Re: Name change documents, 20th century ?New York #general

Ira Leviton

Dear Cousins,

Deb Holman asked where to find proof of a name change in New YorkCity.

In New York State, name changes can be done in either the civil or
criminal divisions of State Supreme Court. In the Civil Division in
Manhattan at 111 Center Street in room 118, I remember the ledger or index
books being thin, with only one or two years of name changes in each, and
they must be requested at a window, so the procedure is somewhat
cumbersome. At the Criminal Division at 60 Center Street in room 103B,
it's easier because many years are in much thicker ledgers. In Kings County
(Brooklyn), the situation is similar, with indexes in both court divisions.
Estelle Guzik's book "Genealogical Resources in New York" clearly explains
where the indices and the records are located.

However, it should be noted that the name change process is time-consuming
and costs a few dollars in notary and court fees that our immigrant
ancestors may not have had. It was cheaper and more convenient to
change a name just by calling oneself something different, and then,
of course, there's no documentation. Decades ago one didn't have to show
a driver's license, social security card, or birth certificate to open a
bank account or do other 'official' business, so formal name changes
weren't required like they are nowadays. Judging >from what is probably
millions of people who were born in Eastern Europe but lived in the U.S.
with names like Morris, Phillip, Frances, and Sadie, without evidence of
a name change, I suspect that the informal method was done far more often.

Ira Leviton
New York, N.Y.

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