Thursday, September 26, 2019

FOR THE RECORD: My Grandfather's Name

Sometimes I write about matters of general genealogical interest; other times it's more personal.  Knowing (hoping?) that this blog will be a significant part of the official family record, I have an occasional post with the intent to get certain facts and stories "on the record." This is one of those.

The question
My father is the eldest of three. In the last two weeks we lost both his brother, Uncle Bob, and his sister, Aunt Betty. Uncle Bob was buried in Huntington West Virginia where he lived his final months with his daughter and son-in-law Linda and Mitch. Aunt Betty is in Poale Zedeck Sheraden in Pittsburgh, behind her parents. Over forty years ago, she pointed and said "That's where we will be."

Aunt Betty being brought
to rest behind her mother
During the service at the funeral home, Aunt Betty was called "Basche Feige bat Chaim Menahem." At Uncle Bob's funeral last week, he was also called "ben Chaim Menahem (and Miriam)."

After he returned home, my eldest son wrote and asked about the fact that my grandfather's grave says "Menahem Chaim." So I would like to set the record straight.

My grandfather, Morris Pickholtz, was Menahem, called Menahem Mendel by some in his close family. When he was fifty-one, he had a serious heart attack and for a while it was not clear if he would survive. I was born during that period and there was a definite possibility that I would be named for him. The name Chaim was added.

He lived another nine years and eventually died of a stroke and in the intervening years, his used Chaim Menahem. Both my father and Uncle Bob were called to the Torah as "ben Chaim Menahem." I know all this because I was there.

The actual story
When his gravestone was erected, the long-time rabbi of Poale Zedeck, Rabbi Joseph Shapiro, told Aunt Betty that his original name should appear first so his stone says "Menahem Chaim."

Four in a row. My grandparents on the left. Next to them Aunt Helen and Uncle Joe. Two brothers married two sisters.
Two grandsons were born after my grandfather died.  Aunt Betty's youngest son is Menahem Chaim, as on the stone. Uncle Bob's son in Chaim Menahem, as he was called. If my youngest sister had been a boy, she would have been Chaim Menahem. (Two of my second cousins are named for my grandfather - one with Menahem as a first name and a second name from his other side, the other is Menahem Mendel.)

Background on the names
My grandfather was the youngest of ten. Before him were three sisters, three brothers and three more brothers who died before their second birthdays.

My grandfather was born in late 1896 and was given the name Mendel on his birth record.

The death of Mendel Kwoczka
Some months earlier, his mother's uncle Mendel Kwoczka died at age seventy-one. I have no doubt at all that this is where his name comes from.

The uncle Mendel is identified explicitly as the son of Josel and Jute Lea Kwoczka and we already know them as my great-grandmother's paternal grandparents.

My grandfather and his siblings - who is named for whom
We know whom seven of the ten children of my grandparents are named. Well, almost. I wrote at some length about Uncle Max' name here. Both Uncle Max and Uncle Joe reversed their first and middle names - in fact they probably never knew the correct order. In Uncle Joe's case, it was no doubt because the great-grandfather he was named for was known as Josef, as were all the Isak Josefs who were named for him.

I have no idea whom Uncle Dave and Aunt Mary (Miriam) were named for. My guess is that they are both named for people in Isak Fischel's family. We don't really have any Davids or Miriams in the early-generation Skalat Pikholz families.

Also note that my great-grandfather was called Hersch on all his European documents. On his grave as well as on the graves of my grandfather, Uncle Joe and Aunt Bessie, he is called Zvi Hirsch, while on the graves of Uncle Max, Uncle Dave and Aunt Becky, he is called Zvi. Aunt Mary's grave has no Hebrew.

Wishing everyone a good new year. May you be written and sealed in the Book of Life.

לְשָּנָה טוֹבָה תִּכָּתֵבוּ וְתֵחָתֵמוּ

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