Re: "His name was changed at Ellis Island" #names


avivahpinski@verizon.net
 

To Mashiach:  Thank you for correctly summarizing the Ellis Island name
situation in your maingroups note below.   As you noted, if someone did
not want to use their name on the manifest or change their name, they
had the option of putting the name they wanted to be their legal name on
their citizenship papers.  This was a standard procedure and did not
cost anything extra. I am mentoring many refugees who have come into
Philadelphia in the last ten years, and they continue to have name
problems for a variety of reasons, including the fact that many
countries have different naming patterns and alphabets. In many of the
Mideastern and African countries husbands and wives do not have the same
last name and have a number of names. These individuals can make name
changes and choices when they get their citizenship papers.  So things
haven't changed that much!

I grew up in NYC hearing an Ellis Island joke.  I just googled it and
found the story as follows:

https://theconversation.com/jewish-americans-changed-their-names-but-not-at-ellis-island-96152
Awell-worn joke in American Jewish culture
<https://books.google.com/books/about/A_Treasury_of_American_Jewish_Folklore.html?id=pWoaAQAAIAAJ>goes
like this. A Jewish immigrant landed at Ellis Island in New York. The
procedures were confusing, and he was overwhelmed by the commotion. When
one of the officials asked him “What is your name?” he replied, “Shayn
fergessen,” which in Yiddish means “I’ve already forgotten.” The
official then recorded his name as Sean Ferguson.

The web site listed above has a full discussion of the name change
stories at Ellis Island, so I hope that this can put the whole matter to
rest on Maingroups.

Avivah Pinski
near Philadelphia

From: Mashiach L. Bjorklund
<mailto:logictheorist@...?subject=Re:%20%22His%20name%20was%20changed%20at%20Ellis%20Island%22>
Date: Thu, 09 Jul 2020 08:56:58 EDT

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.
--
Avivah R. Z. Pinski ,  near Philadelphia, USA

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