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!

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!

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.