JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen Re: Changing names #general

Chuck Weinstein <cweinstein@...>

Anyone in this country (USA) can use any name they choose, as long as it
is not done with the intent to defraud. >from our ancestors' point of
view, the same opportunity was not possible. As has been discussed on
JewishGen's list many times, name changes were not done on the ship or
at Ellis Island or any port of debarkation. Our ancestors made a
conscious decision to change their names for a variety of reasons.
Mostly it was to fit in in the "Goldeneh Medina". Sometimes, they were
fearful of the czar's secret police or the conscription process.
Sometimes they were trying to hide their European identities. Sometimes
they just wanted to forget. There is an old Yiddish joke (with, I am
certain, at least grain of truth) about how Moshe the pisher became
Maurice LeFontaine. (It helps to understand both Yiddish and French)
Yakov Katzowicz found it easier to sound American (and easier to spell)
as Jack Katz, etc. Jews were, by far, not the only people to change
their names. Many immigrants found an "American" name was useful.
Probably the best example is that of Prince Philip, the Duke of
Edinburgh, whose father found it politic in 1915 to change the family
name >from the German Battenberg to the more English-sounding
Mountbatten. That was at the height of World War I, when anything that
sounded German was viewed suspiciously in both England and the US.

There are many records around the country for legal name changes. Not
everyone went to a court, but just began using their name of choice. In
addition to the above examples, any Jewish names became more American
sounding names which themselves became identified with Jews. Isidore
(Israel), Moe, Morris, and Max (Moshe), etc. are common examples.

Chuck Weinstein in San Mateo, CA

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