My Grandmother: Guta Naiman Ciechanowicz / Gussie Saxon

Born: Jan. 1, 1869 Wasosz, Lomza Russia
Died: Jan. 16, 1919 New York, New York USA

Gussie Calligraphy

Text of calligraphy above:
Guta Neiman (Nejman, Naiman) was born in Lomza, in northeastern Poland(1), which was then part of the Russian Empire and ruled by the Czar. The city was situated above the Narev River, with beautiful views of open fields and dense forests. It was a market town and the administrative center of the province.

There are records of Guta’s ancestors living in the region before 1750, in Lomza, Wasosz and Czyzewo.(2)
There were nine children in all. Most of them left Lomza, emigrated to the United States and settled in New York.(3)

Guta married Moszk-Herszk Ciechanowicz around 1890, when she was perhaps 20 and he was 22.(4) His family had come from the village of Goworowo, not far from Lomza.(5)

Five years after their wedding, shortly after the birth of their third child, Moszk left for New York. They did not see each other for five years. It was summer of 1900 when she and the children travelled overland to Antwerp, Belgium and then on the ship Westernland to America. The ship’s manifest lists her as Gutke Czechanowicz.(6)
Because their last name was so difficult for Americans to pronounce and the spelling varied continually, eventually they became Morris and Gussie Saxon. (7)

They had seven more children in New York. Their home was a welcoming place for extended family and friends. Gussie made time to attend local lectures and plays, sometimes bringing one of her children with her.(8) She loved to listen to opera.(9)

Gussie died in the influenza epidemic of 1918-1819.

1) Lomza was both the name of the town and the name of the Gubernia (province) in the 19th century. In this case, Lomza is the governmental district where Guta Naiman’s birth is recorded. Lomza is pronounced Wam-sha in Polish.

(2) Gussie was born in the shtetl of Wasosz, where the Naiman family lived as far back as 1806, when the birth of my great great great granfather Lejzor Naiman is recorded.

Wasosz
Year
Population
Jews
 
1808
770
14
 
1827
1022
280
 
1857
1389
453
 
1921
1746
338

Her mother, Golda-Leja Lavski, was born in the town of Lomza, as was Golda-Leja’s father Samuel-Meir, who was a teacher of Torah in the Shas Society and also described in records as a Kramarz - stall owner (1835) and Trader in hardware (1857). According to descendents stories, Samuel-Meir taught Torah to his sons and others (several sons became well known rabbis) while his wife Hinda ran the business. Gussie’s grandmother Hinda Gorzalczany Lavski was born in the shtetl of Czyzewo (pronounced Chizev ) 28 miles from Lomza, where her father was an innkeeper.

(3) The oldest child, Joseph Naiman, married in Lomza and then immigrated in 1891 to Eretz-Yisrael. He became a teacher of Talmud at Yeshivat 'Etz-H.ayim. He had four children and now there are many descendents living in Israel. His oldest son and grandson were important rabbis and authors.
There was another brother, Jankiel Michel, who I have not been able to trace after the record of his birth - 8 Jul 1878.

Guta's other siblings and their descendents included:

Abram (Abraham) NAIMAN (1870 - ) & Anna Steinberg (had a clothing store called Newman Brothers)
  unknown boy NAIMAN (~1903 - ?)
  Barnett Newman (1905 - 1970) & Annalee Greenhouse (he became a well known modern artist)
  George NEWMAN (~1906 - 1961) (had children)
  Sarah NEWMAN (>1908 - ?)
  Goldie (Gertrude) NEWMAN (1909 - 1978) & ? Master (had children)
Bejla NAIMAN (1873 - 1875)
Nojma Bejla (Mamie) NAIMAN (1875 - <1917) & ? Pollack
  Sam Pollack
  Harry Pollack
Eliasz (Ely) NAIMAN (1877 - 1941) (Cigar maker, raised Sam and Harry after the death of their mother)
Moszk (Morris) NAIMAN (1880 - ?) (Mens Clothing Manufacturer)
Estera (Ethel) NAIMAN (1883 - ?) & Unknown Siegel
  Boris Siegel (became a doctor, William B Siegel)
  ? Siegel
(4) Guta was born 1 Jan 1869 in Wasosz and known as Gutke. Her husband Moszk-Hersch was born 1 Apr 1868 in Goworowo. Their first child, (who may have been named Golda Feiga and later known as Frances in the United States), was born 2 Sep 1891 (I have not found a record of this birth). They were probably married in 1890 or early 1891. (I have not found a Lomza record of this marriage.)
(5) The shtetl of Goworowo: The earliest known Jewish community in town was in the 18th century. In 1921 the Jewish population was about 1,085 people. There is major genetic research project going on worldwide involving descendents of families from Goworowo who carry a gene for beta-thalassemia. Our family does not carry the gene for this disease.

(6) Transcribed from the ship’s manifest of the Westernland on the Ellis Island web site:

Name of Passenger Residence Year Arrived Age on Arrival
Gutke Czechanowicz Lomra 1900 29
Golda Czechanowicz Lomra 1900 6
Leark Czechanowicz Lomra 1900 2
Leib Czechanowicz Lomra 1900 4

(How did it happened that Moszk left Poland in 1895, and by 1900 his children had not aged very much? Perhaps there was a reduced fare for young children on the boat?)

(7) Were you wondering how the name changed from Ciechanowicz to Saxon?
Go back a step and ask about the origin of the name Ciechanowicz. Many Jewish surnames came from the name of the town that an ancestor lived in previously. Gussie’s Lavski ancestors probably came from the shtetl of Lavsk (which used to be 22.3 miles NNE of Lomza). Morris’s ancestor may have come from the town of Ciechanowiec, Poland. (Also spelled Chechanovitz. Chekhanovits, Chekhanovtse, Tshekhanovets, Tshekhanovits.) It is 40 miles SSE of Lomza. Or before 1750 they might have come from Ciechanow, Poland. (Chechinov, Chekhanov, Chekhanove, Tshekhanov, Ziechenau, 64.3 miles WSW of Lomza).

The “wicz” (witz, vitz, wiecz, vich, wich, vici) suffix means “son of” in Polish and other Slavic languages. So Ciechanowicz might mean son of someone who came from Ciechanowiec or son of someone from Ciechanow.
Transplant this Ciechanowicz family to New York, where the name no longer has it’s original physical reference and is pronounced SIKOWITZ (remember that TZ) and or SEIKOWITZ (pronounced Psych-o-witz). The June 1915 State Census of NY lists the name as Sickowitz. They wanted something easier to pronounce that sounded more American. It is a small step from Seik or Sick to Sax, and an easy translation from owicz to son.

(8). To be singled out as the only child to spend an afternoon with her mother at a theater was one of my mother’s fondest memories. Gussie took her along to a play on the lower East Side when she was about eight years old.

(9). After the calligraphy was finished, I kept asking questions. One of my oldest cousins remembered her mother saying that Gussie loved to listen to opera. Gussie must have listened to records on the large phonograph that we see in old photos taken in their dinning room.

Reeva Jacobson Kimble June 2002

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