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.