The Fun of Finding Old Photos

A long time ago I posted a photo of the Scheshko family in the old country (probably Odessa, but maybe Tiraspol). Every member of the family is there, including a boy whose name I don’t have, EXCEPT Malka, the oldest child. That is because she had already emigrated.

Once I realized that Malka was not in the photo, I lost all hope of ever seeing a photo of her. In the United States she became Molly Riskin after marrying Isadore Riskin. Their only child was Charlotte Riskin Vendola.

But in going through that little orange box of photos we recently found, I spotted another photo of Charlotte and her father–this time she’s an adult–and a woman who has got to be her mother, Molly Riskin (Malka Scheshko).

 Moral of that story: never lose hope.

Here’s another photo I found.

This is a photograph taken at the bar mitzvah of Eileen’s son. Charlotte is in the center of the photo, looking striking as usual. Danny to her left and to Danny’s left are their best friends, Sally and Tut.

What I would like to find out is who is seated across from them. Eileen’s son thinks that these might be friends of his parents.The gardener says that there were three men at the bar mitzvah who were some sort of cousins, but nobody who is alive today knows who they were or how they were related. Could they be the men in this photo? The gardener thinks one of the men he vaguely remembers could be named Archie The bar mitzvah happened in 1968–maybe someone someday will see this post and supply names to the faces. Friends or family, I’d love to know who they are!

Always getting a little closer to the information, but not close enough. But finding these old photos is FUN.

This is my last post until September. I plan to do more research in August. Plus it is really really hot here in Phoenix . . . .

 

 

Murray’s Further Military History

Some time back, I wrote about my father-in-law’s U.S. military history. He was part of a heroic team in WWII. His father Isidore, who had served in both Russian and American militaries, must have been very proud of him. At the end of that post, I mentioned that before Murray settled down, got married, and became a business executive, he made one detour.

I mentioned that Murray experienced anti-Semitism while stationed in England. He was deeply affected by what happened there. At the end of the war, the stories of the death camps and murders of Jews at the hands of the Nazis must have also affected him a great deal.

On 14 May 1948, David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel–and this time period found Murray in Israel, as an Israeli soldier. He served with a man who became his best friend and eventually his brother-in-law, Jack Blanc. Jack was an older Canadian soldier who was married with one child (at that time).

Although the quality is not the best, here is an AP photo that was published on 16 August 1948 in newspapers all over the United States of Murray and Jack in Israel (Jack’s name is misspelled). As the caption indicates, Murray is second from the right and Jack on the right..

What a lighthearted photo and caption (pin-up photos?) for such a serious mission they were on.

Here is the full page; check out the bottom left:

Murray was always very proud of his service for Israel, but it did take a toll on his life as he wasn’t able to pursue the higher education he so desperately wanted (I think I have mentioned before he wanted to be a lawyer). He was a soldier in Israel when his peers back in the U.S. were going to college and professional school.

After Israel, Murray came back to New York where Jack Blanc introduced him to a pretty art student from Canada named Diana Shulman. Diana was Jack’s wife’s younger sister. Murray and Diana eventually married and had first the gardener and then his sister. Here is Murray with Diana and the gardener.

 

The gardener wasn’t yet gardening at that point, but I imagine he was pretty active and kept his parents on the go.

 

 

 

Goodstein Cousins

In order to learn more about Uncle Max and his children, Inna and I tried to track down family. She had more luck than I did. We ended up with two branches, stemming from two of Max and Anna’s children.

The first branch is represented by finding Stanley Cohen,who is the son of Rose and Isidore Cohen. Stanley is the oldest generation we have found so far. What is remarkable is that although the families did not remain close as time moved on, Stanley remembers the exact Hebrew name of Celia and Isidore Scheshko’s daughter, Eileen, Stanley’s 2nd cousin (right? the children of 2 first cousins?).

I want to take us back to the image of Celia with her uncle, aunt, and cousins in Brooklyn. She was recently arrived from Russia, and she was living with Uncle Max and Aunt Anna. Rose, Stanley’s mother, is the tall girl standing next to Celia.The second branch brought us to the gardener’s and my generation. We discovered this branch in California. See the boy in the back row, on our left? That is Jacob Goodstein, also called Jack. Jack was born around 1897-1899 in Russia (most likely Tiraspol). Jack’s grandson believes it was 1898, and his granddaughter thinks he was born 21 March 1898. That is the date I am going to go with for my tree, although since he was born in the Russian Empire, it is impossible to know for sure unless his birth record was discovered. Rose was older than Jack and Ethel, a bit younger, was born in 1900.

On 23 October 1922, in Kings County, New York, Jack married Etta Rose Bieler (1903-1971). Her birthday was January 22. (Note: the family remembers the anniversary of Jack and Etta as October 28, but the record I’ve found clearly states October 23. The only way to know for sure is to order the certificate record).

Their son Edwin was born on 25 September 1924, and their daughter, Gilda Ruth, was born 22 March 1926 in Brooklyn.

By the 1940 census both Jack’s parents were gone and he was still living in New York, but by 1954, he was in Los Angeles, specifically Burbank.

In the 1930 census his occupation was a “manager” in a garage. In 1940 he was listed on the census as an “agent” in the laundry business.

Jack’s grandson explained that Gilda’s family moved from Brooklyn in 1948. In the early 50s, Jack and his wife Etta moved to the area to be near his family, as did their son Edwin Bieler (he went by his mother’s maiden name, perhaps starting when he joined the navy). Edwin started a trucking business. In the 1954 Los Angeles city directory Jack was an “expeditor” for Lockheed in Burbank. An expeditor facilitates any kind of process.

Edwin gave Jack 4 grandchildren–3 girls and then adopted a boy.

Gilda gave Jack 3 grandchildren–2 boys and a girl.

Here is a portrait of the family of Jack and Etta with their children and their first four grandchildren, taken March 1961, on the occasion of their grandson David’s bar mitzvah. Daughter Gilda is second from our left and Ed is on the far right. Jack and Etta are on either side of David.

 

Etta passed away in 1971.

Jack passed away at age 78 in 1976.

They are both buried at Sholom Memorial Park in Los Angeles.

Jack’s grandchildren seem like lovely people. I can’t help but wonder if Gilda was named for Anna’s mother or Max’s mother–it could be either one of them.

Meeting the cousins has not produced any remarkable information about Max or Celia or their immigrations or life in the Russian Empire. But it is really nice to see that the descendants have fared well in the United States.

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.

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