Sunday, November 22, 2015

What's in a Name? The Many and Varied Spellings of the Sachs-Saxe-Sax-Kaliske Family Name

The constancy of names in the late 1800's, both given and surnames, was not what it is today.  I've come across numerous examples of relatives given one name at birth and then called another for most of their lives.  My paternal grandmother's family, generally known to us as the Saxe family, provides a wealth of examples of name variations.

  Fabian Saxe with his second wife, Theresa Helburn Saxe and their five children.
 In the back row are the three sons by Fabian's first wife, Minna Rochotsh. 

By 1894, most of the family members were using the 'Saxe' spelling.  For reasons unknown to me, Henry retained the 'Sachs' spelling.  (The names of the people in photo were recorded by my father, James Fabian Bernard Zweighaft.)

My father's maternal grandfather was known in the United States alternatively as Fabian Sachs, Fabian Kaliske or Fabian Sachs Kaliske but in fact was born Fabian Sax in Kalisz, Poland in 1833.  Stranger still, while his father's name was recorded in the birth record as  Szaie Hersz Sax, he signed his name as S.H. Sachs, thereby establishing two variants of the last name.  

                                   Kalisz, Russian Poland, birth record of Fabian Sax, 15 Mar 1833; citing Family History Library microfilm No. 743143, birth record no. 79. 

Another surprising discovery of a name variant in this family was the birth name for Fabian's daughter, my paternal grandmother, whom I assumed  was born Blanche Sachs or Blanche Kaliske. In fact, her name is recorded as Flora Kaliske on her 1876 birth certficate.  My guess is that her paternal grandmother, Blanche (aka Blimcha) Brockman (b. 1802, Kalisz, Poland) died shortly after Flora's birth and the baby was renamed Blanche in the custom of Ashkenazic Jews of Eastern Europe who frequently named their children after deceased relatives.

A tintype, about 1884.  From left, Theresa Helburn Sachs Kaliske, Belle [Bella], Martin, Artie [Arthur], Julie [Julian] and Blanche [Flora]. Note: The birth names are in brackets. 
Blanche Saxe Kaliske, about the time of her 1894 marriage to my grandfather, Bernard Zweighaft

The elegant elderly relative living at 336 West End Avenue in the 1960's, my grandmother's sister, was always known by us as 'Aunt Belle'.  But she was actually born Bella Kaliske and indeed used the name 'Bella' in official records until late in life as is shown on the 1948 passenger ship manifest below.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Queen Mary Redux

Some family members are scheduled to travel on the beautiful Queen Mary II this summer.

"Queen Mary 2 outbound from Southampton 2 Sept 2013".  Image by Brian Burnell.  

 Knowing those travel plans made this passenger ship record jump out at me when working on   genealogy last night.  Sigmond and Alexander Saxe made the crossing on the original Queen Mary from Southampton to New York in August, 1936 just three months after the Queen Mary's maiden voyage on May 27, 1936.


  This is how the original Queen Mary looks today, docked in Long Beach, CA and living a second life as a floating hotel and glamorous event venue.

"RMS Queen Mary Long Beach January 2011 view". Image by David Jones from Isle of Wight, United Kingdom.

The seventy-five year old passenger, Sigmond Saxe (aka Sigmond Sachs Kaliske) was my half grand uncle, one of the sons of my great grandfather Fabian Sachs Kaliske and his first wife, Minna Rochotsh.   (Coincidentally, my older daughter was born 120 years exactly to the day after Sigmond.)   Sigmond married Constance Isaacs and had two children - Alexander and Marguerite.

Sigmond's mother, Minna, died in childbirth at age 29, leaving her husband and small sons - Sigmond, Henry, Eugene.  (There may have been another son, Hugo, but that has not been confirmed.)

The 1870 US Federal Census image below shows the widower Fabian (F.S. Kaliske), a 'leather merchant',  living in Manhattan with two of his young sons, Sigmond and Henry in the home of his brother, Alexander Kaliske (A.S. Kaliske) who listed his occupation as 'shoes and boots'.   It must have been busy household, with Fabian's children added to the four young children of Alexander and his wife, Sarah.  The first two people listed in the household are domestic servants.  



Friday, April 17, 2015

A Visit to Skeppsholmen

Skeppsholmen (literally, ship island) is one of the 14 islands upon which Stockholm was built.  The island today looks much as it did hundreds of years ago, a peaceful, urban oasis in the center of Stockholm.  

Two long row houses (långa raden), built in 1699 for King Karl XII's guards, dominated the island waterfront and still do today. 

Those two buildings have been painstakingly restored and transformed into the chic,  eco-friendly Hotel Skeppsholmen. That is where Dick and I spent two nights this month on my first visit to Sweden, and, to the best of my knowledge, the first descendant of  my grandfather, Axel Ström, to return to his birthplace. 

Dick, standing in front of the Hotel Skeppsholmen
The Skeppsholmen ferry landing for the ferry to Gamla Stan (Old Town) and Djurgården, Stockholm's National Park

More about the history of Hotel Skeppsholmen can be found at this web site:

  My first encounter with the word 'Skeppsholmen' was upon reading Axel Ström's exquisite confirmation document, issued by the priest of the Skeppsholmen church in 1882. To participate in parish life as he reached adulthood, he would have been required to demonstrate his knowledge of the Lutheran faith.  At this time, this was the official State religion and had been for over 300 years since the time of the Protestant Reformation when Sweden broke with the Roman Catholic church.  

Axel was 15 at the time of his confirmation.  The priest declared that Axel was 'ganska god' (fairly good) in his knowledge of church doctrine. 

The confirmation document must have been important to Axel as he carried it with him when he emigrated to the U.S. via Sunderland, England in the 1890's. It has survived over 100 years longer among our family papers.

Skeppsholmen Church, secularized in 2001 and now the Eric Ericson International Choral Centre. 

Unfortunately, we were not able to enter the old church as it was locked.  Hopefully I'll be able to get inside on the next visit to Sweden.

Axel Ström as a young man, holding booklet. The other three young men are unidentified.  One may possibly be his half brother, Karl Gustaf Adolf Ström, b. October 27, 1864 in Adolf Fredrik parish, Stockholm.

But why was Axel taking catechism lessons at the Skeppsholmen church in 1882 anyway?   He was born on January 1, 1867 in the Katarina parish in Södermalm, the area of Stockholm to the south of Skeppsholmen. This is the church where he was baptized.

Katarina kyrka (church) in Södermalm

Axel's father was Carl Johan Ström (b. March 24, 1840, Maria Magdalena parish, Stockholm) and his mother was Maria Wilhelmina Olsson (b. June 28, 1842, Lillhult homestead, Älgarås Parish, Västra Götaland, Sweden).  By the late 1870's, Carl Johan had become a master field surgeon in the Swedish Royal Navy.  Between 1878 and 1879 (and possibly longer) he was residing in naval residences on Skeppsholmen with his wife, Maria and his son Hjalmar Axel Oscar, my grandfather.

Maria Wilhelmina (Olsson) and Carl Johan Ström

My mother had told me that her father, Axel, always loved the sound of fog horns and wanted to be near the sea.  Axel arrived in the U.S. sometime in the 1890's.  Here are the addresses of four of his homes in the U.S. All are mere blocks from the water:

              55 Sussex Street, Jersey City, NJ (1898)
              154 Sussex Street, Jersey City, NY (1900)

              666 60th Street, Brooklyn, NY (1920)
              102 72nd Street, Brooklyn, NY (1921-1953)

Stockholm, sometimes called the Nordic Venice, clearly made a lasting impression on young Axel. Now that I've made the trip 'home' to Skeppsholmen, I can see why.

Axel and Anna Strom, probably in Brooklyn, around 1950.
Axel Strom, around 1950.