois, or in the USA, even.

Two things I don't have for events that did happen in Peoria, are a death record for their 4th child Moritz, and the location of Joseph's burial. The latter could be particularly helpful, because if his grave has a headstone, it may carry his father's name, which in turn may help me work out whether he is related to Jacob's family.

I am currently consulting with some of the finest genealogical brains in Illinois. Hopefully they will be able to advise me where to go next. Watch this space.