Malka Becomes Molly

Isidore Scheshko’s sister Malka arrived in the United States before anyone else in her family. Or did she? According to the ship manifest, she was coming to her uncle, Berl Silberberg.

Malka was listed on 9 November 1907 on the ship S.S. Patricia out of Hamburg. See Berl’s name on page 2.

The gardener and his cousin have not heard of Berl Silverberg. Was he the husband of the sister of Malka and Isidore’s father, Shimen? Or was he Khaya’s sister’s husband? The family story has always been that Malka and Isidore were the only family members to immigrate to the United States. I can’t help but wonder if Berl really was an uncle or perhaps a friend or ex-neighbor. What was the likelihood of that happenstance?

There were Berl Silberbergs in the United States in those days, but the correct one has not tapped me on the shoulder yet.

Malka was listed as a seamstress, which is very likely, although nobody has a recollection of a story about that.

On the departure record, Malke listed her surname as Schiskin. I read a fascinating article about name changes, and how, contrary to mythic lore, surnames were not changed at Ellis Island. However, a surname might be changed by the individual on the ship manifest when they left Europe. The only record Ellis Island officials used to check someone’s identity was the ship manifest!!! And once someone was “on the ground” in the U.S., he could change his own name without any legal requirement for recording or permission!

So, the question is: did Malke change her surname purposefully? or was her name misheard by the person writing in the ship manifest?

Here is the Ancestry transcription of Malke’s manifest documents. The birth year here is 1887, rather than the actual 1885.

One oddity about the name Schiskin is that, while it is an easy error from Scheshko, it is also a portmanteau name for Scheshko + Riskin. And look who she married!

On 2 May 1915, Malka married Isaac Riskin. She is listed on this marriage record for the State of New York as 24 years old. That means that when she arrived she was only 16, whereas the manifest lists her as 20. But her birth record in Odessa shows her born in 1885, which would mean she was 22 when she immigrated and 30 when she married. On some of the census records, she shows her birth date as 1888 and 1889. None of those ages is out of the realm of possibility, and since we know the birth record I would say that the other documents are in error, either accidentally or purposefully.


In the right hand column above, second entry from the bottom, you will find Malka and Isaac’s marriage record. Isaac was 29, a merchant living in Portchester, New York. Malka was now going by the name Molly which she would use for the rest of her life. She has no occupation listed, which I find odd since she would have had to support herself. She was also living in Portchester. What brought her to Portchester?

Parents are listed for both parties. Israel Riskin and Carmina (no surname listed) for Isaac. Samuel Scheshko and Ida (no surname listed) for Molly/Malka. Samuel and Ida for Shimen/Shimel and Khaya. The witnesses were Harry Kasper and Meyer Johnick.

I so wish we had a photograph of the couple. Alas, we don’t have any of Molly/Malka and Isaac. But we do have photographs of their one child, Charlotte, who eventually married the love of her life, Danny Vendola. They lived in Stamford, Connecticut, until they passed away in 1995 (Danny) and 2007 (Charlotte). There were no children from their marriage.

Here is a photo from when Charlotte was on her own after Danny passed, and we visited her with our children, perhaps in 1995 or 96.


33 thoughts on “Malka Becomes Molly

  1. We have a Molly, too, who I think was Malka (or something like that). And there are several Charlottes.
    We were discussing some family history stuff on Christmas Eve day, and my mom said that some of the people when they arrived didn’t know their exact birthdays because they were on the Jewish calendar and they didn’t really celebrate them. Of course, she found out as an adult that the name on her birth certificate did not match the name she had always been known by–so this just might be my family not being very good at record keeping. Hahaha!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Molly/Malka seems to be a common name switch. Interesting about the Charlottes! It’s true what your mom says. Also, something I was going to mention and forgot is that a lot of people didn’t celebrate their birthdays because they were afraid of the Evil Eye.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I wonder if Charlotte is a standin for a certain Hebrew name?
        Such a shock to discover a completely different name on your mom’s birthday certificate! Was she born in this country or not?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, she was born here. I think her parents just said something–maybe in the hospital–and then they decided to call her something else. I guess considering they all had Jewish names and different American names, it probably didn’t even occur to them that it could be a problem. But now I’m going to have to go back and look at . .

        Liked by 1 person

      • That is really unusual, I think! But, yes, the different names does create more of a loosey-goosey thing with names haha. My kids have 3 sets of names: American, Hebrew, and Korean. That is enough to give somebody multiple personalities haha!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful post. I just lit up when I saw the beach picture of Charlotte and Danny! Very interesting the Schesko and Scheskin and then marring a Riskin. I am wondering if the endings could have anything to do with gender m/f. I have found that to be true in some names in my tree however I can’t think of one example as I write (darn it) – Loved seeing Charlotte with your children!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Aren’t they an adorable couple?! Danny was born in 1915 in Castelgrande, Italy. I have never heard that about name changes by gender until I just read the novel The Prague Sonata and discovered that the Czech surname is different for the woman because ova is added to the end of the husband’s surname! I had no idea hah. Charlotte loved the kids. She kept their school and dance photos on her TV.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That is so sweet about the photo’s on the TV. Beautiful couple! I remember the name ends I noticed were on the Polish endings of surnames identifying either male or female and I think married or not as well. It’s all so much fun! Happy New Year Luanne!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. So many questions. I think one or both of my g-parents listed a family member in the U.S. ( if these really were my g-parents who I found on ships’ manifests). Were these real family members or made up? Who knows? My grandfather did change his name, and it was a goofy name change, if you ask me. A cousin and I are both named after Grampa’s fake name “William.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s astonishing to discover how little red tape there really was in those days. I’m sure they thought there was a lot of red tape, but compared with now, very little. Do you know your grandfather’s birth name? And where he came from? I’d love to know more!


  4. Possibly Itzak Kohn. Possibly somewhere near Salzburg, Austria. That’s a bit vague, wouldn’t you say? He was always changing his name. On a U.S. Census sheet, he’s William H. Kahn — H for Henry (Ford), I presume. But on his gravestone, he’s Ignatius William Kahn. In my grandmother’s obituary, he’s William Kahn.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful photos of Charlotte—as a young woman and as an older woman. I wonder why she didn’t have children of her own.

    I agree- the birth record is the most reliable record of Malka’s birth—people lied so often on manifests and on the census and on marriage records. My great-aunt said she was born in 1904 on a marriage record, and I know she was born in 1897. And her father had died in 1901….

    I can’t read the manifest clearly enough to see if Berl’s address is listed. I assume you have searched for him?

    And one other thing jumped out at me—my grandfather sailed on the SS Patricia out of Hamberg three years before Malka!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yes, Canal Street is a major street in lower Manhattan. Today it separates Tribeca (Triangle Below Canal) and Soho. I would guess that Berl lived on the eastern end of Canal back then because most Jews lived in the Lower East Side.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I LOVE the photo of Charlotte and Danny on the beach! They look so happy and she is very beautiful. Immigration stories fascinate me. I have never been able to find an immigration record for John Costello. His Alien File was no help, he signs it as Juan and John. I hear he was Castilla in Spain but so far, no luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That must be so frustrating. is it harder to search in Spanish records than some others? Or is it just that John is so elusive? I am reading White Like Her by Gail Lukasik. Have you read it yet? It’s a memoir about the writer’s search for her ancestors and about racial passing. So interesting in so many ways, including the different culture in Louisiana (from the non-southern US) over the past two hundred years.
      Yes, I too love this photo of Charlotte and Danny. They look so adorably happy together! Charlotte had a very distinctive beautiful face, even when she was elderly, as you can see.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It is frustrating. I haven’t even tried to search Spanish records yet because I don’t have a place to search. All I know is Barcelona, but it’s a large city and a county so… I have no idea where to begin. Sigh. I think I may try to hire a researcher one of these days.

        I haven’t read that. It sounds fascinating and a lot like what Grandpa Costello must have been up to.

        Yes! Very distinctive and beautiful. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

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