Re: Changing names - how was it done? #general


Has anyone looked into how someone changed their name at the turn of the
century in the United States? Did our ancestors wake up one morning and
say I want an American name and just start calling themselves by their new

I cannot speak to the legality of the procedure but I can tell you about
my immigrant family in Philadelphia. My paternal grandfather had the
surname SOSNOVSKY upon immigration >from Ekaterinaslav in 1902.
Through the document trail and the city directories I found that the first
incarnation of the surname was SOSNOFFSKY or SASNOFFSKY.
Later it seesawed back and forth between SOSNOFFSKY and SOSNOFF.
Still later it flipped back and forth between SOSNOFF and SERNOFF.

My late father told me (and I think he believed) that his eldest brother
changed the family name to SERNOFF. When my father was naturalized
in 1928 he used the name SERNOFF and did not request a name change.
I later found that his eldest brother was not naturalized until 1940
and at that time he changed His name legally >from SOSNOFFSKY to SERNOFF.

Having traced many of the extended family through the city directories, I
find this scenario repeated over and over.

One of my grandmother's sisters was preceded in immigration by her husband,
Nuchem WISCHNAPOLSKY. He, being extremely fearful that the Tsar was
going to find him and pluck him back to Korsun, immediately took the name
of his wife's aunt and uncle. He adopted their surname, YOMPOLSKY, and
appears in the city directories as such, all the while sending for various
WISCHNAPOLSKY family members. When the YOMPOLSKY family eventually became
known as YOUNG (via the same - seemingly cavalier process) Nuchem also
became a YOUNG.

Although I have no proof to offer, it is my opinion that they did not
think (or realize) that they might not be complying with the law. I am
sure that my father did not. He was 11 mos. old upon immigration and had
little knowledge of the family history.

Lois Sernoff (technically Sosnovsky)
[Philadelphia, PA, USA]

MEZHIRITZKY [MERITZ, MARRITZ, MARRITS] >from Korsun in Kiev Gub. to Phila.
SOSNOVSKY [SOSNOFSKY, SOSNOV - all spelling variations] >from Gorodishche
in Cherkassy uezd, Kiev Gub.-> Ekaterinoslav -> Philadelphia, PA or
FRIEDMAN >from Beltsy/Balti ["Bels" Bessarabia] Moldova to anywhere
KUSHNER [all spelling variations} >from Tomashpol and Yampol in Podolia Gub.
to anywhere

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