Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Bernsteins, Kaczors / Katchers and Aberbachs of Skalat

A guest blog by Stephen Pickholtz

As a family historian, for whom most of my family is gone, along with many of the answers they would have had the answers to, the brick wall has shown it face.

Israel Pickholtz, among others, has said when that happens, dig, dig and dig some more.  No matter how small, something may come from what is found.  Here is my story.

My family, the PICKHOLTZs, together with the BERNSTEINs, KACZERs and ABERBACHs (also ABERBUCH), all from Skalat, Austria, sailed from Hamburg on the SS Russia and arrived on in New York City May 9, 1890.  (This was during the Castle Garden period, before the opening of Ellis Island.) That arrival date is the last and only record I have found on the ABERBACH family of 5 members.  Any help with that family, would be greatly appreciated.

What I am going to deal with here is the remaining 3 families, which in itself is very interesting.

I am a PICKHOLTZ, or so I thought, until I discovered the TRUTH.  Let me start out with what I was told by my parents.

From left: Harry, his wife Clara (Klein),
their two daughters and a son-in-law
They told me that my grandfather, Harry Pickholtz, came to the USA as an orphan, alone, no age given  and he may have been adopted somewhere by a family called BERNSTEIN or something like that.  My father wasn't sure or he didn't want to tell me. That could be and being an orphan,  could be at an older age, just stating a fact.  He married, and my father Morris, and 2 sisters, Sadie and Cecelia were born.  My sister Helene's middle name was BLUMA, named after a "grandmother", but who?  With that bit of information and nothing to lose, I went into Phila. to check out the records at the Marriage Bureau.  To my surprise, I not only found my parents, but three aunts who I knew, but thought they were my grandmother sisters.  You see digging counts.

Then I came upon some information from Israel Pickholtz, that there is a Sara PICKHOLTZ buried in the Alliance Cemetery, in Pittsgrove, Salem County, New Jersey.  A trip down there, and sure enough, she was there, but who was she? There were no other PICKHOLTZ's there.  Well the tombstone said she died in 1892, so there was a starting point.

New York passenger lists seemed like a good starting point.  When I looked there, WHAT A SURPRISE.  Listed were the PICKHOLTZs-- a wife and 3 daughters. The 3 aunts I mentioned above were really my great grandfather daughters.

The 1890 passenger list
There were three BERNSTEINs there, as well, a mother BLUMA and 2 sons, HARRY my grandfather and DAVID.  There is no record of David other than his landing in the USA and to this day we have no idea what happened to him. Perhaps David was not part of this family but was being brought to the US for friend or family.

The KACZER (KATCHER) family was there too but who are they?  Every little bit of information counts.  

More digging.  The Alliance, New Jersey area was one of the first Jewish farming communities in the USA.  Okay.  So the families must have been farmers down there.  Not so far fetched.  My grandfather was always in the produce business as well as his wife's family.  Thanks to the New Jersey Archives Office, I obtained mortgage papers and  a deed for land in Pittsgrove, NJ.  These were date a few months after there arrival in NYC.  Interesting point-----------all three families are named on these papers.  Were they strangers or family or something in between?  I posted on JewishGen about the 3 families and learned a KATCHER member lived with my grandparents, while he went to college at the U of P.  Doesn't sound like they were strangers ----- but that doesn't mean they were family either.

Going back to my great grandfather BERNARD PICKHOLTZ.   When his first wife died in 1892 (buried as I said, in Alliance, but with no death certificate), he was left with 3 teen-aged daughters to raise.  BLUMA BERNSTEIN, Sara's sister had 1 known son living, my grand father HARRY.  Why not unite the two families?  The 1900 census show this happened and the new family is living in Philadelphia. Where this wedding took place is unknown. If there was one.

Now lets jump ahead to 1925.  As a member of Ancestry, MyHeritage, Gemi, I get many hits.  A groups of Pennsylvania hits dealt with a MORRIS PICKHOLTZ (that specific spelling), but there are two of them.  One is Israel Pickholtz's grandfather, so I deleted those (sorry Israel).
Reading Eagle, 25 January 1925
My PICKHOLTZ was mentioned in articles coming from Reading, Pa where both of my parents had relatives, so I looked.  Here is where the digging gets good.  This article describes the wedding of Sadie Tersuhow (whose mother is Bernard and Sara's daughter) and Benjamin Chaitt and there is a list of those in attendance. Curiosity said look who is there.  Well my entire family was there and guess who else.  A whole set of the KATCHERs.  I am sure now they are relatives.  Twenty five plus years after arriving in the USA, they aren't just friends----- THEY ARE FAMILY.   After passing this news on to a KATCHER relative,  she has informed me that family members feel the relationship is by way of BERNSTEIN line.
I guess I have to dig some more to prove it, but the wall has fallen.

You too should dig and dig, something always turns up.

If you go back to the beginning of this article, I say I thought I was a PICKHOLTZ, but I am NOT.  My DNA line is BERNSTEIN.  For those of you who use Ancestry, MyHeritage, or other resources, you will find incorrect information which I have no intention of changing.  If I did, I am then not a PICKHOLTZ.  Let me explain.

MY great grandparents, Bernard and Sara, had three daughter and one son only, named Volodya (born 1886 in the Ukraine).  No other information on him.  This person is not my HARRY PICKHOLTZ - and in fact we know nothing about him beyond his birth record.

Harry's grave names Bernard (Berisch) as his father.
He isn't. He is his mother's second husband.
Bluma Bernstein's first husband was Juda Mendel WERFEL and they had Moses Hersch/Harry (now you are talking) and Zalman Hillel who died in infancy. David (whose only record is his arrival in 1890 with his mother) may or may not be another Werfel son. When Bernard married Bluma, somewhere in New Jersey (maybe) between 1892 and 1900, Harry (then at least fifteen years old) went from BERNSTEIN to PICKHOLTZ.  There is no record of this being done formally, but this was the accepted practice for carrying on the family name-- PICKHOLTZ. Now we know how my sister's middle name became BLUMA.  Digging uncovers a lot of secrets.

This is why, when you read and use my tree, siblings don't always go with the right PARENTS.  Hopefully, this should clear up some of the confusion when you look at my tree.  So what about DNA.  My relatives on my grandfather Harry's side have no PICKHOLTZ DNA.  What they have is BERNSTEIN DNA.  For my relatives of Bernard and Sara, they have both PICKHOLTZ and BERNSTEIN DNA.  This is how our two families are related-------- BERNSTEIN power of the DNA. 
Israel's notes: 
I have discussed this family previously, in two installments: here, continuing here.
The first column of the wedding announcement (including photos of the couple) is in the crease so we cannot really see it. The Reading Public Library's microfilm copy is no better than the one shown here, which is from MyHeritage.
There is a "Mrs. L. Pickholtz" among the wedding guests. I haven't a clue who this might be, but Steve's best guess is that this is his grandfather's sister Fannie and the "L" is a typo. He is probably right.
Steve and two other descendants of Harry Pickholtz are participating in our DNA project.  Four of Bernard and Sara's descendants, including the daughter and two grandchildren of the newlyweds have tested as well.  And two descendants of Bernard's sister.
Housekeeping notes
In my most recent post, I mentioned the aunt and uncle of my friend Mindy. Two days later, I happened across this photograph of my mother (right) with Mindy's aunt and uncle.

I shall be speaking for the Jewish SIG of the St. Louis Genealogical Society on the thirtieth of April. Details to follow.

I will be giving two presentations for the new Kansas City Jewish Genealogical Society on the second of May at the Johnson County Central Resource Library in Overland Park. The first will be at 4:45, the second at 6:30. Topics to be announced.

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