How immigrant surnames were changed #general


David Laskin
 

My grandfather's name in the Russian Pale was Szmul Lonckewicz but in America he
was known as Samuel Laskin. I had always heard that the surname was changed on
Ellis Island (he arrived in 1921), but I recently read in Vincent Cannato's book
American Passage that this did not happen: Cannato states definitively that
officials on Ellis Island were not in the business of altering names. So how did
Lonckewicz become Laskin? Following Cannato's suggestion, I speculated that my
grandfather must have made the change himself -- but a cousin now tells me that he
distinctly remembers grandpa saying that the name WAS changed. But by whom? I'd
welcome any insight into how immigrant names were changed. Thanks.
David Laskin, Seattle, WA

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