Re: "His name was changed at Ellis Island" #names
Mashiach L. Bjorklund
Sorry if someone might have alluded to this answer earlier. This is a long thread and towards the end I just skimmed the posts. As many have said, names did not change at Castle Garden, Ellis Island, or any of the many other ports of entry. The name on the manifest is the name they used - period. So where did the name changes occur? Answer: When they bought their ticket. Tickets were purchased at ticket offices across the continent and in the UK. Steamship lines had ticket offices located in most major cities. At the point they bought their ticket their name had to be translated/transliterated into the language of the country of their destination. For the USA that was English. For people from the UK, Italy, Germany, etc. that translation was minimal if any at all and was often very similar to their original name. For people from Russia, Poland, AKA the Pale that meant Cyrillic or Hebrew/Yiddish to English. A much more difficult translation. To compound the problem many people were illiterate, so their name was given verbally to the ticket agent. So how did the ticket agent choose the name they got? Many had postal directories from New York City, as well as a few other major US cities. They thumbed through the directories until they found a name they thought fit the bill. This is often why people like brothers, or other close family members, ended up in the US with different surnames. They bought their tickets at different times or different offices or from different ticket agents. The bottom line is they got their name and then that name on their ticket had to match the name on the ships manifest in order for them to board for passage. The manifest was then turned over to the port of entry (unaltered) on arrival and their name had to match the manifest in order for them to legally enter the country. Any discrepancy and back they went, at the steamship companies expense. Now after they entered the country and became residents they were free to change their name again if they so desired. Many did to Americanize it. For instance Pinkowitz became Pincourt, Kvint became Quint, etc.. Many changed their name upon becoming US citizens. Find their citizenship documents and you will often find two names. The one they immigrated with and the one they now choose to be called by which from the point of citizenship became their legal name. I hope this clears up some of the confusion.