Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Real Paul Winchell

Paul Herbert Winchell, 1881-1961
When I was small, people would ask me if I were related to the show business personality Paul Winchell or journalist Walter Winchell.  I didn’t know so I said no.  Now I can definitely say I am not related to either man because they were not truly Winchells.

According to the biography on, entertainer Paul Winchell was born Paul Wilchinsky in New York City to Solomon Wilchinsky and Clara Fuchs.  His grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Poland and Austria-Hungary. Below is a portion of the 1940 census showing a young Paul Wilchinsky living with his parents in Los Angeles. 

Entertainer Paul "Winchell"


Walter Winchell was born Walter Weinschel, the son of Jacob and Jennie Weinschel, both of whom came from Poland.  He just happened to be Jewish, too.  Below is a portion of the 1905 showing an 8-year-old Walter Weinschel living with his parents in Manhattan.  The birthplace for both parents is "Russia Polad."  It appears the enumerator had trouble spelling "Poland" correctly.
Journalist Walter "Winchell"

On the other hand, I have a copy of the birth record for my great-uncle Paul Herbert Winchell who was born 26 August 1881, the son of Henry Franklin Winchell and Cora Leona Thatcher.  At the time they were living in Waterbury, CT, where Henry was working as a carpenter.  The record says both parents were born in the Town of Great Barrington.
I have researched my Winchell family back to Robert Winchell, whom researchers agree came from Great Britain.  He was living in Dorchester, Mass., by 1634.  He was one of the original settlers of Windsor, Conn., where on 25 Dec 1640 he received a home lot.  I believe the surname Winchell is Anglo-Saxon, having roots in the Germanic language of the ancient invaders of England, and it seems to be the only thing my Winchell family has in common with the "famous Winchells."  

I had often heard about my great-uncle Paul, most likely because he lived in the same county as my immediate family, but I knew very little about him until I started researching.  On 1 June 1900 he lived in Shelton, Fairfield Co., Conn, and worked as a cotton spinner at age 18.  He met and married Clara May Shufelt 4 June 1905 in Chatham, Columbia Co., N.Y.  Here is a photo of the couple later in life.

By 1910 the couple were living with Clara's father George.  The marriage announcement said he lived on Spring Street.  That's the street I found the couple living on later in Chatham.  It's possible they inherited the house from her father.  Here's a photo of their house in Chatham.  I wouldn't mind living it.  It's cute.  I love the porch.

On 12 September 1918, Paul registered for the World War I draft.  The document indicated he  was short and stout with brown hair and eyes.

Paul worked for well known local companies, the Chatham Shirt Company and Columbia Boxboard Mills.  He was an active member of the Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Chatham.  

Paul died 11 January 1961.  His wife followed him shortly in death on 17 September 1961.  They are both buried in the Mellenville Union Cemetery.  Somehow my family completely missed the fact that he died.  I never knew that they both died two years after I was born and I passed their burial sites innumerable times in my life.  

That is what I know of a true Paul Winchell.  There may be others.  Searching for them in newspapers can be very difficult because there are usually too many returns for Paul "Winchell" and Walter "Winchell."  This family still needs a true member to make his or her mark in this country.

I am extremely grateful to my Schwab cousins for sharing the photos with me.

1 comment:

  1. I really like how you 'eliminated' the so-called "Winchell" 's - So much family history research is indeed ruling out what does not apply huh?