My grandfather killed his cousin!

Last week, as a result of a friend looking up my ancestry, I discovered some weird stuff in the family tree. First of all, the name “Coyne” extends back to Ireland at least as far as the early eighteenth century, back to one John W. Coyne of Galway. And it could go even farther back than that. For years I’ve been telling people that the name “Coyne” must have been changed from “Cohen” or “Cohan” in recent times to masquerade someone’s Jewishness.  Further, it’s possible that the lineage of Coynes extending down to John’s grandson Peter Coyne, wasn’t Jewish at all. My cousin Jeff reported that the marriage of Peter to Pauline Zoffer in Brooklyn in 1874, though printed as a “Jewish wedding” in the papers, was actually a mixed marriage of a Jewish woman to a non-Jewish man, which caused great consternation in the Zoffer family.

What makes this weirder is that when I got my Y chromosome tested about ten years ago to see if I was a member of the Jewish kohanim tribe, I found out that although I wasn’t a member of this elite subgroup, my Y was definitely of Eastern European Jewish origin. Since my Y must have belonged to John W. Coyne and all his Coyne-ian ancestors, including my father (the Y is transmitted as if it’s attached to the father’s last name), it’s not clear why, if Coynes from John to Peter were gentiles, my Y was Jewish. (My dad was Jewish according to Jewish law, since his mother was Jewish.) I may get a fuller DNA test in the future.

Further, I found out that my uncle Emil—my father’s sister’s husband—was not Jewish, so that was a mixed marriage, too, even though a rabbi performed the ceremony. There’s clearly been some substantial outbreeding in my family tree.

The latest tidbit, which I mentioned a few days ago, was that my father’s dad sued what looked to be one of his relatives. This is from the Pittsburgh Press on August 1, 1928:

I asked my friend, who turns out to be a crack sleuth, to find out what happened with this lawsuit. And this is what was unearthed.

First, the Cinncinnati Enquirer from August 3, 1928, reports that the extradition request was successful:

 

And this, from the Uniontown, Pennsylvania Morning Herald exactly a week later:

The upshot: my paternal grandfather sued his own cousin, and the cousin died, surely from the stress! My grandpa killed his relative!

All I can say is “Oy gewalt!”

 

50 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Who says genealogy is boring!

    • Paul S
      Posted February 5, 2018 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      Good thing we aren’t an honor culture with sins of the father and all.

  2. Paul S
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    And he still didn’t get his money back.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Sometimes, actually most the time, you are better off not knowing the relatives…living or dead. Grandfather always told me, You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your relations.

    • Posted February 5, 2018 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      My father told me this as one of his nightly bromides: “Jerry, you can pick your nose but you can’t pick your relatives.”

      Another one: “I don’t know where Mom is, but we’ve got pop on ice.”

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 5, 2018 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

        You can pick your friends & you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose, were the words of wisdom I got.

      • freiner
        Posted February 5, 2018 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

        That second line might work in Chicago or Uniontown, but get too far east of Pittsburgh and there’s only soda in the fridge.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted February 5, 2018 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      “The nuts don’t fall far from the tree”. Thats’ the one I kept hearing when growing up.

      • Posted February 5, 2018 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

        In English the saying is “nuts don’t fall far from the tree” ? In Germany we grow up with: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”.

        • BJ
          Posted February 5, 2018 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

          Your version is actually the far more common saying here in the US, at least as far as I’ve heard.

  4. Posted February 5, 2018 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    There are worse ways to go than to “die fighting.”

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    and the cousin died, surely from the stress! My grandpa killed his relative!

    So … murder by shpilkes aforethought?

  6. Posted February 5, 2018 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I love this stuff. And it was not that long ago. It really makes me think of the momentum of change in our civilization in only a century. Routine actions are quite different today.

    Own of my own grandfathers was jailed for stealing food on a train to support his family (eight kids) on ranch. He was pardoned by the governor, set free, but had to walk or hitch most of his way back home. Not much safety net back then in society.

  7. Diana MacPherson
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Your family sounds as inwardly litigious as mine. My nana and her sisters, if they weren’t accusing one another of stealing things from their respective homes, they were suing or issuing restraining orders against one another.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted February 5, 2018 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      My last words with two of my siblings were with lawyers all around. One big happy family.

  8. Divalent
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Regarding that Y chromosome thing: by any chance was the milkman Jewish? 🙂

    • Posted February 5, 2018 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      Who ever heard of a Jewish milkman?

      • Bob
        Posted February 6, 2018 at 5:47 am | Permalink

        Tevye the Dairyman.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted February 5, 2018 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      When all the Jews were kicked out of the realm of the king of England in 1290, some just moved to another part of the country and changed their name. Also, Jews continued to come to there, but Anglicized their names and hid the fact they were Jews. They had to attend Catholic, and later, Anglican services, though many also worshiped as Jews in private. Often a member of the community with lots of money reserved a part of his house for use as a synagogue.

      But as children were born in England, and went to English schools where they were further taught as Christians, had Christian friends, worked as Christians etc, they often began to feel like English Anglicans rather than Jews.

      So the Coynes may have changed their name from Cohen, but much earlier in their history. Perhaps as far back as medieval times.

    • danstarfish
      Posted February 5, 2018 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

      Misattributed paternity is pretty rare. I recently read that the studies in the last decade that are using DNA to measure it have found a rate around 1% which is much lower than the 10% estimated rate that was often used in the past.

      The milkman can’t be ruled out, but I think it is much more probable that his Eastern European Y chromosome spent some time in Ireland.

      • loren russell
        Posted February 6, 2018 at 2:30 am | Permalink

        Misattributed paternity does seem to have a couple of times in the British royal family, judging from the genetic tests undertaken to identify Richard II’s remains.

  9. Posted February 5, 2018 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Just because he came from Ireland doesn’t mean that he wasn’t Jewish or at least of Jewish descent, and the change of Cohen to Coyne could have been to blend into Irish society.

    Genealogical research is fascinating as it uncovers a lot of family secrets. When I was researching some of my own family documents from the UK registry I discovered that my grandmother was pregnant with my uncle when she got married in the early 1920s. This was news to my mother as she never knew when her parents got married and it explained a lot of things that had been said and done when she was growing up.

    • Posted February 5, 2018 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I know that. There’s a Jewish genealogist in Galway that might be able to clarify things for me.

      • Linda Calhoun
        Posted February 5, 2018 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

        Jerry, I would encourage you to follow up with that genealogist.

        The genealogist from the Swiss Genealogical Society that I worked with was wonderful. She traced my family back to the 1600s, and uncovered a lot of great information.

        I got to meet her when we went to Switzerland three years ago, so I could thank her in person.

        L

  10. BJ
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    That headline suggested a much bloodier story!

    “Since my Y must have belonged to John W. Coyne and all his Coyne-ian ancestors, including my father (the Y is transmitted as if it’s attached to the father’s last name), it’s not clear why, if Coynes from John to Peter were gentiles, my Y was Jewish.”

    Perhaps this is a story involving a local milkman… 😉

    • Linda Calhoun
      Posted February 5, 2018 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      Isn’t it possible that the Coynes in Galway originally came from Eastern Europe?

      • BJ
        Posted February 5, 2018 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

        Sure, but I like my story better.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted February 5, 2018 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

          Hell, one good story’s worth a dozen true ones. 🙂

  11. Posted February 5, 2018 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    I am to afraid to do my geneology. I really don’t want to look at my past.

  12. Laurance
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    A grandfather in Uniontown PA, by golly! This is a “me, too” post. My paternal grandparents were in Uniontown, too!

    My daughter and I had plans back in October to take a day trip to Uniontown and go past Grandpa’s and Grandma’s house, and then to the cemetery to see if we could find the gravestones, because I wanted to check on dates. But I took a fall and broke my knee and spent five weeks in a wheelchair and them some more weeks on crutches and a walker, so that was the end of that. But when Spring comes we’ll make that day trip.

    My dad’s family was in Oak Park, out in your neck of the woods. My dad was a Penn State math professor and had degrees from the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois. Somewhere in this house I have his diplomas. I need to find them and see when and where he got which degree.

    One of my dad’s colleagues at Penn State was Teresa Cohen. She was very respected, eminent. I do believe she was one of the Kohanim.

    • Teresa Carson
      Posted February 5, 2018 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      How many Jewish women are named Teresa? When I moved to Long Island, someone told me that all the women she knew named Teresa were Italian or Irish (Catholics, of course).

      • Laurance
        Posted February 5, 2018 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

        I agree, Teresa sounds more like a Catholic name. But Dr. Cohen was really really Jewish, no doubt about it.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 5, 2018 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

        Named after Saint Teresa of Avila, no doubt, all those those distaff Catholics. (There’s another Saint Teresa of more recent vintage, as you’re no doubt aware; this one from Calcutta.)

  13. Jeannie Hess
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    According to dollartimes, $2.500 is worth $35,624.86 in today’s money.

    • loren russell
      Posted February 6, 2018 at 2:31 am | Permalink

      I think the suit was for $5000 — he promised to double it, yes?

  14. Posted February 5, 2018 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    So you are the beneficiary of some serious hybrid vigor then?

  15. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Off topic but I see another huge drop in the Stock Market today, over 1100 points. I’m sure Trump will be bragging about this soon since he took credit for all the rise. I hope no one was expecting to live off of the old 401k.

    • Posted February 5, 2018 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      That’s what, about 5% of the market’s value? In the run up to the Bush recession, the market lost 22% in one day.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted February 5, 2018 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

        Yes, but it is a one day record and Trump loves to be number one.

        • Posted February 5, 2018 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

          True dat, but this is just a market correction. No biggie. The real big implosion is still some ways down the road; we’ve learned nothing from the days of Bush, and Clinton before.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted February 5, 2018 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

            Bubbles have been the bane of free-market capitalism since “tulip mania” during the Dutch golden age, if not even earlier.

  16. Razib
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    i would be cautious about definitive conclusions about a y chromosome. though if you are J1 that’s kind of rare in a non-jew in eastern europe.

    any of the standard SNP tests could pick up non-jewish ancestry probably.

  17. Michieux
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    This is wonderfully fascinating!

  18. Posted February 5, 2018 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Crime story unfolds here – what title follows next?: The secret love affairs of my ancestors have been discovered in letters which were hidden in a public library -?

  19. John Conoboy
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Based on your first post, I checked with my brother, our family geneology buff,and he contacted our cousin who is in our family male Coyne lineage. His Y chromosome is R1a which is a haplogroup that can be traced to the Vikings, apparently. Not a big surprise as the Vikings raided Ireland.

    So there appear to be Coyne’s in the Galway area who are not Jewish and, it would seem, those that are. This puts to rest our family’s skeleton-in-the-closet story that we had Jewish ancestors who changed their name to Coyne.

    • Posted February 6, 2018 at 4:31 am | Permalink

      The evidence that the Y chromosome is ‘Jewish’ here is surely based on modern DNA not that of any ancestral population. Therefore, we cannot say that there was not ‘out-breeding’ in an ancestor in the male line, or someone who converted. After all, the Khazars became ‘Jewish’ by religious conversion, & they were Turkic (linguistically). I use inverted commas because I doubt the idea of Jewishness being a discrete population, rather than a cultural/religious population. If it were mitochondrial DNA that could be followed for ‘Jewishness’ – & I understand that it is considered as being inherited through the female line – that would be another matter.

      It is, indeed, a wise man who knows his own father!

  20. rickflick
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    What does a cousin share? 1/8 of your genes? Well, it’s clear that Joseph made a calculation and the $1200 edged out the 1/8 worth of kin selection. Seems pretty reasonable to me.

  21. Posted February 5, 2018 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    I am afraid and curious aswell to do my geneology.

  22. Posted February 6, 2018 at 4:21 am | Permalink

    I am not convinced that the Y chromosome that was claimed to be ‘Jewish’ is not in fact from earlier outbreeding in the ‘Jewish’ community. It only takes one slip between the sheets after all…

  23. Posted February 6, 2018 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Wow, my parents (who are into genealogy) haven’t encountered anything like *this* yet!


%d bloggers like this: