In a message dated 12/9/2000 1:06:19 AM Eastern Standard Time,
B. This is not a flame but my grandfather's name and my father and GMs
names were spelled differently on their respective ship's manifests of
which I have copies. So at a minimum we know the shipping companies were
not models of consistency and certainly did not have standard approaches.
In the USA people registering our ancestors as you have said did not have
the "authority" to change names and according to what I was told were
often immigrants themselves. If you think there weren't misspellings and
mistakes, bad copying etc., purposeful or not,and if you think that the
average immigrant was going to challenge authority that could send them
back, it is simply not the case. So, bottom line, you're right no
authority to do so, but somehow it happened nevertheless, I'll blame
fatigue and human error. Sort of like what happens when you count votes
You should also consider the fact that the spelling of the name on
the manifest was only as "good" as it was pronounced by the immigrant.
Most of the pursors, on the shipping lines that carried the vast majority
of the immigrants, were pretty adept at spelling the names phonetically.
Of course, the immigrant would not challenge that spelling because
they had no clue to what was being written. Most of the immigrants of
E. European Jewish origin would not have even recognized the alphabet
In my own MEZHIRITZKY (my own generic spelling - with a little help from
Beider) I have a least 40 manifest entries for various family members.
Almost no two are spelled alike. However they do fall into the same
soundex code with one exception. I later found out that this fellow had a
The same would apply to given names. You will find that the spellings on
the lines leaving >from the North Sea ports are fairly consistent on Yiddish
first names. However, my own father (age 11 mos. in 1903) who was aboard
a Cunard line ship, had his name, Schloime, spelled "Slomy." The Cunard
line (in my experience) did not have the volume of E. Eur. Jewish
immigrants as the lines out of Hamburg, Bremen, Rotterdam, etc.
Therefore, they did not have the pursors who were as sophisticated at
speaking and understanding Yiddish. Without familiarity, they spelled it
as they heard it.
You are also correct in bringing up the fact that misspellings can be
ascribed to other sources. For instance, I searched and searched for the
manifest of my grandmother's sister (and family) whose name at immigration
was pronounced WISH -NA-POL-SKY. I tried every creative combination I
could think of, to no avail. Then one day while looking for someone else,
I noticed that the style of the written capitol letter "W" on some Hamburg-
American line manifests of the period, could easily be confused for a
german style capital "M". I went back to the soundex code searching for a
name that would pronounce MISH-NA-POL-SKY. Bingo! It seems that the
person who interpreted the manifest during the creation of the soundex (a
WPA project) innocently assumed that the letter "W" with it's german style
flourishes looked to be an "M". There were plenty of chances for
errors all along the way, except probably at Ellis Island and the other
ports of entry where there was no opportunity for manifests to be changed.
Lois Sernoff [Philadelphia, PA]
MEZHIRITZKY [MERITZ, MARRITZ, MARRITS] >from Korsun in Kiev Gub. to Phila.
SOSNOVSKY [SOSNOFSKY, SOSNOV - all spelling variations] >from Gorodishche
in Cherkassy ueyzd, Kiev Gub.-> Ekaterinoslav -> Philadelphia, PA or
anywhere. FRIEDMAN >from Beltsy/Balti ["Bels" Bessarabia] Moldova to
anywhere. KUSHNER [all spelling variations} >from Tomashpol and Yampol in
Podolia Gub. to anywhere