Tuesday, May 22, 2007

DNA testing, the Dershowitz Surname Project

Last fall, I became interested in DNA testing as a tool for genealogical research.  I did some probing and found that Family Tree DNA had an existing surname project for Dershowitz and variations.  There were only 2 members at that time.  Since my family history research had hit a dead end I thought I would try the DNA approach and see what insights I might gain.

I spoke with Barbara Leibell who was the project administrator at the time to get more information on the testing process and what had been found in the results thus far.  I decided to go for it.  I ordered a 67 marker Y-DNA test kit through the surname project.  There is a substantial cost saving doing it this way.  The kit arrived within a week.  The sample collection is very simple using cheek swabs.  The kit was sent back and my first 12 marker results were out in October.  I found I was an exact 12 marker match with a gentleman in the surname project descended down through the Dershowitzs of Pilzno, Poland.  This was really exciting news!  The Dersh*witz surname is very rare and I would expect some common ancestor but wasn't prepared for an exact match.

As time went on the rest of the results came in.  I convinced the other member of the project to upgrade their test to 67 markers which can be done on the existing sample.  When all the results came back, we found we were a 66/67 marker match (a later retest showed a 67/67 match).  The only difference was in a fast mutating location.  This showed a very high probability of a common ancestor within 5-8 generations.  I also had the Deep SNP testing done to confirm my haplogroup which turned out to be J1.

Since the surname project had not really seen much activity I asked Barbara if she would be willing to take me on as a co-administrator to help with promotion and put up a public website.  She suggested that I just take over the project so we had ftDNA take care of the change.  In the last week I've put up a bare bones surname project website at http://www.ftdna.com/public/dershowitz/ to display project related news and Y-DNA results.

I recently convinced my cousin Marty Dershewitz to join the project to provide a second data point for our line.  Cousin Maimoona was able to get Greg Dersh to join as well.  I will be working on putting together a list of all male Dersh*witz I can find and try and solicit more participation.  Hopefully we can promote more interest.

Stay tuned for results.

New cousins found.....

Well it's been almost a month since my last post so I guess it's time to do some catching up.  Quite a bit has happened.  After getting in touch with Rachel Bernstein, a genealogy researcher, I discovered I have three previously unknown second cousins scattered around the US.  All are grandchildren of my grandfather Solomon's brother, Joe Dershowitz.

Maimoona Ahmed (Myrna Mintz, daughter of Sylvia Dershowitz Mintz) lives in California in the East Bay with her husband Nazeer.  She has 2 children, Ameena and Akbar, the same ages as mine.  We have spoken on the phone and find we have much in common, especially family.  Maimoona was able to bring a whole different perspective to my Dersh*witz family search.  A couple bits of history that were especially interesting to me were her mention of her great-grandmother, Mindel Frey and that Joe Dershowitz was born in Bobowa.  This provided a cross check that the birth registration I had found for Biene Marjem Dersiewicz, daughter of Aron Dersiewicz and Emilie Frei of Labowa was indeed the missing link in confirming my great-grandfather's identity.  I will be travelling down to the Bay Area in July and plan to meet Maimoona and her family then.

Karen Sandler (daughter of Blanche Dershowitz Mironov) lives in Pennsylvannia.  I got her hooked up through Skype and we have chatted a bit.  Also found out about Gregory Dersh (son of Marcus Dersh(owitz)) living in Des Moines, Iowa.  Maimoona recently reconnected with him.  He is one of the few directly descended male Dersh*witzs.

What started out as a search for Dersh*witz roots has blossomed into a discovery of family here and now.  What a pleasant surprise.......