52 Ancestors – #11 Redux – A Genealogical Goose Chase

Sheldon Leonard
Famous writer, actor and producer
Dad- you did it again!! Yet another one of your stories has sent me on a wild goose chase. This time, it might have been embarrassing. Last week I posted #11 in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge. I didn’t have a lot of time, so I chose someone I knew almost nothing about: the famous actor/writer/producer Sheldon Leonard.
My father, Alan Edouard Samuel
Born July 24, 1932
This picture was taken in 1954 during Dad’s Navy service.

Dad had told me we were related. I believed him. Using the information stored in my RootsMagic genealogy software, I wrote a quick post, spending about 30 minutes writing it, before sending it off into cyberspace. Later that night, I decided to review the obituaries I had collected about my famous relative. 
Listing on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheldon_Leonard
What?? Who is this Anna Levit listed as his mother? I had my great-grandaunt, Rachel Kesner listed as mother. So much for the quick post. After spending two hours or so (it was almost 11 p.m. by then!) I decided there was much more work to be done. Not wanting to spread incorrect information, I took down the post until I could determine the facts.

The information I had:
  • Rachel “Rae” Kesner (daughter of George Ralph Kesner and Jessie Davis) married a man named Bershad. They had a child named Leonard Sheldon on Feb. 22, 1907. I also had Leonard’s wife and children listed. Those names matched the names in Sheldon Leonard’s obituary.
  • I also had information that Rachel had married a man named Jack Dimand and had two children with him.

It was in my software. It must be accurate. I posted it. Oops.

Here’s what I now know:

·         Leonard Sheldon Bershad’s father was Frank M. Bershad. Frank Bershad married Anna Levit on October 5, 1901 and they had two children, Leonard and another son, Alfred. They were Jewish.
·         Sheldon Leonard was born Leonard Sheldon Bershad on Feb. 22, 1907. By the way, that is the EXACT same day my grandmother, Hortense Kesner was born, so if Sheldon Leonard was my relative, my great-great-grandparents would have had two grandchildren born on the same day!!
·         Rachel and Jack (Full name Jacob Mitchell Dimand) announced their engagement in 1909 in Brooklyn,

1909 – The Brooklyn Standard Union

New York
·         The 1920 US Census shows Rachel, Jack and their son, Mitchell living in Brooklyn.
·         The 1920 US Census shows Frank, Anna, Leonard, and Alfred living in New Jersey.
·         As of the 1930 US Census the Bershad family was living in Brooklyn, New York.
·         On June 28, 1931, Leonard married Frances Bober.
·         Anna died in 1931.
·         Frank Bershad might have married a Rose Rosner Koenigsberg in 1934.
·         In 1940 Leonard and his family lived in New York. His occupation on the 1940 US Census was “actor.”
·         By 1955 Leonard and his wife had moved to California. By this time he had changed his name to Sheldon Leonard.
·         Jack Dimand died in Texas on June 13, 1969
·         Frank Bershad died in Florida on June 11, 1974
·         Rachel Bershad died in Florida on October 26, 1975.

I haven’t been able to find any confirmation on the marriage of Frank and Rachel nor have I found any obituaries linking Rachel to Sheldon Leonard.

Here’s what I think:

Rachel married Frank Bershad later in life (perhaps his 3rdmarriage), thereby making Sheldon Leonard my 1st cousin – twice removed BY MARRIAGE!!

Here’s what I learned:
  1. PAY ATTENTION!! If I had I might have caught that Rachel had married Jack Dimand in 1909. This was two years AFTER Leonard Sheldon had been born.
  2. CITE your SOURCES!!!! If I had done that when building my tree, I may have been able to track back why I put in the information I did.
  3. My father’s stories generally have a grain of truth in them, with just enough information to send you in the wrong direction. (Don’t even get me started on the fact he told me were IRISH!! Might save that story for Monday – St. Patrick’s Day.)

Leonard and Sheldon from THE BIG BANG THEORY
source: http://www.quadruplez.com/category/tv/the-big-bang-theory/
Perhaps the MOST important thing I learned through this search was that writers of the show THE BIG BANG THEORY were so inspired by Sheldon Leonard that they named two of the main characters after him. You just never know where a genealogical search will lead you!!

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