Isidore in the Czar’s Army

Recently, I was able to find Isidore Scheshko’s WWI draft registration. This, of course, complements the photo of Isidore in his U.S. Army uniform that was recently colorized.

The family story from the gardener’s father was that Isidore served in the “Czar’s army” before immigrating to the United States–and that he then signed up four years after arriving in the U.S. to fight on behalf of his new country in WWI.

This document does confirm that story.

If you notice, it says that he was a private in the Marine corps in Russia for 3 1/2 years.

Now, I will say that it’s unlikely that he, being Jewish, was in the actual Marines in Russia.While the Russians were very thorough about making sure young Jewish men were forced to serve, they generally would be in the army and serve under very awful conditions.

I found this information from The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe:

Between 1874 and 1914, there were more Jews in the Russian army than non-Jews in proportion to the general population. For example, in 1907, Jewish soldiers constituted almost 5 percent of the entire military but only 4 percent of the population of the empire.

Isidore was born in 1887, although January 26, not December 28 as listed here, making him almost a year older than he may have thought. I say that because it’s likely that he didn’t actually know the date of his birth. So let’s say he was conscripted at age 16 (the age at which Jews were conscripted ranged from age 12!!! to 25 and the term could last for 25 years or more! To give you a sense of the whole picture, non-Jews could not be conscripted until age 18!) and served for 3.5 years. He would have been done by age 20. If he was conscripted at 18 he would have been 22 when he was discharged. (I use discharged loosely because we have no way of knowing how he left the Russian army).

During the period that Isidore would have served, the far right in Russia was arguing that Jews should be banished from the military; however, it did not happen. I suspect it could have made things even more difficult for Isidore, though, because it could have fueled anti-Semitism toward Jewish soldiers.

If you have information to share on this subject of Jewish soldiers in the army of the Russian Empire, I would love to know more.

 

Isidore in Living Color

Last week I showed you how Val Erde at Colouring the Past was able to take Celia Goodstein Scheshko’s photo and add color.

This week I asked her to take Isidore Scheshko’s U.S. Army photograph and do the same thing. Note that these photos have the same background and might have been taken in preparation for their wedding in 1919.

Here is the photograph I gave Val to work on. Note that it is the best I had, but not an original photo.

Now see what Val did with it!

Any idea what that X on his sleeve means?

Here are Celia’s photos once again. Note that the background and floor are the same, but the more Val worked with the background the more she learned about it. These interpretations are different, although similar.

The original image:

And here is the photo after Val’s work on it.

 

The amount of research, knowledge, and artistry that Val puts into the photographs is remarkable.

Don’t tell the gardener about these. I’m ordering prints for his birthday!

Celia in Living Color

Last fall I took the B&W challenge on Facebook and took pix of my everyday life in black and white instead of in color. I loved the focus on shapes and the balance of light and dark. The idea was not to include any people in the photos.

And I can see why not. There is just something about color that brings people to life. That is why our antique black and white or sepia photos of ancestors are wonderful to have, but really just give us an “outline” of the individuals.

So I asked Val Erde at Colouring the Past to take Celia Goodstein Scheshko’s photo and add color. Wow, look at the difference!

Here is the original image:

And here is the photo after Val’s work on it.

See how pretty she looks! And now those nifty two-toned boots show up even better.

I feel myself getting hooked on this. I wish I could have all my old photos colored!

Where Did their Surnames Come From?

Long before the gardener and I ever thought of researching his family history, we would mention the possible etymology or origins of the surname Scheshko (Sheshko). When we were still dating he explained that he had been told it meant sword-maker or metal worker.

Did that turn out to be true or not? And now that we have more surnames, what are their origins?

The expert on Jewish surname etymology is Alexander Beider who was born in Moscow in 1963. According to Wikipedia, “in 1986 he graduated from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and in 1989 he received a PhD in Applied Mathematics from the same institution. Since 1990, he lives with his family in Paris, France.”

He is a scholar of Yiddish given names and of the history of Yiddish itself, as well as of Jewish surnames. He co-authored the Beider–Morse Phonetic Name Matching Algorithm with Stephen P. Morse.

Wikipedia lists his main works this way:

  • Beider, A. 2017. A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Maghreb, Gibraltar, and Malta. New Haven, CN: Avotaynu.
  • Beider, A. 2015. Origins of Yiddish Dialects. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Beider, A. 2009. Handbook of Ashkenazic Given Names and Their Variants. Bergenfield, NJ: Avotaynu.
  • Beider, A. & Morse, S. P. 2008. Beider–Morse Phonetic Matching: An Alternative to Soundex with Fewer False Hits. Avotaynu: The International Review of Jewish Genealogy 24/2: 12-18.
  • Beider, A. 2005. Scientific Approach to Etymology of Surnames. Names: A Journal of Onomastics 53: 79-126.
  • Beider, A. 2004. A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Galicia. Bergenfield, NJ: Avotaynu.
  • Beider, A. 2001. A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names: Their Origins, Structure, Pronunciation, and Migrations. Bergenfield, NJ: Avotaynu.
  • Beider, A. 1996. A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland. Teaneck, NJ: Avotaynu.[“Best Judaica Reference Book” award for 1996]
  • Beider, A. 1995. Jewish Surnames from Prague (15th-18th centuries). Teaneck, NJ: Avotaynu.
  • Beider, A. 1993, 2008. A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire. Teaneck, NJ: Avotaynu.

We are most interested in this last text because it lists Jewish surnames from the Russian Empire.

Shimel (Shimen) Scheshko is seated in the center of the photograph. His children are all Scheshkos, of course, and Isidore is standing behind his father.

The mother was born Khaya Brana Pechnik. We learned this from their marriage record.She came from Kupil, which was in the Khmelnitsk province of Western Ukraine. The records in that area that are needed to research Khaya’s family have not survived, but there might be something in the Zhitomir records. Since this is getting closer to the area that the gardener’s mother’s family came from, we will wait and do the search for Khaya’s family at that time as it seems more time-efficient.

We know that Isidore married Celia Goodstein, so we can add that surname to the mix. And now we have information that Celia’s mother’s surname was Suskin. At least that is what Max Goodstein’s death certificate lists as his mother’s maiden name.

This is what Inna reported that Beider wrote about the name Scheshko/Sheshko:

Jews with the Sheshko surname lived in Ukmerge (old name Vilkomir) town that is located in Lithuania, Lida, Belarus, Village Sheshki in Panevėžys district of Lithuania and village Sheshki in Ashmyani district of Belarus. Here are spelling variations of this surname: Shesko, Shesik, Sheshkin(Sheskin, Seskin, Shestkin), Sheshkovich, Sheskovich.

Of course, this means that the name does not mean sword maker or metal worker at all, but is a name derived from a place. On the other hand (because I love to quote Tevye), I asked a Russian friend about it, and she mentioned that there is a type of sword that sounds like Scheshko. It’s called Shashka or Shasqua, and it’s the Cossack sword! When I think of Ukraine, I tend to think Cossacks. What a coincidence . . . . Or not.

Here’s an image from Wikipedia:

Now on to Pechnik. Inna says that according to Beider:

Jews with Pechnik surname lived in Brest, Slonim, and Mogilev. Pechnik in Russian means stove setter. Here are the spelling variations of this surname: Pechnyuk, Pechikov, Pichkar’, Pichkar.

Stoves are metal, so I have to wonder if the idea of the origins of Scheshko came from the name Pechnik. Impossible to know for sure, of course. And it’s still possible, I suppose, that Scheshko has a different meaning.

According to Inna:

According to A. Beider’s Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Russian Empire, Jews with Gutshtejn surname lived in Belostok, Kobrin, Kamenets. The following are spelling variations of the surname: Gutenshtejn; Gitenshhtejn (Gitinshtejn), Gitshtejn  (Gidshtejn). The surname means good stone or hat + stone (Utshtejn)

The Americanized form is Goodstein.

Now take a look at the name Suskin. Wow, isn’t that similar to Seskin, which is one of the versions of Scheshko. This is getting pretty confusing, but there could be an explanation for the name beyond Scheshko.

Beider dictionary has no record of Suskin surname. The closest one would be Sushkin. It was found in Polotsk and Mogilev. This toponymic surname traces back to the village of Sushki. Spelling variations are as follows: Asushkin, Sushkovich (Suskovich, Shushkovich), Sushkevich, Ashushkevich.

The spelling variations are maddening, of course. It’s impossible to know for sure, and the point at which these surnames became “affixed” to a particular family would probably be before records for eastern European/Russian Jews would be available so the place of origin for toponymic names would not be helpful except as a point of interest.

For that reason, the only way to track down where these branches came from is through actual records, such as the Odessa birth records that show where Shimel and Khaya came from before winding up in Odessa and Tiraspol.

On another note, I recently discovered that artist Marc Chagall (one of my favorites) was born Moishe Segal in what is now Belarus, from the same region as some of the gardener’s branches. He was born in Liozna in 1887, the same year Isidore was born.

Chagall’s parents

Postcards from Abroad

Once upon a time I posted on my other family history blog, The Family Kalamazoo, a story about Isidore Scheshko. I am going to repost it here so that has a home where it best belongs.

The gardener’s paternal grandfather, Isidore Scheshko, was born 26 January 1887 in Odessa, Ukraine, but ended up serving the United States army in WWI (and survived the war).

A little over a month before his 27th birthday, Isidore arrived in New York City, planning to become an American citizen.

Four years later, on 23 November 1917, Isidore joined the U.S. Army and two months later was sent overseas for 13 months. His discharge information states that he was not wounded.

What the paperwork doesn’t say is that he was gassed during WWI–something that happened to a great many soldiers during that war. After that, he had a bad stutter. The only person he could speak to without stuttering was his wife, my husband’s grandmother, Celia. Originally, my research didn’t show that the long-term effects of mustard gas include neurological problems, but now I find that indeed it can cause debilitating neurological symptoms.

The gardener says that Isidore was also in the Czar’s army before he immigrated to the U.S. I think he’s a hero for joining up so soon after coming to this country, especially since he had already served in Russia. After all, he was trying to support himself and learn English and he had a girlfriend (yes, Celia).

When I posted about this subject on the other blog, readers seemed sure that this is a U.S. Army uniform from WWI.  His legs are in puttees (thank you, Su Leslie).

 

We have a couple of postcards he sent to Celia while he was away. Here is one from 8 September 1918.

Then two months later:

Notice that he spells Celia’s name Sealie. And his own first name without the E at the end. The fine print legible underneath Isidore’s handwriting is the printed card itself, not postmark information. I don’t know where he was when this was sent, but it was in the middle of the period where he was “overseas.” It might seem surprising that after only four years in the United States, Isidore could write so well in English, but we do believe he wrote these cards himself. In fact, the gardener is sure he wrote them himself. From the first card to the second, he apparently learned that it’s “I before E except after C.”

There is no way to tell from these upbeat notes to “Sealie” that Isidore had been gassed or had, in fact, seen any “action.”

Isidore’s trade as a young man in America was a house painter, and when I think of the fumes he dealt with after he had gone through the gas in the war, it makes me wonder how he lived until 1953. But he didn’t stay a painter; within a few years, he and Celia owned a candy store in Sutton Place in Manhattan where his daughter (my husband’s aunt) went to school for a time with Anderson Cooper’s mother, Gloria Vanderbilt. That didn’t make him rich, but considering what happened during the famine and then WWII in Odessa and Tiraspol, he did well by immigrating to the United States.

Frustrations in Genealogy (What’s New?)

This post is just to mention that I’m at a frustrating point. Now that we have the names of the Goodstein cousins of Celia, it should be easy to track the families down to the present.

Inna made headway finding the descendants of Rose and Isidore, but they have not responded to our attempts to contact them. Rose’s son Stanley is about 92, and he could possibly have information to share since he is the oldest family member that we know about.

It was also quite a bonus to find that Max traveled to the United States to meet his brother-in-law Max, but the other Max’s surname continues to elude us. Here is a cropped version–Max’s name is on the third actual dotted line. I want to know what the surname says AND what the street name and number are.

Here is the complete document that the cropped portion comes from.

Anna’s relatives in the United States (if that is what is meant by brother-in-law of Max) will continue to be a brick wall until these two words can be deciphered. Any ideas? The street is not Stone, after all.

Yet another frustration is that the DNA match attempts with Scheshkos from Vasilishki has been inconclusive. One of them was compared on Gedmatch, and there is a DNA match, but so small it could be “noise.” The other person has been “unavailable” since I asked for a Gedmatch comparison.

Further Tiraspol and Odessa records continue to elude Inna at this point.

But we know there was family alive in the sixties because Celia was writing to them. The only clue we have is this headstone for Khaim Gutstein, 1897 to 1974. It’s in Tiraspol.

Inna translated the inscription:

To dear father from grieving children, grandchildren, daughter-in-law, and nieces.

That would mean a large family alive in 1974, possibly in Tiraspol. Will we ever discover if there is a connection to Celia?

All that trouble Celia and her relatives took to write to each other, although the censors cut out huge portions of their letters. I like to think Celia would like it if we can find the descendants of her relatives.

Celia’s Cousin Rose

That is Celia, standing in the back row, second from left. To her left (our right) is her cousin Rose (born Reisel).

Let’s take a look at the 1910 census (originally posted in “Celia’s Uncle Max and Family”). Seventeen-year-old Rose is an “operator” in a “waist shop.” There is a second page, where Celia is listed as “Jennie” and 19-years-old. She is also listed as an operator in a waist shop.

So what was a waist shop? Think of it as a blouse shop. They sold shirtwaists.

What was an operator then? Did the girls work together in this shop? If so, did they make the shirtwaists or did they sell them? I’m guessing that since this was right after Celia arrived, and the family trade seems to have been seamstress/tailor, that the girls sewed the blouses.

Because of something that Amy Cohen mentioned below, I am adding a link here to information about the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. History: Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. It is possible that the place where Celia and Rose worked is similar to this place or a smaller version perhaps. The fire that killed 146 people (mainly young women) occurred in 1911, just one year after the 1910 census. Just one or two years after Celia arrived. I hadn’t put it together until Amy mentioned Triangle, but family lore is that Celia became a bit of an Emma Goldman, standing on a crate and lecturing to people about the need to form unions.

In order not to be complicated here, I am going to skip to the 1925 New York State census to show you something very interesting and gives an idea of how close Celia and Rose became.

This first one is Max’s census report. It shows Max and Anna living with their children Harry, Grace, and Silvia. Presumably, the others have grown up and moved out.

In this second one, we have Celia living with her husband Isidore and their 4-year-old son, Murray. Daughter Eileen has not yet been born, although Celia would have been pregnant with her when the census was taken.

There is a duplication of names on this document, so be careful. Glance at about halfway down on the left side. Look who is living as boarders with Celia and Isidore! Rose and her husband Isidore Cohen and their 5-year-old daughter Grace!

So the two couples lived together with their first children. Imagine! This information was not passed down in the family at all. In fact, none of us had even heard about Rose or this other Isidore!

One note: notice that Rose has a sister and a daughter named Grace. How can that be, given that Jews name their children after deceased relatives? Anna’s mother was Gertruda Yaglovsky, so we believe that Rose’s sister was named after her, her maternal grandmother. It’s possible that Rose named her daughter after Goldi/Gittel Suskin Goodstein, her paternal grandmother.

Another note: Rose’s age at 28 is a little screwed up on that 1925 census, but we have confirmed that this is “our Rose.”