OUR FATHERS' NAMES
Two Brief Stories From One Week
It Came to Pass Last Fall
One evening, when I was busy with a thousand and one things, a young man phoned me from London. He introduced himself as the son-in-law of one of the Pikholz descendants, from a family I knew, but was not in touch with. He asked for some information about the Pikholz Project website that I had built and wanted me to show him how to get to a particular group of pages. I did not ask him much since I still had a thousand things to do. I answered him and forgot all about it. I did not even ask him his name or the name of his wife.
That particular family was descended from Yosef ben Yeroham Fischel Pikholz from Skole in east Galicia. Yosef was born about 1865 and his wife was Raisel Langenauer from Rybnik. They had ten children, five of whom survived childhood, and I have quite a bit of information on their living descendants. My information is not up-to-date, and in fact was not even up-to-date when I first received it some eight years ago. From what I was given, the five children of Yosef Pikholz had 227 descendants, with some using Pickholz while others used Langenauer as their family name.
Yosef and Raisel had a son named Avraham Chaim Langenauer, who is buried in Raanana. He and his wife Henie have 153 descendants, including five children, four of whom are still living. Their second daughter has seven children and I know of sixty-eight of her descendants but keeping up-to-date with them is no small task.
On Friday, less than two hours before Shabbat, the third son of that second daughter telephoned from London. This man is a great-great-grandson of Yosef and Raisel. “My son-in-law spoke with you earlier this week,” he began, continuing with questions about the family ancestors. He was particularly interested in the name and date of death of Raisel Langenauer's mother. I did not have the information at hand but before Shabbat I found her parents' names and sent them to him. After Shabbat, I continued searching my files as well as other sources and sent him additional information on the Langenauers, including some that differed from printed sources.
Sunday morning I received an email from London telling me that they did not need any further information. I was told that their daughter and son-in-law had decided to name their daughter Rachel, after the maternal grandmother of the grandmother Henie. This name descended five generations at once, landing on a baby girl of the sixth generation, in London. I wished them mazal tov and explained that I had not realized that this was the purpose of their inquiry. The Londoner said he would send me a proper list of descendants.
And in the Very Same Week
Jim, my second cousin in the United States, was killed when a careless driver hit his motorcycle. His wife was hospitalized in serious condition. Jim was eighteen years younger than I, and my father was eighteen years older than his first cousin, Jim's father. Actually, I did not know him at all, as I left town at age nineteen. His family then moved to Louisiana, where he lived and died. We saw each other once in the intervening years. I spoke with his wife in the hospital more times than he and I had ever spoken.
Yosef Pikholz, not the one from the first story, who lived in Skalat, in east Galicia was one of the earliest recorded Pikholz. He died in 1862 at age seventy-eight. From his death record, we learned that his name was actually Yitzhak Yosef. Soon after his death, two family members were born and were named Yitzhak Yosef and a third was born in 1879. We know nothing about the first two but the third went to the United States and his descendants never knew that he had two names. Like his namesake, he was known simply as Yosef. Others named after the original Yosef received only the single name, probably because the double name was not something that the younger grandchildren knew about.
I do not know the names of the parents of my great-great-grandmother but I believe that her father was the original Yitzhak Yosef.
In 1890, another Yitzhak Yosef was born in east Galicia. His younger brothers were David, Jim's grandfather, and Mendel, my grandfather. I knew Uncle Joe well. I even knew that his name was Yosef Yitzhak and that is indeed what it says on his tombstone. In fact, he was another Yitzhak Yosef who went by Yosef but in his case the Yitzhak was preserved as a second name. Uncle Joe died in 1965 and a few months later the last male of my generation entered the family. They called him Yosef Yitzhak, James Joseph in English and Jim, for short.
Double names tend to deteriorate over generations and of course the Holocaust thinned out the family, so Jim is, for now at least, the last person to bear the full name of our likely ancestor.
Our Fathers' Names
By and large, people today do not continue to use their ancestors' names, as they once did. They do not like old-fashioned names and do not see the value in passing them along to the next generation. Some choose names with a similar meaning or a similar sound or even just the same first letter. Or they will use the old name as a second name, after choosing something more modern. Double names are sometimes dismantled and a child receives his own double name, derived from two different people.
Yet there are still those who reach as far back as six generations for a name. Sometimes parents think they are honoring the memory of some recently deceased relative but in doing so they perpetuate a name and an ancestor long gone.