A. E. Jordan
Paul Blumstein wrote:
Is there an online database where I could lookup the record for a cousin who
lived in Manhattan and I believe may have legally changed his surname?
What time frame are you talking about for a name change? 100 years or more ago I am
convinced our immigrant forefathers woke up and said Today I will be ..... and that
was that. The ones that went to the legal trouble of doing it most often did at
when they were naturalized. Along with my great grandfather's certificate of
naturalization is a little card that says he will now be known as.....
Jump forward to the middle of the 20th century and people did go through the
process which actually required filing papers with the courts. In Manhattan there
were two different places you could do it and while both have indexes you have to
go there to do the lookups. The courts however would generally require the person
to print some type of notice at least in one newspaper and show proof to the court
that they had done that to finalize the name change. The court did not
particularly care which newspaper and most of the lawyers put it in legal
publications or sometimes in community newspapers. All of which means it is pretty
difficult to find these notices today but you could try things like the Fulton
History database or other newspaper sources.
I did work in the NY City records for people and you need to have an idea of the
time frame because the index books I saw were by years and then they said you
needed to know the original name. One case I was working on we did not know the
original name but only the new name and the index turned out at least in this case
to have both the old and new names cross indexed. You sit there and read the
index and if you find the name they go and get you the original file. If I
remember correctly that is 111 Center Street.
The other place is 60 Center Street but there is an index computer at 31 Chambers
Street in the 7th Floor record room. That would be the closest thing to a name
change database but it is only for the Supreme Court.