Sunday, October 12, 2014

Ancestor Deep Dive: Yeshaya Supkoff

My great-great grandfather Yeshaya "Shaya" Supkoff was born Yeshaya Zubkis, about 1859, likely in Shpikov, Ukraine (then Russian Empire) to Shaul Dov and Elka.  The earliest mention of him in records (that I've found so far) is in the 1895 Russian Empire census:
Russian Empire Census; Shpikov; 1895; Zubkis Family (left side)

Russian Empire Census; Shpikov; 1895; Zubkis Family (right side)
Here, Shaya is 38 years old and is living with his wife Zlata (Zlata Tzipra Sanshuck), children, and his brother Yossel.  More analysis of his document is here.

Shaya and Zlata Tzipra had at least 6 children:
  1. Louis (Leib), born 1885
  2. Elka Supkoff Bryer, born 1889
  3. Mollie (Malka) Supkoff Tolchin, born 1895 (my great grandmother)
  4. Francis (Fruma) Supkoff (also her married name, as she married a first cousin), born 1897
  5. Saul (Zalman) Supkoff, born 1900
  6. Rose (Rochel) Supkoff Malinger, born 1904
There was also a Yankel mentioned in the above census; however as he was the same age as the missing Malka, I'm unsure if there was a mistake in enumeration or if he was a son who died before the family came to the United States.

Shaya and Zlata Tzipra came to the United States with their youngest three children (the older three had come over already) in 1908, arriving at the Port of Baltimore but then going to Pittsburgh to join their older children.  Shaya is a dealer who can read and write.  (Zlata Tzipra cannot read or write; their children cannot either at listed ages of 11, 8 & 6.)  They leave behind Shaya's brother Yossel in Shpikov.
Ship Manifest; Shaie Zubkoff (line 16)
A few years later, the family is together, living in Pittsburgh; here Shaya is enumerated as Sam, and he is a 48-year-old buncher in a cigar shop.
1910 United States Census; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; "Sam Soupcoff" (line 65)

By 1920, the older children are out of the house, and Shaya (here enumerated as Josiah, a direct translation of Yeshaya) and Zlata ("Elizabeth") are living with their three youngest children.  Shaya is a 66-year-old cigar maker in a cigar factory--and he is a homeowner.
1920 United States Census; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Josiah Supkoff, line 96
In 1929, he was listed in the Pittsburgh City Directory as "Jos," husband to Elizabeth, where he was still a cigar manufacturer.  Note that all of these other Supkoffs are relatives; Benjamin and Irwin are both sons of Shaya's brother Yossel, and Louis is Shaya's oldest son.  The Fannie who is Benjamin's wife is also Shaya's daughter.
1929 Pittsburgh (PA) City Directory
Shaya was not listed in the 1930 census, as he died that January of bronchial pneumonia.  His death certificate states that he was about 64, but all other records (plus his tombstone) point to his actually being closer to 70.

Death Certificate; Josiah Supkoff; 1930
Shaya Supkoff
Shaya was buried in Beth Abraham Cemetery in Pittsburgh.  His stone seems to have had his picture on it, but the photo seems to have broken off.  However, the one picture I have of him seems (based on the collar that is still visible) to be the same picture.
Shaya Supkoff Grave; Beth Abraham Cemetery; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


  1. I'm impressed you found Russian census records. How did you do that? I have a grandfather born in Lutsk, which was also Russia at the time but is now Ukraine. All I know about his parents are their names and that they considered themselves German.

    1. Thanks, Schalene! I hired a researcher (along with a group of others with relatives from Shpikov to split the cost), and he found them. My father's family (Yeshaya is on my mom's side) is from the area around Lutsk. Records there are VERY hit or miss.