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.

 

Why Port Chester?

Celia (Goodstein) Scheshko gave birth to the first of her two children, Murray (the gardener’s father), on 5 June 1921 in Port Chester, Westchester, New York.

If the family lived in Brooklyn, why was he born in Port Chester?

I wish the gardener knew the answer to this mystery.

Celia’s sister-in-law Malka (Molly) and her husband lived in Port Chester, but did Isidore and Celia briefly live there? It would have been about this time that Isidore was working as a house painter (according to the census)

Let’s look at the documentation. On the 1920 census, it seems that Isidore and Celia still lived in Brooklyn, as boarders with the Steinharts.

Then Murray was born in 1921.

On the 1925 NY census the three of them lived at 739 Essex Street in Brooklyn with their own boarders, cousin Rose Goodstein Cohen, her husband, and their child.

I have yet to find the family on the 1930 census. By the 1940 census they were living in the Bronx.

So what did Malka’s husband, Isidor Riskin, do for a living? First I have to say that some of the documents for Isidor are listed under the name Waldimer Riskin. We have no idea why this name is connected with him. The name Vladimir was not a name traditionally given to Jewish sons. Isidor Riskin’s documents say he was born in Moscow, which of course was not in the Pale of Settlement. Maybe that explains the name. So was he Isidor or Waldimer? Isidore was his Yiddish name. Perhaps Waldimer was his Russian name.

In the 1910 census Malka’s husband is listed as a Black Smith in the Horseshoes industry. They lived at 65 Travers Avenue, Port Chester.

In the 1920 census he (called Isiaac here) was a Packer in the Nuts and Bolts industry. They lived at 58 Townsend Street, Port Chester. Their only child, Charlotte, was born in 1919, the year before. This is only a year before Murray was born.

In the 1930 census they lived at 43 Townsend Street, close to where they lived during the previous census time. But now Isidor was a Wrapper in the Hardware industry.

I can’t find them on the 1940 census. But, on his WWII draft registration, I discovered that Isidor Riskin worked for Ruby Golding at 141 Wilkins Avenue, Port Chester.

Amy Cohen so kindly found an obituary for Ruby Golding’s sister Rose here.

What kind of business did Ruby run and what did Isidor do for him?

Another kind Facebook group member provided this information and told me that Ruby Golding’s business was Awnings and Shades:

Ruby Golding n Port Chester in the city directories, and in the 1940 Census that owned an awning and shade business. (below)

FamilySearch Indexing

Ruby Golding
United States Census, 1940
Name: Ruby Golding
Event Type: Census
Event Date: 1940
Event Place: Port Chester, Rye Town, Westchester, New York, United States
Sex: Male
Age: 31
Marital Status: Single
Race (Original): White
Race: White
Relationship to Head of Household (Original): Son
Relationship to Head of Household: Son
Birthplace: New York
Birth Year (Estimated): 1909
Last Place of Residence: Same Place
Household Role Sex Age Birthplace
Yetta Golding Head Female 58 Russia
Ruby Golding Son Male 31 New York

I searched stevemorse.org by address for the Riskins on the 1940 census, but 43 Townsend, the address listed for them on the 1930 census AND his WWII draft registration, is not listed as an address on the census. And I couldn’t find the family anywhere on Townsend Street.

This is not the first time that I have searched for a specific address only to see the address not listed on the census. These are apartment buildings, so there are many families at the same addresses. I think this makes it even stranger because it’s not as if a one-family house was missed.

I even tried searching on the 1940 census for a “Charlotte” in Port Chester, and there is no trace of Charlotte in Port Chester. She would have been 21. I don’t yet have Charlotte’s marriage record, so I don’t know what year she and Danny Vendola married.

Back to the original mystery: why was Murray born in Port Chester? Could they have been visiting the relatives when it was time to give birth? Could they have chosen Port Chester for Murray’s birth for medical or familial reasons? Any ideas on how to find out more information?

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!

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.

The Ellis Island Legend

When I was young I was caught up in the Ellis Island legend, probably because of the books I read and the movies I saw.* I thought all immigrants came to the United States through Ellis Island until it closed in 1954. When I got a little older, I realized that people–a large portion of Chinese immigrants–also came through San Francisco.

At some point, the gardener and I found out that Ellis Island records were online through The Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation, and we tried to find his paternal grandparents, Isidore and Celia. Alas, we could not find them.

Now I know that there are several places immigrants arrived when they came to this country, and that Ellis Island didn’t open until 1892. Still, what did that mean for the gardener’s relatives?

 

Let’s start with Celia Goodstein. Although we weren’t able to find her on the Ellis Island records years ago, now that I know she came into this country with the surname Gutstein, it was very helpful. Also, that her name was listed as “Civie.” I can find her now as Cisvie Gutstein, arrival date 20 November 1909 on the ship, the Caronia. An image of the ship is available, but I am expected to purchase the image if I want it.

A little trip over to Wikipedia solves that.

Here are the stats:

Name: RMS Caronia
Namesake: Caro Brown
Owner: Cunard Line
Builder: John Brown & CompanyClydebankScotland
Yard number: 362
Launched: 13 July 1904
Maiden voyage: 25 February 1905
Homeport: Liverpool
Fate: Sold for scrapping, 1932
General characteristics
Tonnage: 19,524 GRT
Length: 678 ft (207 m) p/p
Beam: 72 ft (22 m)
Propulsion: Steam quadruple-expansion engines, twin propellers
Speed: 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Capacity:
  • 1,550 passengers
  • (300 first class, 350 second class, 900 third class)

Then I read something very cool. About 2.5 years after Celia arrived on board the Caronia, the Caronia was the first ocean liner (wow, I didn’t realize a steamship was also an ocean liner) to send the Titanic a warning about the ice ahead. I imagine that the ship has been depicted in some way in one or more movies about the Titanic.

So, Celia did arrive through the portals of Ellis Island. She is part of the Ellis Island legend.

Max Goodstein, Celia’s uncle, arrived 10 June 1906 on the Umbria. He can be found on the Ellis Island Records under the name Mordche Gudstein.

Max’s wife Neche/Anna and the children came in through Ellis Island on 20 July 1907 (a few months before Malke) on the Celtic. On the Ellis Island records search I find Neche listed as Nuche Gutstein.

Isidore’s sister, Malke, is listed on the Ellis Island records under the surname Schiskin, rather than Scheshko. She arrived on the ship Patricia 23 November 1907.

What about Isidore himself? He arrived in 1913. UPDATE: I have the ship manifest records for his arrival, thanks to Inna. See line 16 on both pages.

Ellis Island, 1902, from Wikipedia

I do think that we were right to begin with, that all the gardener’s paternal relatives came to the United States through Ellis Island.

There is a legend that someone in the gardener’s father’s family had been in the United States since Civil War Days. That would be a real stretch if it were true since they all came from the Russian Empire. So far what we have found is that Malke came before Isidore and Max came before Celia. But who came before Malke and Max? Berl Silberberg and Max XXXXX. If you recall, Max XXXXX has a last name that we have not been able to decipher. And no luck so far with Berl Silberberg. It would be fun to find them and see who was here before they were!

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* Think about this a minute: Above I mentioned books and movies. Most of what we read and see has been “reconstructed” history–that is, we experience history through stories written by our contemporaries or at least not by individuals who lived through the period. These are secondary sources.

Primary sources can be fascinating. I’d like to “argue” that fiction that was written as contemporary fiction, but is now in a historical period, is a great primary or first-hand source.

Have you ever heard of the writer Abraham Cahan? He wrote books about the Jewish immigrant experience while it was happening well over 100 years ago. Cahan was born in Belarus in 1860, and as a young man and teacher he immigrated to the United States. In the 1890s and into the early 1900s, Cahan published novels and short stories. Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto and The Rise of David Levinsky are two of his most famous. I also recommend the story “The Imported Bridegroom.” I haven’t read it in years, but I think I need to re-read it!