The Mysteries of Genealogy

Whenever you research genealogy and family history, there are mysteries. Sometimes solving mysteries means discovering new mysteries. But I think researching Jewish history means encountering more difficulties and, hence, mysteries than most other Western culture genealogy. The documents are difficult to locate–if they exist today at all. And there are obstacles all over the path toward success.

A mystery we have right now is where Celia Goodstein Scheshko was born and grew up before immigrating to the United States as a teen. The gardener was told by both his father and his father’s cousin Charlotte that she was from Odessa. There was no mention that she and Isidore might have come from the same city/town.

At first, Inna thought that Isidore probably was from Odessa and then his family moved to Tiraspol, moving back eventually to Odessa. This is based on addresses given on various documents. But finding Shimel Sheshko in Tiraspol during the famine in 1922 makes me think the family had stayed in or gone back to Tiraspol. The timeline is a mystery.

Still, if Celia was from Odessa, it would be clear that she and Isidore came from the same place. And if she were from Tiraspol, it would be the same situation.

There is a death record for Khaim, son of Borokh Gutstein, among Tiraspol cemetery records. Khaim was born in 1897, so if he were Celia’s brother it would make sense because she was born in or around 1892. According to Celia’s headstone, her father’s name was Baruch Goodstein.

The gardener took a DNA test with Ancestry, and I added it to FTDNA also. He has five matches for Goodsteins on Ancestry and four on FTDNA, but that doesn’t mean much of anything. The closest match is a match through his mother, not his father, so Goodstein is likely a coincidence. He has no Sheshko matches on either site.

Now here’s a DNA puzzle. I found a woman who has Sheshko lineage from Vasilishki. Later, Inna found the same woman. But there are no DNA matches between the gardener and this woman, a situation that is virtually impossible, given that Vasilishki was not more than a shtetl. Any Sheshkos would be related to each other.

It’s important to remember that with Jewish Ashkenazy DNA, there are many many matches, but they are very distant relations. Jews in the Pale of Settlement tended to marry within their own villages, even their own families, out of necessity. Inna explained that most of the gardener’s matches could only be found by tracing ancestry for both people back to the 1600s or earlier. This would be impossible. I know this sounds strange, but doesn’t that mean that it’s even more odd that he doesn’t have a DNA match with this woman? I am NOT good with the DNA science. It makes my head fuzz up inside.

I thought I’d leave you with images from Wikipedia of the Odessa Opera and Ballet Theatre building that was built in 1887, which is the same year that Isidore was born (also in Odessa). The gorgeous architecture shows you what a cosmopolitan city Odessa was.

 

28 thoughts on “The Mysteries of Genealogy

  1. Welcome to my world…. Seriously, on the DNA stuff, how distant a cousin would this woman possibly be? I am in no way and expert on DNA, and it does seem odd that they share no DNA since it seems all Jews share some with all others even if tiny amounts. But people who are experts always point out that since we only inherit half of each parents’ DNA, when we reach back several generations, even cousins might not share DNA since that cousin might have inherited the “other half” of an ancestor’s DNA than that inherited by you. You can ask on the DNA Newbies group on FB, but that’s at least my half-cocked understanding.

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    • That’s what I am thinking about the DNA, too. I used to think we always got approximately half and half from each parent, and I imagined it to be the same genes that would be inherited by each sibling, but not so! I think it’s possible not to have genes from a g-g-grandparents at all. Is that what you’ve heard?

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      • Yes, or very little. My brother and I share quite a bit of DNA, but nowhere near 100%. If we did, we’d be identical twins, which clearly we are not!

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  2. I’m not good on the DNA science, but my immediate thought was if there are no genetic matches then perhaps an ancestor of one or other was “adopted” into the family. I use quotes because there are so many cases of children being brought up to believe particular familial relationships only to find out later that these are convenient or necessary fictions. How many more never find out?

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    • It’s true–he is. I think it’s odd, too. You might consider taking your 23andme over to FTDNA, if they still accept 23andme. That would give you a “broader database,” so to speak. But I am not sure they still take 23andme. You’d have to check. It’s very easy to do.

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    • Yes, I agree. The building is beautiful. I thought it was interesting that it was ‘born” where and when Isidore was. it gives a little glimpse into the city at that time. It was probably a big deal that it was being constructed. There had been another building, but I think maybe it burned down (don’t quote me).

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  3. The Theatre is beautiful! A bright spot in your post for sure.

    May I recommend that you also transfer your husband’s raw DNA to MyHeritage? It’s free to transfer for now. I don’t love MyHeritage, but they are based in Israel. Maybe you will find a helpful match there? I’ve heard that they have a lot more European users than any of the other major genealogy sites. I don’t know how true that is, but I heard it from one of the VPs of MyHeritage, so hopefully, he was representing his company well.

    I think it’s odd that the gardener doesn’t match the descendant of Sheskos from Vasilishki. Does he have any siblings or first cousins on this side of the family that you could test? It’s true that you can completely lose all trace of a direct line ancestor in just a few generations (I wish I were a bit more science-y on this and could offer more details…) but European Jews are such an endogamous population that usually you are related in multiple ways. Su’s suggestion of “adoption” is a distinct possibility. Testing another known family member on this line could be helpful.

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      • Anne is absolutely right. I suppose I didn’t mean “odd” in a “they should match if they are related” sort of way. Just odd in a “you found yourself a possible relative after lots of digging and don’t happen to share DNA and that is a big bummer” sort of way. Totally non-science-y representation of the word odd. 😉

        I would still want to test other relatives on this same line to see if what you can learn – then absolutely dig into the science.

        And Anne is correct, test relatives on the other lines also. The more tests you can complete, the better.

        I have a strange one I am working on. Do you remember that crazy flow-chart I made of all the marriages etc on my Hyde line? (Don’t feel bad if you don’t.) We know that there were two children from an uncle/niece marriage. (Uncle/niece on paper, hoping to prove the relationship wasn’t biological but not holding my breath…) We also suspect that the father/grandfather of the uncle/niece was a bigamist and had two children with the second wife. Working through the DNA on the various branches has been fascinating. My Grandma matches a living descendant of the second marriage, but none of that shared DNA was passed on to my mom, uncle, or myself – which of course makes me extra glad that Grandma tested before she died. But now there is more to do. How complete is the tree of that living descendant? Do they match because of another shared ancestor? On which segments do they match, and do they also match the descendants of the uncle/niece and the other descendants of the father/grandpa and if so, on which segments? And all of that was a big long ramble to back up Anne’s point that “Not sharing DNA does not mean you are not related but just you didn’t inherit the same segments.” I’m so glad that I have tests from several family members to work with. It really helps. Even though I prefer the paperwork digging and using the right side of my brain. Haha! 😉

        So take Anne’s advice and test as many of the gardener’s relatives as you can.

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      • WOW! Imagine that: in that one generation between your grandma and your mom that DNA was “lost.” My conception of DNA, while still very very fuzzy, is so different than it was at the beginning of all this! I’ll be eager to see how your story shakes out when you’re done figuring it out! The lady the gardener doesn’t match with, by the way, is just as assumption of being family because she comes from Sheshkos from Vasilishki, just as Isidore’s father did. But already, the gardener is 3 generations from removed from him, right? She would also be 3 or 4 generations from somebody who was related to the gardener’s great-grandfather, so the connections could be back another 2 or 3 generations before that, quite easily.

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      • Yes it is. However, I think we will start to see a shift in some people. When you consider some of the other genealogy expenses people are willing to fit into their budgets, testing the right person is often a real bargain by comparison.

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      • Anne, thank you so much for pointing this out. Right now I am hoping that a person Inna tracked down will take a DNA test. If she’s a match, then the fact that the other one isn’t is not a concern. I will study the link you posted and hope I can understand it!

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    • I thought it was cool that the theatre was built the same year Isidore was born! LOVE this idea about MyHeritage. I’ll check it out right away. Thanks, Amberly!!! Only Isidore and Malka came to the U.S. that we know of. Malka had one daughter who did not have any children. Isidore had his son and his daughter. Each had two children and then there are grandchildren. Other than that, there isn’t anybody. However, Inna found another lady who is related to the Scheshkos in Vasilishki, and she is a grad student who is considering getting a DNA test. I am hoping that she decides to do so! It would be so helpful.

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  4. There are so many family stories that we “know” are true, but aren’t; a lot of what I have heard about my mum’s family is not true. The Squire looks as if he is part First Nations, and his grandfather could have passed for Chief Joseph. We can’t find the DNA to prove it. Other times we inherit genes a sibling doesn’t, which creates a different monster. Our two oldest girls do not have identical DNA, which has led to the younger of the two – oh, never mind! It’s a mess, that’s all I can say!

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    • Oh, boy, there is a story bubbling up! It is so strange about DNA. Sometimes physical traits show up after generations where they didn’t, too, which is really something!

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  5. Hi Luanne, WordPress told me that you took a look at my blog, and now I have read two of yours. You write beautifully about a subject that we are both passionate about! I share you feelings about the DNA – have spent time and come up with zero. But all other online venues have yielded amazing results – revelations and solutions to mysteries and myths. I write (as you might have seen) fiction about the late 1960s, so am just beginning to write about my family story. Please check back! Thanks for your blogs. Elise

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  6. Hi Luanne, Your blog caught my eye because you share the same first name as my sister and you both spell it the same way! Plus we too are originally from Michigan. It’s not often this happens.

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