Or is it just that these holiday family gatherings precipitate and germinate the idea of using science for family history?
Herb Huebscher's project - just announced on Tracing the Tribe - is on the Loeb family and descendants of the MaHaRal of Prague. And here's another one which also has a connection to the MaHaRal.
A genealogist for 20 years, Rachel Unkefer is calling all males with the surname variants of Bacharach, Bachrach, Bacherach, Backrach or any other variant spelling, or even if the family held that surname in the past.
She created the new Bacharach DNA Project to determine which of the far-flung branches of the Bacharach/Bachrach families originated with a common progenitor.
Her personal interest originates in her husband's family tree. His grandmother descended from the Bacharachs of Fellheim and Osterberg in Swabian Bavaria/
As Rachel contacted other Bacharach researchers, she met many descendants of the Bavarian family, in addition to groups in German towns (Mansbach and Kestrich) and others from Eastern Europe.
So far, she has some results back and have matches for Bachrach descendants from two different towns, with more information at the family website:
-- 2 men trace ancestry to Kestrich, HesseAvailable information, writes Rachel, is that there were Bacharachs in Fellheim in the 1600s and in Kestrich at least as early as the 1700s.
-- 1 man traces ancestry to Frielendorf, Hesse
-- 1 man traces ancestry to Fellheim, Bavaria (Bavarian Swabia)
Results reveal that the current four participants all match 12/12 on the first 12 markers:
-- Kestrich and Frielendorf match 25/25 on the first 25 markers.Anyone with the simple criteria of having a Bacharach or variation name is welcome to participate in this project, based at FamilyTreeDNA.com. A simple Y-DNA test may provide a connection to a long-lost or far-flung branch of your family.
-- Kestrich and Frielendorf match 24/25 with Fellheim.
-- Fellheim matches 35/37 with Kestrich.
About other surnames: Rachel reports that while looking at matches for the participants, they found those with other surnames (in the FTDNA database) whose markers matched exactly or extremely closely, who had no knowledge of any connection to the Bacharach or variant name. Most listed the generic "Russia" as a geographic identifier.
The matches so far are rather close, and indicate rather clearly that the men share a common ancestor, around 400-600 years ago. Several more tests are in the works and results will appear on the the family site.
Why the Bacharachs? Who are they?
Perhaps participants may be part of the rabbinic Bacharach family, whose most famous ancestor was Yair Chayim Bacharach of Worms, an eminent Talmudist who was also a descendant of the Maharal of Prague.
The Jewish Encyclopedia entry provides some information:
"A name frequent among German Jews. From the 12th, or at any rate from the 15th century, the name Bacharach, in various spellings — as Bacharach, Bachrach, Bachrich, etc. — is found among the Ashkenazim in all parts of Europe. All individuals bearing the name hardly form one family, for the name merely indicates that the family either derived its origin from the city Bacharach in Rhenish Prussia, or that one of its ancestors was at one time a resident of that place.... "Could there be some connections among these families?
If you'd like to participate, know a male who should participate, or just want more information, go to the Bacharach Family DNA website, or write to Rachel.