20 June 2014

Avrum's Women, Part 11: Garber Y-DNA = Lederman Y-DNA

From Wikipedia.org
Once upon a time there were four brothers who tried to avoid conscription in the Czar's army by taking different surnames. They believed that only-sons would not be taken and tried to hide their relationships. One kept the family surname: Utchenik. One took Garber; one Reznik; and one Lehman. Years later upon immigration to the United States, the Utchenik family headed west to settle in Michigan. The Garbers settled in New York and the Rezniks in New England. No one quite recalls what happened to the Lehmans. But, despite this subterfuge, they ultimately could not hide from their Y-DNA. 

I heard variations on this story (minus the DNA part) independently from my father, my uncle, and their first cousin. Many family historians have similarly apocryphal stories in their families. When I heard this one, I thought, "That's interesting," smiled knowingly and then cached it in the back of my brain in the unlikely event I might need it. Uh-oh.

During the last two years I've been working the angles with a reasonably exhaustive search through the records associated with the Greenfield/Lederman story. I started with just an unfamiliar name on a manifest and have been trying to determine how or if Feiga Liderman Grinfeld of Baranivka (aka Fannie Greenfield of Cincinnati) was related to my family (this is my tenth post in this series - see links, below).

In the last couple of posts regarding the Greenfields and Ledermans (here and here) I identified Fannie's brother as the Morris Lederman who:
  • was born in about 1892-3 to Levi Yitzchak Liderman and Frieda Simberg
  • married Rene Lewis-Cohen in New York City 1920;
  • lived in Detroit with Rene and their three children: daughters Marvel and Zena and son S.;
  • was buried in the Hebrew Memorial Park, Workmen's Circle, Turover Aid Section, Detroit, Michigan. He died 12 January 1954.
A helpful relative of Fannie's knew nothing of Ledermans. I  looked into possible Morris Lederman kin (but did not contact anyone) and, then, took a hiatus from this research. But, genealogy stops for no one. A few months ago, as a result of my blog posts I was contacted by another of Fannie's grandchildren who encouraged me by providing contact information for a Lederman cousin: Morris' son.

S. has been great. I learned a good deal more about Morris.  Immediately after World War I he was part of the Polar Bear Expedition in Archangel, Russia (that story deserves its own blog post!). He and Rene got together when he was in England recuperating from wounds and she was helping in the hospital. Fannie and Morris had another brother (Leon?) and sister (name unknown) who died in Europe. Morris' son shared some letters and post cards (written in excruciatingly small Yiddish script) from his grandfather (Levi Yitzchak) to his father. I was struck by the coincidence that my uncle Lenny Garber's Hebrew/Yiddish name was also Levi Yitzchak. But, best of all, S. agreed to do a cheek swab.

I already had a base for comparison with my Garber Y-DNA. I had convinced my brother J. and my father's first cousin, M., to collect samples for Y-DNA testing. Family Tree DNA placed both results in the T-M70 haplogroup - they, as expected, matched at 0 distance at 37 markers. The T-M70 Y-haplogroup is a relatively small group thus far in the Family Tree DNA test results population. In fact, J. and M. were each other's only exact matches. Other matches are only as close as 3 and 4 alleles distance (difference). Only one person matches at distance 3 and three at distance 4.

And S? As of this morning, J. and M. have another exact match on 37 markers: 0 distance. I now know that the Fannie Lederman Greenfield and Morris Lederman were Garber cousins. But, Lederman and Garber related along  fathers' lines? What goes on here?

The apocryphal story is starting to look better and better. I doubt the conscription aspect of the story - especially since the local Jewish community often selected those members of their community who would be taken for military service. Surely, just changing a surname would not fool many locals.  But it's reasonable to stay open to some aspects of family lore. While we may not be able to immediately document causation, we may be able to support evidence for surname changes.  

My father's first cousin, Sandra, seems to think that her grandfather, Avrum Garber, was the Garber sibling of the family story. If so, our further research needs to acknowledge that he was born about 1864 and Levi Yitzchak (whose daughter Feiga was born about 1878) was likely a bit older. Conscription rules and practices in effect during that time period will require additional research.

Several areas to be pursued:
  • Research 19th Century Jewish conscription practices. I know they were not uniform over time. Could they have been associated with family Jewish name changes?
  • I have ordered an autosomal (FamilyFinder) test for S. and already have test results for M. and me. Our results, according to Family Tree DNA, are consistent for first cousins. The test may provide information relevant to the closeness of our relationship with S. (I hope to see the results of his test in the next week or so).
  • Exhaust the possibilities of records in eastern Europe. It's unlikely there are relevant records for this Russian Empire part of Volhynia Gubernia in today's Ukraine. But, never say never. The Routes to Roots website, which documents archival collections for a variety of communities in eastern Europe, indicates that there are several collections that include Baranivka records. None relate to the time period that I really need: about 1870s to 1920. But, I will be going after whatever I can find for both Baranivka and the Garber shtetl of Labun. I have traced Utcheniks to Zhvil (Novograd Volynsky) and Polonnoye. I need records from those places, as well.
  • Find Utcheniks to test. I have already researched the Utchenik family who settled in Detroit. This is an unusual surname and other Utcheniks who settled in other areas of the USA are likely related to them. I contacted a couple of Utchenik researchers a few years ago. They knew of no similar story. But, now, I think I need to find someone for a Y-DNA and autosomal test.
Of course there could be other explanations for why these related men bear different surnames. Perhaps there was what we euphemistically call a "non-paternal event." Or perhaps it may be explained by the procedures by which Jewish families in this area of the Russian Empire acquired their surnames at the beginning of the nineteenth century. I will examine those alternatives in a future post.

In the meantime, I'm starting to believe in fairy tales!
Posts in this series:
Avrum's Women, Part 2: Feiga Grinfeld
Avrum's Women, Part 3: Following Feiga (and Raya)
Avrum's Women, Part 4: The Trouble with Harry
Avrum's Women, Part 5: Finding Feiga 
Avrum's Women, Part 6: Added Confirmation
Avrum's Women, Part 7: Feiga's Family
Avrum's Women, Part 8: Fannie's Story  

Avrum's Women, Part 9: Fannie's Brother Morris
Avrum's Women: Part 10, Morris Lederman - Who's Your Mama?
Avrum's Women, Part 12: Finding Family with Family Finder  
Avrum's Women, Part 13: Bond of Brothers  


  1. Replies
    1. Ha! (As you know, Utchenik - great name - can be translated as "student.")

    2. Actually, I recall now that utchenik is closer in meaning to the word disciple.

  2. Great post, enjoyed reading about the family fairy tale. It almost makes you want to advise young adults about the Jewish inherited diseases. My son's father is a carrier of Tay Sachs and I am a carrier of Cystic Fibrosis. Here is a link about them https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Health/genetics.html

    Thank again for keeping this blog going

    1. Interesting. But, it's important to know that Family Tree DNA does NOT do health screenings associated with genetic diseases. Theirs is only for genealogical (non-health use). Another genetic testing firm (23 and Me) did genealogy and health screenings up until several months ago when that was stopped by the FDA.


Comments on posts are always welcome but will be approved before posting. I actually prefer to just let people comment without going through this rigmarole, but I've recently had to delete some posts that I had not vetted before publication. So, please don't be offended. I love to hear from you!