Sunday, August 16, 2020

A Yeshaya by Any Other Name....

My great-great grandfather was Yeshaya Supkoff.  He was inconsistent with what name he used once in the United States.  But some of it wasn't his fault--it seems that even for one event, the newspapers used different names for him.

On March 1, 1925, three separate Pittsburgh newspapers reported on Yeshaya's application for a building permit.  But the three newspapers called him three different things.

J. Supkoff Building Permit Application; Pittsburgh Daily Post; March 1, 1925

The Pittsburgh Daily Post noted that J. Supkoff had applied for a building permit.  Since Yeshaya directly translated to Josiah (and was a name that Yeshaya used in America), that makes sense.

Joshua Supkoff Building Permit Application; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; March 1, 1925

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes that Joshua Supkoff applied for that building application.  Okay, so perhaps Yeshaya used the name Joshua to apply for the permit, and the Daily Post simply used the first initial.  That wouldn't be unusual.

But there was a third newspaper in Pittsburgh at that time.

John Supkoff Building Permit Application; Pittsburgh Press; March 1, 1925

The Pittsburgh Press noted that the permit application was made by John Supkoff.

So two names plus an initial for the same permit application.  That would be bad enough, but two weeks later, the permit is mentioned again.

Josiah Supkoff Building Permit Hearing; Pittsburgh Daily Post; March 15, 1925

On March 15, the Pittsburgh Daily Post reported that there was going to be a hearing about this permit application--and here my great-great grandfather's name is Josiah.

So within two weeks, and talking about a single permit application, the newspapers reported that the applicant was:

  • J. Supkoff
  • Joshua Supkoff
  • John Supkoff
  • Josiah Supkoff

So what's the lesson here?  Don't be too rigid in what your ancestors' names were.  Sometimes they themselves would morph names (especially if they were immigrants), but sometimes when their names were obviously taken from official documentation, they weren't even consistent.  (But conversely, be careful attributing items to ancestors that may not actually be about them.)

And what happened with this permit?  Well, it got denied.  Under the name Josiah, according to one newspaper.

Josiah Supkoff Building Permit Denial; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; April 24, 1925

But it doesn't end there.  Yeshaya appealed the denial.  

Joshua Supkoff Building Permit Denial Appeal; Pittsburgh Daily Post; May 31, 1925

So that is the saga of the building permit of Yeshaya/J./Joshua/Josiah Supkoff.

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  1. My grandfather sometimes spelled his name Isadore, sometimes Isidor, sometimes Isidore. I think most of these people probably really used their Yiddish names except for legal formalities and so never were consistent with their "American" names.

    1. For sure. But what struck me here are completely different given names and not spelling variations--and likely taken from a single legal filing!