Murray’s U.S. Military History

Murray Harry Scheshko, the gardener’s father and son of Isidore and Celia, was a highly intelligent, active, and energetic young man who came of age at the time of WWII. He was born on 5 June 1921 and can be found on a U.S. Marines muster roll on 11 January 1940. He was 18 years old.

He was a private, and the listing is alphabetical, so he is about #9 up from the bottom.

Also, on 11 January 1940, this is listed on Ancestry for Murray, but again, no record to go with it: NEW YORK NATIONAL GUARD SERVICE CARDS.

Name: Murray H Scheshko
Birth Date: 5 Jun 1921
Birth Place: Port Chester, New York
Residence Place: New York City, New York
Enlistment Age: 18
Enlistment Date: 11 Jan 1940
Enlistment Place: New York City, New York, USA
Unit: Co A 1st Mar Bn

U.S. Veterans Affairs Death records show Murray as enlisting on 8 January 1941. But 8 February 1941, a month later and a little over a year after the Marines muster list, he is showing as enlisting in the U.S. Army, Airborne division. What happened between the Marines and the Army? Between 1940 and 1941? I don’t know. And I don’t have a document for this as this is text info on Ancestry.

I’ve never heard of this site before, but they have his army serial number listed (12025969) and mentioned he was Air Corps.  For those of you who don’t know, as I did not know, there was no U.S. Air Force before 1947. The air division was part of the U.S. Army.

Murray’s military history must have been extremely interesting. On the one hand, when I was dating the gardener, I was regaled by the gardener and by Murray with stories of how he spent most of his time in the brig for fighting. At one point, I knew how many days he spent, and it was astronomical. On the other hand, he must have spent some time not in the brig because when the gardener was little, his father had a bucketful of military medals, including a Purple Heart. The gardener has rueful recollections of playing with the medals (and possibly cutting up the ribbons) when he was a kid.

What I didn’t know until somewhat recently is that Murray was part of the 353rd Fighter Group that flew bombing missions over occupied Europe. They are considered heroes in England. Murray was not a pilot. He was staff sergeant, an “armourer,” which means that he was in charge of the weapons for the group. There are websites online devoted to the group, and Murray is mentioned in them.

American Air Museum

353rd Fighter Group

I have also been given some photos of the group with Murray in them.

Murray is standing, on our left.

Murray on our right

Were the brig stories exaggerated? Or was he able to be a hero in between his fights? By way of explanation about the fighting, I will mention that during the time that Murray was stationed in England he experienced a great deal of anti-Semitism which tainted his time with the English.

I am posting a photocopy of a pic of Murray with other soldiers in the U.S. Army in case someone finds this blog post and recognizes someone in the photo.

Murray was a gentleman and a good father, but there were some vestiges of him as a “tough guy” throughout his life. He always dreamed of being an attorney (and loved his copy of Black’s Law Dictionary), but the opportunity didn’t happen for him. Instead, he became Plant Manager and VP of Research and Development for Dr. Denton (yes, the pjs with feet) and Lambknit sweater mill (southwestern Michigan).

After his American military career, instead of going to school or settling down, and before he became a business executive, Murray took one detour. To be continued at some point.

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

Finding Names for the Photograph

In a very short period of time, Inna was able to get her hands on documents that would have taken me months to obtain.

First let me introduce you to Isidore’s Eastern European family.

When this photograph was given to us years ago by Charlotte, the daughter of Isidore’s sister Malka (Malka had only one child and no grandchildren), all we knew was that Malka is not in the photograph because when it was taken she was already in the United States–and that Isidore is the one in the center in back. We, of course, assumed that the older couple were his parents.

Now, remember last week the birth list from Odessa? 

We saw Isidore (Itskhok-Meer) and Malka both on the list. We also saw a Scheshko whose name began with T, a Sura, a Mendel, and a Feyga Sosya. Sura and Mendel are listed as twins, and this seems to fit with the young man on our left and the seated young lady on our right. The T could be the standing woman.

So what did Inna find?

1885 Births, Odessa Rabbinate

Record #1420

Date: December 31, Hebrew date Shvat 6

Daughter: Malka

Father: Lida meschanin[1] Shimel son of Mendel SHESHKO

Mother: Khaya Brana

 

1887 Registry book of births, Odessa

Record #147

Date: January 26, 1887 Hebrew date: Shvat 13

Son: Itskhok-Meer

Father: Vasilishskiy Meschanin, Shimel son of Mendel SHESHKO

Mother: Khaya

 

Book of Odessa Jews born in 1889

Record # 631

Date: May 14, 1889 (Hebrew calendar:  Iyar 25)

Daughter: Tema was born on May 13

Father: Vasilishskiy Meschanin, Shimen son of Mendel SHESHKO

Mother: Khaya

 

Metrical records book for Jews born in Odessa in 1891

Man Record #: 1379

Woman Record #: 1269

Twins:

Son – Mendel was born on September 3d, registered on September 5th, Circumcision was done on September 10th

Daughter – Sura was born on September 3d, registered on September 5th,

Father: Vasilisheskiy meschanin* Shimel, son of Mendel SHESHKO

Mother: Khaya

Metrical book for Jews born in Odessa in 1896

Record # 1741

Date: December 2, 1896 (Hebrew calendar:  Tevet 9)

Daughter: Feyga-Sosya

Father: Vasilishskiy Meschanin, Shimel son of Mendel SHESHKO

Mother: Khaya

* Meschane in Russian Empire represented poor town residents who did not qualify as merchants or civil servants.

SO IN THE PHOTO ABOVE, WE HAVE:

Standing: Mendel, Isidore, Tema

Seated: Khaya (listed as Ida on Malka’s marriage license), Shimel (listed as Samuel on Malka’s marriage license), Sura, and an unidentified boy

Is it just me or does the boy look photoshopped in?

Regarding Feyga Sosya, why is she not in the family photo? She was younger than the twins, so she would certainly be in the family photo if she was still alive and not away with other family. Maybe we will discover one day what happened to Feyga Sosya.

In the Odessa archives, Inna was able to find the marriage record of Shimel and Khaya.

Book of marriage records of Odessa Jews, 1884

Record #147

Groom: Vasilkovski meschanin Shimel SHESHKA, bachelor, 23 y. o.

Bride: daughter of Kupilskiy[1] meschanin Itsek Meer PECHNIK, Khaya, maiden, 24 y. o.

Marriage took place on February 20, 1884

[1] Kupil – Jewish settlement in Khmelnitsk province of Western Ukraine

So Khaya did come from Ukraine, and her maiden name was Pechnik, which is a wonderful addition to our accumulation of information and clues for further research.

Since the story was that Isidore didn’t know his birthday, it’s wonderful to see that there really was a record of his birth and those of his siblings. January 26 will always be the gardener’s grandfather’s birthday to me from now on.

Entering the Pale for The First Time

When I was a kid, growing up in Michigan, there were two world powers: the United States and the USSR or the Soviet Union. In my mind, the USSR was RED for Communism and made up of Russia (where they had snow and vodka) and some other gray areas that never really took shape for me.

Map of Iron Curtain from Wikipedia

When I met my husband in high school, he said his grandparents were “Russian Jews,” and that their relatives were shut behind the Iron Curtain. He remembered his grandmother receiving letters from her relatives with more words cut out by censors than the number of words left in the letters. Today we wish those letters still existed, but at the time nobody thought to save them.

For years, we assumed that all records of these relatives were lost to time and war.

Not so, we are now discovering. And the reality of who his relatives were, where they lived, and what their lives might have been like seems to be different than our assumptions. But we are only beginning to learn about them. This blog is meant to share our findings with others who might be interested in the people of The Pale of Settlement.

Have you ever seen Fiddler on the Roof? If you’re like me, you probably assumed it took place in Russia because of the references to the Czar, the Russian soldiers, and the pogroms. The musical is based on the short stories of Sholem Aleichem who grew up in Ukraine, near Kiev. His stories are set in the area he knew best, thus Anatevka was in Ukraine! I’m not a history scholar of the area by any stretch of the imagination, so I could be wrong, but I imagine that is why the focus on the Cossack soldiers in the story. Cossacks are from eastern Europe–primarily, but not exclusively, Ukrainians. Of course, these lands were all under the Russian Empire at the time of the story.

***

As I explain about this blog in the About Entering the Pale page:

This blog is dedicated to researching family from a historical area of Europe known as The Pale of Settlement. This area included Belarus, Lithuania, Moldova, Ukraine, and parts of Latvia and Russia, extending from the demarcation line (known as the eastern pale) to the Russian and Prussian/Austria-Hungary border. The reason I call the blog Entering the Pale is that the Pale was an area where Jews were allowed permanent residency, as opposed to other areas of Russia. This is where the Scheshkos, Goodsteins, Pechniks, and others lived.

When I was a young history student, I was taught that the expression “beyond the pale” referred to the land east of the Pale of Settlement. Nowadays some people assert that the expression comes from an area of Ireland that was beyond the boundaries of England. In either case, the pale refers to the Latin word palus or stake. The land that is enclosed by a fence driven by stakes is a pale.