THE PIKHOLZ FAMILIES THAT PASSED THROUGH ODESSA
By Israel Pickholtz
It was shortly after we began The Pikholz Project - a work of single surname research with the goal of identifying and reconnecting the families of all Pikholz descendants. It must have been early 1999 when Steve Pickholtz and I came into contact with one another by email and now, nearly seven years later, it seems that his family and mine are the only ones we haven't been able to take beyond the names on our great-grandfathers' graves. We know now that both our families came from Skalat, where the mother lode of Pikholz families resided, so we assume we are both part of what we have come to call "the eastern branch." (The smaller, "western branch" was centered in Rozdol.) Steve has become the most active of the Pikholz researchers among those family members in the US, while I continue to coordinate the project from here in Israel. But I get ahead of myself.
The first "Odessa family" - in Philadelphia
Steve was born in Philadelphia in 1945, to Morris Pickholtz (1903-1970) who was also born in Philadelphia. He "knew" that his grandfather was Harry and that he had been an orphan who came to the US alone, but we found Harry living with his parents into young adulthood. So much for that particular oral tradition.
After a round of basic inquiry, it started out looking pretty straightforward. Bernard (Berl/Berisch) Pickholtz and his wife Bluma (Bernstein) lived in Philadelphia, as did their children Olga Mandelkern, Harry Pickholtz, Anna Tersuhow and Fanny Pickholtz (who had no children and returned informally to her maiden name after divorce). They were born in the 1870's-early 1880's, according to various later testimonies. In the 1900 census, we have Bernard and Bluma with children Harry, Annie and Fanny. Olga was married by then.
Steve collected the six death certificates and visited the graves and here is a summary. (dk="don't know" on the death certifcate, P=Pickholtz, B=Bernstein)
|Deceased||D.Year||B.Place||B.Year||Father||Mother||Informant||Father's name on stone|
|Bluma||1923||Austria||-1852||Motka B||dk||Harry||Mordecai HaKohen|
|Olga||1965||Russia||1874||Bernard P||dk||son||not named|
|Harry||1957||Austria||1880||Bernard P||Bluma B.||son||Berisch|
|Anna||1959||Europe||-1881||Bernard P||Bluma||son||Dov Ber|
|Fannie||1939||Odessa||1884||Bernard P||Sarah B.||Anna||not named|
The bit about Fannie's mother's being Sarah Bernstein was odd, but we chalked it up to a double name, even though Bluma's grave didn't indicate any such. However the fact that the informant was her sister adds credence to the information. The informants for Olga, Harry and Anna were their US-born sons who clearly did not know all the family history.
Bernard's father Moshe Zvi was interesting, but it didn't tell us much as we have this combination in a number of families where the name does not appear to have a common source. (My own father's brother is Moshe Zvi, named for his two grandfathers.)
Based on the birthplace on Fannie's death certificate, Steve ordered a search of Odessa birth records for Pikholz and two turned up - Fannie born in 1881 and Vodolya in 1883, both to Austrian citizens Bor and Sara Pikholz. We never see a trace of Vodolya again (not as Vladimir, William, Wolf, Zeev etc), but neither do we find a matching child's death record or grave. Clearly none of the other children of this family were born in Odessa, as the search request included them by names and ages.
At about the same time, Steve came up with a passenger list, from 1890,
which included the following consecutive listings (names and ages), all
travelling from the east Galician town Skalat.
|David "||11 months|
This passenger list raises several obvious issues. Sara and Blume are obviously two different people. What happened to Sara? Blume - who has children - is going by Bernstein, which we thought was her maiden name. There is a significant Bernstein family from Skalat who are kohanim, so the fact that Blume's father is Mordecai hakohen supports the notion that Bernstein is her maiden name and not the name of the father of her children. Speaking of which, who might that be? One of those children is Hersch (=Harry). Who is this David, who does not appear anyplace else?
It is also noteworthy that although Berisch and Sara had their last children in Odessa, they returned to Skalat, at least for a time, before emigrating.
Our theory on what happened here is thus.
If all this is true, then Harry Pickholtz was Moses-Hersch Werfel - Moses-Hersch being the same name as the father of Harry's uncle/step-father, a fact which I am not assuming to be significant.
Needless to say, all this is theory and I have not recorded it as fact in the Pikholz Project database. Were I to do so, I - or my research heirs - would assume it to be fact and would not re-examine the open questions as more sources become available. Nonetheless, I have little doubt in my own mind.
There remains another nagging question. Where were Olga and Anna born? Not in Skalat and not in Odessa (483 km away), but somewhere else.
The second "Odessa family" - in Kansas City and California
Five years ago, when the California birth and death indecies were readily available online, I did a search of Pickholtz and came up with a death of Henrietta Evans, born 1911 in Missouri. Her father's name was Rochester and her mother's name was Pickholz. The only easily accessible, indexed censuses available at the time were 1900 and 1920 and I could not find this family in 1900. In 1920, they were living in Kansas City Missouri - parents Reuben (55) and Nellie (50) Rochester and children Lena, Jacob, Mary, Ida and Henrietta. All the children were born in Missouri, except Lena, the eldest, who was born in Russia as were the parents. Russia, not Galicia, but I thought that might be a typical census imprecision. Reuben had immigrated in 1903 and Nellie and Lena in 1904.
My next inquiry was the book of Kansas City Jewish burials, where the only Rochester was an eight year-old boy named Abraham, who died in 1909.
All five children showed up in the California death index, so it seemed clear that the family went to California together or sequentially sometime after 1920. (Jacob and Mary's death records listed their mother's maiden name as Peckwood, instead of Pickholz, while Ida and Lena's did not list a mother's maiden name at all.) The family appears to have been totally assimilated, at least once they reached California. Nellie and Ruben are in fact buried in Jewish cemeteries in California (as is Jacob), but there is no information on their graves or their death certificates which can help us identify them in a larger familial context. In fact, there are no gravestones at all for the parents. This was in fact my main interest - to identify Nellie's parents.
Nellie's death record has her father's name as "unknown Pickholtz" and her mother's as "Mary Elsie." I assume that is a back-translation from daughter Mary's own name ("Mary, you were named for my mother") and in fact Mary was the informant for Nellie's death certificate.
(I was also fascinated by the idea of a Jew's taking the surname Rochester. Was he Rosenberg or Rosenbaum or similar? Or maybe his beloved mother was Rochel-Ester? One of my basic assumptions is that this Pikholz family came from Skalat, because it was the Skalaters who began leaving Europe at that time. As a result, I spent quite a bit of time combing Skalat birth records for anyone who might be Ruven and Nellie.)
In the course of my inquiries, someone suggested that I place an ad in the Kansas City Jewish newspaper asking if anyone remembered this family and although this seemed like a low probability, it in fact produced a surprising result. When the family went west, they left behind a married daughter, whose grandchildren live in Kansas City to this day and are now on the family mailing list. Unfortunately, they know nothing of the family history, nor of the family members who went to California.
Next was the Ellis Island database, where we found the 1904 immigration of Nese Rochester (34) and children Morris (10), Fanny, Leah and Abraham, last residence London England. They were going to Kansas City to meet husband/father "Reufin Rochester" (sic). Clearly Abraham was the 1909 grave, Leah is Lena and Fanny is Frances, the one who married and stayed in Kansas City. But Morris was a new one - both to me and to Frances' grandchildren. (The 1901 UK census showed a dressmaker named Nellie Rochester, age 29, born in Islington and I am assuming this is someone else.)
Then we went to the 1910 US Census for Kansas City. (I must clarify that the leg-work for the death certificates and census records was done by some of my so-generous JewishGen friends.) There we found Ruben Rochester and wife Nellie who had borne nine children, six of whom were living. With them were Maurice, Fannie and the ones who went to California, aside from Henrietta who wasn't born until 1911. This means that a) Maurice "disappeared" after 1910 and b) there were two deceased children other than Abraham.
I ordered the Kansas City naturalization records and found that Ruben had been born in 1864 in Braclav and entered the US via Philadelphia in 1903. Nellie was born in 1870 in Nemirow, They included three children - Morris, Fannie and Lena, all born in Odessa. Nemirow is in Podolia (Russia), on the road from Tarnopol to Uman and Braclav is about ten miles to the south. Unfortunately, birth records for this area are unavailable as they would have been in the Kamenets-Podolsk archives which was heavily damaged by fire several years ago and what remains has not yet been made accessible. So we do not yet know Nellie's parents names. We located Ruben's passenger list and found him as Rackister, which some lookups on JewishGen show to have been Rechister. His last residence was Odessa and he was going to a cousin in Philadelphia named Jankel Goldberg, whom I have had no success in identifying. (The next name on the passenger list was one Jankel Braverman who was going to this same Goldberg, so it may all mean nothing.)
We ordered a search of Rechister in Odessa and turned up Aba Mordko (=Morris?) b. 1894, Khinya (Frances' second name was Chana), Khaim Gdalya (this one must have died) and Leya. The parents are identified as Ruvin ben Gedalya and Nesya. We are still missing one dead child, but that is not critical at this time.
The geography here is interesting because we have several other "loose ends" in the Nemirow area. Foremost is a Hamburg emigration entry for Moses Pikholz born in Nemirow 1872, going to Liverpool and New York in 1891. We have never found a trace of him in any other source, but I am assuming that he is the brother of Nesia/Nellie, though I have not recorded this as fact.
Second, we have found a Moscow-born Israeli whose grandfather Jakov Pikholz lived in Tulcin where his son was born in 1904. This could be another brother, as Tulcin is ten miles south of Braclav.
There is also a Chaim Pikholz family killed in a pogrom in Tetiev, less than 50 miles from Nemirow, in 1919/20. Chaim's children were born 1901-17 so he is of an age to be a brother of Nesya, Moses and Jakov.
The General Theory of Relativity
But we also have someone else. Someone who seems to have had two children born someplace that is not Skalat and not Odessa. Berisch and Sara.
The theory goes like this. Berisch ben Moshe-Hersch and his brother go to Nemirow - perhaps together and perhaps one followed the other. Olga and Anna are born there and Berisch moves on to Odessa. The brother in Nemirow has children - Nesia, Jakob, Moses (perhaps actually Moses-Hersch), maybe Chaim and others. Nesya marries Reuben Rechister from nearby Braclav and goes to Odessa where her uncle Berisch is getting ready to pull up stakes and go to America. Berisch helps the young couple get settled - maybe he has a business that young Ruben takes on - and leaves for America, stopping in Skalat to pick up his widowed sister-in-law Blume.
We do not know what happened when Ruben Rechister stopped in Philadelphia or why he went on to Kansas City. We looked for his putative brother-in-law Moses in both cities but did not find him. Perhaps Berisch could not help Ruben and encouraged him to go west and the families maintained some contact that subsequent generations didn't know about. Or perhaps they had a falling out during that Philadelphia stop or later. Or perhaps this whole theory is a lot of hooey.
I can only hope that some of the answers did not go up in smoke in Kamenets-Podolsk.
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About six months after this was published, we found Sara's grave, in Alliance New Jersey. This was a Jewish agricultural community promoted by baron Hirsch and the family may have been affiliated with it before going on to Philadelphia.