Here’s another photo of Isidore Scheshko looking handsome!
He looks quite different here in a suit than in his army uniform!
In the world of family history, there are a nearly unlimited amount of toys to play with–from family tree creators to DNA painters to “search engines” to aid in research. Of course, the problem is finding the time to adequately learn and use each toy.
One of my favorite toys is Findagrave, but I have barely used it (time constraints, you know). Since I don’t know much about it, I had to title this post Findagrave for Dummies because if you are ignorant of the site as I am, the little I’ve recently learned might be useful. If you know more about Findagrave, please chime in with a comment!
Every dead person is entitled to a memorial page on Findagrave. Even if somebody has no actual grave, there is a solution. This is what their FAQs page says about cremation.
What if someone was cremated or does not have a traditional ‘grave’?
Find A Grave supports common alternative dispositions to traditional burial. This includes cremation, burial at sea, and donated to medical science. In these cases, select the ‘Not buried in a cemetery’ option on the ‘Add a Memorial’ page. If there is an existing cenotaph within a cemetery for someone who had a alternative disposition, do NOT add another memorial under the alternative disposition.
What’s more, not only is every dead person entitled to a memorial page, but so is every pet buried in a pet cemetery (I kid you not).
A memorial page can be created with very little information. It might only be the knowledge that there is a grave in a specific location with the name of the deceased. But as soon as possible, it’s nice to include the birth and death dates, all correct name information, as well as a photo or two of the individual and a photo of the headstone. You can also add a transcription of the headstone, a short bio, and links to family member’s Findagrave memorials.
The first service I began using almost from the beginning was that of requesting photos of headstones. When a memorial had been started, but the headstone photo was not loaded, I would request a volunteer to take a picture. This is invaluable if you are looking for specific dates, for instance, that might be engraved on the stone.
For a few years I’ve added info to memorials in a hit or miss fashion. I had to submit additions and corrections to what I thought was an unseen administrator for approval. It took time to hear back.
I’ve also sponsored memorials for many family members, even ones that weren’t particularly close relations. This is a one time $5 fee that removes all ads from a memorial. I couldn’t bear seeing ads cluttering up memorials of the deceased.
But it was only this weekend, through spending a bit of time with the updated Findagrave website, that I discovered that although I had sponsored a lot of memorials, I only managed six. What did manage mean?
The answer wasn’t readily available, but what I figured out is that the person who adds the person is an automatic manager of that memorial. It can be a complete stranger who, as a volunteer, adds in some cases many graves to the site. This is understandable. It’s what made it easy for me to find people on the site to begin with.
But that is why I had to get permission when I was asking to edit dates and names and other information. I was asking permission of the manager–most often, a complete stranger with no knowledge of the family. When I first gave birth info on Isidore, the manager accepted it. When I edited it with corrected information once his birth record was found, the manager wanted documentation of the correction. Hmm.
So then I read up on taking over management of family memorials so that I could make sure to put up correct information and that I wouldn’t need to get permission from someone who, hypothetically, might not give it to me.
This weekend, I put in a request to take over management of a whole lot of memorials.
In the meantime, here are the links to the memorial pages of Celia, Isidore, their son Murray, and daughter-in-law Diana.
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.
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)
United States Census, 1940
Name: Ruby Golding
Event Type: Census
Event Date: 1940
Event Place: Port Chester, Rye Town, Westchester, New York, United States
Marital Status: Single
Race (Original): 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?
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!
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 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.
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.
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:
|Builder:||John Brown & Company, Clydebank, Scotland|
|Launched:||13 July 1904|
|Maiden voyage:||25 February 1905|
|Fate:||Sold for scrapping, 1932|
|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)|
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!
* 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!
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:
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.