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.