Schiff Family


Research Conducted by Dr. Marlene Silverman,

from the article  "The Cousinhood," by Dr. Marlene Silverman,

Editor of Landsmen,

in Vol. 19, Nos. 2-3 of Landsmen, publication of the
Suwalk-Lomza Interest Group for Jewish Genealogists.
(enter suwalk-lomza into search engine) or

Click on the following: Suwalk-Lomza Interest Group


From Marjampol to The Alamo

January 4, 2010


Yet another new member's quest leads us to draw on several resources. From: Theodore Lewis, Orlando, FL,


"The surname I am researching is LEWIS - probably not the original name. The family patriarch is Hyman Lewis from Marjampol.  As requested, more details were sent [see also info. on his web site], summarized as follows:


Hyman (father unknown) Lewis and sons Harris, Solomon & Moses left Marjampol during 1868-1871; some spent time in England before settling in Chicago. Family lore is that the sons adopted the surname Lewis from a pair of islands in Scotland called 'Harris' and 'Lewis.' Their mother was Lena (surname not known).


The Unfolding Story


Harris ben Hyman Lewis (1849-1929). Marr. 1870, Chicago, Gilda/ Gittel BURTON/ CREGIER (b. 1849 "German)"). Children: Ben (1873), Gordon, Agnes, Julius, Abe, Lilly.


. Moses (aka John) ben Hyman Lewis (1856-1901). Marr. 1884, Chicago, Anna PERELSTEIN (b. 1862 "Germany."). Children: Edith (1885), Samuel, Lena, Abe, Sarah.


Solomon ben Hyman Lewis (1851-1930). In England c. 1871-1873? Marr. 1875, Chicago, "Esther Tobias" SCHIFF (b.1851, Mariampol). Children: Charles Tobias/ aka 'Astl /Castle/Cassile,' (1877), Abraham, Elijah, David, Max, Lena, Ethel, Jacob, Ben, Ida.


Solomon's son Eliajah married Grace Crockett, a g-g-g niece of Davey Crockett of Alamo fame; other of her ancestors were General Lafayette & the marquis de Chambrun. A French Huguenot family, their original surname was Croquette. Eliajah & Grace had no children.


Solomon was a founding member of the `South Side Hebrew Congregation' in Chicago.


A sister of the three Lewis brothers was Rachael, who married Isaac MARKS.


Schiff Family of Mariampol. Solomon's wife, "Esther Tobias" Schiff, came to Chicago c. 1871 (her parents not known). Her siblings in Chicago: Jacob, Sam (marr. Hanna Vera WINSBERG - who had a brother George - family known for the large Winsberg Dept. Store); Charles (marr. Etta); Max, Fanny, Jennie (marr. Barney BERMAN); & Castle/ Cassile.


Esther's cousins in Chicago: Ben & Isaac Schiff - both bankers - and a BERKSON family, all from Marjampol. She also had a cousin in Dublin, Ireland -- Peysach COHEN.


Editor's Reply


Without the real surname -- or even patronymic -- of Hyman LEWIS, we cannot help you with that ancestor. Although married into a Marjampol family, he might have been born elsewhere. For the Schiffs, et. al., I found quite a lot, using mostly Landsmen material.


(1) Re, Early Chicago Jews. Vol.2, Nos. 2­3 of Landsmen has an article by Mark W. Gordon with data extracted from the 950 page book, History of the Jews of Chicago (1924; re-printed 1988) by H.L. Meites. Our article has facts about people from Suwalk-Lomza and the Bialystok area. Very briefly: Litvok early arrivals in Chicago were mostly from northern Suwalki gubernia, founding their first congregation in 1865. Among the 12 names given for "Zemansky's minyan" were: Louis Schiff, Harris Levinson [possibly your Harris Lewis?] & Leyb


Winsberg. Other synagogues emanated from this early congregation, including Beth Hamedrash Hagdol [a 'standard' name for early Suwalk congregations in the U.S.A] and the Anshe Sholom - formed by merger of the Marjampo[ & Kalwarja groups. Among the nine leaders of the early Marjampol congregation (founded 1870) are the following: Jacob & Jos. M. BERKSON; Jacob LEWIS [possibly your Moses `John' Lewis?]; and Anshel & Hirsch SCHIFF.


A valuable section of the Meites book has one page vignettes on many early personalities. Mark Gordon prepared an Appendix to his article listing them by name, with their page numbers. (Some give names of family members). This Editor does not have the book. You should try to find it, at least for the following vignettes:


. pg.121. Schiff,Louis, b. 1839, Marjampol.

. pg. 445. Winsberg, George, b. 1866, Ludwinowa.

  pg. 635. Schiff, Ben J. (banker); 1861, Maijampol.

(his mother's maiden name is Goodman]

. pg. 525. Kreeger, Moses, b. 1862, Wersbelow.

. pg.218. Kaplan, Nathan D., b. 1877, Marjampol.


(2) Schiff in Poland. The name was ZYFF (aka ZYF). Using Landsmen Marjampol marriage extracts -- and some JRI birth and death index data -1 have reconstructed this family as follows:


The progenitor is Szolom (b.c. 1800?) - son of Owsiej/Joshua [Orel, in one record] ZYFF - marr. 1827 to Cyrla z Mowsza/ or Josiel (no surname). Their children were: "Estra" (b. 1848; marr. 1867 Peysach z Jankiel & Judes Kaplan); Leja Tauba, b. 1840; Chackiel - aka Tobias Chackiel [b. 1829; marr. 1847 Basza dau. of Hirsz z Szmerko & Ita z Kopel /or Kuszel PERELSZTEYN of Balwierizkisl -see more on him below --; also: Hirsz (b.c. 1831; marr. 1851 Sora Beyla dau. of Anszel "Efroimowicz" & Rocha z Mowsza of village Wenczlowe); Abel (b. 1835; marr. Dyna dau. of Idzko & Mera z Leyb LUBELSKI of Suwalki); and Leyzer (b. 1838 - wife unknown; had sons Owsieje/Joshua Benjamin [b. 1860] & Icko / Isaac [b. 1863] ).


(3) Chackiel Tobias z Szolom ZYFF b. 1829 ( see above ). My hypothesis is that he is the father of your "Esther Tobias." Children born in Marjampol    to him and his wife Basza (dau. of Hirsz z Szmerko Perelsteyn & Ita z Kuszel] were: Fruma (b. 1848 - your Fanny?); Szmerko (b. 1851 - your Sam?); & Kuszel (b. 1858 - your `Castle'?). I found no evidence of your Esther's birth. [But see "Hamburg Lists" below.]


(4) Schiffs et, al. in Chicago. Connecting the above data on the elder generation of Schiffs in Marjampol to the data in Meites' Chicago book:


Leyzer z Szolom (b.1838) is Louis Schiff; his two sons - the bankers Ben J. & Isaac -- were your Esther's first cousins.


. "Estra" z Szolom (b. 1848) and her husband Peysach Kaplan fit with the story of a 20th century visit by some cousin from Dublin named Peysach Cohen ['Kaplan' is a form of 'Cohen'].


Hirsz z Szolom (b. 1831) is probably the Hirsz Schiff in Meites' book. At the time of his 1851 marriage, his wife's father Anszel was deceased. Hirsz's first son (if he had one) would have been named Anszel because Hirsz's own father, Szolom, was still living at least until 1867. The Hirsz and Anszel Schiffs listed as a pair in Meites' book were likely father and son.


(5) Re: Winsberg. Hirsz z Szolom Schiff lived in the village Wenczlowe - I assume near Marjampol. That may be the origin of the surname Winsberg, your Esther’s cousins. The "owe" ending is similar in meaning to the German "burg." [Another possible surname derivation might be Winston.]


(6) Re: "Born Germany". Many immigrants from Suwalk-Lomza appear in American censuses as "born in Germany." Jews in that border area identified with the German culture, and described themselves as "from Germany" - e.g. the wife of your Moses Lewis - Anna Perelsteyn - was most likely from the same Perelsteyn family of Balwierizkis as your Esther Schiff's (hypothesized) mother. [Also, the wife of your Harris Lewis - Gitla Cregler/ "Kreeger" - was probably from the Krygier family of Wersbelow.] Your two ancestral families probably were related to each other before that 1875 marriage in Chicago between Solomon Lewis and Esther Schiff.


(7) Hamburg Lists. Our Landsmen book, passengers from Hamburg to NYC [Indirect: 1855­-mid 1873] shows the following 5chiffs--all giving the town of Suwalki as their last place of residence:


July 12, 1872: Frume (age 11) & Kusiel (9). While their ages do not fit well with the above Schiff data, their names certainly do and we should assume they were part of that family, in some way. As young children, they must have been accompanied by adults. The only adults from Suwalki on that ship were -- [Goose bumps!] - a family named APFELBAUM: `Dude' (b. 1827) & 'Scheve' (b. 1830) with their children Mejer (b. c. 1861), Gerson (b. c. 1865), Chaim (b. c. 1863), Isaac (b. c. 1867) & Beyla (b. c. Feb., 1872).


This appears to be an Epelbaum family that I know well. `Dude' is Jude] Abel z Icko (b.c. 1825); and his wife 'Scheve' is Szyfra (aka Rocha Szyfra) dau. of Peltyn z Gerszon Epszteyn (b.c. 1830). [Note: Szyfra's father was a brother of the Anglican priest in England known as 'Moses Margoliouth '(b. Suwalki, c. 1825) about whom we wrote in Landsmen, Vol. 11, Nos. 1-2]. Two of their children on the Hamburg list fit with known birth data for this family: Chaim & Isaac.


Casting some doubt on this Epelbaum-­Epszteyn hypothesized family is the fact that the birth in 1868 of another of their sons, Peltin, was recorded in Suwalki on July 2, 1872-only 10 days before they are shown departing Hamburg,, and without any child named Peltin. [The 1872 record details came from Nicki Russler's examination of the Mormon microfilm.]


Regardless of the correct identity of that `Apfelbaum' family, it seems likely that they were related to the Schiff children on that ship. [As a wild speculation: Might it be that your family derived the surname Zyf /Zyff from an ancestress named Szyfra?]


Feb. 14,1873: These Schiffs -- also showing Suwalki as their last place of residence - are Chaskel (age 43) and Taube (female; age 10). This Chaskel (b.c. 1830) fits well with the (hypothesized) father of your Esther. The girl Taube might be your "Esther Tobias," if we assume her correct age was actually about 15 [making her 17-18 at the time of her 1875 marriage in Chicago to Solomon Lewis). It is possible that the 15 in her age was misread or mistranscribed as 10. [Also, children under age 15 paid only half-fare.] These two were traveling 'alone;' i.e. nobody else on that ship came from any town in Suwalk-Lomza.


(8) Schiff Data Elsewhere. Landsmen record extracts also suggest earlier origins of this family in the nearby town of Preny - or at least, a related Schiff branch there in which one sees the name Owsiej /Joshua.