Celia’s Story

Let’s move over to the gardener’s grandmother, the wife of Isidore Scheshko. Her name was Celia Goodstein Scheshko. What is her story?

The first document shows her leaving Hamburg for Liverpool. Her name is listed as Civie Gutstein. Of course, that would be an alternative spelling of Goodstein. Goodstein, if anything, looks to be an Americanized spelling. Where does Civie come from? We know from her headstone that her Hebrew name was Tziviah Sheindel (Tzivia Shaindel), so Civie makes perfect sense as a nickname–either how it was pronounced or how the agent heard her say it.

Notice on the above document where Civie was from. Tiraspol! Can you believe it?! All this time, the gardener had thought she was from Odessa and Isidore was from Tiraspol. But it appears that he was from both places and Celia had to be from Tiraspol. The gardener’s grandparents came from the same place? Nothing had ever been said about that–at least in the gardener’s hearing. (Relatives: if you have heard different about this or anything else, please let us know!)

The Ellis Island manifest gives a little more information about Celia.

The SS Caronia sailed from Liverpool on 13 November 1909 and arrived on 20 November 1909 at Ellis Island.

On page 1, it says: Gutstein, Civie 17 yo, dressmaker?,Hebrew from Tiraspol. The name of the nearest relative in the country whence alien came: Borukh Gutestein, Tiraspol, Russia. Final destination: Brooklyn, NY

On page 2, it says: Joining uncle, Max Gutstein in Brooklyn, NY 617 Sackman street.

Celia was detained until the next day after arrival because she was a woman, and the United States government required assurance that she would be provided for. She was being held to hand over, in effect, to her uncle Max who lived in Brooklyn.

These documents show that Celia’s path was from Tiraspol (in what was the Russian Empire and is now Moldova) to Hamburg and then traveling by ship to Liverpool and then to New York City where she was met by her Uncle Max.

If Celia was 17 years old when she immigrated in 1909, she would have been born in 1892. According to her headstone, she was born around 1893. And according to her social security application, she was born 15 Dec 1892. I would say it looks plausible that she really was born in 1892, and that she was 17 when she immigrated.

Another family story that is kind of scuttled by this info is that Celia was a young teen when she immigrated. She really was 17 years old, which is very young, but not a young teen. Of course, when I think of sending my 17-year old across the ocean to a new life and no way to communicate other than slow letters, it defies imagination.

To be continued . . . .

Malka Becomes Molly

Isidore Scheshko’s sister Malka arrived in the United States before anyone else in her family. Or did she? According to the ship manifest, she was coming to her uncle, Berl Silberberg.

Malka was listed on 9 November 1907 on the ship S.S. Patricia out of Hamburg. See Berl’s name on page 2.

The gardener and his cousin have not heard of Berl Silverberg. Was he the husband of the sister of Malka and Isidore’s father, Shimen? Or was he Khaya’s sister’s husband? The family story has always been that Malka and Isidore were the only family members to immigrate to the United States. I can’t help but wonder if Berl really was an uncle or perhaps a friend or ex-neighbor. What was the likelihood of that happenstance?

There were Berl Silberbergs in the United States in those days, but the correct one has not tapped me on the shoulder yet.

Malka was listed as a seamstress, which is very likely, although nobody has a recollection of a story about that.

On the departure record, Malke listed her surname as Schiskin. I read a fascinating article about name changes, and how, contrary to mythic lore, surnames were not changed at Ellis Island. However, a surname might be changed by the individual on the ship manifest when they left Europe. The only record Ellis Island officials used to check someone’s identity was the ship manifest!!! And once someone was “on the ground” in the U.S., he could change his own name without any legal requirement for recording or permission!

So, the question is: did Malke change her surname purposefully? or was her name misheard by the person writing in the ship manifest?

Here is the Ancestry transcription of Malke’s manifest documents. The birth year here is 1887, rather than the actual 1885.

One oddity about the name Schiskin is that, while it is an easy error from Scheshko, it is also a portmanteau name for Scheshko + Riskin. And look who she married!

On 2 May 1915, Malka married Isaac Riskin. She is listed on this marriage record for the State of New York as 24 years old. That means that when she arrived she was only 16, whereas the manifest lists her as 20. But her birth record in Odessa shows her born in 1885, which would mean she was 22 when she immigrated and 30 when she married. On some of the census records, she shows her birth date as 1888 and 1889. None of those ages is out of the realm of possibility, and since we know the birth record I would say that the other documents are in error, either accidentally or purposefully.

 

In the right hand column above, second entry from the bottom, you will find Malka and Isaac’s marriage record. Isaac was 29, a merchant living in Portchester, New York. Malka was now going by the name Molly which she would use for the rest of her life. She has no occupation listed, which I find odd since she would have had to support herself. She was also living in Portchester. What brought her to Portchester?

Parents are listed for both parties. Israel Riskin and Carmina (no surname listed) for Isaac. Samuel Scheshko and Ida (no surname listed) for Molly/Malka. Samuel and Ida for Shimen/Shimel and Khaya. The witnesses were Harry Kasper and Meyer Johnick.

I so wish we had a photograph of the couple. Alas, we don’t have any of Molly/Malka and Isaac. But we do have photographs of their one child, Charlotte, who eventually married the love of her life, Danny Vendola. They lived in Stamford, Connecticut, until they passed away in 1995 (Danny) and 2007 (Charlotte). There were no children from their marriage.

Here is a photo from when Charlotte was on her own after Danny passed, and we visited her with our children, perhaps in 1995 or 96.

 

An Heirloom from The Pale of Settlement

I’ve written a couple of posts about the tragic history of the Jewish population in the towns the Scheshkos were from.

Today I thought I’d share a light post.

These kiddush cups came with Isidore when he immigrated to the United States.

I don’t think they are silver because they seem to be permanently tarnishing in parts. However, it’s possible that they are silverplate. I wonder if the base could be something called German plate, which is 60% copper, 20% nickel and 20% zinc, but I have no way of knowing. Best guess is some sort of silverplate as I have some silverplated objects from among my wedding gifts. The plating is probably wearing off

These two cups do not match, and they are not very ornate, although they each have a design engraved near the rim. I suspect that the larger cup has the tree of life replicated over and over, encircling it. The smaller cup has a design that looks like berries. Could they be grapes?

That they are the only objects we have that Isidore brought with him makes them very special.

A kiddush cup is used for the blessing over the wine for both Shabbat and for holidays. They’ve been used for many, many Passovers.

Do you have an heirloom that belonged to a branch of your family that you know very little about (the branch, not the heirloom)?

The Mysteries of Genealogy

Whenever you research genealogy and family history, there are mysteries. Sometimes solving mysteries means discovering new mysteries. But I think researching Jewish history means encountering more difficulties and, hence, mysteries than most other Western culture genealogy. The documents are difficult to locate–if they exist today at all. And there are obstacles all over the path toward success.

A mystery we have right now is where Celia Goodstein Scheshko was born and grew up before immigrating to the United States as a teen. The gardener was told by both his father and his father’s cousin Charlotte that she was from Odessa. There was no mention that she and Isidore might have come from the same city/town.

At first, Inna thought that Isidore probably was from Odessa and then his family moved to Tiraspol, moving back eventually to Odessa. This is based on addresses given on various documents. But finding Shimel Sheshko in Tiraspol during the famine in 1922 makes me think the family had stayed in or gone back to Tiraspol. The timeline is a mystery.

Still, if Celia was from Odessa, it would be clear that she and Isidore came from the same place. And if she were from Tiraspol, it would be the same situation.

There is a death record for Khaim, son of Borokh Gutstein, among Tiraspol cemetery records. Khaim was born in 1897, so if he were Celia’s brother it would make sense because she was born in or around 1892. According to Celia’s headstone, her father’s name was Baruch Goodstein.

The gardener took a DNA test with Ancestry, and I added it to FTDNA also. He has five matches for Goodsteins on Ancestry and four on FTDNA, but that doesn’t mean much of anything. The closest match is a match through his mother, not his father, so Goodstein is likely a coincidence. He has no Sheshko matches on either site.

Now here’s a DNA puzzle. I found a woman who has Sheshko lineage from Vasilishki. Later, Inna found the same woman. But there are no DNA matches between the gardener and this woman, a situation that is virtually impossible, given that Vasilishki was not more than a shtetl. Any Sheshkos would be related to each other.

It’s important to remember that with Jewish Ashkenazy DNA, there are many many matches, but they are very distant relations. Jews in the Pale of Settlement tended to marry within their own villages, even their own families, out of necessity. Inna explained that most of the gardener’s matches could only be found by tracing ancestry for both people back to the 1600s or earlier. This would be impossible. I know this sounds strange, but doesn’t that mean that it’s even more odd that he doesn’t have a DNA match with this woman? I am NOT good with the DNA science. It makes my head fuzz up inside.

I thought I’d leave you with images from Wikipedia of the Odessa Opera and Ballet Theatre building that was built in 1887, which is the same year that Isidore was born (also in Odessa). The gorgeous architecture shows you what a cosmopolitan city Odessa was.

 

The Places Behind the Faces, Part II: Tiraspol

Last week I wrote about Vasilishki where Isidore’s father Shimel was born. Today it is Tiraspol, which is in modern Moldova, because that is where Isidore claimed to be from. Yes, his birth record shows his birth and those of his siblings in Odessa, but the family apparently lived in both Tiraspol and Odessa. We don’t yet have the timeline or why all the children would be born in Odessa, but the family had strong ties to Tiraspol.

At first I was very confused because Odessa is in Ukraine and Tiraspol is in Moldova–two completely different countries. They are only 65 miles apart and when Isidore and his family lived in that region, it was all part of the Russian Empire.

When we discovered the Odessa birth index with the Scheshkos listed, I wondered if Tiraspol had been a mistake, but the cemetery where Isidore and Celia are buried recorded that they were buried by the TIRASPOL YOUNG MEN BENEVOLENT society.

Tiraspol can be spelled Tyraspol or Tirashpol, but should not be confused with Terespol, a town in Poland, near Belarus.

This painting was completed around 1900 by painter Mikhail Larionov. It’s called “A Small Jewish Shop in Tiraspol.”

You can find an old and a new photo of the city here.

Tiraspol is part of the International Jewish Cemetery Project. There are graves there that need protecting or, at least, recording. In 2004, over 70 headstones were vandalized, and the city would not clean up the anti-Semitic graffiti. Here are a couple of photos of the cemetery.

The city is the second largest in Moldova (population about 134,000-200,000, depending on the source). The two state languages in the territory of the Transnistria Republic are Russian and Moldavian, but in Tiraspol, the Moldavian language isn’t used much. You can often hear Ukrainian since a large portion of the population has Ukrainian ancestry, but Russian is the main language.

In the middle ages, Tiraspol was a “buffer zone” (Wikipedia) between the Tatars and the Moldavians, and both ethnic groups lived in the city. The modern city really began, though, with the Russians who conquered the area at the end of the 18th century.

I thought this tidbit from Wikipedia is interesting:

In 1828 the Russian government established a customs house in Tiraspol to try to suppress smuggling. The customs house was subordinated to the chief of the Odessa customs region.

From this and other information I’ve picked up over the past few weeks, I think Tiraspol was part of the greater Odessa area during the Russian Empire years. I do think it’s important to remember that Tiraspol is a city, not a village like Vasilishki.

According to JewishGen, the Jewish population in 1897 was 8,659 and in 1926 it was 6,398. The decline could be from emigration, but there is another story about Tiraspol that needs to be told.

Here is an excellent history from the International Jewish Cemetery Project:

Tiraspol [was] founded in 1795 .  .  . . On the eastern bank of the Dniester River, Tiraspol is one of the few cities largely unchanged from Soviet Union rule. (Two statues of Lenin still stand.) As result of the political and economic situation that followed the proclamation of the independent (not recognized) Republic of Transnistria, the population of the city in 2004 was 158,069. Tiraspol had a Jewish population since the 17th century. Tiraspol was founded by the Russian general Alexander Suvorov in 1792. In the mid-19th century, Jews from Russia, Dubossari, and Grigoriopol settled in Tiraspol. By 1897, the Jewish community was 27% of  8,668 residents. Nearly the entire Jewish community perished in Nazi concentration camps.

So there it is. What I hadn’t wanted to read. Most of the Jewish community died in the camps. Were the Scheshkos there at the time of WWII? I think it’s possible to come closer to knowing with the following information.

Our researcher Inna’s own family comes from Tiraspol, so she has collected some documents pertaining to the situation right after the Russian Revolution in 1917.

These documents relate to a terrible famine that plagued the area during the 1920s. The majority of people were hungry, but the Jewish population was worse off than the others.

American Jews with ties to Tiraspol tried to help those left behind. The Tiraspoler Landsmanschaft collected donations and sent money for food, such as cocoa, sugar, milk, flour, barley, and fish. But much of it was diverted elsewhere along the way. I read a ONE INCH THICK collection of documents about the dire situation.

Dr. Bacilieri wrote a report in German of his trip to check on the conditions in Tiraspol. He said the chldren were “the worst sufferers and in terrible condition.”

I saw a child about 8-10 years old searching in a dust heap looking for something to eat. I saw another child about 10-12 years old frying the skin of a dog for food. Many children do not return at night but sleep under a fence or on the streets so that they may be in a position to get something to eat.

The doctor says the entire population was filthy and covered with lice. People were sick (often from typhus) and dying, yet their relatives could not afford burials for them.

The Jewish residents of Tiraspol organized a system of men to receive the goods and distribute them. This is how I know that the Scheshkos lived in Tiraspol at this time.

On a Tiraspoler Landsmanschaft memo, Shimen (Shimel) Scheshko is listed as an alternate to the list of men receiving the goods. He and his family were in need.

So the Russian Revolution had not brought about a relief to old sufferings for the inhabitants of Tiraspol. Instead, they had new suffering and many died during this period.

So that decline in population by 1926 could be from emigration, but it could be from starvation and disease.

I was very upset after reading this thick stack of papers documenting the plight of the residents of Tiraspol during this period. And now to discover through the IJCP history that none of the Tiraspol Jews survived the Holocaust, it’s mind-boggling to me. One trauma after another after another.

Here is a little more info from the IJCP about what happened a generation and beyond after the war:

By the 1960s, nearly 1,500 Jews lived in Tiraspol. Police arrested several skinheads suspected of pipe bombing a Tiraspol synagogue in April and June 2002 on 14-15 April 2001. The building was damaged, but the guard was not hurt. 4 May 2004, vandals threw a Molotov cocktail in an attempt to set fire to a Synagogue in Tiraspol. The attack failed when passers-by extinguished the fire. Since 2001, the Welfare Cultural Center combines welfare and cultural programs for the Jewish community. Current Jewish population: 2,300 people in Tiraspol and 130 people in nine surrounding localities. [March 2009] REFERENCE: Jewish Tombstones in Ukraine and Moldova, 551, bibl. 1153, 7/14/1993, GOBERMAN D., title: Image Publishing House, 1993, English/Russian.Source: Daniel Dratwa;. d.dratwa@mjb-jmb.org Jewish Museum of Belgium

 

I hope that through the IJCP we will eventually find that there are Scheshko headstones in the Tiraspol cemetery. Very few Jewish records exist for Tiraspol, so we were lucky that the Scheshko children and the marriage was recorded in Odessa instead.

There is a site online that I have to mention:

This is a place where all current and former Tiraspol residents interested in their Jewish roots can meet and exchange information about their families.

Click here to go to the site for photos, notable residents, and other information.

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.

Who Are These Other Scheshkos?

Here is a photo of Isidore and Celia Scheshko. I really love this portrait. It’s very small and wedged into the curved glass front frame for as long as I’ve known the gardener (and that’s a long time). I haven’t removed it to scan because I am afraid of damaging it. Any ideas on how to take it out carefully, with the hopes that I can put it back in the same frame? Alternatively, if a relative has this image scanned, please email it to me, and I won’t need to bother.

Although the gardener and I have only recently begun searching for his family history in a focused and determined way, for years we did stop by Ancestry looking for Scheshkos (grandfather Isidore) and Goodsteins (grandmother Celia).

Searching for the Goodstein family was very difficult because the name is relatively common and easily confused on documents with Goldstein, an even more common surname. Also, Celia traveled to the United States as a teen with her best girlfriend to live with her uncle. But we don’t have the name of the uncle–and we don’t think any other family members came to this country. We don’t even have the name of the girlfriend, although apparently, when they were elderly, they both lived together in a nursing home in the Bronx.

We had been told that Scheshko was not a common name, and that turned out to be true–at least in the U.S. We found a handful of other American Scheshkos, but they were apparently Christian and of no relation. We wondered if their family might have once been Jewish because we assumed it was a Jewish surname. In the case of Isidore, the only other family member who did come to this country (to our knowledge) was his older sister Malka who married, had one daughter, and no grandchildren.

I mentioned before that Celia used to get letters from the Soviet Union that had been shredded by the censors. The gardener and I always assumed that he had relatives behind the Iron Curtain. We even thought they might have been absorbed into the general population of that country during a period where religion was frowned upon.

Finally, at around the same time that I wondered about the grandparents’ headstones, I did a search on JewishGen, a genealogy website focused on Jewish history and ancestors.

There are 3 databases that revealed important information regarding the Scheshkos.

The first is a database that has been compiled of Jews who survived the Holocaust.

You have to understand where our brains were when we tried to process the idea that Scheshkos were anywhere near the Holocaust. For some reason, it never occurred to either of us that the Holocaust ravaged Ukraine and Moldova. We consider ourselves more knowledgeable about history than the average American. After all, it’s one of the gardener’s passions, and I have an undergraduate degree in history. In fact, one of my post-doctoral specialties was the Holocaust memoir, particularly written by those who had been children during those years.

But the Holocaust that I read about was always in Germany, Poland, Austria, France, Netherlands, and even Italy and Hungary. I suddenly realized I didn’t know much of anything about the 20th century history of the Pale of Settlement.

As I reread the list from Jewish Gen, I thought how the people didn’t seem familiar (how dumb is that?). But if Scheshko isn’t a common name, could they be shirttail relatives? We didn’t know. And where is or was Belice? I searched and searched and couldn’t figure it out. Eventually, we discovered it in the Grodno region of the Lida district in the country of Belarus.

A small detail of this list gave me pause, although I wasn’t sure if the gardener noticed it until I told him. I had found Isidore’s sister Malka (who became Molly in this country)’s marriage license (which I will produce in a later post)–and her parents were listed as Samuel and Ida. If Isidore’s mother’s name was Ida, was this woman in Belice his mother? I thought she was too old to have survived, but maybe it was another relative with her name–such as a niece of Isidore? Keep in mind that Jews customarily name babies with the name of a deceased ancestor, oftentimes a grandparent or great-grandparent. So if Ida, the gardener’s great-grandmother, had already passed on when a grandchild was born, the baby might share her name. This is strictly about Hebrew names, though, and Ida is not a Hebrew name.

A second database undercut our hope about the first one because it was a list of Scheshkos who died during the Holocaust. Start reading halfway down this list.

While this list is for those from Vilna, some of the same people are listed in one for Grodno (like Belice). Notice that these people are from Vasilishki, a town in Belarus.

Belice and Vasilishki are very close, but Belarus is very far north from where the gardener’s relatives in the Black Sea region lived (Odessa and Tiraspol, as we had been told).

We were tempted to dismiss these other Scheshkos as family because we couldn’t imagine traveling so far (and for what reason) in those days unless you were actually immigrating to a place like the United States. That was our thinking.

All throughout the previous years and even in the beginning of this process this year we have been very naive. Just know that I can’t reveal all in one or two posts. There is too much information.

But I will show you the third database on JewishGen.

Look at that! Malka and Itskhok Meyer (just another spelling!), born in the right decade. But in the right city? The gardener had been told they came from Tiraspol, which is in Moldova. This database is for babies born in Odessa, which is in Ukraine. How can they be the same then? Maybe Scheshko was more common than we thought.

But I did a little Google research. Apparently, Tiraspol and Odessa are 65 miles apart and, in those days, Tiraspol would have been part of greater Odessa for government and other purposes.

At this point, I felt we had a serious lead, but I could not figure out a way to search for eastern European records, particularly those that were written in various languages completely unknown to me. I am used to wiewaswie, a website devoted to Dutch history. It translates into English, and the collection of Dutch documents available is astonishing. All very conducive to researching. But I was at a loss for how to proceed in Ukraine, Moldova, and even Belarus.

I contacted a few people on JewishGen and one person led me to another who led me to another. The gardener and I ended up hiring a smart and knowledgeable genealogist named Inna who specializes in this area. If you want to know how to contact her, please email me.

Inna was now able to take these lists from JewishGen, the headstones, and the few facts or maybe-facts that we had and begin a search abroad.

STAY TUNED . . . .

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.