False Surnames #belarus

Jack R. Braverman <jbraverman1@...>

Carol K. Cohn's recent mention of a relative who arrived in the
U.S. under an alias, yet never spoke of it again, suggested a
research trick which may be of value to those who can't quite
find the passenger list for the arrival of a relative--even when
there seems to be other evidence pointing to such an arrival.

Ms. Cohn referred to a Certificate of Arrival that helped her
realize that an alias surname had been used.

As the 1930s came to an end, and as more and more immigrants
realized that there were serious problems in Europe, many who
had procrastinated in the matter of citizenship decided that
"papers" were, after all, important to avoid possible

By this time, however, the government had evolved procedures
far in excess of simple Passenger Lists. One requirement for
citizenship application was a Certificate of Arrival issued
by the port authority where the person had actually landed.
The one in my possession listed _all_ the names ever used by
the person, including the one in use at the moment of landing.
A photo and physical description were attached.

Had it not been for this document, I would have never been able
to locate the actual Passenger Lists of these relatives, inasmuch
as they had used an alias in 1903, or so.

Like Ms. Cohn's family, this temporary surname had been lost to
the family's memory. Even a granddaughter close to her gma did
not know of it till I found the name.

Certificates of Arrival were generally attached to the naturalization
petitions, although copies may have been retained by the family. When
ordering such papers, be sure to emphasize you want _all_ pages (both
sides) of the Petition and of the Naturalization Certificate.
Better yet, do the work yourself.

I'm unsure how the Certificates can be found otherwise. There were
issued upon request, so there may not have been any central archive.
I don't know for sure. If anyone knows, we'd all be grateful for such
information, I'm sure.

* * * * *

The mutilation thread has been interesting and even intensely human.
I wonder if we could now turn to the question of the alias surname

How frequent was this deception used? Was the substitute name merely
a transliteration of the true surname into another language, as it
seems to have been in my case? What other motives could there have
been? Where did false European papers come from, and was a false
name part of the bargan?

Was a false document fabricated in a country other than the Pale,
and thus the surname was randomly chosen, perhaps in a different

Could false papers be had in the Pale? (Remember that at some point
in the 1890s, the Port of Hamburg demanded that immigrants be in
possession of exit visas >from their country of origin.)

Any insights would be equally interesting for us all.


J. Braverman
Cleveland, OH

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